Waiting Canals – 8

The only maid working in the kitchen at that time had stopped slicing potatoes to stuff some pulled pork and some shreds of cabbage between two pieces of hardened bread, and placed the improvised food in front of Walters, without a plate, directly on the table still wet with the sticky juice of recently sliced potatoes. Crumbs scattered around him every time that Walters managed to put his mouth around the brick of bread and take a bite. Large bites filling up his mouth. The maid came back with a glass of milk, which he also consumed as if devouring was the only line of action, nothing in the immediate future beyond that. After swallowing his last mouthful, he let out a pleasant sigh, all of a sudden he experienced a very positive feeling of hope. This feeling dissipated soon, but gradually, without him noticing.

“Have you seen any blue boxes?” he asked, turning on his chair and facing the maid, who was standing at the back of the kitchen, pretending to dry a porcelain jar with her apron, looking at him with the intensity born from fear.

“No,” she said. “What are they?” She added, glancing at the door that Jameson had closed on his way out some minutes ago.

“Well, you know, blue foxes,” Walters said. “They run around town, and they disappear, like dreams  after you wake up, I guess, and they have blue eyes for the most part, you see.”

She shook her head and, in a habitual but thoughtless motion, found her pendant with her fingers, the blue cross of the methodists, and caressed the borders, her thumb rubbing in circular motions the pentagonal relief in the center of the cross. She knew somehow that this strange man was not a methodist. He didn’t even look like a baptist, this man, and that was weird to her, it was even worse than being in the presence of a baptist. A Southerner, but not from here, not from Memphis, an outsider, he couldn’t possibly understand the tension in Memphis, the fear of some, although her priest kept saying that these were the days that would be remembered, the days in which a purer Memphis would raise from the filth of yore, from the lies of our enemies; finally, because our own shadows had been wrapped over our shoulders for too long. She liked the sound of “would raise,” like birds hiding in the reeds suddenly exploding and flying into the air. Raising. Raising, raising.

“Can I have some more milk, please?” Walters asked, holding up his empty glass.

While she was pouring the milk, Walters noticed that the maid was looking at his neck. It itched, his neck, but he was not going to scratch it again, at some point he had to stop, relax, have a deep breath and just focus on the surroundings, on the drops of milk on the sides of the glass, the color of her eyes, brown, the garlic braid hanging from a hook, only seven bulbs left… Three, four, five, six, seven, the regular pattern of the bricks, and the window over the sink, overlooking a small yard, if the window were smaller and round it would be like a porthole, with tiny fish swimming on the other side, silvery, vivacious, he trapped under the rubble, his right leg possibly smashed, the motion of his arms limited to his hands and wrists, his face right in front of the porthole, almost forced to look at those silvery fish, waiting for some other creature to sail by behind that round piece of glass, waiting until his air would run out and he would die, but then such creature appeared, first a cloud coming out from the darkness, wavering, then the two masses of hair stepping forward, framing a disgusted face, the eyes behind the diving mask full of resolution.

“You ain’t from Memphis, right?” the maid asked.

He was going to answer that no, not really, not yet in any case, but the door was opened with a sonorous snap and Jameson came into the kitchen followed by an old servant in an impeccable suit.

“Dr. Pomme is waiting, are you ready?” Jameson asked.

Walters nodded and stood up. He was still very unsure about why he was there, but he followed Jameson and the old servant, grabbing an apple from a basket by the door in his way out, leaving the kitchen and entering into the entrails of a blue fox, he thought.

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