Thursday, July 21, 2011

Part I: The Beginning

Chapter 1: The Garden

She stood there covered in mud. The air was thick with the smell of wet soil. It had been raining intermittently for the last week. The house in front of which she stood had a long sloping roof. It was covered in red convex tiles, splattered in green and brown moss that lay hanging off at the eaves. The rain water dropped down through the twisted dreadlocks of moss, shrouding the house in a curtain of a manmade waterfall. A family of pigeons had hijacked the overhang of the roof. They mostly spent their time in the rafters and sometimes would come down to the garden to peck at the seeds dropping from the ­­­­Elm tree that grew on the left hand side of the garden, a few feet away from the main entrance of the house. The pigeons would swoop down to the garden and prance around swinging their heads forward and backward mechanically and dig out the seeds from the lawn. They would eat at all times of the day and then fly off to the rafters, preening themselves and rumbling like storm clouds.

Beneath the overhang, on the edge of the garden, the pigeons had cast their droppings for months on the cement and it had accumulated over time and caked over. The waterfall was washing it in a palette of dark green and white muck swirling in little vortexes of pigeon manure flowing down to the garden. Azalia bushes grew wildly due to the generosity of the pigeons and the owner of the house had planted some red roses in front of the house that flowered only once or twice in a season. The rain was stripping the rose petals from the bud and they lay freshly deflowered on the muddy ground, swiveling around each other in a beautiful pool of rocks and long grasses rearing their heads like icebergs.

The owner of the house, a middle aged man of forty two, lay peering out the curtain of rain water at this woman covered in mud. It was hard to tell her age from all the muck covering her and even though she was shapely, he could barely discern her womanly figure from behind the waterfall. His look was of curiosity and he had no intention of helping her.

He was smoking his Cohiba. As he looked at her, he chewed harder on the stub, squeezing the bitter juices in his mouth, lacing it with slow drags of the burning tobacco. The room smelled dank and offensively of cigars. The window in front of which he stood was on the left front of the house, in line with the Elm tree guarding the garden. In the room, he had put in some cheap furniture bought at a garage sale: a couch and a side sofa, a dressing table between them, and a low rectangular wooden table in front of them covered in stray burns from his cigars.

He would usually sit on the sofa with his tired feet up on the table, massaging his defective right knee and vigorously reading a book, over tea and Cohibas. The furniture lay on top of a Chinese rug he had bribed his dry cleaner to obtain for him for a small price. The walls were bare. There were no paintings, posters or even family photos hanging on the walls. He had put up three cloak hooks near the door on which a soggy black umbrella was hanging, dripping water on the part of the floor uncovered by the rug.

He was still peering outside the window, studying the mysterious figure on his territory. There were all sorts of weirdoes this time of the year braving the coldness of the rain to get a cheap thrill out of getting wet. Once, a group of college boys had trespassed on his garden to pluck azaleas and a few roses from his prized collection. They were probably trying to impress their half witted girlfriends. How he would have loved to smack them on their heads, these intruding college boys. He moved to the part of the window, where the moss on the roof grew thick diverting the rain water and parting the curtain. From here, he could have a better look at the ghostly figure standing motionless in the garden. He contemplated getting his gun from the dressing table to scare away this abominable wench that had desecrated his Sangrila. He decided against it; it was not worth the effort. So, he stood there watching, trying to gauge the enemy’s next move.

Beneath the mud, the woman wore a short brown dress that came up to the middle of her thighs. Her hair was shaggy from the rain and plastered to her face which was stained brownish black with illuvium. She stood roughly in the middle of the garden, past the deflowered roses when looking from the house. At this moment, the rain intensified and started really pounding down on the roof. The garden frogs started jumping here and there and forgot to croak. The rain pecked away at the mud clad woman and slowly started to undress her from her hideous cocoon. The ground at her feet, where the mud was starting to flow, was darker than anywhere else in the garden which was now a swamp of floating tubers, bark and dead leaves. As the mud washed away, the owner of the house could see her soft skin wrapped in her wet brown dress which was once actually covered in a pattern of miniscule bright yellow sunflowers. The metamorphosis showed her skin to be whitish brown; the color of a glass of milk touched with a pinch of ground coffee. The woman looked towards the entrance of the house. After a few minutes of staring at the main door, her unwavering strides carried her to the front porch and the man could not see her anymore. Then he heard the familiar sound of the door bell ring.

Chapter 2: The Move

The man tiptoed barefoot to the dressing table, took out his gun, checked the magazine for bullets, and walked softly on his Chinese rug until he reached the doorway. He flicked the umbrella off the hook, hid the gun inside it with the nozzle pointing towards the ferrule, placed his finger around the trigger and carried it casually in front of him. He took a right towards the main entrance and then stood in front the main door inhaling the air in deep silent breaths.

He knew the woman was standing there. Her frame obstructed the light visible beneath the door. He stood there motionless and in that moment, it seemed the rain had frozen on its way down to the earth. It seemed the rose petals falling from the bud remained suspended in mid air on their downfall. It seemed that the sound of the pigeon flapping its wings softly before alighting on the rafter would never pass. He could feel his heart pounding at his chest and wondered if the woman outside could hear it too. Most importantly, he wondered if she had come to stop it from pounding. And like this, he stood behind the door for a quarter of an hour but the light underneath the door never changed.

Then came the knock on the door, as if she knew he was standing there. He placed his calm but pulsating hands on the doorknob, unlocked the door and gently opened it. The first thing he felt was the refreshing gush of air cooled by the rain rushing into his house. Next, he found himself facing the woman whose wet hair ran to her shoulders and black under garments were visible through her wet brown dress that he could see now were once yellow. She was speaking to him in a language he could not comprehend. He scanned his eyes over her body, looking for a weapon: a gun, maybe a knife, but he found no sign of it. He stood there facing the woman in the rain but he never offered her his umbrella.

It was clear to the woman that the man did not understand a word she was saying. He carried an umbrella while she was soaking in his front steps but he never made a sign to offer it to her. She brushed past him and ran into the doorway escaping the rain. Then, she took a left into the first doorway she encountered. She found herself in a dank room smelling of burnt tobacco.

The man followed her and found her standing there shivering and dripping water all over his Chinese rug. He had no intention of drawing first blood. The woman lay hugging her shivering profile. He went to the drawer, still carrying the umbrella, and fetched a dry towel never removing her from his sight. He fetched the towel out of sheer necessity of keeping this wet woman from spoiling his rug. He felt no pity towards her. He had been in the game too long. The woman hurriedly took the towel from his hand, faced the other way and started to dry herself, while murmuring to herself in her alien tongue.

)---To be continued------------------------>

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