The dog explodes, barking over and over, waking up the whole house. Soon, they will besiege me with their tedious requests "Do this"! "Do that"! They descend on me like a plague of insects.
I bring the man down to the basement, where he starts his work.
I regain the thread of the story, which starts to flow like water. 'Sublime'. No better word could describe it. Verbal sorcery. Rapture. Precocious, brilliant, folding you up in its pages...
"Hello. Hellooo! Helloooooooo! Is there anybody home? I'm finished."
Crap! Now I have to break off, let him out, be polite "great job" help him load his crap into the van.
Out in the street, I can still feel the sway of the carriage, see the steeples that scratch the sky, the fresh country air. The separation is agony.
We load the ladder, which dents the door, the filthy drop cloth, the mangled crowbar, which lands with a clank. The vacuum rolls on its face, flashing two eyes and a long black hose.
When he leaves, the peace falls like a balm.
I run to my room, regain the thread of the story, which comes in annoying fits and starts. Then, all at once, it starts to flow...
The dog is full. His face twists into a pleading mask. Outside, he squats, losing all dignity. He deposits a turd on the pavement, which I don't pick up, then I drag him roughly back into the house.
I run back up the stairs. "Alone, rising from the level of the plain, and seemingly lost in the expanse of open country..."
"Monty. Mooonty! Dove sei?'
My grandmother is awake. She shuffles to the stairhead. Huffing, creaking, she mounts the stairs, one step at a time, both feet joined before the next, painful step. She enters my sanctum, grey hair streaming down, swollen feet stuck into silver slippers.
I grasp her arm, manoeuvre her down the stairs, tuck her in, boil the kettle, fill her hot-water bottle and without more, I am back.
"...the twin steeples of Martinville rose toward..."
FUCK! The dog bursts into another barking fit--a fit 'neurasthenique' Proust would call it.
"Who is it"? I lean out of the window.
It's Tom, the builder.
"Tom! How are you? Did you get wet?"
Standing in the doorway, I re-feel the sway of the carriage, hear the tall steeples scratch the sky, inhale the country air, peek at the endless green meadows.
I pass Tom off to my mother.
"...the sky. Presently, we saw three; springing into position in front of them with a bold leap, a third, dilatory steeple, that of Vieuxvicq, had come to join them..."
The house-lift. Within the shaft, the cabin rises, the ancient brickwork slides past the brass gate. "...the minutes passed, we were traveling fast, and yet the three steeples were always a long way ahead of us, like three birds perched up on a plain, motionless and conspicuous in the sunlight..."
"Monty. Monty! Tua madre ti vuole giu. Moooonty! Mooooooonty!"
My grandmother! She is up and dressed. I hear the rustle of her skirts.
I pull the desk away from the wall and lie down in the narrow gap, barely drawing a breath. The rustling skirt goes away. Then it returns. For a second, she wavers at the door. All I can see is her ankle. If I reach out, I could bring her crashing down, so I could be at peace.
She paces around the room, dangerously close to my reach, tapping her heels, sensing the travesty. I release a held breath. Then she rustles away. The sound of blood rushes through my skull.
"...Then the steeple of Vieuxvicq drew aside, took its proper distance, and the steeple of Martinville remained alone, gilded by the light of the setting sun, which, even at that distance, I could see playing and smilng upon their sloping sides. We had been so..."
"Monty! Vai giu! Mooonty! Mooooooonty!"
I throw down the book in a rage.
The pages! They have creased!
Tom and my Mother are in the kitchen. They have been waiting for me.
"Where's the list--you know--that list--the work to be done?"
I 'forgot' the list, so I could go back up.
Upstairs, I turned to the book: "Are you OK?" "...long approaching them that I was thinking of the time that must still elapse before we could reach them when, of a sudden, the carriage turned a corner..."
"Here is the..."
"He left." Now she is really angry.
The knifepoint pierces her flesh. The blade sinks in to the hilt.
"But he'll be back. He took his girlfriend for coffee.
"When will he be back?"
"Right away. So don't get lost again."
"...and set us down at their feet; and they had flung themselves so abruptly in our path that we had barely time to stop before..."
Ring. Ringgg! Just a few more seconds.
"...being dashed against the porch. We resumed our journey. We had left Martinville some little time, and the village, after accompanying us for a few seconds,..."
Ring. Ringg! Ringgg!
I have to finish the chapter. Another page, another paragraph, a single word, even a single word.
I have to hurry: "...had already disappeared, when, lingering alone on the horizon to watch our flight, its steeples and that of Vieuxvicqwavedonceagaintheirsun-bakedpinnaclesinatokenoffarewell..."
Tom is back. The square-set jaw, the angular face, the close-cropped, steel grey hair.
"I'm so sorry"
"I could not get off the 'phone".
"W-Where shall we s-start?" Tom said, or tried to. I suppress a laugh.
"What?" I make him work at it.
"The w-work--w-where do y--"
He breaks off, unable to speak, and for a whole minute, falls completley silent, his mouth still puckered with the last syllable, which hung on his lips.
Y-y-ou want to s-start?"
I lead him through the many rooms, in a daze, showing him a cracked wall, a broken door.
Drawn by the lure of its magic power, I run back up, taking the stairs by twos. My pulse starts to race and pellets of sweat appear on my forehead.
The bathtub! Why did I not think of it before! I open the curtain, climb in, close it, crouch down on all fours. No! I Lie back, book in hand--better still, next to the brown drip line, the azure sandpaper dolphins, the soap-on-a-rope.
The plan is inspired, brilliant. But a sudden thought grips me. The dog! He always knows where I am! What if he he runs in, barking, jumping all over, licking my face! Everybody will run in, tear open the curtain, see me on all fours, READING! How could I explain myself?
Then, I suddenly hate the book, hate its every word, its every poisonous turn of phrase, detest its 'spiralling subordinate clauses.' hate those crafty, life-giving sentences, which so filled me with delight. Hate how it makes me feel about the stammering, intruding, detested beings that I want to murder.
The thing had become a demon. I would cast it out forever. "Demon begone". I intone the words.
I turn the corner into my sanctum, expecting the evil glow of the hated object, but it was gone! Then, at that moment, I do not know whether to jump for joy or jump out of the window.
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