Talk 19 – Still Life
They seem hungry.
They are always hungry. Yesterday I fed them two feet of salami and their bellies were about to burst. When they smell food they are your kindest friends. The rest of the time they sleep. You look a bit whiter than usual.
I will take a brandy.
That is wise. You are the wisest for your idea to use the poison as medicine.
Let’s walk at the tree line.
With a glass of brandy! There are few things I like more.
Here, this is aged, look at the color. Caramel and all. It reminds me when I first gave blood. My father had told me I have to contribute to the family income ten gold pieces a month when I was fourteen. There was an old gypsy who had a blood donation ring. White folks who couldn’t find donors for their sick relatives paid him. He had about fifty of us and when he called we ran. He stood in front of the the hospital all day and made a good living. The first time I went in he gave me a handful of caramels. It was a hot summer so they melted in my pocket. I felt lightheaded as soon as I saw the needle. But since I’m dark the nurse hadn’t noticed I turned pale. I fainted during the process. When I woke I couldn’t get up from the bed. I crawled out of there and when the ring leader saw me he laughed. He laughed with his friends under a tree, sat me upright, and gave me brandy. Drink, he said. And here is your pay. To his health.
To his health.
Let’s pass by his tent. We can walk around and have a word with his brothers. Drink it, drink it all and smash the glass on that tree for his health.
It will give you strength. See, they’re building houses. Our society is solidifying just like yours.
Is that the tent?
Yes, the yellow one.
There’s fire outside.
But they’re not cooking. Only drinking. Bad omen.
They cut the grass short.
Yes, we have a machine. It was donated by the mayor. Evening lads.
What’s the white devil doing here? She cursed him in the first place.
Shut your poisonous mouth, cousin.
Keep it down, all of you. You can hear this through this tent.
Where’s your mother?
I’m here. Come in, he is up. He’ll be happy to see you. I am happy to see you. Go bring more ice, you dogs. And I don’t mean for the brandy. Come in dear.
How is he?
He wants to say goodbye to you more than anyone.
Don’t say that.
Well we gypsies say things the way they are. You should know by now.
Through here, I’ll be in the kitchen. No one will bother you.
No, thank you, for coming.
Look at you, the painting keeps you young, my love.
And you haven’t aged a day.
Except the oxygen mask and ten pounds I’ve lost.
You needed to loose that belly. Oh, god, what happened to you? Why didn’t call me earlier? I could have, I could…
If it was up to me I would have never called you. You don’t need this pain, you should trot on and be happy. That will make me happy.
Trot on? Just find someone else and trot on? It doesn’t work like that!
Yes it does. And make sure he is a fine gentleman. Or I will come back and haunt him.
You are not going anywhere. You’ll be fine.
No you will be fine. I’ll pull some strings from up there.
But what is this thing eating at you?
It doesn’t matter what it is. But lately it doesn’t let me eat or breath. It’s doing a fine job at melting me away.
Don’t joke. Tell me what it is!
It doesn’t matter what it is. It matters that it is stronger than me. Now forget about it and let’s talk some serious stuff. How is your garden?
You can hardly breath. It’s hot in here, do you want a fan?
No fans, just you.
The garden is just the way you left it. I have not been using artificial fertilizers. I buy the dry cow shit from the florist on the corner. It’s a little more expensive but you always said it’s better for everyone.
You said dry cow shit. Haha. Remember you were afraid calling it that before. What did you call it before?
Ah, yes, the fancy city word. See I got a smile out of you.
When you get better you will come and see the tomatoes for yourself.
Soon I will be able to fly there in no time.
I’m sorry. It was funny.
A little. But more so, not.
Remember the bottle of brandy I put in the ground there? We planted the peach tree on top of it.
You and your brandy.
Not, only it’s not brandy. The bottle is full with a hundred gold pieces. Cut that tree and buy the apartment. That will give you peace and you can find someone fine to keep you company. Someone that reads books and drinks tea. You can lure him in with your library. Haha.
You can recover. Just put your mind to it. I will not leave until you are trotting about in the woods again counting the trees.
Remember the first time I took hiking to that old mineral spring. Spoiled city girl you were. Scared of every blade of grass.
There was no path. And you said there was.
There was but it hasn’t been used in years. But the water was sweet.
I remember. We will go there again.
Of course. I will carry you. A fine woman you have become.
next chapter: TALK 20
previous chapter: TALK 18 – PEACE, NO
all chapters: TALK
more by PETER ODEON
photograph by Dmitry Karfagenski