CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“But I haven’t eaten my trout yet.”
“He said he’s not going to,” Roger told them.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not going to,” I said, in desperation.
“Who’s a liar now!” said Roger.
“Come with us,” said the second burly man, who seemed less patient than the first. Nevertheless, I tried distracting him with an elaborate intellectual argument and soon found myself being lifted from my chair and transported from the restaurant. Two days later, I was stood before a judge.
“You should not play with fish,” the judge told me.
“I was not playing with it.”
“You were seen doing it.”
“He’s a liar,” shouted Roger.
“Order!” shouted the judge. “I will decide who’s a liar and who is not.”
“The waiter’s a liar,” I said.
“Do you mean you were not playing with the trout?” asked the judge.
“No; he said he owned the restaurant, but he didn’t”
So, you admit playing with the trout?”
“I nudged it a few times; I did not play with it.”
“I’ll decide if nudging it a few times is playing with it, or not. Exactly how did you nudge it?”
“With my fork,” I said, puzzled.
“Hmmm. That sounds playful to me,” said the judge.
“I was not playing,” I shouted.
“Did your fork pierce its skin?”
“What?”
“Did you cause a wound?”
“Of course not.”
“Well, there you are. You were clearly playing with it. If you had serious intentions, you would have pressed your fork through its skin and into its flesh, but instead you merely played with it.”
For the remainder of the trial, I remained in stunned silence. I was then taken to an open field on the hillside that overlooked the village. The two burly men were charged with constructing my prison and for days they toiled, carefully placing each solid, irrefutable brick upon the ever rising walls of my cell, leaving me only one small window. They placed their last brick on the morning of 6 August, and through my window I watched Roger parading on the grass of that hillside, adorned in the red sash. Back and forth, smiling, caressing the sash, watching my cell, turning, parading back down the hill, then back up again, but somehow seeming unable to wear his victory in comfort. It did not fit, was too small, too large, or irritated his skin with its rough fabric. His delight was corrupted with worry. He increased his pace, became almost frantic. He had the red sash but it was not enough; something was missing. Finally he ran to my cell and shouted in at my window:
I ordered the trout. Ha! What do you think of that?”
He strutted off. His victory was now complete.
He snatched back at the letter but she held onto it. He pulled, then she pulled back, then they both pulled and separated, each holding one tattered half of the letter. The front doorbell rang—as if to mark a brief pause in their contest, allowing them to return to their corners and remuster their weapons. He went to snatch her half back but she pulled her hand away, screwed up the fragment, threw it to the floor and shouted, “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing.”
In response he merely looked at her crumpled half on the floor.
She shook her most emphatic finger at him and shouted, “Don’t think I don’t—that’s all.”
He continued pretending to have not heard her.
Her head started trembling like the lid of a kettle coming to the boil and she shouted, “Just you see what you get for this—just you see.”
She turned away but then changed her mind, turned back and—just to make it clear she had got the better of him—she said, “Huh.” But just in case there should be any doubt about the meaning of this “huh,” she made sure to say it in a tone that would emphasize the fact that she had got the better of him; and what was more, she was also careful to say it in a tone that made it absolutely clear that she knew that he knew this.
She was about to turn away again when she noticed he was now pretending to have not heard her “huh.” So, to make it clear to him that she knew he had heard it, she repeated, “Huh,” but so as not to leave any doubt in his mind, she was also careful to say this second “huh” in a tone that summed up every one of her opinions of him. And now being satisfied he knew exactly what she thought of him, she contentedly put her most emphatic finger back into her tracksuit pocket and went to answer the front door.
Peter looked at the remaining half of the letter in his hand. He placed it on the table and smoothed it out—as if half a letter were no less decipherable than a whole one, so what difference did it make anyway. He put this half to one side, picked up Lily’s letter again and resumed his struggle to decipher it.

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