CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
“No, that’s what you want to know. That’s not what the problem is.”
“So, what’s the problem then?”
“It’s not really possible for me to tell you that.”
“Why not? Are you not allowed to?”
“No, I’m not able to. It just isn’t possible.”
“But isn’t that your job?”
Melancholy told her, “No. If we take our metaphorical Japanese-speaking cat, for example. Suppose you wanted to get to a particular street in Tokyo and you stopped to ask the cat directions. If the cat started speaking Japanese to you, and even gesticulated with its paws, could you understand its directions?”
Lorna thought for a moment and then said, “I think I would have a rough idea, because I would see the direction it was pointing in.”
“But what if it was saying ‘Don’t, whatever you do, go in that direction because it is the wrong direction’?”
“Well, then I’d get completely lost.”
Agent Melancholy said, “Exactly! So, imagine that you were travelling along a road and you came to a fork in the road and didn’t know which way to go, and then you noticed me sitting beside the road. You approached me to ask me directions (just as you have done today), but at that moment, I transformed into a cat who was very learned but could only speak Japanese. You asked me for directions. I might well have been able to then recite two hours of finely honed Japanese verse to you. But you would still be lost, because you could not understand a word of Japanese. Do you see?”
Lorna said, in her own simple way, “Well, couldn’t you just tell me in English?”
“But perhaps the cat cannot speak English. It can only speak Japanese.”
Lorna said, now a little impatiently, “But I’m not interested in the cat. I just want to know if Felipe feels anything for me.”
Melancholy said, “I see.” He crossed his arms and held his chin with his right hand for a moment. He watched Lorna whilst seeming to perform some sort of calculation in his head. He then agreed to take on her case. He put on his nondescript overcoat and accompanied her back to her workplace. On the way, he told her, “Just imagine I am not here. I will follow you for a few days and gather the clues. I might whisper my observations into your ear from time to time, but I will speak so softly that no-one else will hear.”
Lorna had no objections. She just wanted the riddle to be solved—did Felipe have any feelings for her, or not?
Lorna worked in an open-plan office. She sat at her desk and Melancholy sat beside her. She whispered, “That’s Felipe, over there.”
Felipe Perez’s desk was on the other side of the office, about twenty yards to the left of her desk. Their desks faced in the same direction and Felipe’s was a few yards ahead of hers, so that if he glanced over his right shoulder, they could see each other. Felipe’s father was Spanish and his mother Chinese and Felipe seemed to have inherited all the best traits from both his parents, in both looks and personality. He had long black hair, a dark Mediterranean complexion and dark, alluring eyes. There was a mystique that seemed to surround him; he would have to do nothing more than merely enter a room to cause every eye in the room to turn towards him, like compass needles seeking north.
While she was walking back to the office, she gave Agent Melancholy the details of her brief relationship with Felipe. They started dating a few weeks before. They met a few times at the coffee machine during their breaks, started chatting, then sending each other messages on the internal mail system, then they arranged a date. In the following two weeks, they had sex twice at Lorna’s flat, but then she noticed he did not seem to be saying the right things to her, nor messaging her any more at the office, then it occurred to her he had never even told her he was attracted to her.
The driver’s mouth hung open.
Lily banged her hand on the bonnet, shouted, “I’m a bat,” then swooped back out into the middle of the road. Another car screeched to a halt, its horn blared and its driver shouted.
All around the street, car headlights flashed, fists waved out of car windows, and neighbours peered round curtains and watched from doorways, some with their hands cupped incredulously against their ears while others seemed to be frowning as they pushed their noses around as if twisting tuning dials on their evidently‑faulty radio sets.
Lily hopped onto the opposite pavement, circled another parked car, then swooped back out into the street, all the time shouting at the top of her voice, “Drink all my milk—go on, go on—there’s not enough room in the letter.”
Helen Smithe was now hiding behind the front door of Number 52 with the door open just enough for her to see into the street. She called through the gap, “Lily—your tea’s getting cold.”
Lily flapped her arms and shouted, “I’m expecting visitors—drink all my tea, go on. Stamp along the flowerbed—flap, flap—it’s not enough yet; it’s not enough—I’m a bat—have some more milk.”
Helen courageously edged the front door open further, poked her head out into the open and called, “Lily—come in and drink your tea.” She watched Lily swoop back out into the road and then start tormenting the halted cars again while continuing to shout to the growing crowd of pedestrians and to all those faces framed in doorways and peering round the curtains along the opposite terrace.
Helen called to her, “Lily… Lily!” But above the commotion, she was certain Lily would never hear her, not from where she stood. She tentatively put her foot out over the doorstep, leant forward a little and looked along the street. She was just about to step out when she changed her mind, retreated back into the living room, sat beside Thomas and told him, “You go and get her in—she’s your mother.”
Thomas was still bent forward, clutching his abdomen. In response to Helen’s comment, he simply continued rocking back and forth.
Helen told him, under her breath, “Thomas—don’t just sit there.”
As if in response, Thomas made that half-moaning, half-whimpering sound again.
She gasped, “Thomas—”
He looked sideways at her—while still clutching his abdomen—and watched her discomfort for a moment. Then he snarled at her, “Enjoying the visit, dear?”
She glared at him and returned to watching the wall opposite, as if engaged in a gruelling staring contest with the wall. Her head was about to start quivering with the effort when she noticed the silence outside. Thomas and herself watched each other. The silence continued for a moment, then the living‑room door burst open and Lily entered, still waving her arms up and down and shouting, “I’m a bat.”
Helen’s face relaxed and she sighed, as if a mortally embarrassing weed had been uprooted from her garden. She smiled and said, “Sit down and drink your tea, Lily.” She half watched Lily and half watched Thomas while whispering to him—as if back at that funeral service, “Go and deliver your petition, Thomas—you’ve done enough here for one day.”
Thomas, while still clutching his abdomen, moaned, through gritted teeth, “How can I go now—?”

Fiction

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Fiction Archive

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