First Tourmaline: part two
To bide the time he began a story. The character fashions false news. I have tourmaline to sell, sir. I have had tourmaline stolen from me, ma’am. I remember tourmaline from the old days, child. The character has learned to compensate at such times he must do without tourmaline, the thing wanted and not wanted. Today, the character would rather eat.
That anyone would speak or shout, that any of these colorless bodies clad in dark olive, their ears wrapped in scarves, would uncouple from the train and lose his place…meant of course, that they had all lost their places. Someone, meters ahead, out of sight but screaming, had missed…not next, but first. Under her nose, the kitchen door had been bolted for the night. They were a mob now. The snaking line compressed and throbbed. Something flew; Anton flung a hand to catch it, or deflect it. He was struck across the diaphragm He felt the heel of a shoe ram the back of his knee, and sank, but could not come to rest, the crowd so dense, that he was jostled from one collision to the next. The voices fell away.
Palma had given him (the character to be called A. Leonhardt, he amended to himself) her explanation for what the G.R.A. did. Were now doing. The sound was in fact loud, but sub-audible; the tiny hairs that transmitted sense to the nerves inside the ear, told the target he was being yelled at, rebuked by a stern father. The effect was a terrible unease.
“My advice, Anton, is the same as always. You are not you. You have a friend who writes under a name. I could accept your false politics if I were willing to publish lies in my own paper.”
He had tried for two years—that had been in the capital—to win her respect. But Palma had not said all of these things. Anton had no friends, had never claimed to. He had no politics, but she had accused him of it. This pedantic speaker, then, this old man, was signaling him, covering Palma’s well-remembered dismissal. The added bit…Anton wondered if he had forgotten it already.
Some other Anton grunted a reply. A woman danced in front of Anton, laying a hand on his sleeve. On the four fingers were rings, silver rings stacked, and set with green stones. I am being mocked, he told himself.
The sound cannon seemed to have left off. The rings glinted. A tin of metal glinted.
“You deserve it, don’t you?” she said. “They didn’t have any business, shoving you.”
He found himself nodding, silently dropping the tinned meat in a pocket of his coat, and taking too long to say the polite thing.
“Come on, Dad.” She started to turn off, down the way that led to the wharfside. She’d crooked an elbow, and taken the old man’s arm. They might be wrong, and he ought not trust them.
“No,” he said. “Wait.”
The other Anton, a thin young man with dark-circled eyes, sheared off, speaking no word; he had not bothered, even, to peer face to face with his doppelgänger. But Anton found there was a second girl. She came out from behind the old man’s raincoat.
“I have biscuits in my room. We might make a meal of it.” He patted the tin in his pocket. ” All of you.”
He added, “I don’t mind.”
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)