As a youngster, I watched as my father was electrocuted while stringing Christmas tree lights. I remember his body flopping on the carpet like a gaffed tuna before coming to rest near my little feet. My mom walked in and dropped her groceries all over my little head. I was unable to attend his funeral, having been admitted to Anchorage Memorial Hospital with a head full of lumps and a lifelong fear of colored lights.
As I walk from the metro station to work one Monday morning, I see a guy at the curb, watching the traffic and sweeping his arms as if conducting an orchestra. He wears a bright red sweater, dress slacks, and wing-tip shoes. But everything’s dirty, and the sweater is far too big for him. He also needs a shave and has greasy gray hair. As I walk past him wondering if I’m going to notice an odor, he glances at me and crinkles his nose.
The last time I saw M. Renoir, he was sitting beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, leisurely drinking coffee and glancing through a newspaper. M. Renoir, every inch the French gentleman with closely trimmed mustache and beard–gray streaking at his temples–was usually impeccably dressed, his hat and cane placed casually upon the seat of an adjacent chair. I say “usually” since, on this occasion, he appeared not altogether unlike a much poorer and less refined version of himself. I was, I confess it, rather taken aback at his appearance.
Well here we are at week 145. Doesn’t time fly when you are reading this pish! Maybe not!!
Raine was in the next town when the accident happened. She pulled over at the roadblock where a man in uniform with a very big gun said, “There’s been an accident at the plant, Mam. Evacuation underway. You can’t pass.”
I find the cinema just minutes from the busy train station. There’s not a soul in sight, but I am nervous, so I fold my umbrella quickly and creep down the narrow stairs. There is an umbrella stand at the top of the stairs but I can’t risk having it stolen. I like the soiled posters lining the walls, wonderful Japanese erotic noir. I go immediately to the window, where I am greeted by a silver-toothed little man whose boyish grin reminds me somehow of Mickey Rooney. No name-tags in this joint. He is middle-aged. His teeth glisten with silver and gold like the Mexican lady serving my favorite burritos in La Puente. He doesn’t look up. He reaches for my five-thousand yen note with two hands extended. He smiles wildly, perhaps idiotically. He pulls out some bills. “Just one? Is that right?” “Yeah,” I say. His furrowed brow suggests deep thought. He looks at the fiver I have handed to him. He strikes a few buttons on his calculator. Suddenly, he hesitates and then reaches into a little drawer beneath the counter. “It’s 2,000 yen at this time, you know.” “Yes, that’ll be fine.” He opens the plastic pouch to his right, pulls out three one-thousand yen notes, folds them and counts them twice before handing them over. We don’t make eye contact. I thank him in my poor Japanese: “Arigato gozaimasu.” He bows slightly, still grinning from ear to ear.
Traegger Cable, too, took in that loveliness, the sheathed agreement of their first meeting, how yellow clung in curves, arches, turning darker where it was darker, tossing daylight about her, splashing it around, washing the lithe frame she carried with sunlight. Her hair, once again, shook loose, a forgotten attendant that sat lightly on the forehead, wind-worked as ever, playing a game, being innocent in the very breath that created motion. Cable someplace, somewhere, had seen this pose, this framed moment. He struggled to find who or where, at what point of travel such a sight had been captured that it now came back to him so richly.