Yoknapatawphan Melody – Part 2
M C Alves
Continued from yesterday …
There came one early morning when a loud knock on the door awakened everyone. The GNR. Both the boy and his cousin were hauled off to jail. His grandfather asked him what he and his cousin had done. The boy was shocked. He had no idea. After a few hours sitting on the hard bench of the station, they were taken before the Chief. His cousin had escaped from a Reformatory. The boy was given a stern warning about playing football in the street but his cousin was taken away. He had not, and would never, forget what that knock on the door sounded like.
He decided to see if he could find out what was up with Lori. But first he wanted a smoke. He went to the dresser where Lori hid hers and slid out one ‘High Life’ from the pack hidden underneath Lori’s pile of Paris Match magazines. There was a photo of her in one of them. She was a very pretty girl.
The boy opened the doors and crawled out onto the metal grates which were the skeleton supporting the overhanging vines above the front terrace and made his way quietly down to the road. He learned such stealth from the many times he had needed to avoid the scrutiny of his stern grandfather on those occasions he had gone night fishing with his mates. He could still hear the landlady’s invectives, and the smooshing of quinces, as he made his way to the village.
The village had only one café. Small, of course. This was the hub of the universe for anyone who lived within twenty kilometers along the road to nowhere. It was the post office, cultural center, dry goods store, town hall, communications center, in short, the nerve center. In the evening it was always packed with folks who had come to watch television—a rare luxury, having a television in those days—or play various card games and dominoes. They also had four Futsal tables, table football. The boy had developed quite a knack for that game. He had learned the trick of dominoes from his grandfather but it was at the Futsal tables where he would spend much of his time. When he got there the café was empty. A rarity even for this early afternoon hour. Not a soul. It was dark and cool inside so the boy headed for the back room from where he could hear the ‘schwokk!’ of the hard, wooden balls as it caromed off the side of the table. There was good sport afoot. He made for the game. As he passed one of the empty tables he noticed a small pile of change on one of them. No empty cup nor glass, nothing else, just a few coins. Enough for three games. He was not one given to thievery but this seemed to be a matter of finders-keepers. He deliberated for a few minutes but then scooped up the coins and went to off to play.
He won three out of four. But when he emerged from the game room the owner and a patron were in a heated argument. The man was bellicose, beet-red and animated, furiously exclaiming his outrage at being accused of not leaving payment for his sarsaparilla on the table. What was the world coming to when an honest man need tolerate such unwarranted suspicion? The owner remained impassive. The patron remained outraged. The boy made his way quietly out the door. He once again appreciated the value of stealth. He had not intended to cause such a ruckus. Had he seen anything else on the table he would not have taken the coins. Too late now.
He sat on the bench in front of the café, wondering whether he should go back in and explain. But that would mean a reimbursement would be required. Therein lay the rub. Perhaps tomorrow.
As he sat deliberating, from the alley across the road a group of men emerged. They were quite loud and quite harsh. The boy soon saw that in the middle of the group a young man was staggering. His shirt was ripped and had blood stains on the front. The men were shoving him along, grabbing at him, taunting and every so often they would kick him. The boy was startled at the sight. He had never seen anything quite like it. Tar and feathers lacking, it seemed as though they were dragging this lad along with as much discomfort and humiliation as they could inflict. The back road to Calvary.
Then the boy saw who it was. It was Lori’s new love.
The boy cautiously approached the group and asked one of the men what had he done. He stole a fucking chicken, he answered.
The walk back home was far longer than the one to the café. When he arrived the landlady was thankfully gone but the air was full of the smell of quince. As he climbed back up along the hanging vines he could hear sobbing from Lori’s open window.
He knocked gently on her door and asked if she was alright. She said yes. After a few moments he asked her if she would give him another dancing lesson tomorrow. She said maybe.
Bio: M C Alves (Manny) is a freelance writer, author of a collection of short fiction, a former journalist and editor and has written two books on information technology and operating systems. He is a contributor to various publications and is currently working on a novel. Manny is a longtime resident of New York City.