She moves like the evening, a scent like all women, satin stains
at the armpit, an ammonia burn. Smoke from the cloven heads
scattered in the streets, she takes no notice. Only gazes upon the
wall, searching, searching. She glimpses a star of gold caught in
the rage of the setting sun. Feels the pulse flow through her, a living
pulse, a man still standing arrogant as the shore repelling each assault
of the sea. She calls out to him, but grim and determined he rallies his men.
She folds up like a flower and retreats through her balcony window at
the first breach of the wall, cascading with fiery oils and an outburst of magic.
Roger woke with a start. He looked out the window to see the streaking of colors as the hooding of the sun across the opposite building harbinged the beginning of dusk outside Koreatown, the Santa Ana winds whipped up for another sunset in the city. He dragged himself up and after taking care of business went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, staring blankly at the empty shelves. A look in the freezer presented him with a Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit and he heated some water in order to brew a cup of coffee, freeze-dried and nasty. Memo to self: Gotta make a list, get some stuff. He finished up and walked into the living room Memo: hook up the damn cable. But he still hadn’t and didn’t really wish to watch the news anyway, didn’t need to be told that some young black man why is it always a black man had robbed a convenience store and shot the clerk, just a carnival of sensationalism.
He sat in his armchair and perused the painting once more. For that was what it was. He tried to recall that day in New Orleans the old Obeah woman, the whites of her eyes clouded with glaucoma, her breasts the size of beach balls if those are two puppies you’re selling, I’ll take the one with the brown nose had said she was holding it for him. He remembered handing her a twenty, which she quickly placed in her enormous batik, but she hadn’t really asked for money or for that matter told him how much it should cost. Looking at the painting, for that was what it was he could see that instead of silk screen or photo reproduction that it was in fact real pigmentation. Reaching up and caressing the print, he found there was texture to the thing, layers of paint, impressionistic, ridges of blacks on top of brown. He pushed and the painting appeared to wince and press back out, almost as if a living thing. Reality told him that the maelstrom he thought he had experienced was in actuality just a booze induced dream born out of the earthquake tremors, but the painting held a vibrancy that could only be explained by an innate feeling. Perhaps it was just the chaotic figures or the swirling brushstrokes that emitted that sense, but it really was a very good reproduction.
He tried to make out the image just above the door, but could not put a name to what he saw. He could make out just beyond the phantom mandolin a skeletal figure almost stickmanish and a shadow appearing just to the right of the entrance to the door. Both appeared to be blocking the way and, doh!, that must be Pedro at the door. There appeared to be a wall to the right and a row of tacks aimed at the door with a window just past it. No, not a window, perhaps a casket, yes a casket with a cross. Next to that the silhouettes of a woman on her knees and subjugated and a man haughty on his throne or perhaps an angel praying to an eager god hungry for service. Next to that, a slave in a cage or it could be the knight of staves from the tarot. A puff of cloud blocked some of the view; below that, a voodoo like dancing skeleton. Across the bottom, a hand curved and pointing towards the door. And in the right hand bottom corner, stitches that felt real across Roger’s fingertips. I’ll have to google this thing, see what the experts say. As he turned his head back to sip the last of the coffee, he looked again and the row of tacks now pointed towards the casket or did it always.