10 January 2017

A different village

My story is mostly true, I believe.

I remember the incident in question and quite well too because it all seemed so plausible at the time – as it was happening, I mean to say – only to then seem utterly ridiculous later on. In retrospect.

I remember a walking stick. A perfect walking stick. The, even. Surely finer than any walking stick in fiction would be. In fact, were this story not true, I wouldn’t mention the stick at all. It is, after all, completely tangential to my story.

Yet I remember thinking, Where could one find a branch like that ever, so wonderfully suited for being a walking stick?

I remember the woman with the perfect walking stick said, “There is no mayor in the village. No governing. Nothing like that. No one to negotiate with.”

She had the walking stick and we walked. She had a hideous cheroot blazing at all times. She had folds of skin hanging pendulously from her arms. What a picture.

We were like the local birds and stray dogs but only in this way: We did not go into the village. Not even very close, really.

I said, “My employers have permission to buy these people out.”

The woman with the walking stick said, “They will not sell.”

I could see curtains moving. In windows, you know. I said, “I could go knock on doors. Offer them money.”

The woman with the walking stick said, “They will not answer.”

I remember the walking. Around the outside of the village. Walking. Encroaching, never. Like the local birds and stray dogs. Like I told you. My dissatisfaction showed, I imagine. The woman with the walking stick said, “The people were already in the houses as they grew.”

This seemed a sentence said badly. I said, “All of the people grew up here?”

She said, “No. The houses grew, not the people. This village is a brick-seed.” Then she spat, but whether she spat tobacco from the cheroot or spat the word “brick-seed”, I was not certain and am not.

She said, “You know brick-seed, right, mija?” I did not. She looked at me as though I was stupid but I am not stupid much.

I remember we were watched from many windows and the woman with the walking stick said, “A bruja. She makes bricks. Puts the bricks in a bag. With piss. Hair. Blood. This bag she buries in a field. Like this one. She adds prayer and water. Soon, boom! A house sprouts and grows up out of the ground. A brick-seed house.”

With her right hand, she waved the hideous cheroot at the village.

With her left hand, she waved the perfect walking stick at the village.

With this, we scared the villagers, it seemed. Or she did, I suppose. I did not wave my hands at the village. I did not even have a cheroot. She waved and curtains were shut.

She said, “This village is all brick-seed houses. All of it.”

I had a sense of the people doing the shutting of the curtains being pale to nearly translucent, with mottled skin. Like grub worms, really. I might have been wrong. Admittedly, I never did get a good look.

The woman with the walking stick huffed and puffed and bent over to pick a branch up from off the ground. She looked at her walking stick and threw it away, for this new branch was – unbelievably! – even more perfect for walking than her old one had been.

She said, “If I were you, I would convince my employers to buy a different village.”

And that was that. 

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