The first to go was a foolish man, who everyone said was a liar. He climbed a tree beside the docks one day and cut a coconut of unusual size. Within, he found the bone-white figure of a woman. Winged as any angel, she held the head of her enemy aloft in one bone-white hand.
Others in the village had the good sense to be frightened. They warned him of bad omens, of new gods born of trade. But the foolish man paid them no heed. He placed the cold porcelain woman beside his mat in his old mother’s house, they said, and crooned love songs to her at the close of day, when the cocos beside the docks gently sway, like tall girls in search of lovers lost at sea.
Rumors multiplied concerning his madness. Some claimed he refused all food but coconut meat and all drink but coconut milk. Others said he left burnt offerings at the figure’s feet—they smelled agarbathis in the morning air. The mother of the foolish man spoke not a word, though she herself was full of gossip concerning her neighbor’s woes.
Then one day the bone-white peddler man blew in on his skiff and laid out his wares in the market. Among them was a wristwatch with the face of Mickey Mouse, a pair of name-brand athletic shoes, and a banker’s lamp he could never seem to sell, despite deep discounting.
The foolish man’s mother had sent him to the market with a few coins in his pocket to pick up a jar of gram dal. She never sent him with any more cash than that, to preserve him from temptation, but her efforts proved in vain. While that old woman worked the fields, cutting cane like a man, her foolish son traded away all of her possessions—a cookpot for a wristwatch, a blanket for a cumberbund, a pair of chickens for a pair of shoes, and worst of all, the old woman’s only goat, for a foppish gold-rimmed monocle.
People said they spied him later that day with his little white woman beside the docks. He’d placed her at the base of the coco from which she’d sprung and surrounded her with passionflowers, which bear the mark of the Savior. There were those who swore he paraded himself before the object of his affection in his new shoes and wristwatch and cumberbund, striking poses and speaking in tongues.
But when he lifted that glinting glass to his lying eye, the foolish man stopped and stared. Just as the peddler man had promised, the tiny figure loomed as large as life. But this woman with wings was no angel: the severed head of her enemy was his own.