Agnes Person | Xanthan

Below is Part 3 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.

◄◄  Read the prologue / introduction: Meet Agnes Person
◄ Read the previous installment | Sock Alert


Small hanky clouds dab daylight on dawn. Agnes Person pats a turban around her wet hair and mashes a hard-boiled egg. She dislikes breaking fast with the powdery yolk. That dull halo, the grey-green arcus around the edges reminds her of mildew, winter damp. But Agnes is grateful to hens for brain food, and she swallows the mess in one gulp. Reading the job ads, she wonders about today’s competitive jobs.

Monday is trash pick-up for prime numbers, and Agnes readies her refuse for the street. She wrestles the garbage bag, twists the neck, stomps boxes and plastic bottles. She resents these routine acts of violence, but these are rules others decree. How can she stand against a mob eager for ordinance?

Washing cans for recycle, Agnes cannot simply peel off product labels. She has to read the words. All of them: maltodextrin, propylene glycol, diesters of fat (2% or less), red 40 lake, xanthan…Xanthan, TN for short, her name for the dog nosing the adjacent lot, a street-smart mutt yellow-grey as the yolk of a hard-boiled egg.

Agnes has never liked large area rugs with dull yellow pile. She has never wanted a dog. Why now? She sees that TN is eating greasy napkins tossed from the window by the first-floor tenant. Gross.

No Pets says the To Let notice posted in the ground-floor foyer, but Agnes coaxes the dog upstairs with sounds of a hand-held can opener. After a fine meal of scrambled eggs, TN rests his head in her lap. She stares into his amber eyes for sign of runaway, bolt, risk-all — the mote she craves for herself.

Tired and looking like Yesterday, Agnes feels plainer than low-fat yogurt. In her thirties, she has quietly lost face. Off duty, her looks have spent their sparkle, sent beauty’s aspects one by one like goldfish belly-up to a netherworld she regards as Dedham, Mass.

Yoohoo! Penny for your thoughts.

Friend Bea has popped in for a chin wag. She eyes the dog with disapproval and hands Agnes a recipe for calico salad. She watches Agnes file the card under CLOTH.

Bea, meet TN, says Agnes. The good dog opens an eye and shakes hands.

Bea begins her prattle about the best maple syrup, amber-grade, from Acer Farm in West Brattleboro, Vermont 05303.

Big hint.

Agnes knows Bea is dying to dive into her frozen maple-leaf sorbet.

What kind of name is TN? Bea asks, hinting. Short for a state postmark? Or famous dead playwright, as in Cat on?

Spoon in hand, Bea doesn’t wait for Agnes to answer. She sidesteps the dog and makes her way to the refrigerator. Agnes remembers too late the deceased goldfish lodged in permafrost of her crappy freezer.

Bea screams.

TN barks.

Her flying spoon assails a shelf of soup cans and mugs.

Shut up! Upstairs tenants pound the floor.

TN, as in Williams, Tennessee, Agnes calmly responds. His real first name was boring, like Thomas or Herbert.

Sherbet, chimes Bea, as grateful for an in as Agnes is for an out.

Seated at the table, Bea regains her composure. Agnes arranges a dish with ladyfingers and pushes the bowl with the prize sorbet closer to her friend.

The kettle whistles. TN cocks his head, evaluates Bea, then settles on the rug like pollen.

High tea!

Whipped cream?

Oh, let’s.




The two friends lift their cups to April First and Fool’s Day. TN, too smart to beg, raises an ear and licks crumbs falling like late snowflakes around the legs of Bea’s chair.

 Next InstallmentAlmost Elvis

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