Below is Part 17 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
Hair packed in a feed sack, Agnes Person cannot sleep. Bully winds prowl below, banging trash cans. Kicking garbage bags, they signal Flag Day. On late-night TV, urgent promos blast mail-order widgets.
Call now for Kut Man and choose FREE language kit – now through June. Accents Made Easy!
Agnes dials the 800 number and pushes buttons to order Kut Man and the Malagasi kit. Learning a large island language will be a challenge — the endless vocab for tree shrews, tiny primate ancestors Noby studies with big eyes, minute fingernails, altruism.
Nesga Sonper, her new shrink greets her, during their scheduled session the Monday after Father’s Day.
Person, Agnes. My name is Agnes Person.
Ergo, Ersonp, can you recall your first day at school?
There were too many, Agnes admits. Her dad, unable to hold down a job in the 60s, moved the family across twenty-four states of the Union. In the car, Agnes worked jigsaw puzzles of 1000 pieces as her parents fought over air vents in the front seat. She hoped they’d abandon her, put her up for adoption, or lease her out as child labor to a candy factory to top chocolates with Lucille Ball.
Agper Nesson, you must attempt Tense Therapy, the doctor advises. Place sad thoughts from the past on lotus leaves and float them downriver.
Lotus! Agnes protests. I can’t find decent lettuce. And city river water is disgusting.
Therapist shrugs and, raising his stinger, zaps rows of zeros on the clipboard.
Tiny self-portraits? Agnes resents his besmirch buzz on her chart. She decides to switch hives and find a different drone doctor.
Back at the apartment, she twists her hair in saffron fascicles and, for one week, parrots Malagasi in the present tense. To her dismay, Kut Man, like her shrink, only has two speeds, OFF and ON.
Agnes feels mugged. The thugs? A shelf of holiday office gifts, membership bonuses, and last-minute purchases by boyfriends like Sofar scared of her mismatched bone china and thrift shop stemmed crystal.
Tired of face-time, Agnes turns the mugs — their logos, mottos, and promises — to the wall. She searches her Webster’s for mug, n., obs.: dread monster of the Indian Ocean. Madagascar? she wonders, home to the Malagasi. Agnes imagines horrid nostrils spouting sea curd. She reads on — mug, v.,obs.: to tinker, cram.
Agnes decides to re-path the mugs, even the chipped, cracked, and ring-stained, as planters for succulents, immigrant species waxy as candles, grey-green as aventurine. She respects their tragic supine postures, missing arms, fallen torches. Their tenacity for growth humbles her. Succulent limbless Venus di Milo rearms as the Statue of Liberty. Blind Justice sprouts cladodes, fertile stems, lofty as antlers. No need for broadcast seed, guns, and steel. Despite bad soil, windowsill peril, and germy city moisture, succulents succeed. Like Sofar.
Mindless of sidewalk drip, Agnes drizzles her young and not-so-young succulent-Americans twice a week. In her daydream, blue skies dome over crowded fin-de-siècle dockside cafés. Before boarding ships for America, plump demimondaines and smiling cads drink apértifs with the one they plan to kiss goodbye and wine with the one they hope to bed.
Which one is she?
Agnes, resplendent with Van Gogh sunflowers, pats TN, in this dream, a spotted Great Dane. She glides by a suited fat man with a cane and bowler, Sofar dressed as Renoir. A darling sailor in tight pants looks up and blows her a kiss. His lips are cherries. So far, so good. She spots a tall dapper man with a tiny tree shrew perched on his shoulder. Josephy? He nods, and signals Garçon.
Agnes crosses her fingers.
Time like blood is losing its blush.
► Next Installment: July 4th | Eyestalks