Below is Part 22 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
Big-bellied hair bound in medieval beehive, Agnes loads her bike basket with bones for TN wrapped in butcher’s paper. She has braved the late November cold for a trip to the Farmer’s Market to buy mangos, frizzy yellow chicory, and a three-foot loaf of still warm French bread. Happy with her treats, she slowly pedals home to the Slipper Moon. She feels like Fidel’s oxen — thick legged, but content.
Bea and Jena have promised to come by for lunch, and she has a gift for each — an enormous red wax gouda from Holland and a terrific papier-mâché rooster from Mexico. They can choose.
Concerned about birth defects, Agnes has foregone vapors and intaglio. Wax portraits can wait till Baby walks. For steady cash, she embroiders Mexican wedding shirts and stitches faces on black velvet. Mostly Elvis and Mona Lisa, but any image will do — sweet-faced twin waifs, candidates, members of the NRA. In case the latter come looking, they can stare into their own eyes and play shadow puppets.
At the very moment Agnes bends over to lock her bicycle, a thawing Thanksgiving turkey falls from the sixth floor windowsill and grazes the side of her temple. The butterball spins across the sidewalk in mad career. Agnes staggers, saved from certain death by her firm hair hive. Blacking out, she slumps backward and collapses. Her hair spreads like golden honey across the pavement.
A horrified crowd gathers.
Help! Somebody call 911, yells a man, leaning over Agnes. Dismayed onlookers tiptoe past the sticky hair. Shift workers, already late, tread the ends.
Having witnessed the accident from the bus stop, Bea and Jena rush to the scene
Her breath smells like violets, thinks Jena, placing her head against Agnes’s chest. She presses a limp wrist for pulse.
Bea, fighting tears, pulls down her friend’s skirt, pulls up her mohair knee socks, and pushes back bangs soaked with blood. The culprit turkey, Bea notes, already filched.
Sssh now, Agnes dear, soothes Jena.
Agnes? I’m Alice. Who are you?
Jena and Bea exchange sad glances, reply in unison, Bea Else, Jena Ivey.
Bejin Elsvie, nice to meet you, replies Agnes.
Don’t talk, says Jena, hand on TN’s collar. I have the dog. Bea will feed the fish.
Help is on the way.
Sirens scream. Face-up, Agnes floats out to sea, her giant swale of hair trailing pollen and swarming bees. Minnows jump. Gulls dip. TN barks wildly, races circles on the beach.
Half a continent away, a mother braids her daughter’s hair with plaid bows.
Company’s here for the big day, the mother says. Honey, do try to sit up in your wheelchair for the family photograph.
The beautiful table is set with dowry silver and sparkling cut-glass dishes piled high with stuffed celery sticks, sweet midget pickles, and cranberry relish. Good smells fill the house.
Outside, young Noby and his brothers toss a football with the cousins. The day fades. The boys wave at the window and then fall into a big pile of kicking legs, yarn hats, galoshes.
Josephy, the mother calls, dinner’s ready. Boys wash your hands, and, everybody, come to the table.
Sitting next to the little girl, Agnes helps her hold her crippled body for the blessing. She kisses the top of the girl’s head. The tall uncle signals Smile, and they all say Cheese.
► Final Installment: Twin Fins