Chapter 8

Outside, in the dust and among the garbage (there were four dogs now), Bernard and John were walking slowly up and down.

‘So hard for me to realize,’ Bernard was saying, ‘to reconstruct. As though we were living on different planets, in different centuries. A mother, and all this dirt, and gods, and old age, and disease …’ He shook his head. ‘It’s almost inconceivable. I shall never understand unless you explain.’

‘Explain what?’

‘This.’ He indicated the pueblo. ‘That.’ And it was the little house outside the village. ‘Everything. All your life.’

‘But what is there to say?’

‘From the beginning. As far back as you can remember.’

‘As far back as I can remember.’ John frowned. There was a long silence.

It was very hot. They had eaten a lot of tortillas and sweet corn. Linda said. ‘Come and lie down, Baby.’ They lay down together in the big bed. ‘Sing,’ and Linda sang. Sang ‘Streptocock-Gee to Banbury-T’ and ‘Bye, Baby Banting, soon you’ll need decanting.’ Her voice got fainter and fainter …

There was a loud noise, and he woke with a start. A man was standing by the bed, enormous, frightening. He was saying something to Linda, and Linda was laughing. She had pulled the blanket up to her chin, but the man pulled it down again. His hair was like two black ropes, and round his arm was a lovely silver bracelet with blue stones in it. He liked the bracelet; but all the same, he was frightened; he hid his face against Linda’s body. Linda put her hand on him and he felt safer. In those other words he did not understand so well, she said to the man, ‘Not with John here.’ The man looked at him, then again at Linda, and said a few words in a soft voice. Linda said, ‘No.’ But the man bent over the bed towards him and his face was huge, terrible; the black ropes of hair touched the blanket. ‘No,’ Linda said again, and he felt her hand squeezing him more tightly. ‘No, no!’ But the man took hold of one of his arms, and it hurt. He screamed. The man put out his other hand and lifted him up. Linda was still holding him, still saying ‘No, no.’ The man said something short and angry, and suddenly her hands were gone. ‘Linda, Linda.’ He kicked and wriggled; but the man carried him across to the door, opened it, put him down on the floor in the middle of the other room, and went away, shutting the door behind him. He got up, he ran to the door. Standing on tiptoe he could just reach the big wooden latch. He lifted it and pushed; but the door wouldn’t open. ‘Linda,’ he shouted. She didn’t answer.

He remembered a huge room, rather dark; and there were big wooden things with strings fastened to them, and lots of women standing round them—making blankets, Linda said. Linda told him to sit in the corner with the other children, while she went and helped the women. He played with the little boys for a long time. Suddenly people started talking very loud, and there were the women pushing Linda away, and Linda was crying. She went to the door and he ran after her. He asked her why they were angry. ‘Because I broke something,’ she said. And then she got angry too. ‘How should I know how to do their beastly weaving?’ she said. ‘Beastly savages.’ He asked her what savages were. When they got back to their house, Popé was waiting at the door, and he came in with them. He had a big gourd full of stuff that looked like water; only it wasn’t water, but something with a bad smell that burnt your mouth and made you cough. Linda drank some and Popé drank some, and then Linda laughed a lot and talked very loud; and then she and Popé went into the other room. When Popé went away, he went into the room. Linda was in bed and so fast asleep that he couldn’t wake her.

Popé used to come often. He said the stuff in the gourd was called mescal; but Linda said it ought to be called soma; only it made you feel ill afterwards. He hated Popé. He hated them all—all the men who came to see Linda. One afternoon, when he had been playing with the other children—it was cold, he remembered, and there was snow on the mountains—he came back to the house and heard angry

  By PanEris using Melati.

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