7/26/2003

In Which A Change in Wind Presages A Change in Fortunes

He's been idling on the docks a lot lately, leaning like a knife blade into the wind. He's been watching the storefronts for any sign of her, any sign of change in the static stare of the building faces. He's been staying away from the dentateria longer than the errands he invents would keep him, and if you looked closely today, you might see an Indian burn on his wrist, where Dr. DeMoto has exacted his punishment. Dr. DeMoto was an expert in pain by the fourth form. He administers noogies and wedgies and tittie-twisters with brutal efficiency, in part to penalize, in part to extract the truth, and in part because he enjoys watching the boy's blank face bloom with pain and embarassment. Something unbreakable in the boy pushes him to it.

Hot Face is insensible to the pain today, however. He's endured worse.

After years beneath the fishbowl, stifled by his own scent, his nose drinks in the smells of the city with an indiscriminate thirtst. Even the aborted sewers, begun by the French but left unperfected when the funds ran out--even yesterday's shellfish drying in the alleys--set him quivering. Today, the dominant smell is sweet; the wind brings news of a change in season (such as it is in the Mediterranean), a great wave of cool rising somewhere out at sea and soon to descend on the port city to rout the baking heat. And lo! Here she comes now, tracing a parabolic path to her destination that leads her right by him. Their eyes meet, and she is not ten feet away when that selfsame restless wind removes the covering from her head and blows it straight into his open hands. He is a butterfingers, but this he can't help catching.