ACT I | Aji 16 June 2018
All Audiences Est. Time: 90 Minutes PUB F⊗ | Widgets
Theme, Vol. I | “Flea Markets, No. 1″
EPISODE 1 | aji
< The harvest colors of a butterfly, – a cardui, with round, black eyes, – deftly faded as a rustling souse of leaves in a glimmer of the sun. The fingers of a hand unfolded; it was, unmistakably, a hand, the hand of a macaque, and it wobbled in the air with awkward delight, trying to comfort the chrysalis.
A shade tree grieved for a missing hollow; it was part of its timber, it grew together for more than a century, into a final “Y” sprawling to the sky; parts of the hollow were hew to the trunk. Scarce notice was given to it; both were nearly felled by Hurricane Matthew. In fact, the storm shaped the hollow with a modest, empty wall of bark, and middling splinter; a day in the ensuing months, an elderly woman plunged into a pocket of her Bermuda shorts, and garnered a feast of wild bird seed to strew into the remnant; it is a bowl.
A man may notice, and even oblige two or three of nature’s graceful moils in the course of a life’s time; the basin hew is rare, and antique; but the tree’s tenants – a family of squirrels, an alert salamander, and a tarry of vagabond crows – became patrons, and commend it as unremarkable.
The palms of his hands, flat and outstretched, Gabriel spun and glowered, his features vexed at the open, seventh-floor window of a Coney Island flat. He proclaimed, rather inexplicably: “Imagine a world in peace, with all men gazing at the wonderful-overcast-city,” and his father nodded slowly. Gabe advised him, “You know Pop, that’s a gunshot,” and he insisted, again, — this had been observed four times: “A lady derringer. It’s life-threatening.”
His father’s name was Red. Krakow, who was sleepy, whose beak slightly failed, uttered an “Aw,” and blinked rather blankly at the son. Krakow was a macaw.
Abruptly, Red’s eyes widened into a roust, “A lady derringer is a compliment to anyone who lives in New York,” imputing neither he, nor the slug were presently en route anywhere to anywhere else. He issued a native family bromide: “We won’t miss the Mets.”
Stewed, Gabriel asked, “Maw?”
Red plunged into his glider, more assured Gabe was properly redacted, and corrected him, “Mother.”
“Maw,” Gabe reiterated.
“Maugham, then, like Somerset Maugham,” said the father, sternly distracted, but without either interest, or resolve.
Red was an Arab-Jewish American. He inspected the oak construction of his glider, and shifted from right to left; the easy chair was as soothing as a handmade casket, except for the parallel lines sewn in colors of bright red, bright yellow, and bright orange; visitors observed the chair was “ghastly,” as said one.
Red was prone to blush from most exertion. “Red” derived from his legal name, Reddick. He searched for his calves in the Coney Island apartment, and stretched one, then the other into his plain sight. He was not blushed. Gabriel sat on a stuffed ottoman near the window, and he drummed his knees with his thumbs. He asked, his eyes rolling, thoughtfully, but with a discipline of patience, “He home?”
“No,” Red grumbled. “He’s still in Florida. Your mother, either. She’s not home.”
“She left New York sixteen years ago, Pop,” Gabe said, rising, and began to spin. He spun a lot, suspecting a ballroom dancer lay within his makeup. He flexed his arms outward, commenting to the macaw, Krakow: “I’m fly,” peering intently at the overcast sky.
“I’m fly,” Krakow repeated. The macaw was not compelled to speak on a given occasion, and usually did not. He was listless. Krakow continued bleakly surveying Shell Road in Gravesend, abiding in a secret propriety. His window, Krakow’s domain, had been installed in the “Ice Age,” a time ice men used the fire escape to deliver a block of ice; it had no screen. He invested the street traffic, the tourists, vendors, and strangers seven floors below, finally declaring, “Make him bring it! Make him bring it!”
“Better batter, better batter!” Red cheered to the macaw, a dite hoarsely. A macaw is one of the world’s largest flying parrots.
Krakow groaned, and turned, using his beak to point from the window sill; pausing at Red, like a stern Pope, the bird commanded, “Bacon.”
Red leaned to one side of his glider, feebly clasping a hand to his heart.
His neighbor viewed Surf Avenue, the Coney junipers, and Luna Park in the spring light, repairing from months of millennial gusto in Florida, and was listening to the thumps of waves from the beach. He loved New York. He asked Aji, “Is this a true story?”
Aji gauged his expression, and said, “True, yes.”
“It’s unique,” he said. “You’re unique. You’re maybe too unique. Is it the only Obelisk, that is, besides Arthur Clarke’s? Who built it? What about the inscription? Why was it built? Is it a marker of some kind? A marker of what?”
“I can answer the questions,” she said. “Yes.”
“What did the expedition say, that posse?”
Aji said, “Well. Nothing.”
“Nothing,” he repeated. “There’s one individual, a Will Adorjan, the great nephew of a yet unborn American pioneer, Bud Adorjan. It’s all too far-fetched. You’re searching for this guy. He’s been missing twenty years.”
She opted for the ring toss. Aji said, “Will was flawless. And I prefer cairn, or caryatid, to Obelisk.” He shrugged. “I saw it all,” Aji said, reflecting. “Happen. I know the image of those clouds. Hours at the rewind button of a black-and-white monitor. Will it fail? Then the clouds disappear. (Pause.) We have 10-magenta skies; dark, brushed peaks of cocoa peaks, copper sand. Will’s ship was cranky. The crew was cranky. (Pause.) It’s the…legend of Coda.”
He said, “It’s centuries away. Light years away. Away. From now.”
“If you were Adorjan, you would want to know something like, is space flat?” Aji responded. “There are questions, answers belying the legend, yes. Is it a last stop? Is this the edge of space?”
He rolled his hands, and mused. “You’re invading my space. Just…unplug your rover from my Satellite radio, and we’re good here. This Adorjan thing? I can’t begin to guess.”
“If it were as simple, yes,” Aji uttered, frustrated. “None of us want to guess. And I’m not…asking you.”
Her words were muffled by the siren of the New York Fire Department, which was responding to a burst of flames under the hood of a black Audi, parked in a space at the New York Aquarium on West Eighth across from Surf toward the beach. “You’re really a space…person?” he rejoined, turning from the Audi incident, and wanting to say, “This is New York. We’re all from somewhere else,” but Aji brushed past him sideways, and sprinted toward a Boardwalk arcade.
“What, Pop?” Gabriel asked. Red winced, and eased helplessly from the glider.
The son grabbed his father’s shoulder by the seam of his red, green, and yellow flannel shirt. Red seldom wore the shirt without a careful schedule of outward bounds, and not since a deer hunt in January in south New Hampshire; meanwhile, an oval stain, a deep cruor, oozed in thick goo under the arm. Gabe saw it, and yelled, “You’re bleeding out!”
“No, nah,” Red said, twenty minutes out from Jeopardy, annoyed, “I caught one, that’s all. We’ll see about it. Day, or so. What a loon! He’s waving this pistol out of the car, a big Lincoln! Probably know it. V-8; yellow, big…boat of a car, flopping off one sidewalk to the other. He fires rounds into the air. Sure, sure. Why not? Ping off the concrete. Ping off the dumpster. Ping! Ping. Lunatic.”
“It is lodged in your back, Pop,” Gabriel said, pulling at a receiver from the winding cord of a black telephone with his hand. “I’m dialing.” He pressed the keys: nine-one-one.
“It’s like a bee sting,” Red evinced, nervously checking the clock on the wall over the television. “A pebble in the shoe, the casing, they call it. It’ll fall out! I had eleven bits in Korea. They fall out on their own. Hey. Jeopardy.”
“Shrapnel, yeah, it’s bad,” Gabe stated, relaying information to the ambulance, with one eye watching his father; a 67-year-old, Caucasian male with…yes, Medicare.
“Listen, Gabe,” Red wheezed, rallying, as if an emergency might arise, slurring his words. “Like the Alamo, Gabriel. Your mother’s in Vegas. We got a bird. We’ve got you. We got me. And a bird. That’s it. Nobody else.”
Gabe lightly capped the receiver and said, “The ambulance’s coming.” Red relaxed; seemed happy a crisis had subsided. He praised Gabe with another family saying, adding a touch of finality, “Son, you’ll leave us penniless.”
He was spooked by an anteater, scurrying in a dash along the wood baseboard of the island arcade, and decided to embrace the adolescent safety of skee-ball. The callow eyes of the beige, lonely anteater were wont to commune with the middle-aged man, marauder to marauder. “Goo ‘way,” he suggested, as the anteater slunked beneath a row of mini-hoops. “You look like a – VW bus.”
He tried sinking small basketballs through small rims into small nets, not liking it much. “Why me?” he asked. “What do I know about space, and time?”
“More than you realize,” Aji remarked, searching for common knowledge. “Maybe it’s not the physical edge. Maybe it’s porous. Coda. Or permeable; a thin path to another reality,” and finally, “Does it sound worth playing for?”
“Is this Star Trek, or Survivor?”
The anteater accidentally landed in the netting of one of the hoops, and wrestled in the twine for freedom; it had already knocked over a set of tiny bowling pins. A Nebraska couple frantically dialed numbers into a cell. Moments later, he heard, “There it is!” A New York firefighter shouted, and rushed towards the game.
Aji neglected the commotion. “Adorjan’s ancestors were from Earth, from New York,” she said, subdued. “He has not been found, one way, or — the other.”
His mind wandered sullenly to a frozen Salisbury steak defrosting on the bar in his flat. It could create a puddle of water puddle, was it a body of water? He decided the notion was entirely stupid, squeezed a skee-ball with his right hand, and, eventually, protested, “Bah!”
Red was lost in a daydream. A dual tube in his nostrils assisted the absorption of oxygen. He was forcefully hefted into a portable bed with aluminum rails on either side. Red remembered the surreal day of his capture in Pyongyang in fifty-two, but abandoned the memory; too frightening for a flesh wound. Red called to Krakow: “What do you say, boy? Hah!”
“Easy,” Gabriel counseled. He used an index finger to transport the bird.
Plaintively, Red asked, “Can Krakow go?”
Red squinted at Krakow. “Time, it’s time to get the – “
“Shoe on the rude!” Krakow reported. “Shoe on the rude! Shoe on the rude!”
“Life-threatening,” said Gabe.
Red braced with the rails, and soldiered, “We won’t miss the Mets.”
No longer grist of the shadows, Aji was afloat in La Grande Lumineres, and she beamed in a throe of blissful shock. It was not the ponds, but it was not the ponds. “My-y!” she said. “I can’t tell him. Look at Laniakea! The strings of Hydra!”
And she breathed, “La Grande Lumineres – a majesty of stars, a glowing cascade, a billion years before the universe.”
Theme | “Flea Markets, No. 2″ | playlist, nos. 1-15
“The Shadows” is one of three works by SODA TOM.
“The Shadows,” by Soda Tom, Vol. I of III,
from The Echo By Seas; & Other Stories
Copyright (C), 2018; 2017, ff., by the author
All Rights Reserved
Created by Soda Tom