e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n
e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n
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It was right before the war began that Mr. Fitzwilliam at the Colonial Office lent me his copy of The Brothers Karamazov. Perhaps Mr. Fitzwilliam found it marvelous (and amusing?) that a Chinese man might appreciate Dostoevsky in English translation, which according to him was the second best way to read Russian authors, second only to reading them in French. And perhaps there were limits to our friendship. A friendship, after all, was a relation between equals, and as a servant of His Majesty King George VI, Mr. Fitzwilliam could not have considered me his equal.
At first he thought it must be the Cognac. With the tips of his fingers he felt drops of condensation gliding down the outside of the glass onto the mahogany armrest. No coaster. Alfred would not be pleased. The amber liquid was starting to grow warm as the ice melted, and it was beginning to taste watered down on his tongue. He had been ending his evenings with these solitary nightcaps more and more often lately.
He started to eat, and she put her bare feet up on the table and stretched her arms high over her head. "You know," she said. "That's why breakfast is for lovers. Lunch is just the middle of the day. Dinner you can heat up the next day. But breakfast is only good right in the moment. Remember that someday when you're dating girls. Best thing you can ever do if you really like a girl is take her to breakfast.
Dorothy came into the barn, utterly frazzled, and stood in a stack of oats. Something in her gaze reminded me that we were lost to one another, lost in the vagaries of her secret whim or golem or whatever the Bad Man represented. I chided myself for attempting to satiate her. But we were in the barn and Dorothy was clasping onto my arm.
My father was out a moment later, struggling with the garden hose, hoping to shoot it off the house like it was an Alabama protestor and he was the police. But the bird was on to him. Before he could even get set, a flutter of wings carried it off the house and over the still-standing trees. He sent a spray of water in the general direction, but old dad wasn't even close.
It was one Tuesday morning that Ogechi and I came out to find that someone had put a canopy and chairs across the street, just like ours, but yellow. There was no one there, the chairs around the canopy empty. Ogechi stared without a word, half a smile on her lips. Then she laughed: a short, coughing sound.
It's true that Americans are conformists. But that's not what the movie is about! I slammed my fist hard upon the table. No, no, Comrade Beria, the movie is about a marshal, a leader, a keeper of the law, who is morally compelled to face a returning enemy, a deadly enemy, only to discover that his comrades refuse to help him. I looked past Beria at Khrushchev, Bulganin and Malenkov. High Noon, my dear comrades, is about loyalty and betrayal. That's what the movie is about.