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Uno and Fog: The Menagerie

August 2, 2019

As soon as we stepped outside, April stopped and took in a huge lung full of air and held it with her eyes closed then let it out with a sigh, “so many smells.”

Her fingers lingered on a cast iron rail, before going to a nearby tree and caressing the bark of the trunk.  Her head bobbed around like a tourists, craning this way and that.

“You’re going to draw attention to yourself.”

She pouted a little bit, “If anyone asks, I’m your cousin from flyover country, never been to the big city before.”

“Even so, we don’t look like cousins.” I point out.

“Alright,” although she doesn’t sound like she’s actually taking me seriously.

“You are remarkably resilient.”

Her faces darkness, lines appear upon her brow, “probably because I don’t remember much.  They had me drugged the entire time.  No memories, no emotional trauma.  Other than the trauma of having part of my life stolen and my freedom.”  The more she spoke the angrier she sounded.  I saw her fist clenching, her jaw actually tremble.

“Well,” changing the subject, “where would you like to go?”

She looked over at the Greensward, “the park?”

“Not exactly the safest venue at night.”

She considers for a moment, “we could walk a ways around it.”

I nod and we head across the street, dodging the traffic to the sidewalk that encircles the park.  She skips ahead and then glances back to make sure I am following, that I am close by.  Like a child testing her independence, but needing the reassurance of a parent.  I wonder again how old she was when they took her and placed her in the room and drugged her.  How old she is mentally and chronologically and how much of a difference there is.

Assuming its not an act.

Assuming that she isn’t pretending to be young, and naïve, and slightly damaged.

We walk along the edge of the park heading north, traffic is heavy, but it always is.  There are other people walking along the park as well despite the evening chill.

“Can you eat?”

“Solid foods make me very uncomfortable, but I can drink fluids fine.”

I steer her toward a building that has a restaurant on it terrace, called The Menagerie.  I am well aware of the irony in the name with recent events.  She takes in the entry of the building, the mahogany and brass, the mirrors which I noted carried her reflection in it just fine.

That isn’t as reassuring as you might think, because having read a little about them recently, there are some stories where they can create illusions, and this certainly would qualify.  Others suggest that the mirror needs to be one fashioned with silver like the old ones used to be.  Then there’s the issue about whether its an animated corpse or a spiritual manifestation.

I didn’t expect to actually research vampires as a legitimate inquiry in my life.

The elevator ride is chaperoned by an operator which is a nice touch.  We get to the floor and the restaurant sprawls before us, large almost seamless windows cover the entire. west wall facing the park, with a beautiful view of the skyline on the other side, all lights and shadows.

I provide the maître d’ with a sufficient financial incentive to get us a table along the window.  As we sit down I note April caressing the linen table cloth.  She smells the flowers In the crystal vase and I can see delight on her face at the flora’s perfume.  There are rose tresses along the edges of the restaurant.

The restaurant is packed, there is what looks like a wedding party having a rehearsal dinner near by, along with anniversary celebrations, couples out for dinner.  No one gives us a second glance.

I am offered a wine list as a decanter of water and glasses are placed in front of me.

I realize that April looks like a teenager and doesn’t have any government identification.  I will have to talk to The Fog about fixing that.  I order a simple merlot and a cola for her before she did something to make things awkward.

I once had a wine snob inform me that I should learn all the differences between the wines not only to appreciate the finer ones, but to find a less expensive one that I enjoy.  Which seems like a backward way of doing things if your tastes are indiscriminate but you enjoy all of them that don’t taste like vinegar what’s the point of increasing your appreciation for a few at the expense of not enjoying the rest?

“Do you always order for other people?”  April asked.

“Only when I realize they look underage and don’t have any identification.  Or if the people I’m with can’t read the menu, or if they’re very old fashioned.”

“Anything that might be awkward.” She looks amused.

“Very astute,” I nod, “that and anything that draws attention to me, unless I want attention.”

Our drinks come.  I tell the waiter that we would like the berry reduction with the frozen cream.  After he leaves, “hopefully that won’t cause too much indigestion.”

She nods and takes a small sip of the soda, I can see her running it around in her mouth, enjoying the coldness and the taste.

“Tell me were you born like this?”

“We’re you?” She counters.

“You first.”

“It started when I began to lose my baby teeth and they were replaced with . . .”

“What you have now.”

“Yes.  It worried my parents, they kept trying to have my teeth fixed, but my body kept reasserting itself.  Now you.”

“Teenager.  I woke up one day and the world looked different, and I found I could do things.  What about your diet?”

“Solid food started making me sick.  At first they thought it was allergies, they drew blood, did the pin prick tests,” she grimaced, “but it wasn’t allergies.  I kept getting hungrier and hungrier . . .” she trailed off and looked away.

I am about to press her when something changes in the tenor of the wedding party nearby.  A woman’s voice is getting angry, and I hear placating voices nearby.  I turn to look over at them and notice two things.   A young woman was standing looking furiously down at a man and a woman that were making placating gestures.

“You think I wouldn’t find out?”  There was menace in her voice and it was loud enough to carry.  The sound in the restaurant had diminished as the scene started to unfold.

I noticed the rose trellises were starting to move around the restaurant, even the flower at our table seemed to jump and tremble.  I swore the leaves grew slightly, the petals unfolded just a bit.

Not for the first time I wondered if I had some kind of magnets for bad things to happen around me.


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