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Garish Decadent or An Old Man My Age. a short story by Richard A Antonius

Richard A Antonius (Author of Boogeyman’s Time and Omnium. In Polish.)

Short story in English. Translated by Suzie Komza.

Garish Decadent or An Old Man My Age.

I strode on the edge of the sea, heading towards the white facades of the coastal houses. They glowed like dentition gaping at the sun, from which the seagulls pilfered bits of radiance like the leftovers of a meal. In the distance, the Rock of Gibraltar imitated a capering whale.

I paced along the rocky beach, and my thoughts oscillated, first on one element, then on another. In the end, they agreed on visualising a certain film from a writer’s life.

I myself am a writer, so I recalled that creators are often filmed in a moment when they tread on the edge of two elements. And the creator must have his eyesight fettered to the horizon, by all means settling on elemental omniscience. It is irrelevant that in his sunglasses, as a result, it is unclear whether he gazes into the distance, or if he is controlling a nearby camera with the question: is it over?

I had previously read somewhere, that this inconspicuous town had once been a fishing village called Pescadoloro. What wasn’t in that name! Fish, fish meals, pain, fishy fragrance, and finally, a parrot… golden! All right then…

I made my way off of the sand and onto the promenade, and noticing a small café, I moved under its marquis. A satiated seagull reluctantly ceded its table to me.

A bearded man sat by the wall with a windswept mullet. On account of his conspicuous body mass, I deduced that he must be older than me. Old geezer, I stated. His forked profile transformed into a palpitating black strand of hair against the white façade. This elicited some sort of hunch in my mind, as though afterimages of memories, which were immediately dispersed by the old man’s hues. He wore a garish green blazer with orange stripes, as well as a pink shirt with fanciful plants. Some chrysanthemums, albeit cheerful. Something shaggy stuck out from behind the table. At first glance I thought the old geezer’s shirt to be unbuttoned, but then I noticed a small dog with a dotted bowtie between its ears. The dog sat in his lap. Fate, or perhaps advanced age, had endowed the animal with maliciously protruding teeth, so that it was unclear whether or not it smiled or readied itself to take a bite out of someone…

The old man looked to the sea, which sought – I saw this in the shadow – to arrange his beard and then his mullet, with an invisible comb in aerosol form. He reminded himself of his cup, took a sip of coffee, all the while observing if he could master his hand tremors. He looked at the basaltic wall of mountains ending the bay, and remembered something, as he began to grope around underneath his violet scarf. He pulled out a red box. He opened the lid in a flash of light. For a moment he contemplated, smiling, the cigars that were crammed in like sardines. With the other hand’s fingers, around which the leash was wreathed like a rosary, he grasped the knob of his walking stick, which was shaped like a phoenix’s head, and pressed it down on a newspaper so as not to let the sudden gust of wind carry it off. In that instant a hunched, slender man joined him, donning a green hat. His cheeks were sunken, as if with one drag he had sucked every crumb of light from the plastic aluminium tables. And he kept it up. The old man pushed the box under his nose. A bit under his eyes – a bit under his nose. The other one nodded his head in appreciation. Both of them twirled their cigars with contentment for a good while, and then they inhaled their robust backs. The sun’s brilliance appeared to crackle beneath their yellowed fingers. They must have been old acquaintances, for they understood each other wordlessly in their café ceremony. They must have talked everything over already, to the point of muteness. And so there was only the smoke, which they released from between their lips; rounded like a fish’s mouth. The black strand on the wall was washed out amidst the ephemeral threads, as though it wished to fly away from beneath the flapping marquis. For days now, the said marquis had already been partially primed for takeoff.

The waiter placed a cappuccino before me, with a yellow drawing representing – neither an autumnal leaf nor a corazon – it adorned – or did not adorn the foam in the cup. When I swirled it with my spoon, it became neither a drawing of a spade, nor yet a rake. All right, then…

I glanced in the other direction. The basaltic wall of mountains had piled up in chilly silence. As though it had wanted to budge from there. Once more I looked at the old man and his assistant. I became aware that they spoke a puffing language, yes, with smoke rings. After a while, even I could sense a heavy aroma in my nostrils, like the hatchet of a lobotomist…

But that old man’s shadow bouncing on the wall… In his branchy strand, I had the impression that the shape of a head was hidden… with a severed nape. A flat back of the head. Wait a moment, that’s the abandoned infant syndrome. I read about it somewhere. I have it myself, so I rather distanced myself from such diagnoses. It doesn’t add up. Nevertheless, the old man had indeed a flattened head. As though he lacked a brain. It was my discovery. The shadow of his head had something baleful in it… Finally, I fished something similar from the well of my memories. It was the shadow of wax, which Grandma had projected on the wall from a candle. She said: “I see a howling woman, with hair of tangled serpents, and when you turn it, like so… ah, I see a spade…” Then she foretold Uncle Leopold’s future. And it checked out, as his funeral was held just before the holidays.

My Grandma also had something black in her prayer book. Once, a draft had rent it from her book, and it rushed across the floor in leaps, and I fled from it screaming around the table. Just like the other day, when I had run from the barber. Grandma reassured me not to be afraid, that the strand was a souvenir from Siberia, and it wouldn’t bite. In the end she pinned it against the wall, placed it back into her book and shut it. But still, it stuck out. I could see how the tip of the black hair wavered. As though Grandma had put the lid on a virulent beastie in a trap… From that moment onwards, I never peered into prayer books.

The dog in the old man’s lap choked on the smoke, growled and started to wheeze. Maybe at that, which I had surmised of his master… in any case…

Next I began to apply to them my Grandma’s third eye. And I thought: Perhaps, after all, the first to go will be the dog, as he is so stupid. Then the old man, and then the one in the green hat (which said hat must surely once have belonged to the old man), the one with the sunken cheeks and with a surprised look – would pass on last. I did not take myself into consideration. And yet, we’re all moving towards that table, and the moment will come, when we will have to pick a seat like in the musical chair game…

By and by the coffee was drained, the sun scintillated against the mountain chain, and the old man’s shadow began to stretch like Pinocchio’s elongated nose, beyond the cornerstone of the house. As though it pulled on his head.

I left the café, along with the old man with the dog and his assistant, in the cloud of smoke beneath the suspiring marquis on the terrace.

I have an acquaintance, who for some years has been trying to station himself in his late years. He said that in a rat’s hole, you weren’t able to hide yourself. That it had to do with hitting a brick wall sooner or later. He would like to crash into it with grace and aplomb, but preferably pass through it in such a way, that his atoms would overshoot its atoms. Elegantly and without a collision.

When I see him, I will tell him about the method from Pescadoloro. About the garish decadent’s method in the company of an assistant: emanating cigar smoke into a basaltic wall at the end of a bay.

Returning home, I told my wife everything. She listened – or she may not have. She nodded her head. Then she told me that she would later help me pick out a vivid blazer. What was more, she had already seen something like that on sale, and it was a Hugo Boss with orange stripes. “Almost the same as the old man your age,” she assured me. “All right then…” I wanted to interject. But the wife continued, “Instead of a cigar, I’d suggest a pipe. The smell of a cigar settles in the walls, whereas a pipe suits a writer better. There’s this shop with pipes, where they also sell walking sticks. Some have knobs made of elephant bones.” She said, and added, “You can buy red shoes on the main street in San Pedro, I know where – it’s on the way to the main square. We’ll go there tomorrow.”

Copyright by © R A Antonius

r.antonius@gmail.com

More about the author:

www.atlango.com

NEW: Link to my short story: FRAGRANCE OF PHLOXES: https://spark.adobe.com/page/qdQbadLx13Tdc/

Link to one Chapter from my book Omnium (in ENGLISH) :

https://spark.adobe.com/page/3p45UGq6IJmuN/

Link to Portfolio Creo+Art:

https://spark.adobe.com/page/R4axJhRqQr0MX/

Link to Portfolio Paintings:

https://spark.adobe.com/page/Pd4CgktgplnBW/

Richard A Antonius YouTube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf24oWzAYreH3LiFbSkYDLA

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