Underfoot, the hall’s floor is a puzzle work of slate – gray-blue, charcoal, sand-flecked. To the left, a rough plaster wall rises; opposite, a series of ornate, heavily carved and curved wood frames define bevel-glass windows and doors. At the hall’s far end, a single, narrow, French door emits dusty bands of light.
Walk the hall’s length, pale cat in tow – calm, despite its slack leash; small, excited dog free to leap and prance at heel. Count each stride. Turn. Double back. Half-light swims and glitters; reflects off glass; pools upon polished wood and slate.
The words surface, unbidden:
the gray stone,
Complete the lap — down the hall and back. Turn into the open doorway, incised in the plaster wall. Enter a large dining room. Its ceiling soars overhead; its furnishings baroque in detail. A long trestle table, lavishly set, bisects the room’s middle. And there, at the end nearest, with one leg flung over the arm of a carved wooden chair, a man lounges in neat, formal attire. See, also, the spiral-bound writing pad. Understand that the words — as they formed mere moments ago — have found their way onto those pages. He has read them. Scoffed at them. Advises, now, in arrogant tone: “Stick to ‘womanly pursuits’ ”.
Remember. Him. Earlier this day when, parked downtown, he had leapt – uninvited – into the back seat of the bright and gleaming orange convertible. A black-suit-clad intruder sprawled against white leather seats. There, then, he had critiqued – with undisguised scorn – a young man’s physics dissertation. Each word a poison dart. Remember how the young man had sagged, diminished.
Here, now. Stand. Rooted to slate. Head bent, chin to chest, like a whipped child in this grand, antique and dated room. Before this viper-tongued braggart. Feel the roar inside growing.