'Is it nice here?' It was Zodelia, who had returned without her haik. Her black crepe European dress hung unbelted down to her ankles, almost grazing her bare feet. The hem was lopsided. 'Is it nice here?' she asked again, crouching on her haunches in front of her and pointing at the old woman. 'That one is Tetum,' she said. The old lady plunged both hands into a bowl of raw chopped meat and began shaping the stuff into little balls.
'Tetum' echoed the ladies on the matress.
'This Nazarene,' said Zodelia, gesturing in her direction, 'spends half her time in a Moslem house with Moslem friends and the other half in a Nazarene hotel with other Nazarenes.'
'That's nice,' said the women opposite. 'Half with Moslem friends and half with Nazarenes.'
The old lady looked very stern. She noticed that her bony cheeks were tattooed with tiny blue crosses.
'Why?' asked the old lady abruptly in a deep voice. 'Why does she spend half her time with Moslem friends and half with Nazarenes?' She fixed her eye on Zodelia, never ceasing to shape the meat with her swift fingers. Now she saw that her knuckles were also tattooed with blue crosses.
Zodelia stared back at her stupidly. 'I don't know why,' she said, shrugging one fat shoulder. It was clear that the picture she had been painting for them had suddenly lost all its charm for her.
'Is she crazy?' the old lady asked.
'No,' Zodelia answered listlessly. 'She is not crazy.' There were shrieks of laughter from the mattress.
Everything Is Nice [from Plain Pleasures]
"When Dickens asked himself and his readers in Bleak House what connection there could possibly be between illiterate, orphaned, lost Jo the crossing-sweeper and (say) Lady Dedlock, it was an archly rhetorical question. Jo proves his kinship by contagion, do-gooding Esther Summerson catches his smallpox, is revealed as Lady Dedlock's illegitimate daughter, which in turn provides a motive for the murder of lawyer Tulkinghorn, which eventually enables Inspector Bucket and the author to tie everything up. Here, the needy and marginal compete with and prey on each other, the murder that's the main event is unsolved, there's a diaspora of destinies."
Next [from Moments of Truth · Twelve 20th Century Women Writers · Fourth Estate]
posted by Ian 5/24/2003 12:07:00 PM