98 Porch-geese and Vietnam

41 0 0

98   Porch-geese and Vietnam

Kim and I have now reached Shigem's place. "What did you see in him?" Kim asks, turning to me with fascination as we step up onto the front path.

"Um ... I'll tell you later. I'm not convinced I could quite do justice to it, between here and the top of the stairs. A lot of it was pretty non-verbal. And you know what—coming in with you now would be cute and all, but I can be more useful than that. I didn't see any imminent danger in Lucan, but he may just have farmed out his dirty work, so I want to check on Damian too, right now, to make sure he's not about to come round here. I'll phone you, if he is."

"OK, Jaymi. Thanks, I'll see you later."

I set off down the street. What I just said was true, but my not going upstairs with him had a second reason too: I was scrapping my plan to convert that maybe-final goodbye with Shigem last night into a definitely-penultimate goodbye instead. I doubt that he and I could have made a better job of our leave-taking, later tonight, than the job we made of it last night, sudden and brief though that was; and if I'd forced us to attempt it by appearing tonight, we might even have risked a faint undercurrent of superfluity.

Within a couple of minutes I have zigzagged over to Damian's house, and there he is approaching it from the other direction, shooting furtive glances about him, with the collar of his battered leather jacket raised up. "Hi Damian," I call. He pauses, then jerks his gaunt head at me with the same hint of gruff affection I saw in the odorous gents at Downstairs. Well, good; but that doesn't mean I feel the same for him. On a bold whim, as a variation on my mission to protect Shigem, I decide to cash in on his goodwill. "May I come in for a moment?" I ask.

"Alright," he says, surprised.

"Thanks. I don't mean to be rude, but is there any danger of the dogs being kept away from me? I'm such a pussy-cat when it comes to dogs."

"I'll keep them out in the alley," he grunts.

I follow him inside and take a seat in his kitchen, at the same bare wooden table I saw in Angel's memories of living here. He brews up two mugs of tea, brings them to the table and sits across from me, all in a more leisurely manner than I have witnessed in him while in the company of the others. "Thanks, Damian. By the way, I've been meaning to ask: where did our two broadcasts take you, what did you see when you watched them?"

He stiffens, looking grim. "I didn't see the second one, but your first broadcast dug something up that it should have left buried. It's now running loose in me and hiding in the shadows. A thing I never knew I had. A shriek—that's all I'll call it. You don't wanna know more."

We lapse into quiet ... and I see you as a boy, Damian West, when the sad pirate captain in your head said you'd sail via white sandy bays past frog-croaking jungles, through lagoons and straits and over seas whose green glassy surfaces shivered with the wriggle of gigantic squids and worms miles below. But even as a boy you could glimpse, within the captain's vision of your ship's jaunty launch, the spectre of the ghost-ship it would later become: torn shreds of sail hung on pale shrunken mast-wood, where cormorants perched and shat; the rasp of vultures scratched across the plastic glaze of sky, while an oil-slicked sea licked dully at the ship's hull; and strands of blackened flesh upon your own skull and bones.

My tune-in is interrupted by a savage barking from the side alley. Damian takes a quick step across to the window and peers through the lowered blind towards the street, his hand near his jacket pocket, then returns to his tea. "Passer-by," he mutters darkly.

He rolls an expertly thin cigarette from a packet of tobacco. I raise my mug to him and he returns the gesture. "I used to have porch-geese," he reminisces.

THE IMAGINATION THIEF (mini-chapters 1-98)Read this story for FREE!