The One Young One

To three women, three laughing women, soup was served. Three bowls for three women, one for each.

They were women, stout laughing women, who had gathered for soup. Women before a table. Women all on chairs. Women planted, well-balanced, on chairs.

The table was of strong wood, oak perhaps, chairs too, rickety only slightly, bent in back and well-designed.

Behind them the wallpaper seemed to stare. Stare at them and beyond them.

The soup was served steaming hot. Hot piping soup. A young woman served it and, having done so, went swiftly back through the swinging door to the kitchen.

Thus it was that the women had the soup before them.

One sneezed, the others laughed. But the one who sneezed laughed too. But only later. But soon sneezed another. And laughing again.

One ate soup and she was one who ate it slowly, always so slowly, as if savoring, though savoring she was not. Another threw her own soup through a window. The window was open and the bowl flew through it. She did so so skillfully that the soup stayed in the bowl at least until the bowl cleared the window.

That left one soup still steaming, still uneaten. A soup to look at.

They were three strong women slightly stocky, hair stacked and curled, and hair either flecked with white or all white, three strong women about a strong wooden table. Strong chairs too.

Sleep came soon. Sleep all in a room. A long room they slept it. All in beds, one apiece. All in beds that fit them well.

The one young one tucked them in. The young woman, the one who had served the soup, and who had cooked it also, and served it regularly, almost nightly. But if a servant woman she must have lived elsewhere, for after tucking in the women, which she did nightly, she left the house. She locked the house behind her and went away. She went away on a bicycle. She went pedaling fast up a hill, and down the other side she coasted.

To one she read. That is tucking in. Tucking in when moon was high. When high moon bright. And soup long eaten.

Soup to laugh at. Words too, words written, words spoken. The others cackling too. The others listening. Not always. But often.

Crickets.

Moonlight, and soup long eaten. Strong chairs, strong women. Young woman. Young woman reading. Young woman cycling. Young woman coming home.

Morning came very fast, for night was short. Night was always short, but in summer even shorter, and the hummingbirds were about.

Ruth was first to arise. But not first to waken. But not last to waken. Not that anyone was keeping track. For Ruth was to fix breakfast.

“I have been designated,” thought Ruth.

And that was how they came, that morning, to be gathered, as often they were at that time, again around the table, little pancakes before them, patties of butter too, some syrup. Orange juice.

A little man walked by. A little old man with little hair on his head. The man had, in old age, shrunk overall. Yet his head had remained the same, that is in size, or thereabout. And with him the man carried a clock, a large clock about half his size. The man walked slowly, for the clock was difficult for him to carry.

He stopped and said, “Where can I set this?”

“I know,” said Ruth.

But which one was Ruth? In truth I have forgotten. For while the women did not all look the same, they looked alike enough that I have forgotten, I mean how to tell them apart. But let’s just say that Ruth was on the perimeter, the left-hand perimeter, that is if looked on from the window.

Ruth continued:

“This a way.”

Ruth pointed. But the old man did not know where she pointed, for the clock obscured his view.

“I will have to put this down,” he said. “There.”

The clock was on the table. The clock’s hands slowly moved, did not tick, or if they did tick they ticked so softly, so softly that no one could hear, unless of course one were to put an ear against the back or face of the clock, even then I doubt that anything, except perhaps for a faint buzzing, could be heard. But is a buzz not a ticking? Perhaps it is, but for the sake of this argument I say no.

The old man bent over, for he had found something.

“Is this a fly?” he said.

He did not touch it.

The man was very old and he had liver spots, large ones, about his head and probably his chest as well. But he was younger than death, and he had a kind of vitality, or vigor, probably both. Sometimes he played soccer. He played alone and with only a few feet of grass, but it kept up his spirits, for in youth he had played in a league.

The pancakes were eaten, completely eaten, and all the syrup and butter on their plates were sopped by an extra pancake, a pancake made especially for sopping, and they all went sated into another room and they looked at the clock, for the old man had wheeled it in.

2.

The old man had wheeled it in.

He sat on the floor. That left the couch, the entirety of the couch, still open, and the women sat on that. But even with the man on the couch could not the women have sat there, for they might have scrunched in, scrunched in tight, all together? But the man had already sat on the floor and the opportunity for scrunching, for tight squeezing, at this time had passed.

But they all looked at the clock, all together. One looked away, but looked back again.

“Is it broken?” said the man.