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Morris Bidden adopted him or something. But there’s no birth
certificate. Say hi to the nice lady, Ellis.”
But little Ellis was still bawling. Niles picked him up and brought
him over to the one sure-fire anti-crying device he knew. An
enormous tropical fishtank filled with duppy guppies. As they
watched the colorful forms flow in and around each other, an
amazing process took place. They crowded around in wonder.
“That fish is pooping out other fish,” the boy marveled, previous
disaster all forgotten.
“Not pooping. Giving birth,” Colin explained.
“Twit,” Niles said.
“What did you call me?” Colin snapped.
“No, not you,” Niles explained, “A twit is a pregnant goldfish.”
“I’ve never heard that before,” Dolores piped in, shaking her
curls and laughing, “Sounds fishy to me. Ha ha!”
“Some lady told me that once,” Niles replied, still staring at the
multiplicative miracle unfolding before him. He held the boy
comfortably in his arms. What did it matter? It was just a word.
Some lady indeed. She arrived at Blue Mountain High Import
company one day years ago to order a big bag of Special Reserve. She
was glamorous and well-to-do, though her expression was flaccid
and sad. She asked him about the little black beans he distributed.
She seemed to know a lot about coffee.
In mid-conversation, she impulsively reached out to touch the
hexagram around his neck—the Star of David and a teardrop rolled
down her cheek. She took his arm and pulled him outside where she
held him closely and kissed him. They adjourned to the privacy of a
delivery van, where she cried out her grief and release against his
chest and when he asked if he needed to pull out, she said it didn’t
matter because she was a twit. “A pregnant goldfish,” she explained,
bucking hard against him. When it was over she wiped her tears away
and fled the van. He never saw her again.
Things like that didn’t normally happen to Niles, nor to anyone
he knew. Surely not in broad daylight on a weekday in a delivery van
with a woman of her station. What had possessed her? What was the
meaning behind it? What small portion of the picture were any of us
privy to individually? Drawn from a literature so illegibly large.
I and I. And we. And we.
He ignited an oversized spliff, inhaled, and passed it out into the
sea of outstretched palms.
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