Friday, 25 November 2011

The Blue Bouquet

…. As I crossed the street, I heard someone come out of a doorway.  I turned around, but could not distinguish anything.  I hurried on.  A few moments later I heard the dull shuffle of sandals on the hot stone.  I didn’t want to turn around, although I felt the shadow getting closer with every step.  I tried to run.  I couldn’t.  Suddenly I stopped short.  Before I could defend myself, I felt the point of a knife in my back, and a sweet voice:
            ‘Don’t move, mister, or I’ll stick it in.’
            Without turning, I asked:
            ‘What do you want?’
            Your eyes, mister,’ answered the soft, almost painful voice.
            ‘My eyes?  What do you want with my eyes?  Look, I’ve got some money.  Not much, but it’s something.  I’ll give you everything I have if you let me go.  Don’t kill me.’
             Don’t be afraid, mister.  I won’t kill you.  I’m only going to take your eyes.’
            But why do you want my eyes?’  I asked again.
            ‘My girlfriend has this whim.  She wants a bouquet of blue eyes.  And around here they’re hard to find.’
            My eyes won’t help you.  They’re brown, not blue.’
            ‘Don’t try to fool me, mister.  I know very well that yours are blue.’
            Don’t take the eyes of a fellow man.  I’ll give you something else.’
            Don’t play saint with me,’ he said harshly.  ‘Turn around.’
            I turned.  He was small and fragile.  His palm sombrero covered half his face.  In his right hand he held a country machete that shone in the moonlight.
            ‘Let me see your face.’
            I struck a match and put it close to my face.  The brightness made me squint.  He opened my eyelids with a firm hand.  He couldn’t see very well.  Standing on tip-toe, he stared at me intensely.  The flame burned my fingers.  I dropped it.  A silent moment passed.
            ‘Are you convinced now?  They’re not blue.’
            ‘Pretty clever, aren’t you?’ he answered.  ‘Let’s see.  Light another one.’
            I struck another match, and put it near my eyes.  Grabbing my sleeve, he ordered:
            ‘Kneel down.’
            I knelt.  With one hand he grabbed me by the hair, pulling my head back.  He bent over me, curious and tense, while his machete slowly dropped until it grazed by eyelids.  I closed my eyes.
            ‘Keep them open,’ he ordered.
            I opened my eyes.  The flame burned my lashes.  All of a sudden, he let me go.
            ‘All right, they’re not blue.  Beat it.’
            He vanished.  I leaned against the wall, my head in my hands.  I pulled myself together.  Stumbling, falling, trying to get up again, I ran for an hour through the town.  When I got to the plaza, I saw the owner of the boarding house, still sitting in front of the door.  I went in without saying a word.  The next day I left town.

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