Clio coaxed and caressed Mélisande's ankles, weaving slowly back and forth in a tango of anticipation. Together they breathed in the rich smell of salmon cat food, yet, with divergent reactions, Mélisande masking her dislike by talking to Clio mincingly with anticipatory delight of such a delicious meal. “Oooh, Salmon, Clio, your favourite, yummm....” She placed the cat dish on the floor and petted Clio who hunched over it with an instinctual display of possessiveness. Hunger or habit Mélisande wondered as she watched Clio eat? And was she too but a pawn of the habitual responses of the digestive tract? Had habit taken over? Eating by herself stripped the fabric of the dining ritual away to reveal the truth that one was not always famished at meal times, and that many small food breaks seemed more efficient. She even felt she had lost weight since Pavor had been away in Europe, and yet, she missed the act of sharing a meal. She sat at her kitchen table and imagined Pavor sitting across from her, wine glass in hand telling her of his latest chapter of his latest work in progress, the words and descriptions of character swirling in the air about them like a host of fallen angels.
Receiving Pavor's email this morning was like having a fresh painted backdrop descend for the next scene: Trieste, old buildings, clocks, statues; a de Chirico landscape with long shadows and late sun, a couple walking in the plaza. It could be the book cover illustration, The Under-Glasse, a literary novel by P. K. Loveridge. She was a bit concerned he had ventured out of his zone of comfort, but secretly pleased that he might be mining layers of hidden sensitivity, layers possibly revealed due to their being apart for so many months.
Pavor hadn't mentioned his stay in Prague. It had been the purpose of his trip. A few weeks in Prague to visit his Mother and gather the spirit of place for possible fictional purposes, but the Trieste offer had come to him enroute, his agent having met him in Paris to lay out the details. His Mother, an imperious woman, opinionated and judgemental, who had been rather cool to Mélisande upon meeting her for the first time, had returned to Prague after her many years in Montreal, a return that may have softened her character she hoped, and made her more forgiving, surrounded as she now was with her culture and language. Mélisande imagined that Pavor's Mother had anticipated a doctor or a lawyer being her future daughter-in-law, and that a librarian was not quite on the same scale. She realized she didn't truly understand his Mother. Perhaps never would.
She walked over to the counter and decided to have a toasted white-seed bagel, sliced pear and tea for dinner. She carefully sliced the Fairmount bagel and placed the pieces in the toaster thinking that though Pavor could read the news of Montreal, and listen to local radio over the Internet, he could not get a delicious Fairmount bagel in Trieste. He would be missing that, she thought, and her company.
His description of Slovenia, horseback riding and cave exploration was enticing. She had already been reviewing her holiday status and possible choices and decisions to be made. She hadn't been on a horse for ages. This evoked the memory of walking with Pavor on Mount Royal last year to enjoy the autumn colours, and how they stood watching as two police officers, a female and a male, their equivalents in some other dimension, approached on horseback upon the cinder path, and how she internally swooned with the extraordinary beauty and strength of their black mounts with their long eyelashes, dark eyes and black manes, all urging her to reach out and caress their noses and jaws and talk to them like she talked with Clio. But of course she had restrained this urge and made do with small talk with the officers, pleasant types who were affable and proud, doing their best to control the powerful, once wild, natures beneath them.
Sitting down at her kitchen table with her light repast, she turned on the radio and listened to the local news before turning the dial to find a piece of music to accompany her dinner. Frustrated by her findings, she switched it over to the cd player and pressed play. Telemann, musique de table, baroque music performed by old university roommates and friends of hers who had made a place for themselves in various baroque music ensembles in Montreal.
As she ate, she thought of the odd Latin text that Duncan had brought to her. She had had a moment during the day to look it over and it seemed to be a part of an esoteric or occult work possibly from the sixteenth century. The words clavis magna were used in the text, the great key. Well, she thought, it was a start. Duncan should be pleased to find such an odd remnant text thrown into a binding as filler to keep the cash books of uniform appearance. It must have been a bad year for business. She should really phone or email Amelia and arrange to meet over coffee, or perhaps have them both over for dinner and catch up on their lives. She could use a friendly chat.
She took her tea into the bedroom. The bedside table displayed her reading of the moment, at stack of books including Armadale by Wilkie Collins, Dear Life by Alice Munro, and poems by Anne Carson. She had been dipping into Armadale on a monthly basis trying to replicate the reading experience of the original Victorian Cornhill Magazine readers back in the early 1860s, and often wondered how they could remember so much after a month had passed, but then again, she had thought, there were fewer distractions, more time for them to think upon what they had read and create anticipatory fictional possibilities. She looked down and noticed the corner of the book of poems by Pavor under the bed. She brought it up from the dusty shadows and opened it to read the next poem in the arrangement:
You touch my shoulder pointing left. The star
Adjacent rising, Notre Dame, the church,
The overreaching extrovert, the draw
For photo-ops and tourists over par,
The structure of belief, and pigeon perch,
Is casting nascent shadows and the law.
The buses idle while the pilgrims stretch.
Hand-held devices at arms-length will bloom
Like floral offerings. Smoke and swagger
Arises from the driver whose fine sketch
In air with cigarette, “don't miss the tomb!”
Provides a sense of cloak and dagger.
The architect lies buried underneath.
What faith, or deal sub rosa paid for this?
And did Masonic ritual take place?
The apron and the evergreen? Did death,
The code, the key, the mystery, the bliss,
Unlock the blueprint of a cold embrace?
O'Connell's bones beneath the stones--a death-
bed convert to acquire his well-made crypt--
A skipping rhyme, alone he lies in slate.
And yet, such art, such beauty, and such breath-
less carvings, azure, sculptures, stain-glassed script
Surround once rented pews, choice real-estate.
A skipping rhyme? She shook her head and laughed. Oh Pavor, she thought, always tossing a pebble into the clear waters of reflection. He was always digging up interesting facts about Montreal. She remembered when he had told her about the architect of Notre Dame Cathedral being buried in a crypt beneath the church, and yet she doubted whether bus tours had such knowledge, although the pews had indeed been 'choice real-estate.'
She closed the book and laid it upon the bed. Drinking her tea, curling her toes and stretching her tired legs, she began to feel the fatigue of the day overtake her. A light nap was all she needed. She heard Clio making her way down the hallway to her bedroom, and as she closed her eyes, she listened as she approached and felt her leap upon the bed before settling down to perform her meticulous washing ritual, the sounds of which eased her mind of all worries. She should write a children's book she thought, a cat and a librarian take a cat nap together and dream of a distant castle where the Queen dines on marmalade and toast, marmalade and toast, marmalade and toast . . ..
© ralph patrick mackay