segunda-feira, 19 de agosto de 2013

The Women By T. CORAGHESSAN BOYLE - Excerpt

The Women



As it happened, I was in possession of a hand-drawn map sent me by one Karl Jensen, secretary for the Taliesin Fellowship, of which I was a new—and charter—member, but it showed a purported road along a purported river that didn't seem to exist. I was wondering where I'd gone wrong, the persistent whine of the engine sending up sympathetic vibrations in my head, when on what must have been my fourth pass, the scene suddenly shifted: there was the barn, there the wagon, there the cows, but now something new had entered the picture. A stout woman in a plain gray shift and apron was stationed at the side of the road, a brindled dog and two small boys at her side. When I came within sight she began windmilling her arms as if we were at sea and she'd fallen over the rail and into the green grip of the tailing waves, and before I could think I was jerking at the gearshift and riding the brake until the car came to a lurching halt some twenty feet beyond her. She waited a moment till the dust had cleared, then came up the side of the road wearing a stoic expression, the boys (they must have been seven or eight, somewhere in that range) dancing on ahead of her while the dog yapped at their heels.
"Hello!" she called out in a breathless delicate voice. "Hello!"
She was at the side of the car now, the boys shying away at the last minute to poise waist-deep in the roadside vegetation and peer up uncertainly at me. I was conscious of the distance between us, of the high-fl own seat of my Stutz automobile and the prodigious running slope of its fenders. The weeds, flecked here and there with the rust of the season, crowded the roadway, which wasn't much wider than a cart-path in any case. One of the boys reached down for a stem of grass and inserted it between his front teeth. I couldn't think of what to say.
I watched her expression as she took me in, two pale Hibernian eyes measuring my face, my clothes, the splendor of the automobile. "Are you looking for something?" she asked, but plunged right on without waiting for the answer. "Because you been up this road four times now. Are you lost"—and here she registered the truth of what her eyes had been telling her all along: that is, that I was foreign, and worse, an exotic—"or something?"
"Yes," I said, trying for a smile. "I seem to have—got myself in a bind here. I'm looking for Taliesin?" I made a question of it, though I didn't realize at the time that I was mispronouncing the name, since I'd never heard it spoken aloud. I suppose I must have given it a Japanese emphasis—Tál-yay-seen rather than the more mellifluous Tal-ee-éssin, because she just stared blankly at me. I repeated myself twice more before one of the boys spoke up: "I think he means Taliesin, Ma."
"Taliesin?" she repeated, and her features contracted round the sourness of the proper noun. "Why would you want to go there for?" she asked, her voice rising to a kind of suppressed yelp on the final (superflous) syllable, but even as she asked, the answer was settling into her eyes. Whatever the association was, it wasn't pleasant. "I have a, uh"—the car shuddered and belched beneath me—"an appointment."
"Who with?"
The words were out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying: "Wrieto-San."
The narrowed eyes, the mouth gone rancid all over again, the dog panting, the boys gaping, insects everywhere: "Who?"
"Mr. Lloyd Wright," I said. "The architect. Builder of"—I'd pored over the Wasmuth portfolio till the pages were frayed and I knew every one of his houses by heart, but all I could think of in the extremity was the pride of Tokyo—"the Imperial Hotel."
No impression, nothing. I began to feel irritated. My English was perfectly intelligible—and I had sufficient command of it even to pronounce with little effort that knelling consonant that gave my countrymen so much trouble on the palate. "Mr. Lloyd Wright," I repeated, giving careful emphasis to the double L.
And now it was my turn for a moment of extended observation: Who was this woman? This farmwife with the unkempt boys and outsized bosom and the chins encapsulating one another like the rings of a tree? Who was she to question me? I didn't know, not at the time, but I suspected she'd never heard of the Imperial Hotel or the unearthly beauty of its design and the revolutionary engineering that enabled it to survive the worst seismic catastrophe in our history with nothing more than cosmetic repairs—for that matter, I suspected she'd never heard of my country either, or of the vast seething cauldron of the Pacific Ocean that lay between there and here. But she knew the name of Lloyd Wright. It exploded like an artillery shell in the depths of her eyes, drew her mouth down till it was closed up like a lockbox.
"I can't help you," she said, lifting one hand and dropping it again, and then she turned away and started back down the road. For a moment the boys lingered, awed by the miraculous vision of this gleaming sporty first-rate yellow-and-black automobile drawn up there on the verge of their country lane and the exotic in command of it, but then they slouched their shoulders and drifted along in her wake. I was left with the insects, the weeds and the dog, which squatted briefly in the dirt to dig at a flea behind one ear before trotting off after them.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from THE WOMEN by T. Coraghessan Boyle. Copyright © 2009 by T.C. Boyle.
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