Short Fiction: Everything will be Organic
By Margarita Meklina
Photo by Yang Yang via Upsplash
A large cardboard box on hind legs walked on Dame Street, bumped into bystanders, then slowed down to rest. All that could be seen besides the carton with the word “Debenhams” written on it was the top of a head with tousled hair and sensible shhh!-librarian shoes.
Detaching itself from its dainty legs, the box beeped, apparently receiving a text message, and halted its unsteady swaying gait near Sweeney’s. A puny woman, in schoolboy-size joggers and a violet viscose top, in her late fifties, emerged. She was well-kept but with such a wistful expression on a high-cheekboned face that her gaze appeared almost futile. Balancing the Debenhams load on a black bollard dividing a Dublin bus lane and a sidewalk, the woman rubbed, as though for luck, the cracked screen of her phone and flicked through a series of images.
The number 16 bus approached, carrying its sweaty contents from the airport to the austere white Castle, near which the large box was destined to live, and the woman deposited it on a luggage rack, after climbing on board with unexpected agility.
It was the hottest Irish July for decades, but her legs felt cold like in winter; her name was Agatha and she felt the ominous swish of the draught. “Bam! Bam! Bam!” – this was the sound the bus windows made when Agatha on her icicled legs slapped them shut one by one.
However, the window to another world was still wide open. And there, Agatha peeked through the cracked screen! And occasionally she felt familial warmth through this phone screen, and occasionally – the draughty sentences from her crafty half-sister.
Now Agatha was glued to the white, half-meter train of her half-sister’s dress. She thumbed and touched it, thumbed and envied, thumbed and admired.
What was in her own arsenal? An untuned violin hung by the neck and a slipped disk in her spine that made the memories of globetrotting glory and concerts quite painful. But now Agatha was peering into a beautiful world. That of yachts, sun, straw hats, lackadaisical strolls, dazzling drinks, diadems… The world where her half-sister’s wedding was supposed to take place. “Did you expect him to propose to you on the boat, Yo?” asked Agatha during their last chat two weeks ago.
“I had no idea!”
“Will you marry in Greece?”
“On Kefalonia Island, with the entire family present!”
Texting with Yolande was a special treat. She was near and far, far and near, just like a yo-yo. One second, spilling out whispering secrets – then cutting their connection with snarky one-syllables at the drop of a text.
Agatha nervously jerked in her seat. Greece with its heat would be so timely. Balmy days and smiles from under wide-brimmed hats were very elusive. Agatha pushed the red “Stop” button on the bus but the summer was still slipping away. The driver screeched to a halt, the large box acquired its legs once again, and unsteadily walked across the grassy field towards home.
Fluidity. Beauty. The succulent body of the bride enveloped in sensual silk. The wedding in Greece! Agatha hadn’t seen her half-sister for half a dozen years. The last time was at the cheap and cheerful funeral of their mother, which Agatha solitarily arranged and to which she invited Mam’s free-spirited homeless friends. Yo frowned at the service saying that they came for free food, but she herself didn’t give Agatha even a penny. Despite Mam’s lively light-heartedness and penchant for new age ideas, Yo still called her a “bag lady.” On Yo’s Webpage – she was a partner in an architectural firm – it was written that her mother was an “event planner” when in fact she used to bring cuddly rabbits to children’s parties and sang in a cabaret.
The box on hind legs was now moving up the narrow stairs, where the stale smell was amplified by the moldy carpet near the leaking washing machine. An enormous floppy hat whose crinkled shape resembled a crest and made Agatha, without her knowing, look like an iguana, fell off the rail and hit the cardboard. What was in the box? Inside, there was the hope for youth, for radiant skin, for the returning health of Agatha’s ill partner. And for the ease that, like a new lover, would strip away its old clothes and, with its naked body free of toxins and ailments, ascend straight into their life.
Agatha was pushing the box up the stairs. It was back-breaking. Before, some musicians attempted to squeeze through the tight space. A double bass player with a ponytail hit his head on the ceiling. A cellist with a cello-shaped body in a halter neck dress smirked at Agatha’s drab clothes smeared with dirt. Agatha offered them relaxing raspberry tea and never hit the wrong note, but they didn’t come back. Together with the departed, the music oozed out the door.
Agatha felt embraced by Ireland, her country of birth, even though, with her sporadic ethnic enthusiasm and enticing brown eyes, she was often mistaken for Spanish.
With images of the sun and the wedding, Agatha’s mood shot straight up, just like July’s temperatures, but the flimsy coat rack fell down taking other things with it. Bungy cords, bike pumps, and Agatha’s stretched leggings. They piled up on her just like a rugby scrum, with her partner’s horse-riding helmet on top.
Was Agatha’s sunnier parallel life unveiling in Spain or in Greece, while she herself was lying under her own grey woolens, raincoats, fake furs? The box beeped again. Agatha received another text message. “So sorry to mislead you. The marriage plan is scrapped.”
Now Agatha wanted to be buried under her woolens forever. Why did she even stay here, under these watering skies, when her main desire was to swirl in a skirt and to play her violin in tenderly lit, exquisite Italian squares?
“We’ve been having some issues and we'll have instead a ceremony in Glasgow which you're invited to. And your partner – of whichever gender – is welcome too. We aren’t judgmental. But it won’t be in Greece.”
Agatha wanted to share with Yo the music she once composed when the raindrops crowded an attic window when the pushy thunderstorm attempted to squeeze in through the roof. Destined to play on a big stage, she barely was able to hold a steady pupil. She hid from Maelba, her partner, two new heaters and a skyrocketing electricity bill. She suspected that somewhere there was a parallel life in which she saw herself baring her skin and attending a breathtaking luxurious wedding. But in this life, there was a middle-aged, always freezing, Agatha with a slipped disk that made playing the violin painful, and this Agatha wasn’t invited.
The phone rang. It was Maelba. “Was it too heavy to carry? I’m just at the till paying for many things that we can put in. Isn’t it very exciting?" As always, Maelba’s voice was bubbling with joy, but Agatha swallowed tears. “We aren’t heading to Greece. The wedding is canceled. We’re not chic enough for my sleek and stylish half-sister. And she pretended that she has no idea what gender you are. After six years together...”
The phone call suddenly dropped, and Maelba came in to find Agatha curled up under her coats with no desire to continue this unfortunate untempered day. She wore scuffed Doc Martens painted with flowers, a gift from a healer in Ennis, and faded denim shorts that made her look robust and ready as a ripe peach.
“Are you going to spend your entire life on the landing?” Maelba bent and sent the first coat back to its hook. And then all others… Agatha felt a scratchy rug under her cheek. She craved human warmth, the warmth that she had always longed for but never received from her estranged family.
Finally, Agatha was released from the weighty pile of her felt coats that, to her partner’s dismay, were never eaten by moths. Irish moths preferred cotton rather than wool – and Maelba always said that she preferred Agatha to dress more flamboyantly. “Just throw out these aging corpses and change into something inspiring!”
She picked up the box and skipped up the stairs, letting Agatha admire her round bum and well-sculpted strong calves. There was a sound of something unwrapping and Maelba’s “wow.” Agatha stood up.
In the kitchen, her partner was opening packets of brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans. From a Plexiglas canister, prunes stared at Agatha with their shiny dark eyes. Red hearts of strawberries, blue nipples of blueberries. With her fingers, Maelba touched a tanned apricot skin, then gently pulled apart its halves extracting the pit. “Would you like pears?” she asked.
Reddish linseeds were poured into a see-through container with a swishing delicate sound. On the counter, there stood a shiny machine with the words “Nutri Ninja” on it. It was a 1500 watt blender that Agatha decided to buy after Maelba’s breast cancer was cured and Maelba now prohibited herself even a cider, quitting smoking and resorting to healthy living and equestrian sports.
Agatha immediately took a liking to the machine that stood so self-assuredly. Its roundish hips made of strong plastic resembled Maelba and her vitality that even disease couldn’t take away.
Maelba started the machine and the loud sound filled their studio. Magpies, chiffchaffs, blue tits frequently gathered outside their wall-sized windows on leafy trees, not bothered by Maelba playing “LyricFM” while assembling her necklaces or by Agatha’s soulful singing. Yesterday, dreaming of starting her own wedding band, she learned “Kissing You,” from the film “Romeo and Juliet,” “Summertime,” “Galway Girl,” “Shape of You.”
“And what about the wedding in Greece?” Maelba inquired, handing Agatha an abundant smoothie of fresh berries and nuts, the concoction created in their new blender. “I have a hunch that my half-sister is going to have a secret wedding in Greece. She already purchased the dress. But her fiancé is of Greek origin and they probably have traditional family values... where two aging lesbians simply can’t fit. So, no beautiful boats and no breathtaking sunsets. No straw hats…” Agatha stumbled over words. Maelba took another sip of her smoothie. Something went through her mind.
“Would you like us to get married?” she suddenly asked. “We can now do it in Ireland... then – since we haven’t taken a vacation forever – I’ll fly you to Greece. We’ll have our secret wedding there ourselves, while they are hiding theirs from us. Wouldn’t that be hilarious? And I’ll teach you how to sail!”
Agatha dropped her face into her hands. She looked even smaller now, sitting on their crumpled guest couch. “I so long for a close family, Maelba... And to share moments together and laugh, sitting at a welcoming table with relatives... Mam wouldn’t want me to lose contact with my half-sister. But Yo doesn’t even talk about her anymore as though she can’t talk behind the back of the dead. I want people around me who are on the same wavelength… who share and love!”
Maelba stroked Agatha’s forehead and pointed to the cup with hearts of strawberries and nipples of berries. “We'll have a long life together and be very healthy. Everything will be organic. No toxic ingredients. Only the best. Thank you for carrying this all the way from the store. I know you did it for me.”
Maelba’s eyes fell on a glossy piece of paper enclosed in the box with the blender. She slowly read: "CONGRATULATIONS ON PURCHASING OUR PRODUCT AND WELCOME TO THE NINJA FAMILY!"
She laughed, “You worried about your half-sister. That you don’t have a family. We are the Ninja Family now,” and she kissed Agatha so deeply, so slowly that Agatha felt that she was transported to her parallel world where there was this incredible human warmth, and the boats, and the straw hats – and sunny, sensual Greece.