published in Volume 3, Issue 3 on July 8th, 1996
The butcher's wife who lived across the street preserved no details of him. Like us, she couldn't undo what she had learned: confuse the ribs and muscles on his belly with the edges of the window pane; merge his navel, the chaos of his body hair with chrysanthemum shadows creeping off the ledge. If he had ever spoken, she never listened: to admit he had a voice would grant him a quickness responding to light, a provocation that would only inch him forward. When asked about those mornings sitting st her Singer, when the curtains opened on the second floor of Guille's boardinghouse, but the butcher's wife recalled the houseplants on the ledge and the rumor of some salesman who came to town about the time the drought did. A solicitor, he was meant to be avoided, rejected, but in discreet and Catholic manner. We didn't need them, but we purchased his umbrellas, One bat's-wing at a time. We kept them shut to deprive him of the space to shake them open. We kept them shut, thinking he'd leave our town much sooner, and that just as quickly we'd forget him naked at the window, dripping from the heat beneath his black umbrella, or so the whispers, which was enough. We saw too much of him walking down the street, teasing us with his umbrella sack, fingering the cords at the end of the umbrella shaft. Those who couldn't avoid him would confront him with his product, compensating the impoliteness of not looking up to wave by tilting the umbrella forward, just a bit. And when the salesman disappeared, we weren't sure if he was running from the rain, or the rain from him, or even if they traveled the same direction. We welcomed the clouds but never knew if the man at Guille's and the salesman were indeed the same man, or if there was ever a man at all. The butcher's wife only remembered houseplants. Yet the schoolboys kept alive a joke about some man and his umbrella, which matured inside the local bar, still only a joke, and not an image any man admitted to have seen. Despite all that we still own umbrellas, which we never open. Warns the superstition: never ever use after a drought.