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Edju - 33 and 34


by RW Spryszak


33.

A tall man from the clear road was calling for me. He had a white egg in his right hand and a short ice pick in his left. At his feet was a large red bowl. Plastic. Filled with more eggs. He leaned against a fence that before this I never noticed was there. And he asked me, without raising his voice, would I like one of his eggs?

I couldn't muster an answer, nor did he wait for one. He made a hole in the top of his egg with the little pick and put the egg against his lips. He threw his head back and sucked the insides out. He made a horrendous show out of it. An ugly sounding thing. When he finished sucking the insides of the raw egg out he tossed it into the grass. There were already two empty shells there.

Would you like an egg Edju, he repeated.

No thank you, said I. But how did you know my name?

He bent down and took another egg from his bowl. Everybody knows Edju the Bellringer. You are our bellringer. An important man around here. How do we tell the time around here without you? You tell us when to go to work and when to go to sleep. The entire countryside is beholden to you.

I do not toll my bell at every hour, I reminded him. How do you tell time when I am not ringing?

I don't know, he said, picking a hole in the new egg.

Was he finished with that answer? At first I didn't think so. But that was all he said. And when he sucked this egg, he licked his lips, tossed the shell onto the pile, and asked me if I wanted one again.

No thank you, I told him.

I'd long ago stopped trying to assign a pattern to all the things that were happening to me. The bell ringing of its own accord. A tall man sucking eggs and calling my name from the road. It was like that feeling when a strong memory overwhelms you.  Even though I knew I never lived through any of this before.

No. A book. When I was a vagabond on the Square I put together enough money to eat for once but bought a book instead. Something by an obscure Spanish author. That's where I'd seen this before. Only this was a seven-foot tall man and not a wild little coquette. At least from the look of his clothes.

He sucked down yet another egg. Head back, elbow out. I returned to my high-backed chair made of reeds and wood and leather strips. He kept calling my name. I worked hard to ignore him, though he said it over and over. It became a game we played. he stayed at it all day and into the night. Somehow he never got tired, though I was facing a numb kind of exhaustion.

Edju, he kept saying. Even Edju sir. Like calling a workman down a ladder. It was a struggle to not answer. The central eye grew more tired than the other two, waiting for the load to fall.

The petty dragons and heartfelt strangers. These are the signs you will meet along the way, denoting something. Thirty years working in one hole is not a recommendation for one's character. I am no good as a man. Everyone I once knew has abandoned me. The more success you have, the quicker your friends despise you. This is all the lesson a child needs in the world. I learned it all too late.

Edju sir. Edju, he called.

 

34.

By now you know that despite everything that happened, I survived. It is a kind of spoiler for you I suppose. Because not surviving all this would be so strange, considering I am writing this. I would forgive you for thinking I got killed in this story. Killed or rendered damaged and disfigured. It's a forgivable assumption. 

The days and nights in the tower jerked across the screen like sick children. Moping and shuffling. And every day the maze grew larger. Taller. More complete. There were ceremonies when a section got finished. And another, more insidious event. Sometimes if another section wasn't finished fast enough they took those men away. It wasn't something that happened every time. Just sometimes. I noted the times in a journal I began.

I supposed that if they did such a thing on a regular basis they would run out of workers. Or, I should say ‘we' would run out of workers, since everyone speaks in the ‘we' viewpoint now. The tall man who eats his eggs below my tower windows told me so. Also his name was Jacinto. It was a name I felt I could trust.

At any rate there were times the men who finished ahead of another group got buttons. Or even fed. But those who lost this strange race were sometimes loaded onto trucks at gunpoint. I would watch as they sat waiting in those trucks. The soldiers would give each of them a rock, which they had to hold in their laps and talk to. I saw one man dragged out of the truck and beaten when he refused to talk to his rock. Of course I do not know where they went. It sounded like it might have been a carnival.

Then there was nothing. Silence for the longest time. The wind was cold. There were fewer ants in my belltower. A hat blew across the lane. Something was different. I thought, at first, it might have been the Mountain calling again.

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