Books & Beyond

The Angel & The Brown-Eyed Boy Excerpt Two by Sandy Nathan @sandyonathan

Posted on: December 14, 2013

An Excerpt from Chapter 5

Henry Henderson opened the school’s massive front door and they walked out into the chill of the evening. He carried the suitcases, one in each hand. They were heavier going back to the apartment. I should get extra credit for exercising today, he thought. Weight lifting and aerobics.

Olga crowded as close to him as she could as they moved along the streets. He had to be careful not to swing one of the cases into her. She stared at the traffic as though she’d never seen urban streets before, pulling away like she expected the cars to jump the curb and get her. She looked under them, amazement on her face.

“They hover, honey. They’re OK. You don’t want to put a hand under there, but they’re safe otherwise,” he tried to reassure her. “Walk over here, Olga, away from the street. That’s right.” He kept up the patter, trying to calm her down. “I called Lena to tell her you were coming home with me. She’s makin’ a real feast for you. We’re as pleased as we can be that you’ll be staying with us.”

She stared into doorways. Homeless people were claiming por- tions of the sidewalk as they did every night. She made a little shriek at the first one she saw passed out.

“Look! Sick!” she said. “Help person.”

“Honey, that’s just how it is. If you’ve got a roof over your head, you’re lucky. They’ll be coming along soon to pick them up and take them to shelters.” That’s what the city said they did with them. People forced themselves to believe that. “Rich folks drive cars in New York City,” he told her. “Poor folks walk or take the subway.”

They walked silently until they reached the apartment. Henry opened the door to the building, grinning broadly. “We’re here,” he called into the intercom. “Be right up.”

They walked up the stairs to Henry’s third-floor apartment, the girl almost under his feet as she had been all the way home. It was a nice building. Between his wages and Lena’s, and Mrs. Edgarton’s help, they had found a place that wasn’t falling down and had been painted within human memory. The hallways were clean, the lights worked, and nothing smelled too bad.

The odor of Lena’s barbecued ribs bathed them when they walked in the door. Lena had a banquet out on the table, home cooking the way her folks did it back on the farm. Collard greens, grits and gravy. And those ribs that fell off the bone and tasted like they were made in sauce heaven.

“See now, we got lots for you to eat, an’ it’s warm in here.” He was sweating under his collar. Lena must have turned up the heat to slow cook.

He took off his scarf and put down the suitcases. “I’d like you to meet my wife, Lena. This is Olga, the little girl I told you about.”

Lena’s eyes lit up. “Oh, honey, come here. Let me hug you.” The girl let Lena embrace her, but stood mute.

“Does she talk, Henry?”

“A word or two. She supposedly can dance better than anyone in this city, maybe anywhere on the planet. But she don’t talk much.”

“Well, honey, come on in here. I’ll show you your room.” When Lena opened the door, a mass of white hair leapt out and dashed around the room, front and back legs scissoring wildly. The dog made a circuit before stopping in front of them, hind end wagging.

“Oh, Shaq, you are the cutest thing in the world.” Lena bent down to pet him. Shaq had streaks of black hair around bright eyes. A pink tongue lolled out of his mouth. Two feet stuck out of the hair in front, planted as though he were a giant. Shaq ducked his head and looked at the stranger as though deciding whether to bite or wiggle.

“Báslikay!” the girl exclaimed. “Báslikay . . . ” She jumped at the dog and hugged him as though he were her best friend. “Báslikay.” Shaq wagged his tail and smiled as if he’d been waiting for her.

“My goodness, Henry! Have you seen anything like that?” Henry shook his head. “Shaq’s been known to chase our guests back into the hall. That’s why we lock him up when people come,” Lena said, bending toward the girl. “We call him a dog. Can you say dog? He’s a Lhasa Apso. Henry bought him for me after my girls left. I named him after Shaquille O’Neal, a gorgeous man from history.Would you like to see your room? Then we can eat.”

Eliana looked into the room. It hadn’t been used for some time; she could feel its emptiness. Was she supposed to sleep here by her- self? In her world, everyone in a family slept together. She wanted to sleep with Henry and Lena and Shaq. The dog jumped up on her, letting her know that he would sleep with her. That was something. Feeling sad, she pulled away.

“Don’t you like your room, sweetie?” Lena’s voice was soft. Wet- ness came from the girl’s eyes again. She wiped it away. Lena looked at her, eyes filled with understanding.

“Henry, she’s homesick. This isn’t anything like Russia at all.” Lena put her arm around the girl’s shoulders and said, “That’s all right, now. Why don’t you freshen up and we’ll eat.”

She led her to another room, a small room with shiny squares on the floor and walls. It was very clean, but she had a bad feelinabout it. “See, there’s a towel and washcloth for you. “

The woman reached over and turned a shiny thing. Something hideous spouted from it. “Lots of warm water.”

The girl stood, eyes wide, rigid with terror. Look what they had in their house! It came out of that thing, making a terrible noise. She backed out of the room in horror. They had that in their house! Didn’t they know what it could do? She looked around for a way to get out. “What’s the matter? Olga, it’s OK. You don’t have to wash your hands if you don’t want to.” Lena turned off the water and closed the bathroom door. “They have running water in Russia, don’t they?” she said to Henry.

“I think they got everything we got. They should be able to man- age indoor plumbing.”

The girl began to relax when they closed the bathroom door. They kept it locked up. Maybe they were showing it to her so that she would be careful.

“Let’s have dinner,” Henry said. “Look at those ribs. Mm-mmm. Lena makes the best ribs in the world. She cooked these up for you, Olga. Like her family made back on the farm.”

She sat in their eating place and Lena brought plates heaping with—

She jumped up, staring at the plates. Dead flesh soaked in horrible wetness. And green leaves that would have been good, but they were soggy and smelled bad and had more wetness on them. The plate also had a pile of something else that might have been good but they had made it wet.

Jumping away from the table and retreating into the living room, Eliana stood shaking. This was worse than the fluid in the shiny room.

Henry picked up a piece of the dead flesh, ripped off a big chunk, and chewed noisily. “Mmm. These ribs sure are good,” he said.

Lena picked up a piece of flesh, tearing into it with abandon, watching the girl. “These are good ribs, if I do say so. Olga, why don’t you try some? They don’t have anything like this where you come from. I got grits and gravy, I got corn bread, and I got greens with olive oil and garlic. Give it a try, honey.”

Lena could see having Olga stay with them was going to be dif- ferent from having her daughters home. Who would have thought— no indoor plumbing or barbecue in Russia?

But how to clean that girl’s face? She had planned to run a bath for her after dinner, but if Olga reacted like she did to water coming out of the tap, what would she do if she saw a full bathtub? The way she acted with food made Lena wonder if the girl had an eating dis- order. A lot of ballerinas were anorexic.

“Henry, are you sure she’s from Russia?”

“I’m not sure about anything about her.” He had barbecue sauce all over his face. He waved a rib. “I just know that she walked up to the gate today and I let her in. Madame No Mercy said she was from Russia, that she expected her. I heard she danced better than anyone at the Hermitage had ever seen. Other than that, I don’t know squat about her or where she’s from.”

“Hen, when I was at work today, someone showed me a video from the ’net. It showed a plane flying along, and then it was just gone. It disappeared  with 244 people on it. The government said that the video was trick photography, that nothing happened. But the news showed people at the airport who were supposed to pick up their friends and families on that plane. They were demonstrating at JFK. Today. Two hundred and forty-four people went missing. “And then, quick as that, the cops took the demonstrators away, saying they were protesting food shortages. At the airport? And now the government is saying that the plane was delayed in Russia where it started.”

Lena and Henry looked at their guest, who was curled up on the sofa holding Shaq.

“She’s not from Russia.” “No.”

“Do you think she’s dangerous?”

“No. I think she’s here to do something, and she  needs  help. Our help.”

Lena nodded. “I think so, too. Do you feel her? She’s so sweet. Like if honey was a person. Something comes off her.”

“I told you about that little dance she did when I let her in the gate? I’ve never felt so honored in my life. No way. She touched my soul, I swear. Better than fifteen sanctified preachers. I’ve got to take care of her.”

Lena nodded. “Well, I need to feed her and get her cleaned up, and get some decent clothes on her. That child is going to catch her death.”

The girl remained wrapped around Shaq on  the sofa. Henry walked toward them. Shaq growled.

“Did he growl at you?” Lena said. “He sure did.”

“That dog’s never growled at us in his life.”

“I think he’s got a job to do, Lena. He’s going to see she’s OK.” He put his hand out to the dog. “It’s me, Shaq. The guy who pays your bills. Lighten up.” Shaq wagged his tail.

“Well, wherever she’s from, I think we had better start listening to what she wants, instead of what we think she wants. That’s what Billy says.”

“The guy you took the dog training class from? The Dog Master?” “Yes. What he said works. You know that. Shaq never pees in the apartment anymore.”

“What do you think a girl who’s not from Russia and who’s afraid of water and barbecued ribs might want?”

“I’m just going to open my cupboards. Must be something in them she’ll like. Olga, you and Shaq come over here. I want to show you my pantry.” Lena opened every cabinet in the kitchen. “Just pick what looks good. I’ll give you a dish.”

The girl slowly uncoiled herself from Shaq and ventured toward the kitchen.

“Here’s a bowl. Take what you want.”

They watched her eat in disbelief. She gobbled down a bowl of grits––just grits, not cooked, just little specks of hard white stuff. She stuffed them in with her hands. When she was full, she let out a belch and leaned back from the table, looking slightly drunk. If her face had been dirty before, it was a disaster now, covered with grits. She looked like she was going to fall asleep at the table.

“Henry, pick her up and put her in bed.” Shaq followed along anxiously.

Lena went in to check on her in a few minutes. “Out cold. I put a jar of cold cream and washrags there. And baby oil. Maybe her people clean themselves with oil. One thing, I’m not letting her out of my house looking like that.”

With Olga in bed, Lena sat close to Henry on the sofa. “Henry,” she whispered, “did you have a chance to talk to . . . our friend?” She knew better than to mention Jeremy’s name anywhere indoors. Or outdoors, unless there was a lot of space and background noise.

“Yes, I did, Lena.” Henry frowned. He glanced quickly at the screen and at the light fixture, then whispered in Lena’s ear. “He’s working all night decoding messages. Something’s up. He thinks they’re on to the party. We need to be ready. We could have to take that trip soon.”

She nodded and whispered back. “I had a feeling something was happening. I packed our bags. They’re hidden in the closet.”

They tiptoed off to bed and clung to each other as they slept.

Lena and Henry awakened in the middle of the night. The up- stairs neighbors were banging on the ceiling. They looked around, startled. A sound ripped through the apartment, like a freight train was in the next bedroom and about to break down the wall. Henry got up and checked the girl.

“It’s her. Snoring.”

Lena got up and stood next to him in the doorway.

“I’d never have believed an angel like that could make that much noise.”

“Maybe she’s not an angel.”

Copyright © 2011 by Sandy Nathan

Vilasa Press, A Division of Vilasa Properties LLC

Santa Ynez, CA 93460

www.sandynathan.com

First Edition

All rights reserved

ISBN 13: 978-0-9762809-0-3

Library of Congress Number: 2009941895

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Genre – Metaphysical Science Fiction

Rating – R

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