Fragment: A Night in the City
Albert walks through the sweltering, summer streets of the city, occasionally removing his fedora and fanning himself with it, wiping the sweat from his brow with his handkerchief. No one seems to pay any attention to him as he wanders from block to block, looking intently at the windows and doors of the restaurants, the diners, the drugstores. “Where are you, Alison?” he mutters to himself.
Albert looks down a half-lit alley next to the Rialto Theater. At the end of the alley is a black horse, an inky shadow in the dim light. Albert watches the horse carefully clop through the open stage door. Curious, Albert walks to the front of the theater, buys a ticket, and goes inside. A pale, lanky usher in an ill-fitting, threadbare suit escorts Albert to his seat, somewhere near the back of the theater. The house lights are on, and the people in the audience chatter excitedly to each other as they wait for the show to start.
The theater falls silent as the house lights fade and a lone spotlight pops open a long slab of brilliant, white light onto the center of the stage. The black horse saunters onto the side of the stage, looks out at the audience, and remembers his father, a horse that had traveled all over the world with the Doyle Family Circus Spectacular until his untimely death in a circus tent fire. The horse misses his father greatly, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. The horse, feeling obliged to express itself by, dances into the spotlight and sings an old jazz standard, smooth and poignant, much to the delight of the audience. The theater owner bursts out from behind the curtains, his hair an awful mess, his tie undone, his starched, white shirt half-untucked. Albert bursts out with loud guffaws, and the rest of the audience follows suit, until the theater is filled with a roar of laughter. The theater owner stops his advance on the horse, stares at the laughing audience, looks down at his own rough appearance, and flees the stage in stark embarrassment. The horse lets loose with a loud whinny.
A few blocks away, Alison walks into the Turkish Delights restaurant, her belly aching with a sour hunger. She can barely remember the last time she ate, her memory clouded with hunger and despair. Amidst the crowd of elegantly dressed diners, she spots a table laden with half-eaten dishes but no one sitting at it. Alison seats herself at the recently abandoned table, hoping the other patrons of the restaurant won’t notice her, and looks at the remnants of the meal spread out before her, her eyes finally settling on a lone date, plump and juicy, sitting on the side of a cracked china plate. She cannot help herself; the date is clearly waiting to be eaten. It calls to her empty, aching belly. She plucks it up quickly, giving furtive glances to each side, and deftly pops the date into her mouth. She slumps back in the chair, her face glowing in sheer ecstasy, as she savors the flavor and feel of the sweet date in her mouth.
Back at the Hubbleton house, Elvira searches throughout their home, finding no sign of her brother, Albert. She ventures out the back door of the house and walks across the moonlit garden to the greenhouse, Albert’s sanctuary away from the rest of the family. Elvira cautiously opens the rusty, creaking greenhouse door, peeks inside, and then pads past the plants, glancing about for her brother. “Albert?” she whispers. “Are you in here?” Elvira spots at her brother’s fast-growing orchid, sitting in the middle of the other plants She marvels at the way it sways back and forth, even though there is no breeze blowing through the greenhouse. As she creeps closer, the orchid turns until it faces her, and she hears a soft, ghostly voice say, “Hello, Elvira. Fancy seeing you here on a night like this.” The greenhouse rattles and groans to the sound of Elvira’s screams.