In the Light
of the Waning Moon
That morning, though, someone did spot an apparition among the bare and the evergreen bushes.
“Would you look at that!” he did not say or whisper so much as breathe into the cold air. Then, still not raising his voice, kept softly breathing out, “Just look at that, there! Would you look at that!”
No one heard what he was mumbling; that was not the reason why those who overtook him were lining up, but it was because they were terrified that someone in front had come to a standstill at a place where it was imperative to move on, where previously not one of them would have stopped. It was not the mumbling that they were responding to, they did not even hear what he was saying, they just followed the head movement in the direction that the earlier-comer was staring. Like him, they did not move but, if only out of sheer force of habit, nor did they venture into immediate proximity to the wall. From that distance, they could largely leave it up to their imagination; that dictated what they labelled as having happened, what they did and what they did not believe. The minutes passed; a growing number of them turned towards the wall. It mattered little, in point of fact, which of them discovered it, and at precisely what time, the spectacle was in itself at once the marker of both time and place, with those concerned also continuing to live their momentary reality in the spectacle. Their nature did not prevent them in the slightest from gazing with enjoyment at what was horrifying them. They did not snatch their heads away; from a safe distance perhaps, but they kept their eyes glued on a thing that, in the presence of others, they would have been embarrassed to be uninhibitedly engrossed in. As it grew light their situation worsened further, with ever more of them being able to make out something.
Her grey bouclé wool coat merged into the gnarly, two-metre-high wall of the fencing, filling the gap left by a missing slab of concrete, or vice versa, the wall of the fencing merged into the grey bouclé wool coat. She might possibly not have attracted anyone’s attention had it not been for her face; the face is what gave wee Pantyó away. The cinnabar red, the scaly grey and silvery deathly-blue glistened mockingly on the slipshod foundation. The lacklustre mask stiffened the skin into lifelessness; in the bitter cold the make-up stiffened quickly on the thick lips, the eyelids and lashes; only her feline body remained lithe despite the nip in the air. She fitted in better with the gap than with the fair-booth head that was stuck on the outside. Bizarrely, it seemed perfectly natural that the body from the neck down should not belong to her.
Valerie’s face was congealed into a smiling whimper under the mouth, being cut off slightly above the chin, a bit like a fairy tale broken off out of necessity that, for some banal reason or out of forgetfulness, is not told to the end, but in truth there is no need because everyone knows ad nauseam how it carries on.
It was not so much her invisible body that was missing as the showman who at the end of the show, in the usual course of events, puts his assistant back together again, with the limbs stuck outside the wall being reunited with the trunk that had found its way to the other side. They could certainly have done with a skilled showman, the sort that was able to reassure and vouch to those who found themselves there to take his word for it, this woman here had not climbed the castle hill in order to fit her shapely hips into the wall. There was no one and nothing, however, to present the numbing sight. The attraction had another name; even the person being subjected to it was not addressed by anybody as pretty Valerie, or Vally, or even Val. The locals knew her in a different capacity, when she was on duty at the Russian Billiards and she fried potatoes and served customers under the name of wee Pantyó. She fried supremely tasty potatoes. Those who worked on the other shift had long tried to puzzle out what made her potatoes so inimitable.
Megjelent és teljes egészében olvasható
a Hungarian Quarterly 2008-as téli számában.
Magyarul lásd: Fogyóholdban