HE LET THE Times fall to the carpet beside him. It was the usual recital—a new tax plan, the danger of oral contraceptives to women over forty, the mayor's special committee on child abuse. He pushed his glasses back on his forehead and with his thumb and forefinger massaged the loose flesh under his eyes. Through the club window he could see a fat woman in slacks waiting for a bus, a boy with a ponytail walking a dog. Somebody had the TV on in another room, and he could hear the rise and fall of canned laughter. He lit a cigarette and let the smoke drift out of his mouth without exhaling it. The city sky was turning brown with the approach of dusk. Then suddenly, as if it had been only yesterday, he remembered Eden.
The leopard . . . the starling . . . the rose—he remembered giving each its name, remembered the green river, the shy, green girl. He could no longer remember why it was he had felt compelled to leave it except that it had something to do with asserting his independence. Beyond that, he had only the dim sense that somehow a terrible injustice had been done, or possibly a terrible justice.
He saw the flame of what must have been the sunset flash like a sword in the upper-story windows across the street. When the old steward brought him his third martini, he called him Pete. Actually, his name was Angelo.
- Originally published in Peculiar Treasures