''Ye joyful daughters of the wind,'' said Marcus as he drew the bouquet of flowers to his nose, that stood above a thick black moustache, and took a deep inhale of their musky fragrance; he then laid them close to his heart as though he longed to feel their heartbeat. He drew the black sleeve of his shirt from off his left hand and made a quick glance at his silver watch: half past six; he still had one complete hour before he could blow out, together with his wife Susan, the many colourful candles decorating their twelfth wedding anniversary cake. The walk from the flower shop to the bus depot would take him fifteen minuets, and the bus home never exceeded another twenty minuets. He looked again at the bouquet in his hand and made a smile of deep satisfaction; he felt exceedingly delighted at having been triumphant in his quest for so rare a species of flowers in so modest a shop without having, as had been recommended by a close aquintance, had to endure miles upon miles of painful travel in order to procure them.
The golden streaks of the evening sun were slowly retreating from off the neat row of towering white buildings along the street as Marcus advanced leisurely to the bus station. His fancy was so overtaken by a sea of excited thoughts about the wedding anniversary that he was steered to his destination more by a sense of intitution rather than conscious steps. As he walked, almost like a somnambulist, he thought about nothing nor desired to think about anything except the radiant flowers clasped in his hand and his wife Susan. A cool breeze, that constantly brushed against his silky hair and made it to flow backwards, breathed through the street and imparted a lively spirit upon him and the myriads of passers by. Now and then he would lift his eyes to dart a glance at the azure sky above as a flock of white pigeons flew across it, momentarily curtaining the sun with their massive numbers.
Having walked for five minuets down a long, broad and desolate street, he came upon a group of little kids at play. They were six in number and divided into two groups of three by dint of their sportive outfits; He had distinctly heared their childish merth and laughter as he approached them from afar, but now that he finally reached them, they had somehow sank into a mysterious silence. Their much ecstatic laughter and playing had all too soon been engimatically quenched. Lurking deep behind their eyelids was a sense of deep self-pity and a mysterious helplessness. What was it, Marcus puzzeled, that so troubled and disquieted these fellows. What was it, he pondered, that so abruplty robbed them of their mirth and gaiety. He could have carelessly resumed his way, but a wild curiousity seized him, and he resolved to penetrate into the cause of their distress. His attention was at last caught by one kid in blue trousers in a black hat and red shirts; unlike his comerades who had all fixed their imploring glances Marcus, this kid had all his attention concentrated on a tall tree that stood at far corner of the playground; his looks were all restricted solely to the upper half of the tree, more precisely, to the the highest branches that still caught, thanks to their bulging height, many sparkling rays of sunlight in their yellow leaves. Carefully tracing the kid's line of sight, Marcus managed at last to unravel the source of the kids troubled appearnce; high up in the tree, among the farthest sunlit branches, the round orange shape of football made a slight appearnce. It was this deprivation of their cherished plaything that so radically froze their movements, but for the love of god, Marcus asked himself, why didn't they say something.
''So, your plaything is stuck in a tree eh; that's what worries you, you bunch of dumb devils,'' Marcus said unto them with a hearty giggle.
Two or three kids nodded their heads in affirmation.
''Come here,'' he gently called to the boy in red, ''hold this for me.'' and he handed him the flowers.
The boy extended his little arms and took the flowers, then he seated himself cradling them in his lap.
After a darting survey of the tree, Marcus then advanced to climbing it. He clung to one branch after the other, forever lifting his light body upwards and upwards. Before long he made a sudden stop, observing that the farthest branches, on which the ball stuck, could not support his weight. Fortunately, however, the ball now lay in a very close approximity; he cut a long branch and forced it off its trap. The band of the little creature below welcomed it with great joy. Marcus made his descent and was immediatelly surrounded by the kids who all said, almost unanimously in their childish tones:
''Thank you so much sir.''
''You are most welcome,'' said Marcus with a broad smile beneath his thick moustache.
The little boy in red dawdled towrds him and handed him back the bouquet. Marcus betowed a gentle pat on his head, and then left them to their playing.
After this small courtesy, Marcus felt his happiness doubled, and marched with an added reserve of gaiety to his destination. His feet carried him more lightly and his heart pounded more freely within his breast. Once or twice he halted in his march to look back at the band of the playing kids and hear their joyous laughter and then resumed his walking.
The ceaseless flowing of streams of invisble musky fragrance of the roses that gently travelled up his nostrils and brushed against his most sensitive chords, slowly brought his attention back to the flowers; The memory of last year's wedding anniversay sprang forth in his mind. He recalled the present he gave his wife then, a leather bound book signed with the name of her favourite author; He had travelled great distances to procure such a valuable possession, and Susan welcomed the gift most heartily. He believed the flowers, however, to hold a greater value and far greater power to touch the heart of his beloved. He knew she was crazy about them as she never stopped talking about them at all occasions.
''Ye, daughters of the wind,'' Susan once said as they laid in bed together, hands intertwined, gazing at the impressive late nineteenth century van gogh's up on the crimson wall facing them.''What!'' Marcus exclaimed.''I mean't the flowers depicted in the painting,''Susan explained,''those round blue and yellow ones, they are called Anemones, a greek name meaning daughters of the wind.'' ''glorious name,'' said Marcus.''Indeed,''affirmed Susan,'' There is a quite marvellous ancient legend about their origin.''she continued,''It says that the flowers were created by the Grecian Goddess of love Aphrodite when she sprinkled nectar upon the blood of her dead lover Adonis. Ah, how romantic!'' ''Charminly romantic,''Marcus affirmed, and he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. Susan was in love with those flowers as much as she was with the man laying beside her, whose hand held and squeezed hers tightly, and whose very breath constituted as much a reason for her existence. Marcus recalled that moment and felt immensely proud of his wedding anniversary present; the touch and smell of the flowers regaled him beyond all expression.
As her most elegant way of showing deepest gratitude, when Marcus reveals his much valuable present, Susan would keep her silence, she would not say a word. She would would walk up to him and bestow a warm passionate kiss on his moustached lips, enlace her slender white arms around his neck, and pour forth into his ears a steady and mellifluous flow of words of the most profound affections. Her enamoured heart would drift along the stream of her whispered words to meet and enlace his own. Silence, only a most delightfull silence would engulf their ardent passion; the hustling and bustling of the automibles and busy men outside the window, the humming of the fridge at the kitchen's corner, the ticking of the clock up on the wall, all these myriad sounds and voices would be gently hushed as they plunge together into the quiet and profound oceans of their love. Everything would cease its motion, all things will dissolve and melt around them: the furniture, the walls and ceiling of the room, the entire world would slowly fade away around them and only they shall remain, all engulfed in the sweetness of their love. Marcus mused upon this thought and became overflowing with joy; his whole being seemed to be uplifted to the cloudy regions above. His feet no longer seemed to touch the ground, and seemed almost like a buddhist monk at the height of his meditational fruitfullness, at the gaining of entrance to Nirvana.
A certain disease the seeps into the reproductive organs of some famales and pralayses their proper functioning had been the sorry lot of Susan. Throughout their eleven years of marriage they had never been blessed with baby, but nonetheless lived in what could only be described as a matrimonial paradise, devoid of all the thousand torments and troubles that usually go hand in hand with such a great social institution. One day, after three glorious years had elapsed upon their ideal matrimony, Susan made a slight mention, a small and shy hint of that ghastly word, so sinfully hostile to any satisfactory marriage, divorce; not that she lacked any affections for her husband, but only because she loved him more deeply than she could bear to deprive him of a future posterity. Marcus was instantly thrown into a fit of rage, and repudiated her greatly for having such a thought;''What the hell do I care about children,'' he roared ''how on earth could you even entertain such a cursed thought! Divorce! O my god, what's gotten into your headÂ ! It was never about any damn children, and it shall never be; to hell with posterity. I love you, and will always do no matter what. that is all that matters, and the only thing that shall ever matter.'' At the conclusion of this brief flash of anger, Susan throw herself upon him, clasped him tightly with her arms, and shed silent tears of love and gratitude on his shoulders. That so short a flash of rage was the only thing she had ever seen of his bitter side, if any he had.
The sight of the iron horse that shall conduct him to his princess at home with a swift speed at the far end of a long street gave him great pleasure. However, as he neared the vehicle, he passed by a very old woman who was struggling to ascend the stairs to her flat in a fairly high buildingÂ ; the woman was folded in a black mantle and carried in her left hand what seemed to be a heavy plastic bag of groceries. She was apparently stuck on the first three stairs, and could not make any further advance; her old legs, stark white and crossed with bursting blue veins, shook with pain, and her hands, all covered with wrinkles and fading brown spots, quivered with exhaustion. Having reached the third step, she laid her heavy load aside and slowly sat with terrible difficulty to catch her breathe. Her old brown eyes glistned, and tiny, yet visible glittering beads of perspiration were scattered across her forehead. Without doubt she was in great distress and Marcus pitied her exceedingly. He almost passed her when extreme pity and compassion got the upper hand in him, and urged him to retrace his steps.''Would you kindly allow me to help you with the bag m'm,''Marcus said. The old crinkled face of the woman broke into a broad sheepish smile and strove to say something with her quivering lips, but she was far too spent to give utterance to a word. Helping her regain her full height, he carried the bag in his right hand, and lent her his left shoulder for support; They ascended the long flight of stairs together at a very slow pace, taking one step at a time. At the entrace of her flat, which occupied the third floor of the building, she tried despertely to make him accept a sum of money as a token of her gratitude; a gratitude her lips, which only trembled without any sucess at forming a single sylable, failed to make as a consequence of her formidable fatigue.''There is absolutely no need for such a thing, m'm,''Marcus said, urging her to put the money back into her purse, smiling most kindly, and then took his leave; the woman's face blazed with a profound admiration of his kind-hearted and gentleness. Her eyes expanded and brightned, and carefully raised her right hand to wave an adieu at him as he made his descent down the stairs.
Outside the weather had undergone an incredibly immense alteration in a remarkably short time; The formerly blue sky assumed a gloomy pigmentation as big bellied black clouds pregnant with abundent rains settled over it; The constant flying and fluttering of the pigeons up above ceased, and a cold wind began to seep through the streets hurrying wanderers to their homes with its chilling stings. A sudden gust snatched a blue leaf from off Marucs's roses and he stood to watch it pitiably as it carried it along in a swirling motion into the heavens. The endless rows of street lights that now begain to lighten in a uniform cadence laid bear a dead and empty street whose offending silence was only broken by the wailing winds and the humming of the bus about to leave at a far corner; Marcus made in hasty steps towards the latter and got in at the very last moments before its depature.
The bus was frighteninly cold; its interior resembled more the inside of a fridge truck accostmed to the transportation of fish and meats rather than humans beings. It suffered greatly from a lack of ventilation and had a poor white paint that cracked and came off its iron walls. Its entire bulk was pervaded with a host of critical crevices that allowed entrance in to a myriad of suffocating smells of fuel and smoke that arose from the engine and elsewhere; and the seats, all of a fading blueish color, squaeked and creaked ceaselessly as the vehicle made its march onward.
Two men, both muffled in black coats and heavy leather boots, and a woman, dressed in a long red skirt, who kept chatting and giggling together at the back seats, were the only passengers on-board. The slightly audible flow of their conversation, that made its way into Marcus's ears, seemed greatly out of order, as it touched carelessly on different and utterly unrelated topics with a great rapidity and incomprehensibility. They sometimes absurdly laughed thier lungs out at the mention of things utterly mundane, things frivlous and and insipid. At times they would stamp their boots on the floor and nudge each other akwardly as they laughed loudly, or rather howeled. They were most probably under the influnece of drugs or alchohol, thought Marcus to himself. The man behind the wheel on the other hand was all together invisible, save for the glowing red spark of his cigarette that now and then made a ghostly appearance from the rear view mirror above his head.
Marcus seated himself somewhere in the middle of the long rows of battered blue seatsÂ ; an inssuferable cold dampness, that sent a series of unshakbale shudders throughout his body, mounted up his legs and tighes from the seat. He tried to lean his head against the semi- transparent window-pane, but a smarting coldness that beat his cheek like a sharp electrical shock discouraged him from the act. He rested his roses on his lap and cuddled himself in an attempt to subdue his shivering. Thick puffs of smoke, that lingered in the air, kept issuing from his mouth and nose. Two or three times he sneezed violently and then hurried to wipe his running nose with a tissue; he had probably caught a cold due to the sudden change in weather. He remembered his wife's entreat to put on a coat before he left home, and then half smiled at the remembrance. A sound of shuffling feet caught his attention and he turned his head back towards it; the group of three at the back seats were advancing in his direction. The flickering white light on the ceiling suddenly went off, and he lost sight of them as a consequence. The steady progression of heavy footsteps that clanked noisily against a metal floor still made it to his ears ; A sudden silence followed, and then a lousy sqeauking of seats and clinking of bracelets as the the company took their seats right behind him.
There was a momentary silence that was succeeded by a swift and sharp sounding slap that made its land upon the bare and slender neck of Marcus, then silence again. The acute pain of the slap startled him from what must have been some form drowsiness, and he turned instantly to the seats behind him and called in an agitated accent into the darkness,''who is it! Who!who slapped me?'' there was no responce from the offenders, they only nudged each other and giggled.''Who is it!''called Marcus more infurated than before,''Who is it? you giggling basterds!'' A stony blow, that made the darkness around him to grow in its intensity, smashed against his vulnerable face; he turned his head around in agony and stared into the gloom before him in a half swoon. He slowly rose his trembling frozen hand to his crushed nose and felt the thick warm liquid that began to ooze down his nostrils, and then rushed and pulled a tissue from his trouser's pocket and blocked the flow of blood. He breathed heavily and tried, by a wild shaking of his head, to regain a lost control of his senses. Shortly, he again felt an acute pain at the back of his head that greatly resembled in its sharp suddeness the sting of a provoked hornetÂ , and it took him a great while to realize that the pain was caused by the devils behind him pulling his hair. This time he didn't stir, but retained a motionlessness and silence as that of a statue; the bewildering blow on the face had taught him a hard lesson about his utter helplessness before the transgressors behind him. He resolved to bear all offense and humiliation for all the minuets that still stood between him and home. ''The men are drunk and they know not what they do,'' so thought Marcus to himself and he was always ready to forgive.
The capricious flickering light above suddenly came back, although only half of it this time, and fell upon the objects and figures below in a faint light that resembled that of the moon in its first quarter. Marcus hinged his head slightly in an attempt to identify the figures behind him, but only the outlines surrounding their bulky shapes were made visible to his weakening vision. One of the men, a heavy mass of fat with a short and pointed black beard, and from whose mouth was emitted a heavy and suffocating odor of brandy or some such drink, leaned closely behind him, and upon sighting the roses that rested upon the lap of the latter, burst into a hideous giggle. He turned to his fellows and said in a sneering intonation,''The man is in love, mates! The man is in love!'' They laughed in a wild roar that the whole vehicle kept echoing with its sounds long after they stopped. The man turned again to a humiliated Marcus and said in a whisper,''In love eh, but explain to me this: how on earth could you manage to make anybody fall for that plague face of yours.'' Marcus' humiliation was complete, a flood of conflicting thoughts raced through his fancy, but he once more chose patience as the best defense.''what does your lover look like? Does she have any charms! I bet she is as darn ugly and disgusting as you are!''the short beard renewed his lashing provokations,''Or is there some kind of a beauty and the beast story involved here.'' He added, and his companions snickered. Marcus could have patiently borne all his insults, both verbal as well as physical, but no one could have insulted his darling without at the same delivering an unpardonable assault to his deepest feelings; At this last insult the formerly almost passive words of insult showered upon him suddenly turned into sharp knives that cut deep into his heart. All blood rushed into his face, his knees shook uncontrolably, the plastic seat beneat him screeched with the contraction of his muscles, and his bony white hands automatically clasped into a a fist.''I dare you,'' Marcus made an infuriated turn and faced his tormentor,'' I dare you to a duel if you are man enough to bear the consequences of your words.'' ''he challenges me to a duel! Can you believe it, the man man desires a duel!'' the man with the short beard turned to his fellows and they laughed together.
The bus made a stop at a deserted avenue and the company of four descended. The avenue was monsterously desolate; there was not a soul astir; all the lights from the two long rows of high buildings that run along both sides of the great street were turned off. No sound was heard except that of the howling wind that violently shook the row of poplars along the broad route and made them to sway one moment this way and another that way. A murky light from the towering street lights fell upon the wet ground below and lent it a vibrating luster.
The man with the short beard stripped off his coat and gave it to his friend, and Marcus put down his flowers down and covered them with a piece of cardboard he found laying around on the ground. The two men then engaged in a hideous and bloody combat; They punched and kicked each other ferociously while the the two others watched and cheered their comerade most savagely. The fight started with a percievable balance, but then Marcus somehow fatally strained his left foot and lost his equilibruim; he staggered and could no longer command the direction of his fists, which for the most time, punched into the air instead of his opponent. He now kept throwing his exhausted hands and arms at random as a drowning man would at the water that kept sucking him to his death at the bottom. His opponent, taking great advantage of this unanticipated misfortune, pulled him by both legs, and throw him violently on the hard and wet ground; he then fell upon him with a wild succession of blows upon the face and stomach. Marcus struggled despretely to free himself, but the heavy weight of his chabby opponent allowed him no chance of resistance. He gasped for breath and felt as though bags upon bags of heavy sands were laid upon his chest. He was slowly chocking away and the image of the figure on top of him began to fade into a blurred shadow. The voices of the other man and woman who rushed to pull their companion off his dying body came into his ears as a vague ringing sound, all indistinct and very low .''O my god, you've killed him!'' said the woman in a trembling tone.''Let's leave this place, hurry up! Lets go!'' joined the other man, and the three hurried away together; the woman kept throwing irregular glances at the sorry victim behind as they went on.
Marcus watched their blurred and miniscule forms as they faded into the distance and coughed black blood from his mouth. A fat rat rummaged among the flowers under the soaking cardboard, and dragging two or three stemmed flower leaves, scurried across the pavement and disappeared down the sewers. ''Forgive me Susan, please forgive me.'' Muttered Marcus before his eyes closed and his lips stopped eternally.