Bhombol and Buchki surfaced at dusk. Bhombol first, as usual. What can I tell you? It’s a man’s world.
At first Bhombol stuck his furry head out of the hole in the floorboards, beady eyes feverishly swiveling around. For signs of anything untoward. Any shadows he’d not seen before, any unrecognized movement. His bullet head remained stock still for a good two minutes, till his senses had analyzed the raw data. I can relate ta that. I did it in the corporate world all the time.
Then he looked back down the hole at Buchki,” It’s OK, hon, nobaady around. ‘xcept for the lush of course. And looks like he’s passed out.”
I hadn’t actually passed out. I was just supine, on a cushion of flattened cardboard boxes, in the far corner of the dinghy hall. Propped up, slightly. With empty Players packets strewn around. Drunk, yes. I was always drunk. Passed out, no. I never lose control.
Bhombol popped out, closely followed by Buchki and before you could say, ‘maniacal muskies’, they’d waddled across the room to the ‘chuck corner’ where I always leave scraps of bread for them.
Muskrats have this waddling gait. A forward motion, with a reciprocating rotation of the torso around an imaginary central axis. Precession, isn’t that what they called it in engineering school? Makes them quite plump and cute. The two tarried a while, sniffing around, whiskers close to the floorboards. The chuck corner had no chuck today. I hadn’t eaten in two days. For that matter, I hadn’t left this abandoned shell of an apartment in two days.
“Hey, look at that! Your 3 o’clock, honey! Mother lode!” That was Bhombol. As I struggled to prop myself up on my elbows and focus, they raced toward a Tim Hortons paper carton at the far end. The other guy (Tom? Don? Forget the name) must’ve left the carton there for me.
Vagrants are generally quite caring about each other. Just don’t let them get too caring. That’s when they probably want ta get inside your ass.
Anyways, all I could hear now were excited squeaks and screeches from the two muskrats. They were now both inside the carton and it started dancing around, flipping around on its side, time to time. I could wave my hands and frighten them away. Too much effort. I chuckled instead, my eyes trying to focus on and follow the box as it tumbled its way end on end, toward the hole in the floorboards. A few seconds later it was gone from sight. I eased myself down flat once again, with a whoosh of hoarse, rattling breath.
As dusk fell, a sweet breeze blew in through the open, frameless windows. I turned to face it. Tried to take in a deep breath. I spluttered and doubled over with a series of retching coughs. Can’t take deep breaths no more. The heaving subsided after a while. Twisting painfully around, I lifted a loose plank off the floor and fished out the bottle. My eyes closed as the rye burned its way down. I sank back, hands clasped together over my chest.
As my eyes stared blankly up at the ceiling, something came into sudden sharp focus. It was my mother, very young, calling from the kitchen,”Portey boshecho, baba? Mone thake jeno, porashuno korey jei, gari ghora chorey shei.” (Have you taken out your homework, darling? Remember, those who study, they are the ones who get to ride in fancy cars when they’re grown up).
I’m waitin’ ta go home. I know it won’t be long.