zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


alexis vaillant
love for sale
lutwidge finch a novel: chapter 5
evil camouflage



"In the laboratory, of course." This time he managed to stagger a few steps across the floor.

"I will take you there," Finch said. "Here. Hold my hand."

Together, they left his room. Finch automatically turned, but the boy just as obstinately tugged his arm in the other direction.

"Here," he said. "I can't be seen going down the main stair. That's for ladies and gentlemen."

"Of course."

He gave a despairing glance, hoping perhaps to see Lady Tabitha lingering somewhere, waiting for him, but instead allowed himself to be dragged off through another door onto the dingy, bannisterless staircase, with sections of rubber, rather than carpet, tacked onto each step, and at the bottom not a wide curving sweep of gorgeous polished oak but a tangle of wires and suspended bells nailed to the wall, each with a parlor, sitting, or bedroom's name scrawled beside it.

"Can you manage?" Finch asked.

"It's the queerest feeling," James said. "Like my knees was on fire."

It was late. The kitchen was closed up. Pots from dinner were drying. The great chopping board was darkly rubbed with oil. James found a cloth-covered tray and took it with one hand, holding firmly onto Finch with the other.

"His Lordship's dinner," the boy explained.

"He hasn't eaten yet?"

"He won't be eating till daylight, almost. He's a genius. Help me, please."

The two of them hobbled out a back door, past a vegetable garden, down a hill and into the woods. It was utterly black. If Choir sees us from his window, Finch thought, he will think we are two rustics practicing for tomorrow's three-legged race.

"My grandmamma still lives in Spavin," James was saying. "I jump the train on Fridays to go see her. Otherwise I can't get back in time."

"Just what did you hear in my room?" Finch hazarded, using the cover of darkness to pose the potentially awkward question.

"You was having some kind of attack, it sounded like," the boy said. "Stomach, maybe?"

"Yes," Finch said. "That is it exactly."

"My sister Doris always gives me beef tea for that."