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state: first draft
last update: 1999 September 3

Killing Buddha

10. Fifth Objective Correlative

By Kevin Kelleher

Soon they were descending toward another balcony. This time it was the balcony of a house in a small town that was almost familiar to Renzo, but not quite. When their feet touched the solid pavement of the second-floor balcony, Renzo's legs felt rubbery. He did a few deep-knee bends and waved his arms around to stretch. The devil said, "I'll meet you on the street," and vanished. Not in a moment, however: it was the strangest thing to see. The devil gradually became ever more transparent until he was gone. Renzo shook his head vigorously as if to wake himself up, then thrust his arms into the space around him. The devil wasn't simply invisible; he was gone.

Renzo looked around and glanced over the side of the balcony. The only way down was through the house, so he entered through the open french doors and pushed aside the curtain. Although there was still sunlight outside, the room was quite dark; the curtains were heavy. Renzo stood still for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the near darkness.

He gradually became aware of the furniture: a bureau, a table, two chairs, a bed. It took a few moments more until he could make out the form of a man lying in the bed. At last, the door of the bedroom faded into view. His eyes were fully adjusted now, and he saw the way out.

Renzo shifted the basket of fruit to his left hand and silently made his way across the room. As quietly as he could manage, he took the door knob in his hand, but it rattled like tin can full of pebbles. The man on the bed stirred and turned toward the door. "Who's there?" he called in a fearful voice. "Who is it?"

At first Renzo kept silent, but as the man on the bed continued to call, the voice penetrated through years of memories and Renzo knew who it was: his cousin Umberto. "It's me, Umberto," he said quietly.

Umberto sat up abruptly. "Renzo? Renzo? RENZO?"

"Yes, it's me," Renzo said quietly. "How are you, my dear old friend?"

"Bad," Umberto replied, "Very, very bad. I'm so glad you came to see me." Then he began to cry.

Renzo moved toward the bed, shifting the basket to his other hand again. Umberto wiped his tears and said, "What is that?"

Renzo held it forward saying, "It's some fruit, for you. Fresh picked from the fields."

Umberto picked up one and held it. "It was thoughtful. This is all I can eat now." And he took a huge snapping bite.

The door suddenly opened and Umberto's mother, Renzo's aunt, came in. "Who are you talking to, Umberto?"

"It's Renzo, mother! And he brought me some fresh apples!"

"How nice," the woman commented. "Hello, Renzo," she said in a weary voice, kissing him on both cheeks. "You must have come in when I was hanging the laundry. Do you see the sad state of my poor Umberto? It's nice of you to come; it must have taken you forever to get here."

After an hour of conversation, some inconvenient questions about his trip, and the difficulty of getting out of an invitation to dinner, Renzo finally exited to the street. He looked all around for the devil and began to wonder how exactly he'd get home if he had to do it himself. Just as he rounded a corner and was about to count the money in his pocket, he saw the devil leaning against a wall.

"As if I'd abandon you," the devil said, wagging his finger playfully. "Ready to go back home?"

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