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It would have taken less time to cross the desert on a camel! The bus a large rectangular
vehicle holding far more people than any conveyance I had previously encountered, save only
the airplane was not entirely to blame for the length of our journey. We arose early and
walked to the clear wall of glass, parting it to step out into the new morning. The rains of the
previous day had been replaced by sun and only a little wind to chill our Egypt-warmed
blood. Having ascertained that we would not be rained upon, we instead drenched ourselves
with water in what Leda refers to as a "shower," washed and dried our hair, dressed in one of
the dowdy ensembles she has worn since first I joined her, and walked briskly to the place the
bus was known to frequent.
When it arrived, we stepped into it and put money into a container. We did not even get to sit
down but, because of the crowd, stood all the way, clinging to seat backs and hand straps
when the bus's passage was less than smooth. It stopped many times during our journey, to
dispense and admit various people. We crossed a broad river on a ribbon of gray stone
containing many, many other conveyances, all wheeled and all roaring.
This bridge of stone was one of a family of such bridges lacing the river like a Roman sandal.
Looking down the river, one could see them all clearly arching across, the traffic parading
now steadily, now erratically, back and forth across the waters.
At long last the bus climbed a steep hillock atop which sat two palaces larger than any I had
ever occupied. These were also joined by a bridge. This city is very fond of bridges, it seems,
even to span dry ground.
We entered one of these buildings. Leda said this is where military people go when they are
no longer serving but require the attentions of doctors. For soldiers who needed doctors, these
people appeared to be remarkably healthy and whole to me! Most had the majority of their
limbs still firmly attached. Many were quite old, a condition seldom seen in soldiers of any
nation in my experience. They sat around the corridors like so many courtiers awaiting the
pleasure of their pharaoh. We made our way to a line of people, and stood behind the last of
these. Moving gradually forward, at last we came to an opening in a wall where two people
stood receiving the people in the line. Leda submitted her request for the medicine she
desired. Instead of handing it to her, the people merely acknowledged that she had spoken.
She accepted this and walked into what appeared to be a banquet hall. We sat at a table and
read from a book she brought along for that purpose. It contained a fantastic tale of a land
preserved by dragons from periodic rains of what seemed to me to be Greek fire. The dragons
communicated with each other and their riders in somewhat the same way that Leda and I
communicate, except, of course, that a dragon and its rider did not share a body. I thought this
might be an entertaining place to visit and wondered if this land was far and whether or not it
had a library where we might study.
Every once in a while, as we read, Leda would look up at a screen set high above our heads
over the doorways. The names of people appeared there. When one's name appeared, one's
medicine had been prepared, and one might return to the window and accept it.
By the time we received the containers of medicine, the dragons had flown to the star
dispensing the Greek's fire, we had imbibed two cans of a sweet "soda," devoured a bag of
salty vegetable chips and two bars of chocolate. We had also made three trips to the lavatory.
But at last we had the precious pills and returned to the street to once more "catch the bus,"
though no catching was required as it stopped at its accustomed resting place.
This bus traveled past many shops with colorful garments in the windows. Had I had my way,
we would have disembarked and used some of Gretchen's money to purchase a suitable
raiment for the evening. However, Leda would not move from her seat.
We returned to Rusti's by five in the evening, to a house silent except for the mews of
greeting from the cats and the barking of the dog from the adjoining house.
The purple-sprigged gown was in Rusti's washing machine. Its background had been white.
However, before her departure, Rusti apparently decided to toss in some new facecloths she
had recently purchased. They were of a special manufacture, imported from China, and yet
they bled their colors onto our one good dress.
'That settles it," I said. "Rusti must die."
'I tend to agree," Leda said. "But we should wait until she pays the rent this month, so we will
have a place to stay a while longer."
'You are very devious," I congratulated her.
'I have another idea you're going to like," she said. "As you have gathered, I am not much for
buying clothing unless it is purple or has a cartoon logo across the front of it. My sister, on
the other hand, is a clotheshorse. We are approximately the same size, give or take a diet here
and there. I'm sure that in exchange for her life, and because of the contrition she will no [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]