"That which is overdesigned, too highly specific, anticipates outcome; the anticipation of outcome guarantees, if not failure, the absence of grace."
-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
Electable fruit.

I am deliberating between red and green apples when I feel the girl staring at me. The apples are hissing abuse at the oranges behind me, and I am attempting, with little success, to determine which color is less full of vitriol, thinking perhaps their personality may be linked to their flavor.

It is not the sort of stare I often convince myself people are directing at me, the sort that causes me to duck into alcoves or behind trees, arguably accruing more attention than otherwise. Though convincing at an animal level, I understand it is the universal paranoia we are all subjected to simply as a side-effect of existing.

No, this is the kind of gaze that causes other people nearby to pause, to look and see what is worth being so intent about. As it's just me, glaring at the apples, their attention wanes quickly.

The girl looks somewhat disheveled, her clothes washed but rumpled, her boots polished but the toes recently and heavily scuffed. Her attitude is intense, and the large raven on her shoulder adds somewhat to this intensity. Her eyes are narrowed, shadowed by furrowed brow, and it is doubtful I could make out their color at this distance even if I weren't observing her solely with my peripheral vision.

The raven ignores me completely, entranced by an array of berries. The berries, oblivious, are humming to themselves tunelessly.

I reach out and take a green apple; perhaps this decisive act will break her concentration, and she will blink, shake her head slightly, and go away. It does not. I replace the apple and take a red one. This seems to have no effect either, but then, after a moment, in stops and starts, she shuffles over to me. She steadies herself against the bins of fruit; though she appears uninjured, staying upright seems to be an ordeal.

The great bird ruffles its feathers and flaps off her shoulder. It perches near its berries, peering down at them from one side of its head, then the other. They continue their incessant humming.

The girl leans down in front of me, obscuring the now silent apples. Slightly more intelligent than their neighbors, the cursed things seem to have realized something is up.

The girl's hair is short; though grown out, it was expensively cut. Her eyes are startling green, and her shirt is loose enough I can see down it. A necklace hangs between her breasts, but I cannot make out its shape.

"I met an angel here once," she confides. My eyes meet hers, and she seems to take my understandable confusion for questioning. I have suffered sentient furniture, allayed the slow jealousy of suspicious statues, and parlayed with what may have been the shadows of demons, but angels?

"He saved me, with a word, and it tasted like strawberries."

And then she falls to her knees and begins quietly sobbing.

The raven leaves its amateur choir and returns to her shoulder. Finally deigning to notice me, its expression, for all its immobility, is withering.

February 24, 2008 1:02 PM