Sunny’s friend, the Nigerian priest Father Adebayo, has died suddenly in mysterious circumstances. Today she means to shake off her lassitude and depression and investigate the house she and her husband and toddler daughter have recently moved into. The things that have been going bump in the night. While she’s at it, she may also try to get some information about her new neighbor, the sinister Mr. Smith, and his equally sinister yet beguiling wife; the couple has moved into the vacant convent next door to Sunny’s cottage.
Several days had passed since Father Adebayo’s funeral, and Sunny wasn’t quite as under the weather as she had been; certainly she was well enough to care adequately for her daughter. (She hoped.) Even more strengthening was her renewed desire to try to fathom what was happening to her family. And in the cottage. It offered her some small measure of control, if only illusory.
Bunny drove her toy car around and around, from the kitchen, through the dining room, into the living room, veering left into the hallway, and back again through the dining room, the plastic wheels creating hollow thumps as they passed over the doorway thresholds. Rabbit rode shotgun, slumped rather.
“Beep-beep!” Bunny sang. “Kee-kah, beep-beep!” Tatty fled, her long furs swinging from her underside as she went. As if reminded of a task left undone, the toddler suddenly dismounted and hurried to the kitchen to upend the cat’s food and water dish with urgent purpose.
“Oh, Bunny,” her mother said absently. “What a mess! Never mind, kewpie. We’ll mop it up.” She was searching for the number of the village Buildings Department, one eye on the morning news, flicking the remote from time to time. Ready or not, house, I am on your ASS.
A CNN segment about the run-up to Egypt’s parliamentary elections was playing, using Al Jazeera footage showing contentious protests in the streets, with talking heads describing a media squeeze and silenced journalists. The barrage of images slid across the screen, protesters pumping their fists, shouting, faces contorted. Palm trees fringing the squares of Cairo. Policemen, heavily armed, standing watchfully by. And here came President Mubarak, surrounded by tough looking, impassive security (goons) guards, their eyes shielded by opaque sunglasses, and among these, most peculiarly and unmistakably, strode Mr. Smith. At one point he made an adjustment to his glasses and for a moment — only a moment — his dreadful white eyes were in the shot (looking right at Sunny, and yes, wasn’t he NODDING a little, too?), and the image zoomed in on the face of the president himself gazing at the crowd in the street, his eyes as hard and unreadable as black stones. Then, the interview with an Egyptian journalist resumed.
“There’s something happening here in Egypt,” he said, and his voice trembled a little as he spoke. “Something that will change the world.”
Sunny reached for the phone, shaking off as best she could the disturbing sights and sounds from a far country. She had work to do. This was no time to be inventing dramas, seeing things that weren’t there. Which she seemed to be so good at. The familiar wave of depression washed over her. She glanced at her little girl, who was seated on the kitchen floor in the pooling water from the cat’s dish, busying herself with a snack of dry cat food.
I suck, Sunny pointed out to herself. As a mother. As a wife. As a fucking human. She had suddenly lost interest in the Buildings Department. She hung up the phone just as the disembodied woman’s voice intoned a bored hello. Scooped up the baby, whose diaper sagged heavily in her sopping leggings, and who sported a full Vandyke of cat food mush. Her hair smelled pretty, though, and it gave Sunny a fragment of wan pleasure. It helped, but only a little.
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