The Most Awaiting Journey - II
The Most Awaiting Journey - II4 mins 20.1K 4 mins 20.1K
Continued from 'The Most Awaiting Journey- I'
The velvet curtains parted.
Mr. Thirkell appeared, fantastically serene, his Egyptian eyes upon everyone. But there was something, nevertheless, in his appearance which made one expect him to call "Hi!" while fuzzy dogs jumped over his legs, through his hooped arms, and over his back. Then, dogs and all, he should dance with a dazzling piano-keyboard smile off into the wings.
Mrs. Kathy, with a secret part of her mind which she constantly had to grip tightly, expected to hear a cheap Chinese gong sound when Mr. Thirkell entered. His large liquid dark eyes were so improbable that one of the old ladies had facetiously claimed she saw a mosquito cloud hovering over them as they did around summer rain-barrels. And Mrs. Kathy sometimes caught the scent of the theatrical mothball and the smell of calliope steam on his sharply pressed suit.
But with the same savage rationalization that had greeted all other disappointments in her rickety life, she bit at the suspicion and whispered, "This time it's real. This time it'll work. Haven't we got a rocket?"
Mr. Thirkell bowed. He smiled a sudden Comedy Mask smile. The old ladies looked in at his epiglottis and sensed chaos there. Before he even began to speak, Mrs. Kathy saw him picking up each of his words, oiling it, making sure it ran smooth on its rails. Her heart squeezed in like a tiny fist, and she gritted her porcelain teeth.
"Friends," said Mr. Thirkell, and you could hear the frost snap in the hearts of the entire assemblage.
"No!" said Mrs. Kathy ahead of time. She could hear the bad news rushing at her, and herself tied to the track while the immense black wheels threatened and the whistle screamed, helpless.
"There will be a slight delay," said Mr. Thirkell.
In the next instant, Mr. Thirkell might have cried, or been tempted to cry, "Ladies, be seated!" in minstrel-fashion, for the ladies had come up at him from their chairs, protesting and trembling.
"Not a very long delay." Mr. Thirkell put up his hands to pat the air.
"Only a week."
"Yes. You can stay here at the Restorium for seven more days, can't you? A little delay won't matter, will it, in the end? You've waited a lifetime. Only a few more days."
At twenty dollars a day, thought Mrs. Kathy, coldly. "What's the trouble?" a woman cried.
"A legal difficulty," said Mr. Thirkell.
"We've a rocket, haven't we?" "Well, ye-ess."
"But I've been here a whole month, waiting," said one old lady. "Delays, delays!"
"That's right," said everyone.
"Ladies, ladies," murmured Mr. Thirkell, smiling serenely.
"We want to see the rocket!" It was Mrs. Kathy forging ahead, alone, brandishing her fist like a toy hammer.
Mr. Thirkell looked into the old ladies' eyes, a missionary among albino cannibals. "Well, now," he said.
"Yes, now!" cried Mrs. Kathy.
"I'm afraid—" he began.
"So am I!" she said. "That's why we want to see the ship!"
"No, no, now, Mrs.—" He snapped his fingers for her name.
"Kathy!" she cried. She was a small container, but now all the seething pressures that had been built up over long years came steaming through the delicate vents of her body. Her cheeks became incandescent. With a wail that was like a melancholy factory whistle, Mrs. Kathy ran forward and hung to him, almost by her teeth, like a summer-maddened Spitz. She would not and never could let go, until he died, and the other women followed, jumping and yapping like a pound let loose on its trainer, the same one who had petted them and to whom they had squirmed and whined joyfully an hour before, now milling about him, creasing his sleeves and frightening the Egyptian serenity from his gaze.
"This way!" cried Mrs. Kathy, feeling like Madame Lafarge. "Through the back! We've waited long enough to see the ship. Every day he's put us off, every day we've waited, now let's see."
"No, no, ladies!" cried Mr. Thirkell, leaping about.
They burst through the back of the stage and out a door, like a flood, bearing the poor man with them into a shed, and then out, quite suddenly, into an abandoned gymnasium.
"There it is!" said someone. "The rocket."
And then a silence fell that was terrible to entertain.
There was the rocket.
Mrs. Kathy looked at it and her hands sagged away from Mr. Thirkell's collar.
The rocket was something like a battered copper pot. There were a thousand bulges and rents and rusty pipes and dirty vents on and in it. The ports were clouded over with dust, resembling the eyes of a blind hog. Everyone wailed a little sighing wail.