Chapter 5: Inordinate Fondness for Plaster

Doctor Otis Moon Dahl had an inordinate fondness for plaster.

Esau provided a vivid example of the effects on the human when it impacts the ground and skitters and rolls across a hard surface at a high rate of speed. Besides two broken legs, Esau broke his hip and cracked a couple of vertebrae. A handful of ribs and his clavicle snapped. He bruised his spleen and took some skin off his left hand and arm, his feet, and one side of his head.

Esau’s wrecked body gave Doctor Otis Moon Dahl a canvas on which to do some of his best work. For Esau’s exemplary achievement in trashing his body, he got encased in a cast that covered most, but not quite all, of his body. His arms remained free. So did his head. Beyond that, bandaged plaster rendered him immobile to facilitate the mending of his bones. Doctor Otis Moon Dahl did cut a large strip out of the crotch area, front to back, in a grudging concession to Esau’s need to relieve himself periodically. In all the arts, there are compromises.

To pee, someone turned Esau and held him next to the edge of the bed. He aimed the stream of urine, with some success, into a large jar. To defecate, he had to lay on top a shallow bucket and trust that waste did not end up where it shouldn’t. Esau tried and could not clean himself afterward. The process of wiping one’s butt requires a surprising amount of bending and torsion of the midsection, and someone had to do that for him as well.

Esau needed help. He needed to have his meals brought to him. He needed to be turned several times a day to prevent bedsores. Esau needed his bandages removed and the raw flesh cleaned once a day.

Esau needed someone. Magritte pleaded with Pat Shatwell Wouters for help and, not surprisingly, his mother refused. “No way in hell or Terra,” was the succinct way she put it.

“We must bring Esau into our house, Mom,” Magritte told Grandma Roux. “I’ll care of him. I can. I know it.”

“Truth, Magritte? You be just a girl. You be sixteen. You’ve never done any such before.”

“Oh, Momma, no,” Magritte answered honestly. “I know not if I can. Truth. I’m scared. But he has no else place to go. He doesn’t.”

#

Kedar, the Ironsi flying machine pilot, stood over the prone Esau in Magritte’s bed in Grandma Roux’s house.

“Damn you, Essie,” Kedar said to Esau. “You had but one job. That’s all. One job. I see now what you have been doing all this time. Damn. Three months and I still sell to the tall skinnies in that goddamn field. All their hands touching me and coming at me with their, ‘I can give you this, but nothing more.’ Damn. Damn you. We need you cuz, and you let the herd wander away while you played your flute.”

“My mother,” Esau said as tears sneaked down his face. “She screeches and wails against us, and no matter how hard I try, she doesn’t meet her duty.”

“What? I told you, like the Big Ma told me, either get that Shatwell woman to sell or Esau will.”

#

Esau fell into a deep depression as his last hopes for a quick return to the mountains evaporated. Worse, his broken body lay trapped in a shell of sweat-drenched plaster and would never be the same again.

“What’s wrong, sweet,” Magritte asked.

“I’m snared. I am here, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Get better. That’s all today.”

“No,” Esau moaned. “When I get removed from this cast, what then? I don’t know how to talk to the tall skinnies.”

“You talk fine as with me, sweet.”

“No, no. The tall skinnies are too clever, they are. How can I sell to them? I’ve known only my cousins and cousins don’t cheat cousins, no. I can ride. I can herd. That’s what I do. I’m good at that. I help my cousins and aid them, and they aid me. There’s no aiding anyone among these folks. Those merchants, they want to take all. They don’t pay fair rates.”

“Oh, Esau, oh, sweet. My family. You know on us you should rely. My sister, she’s a merchant. Trust her. She cheats no one. She can trade for you. If you give her a small portion of each sell, she’ll trade. Such as her job. She does such well. She takes a ratio of the profit and ensures the profit be as high as what the market bears.”

“Will she?” Esau asked.

“Oh yes,” Magritte reply. “If there be profit, she will.”

#

Sharon left the Exchange and followed Magritte to the bedroom. The room smelled like urine and stale sweat.

“I have a business offering for you,” Esau said.

“Okay…,” Sharon looked back at him warily.

“Take the business over for me, for the Ironsi? I can’t do it. Buy and sell for the Ironsi. Is it a commission you want from the profit? Take the commission. You’ll make money. I’m just not good at it.”

“I mind nothing wrong with this,” Sharon said. “We can try for a while. If no problem, we can do such longer.”

“One thing,” Esau sheepishly told Sharon. “Kiss me. That makes you part of the Ironsi. You must be family. We run this way.”

“What this side of hell,” Sharon growled. She looked back at him, shocked. I wasn’t there, but knowing Sharon, she snapped upright, scrunched her lips in a scowl, and narrowed her eyes.

Magritte stood next to Sharon. Knowing Magritte, she crossed arms with legs spread wide in defiance and eyes wide.

Both Magritte and Sharon said in unison, “Hell no.”

“No, no, no…. Not much. Let me kiss you on the cheek. That’s all.”

“What?” Sharon protested. “No, little boy.”

“Tell me I hallucinate,” Magritte said as she flailed her arms above her head.

“If I kiss you on the cheek, I can say you bonded.” They have strange rules in the mountains.

Sharon stared at him defiantly, her eyes still slits.

“It’s just a business arrangement,” Esau explained. “We do this all the time.”

“I don’t,” Sharon said.

“What sort of druven has your pain-addled mind imagined?” Magritte asked. “Keep mindful such I can crush your bollocks and pull out your dick by its roots, and there’s not much you in ways you can deter me while encased in such cast, you.”

 “How about an Ironsi family adjunct?” Sharon suggested. “No kiss.”

“Right! No way!” Magritte, not surprisingly, agreed with her sister.

Esau sighed. “Magritte… join your family to mine. Kiss me,” Esau leaned forward and puckered his lips to kiss Magritte, not able to raise his head far from the pillow. Magritte did not move toward him.

“We have long since passed that way,” Magritte said. “We have done more than good enough. Don’t test.”

“Okay,” Esau said, dropping back. “It will be what it be.”

#

For four months, Esau laid there in Magritte’s bed until the cast could be removed. Magritte tended his wounds, fed him, cleaned him, and help him.

“You’ve grown,” Grandma Roux said. “What horrible stance to Esau. But your taking care of him made you more. It completed you to an adult.”

A few days before the doctor released Esau from the imprisonment of the cast, Mom came to Grandma Roux’s house.

Grandma Roux screamed.

Panicked, Magritte ran into the room and shouted, “All okay? All right? What be the problem?”

“No problem. Kev and Tennessee will born a baby.” Grandma Roux excitedly told Magritte.

Magritte did not smile. “I will too.”

Grandma Roux and Mom spun around and looked at Magritte.

“What…?” Mom stammered. “Sure?”

“My flow did not come two weeks past,” Magritte told her. “And I don’t keep what I eat.”

“How so? How so? Wait….” Mom looked down the hall to where Esau lay. The smell of urine, shit, and rancid, cast-covered, human spilled out from Magritte’s room to the rest of the house. Mom’s expression turned to disgust. “Oh, Migone. Oooooo….”

“That happies us all,” Grandma Roux said.

#

Aunt Sharon sat behind her large wooden desk that belongs to her great-great-great-grandfather and watched Esau walk around her office. His right leg remained locked at the knee, and he walked with a distinctive gait. He leaned forward slightly, and that right leg of his seemed to always be lagging behind.

“Sit down,” Aunt Sharon said.

“I’m better up and about,” Esau said. “Still can’t sit.”

“You look better.”

“Good. That’s good. I couldn’t have been worse. It’s slow. Never, ever, wreck your motorcycle.”

He started at one wall and made his way down its length, looking at each of the drawings and photographs that filled the space.

 “I sell all the goldbeater skins your family creates at seventy-five hundred,” Sharon told him.

“Seventy-five hundred for ten?” Esau asked.

“No, seventy-five hundred for one.”

“Yowze, nice. I’ve been to the workshop where they make them. Smells horrible. Do you know how they make them?”

“No. Yagize average approx twenty-two thou-kee in gross sales.”

“Per month?” Esau asked. “I’m impressed.”

“No, per load as yagize remain to once a two-weeks.”

“Yowze.”

Esau gazed over the collection artifacts on top of a row of file cabinets. He picked up and examined a blown glass globe with a gold star pressed into it. The Dignacs bought that glass globe eighty years earlier. One much like it had sold recently for four-hundred thousand thou-kee. Four hundred and fifty million dollars.

 “Will you keep trading for me?” Esau asked. “For the Ironsi?”

“As always,” Sharon said.

Suddenly the room started shaking. Esau fell against the filing cabinets and held tight.

“Could it be? An earthquake!” he shouted.

Sharon jumped up and walked quickly to Esau and took the glass globe from him. She put it back in its place while everything shook around them.

“No earthquake,” she said. “No, the building rises and falls.” She calmly returned to her seat behind the desk.

“The building be an elevator,” she explained. “She rises and falls.”

Esau heard popping and cracking as if huge wheels ground slowly against a stone. “The hell!”

“The building, she floats. There be a pool below the foundation. When so the pool be flooded, the building rises. Drain the pool, she falls. The building, in whole, be an elevator for the Exchange next-by.”

Esau looked incredulous.

“Come so,” she said, walking towards the door. She went into the next room, an open warehouse, and Esau followed.

“See so.” Aunt Sharon pointed to the far side of the large room, smiling. The floor of the Exchange next door rose in the opening between the buildings.

“Shit monkey,” Esau said, amazed.

#

Esau lumbered back home as fast as he could on his disfigured legs. When he got there, he wrote a letter to the Ironsi beseeching them to bring him home. I’m hurt. The heat kills me, bit by bit. Sharon does my job better than I do. I’m not needed down here.

Never has a person written a more eloquent explanation for why he should be fired.

A month later, the family’s reply came. No, you can’t go home. This Sharon woman is not family. The sister of your girlfriend doesn’t count. You have to be in charge.

So, Esau let Sharon do his job and take a part of the profit. He continued to collect his monthly stipend from the Ironsi. Everyone, including our family, the Ironsi, and Esau, profited.

#

When Esau discovered that Vishnu Mui White owned a refrigerated storage warehouse, he pushed aside his reticence to engage with an otherwise unknown sapiens and sought Vishnu out.

“I am… I be strong,” Esau told Vishnu. “And I’m well suited for the cold. I’m the best worker you could have for cold.”

Vishnu Mui White hired Esau. What Vishnu did not know was that Esau would have worked for him for free. Esau had learned some of the crafty ways of the Delta.

While the other workers wore coats inside the cold storage, Esau stood there in shorts, smiling. Even in the frozen rooms. “It’s just getting comfortable,” he’d say. He even slept in Vishnu’s warehouse when it got hot outside.

Once, he brought a tub into a frozen room and filled it with water. Vishnu and all the other workers wondered what this strange Neanderthal was doing.

When the tub iced over, Esau broke the crust and immersed as much of himself

“Join me. You’ll feel alive.” No one did.

#

Esau and Magritte got married in a small ceremony. Pat Shatwell Wouters sat at the front, filling the church sanctuary with the sound of her sobs. Magritte rested her hand on the bulge of the baby while she got ready.

An equally pregnant Tennessee stood next to Magritte on the chancel. Kev joined Esau opposite of them. While waiting for the minister, Magritte got Tennessee to pose with her, back to back. Their pregnant bellies poked out in opposite directions.

“Such a fecund wedding,” Grandma Roux said.

Magritte delivered her child at Grandma Roux’s house. She gave birth in the same bed that had been used for the conception.

Magritte held her new baby in her arms and softly touch the baby’s cheek. “I shall to name her Xavier, as your father,” Magritte told Grandma Roux.

“Well, your baby be not the right flavor for a name such as Xavier,” Grandma Roux explained. “Your baby girl needs herself a girl’s name.”

Magritte thought. “How about Xavi?” Magritte asked. “Xavi. I like such.”

Esau picked up the newborn Xavi and held her high above his head and mimicked the stance of the baboon holding the lion cub in The Lion King. “Behold! Ironsi Xavi.”

 “No, she be Xavi Roux Ironsi,” Magritte objected. “Stop the foolery and return me my baby.”

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