tom briggs

I had woke with a headache after a short nap. It was already hot that morning on our little beach near the marina, so I went in. I felt better after completing my usual hundred fifty meters to the buoy and back. It was just what I needed. I had felt out of sorts and dizzy and had been losing my balance, no doubt from the heat which I hadn’t yet adjusted to. We’d only arrived from Belgium at Marina Bai des Ange on the Coté d’ Azur two days earlier. After my rejuvenated swim, I was ready to enjoy sublime relaxation by continuing with my reading of The Steppe, by Anton Chekhov. An exercise of escape by one on whom most is lost from one on whom nothing is lost.

As I held the beautifully-crafted and handsome hardcover with the simple but elegant typography on its cream-colored cover, I noticed a glistening blackish mess along the pages near the top binding. I quickly discovered that most items in the main section of my backpack were similarly christened. As I emptied its contents of a hardbound pocket-size prayer book, an ancient ballpoint pen with partially obscured lettering that said Northwest Financial, Visalia, CA, 93277, four tattered pocket-size writing pads, a never-used ten year-old leather bound drawing tablet, a canvas pen and pencil holder and another paper-bound drawing tablet, I discovered that the source of this ugly invasion was the week-long remains of a banana. I was relieved when I realized that my prized copy of  A Narrative of a Pedestrian Journey Through Russia and Siberian Tartary by Thomas Cochrane, which was in the backpack as well, was miraculously unscathed.

By now totally unidentifiable as that yellow tropical fruit, the banana’s decomposition approximated any number of things. It had a very forensic aspect, not unlike the year-old remains of the Lady in The Lake from the Raymond Chandler murder mystery. The gooey substance could have also passed for a blob of grease from under a gearbox, the thirty-year accumulated phlegm deposit of a cigar-smoker, or any other repulsive substance that might be found in an abandoned refrigerator or along the girders of a rusting highway bridge.

As Lieve had remarked, the whole bloody business was normally the work of a ten-year-old. Maybe when I’m older still, I’ll be capable of forgetting a lot more than where I left a banana. Funny how youth and age overlap. The banana had oozed its way into every fold, crevice, and corner of the backpack’s largest compartment. It looked to be quite capable of breeding or replicating itself. Maybe I’ll find it one day reincarnated in another compartment, in another backpack, on another book or drawing tablet.

It had apparently thrived as a decaying entity in the warm dark interior. It was possibly decomposing and regenerating itself simultaneously. I’d half-imagined that it was pulsating, as it affixed its oozing self to everything in its path. I shook the backpack to expel this mass of organic pathology, but it clung to the walls of its dark hot sanctum. I shook it violently and finally with reluctance it slid onto the beach stones, soon disappearing as its by now liquid-like form found every space between the rocks apparently much to its liking. The tiny Chiquita blue and yellow sticker survived it all and had affixed itself to the lining of the backpack. The Chiquita lady with the big eyes and comely look was as fresh as ever and remained indifferent to this slow, dark and sullen metamorphosis.

I almost heard the banana lament: “I was once a delicious banana. Then I was a pasty darkening morass. Now I’m a liquid slime seeking the eternal darkness beneath the beaches hot stones. Would it have been otherwise had I embarked on the seemingly more natural destiny and journey of being eaten?”  I pondered this for a second or two, then proceeded to clean up the mess. Chekhov would have to wait until the afternoon.


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