Idiots First

Read Online Idiots First by Bernard Malamud - Free Book Online

Book: Idiots First by Bernard Malamud Read Free Book Online
Authors: Bernard Malamud
button on, or shortened a sleeve, or when he used the iron. Whispering when he hung up his coat in the morning, he was still whispering when he put on his black hat, wriggled his sparse shoulders into his coat and left, in loneliness, the store at night. Only once did he hint what the whispering was about; when the clothier, noticing his pallor one morning, brought him a cup of coffee, in gratitude the tailor confided that his wife, who had returned last week, had left him again this, and he held up the outstretched fingers of one bony hand to show she had five times run out on him. Marcus offered the man his sympathy, and thereafter when he heard the tailor whispering in the rear of the store, could always picture the wife coming back to him from wherever she had been, saying she was this time—she swore—going to stay for good, but at night when they were in bed and he was whispering about her in the dark, she would think to herself she could never stand this thing and in the morning, was gone. And so the man’s ceaseless whisper irritated Marcus; he had to leave the
store to hear silence, yet he kept Emilio on because he was a fine tailor, a demon with a needle, who could sew up a perfect cuff in less time than it takes an ordinary workman to make measurements, the kind of tailor, who when you were looking for one, was very rare.
    For more than a year, despite the fact that they both made strange noises in the rear room, neither the presser nor the tailor seemed to notice one another; then one day, as though an invisible wall between them had fallen, they were at each other’s throats. Marcus, it appeared, walked in at the very birth of their venom, when, leaving a customer in the store one afternoon, he went back to get a piece of marking chalk and came on a sight that froze him. There they were in the afternoon sunlight that flooded the rear of the shop, momentarily blinding the clothier so that he had time to think he couldn’t possibly be seeing what he saw—the two at opposite corners staring stilly at one another—a live, almost hairy staring of intense hatred. The sneering Pole in one trembling hand squeezed a heavy wooden pressing block, while the livid tailor, his back like a cat’s against the wall, held aloft in his rigid fingers a pair of cutter’s shears.
    â€œWhat is it?” Marcus shouted when he had recovered his voice, but neither of them would break the stone silence and remained as when he had discovered them, glaring across the shop at the other, the tailor’s lips moving noiselessly, and the presser breathing like a dog in heat, an eeriness about them that Marcus had never suspected.
    â€œMy God,” he cried, his body drenched in cold creeping wetness, “tell me what happened here.” But neither uttered a sound so he shrieked through the constriction in his
throat, which made the words grate awfully, “Go back to work—” hardly believing they would obey; and when they did, Bruzak turning like a lump back to the machine, and the tailor stiffly to his hot iron, Marcus was softened by their compliance and speaking as if to children, said with tears in his eyes, “Boys, remember, don’t fight.”
    Afterwards the clothier stood alone in the shade of the store, staring through the glass of the front door at nothing at all; lost, in thinking of them at his very back, in a horrid world of gray grass and green sunlight, of moaning and blood-smell. They had made him dizzy. He lowered himself into the leather chair, praying no customer would enter until he had sufficiently recovered from his nausea. So sighing, he shut his eyes and felt his skull liven with new terror to spy them both engaged in round pursuit in his mind. One ran hot after the other, lumbering but in flight, who had stolen his box of broken buttons. Skirting the lit and smoking sands, they scrambled high up a craggy cliff, locked in many-handed struggle, teetering on

Similar Books

Rev Me Twice

Adele Dubois

The Hour of Bad Decisions

Russell Wangersky

Heartsong

Debbie Macomber

Covered Bridge

Brian Doyle

Rock & Roll Homicide

R J McDonnell

A Perilous Proposal

Michael Phillips

Heritage of Flight

Susan Shwartz

Rogue Sword

Poul Anderson

Hellfire Crusade

Don Pendleton