The Cello – by Ruth Padel

I met him in the courtyard at dusk, where they weave the tents at Sukth –  wanderer who had come into his own. The olive tree had been hard-pruned along its central branch and only the tips were in leaf, gray fingers stretching to light, but you could see the ne growth, a haze of turuoise rust. Roots had blistered the sea-pebble paving into a mound like a verruca.  I thought of the black ceramic bird my mother notched in the center of her pies, whose yellow beak cracked the crust.

He had a cello in his hand. The grain glowed peat-swirl brown of a moutain tarn, but plum-maroon under the f-holes as if someone had been at it with mammoth blood. The spike glittered between one round stone and the next. Take this, he said. I’m giving it to you.

I looked away, at marble grooves framing the half-dome niche where a tap hangs over the copper cup chained to the wall. I ran my finger down the neck and scroll.

I imagined lifting a handle stuck to the lip of a broken amorpha face down under the tree, like history keeping a lid on rising roots.  Every choice is a loss. The past is not where you left it. That corridor you didn’t follow, the gate to unknown woods, shadow grin of a winding stair, the door you never found time to open – they whirl within, cracking the floor. I met him at twilight where they put up the tents at Sukkoth, a wanderer who had come into her own.

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