Napoleon's Roads

Napoleon's Roads by David Brooks

Book: Napoleon's Roads by David Brooks Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Brooks
are seated on her left. Aldo touches her cheek tenderly – brushes it, rather, with the edge of his hand – then leans over, kisses her on the forehead. It is the first time I have ever seen him kiss her.
    I am still thinking about the cat. A lingering image on the mind’s retina. A dying glow. You look into the light – at some lit object – and then close your eyes, and the light, the shape of the object is still there, blurred at the edges, its features lost; some force emanating from within. Except that in this case it was not light. Was, and was not. Is not. A tunnel vision. A vortex down which, since it happened, I am always falling yet never seeming nearer or farther away. A kind of vertigo. And the mountains today like great waves there on the horizon, about to engulf us.
    The old lady died on the Tuesday. Sad, but no great surprise. I’d heard her from the rooms below, for six weeks or more, shouting, calling out names, lost in the corridors of herself. Long days of silence and then it would break out again. She would. I don’t know what brought it on. The wind maybe. Or some weather inside her. Katia told me of her death almost matter-of-factly as I was talking with Igor on the balcony. There’d been a phone call in her study, and she came out. ‘Nona just died,’ she said, ‘at the hospital a few minutes ago. That was my father. He’s there.’ And we went on with our day, tentatively, not knowing what else to do, waiting for something to arrive, to break.
    A nausea, perhaps. The overwhelming weight of being. But also something more, surely. The heart was wrenched , as if something had prised it open. The opposite of nausea. Not closed in by things, but offered them, in their depth. Or drawn by them, rushed into them. As if one were being sucked out of oneself. A force. A kind of gravity. The cat at its centre, there in the boot-room.
    At Alex’s, while we talked at the table inside, our chairs angled towards the French doors so that we could see the view, the cats came, four, with a fifth somewhere off in the forest – dying, Jacqueline said. All of them were scrawny, under-nourished. Jacqueline fed them but they never fattened. Village cats. Worm-ridden probably. Katia always annoyed that Alex and Jacqueline didn’t pay them more attention, offer more affection, see their condition. Katia rescued a white kitten two years ago, bonded with her instantly on the lawn, took her home. In twenty-four months she’s become sleek, independent, strong. Bianca. At the window, late at night, while I read. Waiting for entrance. ‘That one’s Bianca’s mother,’ Jacqueline says, pointing out a gaunt, long-haired tabby, oldest of the four. Looking as if she might be dying too. ‘No,’ says Jacqueline, reading our minds, ‘She has always looked like that.’ So many cats in these villages. You’d think they were the inhabitants, not humans.
    This late afternoon – this late afternoon and on into the evening – I have watched a mass of clouds gather in the north-east and darken to a deep bruise-purple, and felt the pressure mounting within them, electrical, torrential. Couldn’t it be like that? The Outside? And now, just moments ago, the first lightning. A crack. A fissure in the sky.
    Igor left, in any case, not knowing what to do. I waited for Aldo to return from the hospital, anticipating his grief. But when he came back he put the car away, went into the downstairs kitchen for a while, then came out and went down to the fields. Perhaps he was sobbing down there. I don’t know. And as to what Katia was feeling, there are times I can’t tell that either, especially when it comes to family. Her grandmother hated cats. And Katia had claimed to hate her grandmother for hating them.
    You carry such things around with you. I was sitting on the terrace of that strange hotel a hundred kilometres

Similar Books

Vanishing Act

John Feinstein

Losing Track

Trisha Wolfe

A Killing Karma

Geraldine Evans


Faye Kellerman

The Doctor's Undoing

Gina Wilkins

The Night Cafe

Taylor Smith

Jack Tumor

Anthony McGowan