The Little Red Chairs

The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

Book: The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edna O’Brien
Tags: Fiction, Literary, General
in that window, it would be like some painting in a grand house, the huntsman home from the chase, the wife with her sleeves rolled up, doing the bidding of her master, an intimacy that was a prelude to love.
‘We must’, he begins sitting back, ‘if we are to make a baby,know something of one another, our roots, our race and the loins from which we have sprung.’
‘You know a bit of mine,’ she says suddenly tongue-tied.
‘So I start,’ he says proudly. ‘The women in my life have been the stronger force, totemic figures who never raised their voices, yet I knew that I must not disobey them. My grandmother was Cath-ollic and every day she made her prayers and listened on her radio to the Vatican Mass at six in the evening. No matter what happened, she never must be interrupted while listening to the Mass. One day, visitors, cousins, have driven a long way from Ukraine and arrive at our house. I knock on her door and say Grandma and she say, “Go away Vuk, I am listening to my Mass.” The house revolved around her. She make a cheese, a soft cheese not unlike mozzarella. One room was where it was made. I see her there in her big striped apron, heating the milk on the little stove to the exact temperature, then pouring it into enamel pots that were blue with white lids. After some time she take the settled milk and put it into squares of muslin to mature. No one allowed in that room. The door was never locked because our word was our oath. One night, I do mischief, I steal down and through the muslin I feel the crust growing around the squares of cheese and I take one and eat it. I am caught. I am punished. At breakfast I must stay in the upstairs room, while downstairs they are eating the soft cheese and the warm bread that my grandmother has baked, along with the bacon from our own pigs. I smell the hot coffee and I know what is happening, mugs of coffee for the grown-ups and a little coffee in the milk for the other children, except that I am banished. My mother exactly similar to my grandmother, all daughters the same. My mother make the same cheese that her mother made, thoughshe didn’t listen to the Orthodox Mass. My father he steer me from boy to man. A wolf come around our neighbourhood. We have not seen it, but we have been warned. We know it is from the opposite side of the mountain, where our enemy lives. Two nights it circles our house. We hear its cry, a cry like nothing else, that baying so fierce. One night our dogs are howling in the barn and my father he lift the gun off the wall and he beckon me to follow him. I am ten years of age. The snow is higher than I am. We walk along a path where snow is shovelled away and we see the wolf on a height above us, very still, watching with its yellow eyes. My father he look down the muzzle and even now I think I hear the skid of the bullet that goes into the shoulder next to the wolf ’s heart. My father he an expert shot. Then another and another and the wolf begin to stagger and fall down the slope, the blood richer than the red of red wine. My father make me walk to where the wolf lies dead. Look in the eyes. Look at the flank. Now touch it. Then he made me lick the blood from my finger and he do the same. He make warrior sign on my forehead and initiate me into the mystery of the kill. You see, there is deep inside man the instinct to kill, just as there is deep inside woman the instinct to nurture.
‘And now you,’ he says and she hesitates, because the story she wants to tell is of the evening when chance first brought them together on the path, after she had plunged her face in the river and that somehow, surreptitiously, was where it all began. But that was too dangerous a story to tell and too binding altogether.
‘In the town,’ she begins light-heartedly, ‘women argue about the colour of your eyes.’
‘My eyes?’ he asks, unable to conceal the sudden flare of vanity.
‘I said they were a dark green, what we call bottle green.’

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