Now he lifts her up, or tries to, which is obviously difficult given how skinny and short Mikhail is. What is making things a bit easier is her perfectly method acted stiffness of death. The next step if Noé has the mental focus and love for the craft required would be to try to enact Algor mortis, the cooling of the deceased body. Some other day perhaps.
Soon enough the unequal couple is out on the back porch where crickets are serenading the blackness wrapping half the globe. The temperatures are pleasant. He is barely holding onto her.
– Ufhhhhhhh…. this is heavy duty lifting. I guess I’m better off just tossing you down onto the lawn, saves me a lot of trouble and a bad back. You won’t mind, will you, you’re dead after all.
Noé steels herself against the drop. How high can it be? Two meters tops. Down onto that lush grass can’t be too painful or at least not as disagreeable as loosing. Mikhail lumbers over and somehow manages to shove Noé over the low balustrade. In mid-fall she relaxes all her body’s muscles, which she expects to soften the impact. The grass is not deep at all and something in her leg goes “pop”. The pain is bad but sufferable, her face as placid as early a.m. swimming pools. Also the hip is a source of soreness, not to mention that she is lying in the green face down with creepy-crawlies already audible in the vicinity. Mikhail should get his ass over here and just acknowledge that he has lost, that he cannot win, that his impertinence is only a sporadic thing for strangers in the street.
Instead, he takes his time and rumbles off to some other location around the house. The leg hurts. Noé is reflecting: do crickets consume flesh? Are they harbingers of oblivion? I should really try to become an actress, shouldn’t I? Then Mikhail is back, no more breathing quite as hard, turns her over and happily declares
– Just had to find my trusty old shovel!
He begins digging right there, almost midnight, fiancée Noé beside him still playing dead despite the popped leg, the TV in the background proclaiming the day’s casualties, the sharp sound of metal through soil, cutting roots. Time is measured by the insects’ nocturnal symphony. The young lady lies convinced that she will prevail despite bites and tons of unpleasantness. At one point she wonders, casually, how, when and why games spiral out of control. Hours pass, the shovel makes its way into the soil. Mikhail labors: this is not chess, this is not watching birds, this is digging a pretend grave. At last, it is finished.
– Pheeew! Not bad, not bad at all. More like four feet but still, pretty impressive hole if I may say so. I wish you were still around to see this Noé, you’d be proud of me for once.
Do they enjoy playing the game because they don’t want to know if Mikhail is saying the truth or not? Noé badly wants to open her eyes to see the hole, not as a physical accomplishment of her partner but to see if at this late hour the bottom of it is soil or a dark maw. The steps she hears are those of Mikhail going back up the wooden stairs into the house. Noé knows precisely what he is going to get. Their argument had always been the same:
– Please, honey, for the love of all, which is sacred in this world, throw the damn thing out. Our home office is small enough as is.
– What’s the point of more space if there is less beauty, Noé?
– Beauty? This is your grandmother’s battered old, First World War clothing chest. This does not qualify as beauty my dear. It is a straightforward waste of space. Moreover there’s nothing in there, we simply don’t use it Mikhail.
– It doesn’t have to be useful Noé, it’s valuable in itself. It’s an antique. It’s my grandmother’s memory, o.k.? Do you want me to forget about my grandmother?
– No, of course not. But it’s an object, a thing. I wish you could see that honey. I wish you could see my point on this issue.
– I can. But it’s not just an object. It’s a family heirloom, an actual chest. It might come in handy some day.
– You always say that. But the darn thing was in the way yesterday and it’s in the way today. You could at least move it into the attic.
It’s too big for him to carry in his arms so the sonorous box thuds from one step to the next, always it seems at the peril of breaking apart into ancient WWI oak slats. Noé has her doubts that she will fit given how tall and lanky she is. She would have to unrealistically forfeit the rigor mortis. Then again, archaeologists had dug up grave sites where bodies had been found curled up in fetal positions, which signified something of a return.