Monday, August 16, 2010

 Eros, eyesore, she writes on her mop.

In the great hall, where singletons toil in the night -- so marrods can't see them -- a thick-headed marrod wouldn't understand her palindrome poem. But the next singleton to use the mop would. Marrods, drunk on state-ordinanced coupling night after night, could hardly read left to right, let alone retain the information when they attempted to read backwards.

A marrod child cries in the night. They did that often. Ella has never seen a child up close, only heard them. Singleton sleep was  plagued by marrod child shrieks and thumps. She imagined that all marrods started out with disproportionately large heads and feet and grew into them. Marrod males stayed large and loud, while females grew hissing gaps and long, long claws.

Ella herself has never attended a marrod function, although some singletons were promoted as house singletons, allowed to stay up after sunrise, and dressed in fine clothes so that they could carry silver trays. She heard that the marrods move in clutches and dance in rotating lines as if attached to one gigantic puppeteer's pole. Clever singletons have theorized telepathy among them, since they are reported to dress and act alike.

Ella doubts this, or at least that their telepathy skills transverse their own race. It was true that marrod females never speak to their male counterparts, except in shouts. Perhaps marrod males simply never grow out of the hearing disability that seems to afflict all marrod children.

After completing her chores, Ella has whole hours of inactivity she can fill as she pleases. The villa is endless, reaching into the sky and under the ground, and also back in time. Generations of singletons have claimed garret rooms and under-stair cupboards to retreat to when they want to be alone. Books, entertainment disks, and jury-rigged music plug-ins are squirreled all over the main house and out buildings to be shared more or less communally; at the very least, Ella knows not to touch a collection that's clearly being enjoyed by someone else.

Singletons communicate in graffiti, left inside cupboards or the margins of computer files. "Does anyone have the third volume of Remembrance of Things Past in plug-in format?" is left plaintatively in the butter. A spikey, cocky reply: "Oho, who's getting her doctorate in godawful egotism?" as well as the code to the book. The respondent wouldn't have the code if s/he hadn't read the book. Singletons understand the words beneath the words. Ella smiled with remembrance of that pleasant week, practically a party, when the whole staff held a threaded conversation on the back of the shed door over their favorite friend Jane, the disappointing last line, and who truly deserved to be locked up mad in the attic. Well, probably the whole staff; even a clever singleton didn't really know -- or want to know ­-- who was writing on that shed door.

It was true, sometimes singletons fell through the cracks. Sometimes one didn't show up at his assignment for a week and would be found by the strange smell in the hay loft. But then, how many marrods had been assigned to poor partners and were discovered murdered in their beds. The only difference was the speed of detection.

It wasn't that singletons couldn't love. Ella played chess every Sunday with Susanna. They met at 3 pm, set up the board, and played silently until supper. There had been times they shared a garret room, or a book. As girls, there was a notebook they kept between they two, and even now passed notes between them that they didn't share with the rest of the household.

It was what they wanted. It was enough.

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