The Lion and the Pearls

Sun spilled through the windows. Water spilled from a faucet. It filled pots and pans and mugs, cascading onto plates, washing out discarded flower clippings and submerging lost forks. It was a garden fountain in a sink.

There wasn’t usually art in the Perons’ kitchen sink, though the walls and fridge were papered with finger paintings and sketches committed by Kindergarteners. Today, however, there was A Rush.

The Perons bustled between closets and mirrors, holding blazers and blouses up for color coordination.

“The green or blue blazer today?” Mr. Peron yelled into the closet.
“Blue of course. I’ll show you why. I’ve got you a gift.”

Blazer buttoned up, Mr. Peron placed his hands on the back of a chair and peered into the closet. His wife was unwrapping a box. Her long fingers were oily and precise, gripping the edges of the bag and sliding it down the box like pulling down pants. She succinctly lifted another smaller box, shaped as if for clown’s shoes, and placed it on top of the larger box. She set both on the chair where he was posed, waiting.

“We’ll open them together.” Mrs. Peron said.

Mr. Peron inched the lid up, peeked inside. White tissue paper. He flung the lid away and pushed his hands into the box, parting the paper like a cat through grass. His hands brushed fake fur. He pounced.

He lifted a giant stuffed hat in the shape of a lion’s head and held it at arms length, feeling its weight and examining the balance. He set it on his head and laughed, “It’s perfect, Mrs. Peron,” he said.

++++

The Perons waded the sidewalk like a river, hand in hand. He wore his golden lion’s mane above his blue blazer and gray pinstripes. She glanced at him, wrinkling her nose beneath an antelope hat. The hat perched small and sleek, much like her. Its black beady eyes peered about the Perons, darted from crowd to cab to shop, always watching for threats. It sampled the air, senses on edge.

Mr. Peron mentioned as much.
“But what could you expect from an antelope?” Mrs. Peron assured him.

They came upon a jewelry store, Tiffany’s or somesuch, and Mrs. Peron peered through the glass. A string of pink pearls, misshapen like soft grapes on a mercury vine, were liquid against the black velvet backing. Mrs. Peron Ooohed at the bracelet. She held up her slight freckled wrist to the window, compared the colors. She unclasped her watch, gold like the foil around a candy bar and slipped it in the pocket of her blouse. She admired the pearls on her wrist. How they glowed.

She was young again, before Mr. Peron. The young man at her wrist was round faced, with moons for eyes. He placed her wrist between his thumb and first finger and drew with a China marker a line around her arm. He drew charms dangling from the band. They glinted in the sun. Reflected the opal of the sea. They lay back in the sand, not touching each other. She built a wall of sand between them, by scraping her arms back and forth by her sides. He peeked over the ramparts, raised his eyebrows.

“Only a princess could wear charms like these,” she toyed.
“Then you are a princess! And I am a prince.”
“You’re affirming the consequent.”
“I’m affirming you.”
“Mmm.”
“It fits you, looks good on you. The charms are like your eyes.”
“I’m not going to fuck you.”
“I’m not –”

She rolled away. On and on down the beach she rolled. She bumped into the window.

“Do you think I could pull off those pearls?”
“Opals look better against your skin.”
“Hmm.”
“Do you like them?”
“No. I like opals.”
“The pearls are deep. You can see hundreds of years into them. Before people wrote stories in books they told them to pearls. That necklace is like the Library at Alexandria.”
“Except that pearls won’t burn.”
“If they could speak, we could rewrite all the books from the Library. We’d probably advance civilization by orders of magnitude.”
“It would justify buying them.”
“That strand is at least twenty thousand dollars.”
“We could sneak in tonight. We’d dig a hole in the sidewalk that’d come out right next to them.”
“It might be easier to break the glass.”
“That wouldn’t challenge master jewel thieves like us.”
“We should get on. We’ll plan as we walk.”
“We’ll need to practice our Pearl.”
“In case they do speak?”
“You’ve never listened?”
“I haven’t finished telling the stories I know.”
“But these are the grandest stories. Stories from Sultans and the Queen of Sheba.”
“And probably directions to treasure.”
“And ancient Sumerian gossip.”

In the grocery checkout line Mr. Peron ate M&Ms from a yellow bag.

“You’re not supposed to eat them before you pay, you know.”
“I’m going to pay for them.”
“I’m going to pay for them, you mean.”
“Sure.”

They walked back together along 5th Avenue. Crowds of people swarmed. Mr. Peron bumped into a man carrying a bag from Prada. Mr. Peron glanced down into the bag at a bag from WalMart. He chuckled to himself. Mrs. Peron gasped.

“What darling?”
“Did you see that?”
“Yes I did darling. Funny that they go to such lengths.”
“What?”
“The bag inside the bag.”
“What?”
“So he looks suave, when really he’s cheap. Probably bought his wife a sweater and wants her to think it’s from Prada.”

Mrs. Peron busied herself checking the weather for the next day while Mr. Peron restacked cans of tuna and Mandarin oranges to make room for cans of mangos.

“Rain again tomorrow.”
“It was sunny today, darling.”
“Right.”
“Thank you for the hat.”
“I was proud to be seen with you in it today. I’d been planning to get it since our trip to the zoo last fall.”
“If it rains tomorrow, we should play Go for a while.”
“Oooh I’d like that. Which channel is Jeopardy on?”
“ABC.”

Mr. Peron folded the paper bags. He forced them flat against their creases. He slid them next to the garbage can beneath the sink.

“We should start saving those. We can make all kinds of things from paper bags.”
“Sounds good. What was it you gasped at this afternoon? I’d thought it was the man with the –”
“I saw a lion bounding between two parked taxicabs.”
“A lion?”
“Unmistakably. A male lion with a gigantic mane. He was out for a joyrun.”
“Did he hurt anyone?”
“No one else noticed…”
“I wonder if the pearls have stories about lions.”
“No one ever does.”

[Prose. No idea where I wrote this. Or when. 2007?]

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About Galen Sanford

Galen studied Philosophy, Leadership, Peace and English at Whitworth University where he served as a columnist for the university newspaper and as a student representative to the Sustainability Committee. The UN RCE ESD in Tongyeong, South Korea recruited him to teach English and Sustainability, where he co-wrote a sustainability curriculum. His passions are for sustainable food, for stories, and for exploring the potential of crowds. He’s lived on three continents. Follow him on Twitter.
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