Fiction

Mask

Illustration by Seth

We are sitting at a sidewalk table in the stream of tourists. They are tanned or burnt and have the slow swagger of people on holiday, the slap of flip-flops. Women in bikinis with sarongs knotted between their breasts, winks of arse cheek. A young mother unwedges a stroller wheel from the loose brickwork of the lane.

Old women with girlishly yellow hair and fierce lipstick, or zinc noses, age-spotted, wattling underarms. Old men too, with khaki cargo shorts, gronky waterproof watches that display thirty things in addition to the time.

What do you think Conrad Black is doing right now, my husband says. A man reverses a golf cart down the lane; his mirrored sunglasses show a streak of colour. The crowd hops and skitters out of his path. There’s a hazard sign on the cart that says,

Slow
Adults at Play

Two Mexican men lift a rust-speckled corrugated gate up over their shoulders and it rumbles on its runners into the ceiling of a stall and one of the men makes a fist and swivels his shoulder touching it tenderly. The other man moves a revolving display rack of sharks’ teeth onto the sidewalk. The upper and lower jaws, still joined, are wide open. All those rows of milk white teeth pointing inward.

There are a few flies buzzing around our sugar dish and the crumbs from our croissants.

Rotting, I say. Conrad Black is rotting merrily away. The men set a display of wooden masks in the shade of the awning. There is a small red light bulb behind one of the elaborately carved masks. The mouth of the god hangs open, thick lipped and mute, a weak red light pouring out of it and out of the hollow eye sockets.

The music changes in the café. Neil Young is singing: How does it feel to be alone?

This appeared in the July/August 2010 issue.

Lisa Moore published Flannery, a novel for young adults, in May.

Seth is a Canadian cartoonist best known for his series Palookaville and his mock-autobiographical graphic novel It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. He is the subject of the 2014 documentary film Seth’s Dominion, which received the grand prize for best animated feature at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He is also a magazine illustrator and book designer, perhaps best known for his work on the complete collection of Charles M. Schulz’s classic comic strip Peanuts.