26 minute read

An Extended Pause

An Extended Pause

Koushik Banerjea

Snout to tail feather is a moment of surprise. Leaves, yes, in a clustered mulch, but nothing else to properly suggest that here once stood a flier, worm in beak, preparing to head back to his home with the wriggling spoils before he was ambushed in those final moments. Somewhere in that finely calibrated store of memories, an image flutters. Beak and claw, then shrieks and the floor, in a dance as old as the mud. A mortal carousel of feathers and fur. Transmitted through mother’s milk, or birdsong, their respective folklores of weightlessness and stealth. Both know how this dance must end, in the death rattle of a spiteful embrace. But it still comes as a shock each time, the flapping quickly losing its intensity, the squawks just as efficiently subdued. This time it truly is misfortune which befalls the bird as his assailant really shouldn’t have been there. Wouldn’t have been but for his own overriding need for safety. Just moments before he himself had nearly come under fire from an unpredictable human hand. The two-legs whose home the cat shared was becoming increasingly erratic in his moods and actions. This time he had launched a spherical object, which the cat was yet to recognize as an ashtray, and it had narrowly avoided the ginger’s head. Observing two-legs with the sublime concentration of his own tigerish forebears, the ginger now recognized a pattern. When two-legs put the firewater to his lips and lit the firesticks which he also placed in his mouth, his behaviour would often change. It was mostly when he drank the firewater, though. That was when the shouting would usually begin, ending with one or another object being launched into space. When the cat had been a kitten, the two-legs hadn’t been this way. Actually there had been another two-legs living there as well, and she was much nicer. They were all far happier then, and he remembered the sounds, of laughter and the musical sing-song of the lady twolegs’ voice announcing that he should ‘come get it, Mr Tibbs’, the longed for rattle of the hard, bird-scented dry treats as they cascaded into his bowl. But the sounds changed once the lady two-legs left, a sullen void opening up in a space evacuated by warmth. The stale smell of firesticks, the raised pitch brought on by the firewater. Few strokes, no treats, the only sanctuary this garden, its wildness, the tree bark to pheromone, the trunk, nature’s ready made scratching post. The branches, a post-prandial hideaway. The wilderness once again supplying everything that the two-legs can’t, or won’t. Some peace and a perch. And a lazy flier, so engrossed in his own wriggling spoils that those eyes will never see the low haunched compact of flame that is about to engulf him. Some time later ginger is still out there, luxuriating in the weeds, in their tickle on his snout, his breath. But he is sharper than the airborne, his senses are not dulled by the kill, and he hears the two-legs before it is too late.

‘Get in, you little monster! I know you’re out here. How long do you expect me to just wait, with the window open? It’s bloody freezing, Mr Tibbs. We ain’t all got a nice fur coat to keep us warm, and in case you hadn’t noticed, this ain’t a hotel.’

The sound of the two-legs’ voice is not friendly, or kind, unlike the lady two-legs who used to live here. And ginger’s snout, that marvellous piece of equipment, picks up the airborne current of irritation, whiskery antennae settling on the undertow of threat. All there in a sound, a pickled breath, a clumsiness in the weeds. ‘Mr Tibbs’, the sound of it, just doesn’t appeal when growled by this two-legs. Later, ginger will make off with the bird in his mouth, wings broken, spirit already combining with the mulch. He will not be coming back to this place.

#

Just two doors across from where Mr Tibbs relinquishes that moniker, Ravi Haldar is sat quietly at his kitchen table nursing that day’s umpteenth cup of tea. It is chai, black tea, flavoured with cardamom, and it is need as much as habit which guides the metronomic ritual. Whenever he makes a brew, he makes a second cup, this time not leaving the bag in but rather squeezing it the way his son preferred. Vilayet. Everything here, from logic to the weather, to tastebuds, was ulta palta.

But so what? His son liked it and it gave them something to talk about. Besides, there was comfort in the ritual.

‘That’s it, dad, squeeze every last drop,’ his son laughed.

‘Til the pips come,’ said Ravi, expression unchanged as he drip fed the remains of the bag against the side of the mug. At least it was the builder’s tea, rather than the chai. That would have felt like sacrilege.

‘I’m not making you late, am I?’ his son asked between mouthfuls of porridge, eaten the way they both favoured, without sugar but with dried fruit. They might live simply, but let nobody accuse them of lacking aspiration. Ravi was proud that his blood swore by the Quaker staple, built the proper way, from scratch, on the stove. It was he who had introduced the boy’s mother to the joys of porridge oats when they had first started living together, before their son was born. She must have really loved him to endure his nonsense with such good humour. All that bakwas about the oats keeping her strong during the pregnancy. A good woman, he thought, though he tried not to dwell. It seemed so unfair. A lump, and by the time it was detected, the poison had already spread. That word he couldn’t bear any more. Metastasized. Taken away from him, from them, though he often prayed that his son was too young to remember.

Those were some of the toughest times. One moment a loving family, the next its heart ripped out, eaten away more like by the cancer. He didn’t know how he’d have survived without Nila. Ravi’s didi, his older sister, a godsend more or less ever since. Her daughters, his nieces, incredibly protective around his son, their cousin-brother. They went to the same school, though they were a few years older than his boy, and he only heard the story later about how they had beaten the piss out of another boy in their year who had apparently been taunting their cousin and had given him a ‘bogwash’, holding his head down the toilet before pulling the flush in the time honoured fashion.

‘Best days of your life,’ said his son, ‘when you’re not meeting Mr Armitage and Mr Shanks, that is.’ And they all had a good laugh about it later, once it became clear that bogwashing was also potentially hazardous for the perp, especially in the neighbourhood of angry girl cousins and a vengeful compass.

‘Of course you’re not delaying me,’ Ravi replied. ‘The most important meal of the day, and tea, it’s the only way to wash it down.’ They both laughed and observed the ritual, yet every now and then, if only fleetingly, Ravi had the sense that they were both clinging on to the ritual as a last vestige of his long departed wife, his son’s mother in absentiae. In between the quips, and the consumption, a quiet desperation that barely needed a name. All the same he was going to call it ‘Yvonne’. That’s who the extra cup should have been for. The love of his life, who’d crossed the Irish Sea to become a nurse, but perhaps hadn’t bargained on marrying a man who’d crossed several oceans just to be in that same London smoke. He remembered flashing his dark eyes at her, the nervy, coy atmosphere of that first conversation, sandwiched together on the Routemaster, getting off at the same stop. Seeing her again on the same bus on his way back from another humdrum shift, working up the courage to ask her out. The murmurs back then, even before their son was born. Paki-lover. It’s the kids I feel sorry for. They’re not going to know who they are. Half-caste. The strength of this feeling caught him off guard, left him forlorn and panicky, hoping against hope that his son was unaware of just how wobbly his father’s tread had become.

#

‘Who are you talking to, Ravi?’

He looked up. It was his didi, Nila.

‘How long have you been standing there?’ he asked, rubbing something from his eye.

‘Not long,’ she replied, starting to unpack the carrier bag she was holding. She took out several plastic containers and placed them on the table. ‘There’s tarka dal, ruti, paneer, channa, and homemade rasagulla,’ she said, tapping each container as she listed its contents. She worried about her brother a lot more nowadays. She could see that distant look in his eyes which hadn’t really been on show since the shock of losing Yvonne all those years ago. But it was back now, and his face seemed worn down with all the grief. She had asked him over and over to come and stay with her, and the girls, at least until he got back on his feet. But she knew he was too proud to take her up on her offer. He had also never got on with his brother-in-law, whom he thought of as pompous and smug, a little too fond of the creature comforts afforded by his successful dental practice. Called himself ‘Sid’, even though it was Siddhartha, and had a receptionist called ‘Sandy’, (from Chandrika). Sid and Sandy, sounded like a puppet show, or a two-bob version of those already two-bob punks, Sid and Nancy. Char chobish. 4/20. But mostly he’d never forgiven Sid for the way he’d treated Yvonne when she was still alive. The snide comments about drink, even though she never touched a drop, or the IRA, any time there was an incident. It beggared belief, frankly, given where their own family came from, but he had to remind himself that there were plenty of others, like his brother-in-law, who had never been caught up in the sectarian madness, and whose coddled minds always viewed it as someone else’s problem, or at best as ancient history. Yvonne herself never said anything about it to Ravi, but he’d wanted to give Sid a personal reason to fix his own teeth more than once. Would almost certainly have done so but for the fact that this man was married to his sister, and for all his faults actually seemed to be a decent husband and a loving father. So Ravi contented himself with the Larry Olivier ‘Marathon Man’, Nazi dentist, ‘is it safe?’ routine at any family gathering which also included the man who was licensed to drill.

‘Who were you talking to just now, Ravi?’ his sister asked again, seeing how distracted her brother appeared. He didn’t answer.

Nila looked around. It was a mess, clothes strewn on the kitchen floor all around the washing machine. The sink was backed up with yesterday’s plates, or perhaps the day before’s, and several heavily tea-stained mugs lined the counter. She thought better of saying anything and instead made a start on the dishes, relieved at least that her brother hadn’t yet spurned the benefits of washing up liquid.

#

Before too long the kitchen was looking almost habitable, Ravi himself spurred into action with a dustpan and brush by the sight of his sister, gloved almost to the elbow, fishing the detritus of these past days out of the plug hole. If it wasn’t quite shame he felt, then it was certainly embarrassment at letting things drift this far. Nila shouldn’t have to see him like this. It wasn’t right. He was her brother, he should be the one looking out for her. Though when he considered it some more, perhaps things had always been this way. When they were kids, back in the days of ‘knock knock, Enoch’ and ‘Pakis Out’, Nila had always been the first to stand up for herself, in front of the teachers, the other girls, even the boys. The first to wear a Fred Perry over her salwar kameez, the first to tell a boy to ‘fuck off’, and then make him. When the police tried to arrest their dad for fighting with the neighbour, it had been Nila who had made sure the whole neighbourhood heard what the provocation had been, and the cops had seemed as surprised by the sounds of Harry J All Stars’ ‘Liquidator’ emerging from the narrow Asian terrace as by the mouthy Asian girl with the feather cut and the Perry. Even as a young boy, Ravi could see it made no sense to them. Bengali immigrants, skinhead reggae, of the instrumental variety, and belligerence. People didn’t live in boxes. Why was that so hard for a certain type of person to accept?

Yvonne wasn’t like that though. One of the first things he’d noticed about her, how she actually listened to him on their dates, asked him questions about India, his family, south London, and what it was like for him, as a young boy, being uprooted thousands of miles and pitched into the heart of a very different culture. No one had ever shown that level of interest in him before, and he was flattered. The girls he’d known up to then were perfectly happy so long as he didn’t stray too far from a mildly quirky script. A Bengali skinhead, replete with Brutus shirt, oxbloods and his sister’s castoff Trojan records. But they often left him feeling a little annoyed whenever they mentioned other Asian people, the ones in the ‘Paki shop’, as if his Brutus, or those mutton chop sideburns somehow meant that he wasn’t also part of that tribe. Or that he should be anything other than grateful for the fact. Yvonne got him to open up about all the tribal markings, including the ones long before Trojan. So for the first time in his life he found himself talking about how his family had lost everything in what was now Bangladesh, but remained unsettled even after they’d made the dangerous crossing into India. He told her about his dad, and the other men he worked with in the factories, who’d used the braziers to heat up tea and make chapattis in their adaptable English workplaces. She heard how he’d got his own job at an engineering works through one of his dad’s original workmates. How they’d all clubbed together to give him a good sendoff at his funeral, sharing old stories at the podium, relegating the priest to the undercard. How his big heart had just packed up without warning one day, even though he was no kind of age really. And when she’d asked him about his mum, he’d stumbled at first, not knowing what to say. But when she told him it was ok, whatever he needed to say, the words had just spilled out. Unhappy here. Lost her mind. Never really right after Partition. Bit like Ireland, I suppose, all messed up. Same way they split the earth up, she cracked up, right down the middle. Never said anything though, just quietly faded away. By the end, we barely even knew she was there. Ah, bloody hell, Yvonne, you got me all pensive now. Didn’t I say I’d show you a good time? But she’d listened, hadn’t laughed or made light of what he was trying to tell her, and he’d never forgotten what she’d said to him then, taking his hand in hers and looking right into his depthless eyes.

‘Well it’s just us here now, Rav, and it’s up to us to make all the bad stuff right again.’

He’d known right then that they would. She was always the best of him, and as much as Nila, she was the reason he’d never properly confronted his brother-in-law.

‘Look, he’s just being daft the way some people are. But it’s nothing really, Rav. Besides, do you really know me so little? You honestly believe that if it truly bothered me, I’d say nothing? Come on, Rav, we know each other better than that.’

And he never could argue with that little smile playing at the corners of her mouth, or the tendril of auburn hair drooped over her temple. She was right, of course. In the wider scheme, Sid was not the problem. He was good around his own family, and he’d never been anything but loving around their son. So whatever the perceived slight, Ravi would let it go, balling then unclenching his fists under the table, drifting instead into silent, cinematic reverie, inspired by Warner Brothers. Top of the world, Ma! Whaddya know, whaddya say? He never forgot the instrumental cut, though. Liquidator.

#

‘What the bloody hell’s that?’ asked Nila, pausing for a moment from her ongoing battle with a scouring brush and saucepan.

‘What are you talking about?’ said Ravi, leaning on the handle of the mop which he’d been using to clean the kitchen floor.

‘That,’ said Nila, jerking her chin towards the wall. ‘You need your ears syringed if you can’t hear that.’

Sadly his hearing was still intact as the relentless sounds of doof doof pounded through the wall. Just another reminder of how the landscape was changing, and possibly not for the better. Barely a couple of months since Clarence, the old neighbour, had passed, and already this racket had become the norm. How different it had been when Clarence was still there, smiling at Ravi’s perennially doomed row with the weeds, green-fingered ambition snarled up in a Stalingrad of nettles. But the old Jamaican would smile good-naturedly at the younger man’s efforts, from time to time offering gardening tips across the fence. And then when he couldn’t bear it any longer, passing him a machete, which he’d spent the morning sharpening himself.

‘Careful wi’the blade, young man. Mek sure fi pay attention. Ole style cutlass. It tek yuh finger clean off otherwise.’

Later, all ten digits still intact, he’d invited Clarence over for tea and a slice. Darjeeling, of course, leaves from the old country sprinkling a whisper of the Himalayas into the less pinched air of their afternoon. The slice, on this, and subsequent afternoons, turning out to be the homemade Indian sweets his sister would sometimes bring over and which Ravi had, only now as a middle aged man, developed a taste for. Rasagulla, gulab jamun, rassomalai, even the shop-bought barfi or the deliciously flaky soan papdi. And soon enough it became a weekly ritual, cutlass raking weeds and then the neighbours trading sweetmeats, war stories – in Clarence’s case, a real one, WW2, in Ravi’s the localised mythology of ‘The Battle of Lewisham’ – and the usual litany of complaints, in truth barely-concealed affection, when it came to their children. They also argued about music all the time, Clarence no fan of the skinhead reggae tunes he found on Ravi’s shelves.

‘Blasted ‘ooligan music. All that gunman, rudeboy nonsense. Ratchet in your waist, indeed. Let them try that foolishness around Clarence Braithwaite an’ ‘im cutlass!’

Ravi laughed, making sure to leave any Symarip, Slickers or Derrick Morgan records he had in plain view on those days when Clarence would turn up. The older man was even less partial to the later, heavier, dubbed out sounds of the midSeventies. Ironically enough, Ravi’s son, who’d been at school with one of Clarence’s grandsons, had been introduced to this slower, more politically ‘conscious’ sound by his neighbour’s flesh and blood. At first, Ravi had rather uncharitably attributed his son’s taste for the blackest, most dread sound to some youthful unease with his own freckly light skin. He saw it as something compensatory, maybe not that different to how he himself and his sister had once identified with skinhead reggae, and fashion, at a time when ‘Pakis’ were supposedly running scared of everyone, and everything. But when he thought about it some more, it didn’t really make sense. No one listened to that dread sound any more apart from old men and posh white people. The tough kids, the ones always going on about ‘ends’, tricked themselves out in a different style, if trousers halfway down your arse could be called that, and their ears pricked up to very different noises.

‘It’s called ‘grime’, dad. It’s pure London,’ his boy would tell him, open-hearted just like his mother, and just like her, the best of him.

But it sounded like nonsense to him, just angry noise punctuated by boredom. All the same, he had an inkling during those moments when the quickfire patter of the MC pierced the aptly named ‘Party’ wall, of how Clarence must have felt whenever the sounds had been travelling in the opposite direction, organ breaks and insistent ska rhythms interrupting the more sedate pleasures of the jazz, calypso and country records Clarence favoured.

‘It’s like a train too full of steam,’ Clarence would say, evidently unimpressed by the sounds of young Jamaica which had somehow fetched up on his Indian neighbour’s turntable. He’d make a show of shaking his head, as mystified by his neighbour’s musical tastes as by his lack of gardening nous. But it was a little game, one they both enjoyed, the older man increasingly fond of their afternoon chats, quickly developing a taste for the sweets which were regularly served up with the tea. One time he’d brought around some of the Jamaican Fruit cake that his daughter had left with him after a recent visit, and he was pleased when Ravi, his neighbour, had taken more than one slice. The Skatalites, though, what a racket.

‘Wha’ di rass is this, seh? Where is this ‘Skaville’, and wha’ is Confucius doin’ there?’

‘If I knew that, Clarence, I’d be a rich man. At any rate a lot richer than I am. More tea?’

And with that they’d settle back into the panto, Ravi getting up every so often to turn over a record, and Clarence granting his approval instead to the sweet, moist gulab jamun, liberally drenched in a rose flavoured syrup.

#

Nila looked past her brother to the long narrow stretch of green behind the kitchen. It was a bit of push to call it a garden, weeds and thorns the strongest presence after the dilapidated shed. Had the overgrown tangle been pared back to a lawn, at that moment trees might have speared long shadows across it. As it was the whole misshapen oblong positively screamed neglect. She felt for her brother. He’d been through a lot. Those closest to him ripped away by chance, and then by callousness. First mum, then dad, then Yvonne and now this. No one should have to go through that, no parent should have to outlive their child. And for what? So that the police could botch the investigation, ‘misplace’ key evidence, and then blame it on a ‘conspiracy of silence’? Everyone knew, the same name kept coming up in those crucial first hours after her nephew, Ravi’s son, had been cut down, first by the moped and then by what they’d described as a ‘zombie’ blade. She remembered getting the call, how her brother’s voice made a noise which was not really human. Having to identify the body, that sweet, open hearted boy waxy and remote on the mortuary slab. Ravi a loose confection of clothes, held up by grief and a tightly cinched belt. His eyes, all their eyes, tile dark and just as flat. Thinking then that the one blessing was that theirs were the only eyes which had to see this. The wearying descent into typecast nightmare. Gangs and drugs and postcode ‘beefs’. We’re very sorry but we have to ask…

Following up all leads, exhausting all possible lines of enquiry. Wouldn’t be doing our job properly otherwise. And we’re very sorry but we have to ask…

Tangled in the weeds, cast off with the pollen, so many words, spent like cartridges, like dole cheques, like flesh. They didn’t listen, they didn’t want to know. Not the story they wanted to hear. A sweet boy, the best of this place, cut down by a vicious thug, its baleful worst. A boy who was loved and had friends and was at least forty years too early, or too late, for here. Forever caught up in the echo and reverb of his beloved Lee Perry records, and yes, officer, that was the hot treacle that poured out of his belly when that wicked youth cut him down. And why aren’t you writing any of this down, officer? Don’t you want to know?

A sweet boy, officer, with Bengali Symarip running through his veins, but Big Youth too, and Michael Campbell and Fabian. A conscious soul with his daddy’s staunch and his mother’s generosity, and a touch, just a touch, of her auburn, her red, on his beautiful, made-in-Lewisham face.’

#

When Clarence passed, his grandson had come to see Ravi with a large toolbag, containing shears, secateurs and an old gardening manual, dating back to the 1950s. Also, wrapped separately in several yards of cloth, was the much vaunted cutlass.

‘Granddad wanted you to have these,’ said Herol, the grandson. ‘He said you might find them useful in the years ahead.’

‘What did he actually say though, Herol? That doesn’t exactly sound like your granddad,’ said Ravi, still standing on his doorstep.

Herol paused a moment, sizing up the question. Then his expression changed, and just for a second, Ravi felt as though he was back in the presence of his old Jamaican neighbour.

‘Listen, Herol. Mek sure fi give these to that wotless Hindian nex’ door. An’ mek sure fi’ tell ‘im, weed will not conquer itself. An’ while yuh at it, give ‘im these too.’

Herol handed Ravi a large brand supermarket ‘bag for life’ which held several Lena Horne records and a classic old seven inch single recording of Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds’. His eyes welled up even before Herol gave him a hug and told him how sorry he was about what had happened to Red, which was what everyone used to call Ravi’s son.

#

Nila watched the cat stroll in through the open back door. She watched as he rubbed against her brother’s legs and purred. Ravi bent down to stroke the cat, and the ginger tilted his head up approvingly.

‘You’re such a handsome little fella,’ said Ravi, giving the cat a tickle just under his chin. Nila hadn’t heard her brother use that tone of voice since her nephew was a baby. It was also the doting uncle voice her own girls used to love when they were little. Her brother, the great, big suedehead softy.

‘And such a clever little one. Bless you, I’m so glad you managed to find me. Poor little thing, you must have been desperate. God only knows what’s out there.’

The cat jumped up onto Ravi’s lap, and Nila watched, fascinated, as her brother continued with his unselfconscious oration.

‘I love you, little ginger. How I love you. You came to me from the depths, with that beautiful tigerish smile, and those blinking almond eyes. And you never tried to hide the bird, or the feathers, that first one like a broken umbrella, or the next, or the countless others. Some days I think of you as a tiger, and others I see you on the great plains, a lion at his watering hole.’

Nila watched, and listened, amazed. This was the most animated she’d seen her brother in weeks. Whole days could go by without a word passing his lips, yet here he was, alive, talking and so full of feeling.

‘What’s its name?’ she asked.

‘It’s a he,’ replied Ravi, ‘and I’m not entirely sure yet. But I’m thinking, ‘Ray’.’

‘Ray?’

‘Yeah, as in, ray of light, ray of sunshine. But also ‘voodoo Ray’.’

‘A Guy called Gerald. That ‘Voodoo Ray’?’ asked Nila, settling on a vague memory of one last clubbing hurrah before the kids, and the implied social respectability.

‘Yeah, why not? Always loved that tune too. Besides, there’s something a little darker, more nighttime, more voodoo, about all of us, I reckon.’

The cat had jumped down off Ravi’s lap and was back out near the shed, from where scurrying noises could be heard. A tiny squeak alerted Ravi and his sister to the presence of another creature, and before either had had time to react, a fieldmouse appeared on the linoleum kitchen floor, frantically attempting to zigzag between the attentions of ginger Ray’s paws. The music had temporarily abated next door, so Ravi took the opportunity to make a selection of his own. Striding purposefully into the front room where he kept his records, he picked out the early-nineties’ Garage classic, ‘Deliver Me’, featuring the soaring vocals of Michael Proctor. It felt appropriate. Yvonne had loved this soulful sound. She used to tease him when they were at those Club Zoo garage nights at the Soho Theatre, about what his old mates would make of this, Mr Skinhead Reggae now shaking a leg as Mr Spiritual House. And those were wonderful times, losing all that balled up, hemmed in neurosis of being a ‘proper’ bloke to the more fluid, contented soul he wished he’d always been. The moonstomp absorbed by four to the floor, and life as happy as he’d ever remembered it.

Heading back to the kitchen, he thought he heard another noise, some snare or hi-hat not on the record. Then he remembered the cat, and whatever fever pitch the linoleum shuffle had reached.

Nila had made them some tea. She was also transfixed by the last dance. The ginger continued to torment his petrified toy, but on his face there was no hatred, just a sense that these whiskers knew something of the world. Sipping his brew, Ravi thought how the sands of time were coagulating in that spatulate paw. In it he saw all knowledge, experience, tribulation absorbed into elemental rubber. A bewhiskered seer, extravagantly marked, so beautifully poised whatever the circumstance. From Siberian wastelands to the Sunderbans, he sensed the preternatural ability to land on those paws, however deep the insult.

#

The cupboard door under the stairs opened to reveal a foetal figure, bound and gagged. The bloodshot eyes bulged in a face whose earlier ebony was now a moon cratered purple. Under the duct tape, the upper lip was beaded with sweat and blood seeped from a chest wound into the young man’s formerly white T shirt.

‘What are you doing out there?’

It was his sister’s voice, coming from the kitchen. Ravi had gone to the corridor, claiming to have seen the mouse and telling Nila he’d be right back, once he’d located the mouse and chaperoned him to safety.

‘Nothing. I’m just coming,’ he said, closing the cupboard door again before returning to the kitchen.

For the time being the mouse was nowhere to be seen. Ginger was licking himself, effortlessly readjusting back to the supple, solitary pose. He appeared relaxed, as if he knew things. There was no rush.

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