The Inanimate World

On her way home, she saw the cornflakes scattered across the floor of the neighbouring apartment block. They weren’t supposed to be there. Someone had poured them out haphazardly all across the concrete floor, cornflakes strewn as seeds sown in fertile ground.

Was it the conclusion of a fight? Perhaps a young child’s squabble with his mother for not buying him krispity krunch? An adult spat that resulted in equally adult retorts and the adult banging of pans and pots?

In any case, it unnerved her. They shouldn’t be there. There was no discernible order at all in the mess, not even the hopeful patterns of tea leaves trying to tell a fortune. She would have to expurgate the floor before it interfered with her sleep.

And when she finally got herself into the elevator, a wisp of tissue floated between the glass panels of the elevator doors, trapped in the shaft. It floated together with the elevator, up, up, up to the 6th floor. Like a tiny hijacker, it pressed its nose up against the pane. Wistful, so wistful. It was trapped, certainly, but “trapped” is too negative a word for its situation. Perhaps “left there” would be more accurate. A little wisp of tissue, left there by some juvenile miscreant, stuck in the doors of the elevator for a laugh, was now given the entire kingdom of an elevator shaft. A house that stretched up for thirteen floors. One which even had an elevator! Very posh.

It was the woman who was trapped, outside of the elevator shaft. With all the people. There’s no way to observe the people impartially, no escaping from their jibber jabber. People are messy, they barge into your life, they make chaotic cornflake displays and stick tissue paper into elevator doors. They step on your toes and they make you smile. And some of them make you care too much.

She collected a bowl from her apartment, locked the door, and took it down to collect the cornflakes. She scraped them up with her fingers, all dry and brittle and crunchy feeling. Like Mlle. Poulain, she liked to dip her hands into sacks of grain, feeling their roughness and their smoothness in her palm. After all the cornflakes were gathered up, she set the bowl in a corner for the cats’ dinner. All kinds of cats around the neighbourhood, calicos and tabbies and siameses and persians gathered round the bowl for their high fibre treat. The woman floated amongst their furry, raggedy bodies, coaxing purrs out of them, and forgot that she was alone.

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