Divide by Two

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DIVIDE BY TWO (Short Story)
 Francisco Arcellana

They have set down a line of adobe blocks, three blocks wide and two blocksdeep, across the lawn between their cottage and ours, Belle said.“Yes, I know,” I said. I walked into the window and stood there, looking over attheir cottage. The piano music from the cottage came strong and clear. “I was here thismorning when he brought those blocks home.” I peeled my shirt; it was soggy withsweat. “He carried the blocks in the baggage compartment of their car. It took him allthree trips. He had three boys with him to help.” I shook my shirt in the cooling air andwalked in my room. “And I know where he got those blocks, too. There is aconstruction going on right now at engineering school. They have a pile of adobe blocksthere as high as the Cheops. You can’t miss it. You see it from the busline everytime.”In my room, the strains of piano music didn’t reach sustainedly.Belle had followed me into my room. “They have marked off boundaries,” shesaid. “They have defined limits.”I folded my shirt about the back of the armchair. “So they have,” I said. “So theyhave.” My undershirt was wet, too. I yanked it off.“It is all as if they have put up a fence,” Belle said.“Fences make good neighbors,” I said. I whipped the apple-green towel off the T- bar and rubbed myself briskly.“It might as well be the great wall of China,” Belle said.“Well, no, not really,” I said. “It is not as bad as that.” I returned the towel to thecrossbar. I looked around for a dry undershirt but did not find any. I went to the bedroom where my clothes-closet was. Belle followed me. There was no light in thecloset. The bulb hadn’t been changed since it went bad shortly after we moved into thecottage. I fumbled in the dark feeling with my fingers. In the darkness in the closet thestrains of the piano came steadily, strong and clear.“She is no Turk but she keeps playing the Turkish March,” Belle said.I knew where my undershirts would be and it didn’t take me long to find themwith my hands. I pulled one out and was putting it on while I walked back to the sala.“It is unkind, inconsiderate, not neighborly, not nice,” Belle said.

 
I stopped beneath the light in the narrow passage from the bedroom to the sala between the book-closets and the bathroom, one arm through one armhole, half out of thesando shirt the neck of which I held open with my hands. I looked at Belle. “Comeagain, Belle?” I asked.Belle said again the denunciatory words.I got my head through the armhole, got into the shirt. I walked on to the sala. Ididn’t know how tired I was until I fell back on the lounging chair.Belle picked up the foot stool, brought it near my chair and sat down. “The leastthing they could have done was to tell us first about it.”I felt very tired and shut my eyes and didn’t say anything.“Don’t you think they owed it to us?” Belle asked. “Out of regards for our feelings shouldn’t they have asked us how we feel about the fence?”The piano music threaded through the words like leitmotif. “How is that again,Belle?” I asked.“They have no regard for us,” Belle said. “They don’t care what we think. Theydon’t mind what we feel. As far as they are concerned, we are not human.”The piano came jubilantly threading through the words.“Is that right, Belle?” I asked.“Don’t you think they should at least have gone to us and said: Look here, you!We are putting up this boundary, see? You keep to your side of these markers and wewill keep to ours, understand?” Belle asked.“Do you really think that?” I asked.“Yes, I do,” Belle said. “Distinctly, don’t you?”“I don’t know.” I said. “I haven’t thought about it.”“Well, then,” Belle said, “think about it. You can start thinking about it now.”I wondered why now the words kept ringing clear to me. Then I felt and sensedthat the piano had been stilled. Suddenly the night was silent, suddenly the air was still.I rose from the lounging chair. I walked to the globe-traveler near the wall outlet, plugged the...
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