Palma: Second Tourmaline
I am not going to tell you that you ought to have made certain of it. That won’t do you any good.
She wrote in resolute black, and drew arrows; her comments in the margin, full sentences and apropos.
POORLY DO YOU KNOW HIM,
BURIED IN A MASS GRAVE;
SOME RECORD-KEEPER MUST AT LEAST
PUT A FALSE NAME ON A PLAQUE
The lines were all in green, and the censor had allowed it.
Anton Leonhardt could set down volumes of complaint, mad complaint. He could post a faithful stream in verse; address her on the envelope by the name he knew.
Palma understood that he was blaming her, but found self-reproach immaterial, beside the point. She wanted to force the truth from him, make him see with clear eyes. If his need was to believe in a strong leader, she would heal Anton.
Mission. He had not come to understand it.
It was his lamentation and his pride he spilled to her, in colored ink he imagined to be code. Theirs, between them. No—she wrote it—you ought to have taken your pride from obeying orders and having faith in me. I can only hem you round with mechanisms. The mechanisms are in themselves sound.
And when they had decided he was harmless to them, unstable, and could not be given work, he might be released. Mrs. Leonhardt would take Anton to her bosom. She wanted only the return of a son…he need not be the one she’d lost.
Frederick came in, making with his grenade belt and the rifle slung over his back, the usual jangling noise. The G.R.A. had never taken anyone’s guns, finding it handier, more demoralizing during this truce, to make the resisters police their own neighborhoods. They could be starved for supplies, encircled, blamed and agitated against, while the line between prosperity and poverty grew more distinct. They would fail one day, and the G.R.A. would rescue them.
Palma, like the others, kept her door stoppered open. She had pretty clothes and never wore them. She had keepsakes of her mother’s and would let the rent-man, if he threatened, smash all to the street below. No one would pay the new rates, to hold their rights to their own expropriated property.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)