Joan Hewitt

December 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Portuguese Blueprint

A man is slyly dipping his rod into the river. High on the stone terrace, his yellow sleeve and his hand curving round the rod are caught in her binoculars. When he leans forward, his dark head and the angle of his cheek are close to her face.

The house behind her is full of binoculars. The new window in the study frames the grey-green river and the brown fist of a hill just as the American had wanted. On the wall opposite hangs the original blueprint and land-deed, where the nineteenth-century river winds in Prussian blue on soft washed paper through a blue orchard with blue trees.  In the bottom right corner curls the first owner’s white, English name.

For days now, she has sat on the terrace, watching rain fall on the lilacs, dipping her pen into the American’s landscape. At night, she lies on his bed, listening to fifties’ jazz, and sipping rusty Dăo wine from the cellar.

Yellow Sleeve has put down the rod and lit a cigarette.

When she was a child, river and orchard were black on white in books that had to be returned to the city library. Yesterday she took off her clothes, intending to go down and swim.  Instead, she knelt on the couch and rested her forehead on the glass between her and blue. If there were a fire, this is what she’d save.

The most protected river in Europe, according to Joăo the gardener. Once, when he landed a trout at midnight to feed his family, he did forty days in Visěu gaol. The American’s hardly ever here; he said, handing her the key. He’ll never know. Be out by Friday.

Yellow Sleeve has gone.

She lowers the binoculars. She wonders who is watching her. Tomorrow she’ll give back the key

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