Welcome to our weekly instalment of Black Fox.
As always, comments, questions and suggestions are welcome, if you have been following but not commenting don't be shy, let yourself be heard.
When I woke up it took three cups of espresso to feel human again, at which point I decided to spend the remainder of the morning working outside. Fall was well underway and the oaks and hackberry trees kept trying to drown my garden in dead leaves.
A fresh breeze had swept the sky of clouds and the swallows were doing trial runs for their southern migration, dozens of birds taking wing from their perch on the power cables and coming down again after a few minutes of formation flight, twittering all the time. Fat blackbirds were racking the ground; every now and then one stopped, listening intently with its head cocked on one side, all of a sudden spearing down its beak in a blur of motion to extract an earthworm from the damp October soil.
I straightened after checking my dahlias, stretching to loosen my back, a delivery truck was coming down the one-way lane. No pending orders here, must be for one of the neighbors, when it stopped and the driver came out I went to the gate thinking she might be in need of directions.
" I have a delivery for Miss Corradi” she said, her tone rising slightly in the interrogative on the name.
" That’s me, but are you sure? I’m not waiting for any delivery”.
She double-checked her electronic log. “ No, here it is ‘Viola Corradi’ and the address matches, just a moment, please.” She moved to the back of the truck while I stood curious and a trifle uneasy: the girl sounded like the real thing, but there had been some burglaries in town recently, could it be some kind of scheme?
" Here it is.” She was back, half-hidden behind a blossoming tree peony, a sudden gust of breeze enveloped me in its subtle scent, I opened the gate and helped her to set the vase down: “It’s a beauty”, I murmured.
"Isn’t it? I’m glad it didn’t suffer in transit. Now if you’d be so kind as to sign this, I’ll be on my way”.
As she drove away I carried the bush inside and set it on the kitchen table. The vase was a lovely celadon, its clean, elegant lines enhanced by an impressed motif of peony blossoms, the pale green glaze was a perfect match for the darker tone of the leaves; in the midday light the soft pink flowers seemed translucent, almost carved in jade.
As I felt the soil – damp, no need for water right now- I noticed a small envelope peeking out among the leaves, I took it out , inside I found a hand-written note: “ Thank you for coming to the rescue and the delightful evening, I am in your debt. Hu Xiaowen”.
That peony drove me to distraction; every time it entered my field of vision I felt a huge grin forming on my face, I was beginning to get on my own nerves. Get a grip, Viola! Here you are, a grown woman of thirty-four, daydreaming like a moonstruck teenager. “ I was never moonstruck as a teenager! “ I reminded the critical voice in my head “ I am allowed a little slack”. Great, now you start arguing with yourself, what is it, the first step to DID?
After lunch I tried to go back to work but after a good half-hour spent reading the same two lines over and over I gave up. I was well ahead of schedule after all, I could give myself a day off.
I unplugged the laptop and sat with it at the kitchen table sipping a mug of green tea. I opened my browser and googled “ Hu Xiaowen”, I got about 3 million search results. Just below his Wikipedia pages in Italian and English -and what about the other languages, by the way?- was his personal site, clicking on the link brought up a time-out message: ‘unable to load the requested page, the site may be down or experiencing an heavy load of traffic’, of course. Let’s see what Wikipedia had to say.