Sûrah V
THE TABLE SPREAD
"Ask not of things which, if they were made known unto you, would trouble you..."

5
EATS

Multiple rings through either earlobe, nostril sapphire-studded, lips done tar-baby black in contrast to her chalk-white-cheek complexion, eyes a brilliant aquamarine, brows auburn, ditto hair except for tips dyed blue-rinse gray after stripping them of natural color, identify Amy, dressed in tights and T-shirt, well-worn leather jacket and chrome-toed cowboy boots—garb she is allowed to wear at work—enters the flat's communal space a.k.a. kitchen.

DUKE

You're just in time for FOOD.

AMY

Great. Thanks.

She plops down at the table on which Duke has lain the pizza—still in its box, lid and base agape like disjointed jaws.

AMY

Where's Greer?

DUKE

With Judy and Pistol.

AMY

No shit; Greer's at Harbin? Never seen him with his All Stars off; can't imagine him in the nude. So Greer is up at touchy-feely, new-age Harbin?

Duke grunts, his head-start on the pizza preempting speech. Amy joins him eagerly.

AMY

What about Z?

Duke, with his free hand, points at the hall that connects the flat's compartments.

AMY

Sleeping?

DUKE

Funk. Must be homesick or something. Won't come out of her room.

AMY

Poor thing. She's scared. A foreign country, a foreign culture; she can barely speak the language.

DUKE

"Barely" speak it? Z's vocabulary races rings round yours and mine. She must've memorized the fucking Webster's dictionary; "can barely speak the language."

AMY

What I meant to say is that she's hard to understand.

DUKE

That I'll grant.

AMY

They could hire her down at Amoeba but she doesn't have a green card.

DUKE

Customer service?

AMY

Yeah, why not?

DUKE

You just admitted she's hard to understand.

AMY

I don't mean word-wise; I mean thought-wise; I'm not thrown off by her accent. It's the weirdo-way she thinks that's got me stumped.

DUKE

Like what, for instance?

AMY

Well... like clothes. She's borrowing Etta's—which is cool; Etta wouldn't mind—except she's also borrowing Etta's personality.

DUKE

What? No way. They've never met.

AMY

That doesn't matter. Z is living in Etta's room, with Etta's stuff; a person's psyche can rub off.

DUKE

You're full of crap.

AMY

And when a person's own identity is as out-to-lunch as Z's she's maybe more inclined to take on someone else's.

DUKE

Psycho-crap! You doing therapy, or what?

Duke twists the cap from a bottled beer.

AMY

I read?

DUKE

Yeah; comic books.

AMY

So? Even comic books use psychology. Trust me on this point, Duke; Z is a schizophrenic.

DUKE

Right; like I'm a manic depressive, Judy's a multiple personality, Greer's a paranoiac—well, Greer is, I'll concede, a little bit paranoid... Bullshit nonetheless; just shut the fuck up.

They eat in silence for a while, though genuine seldom reigns. Since Duke's arrival, Rap, now Rock tests the limits of strategically-located speakers, their single-power source surging through a plug in an overloaded outlet. Palpable is the all-pervasive, heavy-metal beat; until it shuts up; Duke and Amy sit like silent film stars munching; Z has entered with the disconnected cord in her upraised fist.

Z

Is too much noise!

Her protest booms in the transfixed void and catches Amy / Duke mid-swallow.

Z

"The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the EAR for the EAR, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation!"

Z drops the offending cord.

Duke shrugs impassively.

Amy giggles.

DUKE

Wanna Bud?

The tension breaks with Z's involuntary smile; it is her very first since landing in America.