[ToC]

 

BENEATH THE FIG TREE

Margaret MacInnis

 

 

The fig tree offered temporary respite from the suffocating heat of North Cyprus, grieving woman of an island not quite sure if she was occupied or home to a new republic. I dragged the table, two chairs, with Ginger at my feet, that green-eyed stray, gaunt and half-wild with neglect, one of many that circled the end of our dusty drive, the only one that came to me.
     As my husband fanned the barbeque pit, Ginger licked my ankle, working her way down my foot with the soft flick of her sandpaper tongue.  In my lap, she curled into a question mark. I wanted to save her, save each one, but how? They multiplied in the streets like the soldiers from Turkey, village boys slinging rifles across their chest.
     Don’t feed her your chicken, my husband muttered, handing me a plate.
     I lowered my face to Ginger.
     Disease and filth, he spat when I kissed her, still I pressed my mouth to her head, still I tore flesh from the breast bone, and when he wasn’t looking, slipped it to her.
     The soldiers will shoot her in the fall, he said, her and all the others.
     I begged him to leave some meat on the bone, but still he sucked the last wing dry, adding it to his neat stack of bones. I had never seen anyone devour a chicken that way, and he had never known anyone who ate only the breast, and even then, left half the meat on the bone.
     I knew his stories of the meatless years. From Soviet Lvov to Ostia to Calgary, years of nettle soup, potatoes, and chicken feet. I wanted to understand.
     Decadent American, he said as he rose from the table.
     Fuck you, I mouthed to his back as he carried that stack of bones to the end of our parched drive and set them before the starving cats.
     From beneath the fig tree I could count their ribs as they clawed the remains, the ache of hunger, their shared grave half-dug.

 

 

 

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"Beneath the Fig Tree" was one of my first attempts at writing about the eight years I spent teaching abroad while married to my former husband. I still dream of Ginger, my feline companion during some difficult days. I recommend reading about the complicated history of Cyprus.