The day was failing outside and I had drawn the curtains and put the lights on. I had earlier ran the vacuum cleaner around the apartment and collected and rinsed out the glasses of stale water which seemed to have accumulated, forgotten, upon tables and under chairs, in every room. I had dressed in a suit but, then anxious that I was generating unnecessary formality, I had complemented it with a pair of the shabbiest shoes which I could find. I wondered whether I should offer my visitor tea, or something alcoholic. It was as I heard the light rap at the door that I realised that there was no sugar in the apartment. If she wanted sugar in her tea I would have to run up the road for it. It was fortunate that I had opted for old shoes.
I opened the door and was met by a small, assertive-looking woman. I had pictured her arriving in a shawl and bangles, but she was wearing a white trouser-suit. She marched in, businesslike and unembarrassed, making me feel vaguely like a patient. There was no question of offering tea. In the living room, she seated herself on the sofa and looked up at me.
“Um… some of the kids who hang out at Duddingston Loch recommended you… they gave me your number… at a bonfire?”
She considered this and nodded vaguely.
“Sit down,” she said finally. I hurriedly obeyed.
It happened suddenly. She yelped as if she had been shot. The lights went out. A great fire leapt up in the fireplace – even though nobody had built a fire there for a least half a century – and in the centre of the fire sat a big black dog.
I glanced at the gypsy and saw that she had been fantastically transformed: her head was flung back and her body was arched over the sofa. Transfixed in this arresting posture, her crotch pointed in my face, a thin, continual groan drooled from her lips.
I stood up and addressed the black dog.
“Oh black dog, I am searching for my friend Marcin…”
“Yield yourself to the city…” the dog said flatly, his big black tail thumping the hearth. “A boy and a girl make love in the snow, a door in the corner of the room, the rain wanders through the woods, the jury will make the wrong decision.”
And then the lights flickered uncertainly back on. The fire crouched and fell. The gypsy had stood and was pacing around the room, shaking her head as if trying to clear it.
“You look very white,” I said. “Please sit back down.”
“I’m okay,” she told me. “It will go soon…”
“Allow me to get you some water.” She sat back down on to the sofa rather too quickly and I ran through into the kitchen. When I returned she was still very white and I ordered her to put her feet up on to the arms of the sofa.
“Blood to the head,” I explained, making her sip some of the water.
“I’m okay,” she insisted.
“I’m not,” I complained. “That black dog was not particularly helpful.”
“It often takes time for things to become apparent,” she replied.