Read Black Dance Online

Authors: Nancy Huston

Black Dance (25 page)

“Congratulations, Nita. I hear you and the Irishman are getting hitched! I just hope you’re not makin’ a mistake, leavin’ here.”

“Nah.”

“I mean, at least this place is safe, right? At least you’ve got some understanding here.”

“. . .”

“You sure about this guy?’Cause once you’re out, you’re out, eh? Your bed’ll be gone in a jiff. You know that, don’t you?”

“Sure, Liz.”

“Well, it’s your funeral!”

Sitting down again, Liz carefully counts the money into her cashbox. Then she nods and Awinita leaves the room.

CUT to Awinita lying on her back on the floor, hands on ballooning belly. Sound track: Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child.”

We’re at the bottom of a gully. A rope is tossed down to us from a cliff top, and people yell,
Just pull! You can make it! We’ll hold you!
We use all our strength to hoist ourselves up, but then—
Sorry, we weren’t able to!
—they let go of the rope and we go tumbling backward . . . A moment later, though, our fall turns into flight. We float. We soar.

Getting clumsily to her feet, Awinita returns to the kitchen and looks straight at Liz.

“Do me a favor?”

“All depends!”

“Can ya write sumpin’ down for me?”

“Sure, I guess so. Long as it’s not the Bible!” Liz reaches across the table for pen and paper.

“Shoot.”

“I, Declan Noirlac . . .”

“Whoa, whoa! How do you spell that?”

“You have to help me wit the words. Make ‘em sound strong, you know?”

CUT to the coffee shop on Saint Catherine. Declan and Awinita are in the same booth as on the day of Deena’s murder. As Declan reads the pact out loud, the camera slides from one to the other, filming the fear in their faces.

“I the undersigned, Declan Noirlac, father of the child soon to be born to Miss Awinita Johnson, do hereby solemnly swear to take care of said child, see to its physical and emotional needs, and pay for its education, until such a time as its mother finds herself in a position to return and take up her share of these responsibilities. Montreal, on this the twenty-eighth day of March, in the year of Our Lord, 1952. Signed, et cetera. Wow!”

“Can you sign it, Mister Cleaning-Fluid?”

“Sure, Nita. Sure, I’ll sign it. I told you I’d pull my weight as a da, now, didn’t I?”

“Told me lotsa stuff.”

“What I don’t get is
why
. What’s it for? You goin’ somewhere?”

“I dunno. Just . . . you know, case I die havin’ de kid, or whatever.”

Declan glances at the page: “Well, if you die you won’t be able to . . . return and take up your share of these responsibilities, now, will ya?”

“Or if I get sick or sumpin’. Ya never know. Just so’s I don’t lose sight of dis baby like I did de oder one.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay, I understand. There.”

Though rather green about the gills, Declan signs.

“Dere’s two copies. One for you an’ one for me.”

“There you go!”

Close-up on his hands, shaking badly as they sign . . . (we recognize the hands that left little Milo at the hospital, near the
beginning of the film). Suddenly Declan rises and bolts for the men’s room.

Awinita folds up her copy of the contract and slips it into her purse. She sits there, nine months pregnant, not moving, her expression as inscrutable as always.

She is ready.

There was

a word

in the darkness.

Tiny. Unknown.

It hammered in the darkness.

It hammered

on the water’s plinth.

From the depths of time

it hammered.

On the wall.

A word.

In the darkness.

Calling me.

— Eugénio de Andrade

•    •    •    •    •

Author's Note

THE CAPOEIRA DEFINITIONS
used in chapter openings are taken from Cécile Bennegent,
Capoeira: ou l'art de lutter en dansant
(Budo Éditions, 2006) and Nestor Capoeira,
Le petit manuel de capoeira
(Budo Éditions, 2003). The title
Black Dance
, originally that of a work by Swiss painter Guy Oberson, was borrowed with the artist's kind permission.

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