26 February 2011

I, Claudipor

     It began with a simple squeeze, but, what he didn’t expect was for it to pop. He watched the sticky yellow juice drip down his finger. He felt excited. The pop did not just break the thin green skin of the grape, but also something else. Something inside him.

     It was as if a concrete wall in his head had suddenly crumbled to dust. Each time he had reached that wall he had turned around, thinking it was a dead end, the border of his brain. It was only when he dared to touch it that he realised it was fake.

     “Want to feel it?” he asked Jeneva.

     “Can’t believe you just did that,” she said and moved her finger forward. For a second their fingers stuck together. It felt good. Then he grabbed a big clay jar of wine, one of the dozens they had to carry from town, up the hill and to the house.

     He remembers how much his muscles had burned. He remembers how the hot afternoon sun had turned his tongue into a dead piece of leather that grated against his lips. What had hurt him most was seeing his wife struggle.

     He had told Claudius he would carry them all up himself, but Claudius had refused and said he wanted them up today and that they wouldn’t get any water until all jars were in the house. Normally the ox would carry them up, but Claudius wanted them to rest.

     He threw his head back and turned the jar. His mouth couldn’t handle the wave of wine. The cotton of his ragged brown shirt eagerly swallowed the liquid and turned red. After some swigs he offered the jar to his wife.

     “Claudipor, please stop. They’ll kill us. I beg you – please stop,” she said and put her hand on his wet face. Her hand felt rough, calluses had covered her once youthful fingers.

     “I have no choice. I have to do it. My whole life I’ve had to crawl for every crumble, beg for every drop and slave for each second of rest.

     “Claudius always gave us just enough not to die, but never enough to live. We had to watch while he fed a whole chicken, freshly roasted with the best spices Rome has to offer – to his dog. We had to watch while he bathed in the freshest water. We had to watch while he watered his plants with wine.

     “Today it is our turn. Today is our day. Today we’ll waste; we’ll waste the wine, we’ll waste the bread, we’ll waste the water and today, today, we’ll waste our lives,” he said, popping another grape and throwing the skin on Claudius’s stiffened body.


by Robin Wynhold


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