R Other books by Katherine Anne Porter Flowering Judas and Other Stories Pale Horse, Pale Rider The Leaning Tower and Other Stories The Days Before The Old Order Ship of Fools The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter [@] A Harvest/ HBJ Book Harcourr Brace Jovanovich New York and London
Flowering Judas Braggioni sits heaped upon the edge of a straight-backed chair much too small for him, and sings to Laura in a furry, mournful voice. Laura has begun to find reasons for avoiding her own house until the latest possible moment, for Braggioni is there almost every night. No matter how late she is, he will be sitting there with a surly, waiting expression, pulling at his kinky yellow hair, thumb-ing the strings of his guitar, snarling a tune under his breath. Lupe the Indian maid meets Laura at the door, and says with a flkker of a glance towards the upper room, "He waits." Laura wishes to lie down, she is tired of her hairpins and the feel of her long tight sleeves, but she says to him, "Have you a new song for me this evening?" If he says yes, she asks him to sing it. If he says no, she remembers his favorite one, and asks him to sing it again. Lupe brings her a cup of chocolate and a plate of rice, and Laura eats at the small table under the lamp, first inviting Brag~ gioni, whose answer is always the same: "I have eaten, and besides, chocolate thickens the voice." Laura says, "Sing, then," and Braggioni heaves himself into song. He scratches the guitar familiarly as though it were a pet animal, and sings passionately off key, taking the high notes in a prolonged painful squeal. Laura, who haunts the markets listening to the ballad singers, and stops every day to hear the blind boy playing his reed-flute in Sixteenth of September Street, listens to Braggioni with pitiless courtesy, because she dares not smile at his miserable performance. N°obody dares to smile at him. Braggioni is cruel to everyone, with a kind of specialized insolence, but he is so 90 Flowering Judas vain o[ his talents, and so sensitive to slights, it would require a cruelty and vanity greater than his own to lay a finger on the vast cureless wound of his self-esteem. It would require courage, too, for it is dangerous to offend him, and nobody has this courage. Braggioni loves himself with such tenderness and amplitude and eternal charity that bis followers-for be is a leader of men, a skilled revolutionist, and his skin has been punctured in honorable warfare-warm themselves in the reflected glow, and say to each other: "He has a real nobility, a love of humanity raised above mere personal affections." The excess of this self-love has flowed out, inconveniently for her, over Laura, who, with so many others, owes her comfortable situation and her salary to him. When be is in a a very good humor, he tells her, "I am tempted to forgive you for being a gringa. Gringita!'' and Laura, burning, imagines herself leaning forward suddenly, and with a sound back-handed slap wiping the suety smile from his face. If be notices her eyes at these moments he gives no sign.