Magda Balls looked at her two new guests, her back was up against the stove in the kitchen, a cigarette smoke stream trailing from her shapely hand. Rosalina and the Huffing Man were sitting at the table in her lakeside bungalow eating tomato soup and oyster crackers. The man had an iced tea to drink, the girl a milk.
“Did you know MILK in Dutch and Norwegian is MELK,” Magda said, looking at the girl.
Rosalina crinkled her nose. “Huh?”
“MILK is pronounced MELK in both Dutch and Norwegian… I’m studying new languages.”
The Huffing Man wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and looked at her. “I spent some time in Amsterdam, but I never drank any MELK there.” He just as quickly went back to eating his soup and crackers.
“They have naughty peep shows in Amsterdam,” Rosalina said. “And marijuana is legal. Did you get high and look at boobies?”
“No,” the Huffing Man insisted. “I was there on business… Back when my life wasn’t a shattered mess, or was it?” His thoughts trailed off into the air and he watched them bounce away.
Magda laughed at the girl. “How do you know about all that?”
“I know a lot of things. I read, surf the net, watch movies, things like that. I’m very worldly for 10.2 years old.”
“I can tell,” Magda laughed. “If you two don’t mind, I’m going to hit the shower. Make yourselves at home.”
The Huffing Man looked up at Magda and gave her a shy smile. His face, with its sandpaper sheen, was tired and haggard. “Thank you… For the food and for helping me out.”
Magda smiled back. “You’re welcome.”
Rosalina plopped herself down in a comfy couch in the front room and played with a remote control. The Huffing Man joined her. She looked over at him sadly. “Can I ask you something?”
“I suppose you can.”
“Why do you huff gas?”
He sighed. “Well, it’s a long, sad story I’m afraid. I don’t want to trouble a young girl with such adult things.”
“It’s okay. I can handle it. I’m very mature.”
“Well, let’s just say I have a lot of personal problems.”
The Huffing Man laughed at her innocent inquisitiveness, then sighed. “I feel incredibly invisible to a lot of people in my life. I suppose I don’t feel very loved.”
Rosalina looked down. “I know what you mean. I don’t feel very loved either. That’s why I ran away from my foster parents.”
“My Pee and Em were killed in a hot air balloon crash in Arizona.”
“Pee and Em?”
“My dad and mum. I got the words from A Clockwork Orange. It’s my favorite movie. It’s part of this weird language they speak that’s sort of like Russian slang mixed with Old English. I bet we can find it on Netflix or HBO if you want to watch it with me.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“What! Where have you been, living under a rock?”
“Yes, I suppose I have been.”
It’s a brutal and satirical look at the crisis of crime and subsequent punishment in a withering dystopian society… The story revolves around the strange life of a young hoodlum and his gang of droogs. But it goes far beyond that. It’s a mind fuck, really,” Rosalina said. “A total mind fuck.”
“Oh, really? I’m intrigued.”
Rosalina excitedly sat up on the edge of the couch and scanned through channels until she found the movie. “Here it is!”
The Huffing Man gestured with his head toward the sound of the running shower. “Do you think she’ll be okay with it?”
“I don’t think she’ll care. She’s pretty cool.”
“All right then. Fire it up.”
“Doobie doo,” Rosalina said with a giggle.
The chilling close-up image of Alex DeLarge in the Korova Milk Bar suddenly appeared on the screen. The gonging synthesized opening soundtrack filled the room.
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milk Bar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova Milk Bar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet, or synthemesc, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence…
Rosalina looked over at the Huffing Man and his eyes were wide with wonder. “Freaky, huh?” she whispered.
“I’d say,” he whispered back.
Magda Balls came into the room with wet hair and fresh summer clothes that clung to her tall, svelte body. “What are you two watching?”
“A Clockwork Orange,” Rosalina told her, and then she pressed pause on the remote. “But we can’t have disturbances. We need to fully concentrate on the film in order to absorb all its subtle nuances.”
Magda laughed. “Okay. I’ll just go out onto the deck and read then. That okay?”
“Sure,” Rosalina said with a shrug. “It’s your house.”
“That it is,” Magda said, and she smacked her lips, grabbed a book off the coffee table and slipped outside.
Rosalina resumed the film and the Huffing Man relaxed into the couch. He watched the movie as its bizarreness unfolded and even though the pictures on the screen were mesmerizing, he couldn’t help that his mind drifted away to his own inner turmoil. He tried to turn his head and look at the girl beside him, but his neck seemed inoperable, he seemed frozen, felt dead almost. He wondered if he had finally done enough damage with all that gas huffing.
The film was long and when it was over, the Huffing Man got up off the couch and stretched. He glanced out through the glass of the veranda door and saw that Magda had migrated to a short dune on the beach. He looked at Rosalina. “I think I’m going to go take a walk… In the other direction.”
“Okay,” she said, as she skimmed through channels in search of something new to watch.
“Would you like to join me? I mean, you can’t just watch the television all day. Maybe we can find something to eat.”
Rosalina pressed the power button on the remote and looked up at him. “You’re right. And I should come with you… To keep you on the straight and narrow. Because, I hope you weren’t planning on running off to huff some gas.”
“No. But it doesn’t feel good not to huff.”
“I’m sure it sucks, but you’ll feel better,” the girl said. “I’ll help you ride the rough waves out.”
“That’s awful kind of you,” he said with a genuine smile. “Shall we?” He reached out to grasp her hand at the door and she took it.
TO BE CONTINUED