Insects could be defeated through the miracle of science and chemistry, in spite of their overwhelming numbers, but I never succeeded in my six year campaign to resist the rhythms of an island inhabited by larks.
I was a night person trapped in a dawn person’s world. The mismatch became apparent very early in our stay.
I experienced a sudden reunion with consciousness when Tomoko elbowed me in the ribs. I removed one earplug just in time to hear her mumble, “Doorbell.”
And then I heard it for myself: an irritating ring like a school lunch bell reverberating down stone hallways from deep within the house.
Somewhere in the tattered fragments of my mind I saw an image of the girl from Malta Post — the cute one with dark curly hair and aviator sunglasses — holding an armful of books. She usually showed up at 8am, but I was never awake.
I stumbled down the hallway, pulling on my pants as I went. The front door was half a block away from the bedroom: down a sort of tunnel, through the tiny kitchen, duck under a low door, and across the cavernous arched entry hall that bisected the front of the house.
I got there slightly out of breath, with my heart thudding in my ears.
When I unhooked the giant cast iron bar and opened the heavy wooden door, I squinted into early morning sunshine and saw an old lady with a baby’s pram filled with vegetables.
She smiled at me like a horror movie jack o’lantern, with big round face and gaps for teeth.
“You want squash?”
I mumbled and shook my head, still trying to understand just what the hell was happening to me.
She said it again and pushed the giant gourd at my chest. I accepted it automatically, reached into my pocket, and gave her the coin she was demanding.
“You want cucumber…?” she asked next.
“You want carrots…?”
“What you want?”
I said, “I want you to go away, and never do this to me again.”
And I quietly closed the door.
I set the squash on the kitchen table on my way back to the bedroom, and took a quick glance at the clock. It was 6:30am.
I assumed it had all been some kind of bizarre dream, but the squash was there when we reemerged later that morning.
It had “€2” drawn on the side with black marker, and it regarded us accusingly from the centre of the table, castigating us for laziness without saying anything at all.