Bruno was foreign: he was dark, he spoke with an accent, and he had an odd way of tying knots in most everything he came into contact with. Paper, tissue, blades of grass, napkins, banana peels. He would leave his twisted work behind: a figure eight of notebook paper on the counter of the news stand; a reef knot of flower stems on a park bench; a slip-knot of baling twine on the ground at the strassenbahn stop.
Amadocus drew himself up to his full height and swept his arm out to take in the cluster of wooden houses, the beaten earth of the roads, the wooden palisade of the legion’s fort, the gaggle of engineers surveying the best place for a bridge, and the flotilla of ships bumping against the quay’s pilings.
“I sell the future!” said Amadocus.
His most faithful audience is here today, still unnamed and unknown. She’s a woman who comes once or twice a week, leaves a nickel, and walks off without a word. He recognizes her by the navy blue coat, the neat curls, and her mended shoes.
The boy asked for chew. I offered him a pinch. He took three. He was only eleven but those were hard times in a hard country in a bad season.
He thrust something at her stomach, her hands clasping it in reaction. It was a rough rectangle of wood with a string of hemp knotted across the top. She turned it over. He had neatly scrawled in chalk, “WIFE FOR AUCTION”.