Excerpt of A Slight Trick of The Mind by Mitch Cullin
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Presently, he found himself pacing the beeyard as young Rogereager to
impress him with how well the bees had been tended in his absence, roving now
from hive to hive without a veil and with sleeves rolled highexplained that
after the swarm had been settled in early April, only a few days prior to
Holmes's leaving for Japan, they had since fully drawn out the foundation wax
within the frames, built honeycombs, and filled each hexagonal cell. In fact, to
his delight, the boy had already reduced the number of frames to nine per hive,
thereby allowing plenty of space for the bees to thrive.
"Excellent," Holmes said. "You have summered these creatures admirably,
Roger. I am very pleased by your diligence here." Then, rewarding the boy, he
removed the vial from his pocket, presenting it between a crooked finger and a
thumb. "This was meant for you," he said, watching as Roger accepted the
container and gazed at its contents with mild wonder. "Apis cerana japonicaor
perhaps we will simply call them Japanese honeybees. How's that?"
"Thank you, sir."
The boy gave him a smile, and, gazing into Roger's perfect blue eyes, lightly
patting the boy's mess of blond hair, Holmes smiled in turn. Afterward, they
faced the hives together, saying nothing for a while. Silence like this, in the
beeyard, never failed to please him wholly; from the way Roger stood easily
beside him, he believed the boy shared an equal satisfaction. And while he
rarely enjoyed the company of children, it was difficult avoiding the paternal
stirrings he harbored for Mrs. Munro's son (how, he had often pondered, could
that meandering woman have borne such a promising offspring?).
But even at his advanced age, he found it impossible to express his true
affections, especially toward a fourteen-year-old whose father had been among
the British army casualties in the Balkans and whose presence, he suspected,
Roger sorely missed. In any case, it was always wise to maintain emotional
self-restraint when engaging housekeepers and their kinit was, no doubt, enough
just to stand with the boy as their mutual stillness hopefully spoke volumes, as
their eyes surveyed the hives and studied the swaying oak branches and
contemplated the subtle shifting of the afternoon into the evening.
Soon, Mrs. Munro called from the garden pathway, beckoning for Roger's
assistance in the kitchen. Then, reluctantly, he and the boy headed across the
pasture, doing so at their leisure, stopping to observe a blue butterfly
fluttering around the fragrant azaleas. Moments before dusk's descent, they
entered the garden, the boy's hand gently gripping his elbowthat same hand
guiding him onward through the farmhouse door, staying upon him until he had
safely mounted the stairs and gone into his attic study (navigating the stairs
being hardly a difficult undertaking, though he felt grateful whenever Roger
steadied him like a human crutch).
"Should I fetch you when supper's ready?"
"Please, if you would."
So at his desk he sat, waiting for the boy to aid him again, to help him down
the stairs. For a while, he busied himself, examining notes he had written prior
to his trip, cryptic messages scrawled on torn bits of paperlevulose
predominates, more soluble than dextrosethe meanings of which eluded him. He
glanced around, realizing Mrs. Munro had taken liberties in his absence. The
books he had scattered about the floor were now stacked, the floor swept, butas
he had expressly instructednot a thing had been dusted. Becoming increasingly
restless for tobacco, he shifted notebooks and opened drawers, hoping to find a
Jamaican or at least a cigarette. After the hunt proved futile, he resigned
himself with favored correspondence, reaching for one of the many letters sent
by Mr. Tamiki Umezaki weeks before he had embarked on his trip abroad: Dear Sir,
I'm extremely gratified that my invitation was received with serious interest,
and that you have decided to be my guest here in Kobe. Needless to say, I look
forward to showing you the many temple gardens in this region of Japan, as well
Excerpted from A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin Copyright © 2005 by
Mitch Cullin. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random
House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or
reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.