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This report is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

from The Notebooks
of Arcangelo Riffis
Marius Kociejowski
My friend, several months before he died, asked if he could request a favour of me and, mindful of the extraordinary demands he made from time to time, I said it depended on what that favour was. ‘When I die,’ he whispered, ‘I want you to plunge a dagger into my heart.’ It would have to be a dagger, of course, a poetical blade, and not an ordinary serrated kitchen knife. This once most physically strong of men slowly moved his weakly clenched fist to his chest three times in a stabbing motion. There was some particular awfulness in his eyes. ‘I don’t want to be buried alive,’ he murmured. I waited a little. I waited a bit more. ‘Why are you depriving me,’ I asked him, ‘of the pleasure of doing it now?’ Arcangelo Riffis smiled the flicker of a smile he often made when caught between resignation and sheer exasperation with me.

*

At seven in the morning, 6 March 2008, just two days after his sixty-eighth birthday, I knelt on the floor over his still-warm body, an ungainly heap of flesh and bone, more bone than flesh, the contents of his ashtray spilled about him. Other matters connected to that scene I won’t go into here. We may rid the brain of certain things by speaking of them, so say our guides to emotional welfare, but it’s not always the healthy exercise they say it is. Arcangelo’s eyes were still open, fixed upon nothing in particular yet carrying within them the desperate petitioning of a few months before. Where was that kitchen ...


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