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Dominic Smith long in the sun. But during his final lucid minutes on this cold evening of 1846, he felt a strange calm. Outside, a light snow was falling and a vaporous blue dusk seemed to be rising out of the Seine. The squatters had set fire to the barrens behind the Left Bank and the air was full of smoke. Louis reclined in warm water perfumed with lemon skins, a tonic he believed to be good for his skin and nerves. The wind gusted under the eaves. He placed a hand against the adjacent window and from the bath, perched high in his rooftop belvedere, he felt the night pressing in against him. His head was partiall: submerged and he heard the metallic click of the tenant’s pipes below. It was a message; he was sure of it. The world was full of messages. He sat up, wiped the steam off the window, and looked out. There was something ghostly about the boulevard in the wintry pall. The bare-limbed almond trees were flecked with snow. A nut vendor pushed his cart through the smoky twilight. A man stood before a storefront, staring at a pyramid of startling white eggs. Was he counting them? A man was counting eggs on a street at dusk while the peasants were trying to burn the city down. This pleased Louis, though he couldn’t think why. He leaned back in the bathtub again and heard, as if anew, the ticking of the pipes. He lay there, letting his mind go still, and became aware of his own heartbeat, the sound of a tin drum through water. This was the time of day he grew speculative or nostalgic and he set to thinking that photo by Jana Birchum the pipes and his heart were talking to each other, exchanging notes in a secret, mechanical language. Then, as Louis watched the increments of darkness grow at the window, he heard his heart skip a beat. His chest tightened and he felt a dull, cold pain in his fingertips. This had happened before, a stutter in his pulse on account of the mercury in his blood. But he had never listened to it, and now his heart stopped for a full second. It was like a small death. He felt something shift in the room. Holding on to the rim of the tub, he pulled himself to a standing position. He reached for a robe and put it around his shoulders but was unable to move farther. Looking around the washroom, he felt himself alien to his own life. Poison-blue bottles of iodine lined out the medicine shelf like Prussian soldiers; his straight razor stood agleam on the washstand; a flask of mercury shuddered on the sink. Everything seemed directed at him. He looked out the window and saw the moon rising behind a cloth of weather. An enormous albatross perched amid the stone gargoyles of Notre Dame. The peasants had looted the zoo and all kinds of exotic animals had escaped. A Bengal tiger was said to be prowling the Latin Quarter. Louis saw that the barrens continued to burn, but now there was a barge loaded with firewood drifting down the river in flames. Night was everywhere. People had quit the streets except for the man counting the eggs. The man stood with his hands in his pockets, fingering his change. The little life one leads. JULY 22, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29