The dinner-hour anecdote stops dead -- oh look! A wedge face, whiskered like a dark-eyed cat's, its brindle intercepted by a band of shadow, surveys us, inquiringly unshy. Four slender-fingered hands depend from limbs that taper like a spinet's. One halfway lifts, the gesture of a listening maestro. Maestro? no. A double underarch of mammaries declares una maestra, una madrem like the she-wolf, suckler of Remus and Romulus, whose dogs we know and venerate as bronze. The balance shifts. Just now it's we who offer sustenance -- saltines, leftover salad, half a boiled potato. She takes and isolates what's offered, daintily rotating it, fragment by fragment, between those palms whose grime-rimmed digits can so readily, at need, turn into digging implements -- or weapons.

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