Pedro has groomed himself with meticulous care: he has washed copiously, splashing around in a jasmine-scented bathtub like a happy water buffalo, scouring every inch of his skin with a bristly dishcloth gourd, emerging red and raw and rejuvenated half an hour later. Thereafter, nose-hairs were snipped, talon-like toenails were clipped, fingernails emery-boarded, and a new razor-blade had done two passes on the stubble.

It had not come at an opportune time in Don Pedro’s life, that book. All that rambling, allegorical hoopla about rising up to be a superman, a ubermensch, when in reality he felt himself slipping a rung or two on the evolutionary ladder, moving backward. The ubermensch laughs at man from his lofty plane, just as man sniggers at the ape for falling behind. If ordinary men had begun to snigger at him, that brought him down to the level of an ape, said the nutty German. An ape with opposable thumbs, who could hold a brush, but could not produce anything of beauty with it.

A steaming hot towel had then caressed the baby-smooth face, followed by an assault with ice-cubes, relaxing the pores and then squeezing them shut. Hair is combed back and waxed, ear-lobes are tweezed and armpits fumigated. A freshly laundered white linen shirt is matched with well-creased cream trousers and crocodile-skin loafers. Finally, just as he is leaving, an original, classic Panama hat that he had brought back with him from Ecuador fifteen years ago.

He had discarded the book in one corner of the living room. The blinding headaches he would get trying to wade through phrases like “What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom thou shinest!” Or words like forsooth and keepeth and promiseth, which when he read aloud, made him sound like a ponce with a lisp. The watch had joined it a little later, for more or less the same reason, when time for him had begun its backward tick.

But today, as he has gone from a urine-stained, crud-encrusted, tatty lout to a suave, slick, bon vivant aristocrat oozing sex, supremacy and savoir-faire, today he looks at the book with renewed interest. There might be a nugget or three in that tangled mess of obfuscating verbosity that might be of value to him in his new avatar.

On his way over the bridge, he scans the water for a drowned human being, even a stray shoe or two washed up. He sees none and is vaguely disappointed, a flaw in that bugger Darwin’s theory. He righteously hopes it will be corrected soon.

By the time he reaches Rosalina Eucharistica’s door, two large and sticky patches have grown out of his armpits, the humidity has made the magnificent Monte Cristi Classic sag a little, and red dust has caked his pant cuffs and filled up his shoes.

A handsome-looking lady opens the door. Don Pedro smiles charmingly as he sizes her up. Good genetics, lyrical lines of worry and tiredness on her face. Good working stock. He likes the honesty of working women, the poetic resignation in their eyes, the raw hands, the firm thighs. He doffs his hat and bows.

“And a very good evening to you, ma’am. I have come to meet the lady Rosalina Eucharistica.”

“Please come in. I am Angelina. Mai is expecting you.” She steps aside to let him in and shuts the door. “This way, please.”

Pedro gestures with his hatted hand and bows again. “After you, my dear lady.”

She smiles that simple half-witted smile of pleasure as when a master throws a slave a compliment, he thinks.

“I am Don Pedro Cleto Colaco,” he offers.

She lowers her eyes. “I know who you are. Would you like a glass of water? Your throat must be parched with the walk.”

“Very gracious of you. Yes, it is a little hot, isn’t it?”

“Oh, now it is much better. It was hotter at four o’ clock. Were you outside at four o’ clock?”

“I don’t remember. Yes, probably.”

She smiles sweetly. “You would remember if you were, Don Pedro. I think you were.” He blinks in surprise; is that a knowing wink she just flashed at him?

“I will get the water. In the meantime, please follow me.”

Poor peasant nutrition, he thinks; makes the brain a little soft, leads to incoherent rambling.

His eyes are drawn to her full, round bottom as she leads him to the living room. He admires the view, but this is nothing compared to what it is leading to, just beyond that door.

This is just the teaser; yonder lies the grand extravaganza.

This stuff is for amateurs, for gauche schoolboys fumbling with buttons and bra-hooks. Pah!

That is for the seasoned lover, the true connoisseur of the carnal, the gastronome whose mind rises above mere meat to the juices that oil it, to the musk that lies hidden in the folds. And to capture that essence...

He is ushered into the living room, and the peasant girl gives him a funny look as she leaves. He dismisses her from his mind as he looks around.

The jumble of furniture smites his eyeballs. It is like some passing tornado has swept through a hundred houses, picked up one item from each and dumped them all here. His mind struggles for a description. Louis the XV? Victorian? Baroque? Georgian? Indian Mughal? Art Deco?

And the layer of dust on everything. He cannot afford to be judgmental, he corrects himself sternly. His own house currently smells like a hooch-bar urinal.

“So. We finally meet de artist on de hill,” says a mouse with a cold from somewhere behind his back.

He turns slowly. Perhaps he had mistaken her for a sofa with a black dust-protection cloth thrown over it. He cannot be blamed; even as he stares at her inert, reclined tonnage, he cannot see what she is reclining on. That piece of furniture, whatever it is, is a part of her. Something sturdy, no doubt, with iron cross-beams to hold it up, the suspension of an eighteen-wheel truck perhaps.

This the first time he is observing her this close, within touching, feeling, smelling distance.

He lifts his hand to doff his hat, except the hat is already in his hand. the damp Monti Cristo merely goes up and comes down again. “Don Pedro Cleto Colaco at your service, Ma’am,” he booms.

In the late-evening light that filters through the skylight, her skin has a radiance that he wants to capture on canvas that very minute. He mixes colours furiously, colours he has no names for, but can see clearly in his mind’s eye.

She holds out her hand at him, wagging short, stout fingers that look like baby carrots. He transfers his hat to his left hand and taking three bold strides, grabs her podgy fist manfully in his own. He plumps out his lips in an unabashed pucker and presses them down onto her moist, oily skin.

Real men are not afraid to leave a little saliva behind. He lets his lips linger there, aware of a sour, acrid smell wafting into his flared nostrils.

He straightens up, lets his tongue taste the essence that he has hoovered up from that fleeting touch. He tastes sea salt, mingled with curdled milk. Perspiration, that erotic excreta of the human body.

He places her hand gently down by her side, except her fingers are still holding on to his, her eyes boring into him in startled bewilderment.

“Help me up, please! W’at do you t’ink you are doing?” She bleats in a voice that almost shivers with its own frost.

Don Pedro recovers quickly; he retightens his grip. He tugs gently, which has the effect of pulling her arm a little forward in the shoulder socket. He tugs harder; this time her right shoulder comes unglued from the back of the easy chair. she is watching him now with owl-like eyes. His smile tightens, aware that he is breathing a little heavily now. Her sweat-sheened hand begins to slip out of his. He jams his hat on to his head and desperately reaches out with his left, sinking his fingers two inches deep into the dough-like flesh just above her elbow. His back flares up, and his spine feels like an overloaded crane-boom, groaning and creaking under heavy load. she begins to move, slowly but surely; he prays his back will hold. His gut flaps and hot sweat breaks out on his brow.

“Aieee,” she squeaks. “Your fingers are hurting me! Why you don’ use bot’ hands?”

Thick veins emerge from under his fine linen shirt and crawl up his neck like baby snakes. ‘I am. Using. Both hands,’ he wheezes, sounding like a truck climbing a distant hill in low gear.

“Not your hands. My hands,” she shrieks as she comes up in a lopsided fashion, her torso twisted to the right.

Angie is there the next instant, grabbing the other arm and pulling her up with practised ease. Rosie sits up now, no longer needing help, safe from the hungry clutch of gravity.

Don Pedro straightens up slowly and carefully. There will be lots of Sloan’s Liniment tonight if he wants to get out of bed tomorrow.

Excerpted with permission from The Village of Pointless Conversation, Kersi Khambatta, HarperCollins.