Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Two squalid old men

I say to George Bush at the time, you may insert the joke.'.." Kalle came to a dumb-faced halt.

"Victor said that?"

"No, you're not paying attention. Mushtaq, the guy he met in Damascus."

"You used Victor's voice."

"I did not use Victor's voice."

"Do you mean Victor went to Damascus?"

"There was a cricket match, he said."

The wind was pushing rubbish around in the square - the cardboard was overflowing. Palms waved frantically; it was an overcast, blowy day and citizens or what passed here for citizens were swept into huddles on the street. All the same it was bright as salt. The sun glittered on hard-hats along the new sky-line and glittered too on the whitecaps flowing across the distant scene at the end of the street, which was all that now remained of a sea-view.

"Mind that step, it's like an ice-rink. I sometimes think, Victor's memoirs are not as you would say pinpoint-accurate."

"Did he mention the head gasket? They are notorious on the name of the car he drives, I have been told."

"There was no need, I was right behind him when it happened. In the agent's car. We were coming down the long straight behind Mil Palmeras. Both lanes disappeared in a cloud of steam. It was like being in a Formula One motor race."

"It's been on its last legs for ages, but now the last legs have really come home to roost. Those were his very words. It looked like baby-shit in the sump, more water than oil."

"Greenish?"

"Creamy yellowish-brown - the consequence of their addiction to milk. As veal is to beef."

"I don't remember. I have not seen nappies changed more than once or twice since I was a baby myself." A maudlin sigh escaped from Kalle's unhealthy face. They carried on up the stairs.

"He'll have to get the head scoured."

"At least I talk about the utter failure I have made of my life."

"It's an odd day really. Weatherwise, I mean."

In the distant scene a flare of spray exploded on a rock, but the sound didn't reach them.

"That's like a supernova when you see it through a telescope. Or when you burst a bloodvessel in your eye. Why don't we have a rest?"

Kalle had already sat down in the middle of the stair.

"Don't make a scene."

"I don't make a scene. There is no audience."

"There's me."

"There's not much of you."

"Dear God. Oh dear dear dear."

"Go away. I want to talk."

"That doesn't make any sense, my friend."

"Go on up."

The lift-door shone: it was brushed steel. Whenever someone went past the lift, no matter what they really looked like - for example, the conserje's brisk, unfriendly daughter-in-law with her trolley and the lethal mops - their reflections on the lift-door were all the same sort of diffuse, soft-focus, eviscerated mandorla.

Kalle sat opposite the lift and watched it absently, thinking his sad thoughts. Then he chuckled again over the joke. No-oh. No no no. That one's a no-no. Not that kind of show.

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