vrijdag, november 08, 2002

JAAP's Novel-In-Progress sample (page 18) ...

..."All travelling becomes dull in exact proportion to its rapidity." -Ruskin, "Modern Painters"

Utrecht, June 2000

Albert begins a slow whine about his creaking knees, fresh out of the train from Antwerpen, stopping in the middle of the station's tides of passersby to mewl and set down his bag for a moment. It's almost too much to bear. An entire town to be eviscerated by our greedy, insatiable needs waits and a middle aged ache cripples him as if he were kicked in the balls. I make a rotten cabbage face, set down my bag and roll a cigarette, clenching it between my digits with unquenchable agitation before firing up the butane and touching it to the cigarette tip. I exhale a mind suddenly dull for its lack of curiosity. Will this be requiring immediate surgery? I ask, my eyes begin to race around the minor circus of food peddlers, discount record stores, blaring video screens and this tiring chatter of humanity around me. Should I be concerned? Should I consult the phrase book for the appropriate foreign phrases dealing with emergencies; "Will this require a thrombectomy?", "this food disagrees with my digestive system and is planning an uprising."?? I spatter these questions out to Albert who already has the Winston in the yap, wincing from his knee pains and searching out a cafe or a pub to dull the aches.

Fuck you. He says this matter-of-factly, as though he'd just wished gesundheit to an old lady following a sneeze. He sees me like a sort of flying, buzzing insect around his face and ears, but instead of swatting, he picks up the bag again, nodding over to the station cafe where a gang of stragglers putter around their little round tables, pushing cigarettes into ashtrays, glasses to lips, weakly attempting to prop up the jowls with a feigned interest at every item of human flotsam floating past in a vaguely intoxicated dream. "I'm going to have a beer." And he sets off to cross the floor and find a table to unload himself, peel off the sport jacket and pork pie hat, loosen the knot of the tie and swallow some of the local brew. When he travels, he is like an old Southern Baptist dressing for Sunday sermons. Dignity distinguishes, he often complains.

If I don't follow him, it leads to a lot of confusion. We don't have a place to stay and if I wander off in search of one while he sits, beer after beer, getting groggy and oafish, he will be in no condition to be anything less than carried through the discrete lobby of some pension, drawing unwanted stares and stern consternation faces from the onlookers and proprietor. I must follow him, realizing as I do, that we will not stay here this evening. We will sit all afternoon in this very same station cafe, staring out the window at the rain, matching beer for beer, cigarette butt mounds growing like little anthills of civilization, nothing accomplished but enough sobriety to find the ticket counter and find some overnight train to ditch us off somewhere by morning's sobriety.

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