Friday, August 13, 2010

Oil & Hay - 10

I took a sip of my seventh whiskey sour, feeling uncomfortable. Out of sorts. A little cross. I took out my flattening pack of Gauloises, pulled one between my lips and flickered at it with my faltering Zippo. B.B. Douadji walked over grandly, holding out his immaculately manicured hands.

"And this is the guest of honour!" he exclaimed. "The great Malcolm! The great Wood!"

"Thank you, B.B."

"Allow me the privilege of lighting the cigarette of a winner," he said, holding up his flame.

The crowd formed a circle around us as we spoke, a pocket of deference and exaltation as might befit a warrior hero come to meet his king. B.B. slapped me on the back.

"What a race today Malcolm! What a race! And you, my friend! You are the winner of the race!"

I exhaled a plume of rich smoke from my nostrils. "It was a difficult race today. A sad day–"

"Oh! Lorenzo Maldarelli!" he interrupted, eyes wide. "Vroom! Vroom!" he went, pretending to hold a steering wheel. Then his arms shook as he pretended to brake. "Ee-ee-ee-ee-ee!" he exclaimed in staccato squeaks. "Boom! Whoosh!" Arms flailing in the air. Finally he pinched his nose, closed his eyes and descended into a crouch, his other arm above his head, a pantomime of a drowning man. After a moment in the depths he stood back up and smiled brightly.

"That's right," I said. "That's right."

"You drivers, you are not afraid to die," he stated, suddenly solemn.

"Well, I don't kn–"

"When you die, it is beautiful. When everyone else dies, it is shit."

As he cocked his head and frowned I thought I detected a flash of resentment in his face. I nodded dumbly, wondering how much more of this I was due to endure.

He's a real nowhere man.

B.B. rested his arm around my neck and paraded me along the promenade. It was dark now. Across the harbor the palace sat glowing on the rock.

"Maldarelli's death was a great death, a wonderful death," B.B. continued. "Did you see it?"

"I got there late."

"You should have seen it, Malcolm. I was standing right there on the other side of the boat," he said, pointing. "I saw the death and it was..." He shook his head. "Magnificent."

"You saw his car go in the water?"

"It exploded from the street. Spinning! Burning!"

I drank the last drops of my drink as we leaned on the rail. B.B. sighed and gazed up past the tangle of masts.

"I could have been a driver myself, you know."

"Is that so?"

"My father would not allow it," he said, and spat into the sea.

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