Will It Last?

I guess luck hinges on the smallest of coincidences. And you never even see it coming. I didn't anyway. I was just glad the long wait was over and tugging myself into the backseat of the taxi I barked out:

'Take me to a hotel. Anyone will do. But make sure it's got a room available.'

'Lady, this must be your lucky day. At this time of year ain't a hotel in Vegas that's full up.'

'Well, get me there quickly then. And if you're good, you can come and pick me up again tomorrow morning.'

I certainly had no intention of staying here more than one night. If the truth be told, I was only here at all, because the damn plane developed a fault and we had to come down for maintenance. I guess you could say I was on a lucky streak this trip. Not only had I not signed up a single artist, but the guy I'd brought along for some fun slunk off with someone funnier and to cap it all the airline had lost my luggage a couple of days ago and my insurance certificate was inside.

The taxi driver pulled up. The bell-boy ran up to take the bag I didn't have so he quickly turned to the limousine pulling up behind.

'Welcome to the Alladin hotel, Madam. May I wish you a happy stay. How many nights will you be staying.'

The guy was sweet and trying hard to please, so I put on my best manners before replying:

'I'm afraid, I'll be leaving tomorrow. Urgent business to attend to back home.'

'No problem, Madam. Here's your key, and here's your Alladin Hotel lucky lantern chip. We're celebrating our tenth birthday this week, and every guest gets one of these chips for free. You can use it in any of the casinos in town, and if you so wish, you can buy up to a hundred more at a reduced rate. So may I wish you good luck, Madam.'

'Sure you may, kid! I need it.' I didn't actually say the 'kid'. I was still being on my best behaviour. My fingertips were starting to tingle. I hadn't intended going anywhere near a casino that night, but with a free chip, well what was there to lose. I decided to head out straight away. Like that, if my luck was out, I'd still be in my bed good and early. Most of the casinos were still pretty dead but there was music coming out of a fairly classy place a little further up the street and a billboard was announcing a talent contest for that evening. Now that would be luck, I smiled to myself as I pushed my way through the doors.

A small crowd but motley was gathered around the bar paying little attention to what was happening on stage, where a young woman was strumming away in a fairly competent fashion. Pity she spoiled it a few minutes later by opening her mouth. I took a wander through the joint. As yet, nopne of the games were opened. I fingered my Alladin chip. Would it really be my lucky charm. Returning to the bar I ordered myself a stiff drink and settled down by the side of the stage. Next up was an acrobatic duet; quite good, but none the kind of act that was going to roll in the crowds. My mind went back a few years to Tommy's final tour. He had the world at his feet, that kid did; the world at his feet and the money to show for it. And 10% of that money was for me. He was my last...

I was quickly brought back to reality by the sound of a good strong voice coming from the stage. Now this was something different. Not much to look at, he knew how to sing. I cheered him like the blazes when he finished and he was kind enough to do an encore. My cheering had caught the eye of the small group by the bar and a cowboy type sidled up to give me the once over. Not a bad looking guy either. This was beginning to get too exciting: a new act and a new boyfriend both in one night. The guy offered me another drink.

'Look Mister, I'd love nothing more than to spend some time with you, but first I've got to get that guy that's just come off stage.'

'Come on, lady. He ain't no good for you. He's just a kid. Now if you're really looking for something good, then you want someone with a bit a maturity.'

'Listen, I love you honey, and I'll be back right away. But I just gotta get to see that kid.'

I ran off just hoping I'd done enough to keep him there until I got back. I found the kid round by the stage exit, having a quick smoke.

'You should keep off those things, if you want to carry on singing like you do. Got any engagements coming up, cause if you haven't, I might be able to help.'

'You one of those impresanio guys?'

'Guess, you could call me that. But it's impresario, not impresanio.'

'Well, I was never one for spelling and the like. Anyway, what sort of engagements were you thinking of.'

'The big time. That's what I got. You ever heard of Tommy Lee Jones. Sang in just about every joint in these parts. One of the best artistes ever seen. He was one of mine. You want end up like him, you just join me. Interested?'

He was but I didn't want to push things. Didn't have to. He was so young, he'd agree to anything. I made arrangements to see him the next morning. I'd give him my irch and famous spiel and get him to sign up. It'd be child's play. I hurried back inside hoping Mr. Charming was still waiting for me. He'd gone back to the bar, but gave me a wave and a smile as he saw me come. I fingered the chip again. A new signing in the bag and a man waiting for me when I got back: double luck. And I still had one wish left, so I prayed that this time the luck might last a little longer than before.


That road. I still get the shakes whenever I think of it, even though it's well over a year since our holiday.

It had all began with unexpected sun, a trip to the tourist office and a change of plan. The pictures looked so tempting, and with the beautiful sunshine everyone wanted to get out of town into the hills. And the prospect of ending the day at a picturesque, Welsh village, full of second hand books was enough to persuade me. What the pictures didn't say, however, was that... but now I'm jumping the gun.

We were all in a cheery mood as we left the town and headed out into the country. Our first stop was to be the ruin of an ancient abbey, a renowned beauty spot of high historical interest. For the first few kilometres everything went well. Then we came to the junction where we left the main road. What we saw, did not look inviting. Surely we had made a mistake. A quick look at the tourist guide:

'This must be it. The guide says it's quite a narrow road.'

'Now he tells me!'

We drive on, me wishing I had never succumbed to their wishes to get a large car with enough room to take all seven of us. It would be so much nicer, if we could all stay together. It was okay for them to say that, they weren't driving. Indeed, one and all they had refused to drive on the left side of the road as is normal in the UK. Here, however, there wasn't really a left and right side; just a path down the middle with about a metre of space on either side.

We got to the Abbey safely, and more importantly without meeting anyone coming in the opposite direction. It really was a magnificent site, and the country air, the sun and the joy of being with friends soon made me forget the difficulties of the journey. At least, we wouldn't be going back the same way.

The visit to the Abbey was followed by a picnic only the French know how to serve. They thought of everything; they'd even managed to get French bread back in the town. It was probably made in darkest Wales, but who was I to spoil their illusions. They even managed to forget the wine out of respect for the poor driver. A nice touch.

A few minutes shut-eye and it was time to shake off all those hard-earned calories by climbing the local mountain. I use the word mountain advisedly. It was the term the locals used. In reality, it was little more than a large elevation extending behind the abbey but which afforded us a lovely view of the surrounding countryside.

We left the Abbey wishing we could just pitch our tents and spend the rest of our lives there. But there was more to explore. The guidebook described the scenery we were about to lay siege to as one of the most ruggedly beautiful in the country. From the way the others still enthuse over it, they must have been right. What the guidebook didn't say was that the road, at first deceptively wide, would soon become as narrow as the previous part, before tightening even more until our car could no longer pass without scraping the hedges on either side. I was petrified. I hated driving at the best of times. And now this. In addition, scratches on a rented car... how were we going to explain that one; not to mention the number of times we met someone, sometimes even bigger cars, coming in the opposite direction. And thanks to good old Murphy I was always nearest to the last passing point than those coming the other way. Then and there I swore an oath never to repeat the feat.

We got there. I can't remember how, but thanks to the wonders of a modern electronic car with board computer I can inform me that we did 37 kilometres, at an average speed of 17 kilometres per hour and that if I continued at that rate, our tank would be empty before we got back home. There was also a bit of deceit in there somewhere but I can't tell you about that or it might get me into trouble.

But I got my revenge once we arrived in the book place. Like the hard slave master I am in class, I set the others the task of polishing up the car to get rid of any signs of the scratches, whilst I went and got high off the smell of stale books in old bookshops. I even indulged myself by getting them all to sign one of the books I bought as a small memento of a day I would far rather forget. Oh, and need I say that we took another way back!


Jonathan put the phone down. He went over the mini-bar but decided on nothing stronger than a soda. He'd need to have all his wits about him for the meeting with Janice. To be honest he'd not been surprised at the call from his sister, despite the fact they hadn't seen each other for nearly four months. He suspected she'd be helping organise this year's conference. Undoubtedly, his being asked to join the team of translators once again was her doing.

Jonathan's mind went back to last year's fiasco. The emergency meeting, his speaker's anger, the threats and finally Jonathan storming out of the meeting shouting: 'I'm never going to do this again...' at anyone who crossed his path.

So what had he accepted to go back? Was it the buzz he used to get out of attending these conferences? The chance of meeting new people, the exchanges with old acquaintances, the late evening dinner parties with the opportunities they sometimes put his way? Maybe, he did miss the life a little. Life in his little seaside town rarely afforded him such opportunites. He knew, he'd like being a part of all that again, yet he knew equally well, that it wasn't for the excitement he was going back. Neither, was it for the money. True, it would be a long time before his writing would enable him to earn as much in one week as he would be getting for the conference, and the money would be welcome. But it was more than that.

The true reason was something Janice had said. Janice's oratory powers had never equalled those of a Nelson Mandella or a Margaret Thatcher, yet she was sincere. One phrase stuck in his mind.

"Jonathan, I'm not asking you to do this for me. I want you to do it because I think you owe it to yourself."

She was right.  If he did have something to prove, then it was not to others but to himself. He would go to the conference and he would give of his best. He would climb back up and show himself that there was life after a knockout punch.

A second phone call came a few days later.

'Hello, am I speaking to Mr. Jonathan Rourke?'

'Yes, that's me.'

'Right, well I'm Martin Doubleday of the ANE European Archeological Foundation. You've been assigned to me as a translator for this year's ASP University Fellows conference. I was just wondering how much you know about the language of archeological digs?'

Jonathan froze. This was where it had all begun last year. They had assigned him to a theologian lecturing on the current status of the creation/evolution debate. He'd known nothing whatsoever about either topic; the result had been a disaster. The hesitancy in his voice was only too obvious.

'I'm afraid I don't know very much, Mr.Uhhh...'

'Doubleday, Martin Doubleday. Yes, I suspected as much. I'm afraid my speciality is not one people know much about. That's why I'd appreciate it if we could get together sometime before the conference. I've prepared a glossary of most of the major technical terms which will help you cope with the translation and we can go through the major points of my talk to make sure you understand everything. I want you to know, Mr. Rourke that you're just as important as I am at this conference. We'll be working together as partners and I want to give you every chance to do a good job.'

This time Jonathan did take that drink when he put the phone down. No, not to steady his nerves but to toast what he was sure would be the best partnership in the conference.

Paul sat down nervously and looked around at the people around him. That he didn't know anyone was hardly surprising. It was, after all, the reason why he had come to this writing group. Having just arrive in Olde just a few weeks before he'd been looking for different way in which he could get to know other people. He'd noticed the writing group in a brochure delivered by the town's tourist office. It was held twice weekly at the cultural centre. He'd toyed with the idea of going a few times, but didn't feel he had what it took to write in a foreign language. His wife, however, had encouraged him and since the cultural centre offered two free sessions before joining, he decided to give it a try.

The building was big, old and wieldy. He shyly pushed his way through the door and looked round. No signs anywhere announced where the meeting would take place, but a young man came up to him with a smile. Before he knew it, he was sitting with a dozen or so other people in a small and cozy room preparing to write.

The same young man who had met him at the door welcomed everyone, so Paul was obviously not the only newcomer. He then distributed some rather large pebbles, and told everyone to write a word on it. The only word that came into Paul's mind was 'nouveau' and he wrote it carefully on his pebble. The pebbles were passed on to someone else. This time Paul was not so happy. However hard he stared at his word, he could make no sense of it. If only, he had a dictionary. He tried asking what the word meant, but was told to write anyway. That sealed it for him. Today would be his first and last visit. But what to write now?

Taking each letter of his word to form a new line he wrote a small poem on what it was like to be writing in a new language about something he didn't even understand. He then read it out loud when it came to his turn. Comments were appreciative. The other participants considered him courageous to be participating in a writing group in a language other than his own. A few other short texts were written and he coped better with those. Afterwards the meeting ajourned to the local pub and before long Paul was beginning to make friends with all and sundry. He decided he would give the group another chance and return for the next meeting. Now, six years later the group is still going strong, and Paul is very much a part of it.


With his heavy frame Robert pushed the door open and put the three remaining files down on his desk before turning to close the door. He no longer felt even a tinge of guilt over what he was doing. He hadn't done so for months. At first it hadn't been like that. He'd needed a stiff dring every time he altered one of the files. All that was changed. The allure of a life of luxury on a far-off pacific island had been a powerful amnesiac. The act had become easier with each passing week. Yet today, he felt somehow uneasy and couldn't explain why.

He sat down at his desk and contemplated the files, precariously perched on the edge of his desk. Just a few more weeks and the job would be finished. After that they would no longer hear of Robert D. Frost. For a while they would no doubt wonder what had become of him. Then, he would sink into forgetfulness until sometime in the future someone would stumble upon his scheme. But by then, he would be far away, untouchable and living a life of luxury.

Robert closed his eyes. The light strippings sent out their unbearably vivid light. Reflected off the white walls, it gave him a sense of hostility as if his new office had vowed to turn his last weeks in the company to hell. Why had they given him a new office? And why had they given him the only one without a window. He hated it so much, he had even taken to smoking just to have an excuse to get out of the office every now and then. Nobody ever noticed that it was always the same cigarette he stuck between his lips whenever he went out. And since it had disappeared by the time he came back, no ever wondered at not seeing him actually light up.

But maybe that was what was going on. They were just looking for an opportunity to get him out of the office. What if whenever he left, they came to check through his files. Surely, they would know his game by now. The light was giving him a headache now. He needed to get out. But no. If he did that, he'd be playing right into their hands. Mind you, it was too late now. They already knew what he was up to. Visions of nazi style interrogaters using spotlights to make their captors talk flashed in and out of his mind. He had to avoid that at all costs. He had to get away. He had to confess.

He turned on the computer. He would write his confession and then get out. The money he had wouldn't last long, but he could take on a false identity and get a new job. An empty page came up on the screen but words failed him. Finally, he got up and placed all the altered files on his desk. Taking the still unused cigarette out of his jacket pocket he slowly typed out the word SORRY onto the waiting screen before picking up his briefcase and heading off to the car park.

Off Guard

Jay stared at the mess in front of him. He tried to recreate in his mind what had led up to this. He had always got through life without too much difficulty. Indeed, he usually sought away around anything that might threaten to impose difficulties. And this morning everything had seemed so good.

He had got up at eight, slightly later than usual, but it being Sunday, he still had time for a small walk before having to get back and prepare breakfast for his wife and kids. They were going to visit his in-laws for Easter, so they wanted to be away early. Then came the chance remark, the frustration, the useless ping-ponging of words. He wanted his daughter to put the brakes on yet failed to do so himself. His wife only tried to calm the situation but he blew... on her. Within seconds the car pulled to a halt. Jay got out, and started on his way back to town. A few minutes and his wife would be driving back in search of him. She'd never go to her parents without him. Well, this time she would and she did; leaving Jay one hour's worth of regrets as he trekked his way home.

The moment he got in, he checked the phone for any messages. There were none. He was in for a day on his own after all. He checked the fridge. Not quite empty, but nothing very nourishing. After all they weren't planning on eating in until after the long weekend. He'd have to make do with cheese and paté to accompany the still warm French bread he'd bought from the baker on his way back. The Chardonnay would not only help to wash it down. It would also play its part in putting the regrets beyond reach. Well, at least he would be able to watch the game in peace, this afternoon. That would have been impossible at his in-laws. He toasted his new-found luck and tucked into the feast, devouring with crumb with relish, his eyes firmly fixed on the seductive bodies of the cheerleaders as they displayed their talents in the warm up to the game. By kick-off time, had the cameraman pointed his lense through the window of Jay's flat, all he would have seen was a fairly drunken being spread out on his sofa, oblivious to the cheering crowds and the wisecracks of the game commentators.

True, Jay did wake up just in time to see his team score a fantastic goal to, as he thought put them in front after a period of sustained pressure. The dissillusion was bitter as he realised they were, in fact, three goals down with just minutes to go. He got up to go and relieve himself. It was exiting the bathroom that the sight sent him reeling. The one thing he'd sworn never to do, the one thing he'd always been afraid of, the one thing he'd spent years fighting against. Yet there was no mistaking the scene before him. It took him back twenty years, back to the winter afternoons shortly after his mother passed away. And now the past was again rearing its ugly head. Jay was becoming like his father.


Sven didn't have a clue what to his next move should be. He sat across the table from Illona and stared down at the board between them. His mind, however, was on other things. His appointments, or rather the lack of them. Nothing for the next ten days. If his lesson rate kept on like this, he'd be bankrupt in the space of a few months. He looked up at his wife opposite. They weren't speaking. Illona hadn't said a word since he'd first mooted the possibility of his not going back to Romania this year. This was her usual ploy to get what she wanted. First she'd use a flirt. If that didn't work, she refused to speak. It nearly always worked. But today, Sven would not give in. Surely, she could understand how much they would save if he stayed at home. And he might even be able to get back into the summer school scene. He was annoyed at her lack of flexibility. Surely, even she could see that they couldn't go on like this. If they didn't move, something Illona didn't want because it would take her even further away from her ageing parents, then he would have to try something else. But in this hole, all he could find was waiting on the hundreds of tourists who flocked every evening to the two village restaurants and stayed until well past midnight. But doing that would mean giving up his folk music group, something he was not willing to do at any cost.

Illona sat on the other side of the table and wondered how things had come to this point. Sure, times were hard, they were hard for everybody. And they had been through tough times before this. In those days, they had learnt to support each other, and they had made it through. But those days were gone. She could see Sven suffering but didn't know how to support him. And the solutions he proposed were so short term, she could not go along with them. That just made the situation worse. Sven was angry at her for not backing him and he clammed up. He no longer took her into his confidence as he had done before. Besides, he was always attacking her on the subject of her parents. Couldn't he see how needy they were. Being so far away Illona couldn't do much; she knew that. But now Sven wasn't even willing to support her in the little she could do. And all he thought about was his precious musician friends. They were rapidly taking the place she had once had in his life. Was there any way out.

Finally, Sven brought his thoughts back to the game. He wanted to finish it off, a stunning move which would lay the matter at rest once and for all. But he was too tired to look. Instead, he advanced his pawn, trying to put pressure on Illona and force her into a mistake. But the mistake was his. He had left Illona with no avenues open. Illona sighed and spoke her first word since breakfast: Stalemate.


It was meant to be the highlight of their trip. Not their last port of call; no, three more cities remained on their itinerary after Venice. Yet, this was the one they dreamed about the most during the two years planning that had gone into the trip. It was Mattie who had first come up with the idea. This would be a fitting way of celebrating his retirement and catching up on all they'd missed out on during his thirty years at the helm. It took a while for the idea to catch on, but soon it became like their guiding lighthouse, beckoning them onwards, leading them to their dreams. Six months, 14 cities and no one to disturb their reveries.

Jorg ordered another double. This was not the time for thinking clearly. The waitress gave him a smile as she brought the drink. If only he was twenty years younger, he might have tried it on with her. But those days were long gone. A gondola passed underneath the rialto bridge, the young couple inside locked in a fervent embrace. That was how it was meant to be for Mattie and himself. Just like their honeymoon all those years ago. Instead, their dream holiday had turned into one long round of arguments, recriminations and finally solitude.

Everything had begun just 30 mintues after leaving shore when Jorg discovered that exchanging the office for a different kind of helm was a lot more difficult than he had thought. Mattie had laughed at his difficulties... at first. Then her laugh turned to cynicism.

'Who would have thought, darling, that after so many takeovers you engineered in your career, you would begin your retirement stranded at the starting line.'

It took him three whole days to get used to manoeuvring their craft properly, despite those lessons at the yacht club before leaving. By that time their course had been set and the bitching had become reciprocal. It seemed scarcely a day had passed by without one or other of them laying in to the other. Lately, it had become even more frequent, building inexorably up to the clash at the breakfast table that morning.

'I'm so looking forward to the ball this evening darling. We haven't been dancing since your office party last Christmas.'

'And that, I suppose is my fault. You don't seem to realise that retirement doesn't happen overnight. It has to be prepared meticulously. I can't spend every day spinning around the floor in the company of a lot of idiots who...' Jorg saw her reaction, and a warm feeling engulfed him. 'Anyway, if you're so looking forward to the ball, why don't you go and buy yourself a new dress. Then, at least, I'd have a wife worthy of someone of my standing. I may be retired but I still have my image to keep up.'

Mattie didn't say a word in reply. She just stared blankly for several minutes before beginning to tremble. She stood up and looked at him. Her mouth opened but nothing came out. Slowly and calmly she returned to the bedroom. Jorg followed her in not sure whether to continue his mocking or try and make it up with her. He was just in time to see her put her passport in her handbag and walk out. The lighthouse was calling her back home.

Dear Readers,

Or maybe I should say friends, because now that you've been following my comings and goings for so long, that's what I feel you are.

I'm sure you want to know the why and wherefore of my last post. What happened exactly? What's going to happen now? Will I stay in Gensdouce and carry on as if nothing has happened or will I move move on to new pastures? Lots of questions. Where are the answers? As to what happened, I'm sure you will respect my wish to keep silent about that for now. Thinking about this still cause me a lot of pain and I'm not ready to share my feelings with everybody; not yet. Maybe that day will come sometime. Suffice to say that they are copious and varied.

One thing I can say is that my friends in Gensdouce have certainly not left me in the lurch. I have all the support I need and have been showered with many kindnesses. Whenever I feel crushed, they are there to lift me up. As to the future, I just don't know. Maybe I'll move on and maybe we'll meet sometime in your neck of the woods. Or maybe I'll stay here and carry on the work that has been so precious to me and which after all these years I've got into the knack of doing.

And will you hear from me again? Well, not here. But I'm participating in an ongoing debate with my scribe as to the merit of actually turning this into a novel for everyone to read. To be honest, I'm quite keen on the idea but for my scribe it's more like a ride from the mountain tops down into the valley and back up to the mountain tops. Sometimes, he's burning with enthusiasm, at others he's full of doubt. Recently, a friend of his chastised him for not going for it, so now, he can imagine nothing easier; but tomorrow he will once again be full of doubts. I'm pushing him as hard as I can but the battle's not over yet. Of course, that's another reason for not revealing all right now. But when the day comes, and I hope it will, you'll be able to read up all about me.

So until then keep well and God bless,


Newer Posts Older Posts Home

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds