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No paraíso terrestre, no luminoso dia em que as flores foram criadas, antes que Eva fosse tentada pela serpente, o maligno espírito aproximou-se da mais bela rosa, no momento em que esta estendia, à carícia do celeste sol, a encarnada virgindade dos seus lábios.
– És bela.
– Sou – disse a rosa.
– Bela e feliz – prosseguiu o diabo. – Tens a cor, a graça e o aroma. Mas…
– Não és útil. Não vês estas vastas árvores carregadas de bolotas? Além de frondosas, dão alimento a multidões de seres animados, que se detêm sob os seus ramos. Rosa, ser bela é pouco…
A rosa – tentada, como seria depois a mulher – desejou então a utilidade, de tal modo que houve palidez na sua púrpura.
Passou o bom Deus, depois do romper da aurora.
– Pai – disse aquela princesa floral, agitando-se na sua perfumada beleza – quereis fazer-me útil?
– Seja, minha filha – respondeu o Senhor, sorrindo.
E o mundo viu então a primeira couve.
He had never dwelled on memory’s delights. Impressions slid over him, vivid but ephemeral. A potter’s vermilion; the heavens laden with stars that were also gods; the moon, from which a lion had fallen; the slick feel of marble beneath slow sensitive fingertips; the taste of wild boar meat, eagerly torn by his white teeth; a Phoenician word; the black shadow a lance casts on yellow sand; the nearness of the sea or of a woman; a heavy wine, its roughness cut by honey–these could fill his soul completely. He knew what terror was, but he also knew anger and rage, and once he had been the first to scale an enemy wall. Eager, curious, casual, with no other law than fulfillment and the immediate indifference that ensues, he walked the varied earth and saw, on one seashore or another, the cities of men and their palaces. In crowded marketplaces or at the foot of a mountain whose uncertain peak might be inhabited by satyrs, he had listened to complicated tales which he accepted, as he accepted reality, without asking whether they were true or false.
Gradually now the beautiful universe was slipping away from him. A stubborn mist erased the outline of his hand, the night was no longer peopled by stars, the earth beneath his feet was unsure. Everything was growing distant and blurred. When he knew he was going blind he cried out; stoic modesty had not yet been invented and Hector could flee with impunity. I will not see again, he felt, either the sky filled with mythical dread, or this face that the years will transform. Over this desperation of his flesh passed days and nights. But one morning he awoke; he looked, no longer alarmed, at the dim things that surrounded him; and inexplicably he sensed, as one recognizes a tune or a voice, that now it was over and he had faced it, with fear but also with joy, hope, and curiosity. Then he descended into his memory, which seemed to him endless, and up from that vertigo he succeeded in bringing forth a forgotten recollection that shone like a coin under the rain, perhaps because he had never looked at it, unless in a dream.
The recollection was like this. Another boy had insulted him and he had run to his father and told him about it. His father let him talk as if he were not listening or did not understand; and he took down from the wall a bronze dagger, beautiful and charged with power, which the boy had secretly coveted. Now he had it in his hands and the surprise of possession obliterated the affront he had suffered. But his father’s voice was saying, “Let someone know you are a man,” and there was a command in his voice. The night blotted out the paths; clutching the dagger, in which he felt the foreboding of a magic power, he descended the rough hillside that surrounded the house and ran to the seashore, dreaming he was Ajax and Perseus and peopling the salty darkness with battles and wounds. The exact taste of that moment was what he was seeking now; the rest did not matter: the insults of the duel, the rude combat, the return home with the bloody blade.
Another memory, in which there was also a night and an imminence of adventure, sprang out of that one. A woman, the first the gods set aside for him, had waited for him in the shadow of a hypogeum, and he had searched for her through the corridors that were like stone nets, along slopes that sank into the shadow. Why did those memories come back to him, and why did they come without bitterness, as a mere foreshadowing of the present?
In grave amazement he understood. In this night too, in this night of his mortal eyes into this he was now descending, love and danger were again waiting. Ares and Aphrodite, for already he divined (already it encircled him) a murmur of glory and hexameters, a murmur of men defending a temple the gods will not save, and of black vessels searching the sea for a beloved isle, the murmur of the Odysseys and Iliads it was his destiny to sing and leave echoing concavely in the memory of man. These things we know, but not those that he felt when he descended into the last shade of all.
(From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Mildred Boyer)
It wasn’t common during socialism for families to have three children. They either had one or two, or none. In our building, only our family and the gypsies on the second floor had three kids. That always made me suspicious. I would look at my mother’s long dark hair, dark makeup, and peculiar taste in bright colors and I’d be like: There’s no way she is not a gypsy.
I have a birthmark above my butt, which is undeniable proof of gypsiness, ask anyone. Birthmark above the butt, and a small dot under any number 3 in your passport—this was how you knew you were a gypsy, according to the kids in my building.
My mother’s official version was that when she was pregnant with me (out of wedlock, let the record show), she stole a plum. When they caught her, she hid it behind her back. If a pregnant woman steals or was startled and then touches her face or body, her baby will have a birthmark in the shape of the stolen thing at the same spot she touched. So pregnant women would often throw their hands away from themselves whenever they stole or when they were afraid of something. You often saw these women, standing like balls with two arms sticking out on each side, like snowmen. Whenever I saw a pregnant woman I would run in the opposite direction. I didn’t want to be near the hands that left marks on everything they touched.
“Why didn’t you buy a pound of plums? Or just ask politely for one. Why would you steal like a gypsy?”
“Hormones,” she answered. ”You don’t think properly when you’re pregnant, you’ll see.”
“I don’t want to see, I’m ten.”
“Plus,” she added, “I could always find you by your birthmark if you got lost.”
My mother quit stealing after I was born, so my brother and sister ended up with no birthmarks and were jealous of me. They lived in constant fear that sooner or later she’d lose them somewhere. It was just a matter of when. Buses and trains were torture. A trip to the women’s market in the center of the city always turned into a tragedy. My siblings screamed and refused to get on the bus, because if the doors closed before my mother got on, that would be the end. We’d never see them again. They would live between umbrellas and purses in the lost and found department, until they turned ninety, no one to recognize them.
Because of this fear of separation we learned to love each other and cherish moments of togetherness, since any one of them might be our last. While trains and buses roared around like kidnapping machines, we were obsessively holding onto hands, legs, hair, and parts of each other’s clothes, so we could literally be in touch.
Some days our parents called us Huns, because of our excessive running around, yelling and breaking property. My mother yelled at us that grass was not going to grow in our wake. We were happy to have this power, though we didn’t know how to use it in our small apartment. Other times, my parents looked at each other and said, “Barbarians.” We were proud since any agreement between those two was rare.
Our barbarian days went something like this:
The three of us, smelly and itchy, clinging to each other, waiting for the gasoline and vinegar in our hair to start the killing. We had lice. Our heads were wrapped in bright turbans made from my mother’s old hippie skirts. She was reading my left palm to see if I was going to pass my math test. With one hand, my sister was holding my nose, and with the other she was drawing skulls and bones on my brother’s arm with a red pen. With his left hand he was holding her foot, and with his right, the table. We were always prepared in case somebody tried to separate us by force.
Loud arias from Carmen would waft in from the living room radio. They were the background my father needed to get a tick out of Charlie’s ear. Charlie was our Irish setter, named after Charlie Chaplin. Carmen, herself a barbarian of some sort, had moments where she sang too high, and Charlie howled with her for a while, then lay his head back obediently on my father’s lap to be cleaned. Fighting parasites was a big part of life, especially when you had so much life running around in your tiny apartment.
My father was an artist and the biggest opera lover I knew. He wasn’t an opera goer though, because as he’d explain it, he didn’t own a suit to go in. He’d worn a suit only once in his life, on his wedding day, and even that one had been borrowed. That was proof he wasn’t a gypsy, because they wore suits all the time. Dirty, shaggy, wrinkled, but suits, nevertheless. But on the other hand, as my grandmother liked to repeat daily, “Whoever you join, that’s who you become,” meaning—he’d joined my mother, and become a gypsy.
We had reasonably normal childhoods for a bunch of barbarians, and our days continued something like this:
The toilet seat fell thunderously every fifteen minutes; the faucets ran noisily all the time; the TV, the radio, and the parakeets were competitive chirping, volume on max, all of them winning. In the same time slot and on the same channel, you could also listen to a battle between the phone, the doorbell, and the dog. The apartment smelled of burnt toast, or cake, or hair. Somebody was yelling at somebody else, I’m not going to name names, because I was asked not to air my family’s dirty laundry, but all the yellers and the yellees were blood-related. Outside, three car alarms, with the complicated new five-song repertoire, were ringing simultaneously. A big night for car thieves, but at least those were two problems we didn’t have to deal with: first, we didn’t own a car, and second, our tribe didn’t steal anymore.
My mother took out the garbage (lice, ticks, and everything else), tied up the bag, and dropped it in front of our door—not next to it, in front. She expected one of us to trip on it, feel guilty, and take it down to the dumpster. We never did. The four of us and the dog would jump over the trash bag and continue about our day. The neighbor, a respectable man in a suit and also a huge opera fan, would cave in and throw it out for us. But my mother was convinced that one of us had done it, and was pleased with her modern pedagogical techniques. The neighbor stopped saying hello, but continued to throw out our trash, out of civic duty or pity. For some reason, we didn’t care.
Money was a dirty word, my father thought. His encounters with money went something like this:
He would hold the money, in small denominations, away from his body. With his elbow, he would push away the opponent’s hand offering him money in a battle over who should pay for a cup of coffee. He somehow always won, and paid, and then turned back to us to explain that it is not a matter of money, but rather of dignity. He had enough dignity to pay off Bulgaria’s national debt, but did not have the money.
My mother would shout at him, “How can you be so naïve, beh?” They never cursed but instead used “beh”—an insulting way of addressing someone by making him sound stupid and stubborn, like a cross between a sheep and a mule. We were told to not say “beh” but they always would.
“And why are you so mercantile, beh?” he would shout from the other room and slam the door.
She would run after him, open the door, and wave her broom threateningly, because she was constantly “cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry” (and liked to chant it in that order, too).
“Who are you calling mercantile, beh, if I was mercantile would I be married to an artist?” This is pronounced with a grimace of disgust and irony.
“Oh, village woman, you will never understand!” (probably a line from Verdi), and he slams the door in her face. She opens the door and yells, “Who are you calling a village woman, beh? Varna is a European city! Look at where you were born!” He knew he was the one born in a village, during a World War II evacuation. And this would go on for as long as needed.
I locked myself in the bathroom, the only room with a key, and studied for a math test in the empty bathtub. Ignoring the knocking on the door, I periodically flushed the toilet, to make it all sound real. I was enjoying (you may say) privacy, only that the word did not exist in Bulgarian, neither did the concept. I wrote my equations on the mirror with a piece of soap, even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to write on mirrors. You were also not supposed to look at yourself in the mirror in the dark, because you would become ugly. And most of all you were not supposed to break the mirror, which somehow I managed to do by pressing too hard with the soap. Seven years of bad luck were to follow.
This is how a suicide attempt became the only option. I decided to leave the apartment so as not to contaminate them all with the bad luck I was to bring. Next to the giant dumpster in front of the apartment building was the big gray electrical box with a red sign “Do not touch, dangerous for your life” and a drawing of a lightning bolt and a skull and crossbones below it.
I went and touched. I don’t remember how long I stayed there quietly crying (I was always a quiet person). There were things in life I loved and only realized it after I touched the box. Red sugar roosters and bunnies, merry-go-rounds, hot dogs, Pifmagazine, my brother and sister, and most of all, swimming with a life preserver.
While I was waiting for death to come and take me to a better place, Crazy Mary appeared out of nowhere. We were all afraid of her and her cartful of cardboard to recycle. She was always yelling at kids and waving around a gun-shaped lollipop. She always carried some of those with her and tried to get children to come closer. She looked like the witch from Hansel and Gretel, enticing you with sweets to fatten you up so she could eat you. We would scream and run away as fast as we could. Somehow on the day of my suicide attempt I didn’t run. I took the revolver from her. She patted me on the head and took my hand and moved it way from the electrical box. Then she left. The candy revolver tasted really good and lasted twice as long as a sugar rooster. But it was more expensive.
Realizing I was immortal, I started betting with the neighborhood kids that for twenty cents I could touch the skull and crossbones box. I decided to buy a bike, and I would only need to touch the box 425 more times. But there weren’t that many kids in the building, so around the eighteenth time my enterprise slowed down. I didn’t have enough for the whole bike, only for a handlebar and maybe a bell. I went and purchased all the lollipop revolvers they had in the store and distributed them fairly between my friends and family. We stayed in front of the skull and crossbones sign like a bunch of savages, sugar guns in our mouths, and in the eyes—no fear whatsoever.
THERE WERE film majors in my bed— they talked about film. There were poets, coxswains, guys trying to grow beards.
“Kids get really scared when their dad grows a beard,” I said.
Finally, I had an audience. I helped a pitcher understand the implications of his team’s hazing ritual. I encouraged indecisive dancer-anthropologists to double major. When a guy apologized for being sweaty, I got him a small towel. I made people feel good.
Then I took a break. Then I forgot that I was taking a break. Spring was here. Jake was here. Also Josh. One dancer-anthropologist dropped anthropology, just did dance. He danced with honors.
“Mazel tov,” I said.
The bed moved. Movers moved it. Movers asked what my dad did, why he wasn’t moving the bed.
New guys came to the bed. New guys had been in the Gulf War, had been bisexual, had taken out teeth, had taken out ads. Musical types left CDs with their names markered on— I kept a pile. I was careful not to smudge them, scratch them. (Scratch that, I wasn’t careful.)
“So many musicians in this city,” I observed, topless.
Boxer shorts were like laundry even on their bodies. Guys burrowed down for not long enough, popped up, smiled.
Did I have something? Did I have anything?
Something, anything, went in the trash, except one, which didn’t. One hadn’t gone on in the first place.
After, cell phones jingled: Be Bop, Mariachi Medley, Chicken Dance, Die Alone.
Nervous, I felt nervous. There was mariachi in the trains, or else it was just one guy playing “La Bamba.” I slow-danced into clinic waiting rooms. Receptionists told me to relax and try to enjoy the weekend, since we wouldn’t know anything till Monday. Sunday I lost it, banged my face against the bed. Be easy, girl, I thought. Be bop. Something was definitely wrong with me— I never called myself “girl.” I played CDs, but CDs by artists who had already succeeded. They had succeeded for a reason. They weren’t wasting time in my bed. One did pass through the bed, to brag. He had been divorced, had met Madonna.
He asked, “Is this what women are like now?”
Schiff, Rebecca (2016-04-12). The Bed Moved: Stories (Kindle Locations 79-90). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
In April of 1959–five years before her death at the age of 39 from lupus–O’Connor ventured away from her secluded family farm in Milledgeville, Georgia, to give a reading at Vanderbilt University. She read one of her most famous and unsettling stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The audio, accessible above, is one of two known recordings of the author reading that story. (The other, from a 1957 appearance at Notre Dame University, can be heard here.)
Jason Burns and Peter Dodd of United Talent Agency || 310.273.6700
Jill McElroy of Management 360 || 310.272.7000
Based on the short story of the same name by Donald Barthelme (originally published in the New Yorker Magazine in 1978), and read by author Salman Rushdie, “Concerning the Bodyguard” is a story about power, conspiracy, and the overthrow of a dictator in an unknown Near Eastern country. With Salman Rushdie’s reading as the only audio in the film, the images bring to life a series questions being posed by an omniscient narrator about the views and loyalties of a bodyguard, among a group of bodyguards entrusted with the protection of an important and dubious leader. The film explores the nuances of this relationship as well as shows what can potentially happen when a bodyguard intentionally or unintentionally relaxes his guard.
C R E W
Producers..............................................................Jose Nunez, Zamin Mirza
Associate Producer..............................................Adam Gould
Editors...................................................................Tyler Nelson, Anton Capaldo-Smith
Director Of Photography......................................Alexander Alexandrov
Art Director...........................................................Callie Andreadis
Costume Designer................................................Anna Seltzer
Prop Masters........................................................Rachel Kondrat, Melissa Harrison
Original Music.......................................................Annabelle Cazes
Casting Directors..................................................Paul Head, Desiree Mandelbaum
C A S T
The Principal................Sion Ebrahimi
The Bodyguard.............Junes Zahdi
The New Bodyguard....Billy Khoury
The Driver.....................Zaid Abro
Bodyguard 2.................Alen Matters
Bodyguard 3.................Salman Nisar
Bodyguard 4.................Jason Eftimoski
Bodyguard 5.................Gavin Sindher
Bodyguard 6.................Ian VerdunIroning
Bearded Man 1.............Abdi Zadeh
Bearded Man 2.............Saman Arjamand
Bearded Man 3.............Zubin Zehtab
Bearded Man 4.............Roozbeh Zehtab
Bearded Man 5.............Zamin Mirza
Bearded Man 6.............Daniel Schuman
Jason Burns : UTA
Peter Dodd : UTA
Jill McElroy : Management 360
The door of Henry’s lunchroom opened and two men came in. They sat down at the counter.
“What’s yours?” George asked them.
“I don’t know,” one of the men said. “What do you want to eat, Al?”
“I don’t know,” said Al. “I don’t know what I want to eat.”
Outside it was getting dark. The street-light came on outside the window. The two men at the counter read the menu. From the other end of the counter Nick Adams watched them. He had been talking to George when they came in.
“I’ll have a roast pork tenderloin with apple sauce and mashed potatoes,” the first man said.
“It isn’t ready yet.”
“What the hell do you put it on the card for?”
“That’s the dinner,” George explained. “You can get that at six o’clock.”
George looked at the clock on the wall behind the counter.
“It’s five o’clock.”
“The clock says twenty minutes past five,” the second man said.
“It’s twenty minutes fast.”
“Oh, to hell with the clock,” the first man said. “What have you got to eat?”
“I can give you any kind of sandwiches,” George said. “You can have ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver and bacon, or a steak.”
“Give me chicken croquettes with green peas and cream sauce and mashed potatoes.”
“That’s the dinner.”
“Everything we want’s the dinner, eh? That’s the way you work it.”
“I can give you ham and eggs, bacon and eggs, liver...”
“I’ll take ham and eggs,” the man called Al said. He wore a derby hat and a black overcoat buttoned across the chest. His face was small and white and he had tight lips. He wore a silk muffler and gloves.
“Give me bacon and eggs,” said the other man. He was about the same size as Al. Their faces were different, but they were dressed like twins. Both wore overcoats too tight for them. They sat leaning forward, their elbows on the counter.
“Got anything to drink?” Al asked.
“Silver beer, bevo, ginger-ale,” George said.
“I mean you got anything to drink?”
“Just those I said.”
“This is a hot town,” said the other. “What do they call it?”
“Ever hear of it?” Al asked his friend.
“No,” said the friend.
“What do you do here nights?” Al asked.
“They eat the dinner,” his friend said. “They all come here and eat the big dinner.”
“That’s right,” George said.
“So you think that’s right?” Al asked George.
“You’re a pretty bright boy, aren’t you?”
“Sure,” said George.
“Well, you’re not,” said the other little man. “Is he, Al?”
“He’s dumb,” said Al. He turned to Nick. “What’s your name?”
“Another bright boy,” Al said. “Ain’t he a bright boy, Max?”
“The town’s full of bright boys,” Max said.
George put the two platters, one of ham and eggs, the other of bacon and eggs, on the counter. He set down two side-dishes of fried potatoes and closed the wicket into the kitchen.
“Which is yours?” he asked Al.
“Don’t you remember?”
“Ham and eggs.”
“Just a bright boy,” Max said. He leaned forward and took the ham and eggs. Both men ate with their gloves on. George watched them eat.
“What are you looking at?” Max looked at George.
“The hell you were. You were looking at me.”
“Maybe the boy meant it for a joke, Max,” Al said.
“You don’t have to laugh,” Max said to him. “You don’t have to laugh at all, see?”
“All right,” said George.
“So he thinks it’s all right.” Max turned to Al. “He thinks it’s all right. That’s a good one.”
“Oh, he’s a thinker,” Al said. They went on eating.
“What’s the bright boy’s name down the counter?” Al asked Max.
“Hey, bright boy,” Max said to Nick. “You go around on the other side of the counter with your boy friend.”
“What’s the idea?” Nick asked.
“There isn’t any idea.”
“You better go around, bright boy,” Al said. Nick went around behind the counter.
“What’s the idea?” George asked.
“None of your damn business,” Al said. “Who’s out in the kitchen?”
“What do you mean the nigger?”
“The nigger that cooks.”
“Tell him to come in.”
“What’s the idea?”
“Tell him to come in.”
“Where do you think you are?”
“We know damn well where we are,” the man called Max said. “Do we look silly?”
“You talk silly,” Al said to him. “What the hell do you argue with this kid for? Listen,” he said to George, “tell the nigger to come out here.”
“What are you going to do to him?”
“Nothing. Use your head, bright boy. What would we do to a nigger?”
George opened the slit that opened back into the kitchen. “Sam,” he called. “Come in here a minute.”
The door to the kitchen opened and the nigger came in. “What was it?” he asked. The two men at the counter took a look at him.
“All right, nigger. You stand right there,” Al said.
Sam, the nigger, standing in his apron, looked at the two men sitting at the counter. “Yes, sir,” he said. Al got down from his stool.
“I’m going back to the kitchen with the nigger and bright boy,” he said. “Go on back to the kitchen, nigger. You go with him, bright boy.” The little man walked after Nick and Sam, the cook, back into the kitchen. The door shut after them. The man called Max sat at the counter opposite George. He didn’t look at George but looked in the mirror that ran along back of the counter. Henry’s had been made over from a saloon into a lunch counter.
“Well, bright boy,” Max said, looking into the mirror, “why don’t you say something?”
“What’s it all about?”
“Hey, Al,” Max called, “bright boy wants to know what it’s all about.”
“Why don’t you tell him?” Al’s voice came from the kitchen.
“What do you think it’s all about?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you think?”
Max looked into the mirror all the time he was talking.
“I wouldn’t say.”
“Hey, Al, bright boy says he wouldn’t say what he thinks it’s all about.”
“I can hear you, all right,” Al said from the kitchen. He had propped open the slit that dishes passed through into the kitchen with a catsup bottle. “Listen, bright boy,” he said from the kitchen to George. “Stand a little further along the bar. You move a little to the left, Max.” He was like a photographer arranging for a group picture.
“Talk to me, bright boy,” Max said. “What do you think’s going to happen?”
George did not say anything.
“I’ll tell you,” Max said. “We’re going to kill a Swede. Do you know a big Swede named Ole Andreson?”
“He comes here to eat every night, don’t he?”
“Sometimes he comes here.”
“He comes here at six o’clock, don’t he?”
“If he comes.”
“We know all that, bright boy,” Max said. “Talk about something else. Ever go to the movies?”
“Once in a while.”
“You ought to go to the movies more. The movies are fine for a bright boy like you.”
“What are you going to kill Ole Andreson for? What did he ever do to you?”
“He never had a chance to do anything to us. He never even seen us.”
“And he’s only going to see us once,” Al said from the kitchen.
“What are you going to kill him for, then?” George asked.
“We’re killing him for a friend. Just to oblige a friend, bright boy.”
“Shut up,” said Al from the kitchen. “You talk too goddam much.”
“Well, I got to keep bright boy amused. Don’t I, bright boy?”
“You talk too damn much,” Al said. “The nigger and my bright boy are amused by themselves. I got them tied up like a couple of girl friends in the convent.”
“I suppose you were in a convent.”
“You never know.”
“You were in a kosher convent. That’s where you were.”
George looked up at the clock.
“If anybody comes in you tell them the cook is off, and if they keep after it, you tell them you’ll go back and cook yourself. Do you get that, bright boy?”
“All right,” George said. “What you going to do with us afterward?”
“That’ll depend,” Max said. “That’s one of those things you never know at the time.”
George looked up at the clock. It was a quarter past six. The door from the street opened. A street-car motorman came in.
“Hello, George,” he said. “Can I get supper?”
“Sam’s gone out,” George said. “He’ll be back in about half an hour.”
“I’d better go up the street,” the motorman said. George looked at the clock. It was twenty minutes past six.
“That was nice, bright boy,” Max said. “You’re a regular little gentleman.”
“He knew I’d blow his head off,” Al said from the kitchen.
“No,” said Max. “It ain’t that. Bright boy is nice. He’s a nice boy. I like him.”
At six-fifty-five George said: “He’s not coming.”
Two other people had been in the lunch-room. Once George had gone out to the kitchen and made a ham-and-egg sandwich “to go” that a man wanted to take with him. Inside the kitchen he saw Al, his derby hat tipped back, sitting on a stool beside the wicket with the muzzle of a sawed-off shotgun resting on the ledge. Nick and the cook were back to back in the corner, a towel tied in each of their mouths. George had cooked the sandwich, wrapped it up in oiled paper, put it in a bag, brought it in, and the man had paid for it and gone out.
“Bright boy can do everything,” Max said. “He can cook and everything. You’d make some girl a nice wife, bright boy.”
“Yes?” George said. “Your friend, Ole Andreson, isn’t going to come.”
“We’ll give him ten minutes,” Max said.
Max watched the mirror and the clock. The hands of the clock marked seven o’clock, and then five minutes past seven.
“Come on, Al,” said Max. “We better go. He’s not coming.”
“Better give him five minutes,” Al said from the kitchen.
In the five minutes a man came in, and George explained that the cook was sick.
“Why the hell don’t you get another cook?” the man asked. “Aren’t you running a lunch-counter?” He went out.
“Come on, Al,” Max said.
“What about the two bright boys and the nigger?”
“They’re all right.”
“You think so?”
“Sure. We’re through with it.”
“I don’t like it,” said Al. “It’s sloppy. You talk too much.”
“Oh, what the hell,” said Max. “We got to keep amused, haven’t we?”
“You talk too much, all the same,” Al said. He came out from the kitchen. The cut-off barrels of the shotgun made a slight bulge under the waist of his too tight-fitting overcoat. He straightened his coat with his gloved hands.
“So long, bright boy,” he said to George. “You got a lot of luck.”
“That’s the truth,” Max said. “You ought to play the races, bright boy.”
The two of them went out the door. George watched them, through the window, pass under the arc-light and across the street. In their tight overcoats and derby hats they looked like a vaudeville team. George went back through the swinging door into the kitchen and untied Nick and the cook.
“I don’t want any more of that,” said Sam, the cook. “I don’t want any more of that.”
Nick stood up. He had never had a towel in his mouth before.
“Say,” he said. “What the hell?” He was trying to swagger it off.
“They were going to kill Ole Andreson,” George said. “They were going to shoot him when he came in to eat.”
The cook felt the corners of his mouth with his thumbs.
“They all gone?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said George. “They’re gone now.”
“I don’t like it,” said the cook. “I don’t like any of it at all.”
“Listen,” George said to Nick. “You better go see Ole Andreson.”
“You better not have anything to do with it at all,” Sam, the cook, said. “You better stay way out of it.”
“Don’t go if you don’t want to,” George said.
“Mixing up in this ain’t going to get you anywhere,” the cook said. “You stay out of it.”
“I’ll go see him,” Nick said to George. “Where does he live?”
The cook turned away.
“Little boys always know what they want to do,” he said.
“He lives up at Hirsch’s rooming-house,” George said to Nick.
“I’ll go up there.”
Outside the arc-light shone through the bare branches of a tree. Nick walked up the street beside the car-tracks and turned at the next arc-light down a side-street. Three houses up the street was Hirsch’s rooming-house. Nick walked up the two steps and pushed the bell. A woman came to the door.
“Is Ole Andreson here?”
“Do you want to see him?”
“Yes, if he’s in.”
Nick followed the woman up a flight of stairs and back to the end of a corridor. She knocked on the door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s somebody to see you, Mr. Andreson,” the woman said.
“It’s Nick Adams.”
Nick opened the door and went into the room. Ole Andreson was lying on the bed with all his clothes on. He had been a heavyweight prize-fighter and he was too long for the bed. He lay with his head on two pillows. He did not look at Nick.
“What was it?” he asked.
“I was up at Henry’s,” Nick said, “and two fellows came in and tied up me and the cook, and they said they were going to kill you.”
It sounded silly when he said it. Ole Andreson said nothing.
“They put us out in the kitchen,” Nick went on. “They were going to shoot you when you came in to supper.”
Ole Andreson looked at the wall and did not say anything.
“George thought I better come and tell you about it.”
“There isn’t anything I can do about it,” Ole Andreson said.
“I’ll tell you what they were like.”
“I don’t want to know what they were like,” Ole Andreson said. He looked at the wall. “Thanks for coming to tell me about it.”
“That’s all right.”
Nick looked at the big man lying on the bed.
“Don’t you want me to go and see the police?”
“No,” Ole Andreson said. “That wouldn’t do any good.”
“Isn’t there something I could do?”
“No. There ain’t anything to do.”
“Maybe it was just a bluff.”
“No. It ain’t just a bluff.”
Ole Andreson rolled over toward the wall.
“The only thing is,” he said, talking toward the wall, “I just can’t make up my mind to go out. I been in here all day.”
“Couldn’t you get out of town?”
“No,” Ole Andreson said. “I’m through with all that running around.”
He looked at the wall.
“There ain’t anything to do now.”
“Couldn’t you fix it up some way?”
“No. I got in wrong.” He talked in the same flat voice. “There ain’t anything to do. After a while I’ll make up my mind to go out.”
“I better go back and see George,” Nick said.
“So long,” said Ole Andreson. He did not look toward Nick. “Thanks for coming around.”
Nick went out. As he shut the door he saw Ole Andreson with all his clothes on, lying on the bed looking at the wall.
“He’s been in his room all day,” the landlady said downstairs. “I guess he don’t feel well. I said to him: ‘Mr. Andreson, you ought to go out and take a walk on a nice fall day like this,’ but he didn’t feel like it.”
“He doesn’t want to go out.”
“I’m sorry he don’t feel well,” the woman said. “He’s an awfully nice man. He was in the ring, you know.”
“I know it.”
“You’d never know it except from the way his face is,” the woman said. They stood talking just inside the street door. “He’s just as gentle.”
“Well, good-night, Mrs. Hirsch,” Nick said.
“I’m not Mrs. Hirsch,” the woman said. “She owns the place. I just look after it for her. I’m Mrs. Bell.”
“Well, good-night, Mrs. Bell,” Nick said.
“Good-night,” the woman said.
Nick walked up the dark street to the corner under the arc-light, and then along the car-tracks to Henry’s eating-house. George was inside, back of the counter.
“Did you see Ole?”
“Yes,” said Nick. “He’s in his room and he won’t go out.”
The cook opened the door from the kitchen when he heard Nick’s voice.
“I don’t even listen to it,” he said and shut the door.
“Did you tell him about it?” George asked.
“Sure. I told him but he knows what it’s all about.”
“What’s he going to do?”
“They’ll kill him.”
“I guess they will.”
“He must have got mixed up in something in Chicago.”
“I guess so,” said Nick.
“It’s a hell of a thing.”
“It’s an awful thing,” Nick said.
They did not say anything. George reached down for a towel and wiped the counter.
“I wonder what he did?” Nick said.
“Double-crossed somebody. That’s what they kill them for.”
“I’m going to get out of this town,” Nick said.
“Yes,” said George. “That’s a good thing to do.”
“I can’t stand to think about him waiting in the room and knowing he’s going to get it. It’s too damned awful.”
“Well,” said George, “you better not think about it.”
You can read the story yourself here.
O The Guardian fez um especial de fim-de-semana com sete novos contos de vários autores, incluindo gente como Will Self, Dave Eggers ou David Sedaris. Mais do que isso, colocou no Soundcloud versões lidas dos mesmos e algumas conversas a propósito. Ficam aqui três exemplos.