Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sample Sunday. 'One Summer in France'.

Excerpt from 'One Summer in France' (prequel to 'Bunny on a Bike' - humorous memoir of a Playboy croupier).

I started reading Lolita, which I had found at reception, on a small bookcase filled with reading matter left by holidaymakers, for other holidaymakers to borrow.  I had already read it, but this time I noticed the internal lyricism of the text.  It was beautiful and at the same time mildly distasteful.  I pictured Humbert Humbert clearly and found him to be more of a slime ball, as now I could see the wetness of his licked lips when he spoke.  Lolita was of course a lisping trollop of the first order, but even so, I still believed her innocent, to a certain degree.  I looked around the pool at the middle-aged men and the children playing.  The book had made my fellow poolside malingerers into monsters so that, in the end, I was forced to put it away. 
I thought about asking the woman nearest me for a read of her Cosmopolitan, just to take my mind off Nabokov and his filthy preoccupations.
‘Excuse me!  Would you mind if I had a look at your magazine?’
The woman took off her sunglasses, tilted her head and smiled in an overly genuine way.  ‘No, of course not.’
Her name was Barbara and she was a dancer.  He daughter, Beatrice, was in the pool and she was a dancer too.  I expressed great interest for five minutes and then snuck back to my lounger for a quiet read of some entertaining nonsense.
I was half-way through an article on whether it was wrong to use your feminine wiles to get round your boss, when I was aware of a shadow between my beautifully tanning thighs and the sun.
‘Hello.  I’m Beatrice.’
It appeared that Beatrice had no sense of other people having a life that did not include listening to the teenage musings of a girl who had opinions on most things and wasn’t afraid of voicing them.  She declared, almost immediately, that my hair was not natural, my bikini the wrong colour for my skin and my nails not shaped properly.  She went on to explain why these things were important and what I should do to put them right.
‘I hope Bea isn’t disturbing you,’ said Barbara, who looked as though she were leaving.
Don’t you dare bugger off and leave your precocious daughter for me to look after!
‘No, not at all!’ I assured her.
‘Well, I’m just going for a coffee.  If you need me, Bea, I’ll be just-’
‘All right, Mum!’ replied Bea, rolling her eyes at me.
Think of something!
It turned out that I had been struck dumb and was stranded.  Even when, fifteen minutes later, I gathered up my things and said that I was going back to my tent, Beatrice followed me.  She wanted to know where I was staying so that she could come and see me whenever she wanted, she explained amicably, taking my unproffered arm.
I took a circuitous route, hoping that she would get bored or scared and go back to her mother.  I stopped at the toilet block and, once inside one of the cubicles, wondered whether I could climb through the window and escape before she noticed.
‘Which one are you in, Bev?’  she cried, pushing the doors.  ‘Ah ha!  Found you!’ she said, sticking her foot under my door.
‘I think you might need to go back now,’ I said.
‘We have dinner at 7.00,’ she replied, obtusely.
It was only 5.00.  My internal scream mechanism was on overload.  What could I do? 
‘I’m going for a wee, too,’ she said.
Quick!  Run away!
‘Okay.  Good.’
‘Wait for me.’
Not likely!
I wove in and out of a few emplacements, crouching behind an occasional tent to see if she passed by.  The campsite was quite big and I was pretty sure I had shaken her off.

‘Why didn’t you wait!’ said a voice, behind me.
‘Oh, sorry.  I thought you were with me,’ I lied.
She looked at me.  She knew I was lying, but she didn’t care.  Young girls are like leeches; they want blood and won’t fall off until they are satisfied.
So, for the next hour and a quarter I was forced to answer questions about everything under the sun and was treated to several displays of her flexibility and forced to admire her dance moves.  She would casually put a leg behind her head and tell me that she was going to be a famous dancer one day.  She could do the splits, stand on her hands as well as she could stand on her feet and pirouette until I was dizzy.
I could feel the mass of the Earth’s core dragging me towards it and, given the choice, I would willingly have succumbed to an increase in gravity that would suck me underground and allow me to hide with the worms for a while.  My brain hurt, my eyes were bored with looking at her, I wanted her to evaporate, and did everything in my power to will her sudden disappearance by any and every possible means.
Go away!
I heard the thought getting stronger.
Go away!  Go away!  GO AWAY!
The sentiment glowed like white heat inside my head.
‘I think you should go, now,’ I said, reasonably.
Beatrice was sitting cross-legged in front of me telling me about another girl in her dance class who considered herself, apparently erroneously, to be the best dancer.  At my suggestion, she stopped talking and stood up gracefully. 
‘What time is it?’  she asked.
I looked at the alarm clock in my bag.  It was 6.15.
‘Coming up for 7.00,’ I said.
With that, she did a sort of skip and ran off in the direction of the centre, calling to me over her shoulder, ‘See you later!’
‘Not if I see you first!’  I muttered, deciding there and then that I would never have children.

When Carol and Dave got back at 8.00 I was playing dead in my tent.  I heard their approach and stuck my head out, making sure the coast was clear.  Carol laughed and said that I was a dullard and I said that she mustn’t leave me alone with Beatrice under any circumstances.
‘We’ve got some chips and a funny kind of sausage for you,’ she said, handing over a polystyrene box.
Dave was wearing a beatific grin and a little smear of ketchup on his upper lip.  He lay down on the grass and closed his eyes.
I watched as Carol got out her makeup bag and bent over him.  The result was rather fetching in a pantomime dame kind of way, although I would have preferred her to have taken my advice and done a Malcolm McDowell eye.
At precisely nine o’clock, we heard Beatrice arrive outside our tent.  And, a few seconds later, we heard her scream and run away.
She wouldn’t be back.

Dave didn’t find out that he had green eye shadow, pink cheeks and ‘KILLER’ written in black eyeliner across his forehead until he went for a shower much, much later.

If you would like to read more of 'One Summer in France' there are links to all my books on Amazon at the top of this page.

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