Talk 17 – Non-Stop
Flower lady, there’s a gypsy at the door for you.
Let him in the building. Thanks, have a good evening.
Is that her husband?
Don’t be rude.
He’s not. That’s his errand boy.
Hey fellas, are you talking about me, I am pretty, I know, hide your girlfriends.
Hey most beautiful lady.
Hey, what are you doing here?
Let’s go inside, I have something you better hide from your neighbors.
Oh I miss this place, it’s like living inside the brain of a woman. Better than sex. I will stop drinking brandy if you marry me.
Why are you here?
Ah yes, you white people never rest. Always want the news first, now, no delays, no small talk, no how is the weather, is it raining today? I slept well on the floor of my tent tank you. My wife is less beautiful that you but she cooks better.
I see, is he ok?
No, in fact. You know me I start talking a lot when there is something wrong.
You always talk a lot.
That is true too.
So how is he?
He is sick. We gathered and thought it will do him good if he sees you. You know you mean a lot to him, more than all his gypsy cousins put together. And they all try to bath him in brandy thinking that will cure everything.
I shall come.
Of course you shall. Otherwise I will club you on the head and hope you don’t wake up on the way there.
Are you driving?
Yes, no more horsing. They banned horses in the city. Our traditions don’t mean anything to white people! You know.
It’s late, let me pack a two-day bag, because I will have to stay overnight.
I knew you cared for him. Do you have any brandy?
You shall drink when we get there, not before.
But drinking and driving is the best, I feel like flying. No, the best is riding a horse drunk, the best.
The camp is four hours away by horse. Have a seat and give me ten minutes. You can still talk.
Four hours of the best ride of your life. What else has god given us time for if not to do what we love? Plus, it is more than four if you stop to show ladies in the city parks how to ride. They love it. The car is fine. I can play music very load. I can stop and take a nap. Comfortable, but not interesting. In the car you are hiding from life. You are rushing through life. You want to get from here to there doing important business as love is. But traveling is part of life too, an exceedingly important part, so you have to make it count. Like I almost ran over a dog with a horse before they banned them in the city. The fine lady that owned the beast was so upset but when I told her that I have twelve dogs and I told her their names and stories she started crying then laughing, then we kissed. Don’t tell my wife. I miss my horse.
Of course you are. To the car after you on our way.
Wait in the car, I will lock up.
Another paranoid obsession of white folks. Lock up and protection.
It’s easier if you live in a tent.
And have nothing worth stealing. That is freedom!
For once you are right.
What do you mean? I’m right all the time.
In the car.
Yes, my lady.
This is a new car, you must be doing well.
I am always well. Fasten your seat belt. Your man will skin me alive if something happens to you.
So you do have some fears after all.
We all do.
So tell me, how are you?
I am fine. You know me, I used to have a big house, I worked all my life to build and start my family with my first wife. She cheated on me, I caught them and pulled out my shot gun. They screamed, I didn’t shoot. She sued me, took my house and I went to jail. That is why I can do pull-ups with one hand.
I know that story. How are you now?
I went back home to my mom’s. Back to the camp in the tent. I am getting used to the gypsy life again. My dad passed, so she also needs help. We’re mending each other’s wounds. We have a vegetable garden. She has a pension. I do odd jobs. The county mayor is a good friend of mine and has promised me a steady job.
Tending to the heating system of the school. It’s a good job. Not a very high pay but it’s easy and perfect for me. In the fall I put away the coal and wood deliveries. In the winter I go in the morning and light the furnace, then I just throw a piece of wood in every so often during the day. I have a warm room. In the summer I tend to the grass. It’s perfect for me.
Who’s doing it now?
Oh, he is retired and still doing it. For twenty years he has been doing it. But they just passed a law that if you’re retired you cannot work a government job when there are unemployed people that are not retired. The mayor told me it’s mine. We’re just waiting for the wheel of bureaucracy to turn. The man is on paid leave and by now they cannot let him go while he’s on leave.
Finally we are out of the city.
Ah yes, this is one of the oldest iron ore processing plants.
But its closed now.
Yes, look at the chimneys. If you’ve never seen chimneys, look at them. Twenty-seven poison gushing chimneys. Twenty-five thousand people used to work here. It’s like a small town with it’s own public transport, restaurants, housing. A mini world for gypsies and poor whites.
It’s a thing of the past.
I’m a thing of the past. You are not, you have love and love keeps you young. And he loves you too, god it’s a beautiful, fine and rare thing you two have.
I need a lady as well but who will come to live in the tent with my mom? Someone old like me just for company to watch a movie together, eat, share a bottle of wine. Stay close in the cold nights. I am not asking for much. I will find one.
I know you will.
I just put my winter clothes away. I took my summer ones out. I have ten good shirts and a few cardigans. I have at least seven shorts. They’re all different some are nice, some are for every day. Sandals I have a lot of, too, good sandals, I like them. And shoes, I have some shoes I never took out of the box.
next chapter: TALK 18
previous chapter: TALK 16 – GAMBLE
all chapters: TALK
more by Peter Odeon
photograph by Cameron Offer