New content. Thank whichever god or deity you pray to, or whatever polytheistic beliefs you ascribe, - or subscribe, if it's an online newsletter - to, if you do; if you don't, well that's cool too, epic maybe, to use the slang of the time, can't be a snob, you can still read this too. As I consider that it's been a while since posting an extract, I decided to post material that I have only just recently written. But considering that possibly, perchance, perhaps, one of the sections is redundant for the final novel and will be removed, well I don't mind slapping it up, to not borrow from the current day-speak of our youth soon to be slipping away.
I loathe the word 'just', unless it's used in the context of deriving from justice or you know, whatever. It was a long dilemma for me, minutes, hours, months, to decide whether to remove the one instance of use in the paragraph above. I might still get rid of it.
Please note: Yep, I used the word "Turk."
The street was empty and desolate. On a corner there was a shining beacon: an open bar. Strangely, for all appearance’s sake, it seemed shut. The lights were dimmed. There were no customers and no one was serving. Yet the front door was most certainly open. A sign directed them downstairs for what they needed. They went downstairs.
Downstairs was a tiled, tiny hall with another bar. White tables and chairs filled the hall. The tiles were white. The walls and ceiling were white. The bar was black. The drinks selection was a collection of exotic liquor bottles, the labels all primary colours and promoting names from foreign places. Downstairs wasn’t empty.
Three Turkish men sat at a table. On the table: three conical glasses, filled with black liquid, and a packet of cigarettes. At the bottom of the stairs, there was another sign. Rachel turned right and followed the directions to the toilets. Sean stood, awkwardly out of place.
For a room all white, it was poorly lit and remarkably dim. At the back of the hall, Sean could make out a projector screen. There was also a small stage, slightly raised, and boxes of black equipment.
The Turks watched him out of the corner of their vision. The youngest of the three, in his thirties, wearing a spotless white dress shirt, his face badly marked from acne scars, stood up and walked around the table.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
Sean stammered. “No, it’s ok. We just need to use the toilet, well the lady does, she needs to use it.”
The Turk reacted with a slight movement of his head, not really a nod, and leant against the bar’s counter. He was tall and had very broad shoulders. The older men still didn’t acknowledge Sean. There was the noticeable smell of cigarettes.
From hidden speakers a song started to play. In sync with the music, the projector came to life and a video clip lit up the screen. Yellow subtitles underneath prompted the words: ‘She’s a good girl, loves her mama, Loves Jesus and America too, She’s a good girl, crazy bout Elvis, Loves horses and her boyfriend too’
Sean turned away from the bartender and pretended to be very interested in the décor. Plastic ferns in pots lined the walls. He tapped his foot and looked in the direction of the toilets. The doors and lighting fixtures were newer than the rest of the room, almost a recent addition.
A door hinge creaking and rushing water accompanied Rachel’s entry into the room.
“Ready to go?”
“Yeah,” she said. She hesitated and regarded the Tom Petty video clip and the Turkish men who shifted in her seats to look at her. She didn’t feel any compulsion to dance to the music.
They left without saying goodbye and the men said nothing back to them.
“What the fuck was that about?”
Sean stopped and looked back at the bar’s shopfront.
“Are they dealing drugs in there?”
Rachel laughed. “Let’s go home.”
Sean didn’t argue. The side streets were a winding labyrinth that rose and fell. Only through instinct did they know where they were headed.
A man stood in the doorway to the street entrance of some hotel. The alleyway was too narrow to see the sign. He wore a grey suit with pink pin stripes, cream lapels and golden cuff links. His hair was grey and thin. When Rachel and Sean came upon him he was holding a cigarette to his mouth and fiddling with a golden zippo lighter.
Rachel eyed the smoke.
The man jumped in shock and stopped what he was doing. He held his unlit cigarette at his lips and took in first Rachel and next Sean.
“Can I… uh, may I… like, may I possibly have… one of those cigarettes?”
The wrinkles on his forehead made it impossible to tell if he was frowning, but the narrowing of his eyes told them he was considering his answer. His face broke into a broad smile.
“Why, of course, my dear.”
He reached inside his jacket – the inset stitching was cream – and procured a green cigarette packet. He pulled one out by its filter and offered it to her.
“Sorry, they are menthol. I hope you don’t mind?”
“Uh, no. Can I, may I – ”
Before she could finish the man flicked his Zippo lighter and held the flame out to her.
“Of course you may.”
“Thank you,” said Sean.
The man returned to the hotel foyer with his unlit cigarette. The door locked electronically behind him.
“I was nervous asking him then. I didn’t know what to say.”
They waited for a taxi to barrel down the road and crossed to the other side.
“I was like, ‘uh’ and ‘uhm!’”
She puffed from her cigarette.
“I get nervous talking to old people.”
The footpath overlooked a building site. The ground was being prepared for a skyscraper of some sort. A concrete barricade had been erected to prevent pedestrians from slipping from the path and falling ten stories to the gravel-pit and pipes below.
“Take my photo?” she asked.
“Ok, stand back.”
A streetlight cast a long diagonal shadow through the arches of the barricade. He directed her to stand in the light between the blocks of shade. She stood on the balls of her feet, heel to toe, and delicately posed her hand inches under her chin as she hid the cigarette behind her back.
She didn’t ask to look at the photo.
In the picture, she stood at the end of the long corridor. She was surrounded by darkness. The colour of her dress was washed out. Her face was blacked out and entirely absent.