Books: Brrm! Brrm! — Chapter 6 |
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Suzuki woke gasping from a nightmare in which he had been forced to give a lecture, in English, full of words like ‘elm’, ‘pulp’ and ‘emblem’. The most unsettling feature of the nightmare was that the lecture was given on board a World War II British battleship being attacked by Japanese torpedo bombers. He was not, however, a prisoner-of-war. He was a visiting lecturer. Insouciant British officers in white summer uniforms sat in rows laughing at his mistakes while he prayed for one of the torpedoes to score a hit. Multiple pom-poms pocked the sky. The uproar was deafening but unfortunately his voice could be heard almost as clearly as the laughter. ‘Obviously, reliable logistic estimates will bulk particularly large in strategic importance,’ he had been trying to say. The first word had taken what seemed like twenty minutes and during the second word he had woken breathless.

He must have slept for hours. The light in the room was all artificial and stunningly bright. Outside the window it was dark. Jane swayed drunkenly before him. She was leaning on everything within reach. It took a long time for her story to emerge. Apparently the man at the delicatessen had wanted her to give him quite a lot of money before he would let her buy anything. She said that when she and the man at the deli had been having their love affair she had been allowed to take home any food items she felt like but now he was saying that she owed him for it. Anyway, she paid him off and bought some stuff and then she went off with him for a drink at the pub and then back to the back room of the shut-up shop but he still wouldn’t give her the money back. Anyway, she had got the things to eat and there was something to drink, which she had bought at the classy bottle-shop where there was another man she knew who said she owed him money. No, he wasn’t the owner, he was just a man she knew. While saying all this she was laying out the contents of her carrier bags on the kitchen table. There was a frighteningly large tub of what Suzuki knew to be quite a good grade of caviare. There was a tin of pressed quail, a packet of smoked salmon three feet long and an inch thick, artichokes, truffles, bottled olives, a stone jar of Stilton and, incongruously, a packet of crisps the size of a pillow. ‘Something to drink’ turned out to be two large bottles of vodka.

‘It’s to go with the caviare. We’re going to be Russians. We’re going to celebrate.’

‘How much did it cost?’

‘I’m a good shopper. I’m very clever. I’m a famously clever shopper. I can make a little bit look like a lot. I could always do that.’

‘Show me how much is left.’

‘Don’t look at me like that. Don’t come on at me. I can’t stand it when people stand there looking at me like that.’

‘Show me.’ He slapped her. If he had hit her with his stiffened fingertips she would have died off the spot. On the spot. As it was she merely collapsed on to one of the kitchen chairs, which made a splintering sound under her, not disintegrating but changing shape, so that she fell off it on to the floor. Before she got enough breath back to scream he had discovered that there was barely thirty pounds left.

He calmed her down by holding her. He held her tightly enough to give her the alternative of shutting up or choking. He still in his boxer shorts, she still dressed for her disastrous expedition, they lay on her bed in the dark. He could see now that their liaison would have to end. What he could not see was how he would be able to disengage without being involved in a catastrophe. She was threatening herself with death even as she lay in his arms. Despairingly he made love to her again.