Issue #62

Spring 2017

Four Stories

by Antony Johae

Last Promenade

We had come from the hotel and were walking up a slope, tall old houses on either side of the narrow street. I had never been here before and, noting a self-service restaurant, thought it might be a place to eat when I came on visits to meet my mistress.

I looked behind me and saw a distinguished well-dressed woman looking in our direction.

"Do you know that woman?" I asked my companion.

"Yes," she said glancing round. "We must separate."

We drifted apart as though coincidentally walking together. I continued up the steepening slope until I reached the edge of a field of maize. Here it was high and I could look down on a small lake. To the left, I saw a gendarme turning towards the bank of the lake; with him was a boy who stepped into the water. The gendarme took off his shoes and followed. They began walking across with the water below their knees.

When they were half way across the lake, the promontory of the cliff on which I was standing hid them from view. I leaned over the cliff edge and felt myself near to falling.

"Perhaps someone has toppled from this very spot," I thought. "I will fall, somebody else will take my place here, see a gendarme and a boy cross to the middle of the lake, lean over the cliff edge and fall to make way for another spectator — and this will happen until the lake is full of the bodies of curious spectators, until the entire police force has been called out by the many boys who take to walking across the lake."

But I pulled back from the edge, walked down the steep slope, past the field of maize, along the narrow street with the self-service restaurant, and entered the hotel where my mistress waited for me in the lounge.

"A detective was here, "she said calmly. "He was going to arrest you."

"On what charge?"

"It doesn't matter," she said. "Whatever it is, you are guilty."

I knew then that I had been betrayed and wished I had fallen over the edge.

***

Flight

I had checked in.

We waited in a white room.

A stewardess stood behind a tall desk.

Looking down at my black trousers with a hole in one knee, I imagined a wing falling off.

"Is there time to go home and change?" I asked the stewardess with humility.

She looked at me as though I were an insect, shrugged, and turning to the passengers, announced boarding time.

***

Return Flight

We were waiting for a French aircraft on a flight to London.

As I walked with the passengers across the tarmac, I saw what looked more like an ancient flying machine than a jet plane. The wings were so long and the cockpit so small that I wondered what room there would be. My boarding card said "C 13", but that must be impossible. The smart passengers walking with light luggage said nothing, nor did they show surprise.

I turned around in panic and walked back to the terminal, a knee protruding from the hole in my trousers. I could hear high voices, and when I reached the glass door and looked back, saw passengers on the air-stairs leaning over laughing.

***

Curtains

It is night. My light is on and I can see the street through thin curtains: there's a pub opposite and a sodium street lamp lighting up the ring road down in the dip.

A military lorry draws up outside the pub, and an armoured vehicle. Gunned soldiers get out; they stamp with their steel toes and heels. I think: "Who have they come for this time?"

The soldiers run down the slope out of sight and I think: "So it's not me tonight."

I turn off the light and resolve to line my curtains.

Author Bio

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Antony Johae, who is British, has lived and taught in England, Germany, Ghana, Tunisia, and Kuwait. He now writes freelance and divides his time between Lebanon and the United Kingdom. He has had short stories published in magazines in England as well as in an anthology. He wrote his doctoral thesis on Dostoevsky and Kafka and has had articles on Kafka published in the Journal of the Kafka Society of America.