Authors: Jasper Gibson
First published in Great Britain by Inside The Dog Press, 2013
This paperback edition published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2014
Copyright © Jasper Gibson, 2013
Jasper Gibson has asserted his moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced,
copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright Act 1956 (as amended). Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
‘Sobremesa’ by Eugenio Montejo, original Spanish version reprinted by kind permission, appears in
Fábula del escriba
(Editorial Pre-Textos, 2006)
‘Sobremesa’ by Eugenio Montejo, the English translation reprinted by kind permission, appears in
In The Trees
(Salt Publishing, 2004)
The author/editor and publisher gratefully acknowledge the permission granted to reproduce the copyright material in this book.
Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of the copyright material. The publisher apologises for any errors or omissions in the above list
and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.
British Library Catalogues-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library
PB ISBN 978-1-47113-882-9
Ebook ISBN 978-1-47113-883-6
Typeset in Garamond by Laura Kincaid, tenthousand creative services
Printed and bound by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
For my mother, my father and my sisters
by the mist that falls from days long gone,
we once more sit down to talk
and can’t see each other.
Hesitantly, cut off in the depths of the mist.
On the table the breeze stirs slowly.
As we dream those who are absent draw close.
Loaves where bleak moss has passed long winters
now waken on the table-cloth.
Steam from the coffee cups drifts around us
and in the aroma we see old faces,
once more alive, float past
clouding the mirrors.
Empty chairs set straight
wait for those who, from far off,
will return later on.
We start talking
without seeing each other, without thought of time.
Hesitantly, in the mist
that grows and surrounds us,
we talk for hours without knowing
who is still alive and who is dead.
Muerte y Memoria
A tientas, al fondo de la niebla
que cae de los remotos días
volvemos a sentarnos
y hablamos ya sin vernos.
A tientas, al fondo de la niebla
Sobre la mesa vuelve el aire
y el sueño atrae a los ausentes.
Panes donde invernaron musgos fríos
en el mantel ahora se despiertan.
Yerran vapores de café
y en el aroma, reavivados,
vemos flotar antiguos rostros
que empañan los espejos.
Rectas sillas vacías
aguardan a quienes, desde lejos,
retornarán más tarde.
Comenzamos a hablar
sin vernos y sin tiempo.
A tientas, en ha vaharada
que crece y no se envuelve,
charlamos horas sin saber
quién vive todavía, quién está muerto.
Muerte y Memoria
arry Christmas strode out of Caracas airport with little more than a wallet full of stolen money and the dried-up brain of a long-haul drinker.
Beyond the terminal building lay the sea. Beyond the car park there were mountains. The sunset was coronary.
Christmas bowed to an imaginary welcoming party and then turned to examine himself in one of the building’s glass panels. Fifty-eight years old, fat, moustachioed, sporting a Panama hat,
red trousers and a cream jacket, Harry Christmas flared his nostrils and sucked in his cheeks. He thought he looked
?” said the taxi driver, watching his fare with amazement. Christmas bared his teeth with a smile, then swept an arm forward, bidding him lead the way. It had
been an eventful journey. Now Christmas was ready to gorge on the fatty pleasures of an international business hotel.
The two men arrived at a white Toyota. The driver held open a rear door, but Christmas headed for the front seat. They drove off towards the city in silence. The taxi driver looked at Christmas.
Christmas looked at the taxi driver. They both looked at the road.
– they are on the wrong way round.” Christmas looked down.
“Correct,” he said. A further silence ensued. Night fell.
“So,” said the taxi driver, trying again, “for how many days will you be here in Venezuela?”
“As long as it takes.”
“What will you do here?”
“I’m on a mission.”
“With no bags?”
“It’s a pilgrimage.”
“I’m here to see the sights,” sighed Christmas. A truck rolled by, leaking smoke like a stricken Spitfire. “Breathe the air.”
“My name is Pepito,” said the taxi driver, offering one hand from the wheel. He had large, alarmed eyes, freckles and gelled hair. “Pepito Rodriguez Silvas.”
“Harry Christmas,” he replied with a shake, “
“Are you a business man?”
“I want a drink.”
The road, cutting through mountains, suddenly opened out to reveal hills rippled with lights. “Oh, how charming,” said Christmas.
“That is the
,” nodded Pepito. “You can go in there and they kill you.”
As the traffic clogged and unclogged they shifted into Caracas, stacks of matchbox houses stuffed up against the El Ávila mountain range. The air was warm, the moon struggling through
cloud. The city greeted Christmas blindly, feeling his face through the windscreen while Pepito swore at other motorists. It began to rain. Beggars flowed between the moving cars and crowded around
the bins. A pregnant woman selling packets of fried banana jumped to avoid a motorbike. Revolutionary murals covered every wall. Christmas noticed the driver was looking at his trousers again.
“How far to the hotel?”
” he shrugged, “the traffic is a problem. But Gran Melía hotel is a very nice hotel. So what kind of business will you do here in
On through the streets they choked, past unfinished construction projects jutting out from shadow, past people running for shelter with jackets and newspapers held over their
heads. “You want to go to a nightclub,
?” said Pepito, as they pulled up outside the hotel. “I can pick you up later. Nice place. Good show, live girls
...” He was bouncing his eyebrows.
“No, thank you. Here you go – keep the change.”
“So I pick you up
“No, thank you.”
“In the morning?”
“I said ‘no’. Thank you.”
“You want, maybe, nine o’clock?”
“Oh well, in that case, perfect,” huffed Christmas, intending never to see this man again. He hauled himself out of the taxi and squared up to the hotel. Pepito drove off. Christmas
adjusted his hat and flexed his moustache. He was still drunk.
Like other hotels of its ilk, Gran Melía liked to punctuate its relentless shininess with hysterical flower arrangements and excessively polite staff. Staying here was an extravagance
but, if Christmas hoped to make any progress in this town, impressions would be all-important. He identified and marched towards the reception desk, holding the receptionist’s gaze so that
she might not notice his trousers.
Buenas noches, Señor
“Harry Christmas,” he beamed, “checking in.” Christmas handed over a credit card and his passport. The receptionist busied herself at the computer. Everything was in
order. His room key was in her hand.
“It’s room 4422 – your luggage,
?” she queried, examining the empty space around his feet.
“I don’t have any.”
“Do you have any luggage?” Christmas demanded.
“Well, now that we’ve found some common ground, perhaps you could send two large glasses of Laphroaig up to my room.” On the verge of replying, the receptionist hesitated. This
guest had his trousers on the wrong way round.
“Thank you so much,” he concluded, sliding the key from her fingers.
, if you can please ask to the room service—” but Christmas was off, giving the lobby a cursory sweep for lonely women before marching into the lift.
His room was large. Royal blue furnishings. Dark wood. He found the mini bar and inspected its contents. He checked the bathroom, acknowledging the shower with disdain. Showers symbolised
everything that was wrong with the modern world: quick, loud, stupid. He caught sight of himself in the mirror and straightened up.
Christmas had been handsome in his youth, and though the strong face remained, his many vices had left him corpulent, with disgruntled skin and mottled teeth. Even his nose had grown fat, but
Christmas saw only beauty. His cheekbones were bold, his eyes a furious blue. He admired his own moustache. He admired his head in his Panama, making imperceptible adjustments to its angle. He sat
down on the bed, took off his shoes and trousers, stood up, and admired himself again.