by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book I: Windmills Everywhere
Chapter 7: Down, Downer, Downest
part 1 of 2
Oh, it’s Shaun! Why doesn’t he just come in? Ah, he doesn’t have a key!
‘OK, hang on, hang on!’
‘Hey, you look awful, Donna!’
‘Thanks a bunch!’
‘Yes, I think so. And I’ve just had the most incredible dream! I must tell you all about it!’
‘Calm down, calm down. Looks as if you need another hug ...’
‘No, Shaun, I’m not frightened this time. I’m just ... oh, I don’t know ... astounded! And rather bewildered!’
‘Right. Well, in that case you may not be in very good shape to hear my important news ...’
‘About the building swaps ...’
‘Oh my god! Tell me! Please!’
‘OK. So, I stopped off for a quick drink in a bar ... and these two men came up to me. Said their friends had been watching the pair of us over here — and in England.’
‘Yeah. We’ve found the perpetrators, Donna. And ... wait for it ... they’re asking ten thousand euros in cash from each of the people who can see what they’re doing and care enough about it to want them to stop.’
‘I don’t believe it!’
‘It’s true. But here’s the good news. Apparently they’ve been promising for several weeks to abandon the whole game once a hundred “contributors” have coughed up. And they only need six more of us to agree ...’
‘A hundred people! But that makes ... a million euros!’
‘I know. It’s scandalous. But at least it proves there are other people out there who have seen what’s been going on. We’re not crazy. We just haven’t been lucky enough to meet up with any of them.’
‘Yes, of course! In fact, that’s just what I’ve been waiting to hear! Hey, maybe there’s finally an end in sight!’
‘I really think there might be ...’
‘But I don’t know whether I could handle meeting them myself ...’
‘Well, that’s actually quite good, because they told me they won’t deal with women.’
‘Huh? Who the hell are these chauvinist pigs?’
‘They’re the pigs calling all the shots right now, Donna. The ones you just said you didn’t want to deal with yourself.’
‘Yeah. Sorry. OK.’
‘So, I think I’d have to do it for both of us.’
‘Aren’t you a bit scared?’
‘Yes, I am ... but I’ve met them now, and I don’t think there’s actually too much physical risk. They just want the money, and they say they’re going to exchange hundreds of other buildings this weekend, here and all over Europe, if they don’t they get the full one million euros by then. Almost everyone else who has seen what’s happening has now paid up.’
‘Hang on! Why should we believe that?’
‘Well, we have the evidence of our own eyes that they really can make these changes, don’t we? So now we just have to trust that they will do what they’ve promised after we’ve paid them off ...’
Oh, I’m still so mixed up about everything!
‘Donna? Did you hear what I said?’
‘Yes, I did. And you’re right. We don’t have any option, do we? We must trust them. So I guess we need to do this quite quickly?’
‘Yeah. They said they want our payment by the end of tomorrow.’
‘Afraid so. But I can’t contribute anything, can I? So do you think you can pull that many euros together in the morning?’
‘Well ... oh god, it’s so hard to think straight after that dream!’
‘Please try, Donna ...’
‘Well ... I have about six hundred euros in cash in my purse — I’ve been taking plenty out each day for contingencies. Hah! And I’ve still got several thousand quid in my bank account, even allowing for paying the outstanding hotel bill. I moved a big lump sum across before I left, ’cos I didn’t know how long we’d need to be here, or if we’d be moving on, you know, or maybe we’d be able to have a proper little holiday together. Oh well. And there’s a bit of slack on my credit card too. So I guess I could probably get somewhere close to what they’re asking.’
‘Great. Well, let’s sort all that out in the morning, then. Hey, isn’t this good! Any day now, everything will be back to normal.’
‘I suppose so. But it doesn’t seem vary fair ...’
‘I think it’s actually in a very good cause, Donna. So let’s go out and celebrate!’
‘Well, I don’t feel very hungry right now, Shaun — not after everything that has just happened. I don’t even fancy much to drink! But we can go out, sure, and you can have a proper meal. I don’t think we should spend too much on it, though, in the circumstances ...’
‘I agree. Very wise of you. And then back for a nice early night, yes?’
‘Yes! But ... oh, I really don’t know what to think about all of this, Shaun ...’
‘Then why don’t you sleep on it? Later, of course.’
‘Yes, that’s what I’ll do! Oh, I’m so glad you’re here to look after me!’
* * *
Wed 13 May 2009, 6.30 a.m.
Very late to bed last night, after Shaun dragged me along to that club after dinner.
Even later before I could think about getting to sleep! Mustn’t grumble, though!
Even later actually getting to sleep. And then it was really fitful ... I kept remembering that dream ... and Shaun’s news ...
I’m exhausted. All at sea. Shaun seemed really relaxed last night. But that was obviously ’cos he was so relieved at the news, of course. Wish I felt that carefree. Still not at all sure what I should do.
But wouldn’t it be great to be rid of all this worry!
Think I’m dozing off again ...
* * *
‘Ah, you’re awake at last!’
‘What time is it?’
‘Nearly eight. Breakfast time.’
‘Right. Won’t be long.’
‘So, have you decided?’
‘Yes. We’re going to have to do it, aren’t we?’
‘I think you’re right. So ...?’
‘I’ll find the address of the nearest branch of my bank, and we can go straight there ...’
‘I think it will be much better if you go on your own, Donna.’
‘Because then you can tell them whatever you like about why you need the money, and they’ll just see you as a respectable single woman who wants to do some cash shopping in Paris. They’re not likely to think you’re a terrorist or anything like that ...’
‘Oh. I’d much rather you were with me ...’
‘Think it through, Donna.’
‘Hmmm ... Yes, I suppose you’re right, as usual. OK, I’ll get the address from the concierge, and then I’ll grab a cab. Do you want to wait for me outside at one of the Café tables?
* * *
‘Well, that didn’t take too long.’
‘No. But there’s a problem. They were only willing to give me sixteen hundred euros on the spot. Said I’d have to give them notice for any larger amounts. I told them I wanted to buy lots of collectibles on the street markets today, but they wouldn’t play ball. I decided not to make a big fuss. And they did say I could carry on using my debit card for anything I wanted to purchase in the stores ...’
‘And then I went somewhere else and drew some cash off my credit card, up close to my limit. So I picked up about the same amount there.’
‘But it still means I’ve only got around three thousand eight hundred euros altogether, Shaun, and I don’t see how I can lay my hands on any more, at least for today. What are we going to do?’
‘Well, those men gave me a rendezvous point, and said they’d wait for me every hour, on the hour, from eleven o’clock. If I go there now with what you’ve got, and tell them the problem, maybe they’ll understand.’
‘Oh, are you willing to try? But what if they get angry with you?’
‘Don’t worry about that. We still have all day. They’ll probably just want us to try harder. Maybe I’ll think of something. Maybe they will ...’
‘All right. I’ll leave it to you, then. Here — it’s all in this envelope ...’
‘OK. Don’t move from here, Donna. I’ll be back as soon as I can.’
Oh, this is all so hard to take in! And I’m still feeling so tired ...
It’s such a pity I didn’t get to meet Molière last night.
Fancy seeing Roquentin and Meursault, though! What a treat!
But which of them was right, Donna?
Roquentin is disgusted by his perception of the indifference of the world towards him, isn’t he? And he finally has to commit himself to act in some way — any way — to surmount his dread.
On the other hand, the world is threatened by the honesty and indifference it sees in Meursault, and it finally has to act to remove the risk he poses.
Hey, what might happen if Roquentin and Meursault came face to face and understood each other’s crisis?
Let’s see ...
Roquentin walks down the Boulevard Noir again. But he takes a wrong turning and ends up lost in a forest. He gets several attacks of the nausea from looking at objects around him, and he unwittingly vocalises some of his reactions.
Then he comes upon an isolated building and goes in. He hears voices behind a locked door. He spots a little hole high up in the wall, and climbs on a chair to peep through. He sees Meursault and the priest, who is again trying in vain to persuade Meursault to “repent” and be reprieved. Roquentin muses on what he is seeing and hearing.
After a while the priest departs, and Meursault returns to pondering what he had watched a little earlier on a TV screen, which is presently blank. It had been presenting, in sound and vision, the progress of Roquentin through the forest, as captured by security cameras and microphones.
So Meursault has now secretly seen Roquentin’s crisis, and Roquentin has secretly seen Meursault’s.
What would be their private reactions?
And then the TV screen — which Roquentin too can clearly see — comes on again, but this time with a dual image: an action replay of Roquentin’s progress through the forest, and a time-labelled replay of him standing on the chair and observing the interview through the hole. Meursault at once looks up, and spots the hole on his side of the wall, and Roquentin’s eye behind it.
So each man also knows that the other has been watching him and knows of his own crisis.
What might their reactions be now?
And if they were able to debate it all ...?
‘Mademoiselle, wake up, wake up, you are nearly falling to the ground!’
‘What? Oh, thank you, garçon ... thank you!’
‘Another drink, perhaps?’
‘Yes. Yes ... but just water, please.’
* * *
‘Ah, you’re back at last, Shaun!’
‘Yes ... and we’re still in business. But let’s get our lunch order in first, eh?’
‘Well, they’re willing to accept some brand new jewellery for the balance of what they need. I told them we wouldn’t be able to hit the full ten thousand euros. I said we could only spend up to what you told me you could now spare from your account — about four thousand eight hundred euros, right? They weren’t too happy with that, and I started to get a bit worried, but then they said if I met up with them again at three o’clock this afternoon, with something brand new of that value, including a receipt and a certificate of authenticity, then they would accept that and consider your contribution fully paid!’
‘Oh, what a relief!’
‘That’s exactly what I thought. I said “Yes” at once, of course. So I suggest you go straight down to Place Vendôme as soon as we’ve finished lunch, and ...’
‘Oh, Shaun, won’t you come and select something with me?’
‘That’s not a good idea, my lady! It’s not for you, is it? So you mustn’t let yourself get attached to it in any way. And you’re bound to associate it with me if I’m there when you buy it ...’
‘That’s true, I suppose. Oh, all right, then. At least this will be more fun than dealing with that bank clerk! And anyway, you’re the one doing all the dirty work for us ...’
‘That’s the spirit! So, it’s my turn to wait for you, right here.’
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd