Fishing in Beirut

January 22, 2010

Part 1: Getting There (scene 4)

Filed under: Character : Karen, Part 1: Getting There — fishinginbeirut @ 08:38

Karen woke up to the radio. Tuesday. What if God was one of us it wanted to know. What if indeed. She lay silently for perhaps eleven minutes, until the thing had told her it was quarter to ten. She got up and showered.
Breakfast was always muesli and fruit juice, because they all agree this is a fantastic combination to begin a new day’s proceedings. All those authoritative voices on television health shows, which were also quoted by visiting friends reading aloud to her both French and English newspapers. Can’t go wrong with muesli and fruit juice.
Karen’s TV was essentially a bigger, bulkier radio. She often wondered what country had made it, and why the hell she’d taken it when the man upstairs had died and it was destined for the trash. Poor old Monsieur Boulier, who had always been polite.
She listened to it while ironing, or dusting around the flat. It told her many things, and plunged her aurally into hackneyed adventures. When it spoke of healthy eating she listened carefully.
She finished off the muesli and washed the bowl. Started the machine for coffee. It popped away noisily, but coffee machine popping is called percolating. This word had always seemed made-up to Karen, and she had, in the past, conducted discussions with friends on this topic. Everyone had laughed, because think of any word long enough and it’s just a crazy assembly of different sounding letters.
Percolating.
She was wearing the shirt that scratched her wrists while she was reading, which was always second to last on the left side of the shirts and blouses closet. It was next to the one she never wore now.
She went to the fridge and got more juice. Did some ironing. The warm feeling of the fabric where the iron had just been, in comparison with the rest. The warmth of Karen’s clothes. Birds chattered through the open window, some near some far. She leaned her head right out and felt the sun. What If God Was One Of Us came on again. She was on a different station now, but still. He could be just a slob like one of us, and this woman was determined to let us know it.
The ironing got done, and so the board went back into the tiny space between the kitchen table and the wall. It slouched against this wall in relief, free from scalding till the next time. Karen carried the clothes to her bed – she dropped and then sorted.
On the phone she spoke to her mother, enquired after life in leafy Oak Park. Got another call, switched to it, mumbled morning sweetness’s to Michel in French, and switched back to Mom. Dorothy had just adopted an Iraqi baby, who was now to be called Georgie, and Dorothy was Mom’s best friend, having at the age of 58 left husband Archie, and struck out on her own.
Dorothy was Mom’s shining light. She gave hope, while Karen was in France. She had apparently joked about how the Iraqi baby did not need swaddling clothes, because with all the international red tape he had been carried through some had inevitably stuck, and little Iraqi Georgie was now guaranteed warmth for life. Mom thought this was just so funny. Karen laughed a little too.
“So are there any plans to come home honey?” she was asked.
“No, I don’t think so – I still really like it here.”
“And how is the boyfriend?”
“Michel.”
“Yes the boyfriend. How is he?”
“He’s fine Mom,” said Karen. “He’s fine and says hello.”
Later that night, she lay awake and listened to footsteps up above. The not-so-new New Tenant.
Old Monsieur Boulier’s face had felt like an ancient raincoat.

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