The Frequent Flyer
Frank Thomas Smith
Last paragraph of Chapter 8:
Even before the food arrived, Freddy Hussein’s chauffer came rushing in and said something to him on Arabic. “Oh, dear, isn’t this awful,” Hussein said, standing up. “A crisis has arisen and I must go immediately. Most unfortunate, my deepest apologies, Mr. Jacks. Frau Marie, could you be so kind as to entertain my guest?” He scurried out. Jacks finished off his second glass of wine and said, in German, “Okay, so what the hell is going on, Annaliese?”
She said, in English, smiling: “Do you mind if I sit with you a while, Mr. Jacks? It gives me an excuse to rest before the lunch crowd arrives.”
Jacks blinked. Games. “Sure, be my guest, Frau Marie.” The waiter appeared at his side and refilled the wine glasses. They raised their glasses, staring into each other’s eyes, German style.
“Argentine wine is really very good, the reds at least. It’s a pity they aren’t better known outside the country.”
“Organization,” Jacks said. “You may have noticed that this country isn’t very well organized…”
She smiled and was about to agree, but Jacks said, “…not like Germany.”
“Yes, that’s true. Germany is a bit too organized for my taste.”
“Is that why you’re here?”
“What’s the other part?”
“My husband inherited a piece of land here and we came to see about it and, well, we fell in love with the country.”
Her eyes frowned warning, but just for a moment, until she smiled again and said, “Yes, fate can sometimes be convenient.”
“But not always.”
She laughed falsely, as though he had told the funniest joke of the day. “Do you like philosophy, Mr. Jacks?”
“Not any more. I used to be an idealist, now I’m a naïve realist – they don’t care for philosophy. How about you?”
“Oh, it’s all too deep for me. I prefer novels.”
“Good, so do I.”
Two middle aged, straight-backed men entered and bowed towards them. “Guten Tag,” Frau Marie called to them and waved. Gradually the restaurant was filling up. Jacks was served his grüne Sosse and another glass of wine.
“Actually, the Germans were very big in philosophy,” Jacks said, “until Marx at least.”
She said nothing, not liking this direction.
“Marx just about finished off German philosophy, except possibly for Rudolf Steiner, ever hear of him?”
She thought a moment, then: “Yes, my father mentioned him occasionally.”
“Oh? Is your father an anthroposophist?”
“My father died years ago,” she said. “I don’t know if he was an anthroposophist. I don’t think so.”
“There’s a Rudolf Steiner Schule right here in Florida. Did you know that?”
“Yes,” – she hesitated a moment – “my daughter goes there.”
“I see,” Jacks said calmly enough. “I see.”
“Do you have any children, Mr. Jacks?”
“How do you know about the school then?”
“A friend’s kid goes there.”
“Oh? What’s his name? Maybe I know your friend.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You’re not married then?”
“No. Please don’t let me keep you from your duties, Frau Marie,” with ironic emphasis on her current name.
“Yes, I really must go now. We have excellent Schwarzwaldtorte for dessert.”
“Yes…but not by me.”
“In that case I’ll pass. Could you just send the bill, please?”
“Mr. Hussein has taken care of it.” She stood up. “We could advise you when we have specials, Mr. Jacks, and German delicacies - made by me, if you’ll give me your phone number.”
Jacks looked up at her and couldn’t help thinking of Ingrid Bergman. He hesitated, stood to be polite, then reached into his wallet and handed her a business card. No home number, yet. He approached her and held out his hand. “I’ll be leaving then.”
“You haven’t finished your lunch.”
“Potatoes are filling.” He was holding her hand. “Should I kiss it?” he asked.
“That would be out of character, wouldn’t it?”
“Good bye, then.” He turned and walked out before the old waiter could hobble to the door to open it for him. Outside in the heat he felt like fainting, but he walked like a man in hurry down the street intending to go home, shower and think. Hussein’s chauffer was calling him from behind though. He stopped. “Mr. Hussein told me to wait for you, Señor.”
“Give him my thanks, but I prefer to walk awhile.”
“I can wait.”
He walked past the street his house was on, circled around the block, making sure he wasn’t being followed, turned back and went home. Once inside, he walked through the living room, ignoring the blinking answering machine, shedding a piece of clothing in each room until he was in the garden in the rear. He gazed into the water in the pool – clear, limpid, uncomplicated, just how he wished his mind could be. As he was about to dive in a breeze arose rippling the water and brushing aside the clarity. He dove naked into the irony. It refreshed him, but didn’t clear his confusion. He called his office and told his secretary that he wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be there that afternoon, she should let him no if anything urgent happened.
“Sorry, Marvin. Do you need anything?”
“No, Gabriela, I’ll be all right in the morning.” Gabriela would have loved to take a taxi to Florida and tend to her boss at home. Some other time, Jacks thought. Then he went to bed and, to his great surprise, slept like a log.
At around four the phone rang. “Marvin, a woman called for you and when I told her you weren’t in she asked where she could contact you, that it was urgent,” Gabriela said. “She was really insistent, as though it was a matter of life and death – so finally I said I’d ask you if I could give her your number. Was that all right? She’s going to call back soon.”
“What’s her name?” Jacks said after his daytime memory returned and wiped out an exciting dream forever.
“María Alemán is what she said.”
“Did she have an accent?”
“A little bit, I think.”
“Give her my number when she calls,” Jacks said. “Thanks, Gabriela.”
“Okay. You all right, Marvin?”
“Yes, fine.” He hung up.
It wasn’t until five-thirty that Gabriela called again. “She didn’t call back, Marvin. I have to go now.”
“Okay, Gabriela.” He sighed mentally. “See you tomorrow morning. Any other calls?”
“Nothing that can’t wait.”
Continued in the next issue of SCR