a parody of advertisement, written by Amérique Nakamura
He looked out the window. He saw up to the horizon. He cursed under his breath.
Belmondo rushed out the room to the hall down the steps and into the kitchen and to Mrs. Franz.
She sat at the kitchen table. Legs crossed across the dusty surface. Feet up. Book in her hands.
Belmondo breathed heavy and said, “Mrs. Franz.”
She looked from her book.
He said, “Pigs. They’re oinking the whole joint down. We’re surrounded.”
She looked from Belmondo to the window. She looked from the window to Belmondo. She looked back to her book.
“Seems like we are.”
Belmondo groaned and rushed to a cabinet and threw it open and found it empty and threw open the next one and said, “Then what the hell are we sitting around for? We need to pack up and go. We can still blast our way out of here. We just need to find an opening but we’re not going to find shit if we don’t move. Where’s my gun?”
“On the counter, where you left it last night.”
His hand moved to a drawer above his head and he turned to look across the kitchen and saw that the gun was there.
Then something slipped out of the drawer and hit Belmondo in the side of the head and he tumbled.
A beat of him on the floor, cursing again.
Mrs. Franz smiled to herself.
Belmond fixed his hair and shook his head. He checked the bag. Some cash had spilled out. Part of a sum of one hundred thousand francs.
He scrambled to grab the cash and stuff it back into the bag.
He secured all the cash and stood and saw Mrs. Franz still there.
“What are you doing?”
“I know that. I mean what book? Why?”
“Found it off the shelf when we came in. McCrae. Cheap fiction. Hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. Cheap plots and cheaper prose.”
“Why read it then?”
“Why, you ask? It was either this or Faulkner.”
Belmondo stood there waiting for a proper answer and didn’t get one and sighed. Then he said, “I really don’t understand you Mrs. Franz. You don’t think we can get out of here? Out of this?”
“We got into this the second we ran off with the money. There was only ever going to be one way out of this in the first place.”
He dropped his shoulders, chin down.
She only had to give him a look and he knew.
Belmondo breathed. He set everything down and moved to the sink and found a clean towel. He set it into a nearby bowl of clean water. He walked back over to the table and sat across from Mrs. Franz.
Her shoes half on and dangling from her feet. Belmondo slipped them off and set them on the floor. He stared at her bare soles for a moment. Then he took the towel and massaged Mrs. Franz.
He started from the toe to the heel, then the ankle and toward the upper calf. Mrs. Franz twitched at the initial contact and Belmondo said nothing.
She asked, “What is it do you think you’re doing?”
“Only what I have time for.”
She flipped a page and kept reading.
She flipped a page and kept reading.
“Tell me what you had in mind when we got to the sea.”
Her eyes were still on the page when she said, “Bel.”
“You tell me what you want me to tell you.”
Belmondo continued with his massage and said, “Well. I want you to tell me that we’d make it to the sea in one piece. I want you to tell me that the weather would be hot and the water would be clear. I want you to tell me that with the sand between your toes and the wind in your hair that the Mediterranean is everything you thought it would be. I want you to tell me that you’d like to visit an island and enjoy a plate of seafood paella and I’d use the money to take a boat and sail and do just that.”
“That’s quite the image you’ve painted.”
“I really don’t understand you Mrs. Franz.”
“Is that why you came with me? To understand me?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know why I came with you.”
“I do think you do.”
Belmondo’s fingers kneaded between Mrs. Franz’s toes.
“Yes. You’re right. I think I do.”
They stayed there for a beat. Just like that. In that kitchen that was also a clean, well-lighted place.
Belmondo set the towel aside and traced his right index finger around the ball of Mrs. Franz’s left heel. Mrs. Franz uncrossed her legs and crossed them again. Belmondo looked and smiled.
Mrs. Franz said, “Bel.”
Belmondo’s eyes darted back up and he said, “Yes?”
“Do you regret coming here?”
“Being here, with me.”
“Why are you asking me this?”
“Because I’m curious. Because you have your youth, confidence, and you had a job. You had everything.”
“No. I didn’t have everything. I certainly didn’t have one hundred thousand francs.”
“Was it worth it then? Giving up two for the one?”
“I don’t like that question.”
“I don’t like the idea of putting worth in something like money and then putting it to something else.”
“Like anything. A car, a washing machine, a television. You, Mrs. Franz.”
Mrs. Franz flipped a page.
Belmondo said, “Yet one hundred thousand francs did get me this far with you. That’s some kind of peak. Yes. I suppose there is some worth in that after all.”
Mrs. Franz then closed the book and set it down on the table. Some dust kicked up into the air.
Belmondo asked, “Why’d you stop reading?”
Mrs. Franz said, “I’m tired of this story.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Of course you don’t think so. Thinking’s my job.”
“No. I don’t think so because I don’t think you’re tired of this story.”
“And what makes you say that?”
Belmondo thought about that and then said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what made me say that. I really don’t understand you Mrs. Franz.”
Mrs. Franz considered smiling and so she did.
Belmondo sat back, her feet resting in the palms of his hands. He placed his hands against his leg, his thigh. Her feet rested there.
Her eyes met his.
Belmondo said, “A film once said, when we talked, I talked about me, you talked about you, when we should have talked about each other. We weren’t engaging in proper dialectics. It’s no wonder we ended up here, at this table, surrounded by pigs. In the final analysis, it wasn’t that we had to commit a crime, it was that we hadn’t committed the right crime.”
“And what crime would have suited us more?”
“Get married, grow old, and die.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“It’s silly, but it’s what I’ve been trying to hammer at ever since we left the Hotel Scribe. That I want to peel off every single toenail. That I want to strangle you every time I see that smile of yours. That I want to slap you if I catch you asleep because I can’t stand a moment that you’re not awake with me. That, I think, we make a good pair, and I want you Mrs. Franz to tell me you feel the same way.”
There was a beat. Mrs. Franz looked from the window to her book to Belmondo. She raised her feet up and hammered it back down between Belmondo legs, where he had them spread. She narrowly missed. Belmondo was stiff.
Mrs. Franz said, “Bel. Of all my students you are the one I would put one hundred thousand francs on.”
Belmondo frowned and said, “What a travesty,” and thus we arrive at the story’s end.