Brian Aldiss

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Various Ruinations

Part 4 in Brian’s September 2012 short story series.

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Guy Beckersund flew down from Rio to Montevideo. He found there a capital city standing in crumbling magnificence.

He liked it. His film-making habit told him that the city would make a wonderful background for a thriller movie.

He was less enchanted with his hotel, which was much less up to date than its advertisement had implied back in New York. He stuck his key card in the breast pocket of his shirt and went out for a drink.

He meets with his old friend Mario Pontenza, they shake hands. They look at each other and both laugh, amused that the years should tell themselves so plainly.

“Montevideo seems to be crumbling even as we do,” said Guy. “The cathedral looks like it’s about to fall down any moment. I can afford to come to see you because I’ve just sold Global.” Global was Guy’s film company. “From now on it’s going to be called Eyeball Films.” They both laughed.

“We’ll go down to the beach,” said Mario. It was hot. “Uruguay has got the Atlantic on tap here.”

Guy had to go back to the hotel to get the wallet he had left in the jacket in his room. The door card flashed red when he tried to open the door to room 10. What the hell was wrong with it?, he asked himself: one more feature of the delapidated capital …? He went down to the front desk and got another key card. That one worked. He was tucking it back into the chest pocket of his shirt when he remembered he had a pacemaker. It was the pacemaker that had deactivated his first door card.

Outside the glass doors of the hotel, Mario was waiting in an old open jalopy. They drove down to the beach. There was the great Atlantic, at peace with itself. A restaurant stood on the shore, all wood and glass in a kind of 70’s fashion. No one was about on the beach. They settled themselves at a table, and a waiter brought them a bottle of red wine, two glasses loaded with ice cubes, and a small dish of olives.

“I’m here to look up some of my old girlfriends” said Mario. “Coupla weeks ago I was in London, doing a small part for a new ‘Dr Who’ movie. The women should be along. You’ll like them.”

“So what’s with Montevideo, that it’s falling to bits?’ Guy asked.

“Uruguay doesn’t have a big enough population to tax to pay for repairs” said Mario.

“It’s good to find a place that’s underpopulated for a change. But can’t World Bank hand out a loan?”

“We don’t need those leeches here, telling us what to do. Uruguy’s special. Can’t you feel it, Guy? Special…”

He waved a hand at the calm blue ocean nearby, where they could see a fisherman casting a net from a small boat a quarter of a mile off shore.

Two pretty girls came along. They might be in their mid-forties but they dressed like young girls, frocks short in front, trailing at the back, as if they came from an ancient line of dragons. With long dyed blonde hair do’s. Both were shrieking blonde shrieks somewhat at the sight of the two men.

They enveloped Mario and then came around and kissed Guy too.

“Oh, I like this place,” said Guy, “People are so friendly”. One of them, the longer-haired blonde, settled on his knee, arm round his shoulder, and gulped an olive from the dish.

Both of the ladies had a certain quantity of English. “It good happy place to live,” said one of the women. “Why you don’t stay here, Guy? Like for keeps? It’s nice and low prices – not like Brazil, up the North.”

He hugged her.
“I’ve got a film business back in LA”, he said. “Did you ever hear of Eyeball Films?” He laughed and so the ladies laughed with him.
One of them echoed in delight, “Eyeball Films!”
One of them said “You like this beach, you know, this coast is six hundred miles of golden sand.” She gestured northwards with a tanned arm. “Yeah,” said the other lady “Golden till you get to Brazil.”

Teasingly, he said, “And you’re lovely golden girls but your capital city is falling down. The cathedral for instance. A chunk of stone fell off as I passed. Just missed me.”

“Cathdral built in Sixteenth Century, “ explained one girl, giggling.
“My dad work there,”exclaimed the other. “He mend the sharp top. He do it for free. Is that what you say? For free?”

“Her dad, he religious,” said the other, tittering. “We not have religion. We like too much fun.”

“Da, we like too much fun,” her friend agreed. “You nice men! You buy us drinks and we show you how our fun!”
…………………
But those were happy days, and the girls were nice to be with. And the six hundred miles of golden sand… In fact, Guy did think of living there, right there in Montevideo; one problem was he did not speak Spanish.
Now, later in life, another problem arose. He could no longer remember his friend’s name. Or the girls’ names.

Only the grand ruinous city’s remains came to mind, and the restaurant on the beach, and the sea, and the playful affections of the two women, sweet and smiling and not yet fifty……

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