Mars Seafood part 3
a short story by George Kuchinsky
On the day they were scheduled to leave, the husband came downstairs with luggage and asked Hirsu for a cab. The incessant conversation in their room had stopped for some time but the silence that followed had an ominous, metallic quality. Hirsu called the jovial, heavyset chauffeur, the only one in town. The husband stood outside like a totem pole just about to be discarded by a populace turning away from paganism. Hirsu recalled that they had four suitcases and a small green carry-on. When the driver arrived, he placed only one into the aging Vauxhall. At five, she came downstairs and informed him that she will remain for another month, maybe longer. The high season was finished and when she informed Hirsu about her long-term stay he told her that there was no issue with availability and a lower rate would apply. But she exhausted him with a cutthroat negotiation, reminiscent of the hill farmers outside his village, burying each other with words, for sheep. And now he peered into the face of a woman determined and lost. The honeymoon was over.
There was not a trace of the easygoing demeanor. He relented and for the first time, left work early. It was dark and the multi-colored lights of the port had a mystical, Zoroastrian quality. They appeared to have been placed in some meaningful configuration for a profound and yet indecipherable purpose. He regarded them and proceeded home. He prepared a dish with carrots and lamb and watched the vulgar gestures of the new American president on television. Hirsu saw the face of the village beauty from his childhood and Italian immigration officers with starched short-sleeve shirts in his dream.
Very early in the morning, she began to take the rental car and drive away, skipping breakfast. She returned every evening and had dinner in town. However, eleven days into this new phase, when he approached the hotel to begin work, Hirsu saw that she hadn’t left. The rental car was in the designated spot. He placed the smoked mackerel and the bread with seeds on the serving platters and squeezed eleven oranges. She came down in a bathrobe. Thorinn showed up early — he had a meeting with the owner. The brothers were expanding and wanted to discuss buying the dilapidated two story hovel near their office, which had been in the owner’s family for a century. There were no other guests and Thorinn sat next to her. Ensconced in their mutual hunger they barely noticed each other. But then, as he was just about to pour himself coffee, he stopped short of his clay cup and instead poured it into hers, without asking. She smiled. They both seemed to be reflecting on something.
“Your husband is sleeping?” “He left….” Hirsu couldn’t hear the rest of the conversation because he had to go into the kitchen, place the dishes in the sink in the dishwasher and measure the quantities of products that had to be reordered. When he reappeared, he heard Thorinn laughing. It seemed that he was tired of laughing and wanted to stop but couldn’t and she continued to say something that kept up the agony. “What time?” – he asked, standing up, suddenly serious. “Eight.”, she responded, triumphantly. He left, without saying goodbye to Hirsu, something that he had never done, no matter how pressed for time. She stayed around the lobby all day and leafed through the Phaedon books scattered on the couches and the coffee tables. At 7:50 as Hirsu’s workday was ending she put on her coat. It was by ATC, a French company with a flagship store in the sixth arrondissement that meticulously married the new Brooklyn aesthetic with French finesse. Overworked, underfed very pretty women scoured its racks on weekends, trying cardigans and jeans in the style of the early 90’s and hoping to see a revelation in the dressing room mirror. She walked out of the hotel at the same time as Hirsu and painfully bumped him, without apology.
He saw that she headed in the direction of the brothers’ loft. She saw Elki cooking when Thorinn opened the door and let her in. He said that he was making pollock “in the French style.” When they began to eat she failed to discern any sign of the Hexagone in the dish but the conversation flowed. “He was always the dumb one,” recounted Thorinn. “When we took the car without permission and drove toward the volcano, he rolled down the window when we drove by our friends’ house and screamed the line from the Rocky movie, when he beat the Russian, ‘I can change, you can change, we can all change!!!’ Imagine, the people in the neighborhood, listening to village idiot in disbelief, including our friend’s mother. So obviously, our trip was cut short. Our father didn’t talk to us for days, it was the worst punishment ever.” She expected Elki to refute the dismissive anecdote or return the insult in more potent form, but he just ate quietly and nodded his head. His silence in the face of his brother’s affectionate but harsh ribbing, was soft and empathetic. “I am glad he’s enjoying himself,“ Elki, seemed to be saying. Then he sang and for a moment, she thought of her husband, about the reunion, and wanted to return to France, to her husband, to the safety of the office. It was a very old dirge, sung on winter evenings by their great-grandfather. It was about a parsimonious Danish lord who squeezes the peasants so viciously, that one day they collectively walk into the frigid sea and only the puffins weep for them. Elki sang, in the faint light of the candles, amid the unremarkable furniture, accompanied by wind-gusts. He sang, and Thorinn walked with her to the bedroom and shut the door tight.
George Kuchinsky is a writer based in Boston, USA. He immigrated to the US from Latvia, then the Soviet Union, as a child. He has worked as a foreign policy analyst, briefing US and European officials on global developments. More recently, he has taught history, geography, politics, literature and language to students of different ages. His debut poem was published in the Lyric magazine in 2017. His poetry can be read here. https://kuchinskypoetry.tumblr.com George is working on a book of short stories.