Excerpt of De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage
(Page 3 of 3)
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at the juice bar, George and I drank mango topped with
white cheese, honey, and nuts.
We sat and sipped our cocktails, licked our fingers, and
talked about the gun, and how silent it was.
Ten thousand bombs had split the winds, and my
mother was still in the kitchen smoking her long, white cigarettes.
She was dressed in black from head to toe, mourning
her father and mine. She boiled water on her gas stove, she cut
meat on her meat board, and she puffed tobacco against our
shattered wall and through our broken glass window. Here, in
her kitchen, a bomb had landed and made a wide-open hole in
the wall, giving us a splendid view of the vast sky. We wouldnt
fix it until winter, until the rain fell and washed away the soil
above all the corpses wed buried. Here in that kitchen my
father had died; hers had died farther north.
when george paid his aunt a visit the next day, her car was
parked in Chafiq Al-Azraks space.
Chafiq Al-Azrak came this morning, apologized, and
offered to share the space, Georges aunt said, and played with
her red-dyed hair. Aunt Nabila was in her mid-forties. She
worked in a bank. Never married, flirtatious and voluptuous,
she dressed in tight skirts, high heels, colourful makeup, and
low-cut blouses that showed her generous cleavage jutting
forward. She called George Gargourty, a nickname from
childhood that made him feel uncomfortable.
I often passed by Aunt Nabilas place looking for George.
And she often opened her door in her nightgown, with a cigarette
balanced on her round lips. I fantasized about her inviting
me in for a coffee, offering me water at the kitchen table, kneeling
in worship under my belly button, undoing my Japanese-made
zipper, nipping at my secreted fluid, and sweetly, in her little
coquettish voice, assuring me that George was not here.
I snt he at work ? she would say. Gargourty is at work!
George, my childhood friend, worked in a poker-machine
joint. He cashed money from gamblers who lingered all day
on machines that flicked green light on small screens. They
pressed buttons and lost their wives jewels, their fathers
houses and olive trees, their kids clothes. Everything they
owned was sucked in, everything was extracted from their
polyester pockets by aces and laughing jokers. George took
their money and transferred the credit into their machines,
sold them whisky and cigarettes, cleaned the bathroom,
opened the door, lowered the air conditioning, swept the
dust away, emptied the ashtrays, protected the place, and
when the militiamen came he put the money in sealed bags,
handed it to them, took his motorbike, and went home.
There must be a way to get a cut, he once said to me when
I visited him. Are you in ?
Abou-Nahra will cut our heads off if we are caught stealing.
Yeah, its risky, but there must be a way.
We will be fucking with the militia, I said.
George shrugged his shoulders, inhaled oily black hash,
closed his eyes, and held the smoke in his thin chest. Then,
slowly, with his eyes closed, he released his breath, extended
his arm like a half crucifix, stretched his two fingers, and
passed the hash on.
Bombs were falling like monsoon rain in distant India. I
was desperate and restless, in need of a better job and money.
I worked at the port, where I drove the winch. We emptied
weapons from ships. The weapons were stamped with Hebrew,
English, and Arabic serial numbers. Some shipments had oil,
and we had to hook them up to pipes in trucks. Fruit came
from Turkey. Seasick sheep with dripping noses and frightened
sounds came also from Turkey. We emptied it all. When the
shipments contained weapons, militia jeeps surrounded the
whole area. The unloading was always done at night and no
light was allowed, not even a cigarette. After a night shift I
would go home and sleep through the day. My mother cooked
and complained. The few jobs I got at the port were not enough
for cigarettes, a nagging mother, and food. Where to go, who
to rob, con, beg, seduce, strip, and touch ? I was sitting in my
room, looking at a wall filled with foreign images, fading posters
of teenage singers, blondes with shiny white teeth, Italian
football players. I thought, Roma must be a good place to walk
freely. The pigeons in the squares look happy and well fed.
I thought about Georges proposal and the poker machines.
I decided to pay him a visit at his work.
Excerpted from De Niro's Game
by Rawi Hage © 2007 by Rawi Hage. Excerpted by
permission of Steerforth Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.