As promised, this is the new and improved 'showing' version of yesterday's post, which is now a scene in my memoir WE'RE NOT ORDINARY PEOPLE. It's still in first draft stage so it might become even more detailed further down the track. If any of you speak French, please let me know if I have written the hotel owner's dialogue correctly! I just used an Internet translator. My mother's dialogue doesn't need to be fixed because she's supposed to be saying things incorrectly. Hope you like it! And, of course, critique is always welcome :)
Due to some ridiculous advice from her doctor, Mum refused to sleep on any soft mattresses—her back had to be straight and supported at all times. This made it very difficult to find a room, and we always ended up staying in bug-ridden pensions because we couldn’t afford proper hotels. Snarls. Yes, we regularly received vicious snarls when Mum would go traipsing through every single room, inspecting the beds, as though she were about to stay in a 500 dollar suite at the Hilton.
In Nice, standing in front of perhaps the fifth pension we practically ransacked that day, Mum pulled out her pocket-sized French phrase book and said to the little old man sitting behind the tiny reception desk, “Parlez-vous l'anglais?”
The little old man shook his head, “Désolé, je ne parle pas d'anglais.”
“Er …,” mum paused for a moment. She looked at Demetri for help, who was staring at the wall paper. It was of tree branches covered in pink and yellow blossom, and there were brown wrinkles of paper curling off the walls—although, it didn’t look too bad because in places you could mistake the peeling paper for the brown twigs in the pattern.
“Demetri! Help me find the words in the phrase book. I don’t know where to look.” She gave the book to Demetri, huffing and puffing impatiently. He flipped through a few pages, um-ing and ah-ing.
“Christ. Give it back. We’ll still be standing her tomorrow morning if I leave it up to you.” Mum snatched the phrase book off him and after few more seconds of furiously sifting through pages, she found what she was looking for.
“It’s right here, you idiot,” she whispered heavily pointing her forefinger down so hard on the page that the tip of her finger went a sweaty shade of white and red. “Um … Je … um … blessure …,” mum continued, pointing to her lower back. “Je, non mou … lit … Oui?” The little old man nodded. He seemed to catch on to what she was trying to say.
“Oui, oui, suivez-moi,” the little old man said, gesturing for us to follow him. He took us up a very narrow flight of stairs. The place smelt rather moldy, but I felt comfortable despite the fact. I was really hoping we’d find a hard bed—my feet were throbbing from schlepping round the streets and traipsing up and down countless staircases, not to mention my tired shoulders from carrying my backpack. To be honest, I was just happy to get away from the smell of poodle poop and perfume—it really accentuated the smell of our three-day old dirty sweaty bodies.
The little old man showed us one room—my mum felt the mattress—it wasn’t hard enough. He showed us a second room—my mum felt the mattress—it wasn’t hard enough. He showed us a third room—my mum felt the mattress—it wasn’t hard enough. He showed us a fourth room—my mum felt the mattress—it was hard enough.
Mum started nodding, “Oui, Oui.”
“Bon, bon. Comment voudriez-vous payer?”
“Um, er … how much?” Mum asked waving her hand in the air beside her right cheek.
“Um …,” she flicked though the book again. I could see she was getting tired. She rubbed her back and shot Demetri a ‘look’. One of those looks that meant Demetri was being useless. He shot her a look back. A defenseless look, a look that meant, he had no control over the situation. He never had control over any situation, mind you. He was the ‘yes man’. Mum said jump, and he’d jump, and then he’d stuff it up and be in big trouble. “Um … combien?” Mum asked finally.
“Vingt franks par nuit,” he replied. He must have realised from our blank expressions that we didn’t understand, and fetched a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote something down, which I never saw, and Mum shook her head.
“Too much. It’s too much. Sorry.”
“Pardon? Vous ne l'aimez pas?”
“No. Sorry,” Mum said, and started to head out of the room with Demetri and I following behind her like Mary’s little lambs. But the petite old man started to yell.
“Vous m'avez fait vous montrer chaque pièce dans l'hôtel! Et maintenant vous ne l'aimez pas ? Vous êtes idiots!” He half opened a door which seemed to lead into a kitchen, poked his head in and yelled out something I couldn’t make out. Seconds later a fat greasy middle-aged woman with a protruding chin and a bloody apron chased us down the stairs and out into the street with a carving knife. The type of woman you’d read about in Brother’s Grimm books. I started crying, my mum started hyperventilating and Demetri, always looking on the bright side of life said to me, “Don’t worry, Sweetie. Just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell your kids!”
PS: Don't forget to check in tomorrow for the Internal Conflict Blog Fest!!!