Saturday, November 11, 2006

the first bit of the novel-writing month novel

a NaNaNeeNee Novel


The trouble with leaving more than enough time to check in and go through security at the airport is that invariably you end up with more than enough time to sit and wait. How do you pass that time? First, you wander through the Duty Free section. No longer interested in the cut-price Silk Cut cigarettes, you lust after a tin of Quality Street the size of your head, drool at the gift-sized truncheons of Toblerone, and console yourself with several squirts of very expensive perfume. Next, you trail up and down the parade of shops, perhaps buying a dvd that you do not really need to own but it costs less than you would pay for it outside the airport. You check out the electronics store, diffidently considering which digital camera you wish that you had, and end up buying some AA batteries, or a travel converter plug. Finally, because you didn’t really have breakfast, or dinner, or anything; you look for something to eat that is neither your last meal nor your next. Since you are going on a journey, normal rules do not apply, so calories do not count and all diets are off. This is how Rafi found herself sitting in a saggy armchair outside Caffe Nero in Terminal Four of Heathrow Airport, with a glass of pressed apple juice in her hand, and her mouth full of Mississippi Mud Pie. It had seemed a good idea at the time, but the cake was stale and her tastebuds were disappointed. There was a woman on the next sofa, trying to feed a fidgety baby in a pushchair from a glass jar full of bright orange goo. She filled a white plastic spoon and aimed for the baby’s open mouth. At the last moment, the baby gurgled and twisted out of the way. “O bugger!” said the woman as carroty pap smeared across the baby’s face. She reached for a napkin, and the baby grinned. As the smile was being wiped off its face, Rafi decided it was time to go to the gate.

The flight was departing from one of the very last gates at the end of the terminal. Rafi stepped onto a moving walkway, and began to glide. Each step carried her three times further than it would on the ground, and she imagined herself skating gracefully across the ice. “Excuse me,” she said, as she rounded someone who did not seem to know that those who stood still should do so on the right-hand side. She swallowed her irritation, and continued to sail forward. The walkway ended, and she stumbled back onto dry land. The last few hundred yards were the most barren section of the airport. There were no more toilets. Neither were there any computer ports or telephones. There was nowhere to buy a junky magazine, nor a coffee. A lone Coke machine stood by the window. A Chasidic Jew sat in the middle of a row of chairs, clutching a large white hat-box in his left hand, and reading from a small gold-embossed hardback book in his right hand. The desk at her gate was empty and she sat down to wait.

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