Excerpt from “The Comedians” by Graham Greene ~~Pool~~

picture-Comedians-GreeneI mounted the steps again to the Hotel Trianon. ‘A centre of Haitian intellectual life. A luxury hotel which caters equally for the connoisseur of good food and the lover of local customs. Try the special drinks made from the finest Haitian rum, bathe in the luxurious swimming-pool, listen to the music of the Haitian  drum and watch the Haitian dancers. Mingle with the élite of Haitian intellectual life, the musicians, the poets, the painters who find at the Hotel Trianon a social centre . . .’ The tourist brochure had been nearly true once.
I felt under the bar and found an electric torch. I went through the lounge to my office, the desk covered with old bills and receipts. I had not expected a client, but even Joseph was not there. What a homecoming, I thought, what a homecoming. Below the office was the bathing-pool. About this hour the cocktail guests should have been arriving from other hotels in the town. Few in the good days drank anywhere else but the Trianon, except for those who were booked on round tours and chalked everything up. The Americans always drank dry martinis. By midnight some of them would be swimming in the pool naked. Once I had looked out of my window at two in the morning. There was a great yellow moon and a girl was making love in the pool. She had her breasts pressed against the side and I couldn’t see the man behind her. She didn’t notice me watching her; she didn’t notice anything. That night I thought before I slept, ‘I have arrived.’
I heard steps in the garden coming up from the direction of the swimming-pool, the broken steps of a man limping. Joseph had always limped since his encounter with the Tontons Macoute. I was about to go out on the verandah to meet him when I looked again at my desk. There was something missing. All the bills were there which had accumulated in my absence, but where was the small brass paper-weight shaped like a coffin, marked with the letters R.I.P., that I bought for myself one Christmas in Miami? It had no value, it had cost me two dollars seventy-five cents, but it was mine and it amused me and it was no longer there. Why should things change in our absence? Even Martha had changed her scent. The more unstable life is the less one likes the small details to alter.
I went out on to the verandah to meet Joseph. I could see his light as it corkscrewed along the curving path from the pool.
‘Is it you, Monsieur Brown?’ he called up nervously.
‘Of course it’s me. Why weren’t you here when I arrived? Why have you left my suitcases . . . ?’
He stood below me looking up with a sick expression on his black face.
‘Madame Pineda gave me a lift. I want you to drive back with her into the town. You can return on the bus. Is the gardener here?’
‘He go away.’
‘The cook?’
‘He go away.’
‘My paper-weight? What’s happened to my paper-weight?’
He looked at me as though he didn’t understand.
‘Have there been no guests at all since I left?’
‘No, monsieur. Only . . .’
‘Only what?’
‘Four nights ago Doctor Philipot he come here. He say tell nobody.’
‘What did he want?’
‘I tell him no stay here. I tell him the Tontons Macoute look for him here.’
‘What did he do?’
‘He stay all the same. Then the cook go away and the gardener go away. They say they come back when he go. He very sick man. That’s why he stay. I say go to the mountain, but he say no walk, no walk. His feet they swell bad. I tell him go before you come back.’
‘It’s the hell of a mess for me to come back to,’ I said. ‘I’ll talk to him. Which room is he in?’
‘When I hear the car, I call to him – Tontons, get out quick. He very tired. He not want to go. He say “I be old man.” I tell him Monsieur Brown he ruined if they find you here along. All same for you, I say, if Tontons find you in the road, but Monsieur Brown he ruined if they catch you here. I tell him I go and talk to them. He go out then quick quick. But it was only that stupid taxi-man with the luggage . . . So I run tell him.’
‘What are we going to do with him, Joseph? Doctor Philipot was not a bad man as government officials go. He had even during his first year of office made some attempt to improve the conditions of the shanty-town along the waterfront; they had built a water-pump, with his name on a stamped cast-iron label, at the bottom of the Rue Desaix, but the pipes had never been connected because the contractors had not received a proper rake-off.
‘When I go in his room he not there any more.’
‘Do you think he’s made for the mountain?’
‘No, Monsieur Brown, not the mountain,’ Joseph said. He stood below me with his head bowed. ‘I think he gone done a very wicked thing.’ He added in a low voice the inscription on my paper-weight, ‘Requiescat In Pace ,’ for Joseph was good Catholic as well as a good Voodooist. ‘Please, Monsieur Brown, come with me.’
I followed him down the path to the bathing-pool in which I had seen the pretty girl making love, once, in another epoch, in the golden age. It was empty of water now. My torch lit the shallows and a litter of leaves.
‘Other end,’ Joseph told me, standing quite still, not going any nearer. Doctor Philipot must have walked up to the narrow cave of shadow made by the diving-plank, and now he lay in a crouched position below it with his knees drawn towards his chin, a middle-aged foetus ready dressed for burial in his neat grey suit. He had cut his wrists first, and then his throat to make sure. Above the head was the dark circle of the pipe. We had only to turn on the water to wash the blood away; he had been as considerate as possible. He could not have been dead for more than a few minutes.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Comedians” by Graham Greene ~~Pool~~

  1. Graham Greene was born in Hertfordshire, England on 2 October 1904, and died on 3 April 1991, aged 86 years. ‘The Comedians’ was published in 1966.

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