14th August


He took another beer from the fridge. The literature – not the stuff he wrote, the other kind – called it a mini-bar. He didn’t know if its contents were part of the deal but he would continue to work on that assumption until proved wrong. Each day he pretty much emptied the fridge and the following morning, when he slipped out for breakfast before anybody else was around, somebody filled it up again. They seemed to know exactly when he was out. By the time he returned the fridge was restocked, the towels replaced, the bed made and the room spotless. They probably sent in a squad. How else could they get it back in shape so fast?

The festival was paying for everything else so surely they wouldn’t grudge him a beer or two, the odd bottle of wine and a few pretzels?

Three days ago he’d read from a platform shared with a Canadian woman and an Irishman. Fifteen minutes each, followed by questions. Nobody had asked him anything. After that he’d gone back to the hotel.

His room was on the nineteenth floor, overlooking the lake. The lake was bigger than a small sea. He could sit on the balcony and if it became too hot retreat inside and cool off in the air conditioning. Sometimes he just walked around the room in the hotel’s white robe and flip-flop slippers, surveying his domain.

Their entire flat could have fitted into the room – twice. The bed was bigger than their bathroom. The bathroom was the size of a swimming pool. There was even a lobby. A hotel room with its own lobby. Unbelievable.

Five days and nights. He didn’t want to wake up.

The phone rang. It would be that man again, the organiser. The one who’d yelled at him, the only time he’d picked up, ‘Get your frickin ass down here right now!’ A publisher’s reception or something. It wasn’t obligatory, though. It wasn’t a legal requirement. He preferred being where was.

He sat in the armchair with the beer. After a while he moved to the sofa. He pointed the remote at the TV. Maybe he’d watch a movie. Maybe he wouldn’t.

Reader: Matthew Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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