A little after 10am there’s a familiar knock at my door. A moment later Speedy enters on his right-handed crutch.
“What’re you working on?” he asks. Faking interest comes naturally to Speedy. And I tell him the Chinook CH46 was used to airlift people out of Saigon in 1975. That he’s probably seen newsreels from the time, or depictions of the event in the Vietnam war films he purports to like. And, of course, Speedy nods along (like a true friend). I tell him a similar type of aircraft is being used presently in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“Does the glue come free with the models, Jack?” He puts this question to me every flaming time.
One of our friends in the hostel was moving out. Though no less of a ravaged doll, Lexi looked younger than her forty years. Speedy was dead keen on her. He’d taken her to a nearby patisserie for breakfast.
“What time is Lexi due to leave?” I asked.
“Had those sticky buns, she’s crazy about, French coffee, baguettes. Cost me some, Jack….”
“And what time does she go?”
“Cost me some. I need a hand with the sofa-bed she’s given me.”
It was a prime piece of furniture. Sturdily built. I’d offered to help. It was all smiles. Maybe we had a little something to smoke. Cushty.
An hour later and Speedy is swinging that right-handed crutch of his – “She’s stitched me up” – at anyone or anything that happens to get in his way. “Like a kipper, she done me.” In a paroxysm of rage… the old romantic fool was hopping mad.
Lexi had already left. And the sofa-bed was in some other geezer’s room.
“Over forty pounds, she’s cost me – the breakfast and the smokes! She goes and sells the bed to someone else? The Snake is what she is!”
Weary eyed I watch the news. The rolling mess of Kabul airport. Desperate humanity. I don’t see many wearing masks. The Taliban (Taleban from the Arabic verb talaba, to seek) forbid professionals to leave.
From my open window I see Speedy. Hopping mad by a disused water fountain, he remonstrates with someone I do not recognise. I lift the model Chinook from the table. Hold it through the open window.
“The truth is…”, a voice begins, as I let go.