Enderby at the Teatro Cervantes

Extract from Enderby Outside (1968):

Enderby climbed to the top of the low wall by means of an empty Coca-Cola crate and a couple of broken-brick toeholds. He dropped easily, though panting, over the other side. It was an alley he was in now, and this led to a street. The street went downhill and led to other streets. If you kept going down all the time you eventually came to the Avenue d’Espagne, which looked at the plage. That dog place was down there, not far from the Hotel Rif.

It was very steep. Enderby teetered past a crumbling theatre called the Miguel de Cervantes then, finding that the next turning seemed to take him some way uphill again, tried a dark and leafy passage which went unequivocally down. Here a little Moorish girl cried when she saw him, and a number of house-dogs started to bark. But he went gamely on, supporting himself by grasping at broken fences. Precipitous: that was the word. At last he emerged from the barking dark, finding himself on a street where a knot of Moorish boys in smart suits called to him:

‘You want boy, Charlie?’

‘You very hot want nice beer.’

‘For cough,’ said Enderby, in no mood for foreign nonsense, and a boy riposted with:

‘You fuck off too, English fuckpig.’

Enderby didn’t like that. He knew that this place had once belonged to the English, part of Charles II’s Portuguese queen’s dowry. It was not right that he should be addressed like that. But another boy cried:

‘You fucking German. Kaput heilhitler.’

And another:

‘Fucking Yankee motherfucker. You stick chewing-gum up fucking arse.

That showed a certain ingenuity of invective. They were very rude boys, but their apparently indifferent despication of foreigners was perhaps a healthy sign, stirring in sympathy a limp G-string in his own nature. He nodded at them and, more kindly, said once more:

‘For cough.’

They seemed to recognise his change of tone, for they merely pronged two fingers each in his direction, one or two of them emitting a lip-fart. Then they started to playfight, yelping, among themselves. Enderby continued his descent, coming soon to a hotel-and-bar on his left called Al-Djenina. The forecourt had bird cages in it, the birds all tucked up for the night, and Enderby could distinctly see, through the long bar-window, middle-aged men drunk and embracing each other. Those would, he thought, be expatriate writers. He was, of course, one of those himself now, but he was indifferent to the duties and pleasures of sodality. He was on his own, waiting. He had written, though. He was working on things. The wind from the sea upheld him as he tottered to level ground. Here it was then: the Avenue d’Espagne, as they called it.

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