Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

The Contortionist

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A small ageing Englishman lived in the Berenice Hotel in Benghazi. He was a bachelor and his work was not demanding. He spent much time in the cabaret in the hotel basement. It was known as the Snake Pit by its aficionados.
The cabaret acts toured the North African circuit in troupes. Spanish dancers were popular. There is an affinity between flamenco and Arab dancing.
The artists were required to entertain the male customers and persuade them to buy Champaign. For each bottle they sold they received a small plastic token which they could cash for spending money. The Greek who ran the place called this ‘making the consumption’. It was unpopular because some customers were too demanding.
The old Englishman made no demands and was well liked, especially by the Spanish dancers. They helped him endure his sixtieth birthday with a joyous celebration in the Snake Pit, only some of which he remembered. He awoke in his room in the morning to find they had flattered him by leaving some female underwear in his bed.
He fell in love with a young Yugoslavian contortionist who was unhappy. Her troop was on the point of leaving. He wanted her to stay in town a while longer so he took her to a rival cabaret for an audition. She performed her strange act before two cynical Greeks whilst he sat nearby. The morning light flattered neither the contortionist nor the old Englishman. She failed the audition and left.
The Englishman retired to live in Spain where he was sometimes visited by second rate flamenco artists who were between engagements.

Written by johnoakes

August 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

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