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quinta-feira, 11 de outubro de 2007

 
Doris Lessing

All this time Jessie was standing-at-ease on the carpet. He handed her a cup of tea. She nodded towards me saying: "Give it to her," He took it back and gave it Ho me. "What's the matter dear?" he asked. "Aren't you feeling well?"
"I am perfectly well," I said, reading the newspaper.
"Stalin is dying," said Aunt Emma. "Or so they would have us believe."
"Stalin?" said our host.
"That man in Russia," said Aunt Emma.
"Oh you mean old uncle Joe. Bless him."
Aunt Emma started. Jessie looked gruffly incredulous. Jackie Smith came and sat down beside me, and read the news-paper over my shoulder. "Well, well," he said. "Well, well, well, well." Then, he giggled and said: "Nine doctors. If there were fifty doctors I still wouldn't feel very safe, would you?"
"No, not really," I said.
"Silly old nuisance," said Jackie Smith. "Should have bumped him off years ago. Obviously outlived his usefulness at who isn't relaxed." the end of the war, wouldn't you think?"
"It seems rather hard to say," I said.
Our host, a teacup in one hand, raised the other in a peremptory gesture. "I don't like to hear that kind of thing," he said. "I really don't. God knows, if there's one thing I make a point of never knowing a thing about it's politics, but during the war Uncle Joe and Roosevelt were absolutely my pin-up boys. But absolutely."
Here cousin Jessie, who had neither sat down, nor taken a cup of tea, took a stride forward and said angrily: "Look, do you think we could get this damned business over with?" Her virginal pink cheeks shone with emotion, and her eyes were brightly unhappy.
"But my dear," said our host, putting down his cup. "But of course. If you feel like that, of course."
He looked at his assistant Jackie, who reluctantly laid down the newspaper, and pulled the cords of a curtain, revealing an alcove full of cameras and equipment. Then they both thoughtfully examined Jessie. "Perhaps it would help," said our host, "if you could give me an idea what you want it for? Publicity? Dust-jackets? or just your lucky friends?"
"I don't know and I don't care," said cousin Jessie.
Aunt Emma stood up and said: "I would like to catch her expression. It's just a little look of hers ..."
Jessie clenched her fists at her.
"Aunt Emma," I said, "Don't you think it would be a good idea if you and I went out for a little?"
"But my dear ..."
But our host had put his arm around her, and was easing her to the door. "There's a duck," he was saying. "You do want me to make a good job of it, don't you? And I never could really do my best, even with the most sympathetic lookers-on.'
Again Aunt Emma went limp, blushing. I took his place at her side, and took her to the door. As we shut it, I heard Jackie Smith saying: "Music, do you think?" And Jessie: "I loathe music." And Jackie again: "We do rather find music helps, you know ..."
The door shut and Aunt Emma and I' stood at the landing window, looking down into the street.
"Has that young man done you?" she asked.
"He was recommended to me," I said.
Music started up from the room behind us. Aunt Emma's foot tapped on the floor. "Gilbert-and-Sullivan," she said. "Well, she can't say she loathes that. But I suppose she would just to be difficult."
I lit a cigarette. 'The Pirates of Penzance' abruptly stopped. "Tell me, dear," said Aunt, suddenly roguish, "about all the exciting things you are doing?'
Aunt Emma always says this; and always I try hard to think of portions of my life suitable for presentation to Aunt Emma. "What have you been doing today, for instance?" I considered Bill; I considered Beatrice; I considered comrade Jean.
"I had lunch," I said, "with the daughter of a Bishop."
"Did you dear?" she said doubtfully.
Music again: Cole Porter. "That doesn't sound right to me," said Aunt Emma. "It's modern, isn't it?" The music stopped. The door opened. Cousin Jessie stood there shining with determination. "It's no good," she said. "I'm sorry, Mummy, but I'm not in the mood."
"But we won't be coming to London again for another four months.''
Our host and his assistant appeared behind cousin Jessie. Both were smiling rather bravely. "Perhaps we had better forget about it," said Jackie.
Our host said: "Yes, we'll try again later, when everyone is really themselves."
Jessie turned to the two young men and thrust out her hand at them. "I'm very sorry," she said, with )her fierce virgin sincerity. "I am really terribly sorry."
Aunt Emma went forward, pushed aside Jessie, and shook their hands. "I must thank you both," she said, "for the tea." Jackie Smith waved my newspaper over the three heads. "You've forgotten this," he said.
"Never mind, you can keep it," I said.
"Oh bless you, now I can read all the gory details."
The door shut on their friendly smiles.
"Well," said Aunt Emma, "I've never been so ashamed.'
"I don't care," said Jessie fiercely. "I really couldn't care less."
We descended into the street. We shook each other's hands. We kissed each other's cheeks. We thanked each other. Aunt Emma and cousin Jessie waved at a taxi. I got on to a bus.
When I got home, the telephone was ringing. It was Beatrice. She said she had got my telegram, but she wanted to see met in any case. "Did you know Stalin was dying?" I said.


Doris Lessing in The day that Stalin died, 1957.



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