Southern Wind

Southern Wind
With grateful thanks to Inizjamed Malta
An extract from a novel (Rih Isfel, Merlin Library: Malta, 2007) by Pierre J. Mejlak

Translated from the Maltese by Antoine Cassar

"Are you going to the funeral?" Melanie asked him, as she reached over to the bag to take out the bottle of sun cream.

"The whole village is going," replied Jason, his eyes hidden behind his chunky sunglasses.

"Let me put a little cream on you," she said to him, and before he had a chance to answer, she had already squeezed out a fistful of sun cream and was spreading it over his chest.

A chill went up Jason's spine, but he pretended to be in the habit of having girls apply sun block to him. And, at that very moment, it occurred to him that this was perhaps the most beautiful moment of his life. With Melanie spreading sun cream over his chest just as the holidays were starting, he couldn't have had a more delicious prelude to the summer.

"But something doesn't seem right," said Melanie. She threw the bottle of sun cream back into the bag, and turned with her belly flat on the towel and her face five inches away from Jason's.

"I don't know," he replied. "And I don't think we'll ever find out."


"Just think of how many strange things have happened in the village over the years and remained a mystery. This just adds to them."

"But do you think Jonathan is dead somewhere?"

"Who knows?"

"Sometimes I think there are people who know everything, but avoid uttering even a sound so they don't get into trouble."

"Aren't we like that too?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we know about that affair with the dog, for example, and we decided not to tell anyone, not even Albert. I mean, say you were to find out something, would you go and tell the police?"

"Well definitely! Of course!"

"Even if you knew that by telling the police there would be someone ready to take revenge on you? And if not on you, on someone in your family?"

"Yes but... how would they know it was me who went to the police?"

"Whoever it is might have friends in the police force and find out from them... After all, the police are not exactly a bunch of robots detached from the real world. They have friends too."

"We could always make an anonymous phone call, or create a Yahoo account and send an e-mail with a false name."

"Yeah sure, that would solve it. The police would need evidence. Everyone can write and say whatever they like."

"I'm not too sure about that..."

"As Mario was saying this morning, for example. Yesterday Vitor made a bet that the police would discover there's someone else involved. He won it of course. But this business with Vitor is weird. So what do we do, go to the police and tell them that Vitor may have something to do with it?"

"Don't shout, Jason, someone might hear you!"

"My point exactly." And for a few minutes they said nothing. Instead, Jason stared at the freckles on Melanie's cheeks, whilst Melanie delighted in her reflection on Jason's huge sunglasses. He could hardly overcome the impulse to move his head slightly closer and kiss her, even if just a peck on the cheek... yet something inside him told him the time hadn't yet come.

"Sometimes I wish I hadn't been born in such a small village," he said to her after a while. Melanie looked at him, waiting for him to go on. "Here everyone knows each other. Everyone wants to know everything about everyone. If you go out in the street you have to say hello to everybody. You practically cannot walk from your house to the square with your hands in your pockets. You can't do anything. It's as if they set your whole life from the day you're born, and if you try to stray away from it even a little - Christ - everyone notices you and goes round talking about you behind your back. But then there comes a time when we really need people to speak, and everyone goes quiet. Either because whoever's involved is related to you, or 'cause they're your friend or you're going to have to see them every day, or 'cause you're scared of them, or because, well, you say to yourself, why should I change anything? And so everything stays as it is, and nothing changes. Everyone pretends to be a saint. Everyone goes to church. Everyone smiles when they meet the chaplain, like he's on some higher level. Goodness personified. Everyone puffs up their chest in pride at the village feast and mucks around in front of the statue. But then, away from people's sight, everyone does what suits them."

"So what do you suggest then?"

"It's not a matter of what I suggest, Mel. I think you either accept things as they are, forget who you are, not give two hoots about anything and just let it roll, and do what everyone else does, or else you get up and leave. And it's easier to leave today than it was before. Sometimes I wish I had been born in a different place."

"Not me. I never want to leave this place."

"No, no - don't misunderstand me, Mel. Nor do I," replied Jason hastily, not wishing to show in any way that there could be something they didn't agree on.



With grateful thanks to Inizjamed Malta


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