The American Broker
Bob Lindon stood on the beach staring out to sea. There was no wind and the sun was hot. An island seemed close enough to touch. He was motionless, hands in the pockets of a creased pair of pinstriped trousers. A creamy-white shirt hung limply from his shoulders and his hair was unkempt. In the reflection in his glasses was a hazy horizon of blue against blue.
He ignored the passing traffic and continued to gaze out, now turning his head slowly from side to side. Eventually, he made a full turn and strolled back to the red estate car. Fritz opened the passenger door and started the engine as Bob climbed in.
"Thank you," said Bob. "Long time since I stood still. It's scary, you know. Real scary. There was this crazy old man standing and everyone else goes on. Don't know when I last remember not running somewhere. That old water's got some secrets. Sure thing. Looks still, doesn't it. No way. Under that surface it's swirling up and down - never still. No part ever more than once in the same place. That water I touched out there could be the same water that washes my old home in Florida. Used to spend a lot of time watching the water there when I was first married."
"You sure strange guy!" remarked Fritz. "We think you dead yesterday night."
"We all die a little every day, Fritz," said Bob. "I don't know what happened but something was coming through - real strong. Felt it again this morning. When I get that strange feeling I know - I mean I know - something's coming my way. Think I'm crazy, eh? You'll see." Bob made a visible effort to change the subject. "Now, where the shit are we?"
Fritz laughed and pointed to the sign in front of them. "Arlierac." he announced.
"Glad you can read that," joked Bob. "How far to the border?"
"We have about five hundred kilometres since this morning. We stop tonight about three hundred from border near Karlobag - should be there this evening."
"And Good Morning Austria tomorrow - huh?"
"Ja, Osterreich tomorrow," confirmed Fritz.
"This littl' ol' cart goes pretty well," said Bob, "but all those bends make me wobbly - why don't they make the road straight?!"
"The German showed Bob a map and ran his finger in illustration in and out of the series of inlets running up the Adriatic coast. A heavy lorry thundered by and Bob let out a volley of abuse in its wake.
"We pass him again soon." remarked Fritz.
"That'll make a change," commented Bob, "to see more than one thing twice will be a record for me during the last few weeks. Boy! Have I had a time!"
Fritz would have liked to enquire how, but decided not to. His passenger was still good company, albeit particularly subdued that day, only now beginning to revert to his cheerier self but even that seemed put on rather than natural good humour. The German had also found the requests to stop so that Bob could 'get some air' at the edge of the sea confusing. He was certain he had caught falseness in some of the conversation on his return and, this time, a tinge of regret fighting to get through the relentless jokes and pronouncements.