Want to be a travel writer? asked Bernhard.
I think he was being funny again, but gave him some room to breathe.
He pulled out his hard copy of The King of Macau, and read.
I was mesmerized.
‘Regardless of all that, the old waterfront and the Barra district that surrounds it are still my favorite part of Macau. It’s almost all that is left these days of the exotic south China port of the fifties I first learned about in black and white noir thrillers on late night television. The Macau in those films had a seedy glamour that I would associate with Asia for the rest my life. European men in wrinkled white suits, sloe-eyed local women wearing tight fitting cheongsams, and creaking ceiling fans slowly stirring the heavy, humid air.’
Who hasn’t been weened on Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen, The Third Man, and Casablanca?
‘Aren’t you missing out on another movie?’
Well fuck a duck, two times.
‘Macao,’ I said.
‘Yep, and with a different spelling.’
I said I’d like to read out something that was just as moving.
‘As I watched the light etch lazy circles into the thin winter fog lying over the city, I thought about the generation of sailors on the South China Sea who had seen that light in the last century and a half and looked upon it as a signal light beckoning them toward safety.’
‘Yep,’ said Bernhard, ‘that was my second choice.’
So what you think of this book compared to the others in the series? He was expressing a literary bent that I suspected, but had never seen so blatantly expressed, so figured, what the fuck, I’ll fire away.
Bernhard took a sip of his coffee and lit up another smoke.
He paused, too fucking long, if you asked me.
‘The King of Macau would have to be the best Jack Shephard book.’
‘How you can fuck up in a place like Macau, now lets hit a whore house, I have a feeling something is going down.’
I had to admit, those Portuguese named streets in the far fucking east, just gave the place another fairy tale angle.
‘Keep on trying,’ said Bernhard, ‘you are getting there. Admitting and admiring great literature is a start, but no fucking plagiarizing on my shift, you got it dopehead?’
I could see his point. And I thanked him too. I had no idea…
‘You’re a second-rate travel writer,’ he said, finishing off my sentence, ‘so don’t be hard on yourself.’
I had to give it to the Kiwis, they gave away compliments sparingly, but when they did, you learned to dine on them for a while.