The Gypsy Girl and the Accountant's Brother (2 of 5)
Dirk had a job.
He’d been applying for positions in half a dozen accounting firms, and today he’d gotten the letter in the mail, gold embossed, with bold black headers, telling him he’d been accepted. He smiled as he showed his family the starting salary.
“Well, you can buy your old man a new car.”
“And your mother a trip to Italy.”
“All in good time,” Dirk was lapping it up. Bad boy turned good. Regular kid from working class roots, but he was going to aim higher than that.
And what was he going to buy his brother? Funny how Simon wasn’t mentioned, wasn’t included. Sure, it was Dirk’s moment, and in his own way he was happy for him – good for you, Dirk, well done – but he was surprised by just how sharp it squeezed his heart to be on the outer, to be this excluded amongst his flesh and blood.
On the other hand, there was one person out there now, someone who didn’t exclude him, who made him feel like the most improbably fascinating version of himself possible.
Dirk was explaining, ‘I am going to need to borrow a bit of money.”
His dad nodded, sagely.
“For suits and that.”
“Well, with that salary…”
“I’ll have you paid back in months. And then you can borrow the car I’m going to buy next.”
No mention of his brother, or how perhaps he’d like to borrow it. Well, maybe he’ll want to move out and get his own place now. That would be some sort of a relief – and sad to think that the two of them weren’t going to miss each other at all. Maybe he’ll be Minister of Finance one day. That sort of future wouldn’t surprise Simon in the least.
Their mother said, “Well, that settles it, we should go out and celebrate.”
Simon’s dad was enthusiastic, “Head down to Loghaulers, tell the lads about this.”
“I meant a real place. Decent like.”
“Well, sure.” Though he’d have to be tallying the budget in his head. Wasn’t Dirk supposed to have the head for all that? When would he make them all rich?
And Simon finally found the courage: “If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to bring a date.”
She might have had two heads. She might have been an alien fresh out of a space ship. Or – at least in Dirk’s case – she might have walked in there naked, because that was the reception she received. Simon reflected that his family were dumb-founded not just on account of her beauty and vivaciousness, the magic that she just flung around her wherever she stepped, but also on account of her existence.
“You want to bring… who?” his mother had sounded so puzzled.
“A girl. A date.”
“If that’s all right.”
He’d never introduced them to a girl before. He’d never had anything that really qualified as a relationship: a couple of nominal relationships in high school, a couple of messy gropes at parties or out on the town. This was some new territory for all of them.
But Jodie walked through it as if she owned it. She strutted in there in her loose jeans, with a lacy blouse overtop and her hair knotted, in braids, above her head. She was cool and breezy, grinning, confident, alluring. She was a dense star, and the universe danced around her. That’s just what she was.
“Simon told me everything,” she promised, “where the bodies are buried, the works.”
Dirk’s jaw was practically on the floor.
“You must be the brother.”
“That’s right. Dirk.”
“So, this is your day.”
“I did… get a job.”
“Well, a job’s a good thing.” But she made it sound as if it were something unremarkable, a nice thing to have, steady and sturdy, but without any sparkle. A shadow of an achievement. But she did so with such subtlety, that Simon thought only he knew – and she did it for his sake, he realised, lowering Dirk so that he could rise, as if the two of them were balanced on a set of scales.
“Accountant,” Dirk said, “well, Accounts Clerk, but with a good firm, one of the best actually. With a view to becoming an accountant.”
“You like numbers?”
“I’m good with them.”
“Then welcome home.” She had that way with words.
“A toast. To me,” Dirk said, unaware of saying such a thing, just feeling so secure in his own skin, raising his glass in the expectation that other glasses would rise to meet it.
He told Simon later than night: “She’s something.”
“Yeah. Where the hell did you get a girl like that?”
“I met her at a club, actually.”
“I never would’ve guessed it, but you did good, brother.”
What’s this? Praise from the almighty one?
Dirk said, “She’s one hell of a woman. I assume you have noticed?”
“Yes.” Of course.
“So don’t blow it, right?”
No, he thought, I can’t blow it. This kind of luck only falls into a man’s arms once. Seize it. Before someone else does.
There was more than one carnival that came to town.
This had been true all Simon’s life. He’d never given it much thought before. The Winter Carnival came with the snows. It was one he’d never been to. It was rumoured to have a darker face, to maybe be a front for some dodgy goings-on. It was rumoured that the prizes on offer were those of the flesh. It was something that probably should have appealed to a young man his age, but Simon had never been that interested. He supposed he just wasn’t fringe enough. There were posters starting to go up now for it, and he only gave them a cursory glance.
Jodie paid them more attention, and she seemed… alarmed.
“What is it?” He’d had a couple of months with her now. Beautiful months that he’d wanted never to see come to an end. An end had felt inevitable – given her, given him – but it was something he’d put out of his mind.
Jodie said, “the other carnival…”
“They come. They go. I prefer you guys.”
“You’ve never been there.”
“How would you know?”
“Your super power?”
“You’d be different.” And they stopped there in the middle of the street. She’d taken both of his hands in hers, hers had been shaking.
“I’m going to have to go soon.”
“The carnival’s going to be leaving.”
He gestured at the poster, “Because of them.”
“We can’t… both… can we?”
“This town’s not big enough for the both of you?”
“Well. That’s the short version, isn’t it? No town is, really.”
“They’re not even serious competition.”
But she was deeply in earnest. Like he’d never seen her before. “In a couple of days, Simon, I’ll have to go. They’ll pack up the booths, load it all into a truck, and I’ll be riding out with them. I have to go.”
“You don’t have to.”
“I deserve that. Fine. I want to go. Not because I want to leave you, because you know I don’t, but because I belong there, and it’s my life, and who I am.”
“And this: you and me?”
“It’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous, but I can’t stay.”
“You’ve known all along.”
“So have you.”
But not like she’d known it, not the way she’d understood it, and expected it, and hadn’t got caught up in imagining a future and a picket fence, a van in a driveway. This girl!
There’ll never be anybody like her though. He was sure about it. And sure, and afraid, that nothing would compete with these months again. Had he lived the best and loudest and most true part of his life already, before even turning nineteen? “I’ll miss you,” was all he said, such silly words, and so bedraggled and perfunctory, but all he seemed to be able to manage in the face of this.
She slid her arms around his neck. “And I. And I will miss you.” Even the simplest things came out of her mouth somehow differently, strutted out elegant and profound. Were a level of perfect.
He went to say goodbye. She was sitting in the back of one of the trucks and she leapt down to meet him. She wore shorts and a frilly tank, and she had a tattered scarf coiled around her neck. She uncoiled that and wrapped it around his. “Never forget me.”
“I suppose you wouldn’t wait for me?”
“Of course, I would.”
“You. A guy.” She reached boldly down into his pants to make her point.
“Yes. Me. Me and the penis. If you want.”
“It’s not fair.”
“Won’t you be waiting for me?”
He’d never seen her taken aback. But for that moment… that oddly confused look on her face, a tiny quiver in her lip.
“I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No. No, you’re right. It won’t feel like waiting, because I’m always on the move, you see… Nothing ever stops. But I can keep my pants on for you. I could do that.”
“Are you sure?”
She leaned over and offered up a wide-mouthed kiss, delving deep with her tongue. “I’m sure. I’m entirely sure.”
There were odd looks the other carnies were giving her, looks constructed out of warning or disapproval. Simon chose not to notice them. She’d given her promise, and he’d given his. Surely, surely, they were indestructible.
Picture credit/discredit: author's own work