• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 08
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Cabaret Café

When the ferry pulled in at the pier, smoke was billowing from the engine room.

'I can't take you to work today,' the captain called.

I sighed and said to a fellow commuter, 'It's time for a change.'

'Good for you, James,' came the reply.

I returned home, rang the office and resigned. Then I packed a suitcase before realizing that I had responsibilities.

'Iris, what am I to do with you?' I said to my pet rat.

Iris ran up my arm and settled on my head. I considered for a moment and rummaged on a shelf at the top of the wardrobe.

'Perfect,' I said, extracting a felt hat of my father's.

I cut two air holes in the side of the hat and placed it on my head over Iris.

'Let's go.'

A day later, Iris and I were in the Portuguese countryside, staring at a waterlogged building. A sign lay in a puddle on the road. It read, 'Escola de Cabaré.'

A woman in a three-piece suit and fedora stepped from the nearby woods.

'Are you here to enroll in the School of Cabaret?' she asked.

'We are.'

'I am Beatriz. Welcome. The building has had a little trouble with its plumbing, so I am holding my lessons in the woods. Come.'


Cabaret Café

We followed Beatriz among ferns and trees to a clearing. No one else was present.

'I'm James and this is Iris, by the way,' I said politely.

Beatriz nodded at Iris, smiled at my hat, but tilted her head to one side and blinked when she studied my T-shirt, shorts and sandals.

'These are appalling,' she said finally, flicking her fingers at my clothing.

'One moment, please,' I replied and went behind a tree with Iris and my suitcase.

A few minutes later, we reappeared.

'Much better,' Beatriz said, eyeing the suit, shirt and tie I now wore. 'Where did you get these old clothes?'

'They were my father's.'

'I also like your dress suit,' Beatriz said to Iris and turned to me: 'Not your father's, though?'


The lessons began. After a year, Beatriz declared, 'We're ready to tour.'


'Yes, the three of us.'

I was delighted. Before we set off, however, a fault line running across Europe opened up and demolished each of our proposed venues.

'This is unfortunate,' Beatriz reflected on hearing the news.


Cabaret Café

I coughed hesitantly and said, 'Perhaps it's a sign that we should do something else.'

'Such as?' Beatriz enquired.

I produced a rose gold engagement ring from a pocket.

'No,' Beatriz said. 'I'm not going to marry you.'

'You misunderstand me,' I explained. 'This was my mother's. I propose that we sell it and rebuild the school.'

Before Beatriz could reply, Iris spoke for the very first time: 'Why not convert the school to a cabaret café?'

The three of us gazed at each other. Eventually, Beatriz voiced our thoughts: 'Yes, a much better idea.'

'Much better,' Iris and I confirmed.