• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 10
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Inflatable Hamburgers

Jana always looks for the dead bug on her walk down to town; the dung beetle, brown, shiny and armoured. It was lying on its desiccated back when she first saw it, useless legs stuck in the air. She had flipped it over yesterday. Today it had vanished. She thought it might be an omen.

At the beach, she had counted four inflatable hamburgers in the sea, two doughnuts with sprinkles, one watermelon and one slice of cheesy pizza. What was this obsession with floating food? Dolphins, seagulls would be better, crocodiles, for all she cared. Why did people float on imitations of what was drifting in the sea anyway – human waste, plastic? Most were occupied by teenage girls, in Ray-bans and bikinis, their nails done. They were not swimming, not even trying. Their inflatable pieces of food were accessories. She tried hard to imagine what they saw through their black lenses; to see the beauty they looked like they were experiencing, or so their Insta smiles suggested.

She had got a headache and sought refuge in the only air-conditioned supermarket café that did surprisingly good pastries for a low price. She was tired from lying awake at night, scratching her mosquito bites. It was much too hot to sleep. She read the news in the local paper, occasionally googling a word she didn’t know. A mother had almost thrown her son from the fifth floor to save him from being burned alive in their flat. The nieghbours had shouted up over the flames, ‘Don’t throw him! Don’t throw him! The fire brigade is almost here!’ but she hadn’t heard them. In the end her son only suffered mild smoke inhalation but she had to be airlifted to a clinic on the mainland with 59 per cent burns to her body. Four young people had died in a car crash; ages 18, 19, 19 and 27. One of the 19-year-olds had just bought his first car.


Inflatable Hamburgers

Now, with time to kill until dusk, she is watching a family scene in the plaza. A woman with a toddler has sat down in front of her. The real star, however, is the boy’s grandfather who is showing his grandson how fun it is to push a chair across the square like a mini-Zimmer frame. Jana is pretty sure he’s playing to the crowd – her. The little boy takes a while to understand the game, but then manages to shunt the chair very far to the other side. Grandpa keeps in step, steering occasionally with his foot. He can’t be much older than 58. When they tire, the mother shoves her phone into the boy’s hands. He immediately stops smiling.

Jana wonders who she is most like: the show-off grandpa, the manipulative mother. Most probably she is the gullible boy whose game abruptly stops. Or perhaps the poisonous-looking frog on the waitress’ left shoulder, trying for all eternity to climb over to her collarbone.