The dark hair lady walks down the stairs quickly. “How’s your life doing, Jason?” she asks the man with a briar pipe.
“Pleasant, How’s yours, Sheila?”
“Fantastic. Like a child’s,” she says quickly.
She continues to walk across the parking lot to the registration office where guests of the hotel either have breakfast or check out, depending. Today Sheila checks out, excited and relaxed that her work in the city is done. Because of the cold last night she turns her car on to warm it up while she deals at the office.
Jason plans his day. He has nothing much to do but go visit his doglet, Francis. It’s too early to call his driver for a ride; 4:45am. Also it’s cold; around 32degrees F. A blinding white snow blanket glows after growing for three days.
Jason considers that he says “pleasant” while Sheila says “fantastic” when they enquire about each other’s life. She’s from another country. Can those people be happier there than here?
That must be it. For some reason their community likes life more than people here do. Sheila says they eat a different diet. Jason decides to visit the country Sheila travels from. He gets a ticket there that day. His pal Jim drives him to the airport later in the week and Jason flies off.
He lands after 9 hours flying in this other country. All the important signs, like where to get his luggage, and restrooms, are in English. Instead of having any sort of lost feeling, Jason fits right in.
He gets a cab and the driver speaks in English, with a strong accent. “Where to, friend?”
“Take me to the Hilton Hotel.”
“You’re goin’ in class. OK. Here we go.” The driver speeds away from the curb loudly. Jason feels pushed with every turn. He nearly asks the driver to slow down, then realizes that this shaking is the lost feeling he expects. So Jason relaxes. He waves as the car turns on the road to the Hilton. Jason bends forward when the driver stops in front of the hotel. A doorman opens the cab door and welcomes Jason, in English with a strong accent.
Everyone speaks accented English. Jason adjusts to it. The women have dark hair and bright eyes. Everyone smiles conspicuously. The doorman brings Jason his luggage at the front desk. Jason checks in easily. Another doorman takes Jason’s luggage up too his room.
Jason sets his watch to the local time, 1:13pm. He puts on his swimming suit and goes to the pool. There are some men but more women. Everyone is smiling and looking healthy.
Jason takes his pipe out and lights it. The smoke curls away into nothingness. He puffs again and blows the smoke into the sky. It disappears like a cumulous cloud decreasing in size.
Then Jason looks around the pool. The beauty of the women awes him. Indeed, he wonders why there aren’t more men looking at the women. They should be selling tickets.
Jason has a brainwave based on sunrises and sunsets. He only needs a field so, with the time left in the day, Jason dresses and goes to a real estate office. They speak English too. Jason asks about a field.
The realtor imagines Jason wants to build a home, which he does not. He saddens the realtor by saying he just wants a field big enough to hold 75 folding chairs. Jason asks the realtor if he can do such a thing. He also needs to place an ad in the local paper, which the realtor sends him to after selling Jason with a big chuck of land and renting chairs.
“What do you want to put in your add?” the newspaper’s clerk asks Jason, again in accented English,
“I want to advertise viewings of sunrises and sunsets on folding chars at the land. The add should read something like, ‘See wonderful site for free; come to land by river for seating; Sunrise and Sunset viewing is free.’ That’s all.”
“OK. Where do you want it?”
“What do you mean?”
“What part of the paper; how big?”
Jason describes it as half-a-page, bottom, three lines but since Jason doesn’t know line size, someone at the paper must determine the font. Then Jason requests it be put on page 2.
The new add reads: “Come to view sunrise and/or sunset; seating will be provided; Event is free to all.”
Jason goes to the land to help set up the chairs for the viewing the next morning and finds them already standing and awaiting users. 6:00am comes and the sky’s ribbons of blue and yellow widen.
A police car pulls up with a red light flashing on its roof. The policeman gets out, and in English, asks Jason if he knew who had placed the ad and arranged the viewing. Jason admits to doing this, like a child, he thinks. But he says, “Have I broken a law?”
“What are you charging the viewers?” asks the cop.
“Nothing. This is just for watching sunrises and sunsets. They’re free; this is free.”
“That is breaking the law. You won’t be able to pay for the land you’re using and the chairs you’ve rented unless you sell tickets. That is what’s illegal.”
“First, I can afford this; my bank is in Huston, Texas. I’m a US citizen here on vacation. I’ve paid authorities here for the property, the ads and the chairs. Everything is on the up and up as we say in the States.”
The policeman begins barking at Jason like a Dachshund shouting down a stag. The stag stands back in awe, like Jason, and stares at the barking policeman.
Eventually Jason realizes the policeman is speaking in a foreign language that he doesn’t understand. Jason turns away and starts walking to the cab that drove him to the site.
The cop stops yelling when Jason gets in his cab and returns to the station. He returns to the Hilton but instead of going to his room he goes to the restaurant for an early breakfast.
He walks into the restaurant and young boy throws a bucket of warm water on him from behind. Jason opens his eyes and sees his apartment bedroom. He recognizes the roof of the room and feels the bumps of his mattress. When he stands he thinks he won’t be going to the viewing of the sunset that night but wishes he were. Jason’s merely been dramatically dreaming.
That other country is pleasant and Sheila is unimaginable. Now he has to go see Francis, his doglet.