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The Medallion (Dialogue Extract Ch3)

by DrSax 

Posted: 19 December 2005
Word Count: 1800
Summary: Want to know if: A) Dialogue works, that is, are the voices sufficiently different; B) If the characters come across.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

“What are you doing in the dark?” Kemal asked as he entered the living room.
Alp was putting his glass down on the tray. His cousin’s tone reminded him of his own mother, when she had found him doing ‘nothing’ – listening to modern jazz or reading comics after doing his homework – instead of practicing the guitar or studying Turkish, that is.
“Enjoying village life,” Alp smiled at the recollection. “I was observing the old man you just greeted. He had a little girl with him.”
“Sadullah efendi?” Kemal corrected Alp, switching on a lamp. “Must have been his granddaughter, Ayşe...”
Kemal had a habit of inflecting a statement as if it was a question. It amused or irritated Alp, depending on the context. Tonight he found it irritated him.
“Efendi?” Alp asked without mirth. “What’s he master of?”
“It’s a mark of respect for his age,” Kemal replied, as if telling him off. Alp’s irritation gained an edginess he disliked having. He watched Kemal stop in the middle of the living room and check to see if anything was out of place. The cleaning lady had surprised Alp that morning. As far as he could see, she had done a good job.
“He’s not a big landowner then?” Alp asked evenly.
“They’re from Malatya,” Kemal told him when their eyes met, clearly making an effort to soften his demeanour, “in eastern Anatolia. His son Ahmet got the janitor’s job through a relative here – the one who has the grocery shop around the corner? Sadullah does most of the work, with his daughter-in-law. Ahmet’s in haulage; he’s just bought another lorry. Gül and I use him sometimes…”
Maybe Kemal had had a bad day, too, Alp reflected.
“It’s just that we were taught to say efendim when we responded to our names,” Alp explained. “Remember?”
“Yeah,” but Kemal sounded impatient again. “You say that in Ankara and they’ll know you’re from an Ottoman family. Buyrun‘s what’s accepted now.”
“From my master to you gave an order – same difference, isn’t it?” Alp observed aloud, going on to answer his question before Kemal could. “But you’re right; no point in giving them ammunition is there?”
“Up to you cous’,” Kemal remarked, undoing his tie and shirt collar while shrugging off his jacket. He carefully draped the jacket over the back of a chair with the tie over it.
“How long did it take you to master all this?” Alp enquired. “I mean the etiquette?”
“I don’t remember,” Kemal gave a laugh as he poured a drink. He glanced over his shoulder. “You want another?”
“No, I’m fine,” Alp shook his head.
“Just happened, I suppose,” Kemal raised his glass to Alp. “You have to want to. And I did.”
He took a sip.
“No regrets?”
“What d’you mean?” Kemal sat down, putting his glass on the stack of magazines on the coffee table by his mother’s picture. It suddenly puzzled Alp that he had no recent photographs of her – only of himself. And none of his father, Alp reminded himself again.
“Must have been fucking hard with all the bullets whizzing about your ears, not to mention the odd Molotov cocktail,” Alp replied. “Sounds to me as if there was a real war out there on the streets… Out of the frying pan into fire, so to speak. I was talking to Gül in the Bazaar.”
“She missed most of it,” Kemal told him.
Alp thought he detected a touch of bitterness. It was the way Kemal glanced away, without looking at anything. “Her father sent her to the States,” Kemal laughed, adding, “with her mother…”
“Yeah, she said.”
Kemal reached for his glass and took a swallow of whisky. “You know, in those days my exports were worth their weight in gold.” He looked at Alp. “There was no foreign exchange coming in.”
“So she told me.”
“Things are very different now,” Kemal remarked, putting back his glass. “After Özal came to power, they got their shit together. There are export rebates, all sorts of incentives now.”
“Tell me, what’s the story with Sait? I thought he was studying to be a civil engineer, not freshwater shrimps or whatever it is he’s exporting. Gül told me he passed with flying colours – not a hammer and sickle in sight.”
“Yeah, right,” Kemal laughed dryly, picking up his glass again as he got up. Alp thought he looked tired.
“Very funny, cous’,” Kemal told him.
“Don’t kill yourself over it.”
“I won’t. When Sait’s father died,” Kemal now explained, “he was a kid. Ibrahim bey took responsibility for his education. Sait’s his nephew. He got involved with some Commies at university.” He stopped to re-align the magazines on the coffee table. “But he’s all right now.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Alp nodded, though he did. “I was curious because he seemed to be involved in an export order for freshwater shrimps. Anyway, I thought Gül’s father had a textile factory?”
“That’s right,” Kemal replied. There was a set to his jaw Alp could not place. Even so, it looked familiar. “Ibrahim bey’s no longer in construction,” Kemal continued. “When Sait graduated he went to work for his uncle, procuring building materials, hiring people and so on. Now the Gezens export anything that moves.”
Kemal’s choice of words surprised Alp.
Gezen was Gül’s family name. Then he recalled where he had seen the set of Kemal’s jaw. Ishak had acquired that look when he had had enough, before he became angry.
“Freshwater shrimps are big right now, are they?”
“There are a lot of forms to fill in,” Kemal rubbed his thumb against his fingers as he put his empty glass of whisky back on the tray, “and palms to grease. This is Turkey. Civil servants get sweet fuck all.”
“Gül told me Sait was in prison for a while,” Alp persisted. “You know, before he came to Brighton? She said her father got him out.”
“That’s right,” Kemal confirmed, turning around. Alp saw he was beginning to look uncomfortable. “Ibrahim bey knows a lot of people.”
“I was just curious,” Alp pursed his lip.
“Sait was lucky,” Kemal said levelly. “Many never finished their studies. And those that did aren’t worth shit,” he suddenly laughed, more to himself now. “They got fucked.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It was crap, that’s why. You couldn’t attend lectures after they really started going for each other. Not a day went by without a shooting or a bomb. It was a relief when the military finally took over.”
“Must have been tough,” Alp nodded again.
“A pain in the arse,” Kemal told him with some emphasis. “What d’you think?”
“Yeah, right.”
Alp wondered if his cousin was talking about the period after his discharge. Sait would have graduated by then.
“Anyway, how are your visitors?” Alp changed the subject.
He had meant to mention the man who had followed him and Gül to the Bazaar, but decided it was not the right time. Clearly his cousin felt uneasy talking about Sait.
“They’re OK,” Kemal responded more calmly, but Alp knew he would not talk about their visit either; too close to home. Alp did not like the connection that set up in his mind.
“Did you get my favourite aunt a present?” Kemal asked him.
“I did,” Alp smiled. He went into the bedroom and brought back the silver tray he had bought in Alaettin bey’s shop.
“Hey, that looks good!” Kemal exclaimed, but Alp thought he was making a show of examining it.
“You can take your mother breakfast in bed now,” Kemal laughed.
“Not likely,” Alp smiled, taking back the tray. Kemal treated his mother as if she was still his first love. It was an aspect of their relationship with which he tried to embarrass Alp.
“How’s your mother doing by the way?” Alp countered.
“Getting older,” Kemal shrugged, looking a bit embarrassed. “She smokes too much. I keep telling her, but she takes no notice.”
“Still on two packs a day?”
“Yeah; listen,” Kemal fixed Alp with his eyes. “Like I told you; you’re welcome to come out to dinner with us tonight?”
“No, but thanks,” Alp shook his head. “I’m on holiday. Don’t want to spend time with business bodies.”
“You could broaden your outlook?” Kemal offered with a conspiratorial laugh Alp knew was once again at his expense.
“Yeah, right,” he smiled thinly.
Whenever he had refused to take part in an activity his mother wished to foist upon him, her reprimand had been that he needed to broaden his outlook. Alp rued the day he had complained to Kemal about it. He had told his mother. And she his…
“Why aren’t you friends with me, like Kemal is with his mum?” Sema Tekin had demanded of Alp.
“Fuck Shakespeare, right?” Kemal laughed.
“Yeah,” Alp nodded, feeling his smile becoming fixed.
It was what he had said when his mother threatened to throw out his collection of Tin Tin comics. Alp had not been doing too well in English Literature that term. They were studying Macbeth and he had not been too enamoured by it. The three witches were OK, but the rest?
It was Kemal’s way of re-establishing personal contact, Alp knew. But why go back twenty years?
“They’re thespians are they, your clients?” Alp managed.
“They’re OK,” Kemal clapped him on the shoulder. “I don’t think they’d know an ac-tor from a bishop. Unless it was a dirty joke.”
“Good for them.”
“Too right, cous’,” Kemal agreed, following into the corridor. “I better have my shower and pick ‘em up.”
“Get their money,” Alp encouraged.
“You bet.”
When Kemal had left, Alp fixed himself another whisky and switched on the TV. He was still a little irked by their exchange. A news item about a Turkish brain surgeon caught his interest.
According to the newsreader the man had decided to leave his clinic in Switzerland and return to Turkey on the prime minister’s instigation. Turgut Özal was endeavouring to repatriate successful professionals. The question the young woman sent to cover the surgeon’s arrival persisted in asking, however, was whether or not the man had done his military service, her manner becoming shrill in face of his bewilderment. It did not seem to matter to her that he was over sixty.
The point was not lost on Alp. He switched off the TV and drained his glass. Fuck ‘em…
Out in the street he looked at the evening sky.
There was a moon; a delicate, luminous crescent above fingers of inky cloud that pointed inland. The rooftops on both shores of the Bosporus were already in the dark, the streets lit up. Between, the fast moving waters of the strait reflected the last of the light…

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Comments by other Members

Cornelia at 07:42 on 20 December 2005  Report this post
All the strange punctuation marks in this are too distracting. Is there anything you can do about it?


Cornelia at 10:17 on 23 December 2005  Report this post
I think the characters are different and the dialogue seems natural enough - the problem is that there is too much reference to other people and events so it is quite hard to follow. Either it needs to be read immediately after what has gone before, or the reader needs to be reminded by inserted comments. This may just becaused by posting chapters in isolation and at intervals.


DrSax at 12:36 on 24 December 2005  Report this post
Thank you Sheila.

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