MANGOD  
 

Martha

Martha closes the door of her apartment behind her back. The hallway air smells musty, she thinks. She sniffs deeply. This place smells musty, she softly says. She takes the elevator down. On the ground floor she walks into a young woman, her downstairs neighbour. The young woman smiles, exposing her dentures.

What a beautiful day today, don't you think, Ms Martens, the downstairs neighbour says. Again she smiles. What a beautiful day, she says.

Martha doesn't look the young woman in the eyes. The hallway smells again, she says. Lately the hallway always smells. This place smells so musty.

A really beautiful day, don't you think so, Ms Martens, the young woman says.

Martha mumbles something unintelligible. She walks out of the hallway and closes the front door with a smack. A beautiful day, a beautiful day, it is way too warm for this time of the year, she softly says.

On the pavement she walks into her upstairs neighbour, a bald man in his fifties.

Good day, Ms Martens, the upstairs neighbour says. Nice weather today, isn't it, Ms Martens? Nice weather, right?

The hallway smells again, Martha says. I don't like that. She shakes her head. I don't like that, she says.

Ah, Ms Martens, the whole world smells, the upstairs neighbour says. The whole world is finished. The whole world smells, Ms Martens. He smiles. But still nice weather today, isn't it, Ms Martens? Nice weather, right? Right?

The hallway smells, Martha says and she walks on.

On the corner of the street Martha takes the tram. The tram is crowded. A young lad stands up to offer Martha his seat. Martha gives him a pale smile. Once seated, she sniffs deeply. The guy upstairs is right, she thinks. The whole world smells. The guy upstairs is right.

Martha gets out at the station. She gets on a bus. The bus does not set off immediately, but stands there, doors open. Martha sits down in the front. There aren't many people on the bus, and no one else gets up. Martha sniffs deeply. She smiles. This place doesn't smell musty, she thinks. These doors have been open for a while. They should do it more often. The entire world would smell fresher if it were ventilated on time. When all of it were ventilated frequently.

The bus leaves town. Martha stares out the window the whole drive. Three villages ahead she gets out. Nice, fresh air, she says out loud, while the bus drives on. Nice, fresh air, she repeats. Slightly louder.

Martha walks into a dead end street. On the other side of the street a woman raises her hand. Hi Martha, the woman shouts. Hi Martha. Nice and sunny today, isn't it? Nice and sunny today.

Way too warm for this time of the year, Martha shouts back and she walks on to the end of the street. She rings the doorbell of the second last house.

Coming, she can hear Jacobina shout. Coming. Just a second. Coming.

Martha inspects her hands. Since when did I get these stains on my hands, she thinks. I didn't have them before.

Coming, Jacobina shouts again.

Since when have I got these stains, Martha ponders.

A woman, Martha's age, opens the door. Hello Martha, she says. She smiles. Kind of you to come, she says.

Hello Jacobina, Martha says.

Nice weather today for a day out, Jacobina says. Nice weather today. You're lucky to have this weather. You're really lucky, Martha.

Nice weather, nice weather, Martha says. It's just way too warm for this time of the year. Everything is in disorder. There are no more seasons. The whole world is upside down. Everything is in disorder.

Come in, Jacobina says. Come in. I'll make coffee. I've got some cake left, too. Home made apple cake. Come in.

Martha sits down on the couch. She sniffs deeply. Her face tenses.

How was the ride, Jacobina asks.

Fine, Martha says. Again she sniffs deeply. Again her face tenses.

Did you have an easy connection, Jacobina asks. You didn't have to wait too long, did you?

Martha shakes no. The trip was fine, she says. I had an immediate change. And the bus was nearly empty.

I'll put the kettle on, Jacobina says. I have some cake, too. You do want some cake, don't you? Home made apple cake.

Martha nods. She sniffs deeply. Her face tenses.

Jacobina goes to the kitchen. Have you seen Guy, lately, she shouts from the kitchen.

Martha does not answer.

Have you seen Guy, lately, Jacobina shouts again.

Martha laboriously stands up from the couch. I don't want to see that man anymore, she softly says.

What did you say, Jacobina asks. She got back in the living room in the meantime.

I said, I don't want to see that man anymore, Martha says.

When did you last see him, Jacobina asks. How long ago?

I don't want to see him anymore, Martha says.

How long ago?

I never want to see him again.

How long ago?

Since I left there, I've seen him three times, Martha says.

Don't you miss him, Jacobina asks.

Miss him, Martha says. Miss him? Who would miss a creature like him?

How long were you married, Jacobina asks.

Way too long, Martha says.

How long, Jacobina asks.

Way, way too long.

Forty years, Jacobina asks.

Thirty-seven years, Martha says. Thir-ty-se-ven years.

Thirty-seven years, Jacobina says. She frowns.

Thir-ty-se-ven years I endured living with that animal.

It wasn't that bad, though, was it, Jacobina says.

I would like to know what you'd have done if you had been in my shoes, Martha says.

Come on, it wasn't that bad, was it, Jacobina says.

You wouldn't have lasted a year.

You didn't use to complain about him.

We weren't even married a year when he first hit me.

You never told me, Jacobina says.

There's so many things I never told you, Martha says.

Shall we go somewhere, later, Jacobina says. Shall we go to the village? We could go to Rhenilde, too.

We weren't even married one year, when he first hit me.

Shall we go to the village, Jacobina says. We could go to Rhenilde, too.

I'm not in the mood, Martha says. I won't stay very long.

Won't you stay for dinner, Jacobina asks.

I will be back too late, then, Martha says.

Too late, Jacobina says. Too late? Did you have plans for today?

I want to look for new curtains, Martha says.

Last time you told me your apartment was entirely finished, Jacobina says.

The curtains aren't mine, Martha says. They were there. I don't like them. I definitely want other ones.

I would wait a while, Jacobina says. Soon there will be sales. Wouldn't you wait a while?

I want new curtains, Martha says.

In two weeks there will be sales, Jacobina says.

Martha says nothing. She's inspecting the pigment stains on her hands.

Two more weeks, Jacobina says.

Since when have I got these stains, Martha ponders. I don't want to wait for the sales, she says.

But you will save a lot of money if you do, Jacobina says.

Martha inspects her hands. I will take the next bus home, she says.

You really won't stay for dinner, Jacobina asks.

I will take the next bus home, Martha says.

The two women drink coffee and eat cake. After every mouthful of coffee Martha checks her watch.

You seem impatient, Jacobina says.

I certainly can't miss the bus, Martha says. Or I'll be late.

But you can stay for dinner, Jacobina says. Cosy. Dinner together. Cosy.

Cosy, Martha says. Cosy, cosy. When we were younger, it used to be cosy. When we were younger. Now, nothing is ever cosy anymore. She finishes her coffee and checks her watch. She rises. I'm off, she says.

If you don't want to stay, then you should go, Jacobina says. She walks Martha out, to the street. Really nice weather today, she says. You're lucky with the weather, Martha. You're really lucky.

Martha doesn't have to wait long for the bus. She draws back when she gets on the bus. She sniffs deeply. Her face tenses. She buys a ticket. She sniffs deeply once more and wants to say something to the driver, but she doesn't. The bus is empty. Martha sits in the back. It's too hot in here, she thinks. You can't even open a window. The sliding windows on the ceiling, I can't reach. Busses used to have normal windows. And you didn't have this smell everywhere. But that's a long time ago. A long time ago, a long time ago.

Halfway a middle-aged man and woman get on the bus. The couple sits down in front of Martha.

What a beautiful day, today, the woman says.

A really beautiful day, the man says.

Way too warm for this time of the year, Martha wants to say. She doesn't. They'll think I lost my head, she thinks. These days you have to watch out what you say to whom. When I was younger, people used to talk. When I was younger. A long time ago. A long, long time ago.

I hope tomorrow will be as beautiful, says the woman in front of her.

The forecast said so, the man says.

You never know these days, the woman says.

You never know these days, Martha thinks. The world is finished. No more seasons. Everything in disorder. The world upside down.

At the station Martha gets out and takes the tram. All the tram's windows are open. This place is draughty, Martha thinks. I'll be ill tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll have a cold. It's all open here. I'll be ill tomorrow, I'm sure.

On the corner of her street, Martha gets out. She walks home very slowly.

In the apartment's hallway the upstairs neighbour walks out the elevator. Back already, Ms Martens, the upstairs neighbour asks. Back already? Did you enjoy the sun, Ms Martens? Did you enjoy the sun?

Martha sniffs deeply. This hallway has a musty smell, she says. She shakes her head. This place smells musty, she says. This place always smells musty, lately.

I think I'll go enjoy the sun some more, the upstairs neighbour says. Nice weather, isn't it, Ms Martens? Nice weather, right?

This place smells, Martha says. This place smells musty. She shakes her head. I don't like that, she says. She gets in the elevator.