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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part II. South West

Trout Fishing in Málaga

Steve Porter
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We were strolling down the paseo del Parque as one extravagant car after another drove by. The park was full of families in elegant wedding outfits. They were posing for cameramen. It was like a production line. One large group would disappear only to be replaced by another coming out of a nearby building. Just then a young pretty young woman in a long dress grabbed my hand and began to talk in a foreign tongue.

“She is a gypsy,” smiled Mary, “just keep walking and she will go away.”

But another woman appeared at Mary’s side and took her hand. This one spoke Spanish with a strong Eastern European accent.

“She is saying you will be very happy in your life and have many children,” I explained to Mary. She gave them a hundred pesetas and the women moved off.

Two jakeys lounged in the shade of a row of palm trees sharing a carton of wine. They had heard us talking.

“You English?” one shouted.

“Scottish,” I said.

“Oh, where you from?”

“I was born in Inverness.”

“Really, that’s where me dad comes from.”

I had heard that kind of line before. The one that draws you into a conversation and precedes, Listen, I’m a bit short at the moment, you couldn’t…

“Yeah, I was brought up in Clapham but me dad was from Inverness. Do you know Porterfield?”

“Well, I’ve heard plenty about it. You mean the prison in Inverness?”

“Yeah, that’s right. I’ve done a bit of time in there meself.”

Mary and I sat down on the grass in the shade of an adjacent tree. We lay quietly in the sun for a while. I took out a book. It was The Famished Road by the Nigerian writer Ben Okri.

“I’m Jake,” continued the jakey, removing a baseball cap to reveal thinning red hair and a sweaty forehead. “And this is me mate from Algiers. What’s your name again?”

“Abu,” said the Algerian.

We introduced ourselves.

“Do you speak English, Abu?” Mary asked.

“A little, but not too much.”

“We just met this morning,” said Jake. “We’re planning to go to Torremolinos tomorrow and try our luck down there.”

“So, what are you doing in Spain then, Jake?”

“You’ve obviously never tried sleeping on the streets of London, mate? If you’re bumming it, it’s not so bad sleeping out under a palm tree. I came down through France, worked on some farms. I pick fruit now and again but it’s hard fuckin’ work. You’re better off beggin’.”

Abu nodded in agreement. Jake looked at my book.

“I love readin’ me. Passes the time. I can lie under a streetlight and read all night. What I would give for a half decent book right now.”

I was just getting into The Famished Road and besides Mary had only bought it the other day and hadn’t read it yet either. Most of our stuff was back at a hostel in the Málaga Old Town. I looked into my rucksack. All I had to hand was a copy of Richard Brautigan’s Trout Fishing in America, which I had borrowed from a friend in Edinburgh.

As the plane took off the next day, leaving the mountains of Málaga behind, I thought of Jake, lying under a palm tree, slowly drowning in red wine and passages from Brautigan.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationNovember 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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