Friday, February 20, 2009

4 A Brain Damaging Day?


Tom's head felt almost too heavy to lift. He wondered where he was and if he'd been drugged. He reached out, as he lay, face-down on the bed, groaning. His hand brushed against the phone sending it crashing to the floor. He reached down, picked the phone up and listened. There was a buzzing noise, with a faint voice somewhere in the background.

"Hello? Hello?" Tom shouted. But there was no discernible reply.

He stood up, stretched, and walked to the bathroom. There was a trickle of orange-coloured water from the noisy, shuddering shower: barely enough to rinse off the soap. Tom brushed his teeth. He opened the wardrobe, dressed in a blue pinstripe suit, crumpled white shirt and polka dot tie, then headed, with some trepidation, along the corridor and downstairs to the hotel restaurant.

It reminded Tom of a school assembly hall. There was such a high ceiling that the place had a slight echo. Tables were laid with grubby white tablecloths for more than one hundred people. That morning there were two other diners: a young Russian couple. At one end of this vast hall there was a stage, at the centre of which stood the biggest juke box that Tom had ever seen. The young Russian man walked up to it, fed it a coin, then, admiring the palm of his hand, returned to his companion. The selector ground noisily into action. It was a Russian song. All that Tom knew was that it sounded sad.

After about ten minutes he started to grow a little restless. There was no sign of any food and the tinny echo of the jukebox was becoming increasingly irritating. He toyed with the cruets and even contemplated eating their contents. "Ahaa". The gloom was temporarily lifted. The younger of the two women from last night emerged from the kitchen, in a dark blue uniform and frilly white apron. She had a cheeky face. The waitress took the Russian couple's order. The "clip, clip, clip" of her black patent leather shoes echoed around the hall as she returned to the kitchen. Ten more minutes passed before the waitress re-emerged from the kitchen.

Tom raised his right hand and gave an attention-seeking cough. She turned her eyes upwards to examine the spot on the ceiling directly above his head, before serving the young couple with, what appeared to be, at that distance, glasses of yoghurt and the ubiquitous slices of stale bread; and then returned to the kitchen, without giving Tom a further glance. He jumped up out of his chair, followed her and swung open the kitchen door. Her blood-spattered workmate was standing there, with a cigarette hanging out of her half-open mouth. This time they didn't argue: they both shooed Tom away. He returned to his seat.

A familiar voice startled him: "Good eat?"

Tom swung around to see Mr. Batbold standing behind him.

"There seems to be some problem," Tom said.

He tried to explain his difficulties. Mr Batbold walked toward the kitchen door and soon emerged with his arm around the shoulders of the pretty young waitress.

"You wrong place sit. You must there sit." He indicated the end of the hall, where the young Russian couple were sitting, enjoying their glasses of yoghurt and slices of stale bread. They waved to him and smiled.

Batbold nodded his head towards them and said, "Here Mongolian. There foreign guest. Tomorrow you know. Then no make problem, OK?"

"What about now?" Tom asked.

"Breakfast finish now."


Mr Batbold pointed at a sign at the entrance. Although it was in Mongolian and Russian,"7.00 - 8.30" was clear enough.

"Sorry," Tom muttered.

The black limousine and driver were waiting outside. It was another potentially brain damaging day.

The car swept around the statue of Lenin and turned into Peace Avenue. As Tom looked left down Karl Marx Avenue, he could see the mountains and the Monument to the Soviet Tank Regiment. The centre of Ulan Bator was quite different from the yurt suburbs. If it hadn't been for the occasional Buddhist temple, this could have been a provincial city anywhere in Russia. They passed the massive Sukhe Bator Square. It reminded Tom of Red Square in Moscow, but it was flanked by even more austere edifices. They swept past the grim People's Hural and the Palace of Young Technicians.

Tom muttered, "What the hell am I doing here?" Mr. Batbold swung round and looked at him fixedly. Was there a hint of menace in his eyes?



  1. El Barrio de Montserrat Reus, has become a great neighborhood mestisatge I am very happy to know that Reus, if we want to address and we remain in touch because I diras something
    a hug from Reus

  2. What a rude people? I think Mongolian people are bad at receiving people. OK, I'm just kidding. I am Mongolian myself, and trust me! I've heard lots of compliments specifically about the hospitality of Mongolians. But still, it must have felt awful for Tom -- enticing story, keep it up, please "Angilheun"!


In Bruges