I Didn’t Get Much Sleep

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Me, I will use sleds pulled by huskies. There’s nothing better for visiting the North Pole. I will be muffled up in thirty-six layers of animal skins and I will drive my pack with great wild cries of the ‘Yeehaw’ type. My huskies will understand me and obey me devotedly. At night I will feed them dried meat and they will love me. I adore their blue eyes.
As for George, he thinks it’s better to know how to ski in order to explore the Far North. That’s why he took his first star at Combloux at February half-term. His dad paid for his lessons. It was expensive, so they lived on pasta for a whole week.
For the Indian forest, according to all the books we pinched from the library, the best thing would be to travel by elephant. Apparently you can hire anything at all for next to nothing from the stores in Bombay: a raclette grill, a bike, a skateboard, an elephant. George’s dad says that you can’t ride an elephant if you’re prone to seasickness. He advised us straightaway to take a good 4x4 instead.
It doesn’t matter. We are bound to meet a tiger. Those regions are teeming with them. I will leap easily down from my elephant who will observe the scene with an impassive eye, waiting impatiently for the moment when the beast devours this idiot tourist. Except that I will approach the animal very cautiously. At a distance of about five feet, we will stare each other down. I must remember to put my contact lenses in. The tiger will give a slight snarl, then – to the elephant’s great displeasure – he will allow himself to be stroked. I will calmly remount the pachyderm who, impressed by my bravery, will hoist me onto his back with one flourish of his trunk. George will watch me with a terrified expression. “You are completely mad,” he will say.
In the Rocky Mountains, we will visit the last of the Sioux, or else the Mohicans. We will sleep rough under a tepee, richly decorated by the chief and his subordinates. At night, around the camp fire, they will perform their traditional dances to honor George and me. Virile, guttural chants will rise up with a throbbing rhythm under the canopy of heaven. That is how the warriors will implore their gods to ensure the next day’s hunting is plentiful. We will go to bed long after ten o’clock. The chief will send ravishing squaws to keep us company. George will have no idea why, as his father will have refused to teach him about that custom.
We will not bother with the Sahara. Everybody goes there. And George will be frightened of getting sand in his eye, because it gives him conjunctivitis. 
We will, of course, write books. We will be guests on television. We will have to say we are ‘between flights’, so that the interviewer is fully aware how lucky he is to be able to talk to us. We will be dressed in explorers’ clothes and will answer questions in a relaxed way so that the journalists are impressed by our poise. They will never have imagined that there could still be a race of men like us, capable of roaming the world in search of new civilizations. We will sign some autographs for heart-struck young girls, then I will make the most of my stay in Paris to visit my Grandma. 
The next day, once more lured by the call of adventure, I will set off again for Patagonia. Alone, because George will give up. His father will have said to him, “That’s enough of your nonsense.” He thinks George has a great career ahead of him in banking, and that he is in the process of ruining it.
On the station platform we will embrace each other warmly. George’s eyes will be misty. He will tell me to take care of myself and to send postcards. 
When I see the infinite landscapes of Patagonia, I will forget about George, and about my Grandma. I will have learned to ride a horse, and will know how to bring the huge flocks of sheep under my control, circling them like a crazy person on my wild mount. In the evening, the farmers will greet me warmly. They will not expect a stranger to be able to display so much skill and courage in their profession. There will be a camp fire like with the Sioux, but no squaw at bedtime.
Then, I will embark to sail through the Roaring Forties. The very name brings me out in goose bumps. George would not have passed that test. At that very moment, he will be in the metro with his regrets and a lot of miserable people all around him. I will refuse to take part in a whale hunt. My Grandma, who votes for the Green Party, would not like it. As I pass the Cape of Good Hope, my yacht will lose its mast. In the middle of the ocean, I will send an SOS or an SMS. Well, something to get rescued, anyway... A Norwegian tanker will change course to save this brave survivor. If only the TV was there, that would be really good...
“Mercer! Have you had a good sleep?”
The horrible face of Mr. Miller has just appeared in my field of vision. Geography teachers all have that awful habit of yelling in my ear at some point in their lessons.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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