Sunday, December 19, 2010

From The Lion and the Sun

Balakirev glanced sideways at Conte. They kept walking. The Rathaus came into view, its four spires and soaring campanile lit by floodlights, the square in front filled with booths and milling people. The whole effect like a combination outdoor sale, flea market, and county fair all garbed in Christmas decorations.

For a while Conte and Balakirev just strolled about looking at the cured meats and Austrian cheeses in one booth, and the hand-painted eggs in another. A group of young men went by holding large cups of beer, laughing and singing what sounded like soccer chants, “Wir sind Zecken, asoziale Zecken, wir leben unter Brücken oder in der Bahnhofsmission!”

The two men followed the aroma of meat grilling and stopped at a booth selling bratwurst on Kaiser rolls. They smothered their sandwiches in hot Austrian mustard and walked on, wolfing them down and looking for someplace to buy beer.

Conte finished his bratwurst and walked to a trashcan to throw out the paper tray. A young girl, perhaps 16 or 17, maybe older, it was hard to tell, was digging through the trash. She was wearing what had once been a white evening gown, and had a dirty, cream-colored scarf wrapped around her neck and shoulders. The girl came out with a half eaten piece of roll, ate it and licked the mustard from the paper in which it had been wrapped. Her eyes darted here and there, and then came to rest on Conte. She pointed at him, smiled and put her index finger to her pursed lips.

Balakirev had stopped at a booth selling gluwein. He held the hot, steaming cup of spiced wine in his hands and blew on it. He looked up as Conte came over to him. “Something to warm us up” he said, pointing to a cup he’d purchased for Conte.

They walked across the front of the Rathaus and turned down Lichtenfelsgasse, sipping their gluwein as they went. Conte asked Balakirev whether Russia was going ahead with the sale of laser isotope separation technology to Iranian laboratories.
“It’s a matter under discussion,” he said, without elaboration.
Conte stopped walking and waited until Balakirev turned and looked at him. “I’ll say it again; that technology could be used for nuclear weapons development purposes.”
“We discuss these things, Daniel, and sometimes certain incentives are offered, oil for example, then we discuss them again, and finally we offer something else.”
"You're going to repair Bushehr?"
Balakirev smiled.
They started walking again.
“What condition is Bushehr in now?”

Bushehr was a nuclear power plant that Iran had started building in 1975. Iraq bombed the plant during the 1980-88 war with Iran. Intelligence suggested that Iran was negotiating with the Russians to repair and finish the plant after the Germans had backed out of the deal.

“Bushehr isn’t too bad. We can fix it,” Balakirev answered.
“Are you going to?”
“What is the expression so popular in the Arab World? Inshalla."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment moderation request has been emailed to the blog author.