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South Tel Aviv
by Albert Russo

When Mr Ravioli - the landlord’s real name was Ravi - gave us the keys after we had visited the place - it was ok, just ok, not fabulous -, red with rage, I croaked:

“How many old ladies get raped and killed every week here? Is there a police station nearby?”

Ravioli gave me a puzzled look and then smiled:

“Oh, ma petite, this is not France,” he said, “we haven’t had a murder in years here. There is nothing to worry, you’ll see for yourself. Even at night you can stroll peacefully along the avenue, with your dear uncle by your side.”

Aha, so I couldn’t be on my own at night! He only half reassured me, coz when we got out, I watched the people walking in the street or entering stores, and saw no eyes that looked like they belonged to killers - some already had their faces covered with masks, like it was carnival time. They were just attending to their every day business, like all and sundry, hoping that they would be as aloof and woof woof on Sundays too.
As everywhere in Tel Aviv, young guys and gals were walking their dooogs, which was comforting, especially since the dooogs here are very friendly and often come and lick your hands.

Still I could have twisted my uncle’s neck and something else too, which is unladylike to describe here, I was so disgusted by his stinginess.

As soon a s we settled in our airbagoon - no, it wasn’t a bungalow or a rondavel (that’s what they are called in South Africa) - my uncle said he was tired and if we could have a rest, giving me his beaten-up look with eyes that were swimming like frying oysters in their orbits. Before resting his head on the pillow of his bed, he managed to udder in a squeaky voice:

“Admit it Zupetta, this is a nice studio, it is clean and we have a well equipped kitchenette where we’ll both be able to cook the things you like. I’ve already spotted a grocery store 50 meters from here. Did you see the ice cream parlor too, and the Burger place just opposite? We won’t be lacking. And on top of it all, our windows at the back give onto a lemon tree and shrubs of bougainvillea. What better could we ask for?”

I umphed like a puffed-up frog, like in Jean de La Fontaine’s tale in which the froggess (me) wants to become as fat as the ox (Bonka) and then explodes. In my revised story, Bonka gets barbecued in lekker braavleis (South African beef cooked over an open log fire) and his tougher pieces are biltonged - the jerky you eat down under in Africa that is so hard you can keep it a whole day in your mouth, with the taste lingering at the back of your tongue, giving you the impreshun that you have gorged yourself.

Excerpt 7 from CORONA ZAPINETTE by Albert Russo