Flamenco Nights

Flamenco Nights

A Story by Sean M. Palfrey

A couple on holiday in spain visit a Flamenco bar to escape the aftermath of a storm...


The beach was covered in the casualties of the storm that had played out over the bay the previous night. Hundreds and thousands of fish and other miscellaneous sea creatures had been scooped up by the shallow churning waters and flung onto the sand to bake in the sun. The stench of decay saturated the air, which the sea breeze blew inland forcing us to become prisoners in our hotel, lest we brave the miasma that clung to everything in its path and smothered it. With the windows firmly shut and a tall fan whirring and oscillating in the corner, the temperature in the room remained bearable despite the midday sun reaching the high nineties. I sat in a hard chair covered in a rough brown throw and watched as the local birds, cats, and dogs dodge the frustrated kicks of the hotel employees that had been press-ganged into clearing up the bay’s former residences, to scavenge a meal. The maid let herself in with an awkward smile and avoided my sighs of mild annoyance at her presence with a quick pleasantry in poor English. Aside from a fresh set of sheets on the bed little had changed as a result of her intrusion: the walls and ceiling were still yellowed from years of cigarette smoke, the terracotta tiles were jagged and sharp as knives, the bathroom smelled of damp, and I was for the time being trapped in here.
In the hallway outside the room I heard Lucy’s unmistakably heartfelt “Good morning” to the maids that were scurrying in and out of every room on our floor. Her key turned in the lock, she let herself in and put down a small brown paper bag on the dressing table in one unnaturally graceful movement and sat on the closest corner of the bed to me.
‘I’ve been to the village on the other side of the bay.’ She said in a triumphant tone. I acknowledged her with a grunt to let her know I was paying attention and that she should continue, despite the fact that I kept my eyes focussed on the scene outside of the window. ‘It’s such a beautiful little place, lots of small pokey shops and little stalls selling fresh fish.’ The idea of fish made me shudder, I’d opened the window first thing this morning and the smell had knocked me off my feet and stripped me of my appetite.
‘How could you stand the smell when leaving the hotel this morning?’
‘I just ran straight for a taxi, it wasn’t difficult… I don’t mind suffering for a minute or two, not when there is so much to see and do.’ She fell back onto the bed. Lucy at the best of times had the energy and wide-eyed wonder of a child, but when confronted with the sensory overload of foreign climes her energy and wonder increased four fold, transforming her into a hypnotic blur. One of the hotel workers on the beach was being chased about by a large mongrel he’d savagely kicked moments earlier. I let slip a small chuckle at his expense.
‘What’s happening?’ She sat up and strained her neck to see past me and out of the window.
‘One of the people cleaning the beach is getting chased by a dog he just kicked.’
‘Aw, poor puppy. Serves him right kicking a defenceless animal.’ We watched as the hotel worker fell over a piece of wood, and his leg was set upon by the dog, which was chased away by the others on the beach before it could properly dispense justice.
‘Well… It wasn’t that defenceless was it?’ I looked up at Lucy who beamed a smile back down at me, and fell back onto the bed once again. I turned round in the chair and fixed my eyes on her. She motioned her eyes towards the small brown paper bag on the dresser and I got up and walked towards it. I pulled out a bottle of pond-green Spanish absinthe with a branch of wormwood in it; like a jar of honey with a piece of wax comb in it - impractical, inedible and irrelevant, but pretty nonetheless.
‘This looks expensive… where did it come from?’
‘There’s a small distillery two towns over that supplies only this area and they sell some bottles in the village shop.’ As she was talking I opened the bottle and sniffed it. ‘Don’t drink it yet! It’s a souvenir.’ I quickly screwed the top back on.
‘Sorry.’ She sucked her teeth at me with phoney indignation and I put it back in its bag.
‘Have you eaten yet today?’
‘No, I’ve been busy watching the clean-up. Have you?’
‘Yes, I ate at a little pizzeria in the village.’
‘Until she’d mentioned food, I hadn’t been remotely hungry, but I soon felt ravenous. ‘I wonder if the restaurant is still serving food.’
‘Probably not, it’s after the lunch period. We could always try that flamenco bar we saw on the beach over the cliffs. It shouldn’t be in the same state as our beach if the water is deeper.’ I thought briefly but hard on the idea. A few fleeting minutes of overwhelming malodorous air and then the rest of the day in a flamenco bar was more appealing than staying locked in a three-star Spanish hotel room.
‘OK then.’ Lucy’s face lit up.
‘Great!’ I grabbed my wallet and she led me by the hand to the line of taxis outside of the reception. After some slow instructions in Spanish and vague hand gestures to the driver, we were soon speeding round the sharp corners of the hill that separated our hotel and it’s bay from the promise of cocktails and a colourful local tourist trap.

Inside the bar, the walls were crammed full of the usual gaudy trappings of Spanish popular culture: A print of Picasso‘s crying woman, a caricature of a matador being flung into the air by a bull like a bugs bunny cartoon, brightly painted pairs of maracas, brightly painted guitars of varying sizes, fishing paraphernalia etc. The bar was open to the sea and the tables went right out onto the beach - which had been sheltered from last night’s storm and was therefore immaculate. We sat down at a small round table under the overhang of the roof, just out of the sun, and chose a couple of unpronounceable cocktails from the menu that were brought over by a waiter who found addressing Lucy as “The boss” hysterical. We sipped our cocktails as the waiter told us in slow English with lots of vague hand gestures that the flamenco starts at six and goes on until closing, which he then repeated ad nauseum to the rest of the patrons in the half-full bar. Lucy sipped her bright blue cocktail, licking the sugar from around the rim of the glass and knocking the various accessories, designed to blind the more inebriated patrons, out of the way with her nose.
‘Wow! That’s strong.’
‘I did tell you. You’ll at least be able to make it last a while.’ Lucy grinned in reply, and took a gulp. She winced and coughed.
‘Oh my God! I’m not going to be able to finish that.’
‘Just sip it like a normal person.’
‘Oh, shush.’
‘Besides, I’m planning on staying for the flamenco later so I’ll be here for the long haul.’ Lucy rolled her eyes.
‘Will you be ordering any food to go with your booze and gyrating dancers?’
We called the waiter over and ordered a couple of plates of finger food, more to soak up the cocktails than to stave off any feelings of hunger I might have had prior to our arrival.

The sun eventually began to wane in the sky and turned a bloody red that dripped into the sea at the horizon. A group of local musicians sat on some benches in the corner of the bar and began to play softly, slowly building to a crescendo that heralded the arrival of the flamenco dancer. She was in her early forties and moved exceptionally gracefully for a person that had spent the best part of her adult years stomping about in high heels for hours on end. She moved across the bar between the gaps in the tables flinging her skirt about in the faces of the male patrons before returning to the dance floor and dancing franticly as the tempo of the music increased.
‘Bloody hell, she must have feet like leather!’ Lucy whispered loudly as the dancer became a blur of arms and skirt to the fast clicking of the shells in her hands. The music stopped suddenly and the patrons and Lucy applauded as I finished off the last mouthful of my neon cocktail. The band started off again with a slow balled which called for the tambourine player to switch to vocal duties as the dancer began a slower and more sober dance routine. The waiter came over with our cocktails once more and we smiled and paid him.
‘I really don’t think I could drink another, they’re too strong and sweet.’
‘Whatever you don’t finish I’ll drink.’
‘Are you sure you won’t be sick?’
‘It’s always a real possibility,’ I grinned ‘but it’s polite to finish what you are given.’ Lucy laughed, but was cut short by a hiccup and she blushed. The song ended and another round of applause signalled the start of another, this one started fast, and maintained it’s tempo for some minutes. The dancer was beginning to struggle to match her moves to the pace of the song and soon she was hopelessly out of time with the band. When the band stopped she had to finish mid move. The crowd was already merry and applauded anyway. The vocalist cum tambourine player and the dancer exchanged cold hard stares, as the band sadistically counted in another fast number. The dancer resumed her position and went into her routine; the expression on her face betrayed the agony she was in. As the band increased the tempo a tear escaped the dancer’s eye, yet she kept on dancing regardless. The face of the tambourine player betrayed his frustration as he mouthed something to himself because once again, she was out of time, and when the tempo was increased toward the end of the song she flung her arms about in pain and frustration throwing herself off-balance and falling hard to the floor. She slowly sat up and clutched at her knee whimpering as a few waiters and members of the band rushed over to help her up. She sobbed as they lifted her between their arms and helped her to a chair. The crowd had gasped as she fell but remained merrily indifferent as they continued to drink as much as they could. Lucy sighed on the dancer’s behalf.
‘I hope she isn’t hurt to bad,’ She strained to look over the people at the next table who sat in our line of view of her. ‘That was an awfully bad fall.’
‘Yeah. She’s probably twisted her knee.’ The dancer sobbed quietly to herself as the band returned to its playing and the waiters returned to serving the crowed that began to emit a low growl of displeasure as their drinks began to get low and run out. After a while the dancer hobbled off past the band with her head down and into the back of the bar via a thin red curtain. I finished my drink and Lucy pushed hers towards me. I winced but drank it quickly.
Outside it was now completely dark save for the glare of the lights of scattered villages along the rest of the coast. And out over the horizon flashes of lightning illuminated the bottom of the massive, swirling storm-cloud. We called the hotel for a taxi and left the bar as the wind increased and heavy raindrops began to fall on the beach leaving the bar and it’s patrons to bear the full force of the storm.

© 2008 Sean M. Palfrey

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I think you are on your way to a career as a writer. Very well written. I was impressed with the descriptive details, it kind of has a nice flow to it too. It felt as if I were in the bar and hotel with you two, kinda like watching a movie. Great work, keep it up!!

Posted 13 Years Ago

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Added on April 14, 2008


Sean M. Palfrey
Sean M. Palfrey

Scunthorpe, United Kingdom

I'm 21, and am a former Creative Writing and English student at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where I was fortunate enough to be taught by (among others) Jem Poster, Matthew Francis, and Tiffan.. more..