Goodbye Frank


Translated by Andrew Fentem

It was a splendid Saturday morning at the start of May. The air was still fresh but the sky so blue that, waking up that morning, Frank Derose had almost started to believe in springtime and freedom. Soon after getting up, he took a look around his garden. It’s a good time to gather in some lilies and cut the lawn, he thought. Since he'd found work again, he had rediscovered the value of Saturday mornings: a lie in followed by a leisurely breakfast of a few bread rolls, then sip coffee while reading through an article he had drawn up the previous evening. During the long months he was unemployed, he had not been able to appreciate such peaceful mornings, nor had it been possible to find the peace of mind to start planning how he was going to spend his weekend. His breakfast almost finished, he was looking through the large bay window of his dining room at the lilies which he had planted himself and getting ready to start picking some when he was interrupted by the doorbell. Opening the door, he was greeted by a man and woman, both dressed in black. -Hello sir, are you Mr Derose? asked the man.
-I am indeed.
-Oh good. We’re from the Home Office. Pardon me for the disturbance, but I have to ask you a few questions.
-Oh right, come in then…
The man and the woman sat down in the lounge while Frank started making some tea.
-My first question is simple, Mr Derose. What are you doing in this flat ?
-Er, well … as you can probably see yourself, I live here.
-Very good. You live here alright, but is it yours?
-No. But…where is this leading to…?
-This apartment, Mr Derose, is very big…luxurious one might even say.
-Listen, I’ve the right to live in whichever flat I choose.
-That’s right but you live alone and, if I’m not mistaken, you were unemployed for quite a long time…
-That’s right but…
-No need to get worked up. We’ll speak about that later, said the man from the Home Office cutting in on Frank just as he was about to start speaking. Let’s go on to another matter now. Is it correct that you regularly write articles for the magazine “Rouge Toute”?
-You certainly know your facts, he answered, starting to get annoyed now.
-As I'm sure you know, everybody is free to write whatever they choose. We recognise freedom of expression. Only…
-Only there are limits, that’s what you are going to say… defamatory, hurtful and racist statements are the accepted limits and a good job too, Frank went on, almost enjoying himself now.
-Could you be more precise, Mr Derose? said the man in black.
-If only I dared tell you. You know as well as I that we all have to respect a certain principle.
-That’s right. That’s exactly why I’ve come to talk to you. Your last article didn’t respect that principle.
-I see. Well I’m deeply sorry, he replied, falsely pretending to be upset.
-Mr Derose, let’s be clear. Everybody knows you are intelligent - brilliant even. But…you know you can also can I say it...abrupt. Yes, that's the word - abrupt, irritating, exasperating! That’s too much now, you hear!!! Democracy exists but it stops at a respect for the principle I just mentioned. And it's precisely this principle that you’ve broken. And so in that case… the punishment is clear - you’ll have to leave this apartment. Immediately.
-Listen, the principle you’re talking about is ridiculous... or rather the taboo that surrounds it is ridiculous. I really don’t think I’ve broken it anyway. At the very most, I’ve chipped a small corner off it, he added in a rather feeble voice.
-Whether you’ve chipped a small corner off it or broken it, such nuances are unimportant for us. I repeat: Leave this apartment at once! the man from the Home Office said in an almost threatening voice.

Frank Derose took a good look at the man sitting opposite him. His spindly silhouette, large nose, unkempt hair and green eyes hidden behind his small glasses put him in mind of somebody he used to know, though he couldn't quite recall his name. Disturbed by this unpleasant impression, he waited a few seconds before answering.
-But where do you want me to go and live if I leave this apartment, he said eventually, his voice starting to tremble.
-Don’t worry about that - we have a place you can go. You’ll feel right at home there.

The man from the Home Office had scarcely finished speaking when the woman accompanying him handcuffed Frank without his having a chance to resist or even take a last look at his garden. A few seconds later, the two visitors led Frank into their van and drove off and, from that precise moment onwards, Frank Derose ceased to exist other than in the memories of those who had known him.

F.D.' s reply