Jacky is a translator. One night he meets a girl in a bar with a book that can't be translated. Hours later, wrongly accused of her murder, Jacky finds himself in Paris with the most annoying man in the world, seeking a mysterious catalogue of an unknown land in an unknown language – the Von Fremdenplatz Documents. Trapped, threatened, and in the company of a truly appalling family, Jacky's only escape is to discover what it means to be...The Mule.
I WAS IN a bar. It doesn't matter where. It's not relevant to the story. (If there's one thing I've learned in my job, things that aren't relevant to the story have to go). The bar was pretty quiet, which suited me because I don't like to go to bars that play loud music, where everyone's shouting to get a drink and it's so dark you can't see the prices of drinks. Funny — loud and dark always go together with bars. You never see a loud, brightly-lit bar, do you? It's like not content with numbing our senses with booze, the bars want us blind and deaf as well.
Anyway, this bar was pretty much perfect so far as I was concerned. There was no music at all, the lights were OK — I could see the drinks were a reasonable price for the middle of town — and there were no hen parties or big groups of people making their own racket.
I signalled to the barman, who had his name on a badge on his shirt. "Good evening, Don", I said, smiling. "I'd like a Martini please. Vodka, and —" But he already turned away to make it. I think he didn't like me saying his name. If I had a job where I had to wear my name on a badge and people said my name, I wouldn't have a problem. If people said, "Excuse me Jacky, could you look at these pages before the weekend?" or "Hey Jacky, this is more of a technical pamphlet but we figure you can handle it," I wouldn't mind at all. Of course I'd have to pick a version of my name that I felt comfortable with, which I admit would probably not be Jacky. Jacky is what my mother called me and I have never liked it. I would much rather be a Jack or even a J — "Hey J!" — but there we go. Whenever I say to people, "My name's Jack," they always look at me as if to say, "Really?" and before you know it, they're calling me Jacky. If they call me anything at all, that is. I have never had any luck with getting people to call me J.
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