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Authors: Doris Lessing

The Good Terrorist

BOOK: The Good Terrorist
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Doris Lessing is the author of numerous award-winning books of fiction and nonfiction, including
The Golden Notebook
The Grass Is Singing
. In 2007 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She lives in London.

Also by Doris Lessing

The Grass Is Singing
The Golden Notebook
Briefing for a Descent into Hell
The Summer Before the Dark
Memoirs of a Survivor
The Diary of a Good Neighbour
If the Old Could …
Playing the Game: A Graphic Novel
(Illustrated by Charlie Adlard)
Love, Again
Mara and Dann
The Fifth Child
Ben, in the World
The Sweetest Dream
The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot, and the Snow Dog
The Cleft

“Canopus in Argos: Archives” Series
Re: Colonised Planet 5
The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five
The Sirian Experiments
The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire
“Children of Violence” Novel Sequence
Martha Quest
A Proper Marriage
A Ripple from the Storm
The Four-Gated City

The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five
(music by Philip Glass)
The Making of the Representative for Planet 8
(music by Philip Glass)

Short Stories
The Habit of Loving
A Man and Two Women
The Story of a Non-Marrying Man and Other Stories
Winter in July
The Black Madonna
This Was the Old Chiefs Country (Collected African Studies
, Volume 1)
The Sun Beneath Their Feet (Collected African Studies
, Volume 2)
To Room Nineteen (Collected Stories
, Volume 1)
The Temptation of Jack Orkney (Collected Stories
, Volume 2)
London Observed
The Old Age of El Magnifico
Particularly Cats
Rufus the Survivor
On Cats
The Grandmothers

Fourteen Poems

Each His Own Wilderness
Play With a Tiger
The Singing Door

In Pursuit of the English
Going Home
A Personal Voice
Prisons We Choose to Live Inside
The Wind Blows Away Our Words
African Laughter
Time Bites

Under My Skin, Volume 1
Walking in the Shade, Volume


© 1985
by Doris Lessing

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape Ltd, London, and subsequently in hardcover in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, in 1985.

Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage International and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the Knopf edition as follows:
Lessing, Doris May.
The good terrorist.
I. Title.
PR6023.E833G66    1985 823’.914

eISBN: 978-0-307-77765-2



he house was set back from the noisy main road in what seemed to be a rubbish tip. A large house. Solid. Black tiles stood at angles along the gutter, and into a gap near the base of a fat chimney a bird flew, trailing a piece of grass several times its length.

“I should think 1910,” said Alice. “Look how thick the walls are.” This could be seen through the broken window just above them on the first floor. She got no response, but nevertheless shrugged off her backpack, letting it tumble onto a living rug of young nettles that was trying to digest rusting tins and plastic cups. She took a step back to get a better view of the roof. This brought Jasper into vision. His face, as she expected it would be, was critical and meant to be noticed. For her part, she did not have to be told that she was wearing
her look
, described by him as silly. “Stop it,” he ordered. His hand shot out, and her wrist was encircled by hard bone. It hurt. She faced him, undefiant but confident, and said, “I wonder if they will accept us?” And, as she had known he would, he said, “It is a question of whether we will accept them.”

She had withstood the test on her, that bony pain, and he let her wrist go and went on to the door. It was a front door, solid and sure of itself, in a little side street full of suburban gardens and similar comfortable houses. They did not have slates missing and broken windows.

“Why, why,
asked Alice angrily, addressing the question, probably, to the universe itself, her heart full of pain because of the
capacious, beautiful, and unloved house. She dragged her backpack by its strap after her and joined him.

“Profit, of course,” he said, and pressed the bell, which did not ring. He gave the door a sharp push and they went into a large shadowy hall where stairs went strongly up, turned at a wide landing, and rose out of sight. The scene was illuminated by a hurricane lamp that stood on the floor, in a corner. From a side room came the sound of soft drumming. Jasper pushed open this door, too. The windows were covered by blankets, leaving not a chink of light. A black youth looked up from his family of drums, his cheeks and teeth shining in candlelight. “Hi,” he said, all his fingers and both feet at work, so that it seemed he was dancing as he sat, or was perhaps on some kind of exercise machine.

This smiling jolly black boy who looked like an advertisement for an attractive holiday in the Caribbean struck Alice’s organ of credibility falsely, and she tucked away a little memo to herself not to forget a first impression of anxiety or even sorrow, which was the real message her nerves were getting from him. She found herself actually on the verge of saying, “It’s all right, it’s okay, don’t worry!” But meanwhile Jasper was demanding, “Where’s Bert?”

The black youth shrugged, nonchalantly, still smiling, and did not for one moment stop his energetic attack on his instruments. Jasper’s tight grip on her upper arm took her out of the room into the hall, where Alice said, “This place smells.”

“Well,” said Jasper, in the clumsily placating way she knew was meant as love, “I suppose you’ll put a stop to that.”

At once, feeling her advantage, she said, “Don’t forget you’ve been living soft for four years. You’re not going to find it easy after that.”

“Don’t call me soft,” he said, and kicked her on the ankle. Not hard, but enough.

This time she went ahead of him and opened a door she felt must be to the kitchen. Light fell on desolation. Worse, danger: she was looking at electric cables ripped out of the wall and dangling, raw-ended. The cooker was pulled out and lying on the floor. The broken windows had admitted rainwater, which lay in
puddles everywhere. There was a dead bird on the floor. It stank. Alice began to cry from pure rage. “The bastards,” she cursed. “The filthy stinking fascist bastards.”

They already knew that the Council, to prevent squatters, had sent in the workmen to make the place uninhabitable. “They didn’t even make those wires safe. They didn’t even …” Suddenly alive with energy, she whirled about, opening doors. Two lavatories on this floor, the bowls filled with cement.

She cursed steadily, the tears streaming. “The filthy shitty swine, the shitty fucking fascist swine …” She was full of the energy of hate. Incredulous with it, for she had never been able to believe, in some corner of her, that anybody, particularly not a member of the working class, could obey an order to destroy a house. In that corner of her brain that was perpetually incredulous began the monologue that Jasper never heard, for he would not have authorised it: But they are
, people did this. To stop other people from living. I don’t believe it. Who can they be? What can they be like? I’ve never met anyone who could. Why, it must be people like Len and Bob and Bill,
. They did it. They came in and filled the lavatory bowls with cement and ripped out all the cables and blocked up the gas.

Jasper stood and watched her. He was pleased. This fury of energy had banished
her look
, which he hated, when she seemed, all of her, to be swollen and glistening, as if not merely her face but her whole body filled with tears, which oozed from every pore.

Without referring to him, she ran up the stairs, and he followed slowly, listening to how she banged on doors, and then, hearing nothing, flung them open. On the first-floor landing they stood looking into order, not chaos. Here every room had sleeping bags, one or two, or three. Candles or hurricane lamps. Even chairs with little tables beside them. Books. Newspapers. But no one was in.

The smell on this floor was strong. It came from upstairs. More slowly they went up generously wide stairs, and confronted a stench that made Jasper briefly retch. Alice’s face was stern and proud. She flung open a door onto a scene of plastic buckets, topped with shit. But this room had been deemed sufficiently filled, and the one
next to it had been started. Ten or so red, yellow, and orange buckets stood in a group, waiting.

BOOK: The Good Terrorist
9.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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