Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Biggest Shithole in Žižkov (Part 3)

Now that I had a new place, my priorities were three: find a replacement, get my deposit, and get the fuck out. On Sunday of that week, I took care of number one. The victim was some young Greek dude from Athens. Once he agreed to take the room, Junit disappeared on me. I texted him about the deposit and he said we’d meet the following day at 14:30. I was skeptical but I agreed. I told him he’d better have all my cash ready, but he didn’t reply.

The next afternoon came. On my way up to the flat, I caught Junit trying to dip out before our meeting time. I told him I wanted my money right then. He threw up his arms and started rambling about damages.

“What fucking damages?!” I said.

 “The couch has big hole. The carpet and floor have burn. Your desk has some marks.”

“What are you, a Japanese poet?”

“What?!”

“Nothing.”

“I don’t have time for these shits,” he barked. “Talk to Saafi about damages to agree what you vill pay.”

“Fine.”

I left him on the street and went up to the flat. I found Saafi in the kitchen, wrapped in a blue sarong and thumbing garlic into a lamb shank. I asked her what the deal with the deposit was. She gave me a puzzled look and washed her hands.

“Didn’t you talk to my husband about this?”

“Yes! And he told me to talk to you.”

“Well, I guess I can tell you.”

“Tell me what?!”

“We can’t give you back the whole deposit. You’ve made too many damages.”

“Which damages are these exactly? Your husband recited a haiku instead of actually telling me.”

She dried her hands and flitted into the common area.

“There are burn marks on the carpet here,” she said, pointing to three tiny black dots. “And there is also one here in the couch. My husband says these are your fault. Is he right?”

It was true, these things were my doing. I had a hookah I liked to smoke out there when I was drunk and I’ll be damned if the little thing didn’t just spill a few lit coals every now and again. Still, the common area was a total dump. I could have let a herd of ponies stampede up in there and shit themselves to death and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. I rolled my eyes and smirked.

“Yeah, these are my fault,” I said. “So whaddaya want me to do, buy a new couch and install a new carpet? It’s just a few little burn marks. Christ, I already replaced this carpet once after my buddy burnt the first piece of crap.”

Saafi ran her long fingers through her wavy hair.

“Well, you can repair it?” she said. “I’ve found some leftover material from when you installed it.”

The thought of ripping out that carpet again made my toenails choke. I told her to show me the rest of the “damages” before I could make a decision. She led me to my room and started in. She pointed to a black smudge on the floor and a few pockmarks on the desk.

“Those were there before I got here,” I said.

“Oh really? And what about this?” she said, pointing out a frayed section of the rug.

“Jesus Christ, I don’t know. My chair may have done that but I can’t be sure. Anyways, are you going to try and pin every shit speckle and dead ant on me? This is getting ridiculous!”

“Hans, the truth of your damages is between you and God. If you are OK to neglect your holy duties then that is your choice.”

“What?”

“I just mean God is watching you.”

“Is he now … Look, I don’t care anymore. The deposit I gave your husband was 7500 kc. Just nix 500 for the carpet, 500 for the couch and 500 for the horrendous display of negligence that is my room. Deal?”

She gave me a pitying look and clasped her hands.

“OK,” she said.

I collected my measly deposit and spent the next two days packing. I then celebrated my exodus with Bert through the weekend. That Monday, I went to Petr’s (and soon to be my) place. I signed the contract and dropped a few of my bigger bags off there. Instead of taking the bus back, I decided to walk around and explore the area. I found a small pub nearby that only served microbrews and a grocery store with better products than my crummy old Billa. I walked home smiling and packed the rest of my stuff for Bert’s. When I finished, I had a moment to myself. I ran my eyes over the contours of my room. The memories flooded my heart with sweet and painful water. I’d spent almost four years in that little hole. And even though its carpets were stained and walls were cracked and its furniture was rickety beyond belief, it still carried the laughter of a hundred good times, it still wore the cum, blood, spit and tears of all my exploits like a bum does his trusty old coat. My insides suddenly turned soggy. I buried my face in my pillow and cried.

….

Bert came by the next evening to help me move. I had a lot of junk, despite having dropped my big stuff off at Petr’s. I knew we’d have to take at least two trips. Since my funds were drained from moving, our only option was public trans. We grabbed up as much as we could and started off. I was carrying two giant backpacks (one in front, one in rear), two computers and a grocery bag filled with dishes. Bert was carrying two FRAKTA’s (71 liter IKEA bags) splitting at the seams with clothes, breakables, rugs, whatnot. We stomped down the stairwell, cussing and screaming and dragging all that shit. By an act of sheer will, we made it out the front door. On the waddle to the bus stop, the handles on my grocery bag ripped. I balanced it on top of my head carefully and stepped onto the bus. The adjacent passengers gawked at me like I had a cock growing from my chin.

After a full hour of tendon-snapping agony, we arrived at Bert’s. We dumped my things off there and left for the rest. On our way back to Žižkov, I got a text from Junit. He was demanding that I clean my room thoroughly before I leave.

“Oh fuck him,” Bert said.

I was tempted to write something to that effect. I refrained out of a desire to keep the peace. We arrived at the flat a few minutes later. Saafi was standing in the doorway of my room with a dustpan in one hand and half a metal broom in the other.

“These are for you,” she said. “I would appreciate it if you swept, especially under your bed.”

I snarled and took the items from her. I walked in my room and looked left. My bed was sans mattress and pulled to one side. A blanket of filth, speckled with candy, cracker and condom wrappers covered the floor underneath. I glared at Saafi and lifted my instruments.

“You really expect me to clean all that with these?” I said.

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, why can’t I just use the damn vacuum?”

“Because, it’s mine. And I don’t want you to break it.”

“Jesus Christ, Saafi, I won’t break it. Just please let me use it!”

She folded her skinny arms and pursed her lips.

“Sweep up all the big stuff first, then maybe.”

I wanted to tear my eyeballs out. I chucked the dustpan to the floor and started sweeping. Within seconds, big clouds of foulness mushroomed up around me. They crawled in my mouth and up my nostrils. They stung my eyes and gums. I moved furiously to get the job done. I could hear Bert snickering at me off in the corner. This lit my nerves on fire. I put my palm to the broom top and scraped it across the carpet.

“SON OF A BITCH!!!” I screamed.

A snag of metal had punched through my skin. I was dribbling blood from a sizable hole. I threw the broom against the wall and stamped my feet.

“CAN I PLEASE USE THE FUCKING VACUUM NOW?!”

“Not until you get all that mess up with the dustpan,” she said, pointing.

“Are you kidding me? I have a hand full of blood and a face full of shit. Can’t you just help me out a little bit?”

“No. This is your mess, you clean it.”

“And what if I refuse?”

“That would be immoral!”

IMMORAL?!?!?!

My irises cracked. The taste of cruelty slid over my tongue like bile. One more snooty remark and I’d have unleashed it on her like so many locusts from Beelzebub’s maw.  Fortunately for both of us, she had the mental wherewithal to keep her mouth shut. I swept up all the filth into the dustpan and handed it to her.

“You do the vacuuming,” I said.

With that, Bert and I left. As we walked down the stairs and out into the open air I could feel the claws of that poisonous flat unhooking themselves from my organs. A wave of pure relief washed over me. Four years of compounded anger started to split and crumble. I breathed in deeply and let my arms sag. Bert just threw his head back and laughed.

“That place sucked ass till the very last minute!” he cried.

“It did, indeed.”

….



Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Biggest Shithole in Žižkov (Part 2)

I stared my flat-search that Monday. I wanted something clean and quiet for 8000 crowns (about 400 bucks) max and no more than 2 flat-mates. I looked around in Žižkov first. When I couldn’t find anything there, I branched out. I saw two places in Vinohrady (the next hood over) that looked decent. One was a studio for 7500 kc a month and the other was a flat-share for 6600. I contacted both owners. They replied quickly and we set up viewings for the following day. I texted Junit right after that. I told him I had some important news about the coming month’s rent. He said he’d be home in a few. Five minutes later he came stomping through the front door. I approached him as slipped out of his giant trench coat. Before he could kick his boots off and kill me with his nasty feet, I told him.

“I want you to get my deposit ready,” I said. “I’m moving out.”

His red hair brightened.

“When?!” he barked.

“I’ve paid till the 23rd of this month (September). I’ll be out by then.”

“Fine. Are you vill leave Prague?”

“No, just here.”

“Ugh, ok I vill begin the searching for new guy.”

“What about my deposit?”

“Yeah, yeah, I give you later.”

I thought about pressing him for the money. I still had three weeks and change so I decided to let it slide. I grinned cheaply at him and walked off. The stench of cuticle-rot followed me down the hall.

….

At 9:00 the next morning, I viewed the first flat. It was a tiny dump and it stunk of balls. On top of that, the owner was a prick. I thanked him for showing me the place and split.

The next flat was close by. It was on a quiet street in a pretty white building. I sent the owner (Julia) a text.  She came down quick and opened the door. She was wearing stonewashed jeans and a cotton blouse. Her silver hair was in a tight pony tail and I could tell by the shine of her cleavage that she had fake boobs. She wrinkled her face into a smile. We introduced ourselves and I followed her up the stairs. We stopped at the second floor and she opened the door to her flat. I immediately smelled homemade cookies … then animal urine.

“Good God,” I mumbled.

I followed her in and slipped my shoes off. Despite the smell, the place wasn’t half bad. It had a big kitchen and living room. Its floors and carpets were clean. Julia motioned to her right and opened a door.

“This will be your room,” she said, in heavily accented Czech.

I looked inside. It was a nice room with a blue foldout couch. The bookcase in the corner was filled with peeling first editions. A plant like a giant octopus sat on the windowsill. I could see myself writing there. I turned around and asked her the price.

“6600 crowns a month,” she said. “This includes everything.”

“Not bad.”

“Yeah, I had to lower it because my Sabrina moved out suddenly. She was the tenant before you but she hurt her ankle badly and had to move back to Ostrava. Now it’s just me and little Vaclav.”

“Vaclav is your son?”

“No, my son lives in Australia with his wife. This is his room you’ll be taking.”

 “OK. So then Vaclav is your husband?”

“Well, yes … but he died years ago, so …”

Julia looked like she was about to cry. I didn’t want to pry any further so I changed the subject. I asked her to show me the rest of the flat. She showed me the kitchen first. There was a small table there with two wine bottles and an ashtray on it. Dried paprika and garlic hung around the stove. The walls were yellow with love. It reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen. I could see Julia in there cooking for me. I could see us drinking and chatting about life. I smiled and nodded her on. She led me to the living room next. It had a big flowery sofa and a widescreen TV. Off in the corner was a tall bookcase. I spotted a book I liked on the shelf nearest the windowsill. I reached for it and Julia freaked.

“Watch out!” she cried.

I jumped back and looked to my left. There behind the see-through curtains was an enormous iguana. Its skin was lime green with black splotches. It was peeling everywhere and covered with warts. It glared at me with bloodshot eyes. I flashed it the finger and it snapped at it.

“You must be careful with my Vaclav,” she said. “He bites!”

“This is Vaclav?!”

“Yes,” she said, picking him up. “And he only loves me.”

She cradled him like a newborn and nuzzled the crown of his warty head. He poked his bottom lip out pompously and slipped me a downcast eye.

“Anyways,” she said, putting him back on his windowsill. “You don’t have to worry about him. He only walks around the flat at night.”

“Great,” I said. “Got any more surprises?”

She scratched her neck.

“Well … just one. But she’s the sweetest little girl. I know I said it was only me and Vaclav here but Sabrina found her in the gutter so she really isn’t mine. Anyways, let me show you.”

She opened the door to her bedroom. There was a king-sized bed in there with a fluffy white comforter. A large lump was purring underneath it. Julia reached in and pulled it out.

“This is ‘No-Namey’” she said. “Isn’t she precious?”

No-Namey?”

The thing was ball of unruly fur-licks with an anus for a face. It looked like a shrunken mob boss in a secondhand mink.

“’Precious’ doesn’t leap to mind,” I mumbled.

Julia petted the cat and laid it on the bed. Then she walked me to the door. As I put my shoes on she chatted me up.

 “Where are you from?” she asked.

“California. But I’ve lived here for almost four years.”

“Oh, well you speak nice Czech.”

“Thanks. And where are you from?”

 “Hungary. But my husband was Czech so I moved here 30 years ago with him. It was communism during that time so we could only stay in communist countries. But I wanted to go to California and see the national parks and all the animals. I love animals. Before I retired I was a vet … What do you do?”

“I teach during the day. But mainly I’m a writer.”

“A writer?” she said. “My husband was a writer …”

She stepped into me and grinned. Her teeth were booger green. The stench of Marlboros and vinegar reeked from her gums. I squinted my eyes and smiled painfully. She clenched her index finger and raised her shoulder to her cheek. Despite the hideous state of her mouth, she was pretty for an old lady. To add to this, her place was very homey (minus the pets). I thought about how I missed my own home. I imagined Julia bringing me plates of chicken paprikash while I wrote. I imagined her folding my clothes and laying them out neatly across my bed. I imagined her giving me hugs and telling me to be careful before I went out on weekend nights. Then I imagined this …

I’d come back one Friday night filthy drunk and horny. I’d stagger into the living room and find Julia on the couch. She’d be sipping sherry with No-Namey on her lap and Vaclav around her shoulders. One thing would lead to another and we’d all end up on the big bed – me taking Julia from behind while No-Namey shivered under the covers and Vaclav nipped up angrily at my swinging balls. The next day things between us would devolve into this strange oedipal relationship. Julia would be icing my crotch with one hand and spoon-feeding me goulash with the other, while I penned out sentences and tried not to get a stiffy.

I swallowed these images with a grimace. I thanked Julia for showing me the room and told her I’d get back to her.

….

The next week brought zilch. Not only did I not find a place, but I spent two full days showing my room to idiots under the supervision of Junit’s annoying wife, Saafi. The two of us must have shown the place to a dozen different people. Only one - a delicate little Thai boy with a feline smile – seemed at all interested. The next day he called saying he’d take the place. But unsurprisingly, Junit tossed him on the shit pile because he suspected the guy of not liking vaginas. This meant more flat-searching and more room-showing. Thankfully, that Monday, I found a nice looking place in Vršovice (Bert’s new hood) for 6 G’s a month. I texted the guy (Pavel) and asked for a viewing. He told me to come by at 17:45 that day.

After work, I took the tram down there. I found the building near a street corner not three blocks from Bert’s. I look up Pavel’s name on the tenant list and buzzed him. He came running down the stairwell and yanked open the door. He was thin as wires and wore box-cut glasses. His skin was wrinkly orange and his teeth, rum-brown. He gave me a jittery handshake and introduced himself. Then he walked me up five flights of stairs.

“I forgot to mention we have no elevator,” he said.

“No problem. I need the exercise.”

We got to the door and went inside. He showed me the room first. It had a nice big desk and plenty of book space. The closest was huge and the bed wide. I liked the room right off. Pavel took me to the window and opened it.

“You said you were a writer?” he asked.

 “Yes.”

“Well as you can see, it’ll be very quiet here for you.”

I looked out the window. There was an empty courtyard ringed with flowers. I didn’t see a single shittin’ dog anywhere. I grinned sweetly.

“Does anyone else live in the flat?” I asked.

 “Just my girlfriend,” he said. “But we live in the opposite half and we keep to ourselves.”

“OK,” I said. “I’ll take it.”

 “Really?”

“Yes.”

“Wonderful! Now there’s just a couple things …”

“Oh?”

The couple things weren’t too bad; no cooking smelly food, and to do laundry it was an extra 200 kc a month. I told him this was fine. He said he had a few more viewers that evening but he would let me know his final decision by 9:00 pm. We shook hands and he let me out. When I got on the street I had mixed feelings. Part of me felt this was a wise choice. Living with an older couple would certainly be a quiet environment, perfect for writing. Then again, I could see myself getting stifled and bored. The party animal and the hermit in me were strangling each other simultaneously while doing somersaults down a hill. In the end, the hermit won. I decided that if Pavel and his lady friend would have me, I’d take the place.

….

When I got home, I knocked on Junit’s door. I asked him about the deposit and he scowled.

“When I vill find anyone you vill get money.”

“Once you find someone?! Saafi told me the Thai guy wanted the place but you refused him because you thought he was gay.”

“Of course I did this!”

“Why?”

“Because. I don’t want to live with Asian Gay! Would you?”

“Man, I wouldn’t give a shit.”

Junit choked on his words.

“A-anyways,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter. I can choose who vill living in this flat. It vill be either when I find anyone or thirty days after you are telling me you leaving, which vill be first October, then you vill getting deposit.”

“But I think I found a place. I need the money now.”

“I’m sorry, but this is normal deal.”

He slammed his door. I flipped him off and walked back to my room.

9:00 pm came and went. I still hadn’t heard from Pavel so I texted him. He texted back saying he’d tell me his decision the next morning. I decided to set up another viewing just in case. I found a flat on the other side of Žižkov with a fully-furnished room for rent.  I texted the guy (Petr) and he told me to come by at 8 pm the next day.

The following morning I got another text from Pavel. In it he was asking me for an extra 1000 kc a month. His reasoning was that I was a writer, which meant I’d be home more and thus using more utilities. I told him this was nonsense, as I had a fulltime teaching job and would be out during weekdays. He apologized for not having considered this. He said the room was still mine for the original price if I wanted it. I told him I did and that I’d come by for the keys the next day. I neglected to mention my other viewing.

….

At 7:45 I took the bus to North Žižkov. I got off at my stop and after some effort, found the right building. I quickly texted Petr. As I waited for him, I prayed he wouldn’t be a crumbling old fart or a honking douche bag. He came down five minutes later and greeted me. He was smartly dressed and had a shaved head. He couldn’t have been older than thirty. I breathed a sigh of relief as he led me up the stairs.

His place was on the third floor. It had a small hallway and a kitchen with the bare essentials. There was a bathroom with a new washing machine in back. The shower was a piece of shit but at least it ran hot water. After the grand tour, Petr showed me the room. It was a bit narrow for my taste but the hardwood floors were nice and the bed looked comfy. I asked the final price.

“5500 kc,” he said.

“And this includes everything?”

“Yes. But you have to pay a month in advance.”

Ok. Well, what about the noise level? There won’t be a bunch of barking dogs or screaming drunks outside my window, will there?”

“This is still Žižkov, but don’t worry, we’re on a pretty quiet street. Plus, I visit my girlfriend in Moravia during the weekends so you’ll have the place to yourself.”

I frowned big with satisfaction.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

“Great.”

We agreed to meet the following week. I would sign the contract then and hand over the deposit. The only catch was, I couldn’t move in till the end of the month. This meant I’d be spending a full week on Bert’s couch. Under normal circumstances, this could be fun. But with all my shit packed into his room it could easily turn into a nightmare. I thought about this as I left the building. I also thought about having told Pavel I’d be by for the keys the next day. I had promised two different people that I’d take their rooms-for-rent. I was caught in the middle of a tug-of-war with the endearing black-hole that was Žižkov on one side and the prospect of a new beginning amidst two old fucks in Vršovice on the other. I meandered down Koněvova – Žižkov’s filthy, neon-slicked artery. I looked up meekly at the TV Tower. It just stood there in its tall, crooked ugliness, blinking its red eye at me. My head slowly folded in on itself. I collapsed on the steps of the police station and thought hard.  An answer finally came.

“I gotta call Bert,” I said.

He answered the phone with a grunt. There was a strange echo to it.

“Where the hell are you?” I asked.

“In the bathroom taking a shit.”

“Nice.”

I told him my predicament with much angst and detail. He listened quietly between plops. When I finished, I heard him flush. Then he broke it down for me.

“First off,” he said. “Fuck that old couple. They’re just gonna tack on charges and clip your party balls. Second off, FUCK THAT OLD COUPLE! Why would you want to live with them anyways?”

“Well, I need a change …”

“Dude, just moving outta that shithole and away from Junit is huge change. Why would you wanna go ruin it by shacking up with a buncha’ damn geriatrics? That shit’ll gettem within a week. I’m tellin’ya, take the Žižkov place. You belong there, bro.”

The motherfucker was right. I thanked him for the advice and we hung up. I then texted Pavel and told him I wouldn’t be taking the room in Vršovice after all. He never responded.

….
 
 
 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Biggest Shithole in Žižkov (Part 1)

A dog barked.

The sound blew through my window like a rock and knocked me upside the head.

There was another bark.

Bark.

Bark.

Bark.

Soon my entire room was filled with barks. They were bouncing up and down and crossways, smacking into everything. I stuffed wads of toilet paper in my ears and sandwiched my head with a pillow. The barks wiggled their way through the cotton and paper and bore into my brain. I clenched my teeth and crunched my eyes shut. My face grew red and swollen as a cherry. When I could no longer take it, I shot up outta bed. I ran over to my window and grabbed my rifle. I saw the culprit tied to a tree in front of the Billa (grocery store) across the street. He was a scrawny lab with a crooked tail and floppy ears. I opened my window and took aim. His dumb little head was right in my crosshairs. I felt the sick joy of murder slowly filling my stomach. I released the safety and pulled the trigger.

BANG!

The bullet zipped through the air and popped against the dog’s skull. He yelped once and flipped over. As he laid there kicking, a pool of blood bloomed around his head. A little girl screamed and an old lady fainted. Just then, the couple who owned the dog came running out of the grocery store. When they saw their precious mutt, twitching and bleeding out, they freaked.

“Who the fuck did this?!” the man cried.

I smiled and popped a round off at his feet.

“Up here!” I yelled.

The man jumped back and looked up. When he saw me his tiny eyes glittered with fear. I aimed at one and fired it black. This set my alarm off. I opened my eyes and looked over. I saw my cell phone blinking and vibrating next to me on the bed. The dog was still barking outside. My flat-mate “Junit” (previously referred to as “Fuckface”) clicked on the washing machine. His wife screamed something at him from the kitchen. He screamed something back and slammed a door. My entire room was now a circus of noise. Sleep was a total impossibility. I grabbed my cell and turned off the alarm. I punched out a text and sent it to Bert. It was Saturday afternoon and we’d both been out drinking till dawn. This meant pho at our favorite place in Žižkov followed by tons of “chucking” (lounging) and watching “pussies” (movies). I told him if he didn’t respond within ten minutes I was coming over. He missed the deadline, so I threw on my clothes, laced my shoes and hit the door.

Bert’s was a good fifteen minutes away on foot. I normally hated the walk there but this time I had two reasons for not minding it. First, I was pumped about waking Bert’s drunk ass up.  Second, homeboy had told me the night before that his living situation was getting “extra special” as of late.

Bert lived with the skuzzy manager of our favorite local dive. He’d moved in with him after breaking up with his girlfriend Pavla in March. Despite the flat being a bit of a dump, things were OK there for a while. But as the months went by, the place got rattier and rattier and Mirek (his flat-mate) got weirder and weirder. It was the middle of June and I’d be heading for the states soon. I was dying to have one last look at his flat because, as Bert put it, “I’m now living in the biggest shithole in Žižkov.”
….

I arrived at his shabby building at 14:30. A gang of bald-headed construction workers were jack-hammering the sidewalk in front of it. I sidestepped their cracks and went inside. I climbed the rail-free stairwell two flights and banged on Bert’s door. I heard him shuffle, cough and gag. He opened up a minute later in a pair of dirty nut-huggers.

“Watch your foot there, beef-cheeks,” I said, pointing.

“Oh shit.”

Bert lifted his foot from the mouth of a pizza box underneath. A glob of congealed cheese clung to his sole. He snatched it off and chucked it to the floor.

“GOD, this place is a fucking piece of crap!”

I chuckled and pushed the door open. I was expecting the usual piles of dirty dishes and clothes. What I saw was nothing short of flabbergasting. Bert led me down the hallway to hell, one jiggling butt cheek at a time.

“Shitheads were doing construction last night again,” he said, tossing his hand in the air.“Howdaya like what they’ve done with the place!”

There were chunks of concrete strewn everywhere. The tub was filled with busted sheetrock and the walls were baring their pipes. The contours of the kitchen were caked in grey dust. A rock had fallen from the bathroom ceiling and landed smack on the toilet lid, cracking it in half. I thinned my lips and tried not to laugh. The state of Bert’s room made it tough. Kebab wrappers and beer bottles littered his entire floor. His couch was piled high with filthy laundry and his bed looked like a walrus had slept in it. Atop his only pillow was the jewel in the shit-crown – a lopsided burger with a long pickle slice hanging from its single bite-mark like a tongue. On sight of this, I collapsed to the floor and hyperventilated with laugher. Bert just stood there scowling.

“Huh huh … huh how the fuck do you live like this?!” I cried.

Bert fished a cigarette from his ashtray and lit it.

“That’s just it,” he said, inhaling. “I can’t live like this. Not anymore. I mean, if it were just the construction I could handle it. But there hasn’t been internet since I got here. Plus, Mirek just blows up waaaay too much. You know he had a fucking orgy again in his room last night?!”

“Haha, really? Was it the crippled lady and her daughter again?”

“No man, this time he brought home some bar hag with a missing tooth, which wouldn’t have been so bad but he had Dalibor with him too.”

“Dalibor?”

“Yeah, you know the guy from Pavla’s birthday party with the gold teeth and the spiky hair?”

“Jesus, that guy joined in?”

“That’s the thing, man. I don’t think he joined in. I know what Mirek sounds like when he fucks and I only heard him and the girl. I think Dalibor was just in there watching.”

“Well, then it wasn’t an orgy.”

“Oh whatever. It was fucking disgusting is what it was. And to top it off, Dalibor came knocking on my door all sweaty at 6:00 am, asking for me Kleenex. Serious, dude. When I leave for the states in a week I’m outta this place for good.”

“Yeah? Well, where are you gonna stay when you come back in August?”

“I don’t know. Cool if I crash in your room while I look for a new flat? You’ll be in L-town still and I promise to be out by the time you get back.”

“Christ, I guess.”

….

The weeks in Livermore sped by. On a night in late July, Bert came by my folks’ for the keys. I handed them off to him with a warning.

“Junit’s extra touchy these days,” I said. “Don’t get in his way.”

“Oh fuck him.”

“I’m serious, Bert. Ever since you destroyed our floor with those hookah coals he hasn’t cared much for you. Now he’s got his wife living there and he’s on edge. When he sees you he’s not gonna like it. Just keep a low pro and be chill.”

“I will, man. Don’t worry.”

“I hope so. Cuz any bullshit that happens between you guys, I’m gonna hafta clean up.”

“Ait, ait.”

We said our goodbyes and Bert took off. The next day he flew to Prague. The following afternoon I got a Facebook message from Junit. It read:

“Hi, who is in ur room?”
 
I cringed and told him. He flipped.
 
“You never told me is this guy! I don’t like him and I wouldn’t ever choose him as a flat mate … I will see but if I don’t like it, I will make a problem.....”
 
Just then Bert got online. I told him Junit was being cock about the whole thing and he laughed.
 
“Well, I’m just about to hop in the shower,” he said. “How ‘bout afterwards I kick open his door butt naked and rape his ass in front of his wife.”
 
“I doubt that’ll help things.”
 
“Alright, alright. I’ll knock on his door later and just tell him I’m here and that everything’s cool.”
 
“Thank you.”
 
“ … Then I’ll rape his ass.”
 
“Bert!”
 
“Hahaha, Ok man, have a good one.”
 
….
 
I prayed for the best. A few days went by and I didn’t hear much. One morning I got up early to write. As I clicked away, a message from Bert popped up.
 
“Ur flatmate’s a psycho,” it read.
 
I rolled my eyes and asked what happened. Bert lit into his keyboard straight off.
 
“The day after our last convo I tried to make up with him. I saw his light was on and his door was half open so I knocked on it a little and he fucking freaked out and started swearing at me and slammed the door in my face. Then he came in later and apologized and I thought shit would be cool but tonight I went to his crappy-ass bar and he came in drunk and was giving me all dirty looks. I tried to invite him for a beer and he was like ‘Fuck you! I’ll never be your friend!’ and all kinda horrible shit. I seriously almost punched him right there in his own bar. Fuckin’ guy’s a psycho. I’m talkin’ multiple personalities or something.”
 
“Well why the fuck did you go to his bar!? I told you to stay away from him.”
 
“I was drunk and the place is open late. Anyways, I thought we were cool.”
 
“You can’t think of him like you think of other people. He’s an asshole through and through. You expecting him to be decent and then being surprised when he’s not, is like biting into a piece of shit and then going ‘God, that’s disgusting!’ The guy sucks and he always will. Just stay away from him, find a place, and get the hell outta there.”
 
Bert said he would do his best. A week later he found a place. I flew to Prague and we crashed the night there. The next morning we flew to Bulgaria. We met up with three other “Chucks” (good ol’ boys) from Livermore. For seventeen days, the five of us explored the most remote, beautiful, war-torn regions of the Balkans. On our last day we were sitting in the airport in Sofia (Bulgaria). As we waited for our boarding call, Bert looked over at me.
 
“You really gonna go back to Junit and that fucking piece of shit flat?” he asked.
 
I looked down at my hands
 
“I don’t know, man,” I said. “It’s such a hassle to move.”
 
“Dude, whatever! I’ve done it five times since I’ve been in Prague. And I’ll do it again if that place I’m in now turns out to suck. Seriously Hans, you gotta move. I was at your flat two weeks and I couldn’t wait to get out. You’ve been there four years. I don’t know how you stand it!”
 
At that moment, I didn’t know either. I just felt a sickness like rotted seafood growing inside my stomach. I thought about all the shit I’d hafta deal with when I got back – the barking dogs, the slamming doors, the howling elevator, the creaky floors. Then I thought about the biggest kernel in the turd pile: Junit.  Before he got shacked up, the man was at least a character. His hard-drinking, whore-mongering antics were enough writing fodder to fill a dozen books. The minute his wife moved in though, the high-powered scoundrel in him packed up and split. What remained was a tall, cranky shell of a man, haunting a flat whose dangerous magic had all but vanished. I grabbed a pen and scrawled something across my fist. It was one word:
 
“OUT”
 
….
 
 
 
 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pink Soap

We were sitting at a restaurant downtown and my friend Bert had his newest squeeze with him. She was a skinny little thing with bug-eyes and a black ponytail. She barely said a word. She just sat there picking at her pork with a fork. Bert and I tried to talk around her wall of silence. It was like pissing into a river and waiting for it to turn yellow. Finally, I got tired of the whole act. I started prodding the girl (Jane) out of her shell.

“What’s your deal?” I asked.

“My deal?”

“Yeah, whaddaya do?”

“I chill, I guess.”

“You chill?”

“Yeah.”

“Anything else?”

“I draw.”

“Oh? Whaddaya draw?”

“Stuff.”

“Uh huh. That all ya do?”

“Well, I smoke too.”

My eyes lit up like two light bulbs.

“You smoke do you?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Well …”

Having grown up in a boring little turd-hole, I’ve been around stoners all my life. They’re usually as silent as the bits of nature they’re named after … that is of course till you kick in their brain wrinkles with crazy imagery. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at this. I decided to try my hand with Jane.

“Tell me something,” I said. “What if ol’ Bert here, got up to go to the bathroom and left his face frozen in mid-air above his chair?”

“Huh?!”

“Then what if the thing started laughing silently about something off in the corner and Bert came back with his big, red, mug of muscles, lit up a smoke and was like ‘What?’”

Jane pitched forward and wrenched her jaws. The laughter came blowing past her teeth like projectile vomit.

“Do another one!” she cried.

“Ok … what if all the sudden time slowed and our limbs and eyeballs started popping upwards from their sockets, carrying our guts and skeletons with them till we were nothing but hollow-eyed sacks of skin, deflating against our chairs?!”

“HAHAHAHAHA! ANOTHER!”

“Or say a silverback gorilla walked into the restaurant, casual as can be, and in your father’s voice, started asking you the details of your latest period?”

“OH MY FUCKING GOD! HAHAHA!!! ONE MORE!”

“Or what if Bert went to the sink and found this pink soap and he washed his hands and face with it and then dried himself off with a towel in front of the mirror and when he pulled the towel away he saw he now had the hands and face of Susan Boyle?”

This one drove the nail through the kneecap. Jane was now screaming with tears. The whole joint just stared at her. She coughed and cackled and gagged. Bert looked over at me and raised an eyebrow. I raised my beer and smiled.

“Works every time,” I said.

....




Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

State of Summer

Those of you, who read my blog, have probably noticed that I haven’t posted anything for a while. Part of the reason for this is I was out of town over the summer. The other part is I was just plain dealing with life. I’m currently working on a piece that explains the shit I’ve been going through. In the meantime, here a five poems (a number of which I read at Alchemy last week), that attempt to sum up my summer in Cali.



Perfect

Everything is perfect
My torn Band-Aid
Is perfect
My ragged cuticles
Are perfect
My heavy eyes
Are perfect
My sweaty palms
Are perfect
The glint on the wing of my plane
Is perfect
The sour burp in my mouth
Is perfect
The clouds
Are perfect
The sun
Is perfect
My seat
With the long legroom
Is perfect
The dump I took earlier
Was perfect
The wine in my mind,
The patio in my heart,
My folks waiting for me quietly
On chairs that fold
Are perfect
It’s all perfect
My life
Is perfect


….


Ask the Clowns

Sometimes
Especially after a long night
Of drinking
A spring comes loose
In my brain
And the madness that wells up
Sends me with the crows
On a one way trip
To the Moon
When this happens
My poor mother is always around
And I start asking her questions
Like
“What do you think a blowjob from the Dalai Lama feels like?”
Or
“How would you like it if, at the opera, you went to clap your hands
And they exploded on impact?!”

Inquiries of this sort
Usually fail
To peak her interest
So I move to more drastic tactics
Like
Stretching my face apart
With my fingers
Or
Whistling “Twisted Nerve”
Whilst doing somersaults
Across the lawn

My mother tolerates this crap
For a time
But after a while
She loses it and says:
“Hans, what gets into you?!”
This invariably makes me howl
But underneath the river of dead clowns
Surging through my brain
I’m wondering
The same
Thing


….


Wine Country

As the vineyards whipped by
Our Lexus windows
My father’s friend
Sat in the front seat
And laughed

“I got a buddy out in Israel,” he said.
“And when I talked to him on the phone yesterday,
I says, ‘Hey! Watch out for those Hamas rockets, haha!’”

My father laughed too
And both guys started talking about
The horrors of war
As if they were discussing
The logistics
Of cabinetmaking


….


As the Sun Sets

The average American
Has never seen war …

He’s never seen his pregnant wife
Forced out of the house at gunpoint
And shot on the lawn
Like a rabid dog

He’s never had his teenage daughter enslaved
And fashioned as a receptacle
For soldiers’ cum

He’s never felt the sting of a phone call
Delivering the message
That his only son
Was just murdered

He’s never had the rights
He paid for with the blood of his loved ones
Crumpled up and used to
Wipe the shoes of the rich

He’s never seen the bombs drop
From the bosoms of roaring planes
And watched the buildings
Of his beloved city
Light up with flames

He’s never had his head blown off
While sitting in his favorite lawn chair
Or had his precious Cheetos
Poisoned with strychnine

He’s never heard the screams
Of a nursery on fire
And he’s never been told the Truth
Behind the greatest lie
That ever was


….


Oh Yeah

On my last night
In town
A funny thing happened
I was out with the guys
Drinking
And we stopped at all the old haunts,
The Ale House
The Blue Bar
The Good Times …

Round about one
When we were all good and pissed
We went for pizza and doughnuts
And on our way out
I felt that THING
Curl up through my veins
And into my brains
And light up my system
Like a nest of fireflies
Till every nerve in my body screamed
MOVE!
So I ripped off my shirt
And plugged in my earbuds
And switched on a song called
“Oh Yeah”
That ran my joints like
Liquid jazz,
There in the parking lot
I DANCED
Under a shower of moon-gas
And morphed into
The Most Furious Wizard of the Times
Sure enough
A police car rolled up
And the cop that stepped out
Had his hand on his gun

“How ya’ doin’ there?” he asked me.

“Great!” I said, still dancing.
“Wanna join?”

The cop laughed
And I saw the wall he’d built
Magically melt down
He said there was no law
Against what I was doing
And told me to
“Have a good one.”

I stopped dancing,
Shook his hand
And said the same
I then watched him
Get in his cruiser
And drive away
After he was gone
Two scruffy guys
From my high school days
Walked up to me with
Big smiles

“That was the coolest shit we’ve ever seen!”
They said

I winked sweetly
And thanked them
As I walked off
I patted my chest
For bullet holes


....

 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Crooked as an Elbow

I woke up at 4 am with a pain in my left elbow. It was a knotted, heavy pain like someone had whacked me with a hammer. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. The pain spread out from the tip of my elbow and dug into the meat of my forearm.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” I yelled.

I whipped the blankets off my chest and kicked outta bed. I clicked on the light and rotated my arm. My elbow was red and swollen. It looked like something had bitten me.

“That little bitch,” I muttered.

I was referring to the spider I’d found a week prior, living in the panels of my bed frame. I’d tried to squish him with the tip of a broom handle but he’d vanished into the wall. I figured he’d come back for revenge. This lit my ribs on fire and I started ripping apart my bed.

“When I find you I’m gonna tear your legs off and sprinkle ‘em on my salad!”

I heaved and pulled and flung. When I finished, I looked down at the mess I’d made. My mattress was splayed over a pile of books. My bed frame looked like an exploded tower of Jenga blocks. The spider was nowhere to be found. I curled my lip and reassembled everything.

After an hour of fitful sleep, I took a shower. As I hosed myself down, I noticed my elbow. It was now the size of a tennis ball. It hurt like a filthy knife wound, to boot. I toweled off and walked to the freezer. I spent the next four hours icing my arm and watching garbage.

….

Due to a string of cancellations, I only had a single private lesson that day. I showed up to it with sagging eye sockets and foul breath. My student shook my hand and asked me what was wrong. I flipped my arm over and showered her.

Huuuaaannhh!” she gasped. “Vas happin?!”

“I don’t know. I think I was bitten by a spider.”

She thinned her eyes at my throbbing tomato. A light clicked on in her head.

“Dis no from spider. Dis from exercise.”

“Good God, really?”

“Yes. Did you do some verkout recently?”

“Yeah, fifty pushups last night before dinner.”

“And you do dis every night?”

“Uhhh …”

I couldn’t let her know what a lazy fuck I am. It was bad enough I needed a bra more than she did.

“Most nights,” I said.

“Vell, you must have to injure it. I am athletic so I know. I really fink you should take elbow to doctor.”

….

Our lesson ended and I split to the nearest poliklinika (polyclinic). When I arrived, I went up to the skin doctor’s. I still wasn’t convinced the state of my elbow was from exercise. I showed the ladies at the front desk my swell-spot and they ooooohhhh’d.

“You should really go into surgery,” one said in Czech.

“Surgery?! Before we jump on that shit-wagon, can’t you just get a doctor out here to look at this?”

The lady scoffed and hit the intercom. A skinny ol’ prick with a shoe-brush-stash came out the back.

“What is it?!” he said.

My elbow,” I whined, rotating my arm. “I think it was bitten by a spider.”

“That’s not a spider bite, that’s an inflamed joint! You should go into surgery.”

“For God’s sake, I’m not gonna have you guys slice open my elbow just because it’s puffy!”

The ladies started laughing.

“He doesn’t mean you should have surgery,” one said. “He means you should go to the Surgery Center at Karlovo Náměstí Nemocnice (Charles’ Square Hospital) nearby. It’s where they treat general emergencies like yours.”

“Oh.”

….

I left the building and got on a tram. The whole way to the hospital I was tense. I thought back to the single time I’d been to Karlovo Náměstí Nemocnice (KNN). I’d gone in for a suspicious-looking freckle on my nutsack. The whole affair had taken five days. When I’d finally gotten to see a doctor, it was in a dirty little office with two other women. One of them was scrolling through pictures on her laptop. The other was fiddling with her cell phone. I walked up to my doctor and told her my problem. I asked if we could go somewhere private and she squinted at me.

“Are you kidding?” she said. “Drop your pants and lemme have a look.”

I bit my lip and did what she said. As I stood there with my cock out, the lady fished around for her otoscope (the ear thing). When she found it, she put it to her eye. I pointed to my nut-freckle and she leaned in close. As she did her examination, I could feel her breath against my balls. I almost started laughing.  I turned around to see if the others were watching. Both were staring at my naked ass. The doctor finished up and popped her glove off.

“You’re fine,” she said.

Luckily, she was right. The freckle turned out to be nothing. Even still the examination of it at KNN had felt pretty unprofessional. Not to mention, it was embarrassing as hell. The one silver lining was that the whole thing had been covered by my previous healthcare plan. But due to “budget cuts” at my school I was kicked off that plan in September (2013) and was now on the one for “foreigners.” I was livid the day it happened. I had to trade in my clean green insurance card (the one Czech nationals use) for a laminated piece of toilet paper with a red stamp on it that read “Insurance for Foreigners.” Since that time I hadn’t seen a doctor with it. This meant my whole elbow-deal was hanging in the trees with fate’s dirty underwear.

….

As per usual, the clouds unzipped their flies and pissed on my head the second I stepped off the tram. I’d sprouted gills by the time I made to the Surgery Center. I waded up to the front counter and told the lady my problem. Her face tighten to a small V.

“It’s four o’clock!” she barked. “You should have come in the morning!”

“I’m sorry I had work. Plus, I don’t know the system here very well. I’m a foreigner.”

I gave her my ID and insurance card. She eyeballed them for a good minute.

“You’re from California?” she said.

“Yeah.”

“Well, ya speak nice Czech. Have a seat in the waiting room and we’ll get to ya.”

I took a chair amongst the injured. The state of the place was grim. The walls were yellow and the lights were flickering. Some dude with a busted ankle was groaning on a forgotten stretcher in the corner. A nurse the size of an iceberg finally called my name. I followed her to the back where the X-ray room was. She told me to hang my still-wet jacket and waddled into a glass booth.

“What do I do now?” I asked.

She scoffed and rolled her eyes.

“You put your arm on that table there and I X-ray it!”

I may sound like a pampered little twat saying this but I’m used to a bit of assistance in these situations. I mean, at the very least a lead apron and a seat. As it was, I got none of that. Just some walrus in a chef’s hat barking at me from behind the glass.

After half a dozen tries, the nurse got the X-rays she needed. She looked them over briefly and wrote me a slip. It said I had no big injuries. The source of my condition was simply listed as “zánět.”

Inflammation? I thought. Boy, that narrows it down.

I walked back to the crummy waiting room and parked it. Thirty minutes later, a girl from the doctors’ office called me in. She had curly blond hair and cherry lip gloss. A smiley face was pinned to her tit.

“So where’s my doctor?” I asked.

“You’re looking at her!”

My eyes nearly fell outta my head. I sat on the bed so I wouldn’t faint. Ms. Cherry laughed and went in the other room. She came back with two gloved hands and a syringe the size of a bike pump.

“Now I’m gonna drain your elbow, jooooo?” she said.

I nodded weakly and raised my arm. She grabbed it and stuck the needle to it. I sucked in deep and held my breath. Ms. Cherry snickered.

“You afraid of needles?”

“Not usually,” I said.

She shrugged and pushed the point into my skin. The pain curled my eyelashes. It felt like a beetle was eating its way through my joint. I wanted to scream. I bit down hard and bore it. The needle went deeper and deeper. Suddenly, I felt it stop. Ms. Cherry let go of the syringe and scratched her head.

“What’s the problem?!” I asked.

“Not sure. Normally I hit water by now but not today. Guess, I’ll have to go deeper, jooooo?”

I wanted to ring the little shit by her neck. I slouched forward and glared at the wall.

“Go ahead.”

Ms. Cherry repositioned her mitts on the syringe. She slipped her tongue-tip up and pushed. The wall in front of me cracked. My nerves fired off like spooked pollywogs. I almost shit my pants. I slammed my fist into the mattress and growled. A second later, I felt cold. I looked over at Ms. Cherry and she was smiling.

“I’m there,” she said. “But you might not wanna watch this.”

At that point I didn’t give a crap. I tossed a few fingers off and gave her the green light. She gripped the syringe-bar and pulled. She pulled my eyeballs out with it. The pain tightened to a singularity. Then it expanded.

“There it is!” she said.

The tube swelled with bright orange liquid. It looked like alien blood. Once there was a good plug of it, Ms. Cherry stopped. She then drew the needle out.

Seeee, now that wasn’t so bad,” she said.

I spent the next ten minutes gripping my elbow while Ms. Cherry debated with her colleague about what my treatment should be. They finally settled on two days in a bandage and sling with a check up the following Monday. They wrote me prescriptions for oral and topical inflammation-reducers and dressed my wound. The mucky ointment they used reeked like smoked meat. I thanked them for their time and they thanked me for mine. I left the hospital and walked out into the rain.

….

On Monday morning I hit KNN. My elbow was still swollen and immobile. I was hoping for better treatment and a new doctor. What I got was a longer wait and a teenager. The guy looked like Ferris Bueller in a lab coat. Only difference was someone had penciled in a mustache. I picked my eye with my middle finger at him and sat down. He quacked at me in rapid-fire Czech. I had to rehash everything that had happened to me. When I asked him his “professional opinion” of it all, he dropped his cell phone.

“It was probably just all those pushups,” he said, picking up the pieces.

“I just told you that!”

“Well, there it is.”

Another doctor came by and started chatting with him. Ferris ignored me and yacked it up. Ten minutes later, he had a nurse redress my wound. Then he punched out a slip and handed it to me.
“Two weeks, no pushups,” he said. “Oh, and keep taking whatever we’ve got you on.”

“Right-o.”

….

I followed the doctor’s orders. The pain went away a bit, but the swelling remained. This meant I had to walk around all day like an idiot with my sling on. When Friday finally came, I was ready to collapse. I returned from teaching that day at around 15:00. I entered my building and opened my mailbox. There was a letter in it from the tax department. I opened it hoping for a check.

“What the fuck?!”

It was a notice stating they’d pruned down my return. I crumpled it up and hurled it at the stairs.

“Ass-raping criminals!!!”

I spent the weekend seething. That Monday I sought answers. My first lesson of the day was with a ministry lawyer. I told him my predicament and he laughed.

“Dey fuck you bouf kinds,” he said.

“How do you mean?”

“One to arm and one to vallet.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“You vant?”

“What?”

“Me to tell you about it.”

“Oh, haha. Yeah sure.”

“Ok, in Czech Republic, it verk like dis …”

I won’t bore you with every tiny detail of what my student said. Nor will I make you suffer through a paragraph of his choppy English. In short, he explained to me that the reason my doctor’s visit was such a piece of shit was because hospitals (like many other public institutions here) aren’t getting the money they need to function properly due to widespread (political) corruption. This may not sound like news to any of you. And it didn’t to me either. What did though was my student’s way of illuminating the link between my crooked elbow and all those crooked pricks in office.
In a major city like Prague, there are three governmental “organs” that deal with our tax money. They are the Zastupitelstvo (City Government), the Rada (City Council), and the Magistrát (Municipal Authority). Now, when a public institution like, say, the crappy hospital I went to, needs to be reconstructed, the City Government kick starts something called “Veřejné Zakázky” or “Public Procurement,” whereby different construction companies bid for the job. Each company writes a price down, sticks it in an envelope and hands it to the clerks at the Magistrát. In theory, the company with the lowest price is contracted and Jan Q. Taxpayer saves a crown. In practice, however, members of the City Government and Council routinely take bribes from the more expensive construction companies, who end up doing the same job the cheaper ones would have. The result is, the politicians get paid, the contractors get paid, and we get fucked right between the knees.

So how does this relate to my elbow?

My student went on to explain that it’s not just the construction companies who are handing out bribes. Employees of public institutions looking to make their cushy jobs, cushier, will oftentimes grease the palms of the City Government as well. In the case of hospitals like KNN, a senior doctor gunning for director has only to bribe the right politician to get what they want. Once in power, this new hospital director will surely seek make their bribe money back (and then some). To achieve this, they’ll overstate the prices on equipment orders then go and buy crap (hence my miserable X-ray experience, etc.). Plus, instead of hiring experienced doctors, they’ll round up mostly fledglings fresh outta medical school cuz’ they can pay ‘em dirt and stick ‘em on five year contracts. And when I say “fledglings” I mean it, because unlike in America where everyone has to get a B.S. first, here in the Czech Republic, students can go straight into med school after graduating high school. At a guess, I’d say my doctors – Ms. Cherry and her colleague Ferris – were probably around the age of 24. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was 24, I could barely keep my dick in my pants. Asking me to treat patients, even after six years of medical school, would have been like handing Iggy Pop a scalpel and inviting him to perform brain surgery on your grandmother.

To exemplify his point that the Czech Republic is indeed leaking with corruption, my student cited the case of Central Bohemian Governor, David Rath, who in 2012 overstated the cost of repairs to a local chateau called “Buštěhrad,“ by 7,000,000 crowns (roughly 350 grand). Naturally, he pocketed the cash. When the cops caught wind of this via phone recordings, they raided his house and found the 7 mil in a wine box.  Under questioning, Rath played stupid. He claimed an anonymous stranger had given him the box, in which he had assumed was only wine. This response didn’t fly with the police. Upon further investigation of the man’s home, they found an additional 30,000,000 crowns. The source of this money is believed to be public tenders. Phone recordings indicate that these tenders were procured by Rath during shady purchases of medical equipment for three central Bohemian hospitals, one of which was run by a criminal colleague of his.

….

When my student finished his spiel, my head was swimming. I couldn’t believe how deeply and royally I (and the rest of the nation) was being fucked. I told him I was inches away from leaving the Czech Republic for good. He looked at me and chuckled.

“Ver vil you go? Back to America? Corruption is horrible der too. Plus, dee Healthcare system is much verse dan here, haha.”

I didn’t argue with him on those points. Still, I was curious if the US was actually below the Czech Republic on the Healthcare chain. I thanked him for the depressing convo and finished my day. When I got home, I looked around on the net. I came across a study carried out by the World Health Organization. It measured the “overall health system performance for 191 countries.” I scrolled through the rhetoric and found the chart. At the top of it was France. I flipped down further and found the Czech Republic. It was wedged in at 48, between Thailand and Malaysia. I went to click down, when I noticed the US. It was at 37, between Costa Rica and Slovenia.

“You silly bullshitter,” I said.

Now, I’m not a huge patriot by any means. In fact, most of what America does makes me sick to my stomach. I will admit however that the knowledge of having proven my student wrong did make me feel a tinge of pride. This got me thinking about my service in the Peace Corps. I wondered where Turkmenistan (my country of service) ranked on the Healthcare list. I scrolled way down and found it. It was at 153. While this is pretty low, I couldn’t imagine that there were 38 grades below it. As an active volunteer, I’d received OK Healthcare. But in my village, the Healthcare system had basically been one doctor that went from house to house with a syringe, pumping sick kids full of vitamin solution.

With memories of this weighing on me, I clicked down further. I passed through most of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. When I got to number 191, I looked right. There was the bottom fish all by its lonely.

Sierra Leone?

Aside from a shitty song by Kanye West, I knew zilch about the place. I decided to investigate further. The things I read, especially those concerning the health of the country’s people, horrified me. Here’s a short but sobering list of them.

Sierra Leone has …

1. Among the highest rates of child mortality in the world (~20% in 2010).

2. A staggering infant mortality rate of 192 deaths per 1000 live births (2009).

3. A maternal mortality rate of almost 1 in 10 (2010).

4. Regular outbreaks of Ebola, yellow fever, meningitis, cholera, and Lassa fever.

5. A prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is 1.6% percent above the world average.

6. An overall life expectancy of 57 years (2014).

7. And an entire generation of young adults, who are both drug-addicted and mentally ill because of atrocities they were forced to commit as child soldiers during the Civil War (1991-2002).

To deal with all this, Sierra Leone has a Healthcare system that is in shambles and a Mental Healthcare system that is virtually non-existent. In 2010, with the aid of the United Kingdom (the country’s former colonizer) and the United Nations, Sierra Leone tried to take action by launching “Free Health Care Medical Insurance,” which is “a system of free healthcare for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under five.” While this plan was expected to save the lives of millions of women and children, many local women, especially those in rural areas, are unaware that they’re entitled to free medical care, and thus not using it. As a result, the country is still struggling greatly. It remains one of the poorest, most godforsaken places on earth.

....
 
After absorbing all this, I looked down at my elbow. It was bent up and swollen, but it was still there. Had I been born in Sierra Leone I might not even have my elbow ... or my damn life, for that matter, given the state of things. I sighed at this thought and crawled into bed. As laid there in pain, it came to me: Healthcare at its root, is a reflection of how much we as a people give a fuck about one another. So what does it say when the best we can do is ineptitude mired in corruption and the worst is one in five of our children dying before they see their fifth birthday?

....



 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Night Out at a Bar

When you write, there’s always a critic around the corner waiting to wipe their ass with your work. Like just recently, I went for drinks with this dude I know who’d been pickin’ at me to read my shit for the longest time. When I finally started this blog, I sent him the link. Sure enough, he’d read it top to bottom and was now telling me his opinion of it between sips.

“You know, it’s okay, man,” he said. “But I really feel like your stories are just the standard things I would hear during a night out at a bar.”

I thanked him politely and changed the subject. Later that week, I had a special experience. Below is an account of that experience. And dude, if you’re reading this, feel free to tell it to your buddies the next time you’re at a bar :)

….

I walked to the bar in the rain alone. I got in there and the place was packed. Blue and pink lights shined over a sea of heads. Silver tinsel lined the walls. I threaded my way up to the counter and ordered a beer. I was tired so I yawned. A girl with long black hair yawned back at me. I grabbed my beer and went up to her. The instant my mouth opened, my cock was snipped off by her friends. I deflated like a balloon onto a stool. I watched the cute barmaid make a Margarita. As she drew up the ingredients from below the mirrors, it hit me. Everything she picked had been plucked from somewhere else – the limes from Portuguese orchards, the Tequila from Mexican cacti, the glass from Arab sands, the ice from Polish streams. There on her slab of wood, this woman molded the fruits of the Earth to her liking. I looked around and saw that everything else – the chairs, tables, floors, walls, sinks, ceilings, shoes, shirts, watches, on and on and on was precisely of this nature. Christ, there was even a special fridge just for the Red Bull! I brushed my fingers over a forest of straws. When the barmaid grabbed some napkins it was like she was ripping out the guts of a tree. I could no longer take it. I left the bar dizzy and stunned. My mind was a twisted wreck. As I turned the corner, I was stopped dead. Just in front of me was a strange cluster of trees. They looked like they were huddling together over the street below. I felt drawn to the closest tree. I ran up to it and wrapped both my arms around its trunk. I told it I loved it.  It loved me back unconditionally. It was almost like hugging a dog. I told it I was sorry for everything I’d done. It forgave me instantly. People saw me hugging this tree and crying. I heard them laughing at me. I could feel the points of their fingers burning into my back. Eventually, I let go. I promised the tree that I would never forget it. I staggered off towards home. When I reached the cemetery, I felt a giant finger pass through my head and on down to my toes. My body rained with sunlight. The finger moved me forward like a penny over glass. I heard a voice in my ears. It told me I was doing the right thing. I told it this place was too fucked up for me. It told me to see that and know it well but to keep going. I remembered a friend had once called me “touched.” I smiled at the thought of this. I fixed my shirt and brushed my shoulders off. My night ended with a kebab.
 
 
 
 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pass the Knife

When I was a kid we used to go to Washington during the summer. My Dad’s college buddy, Lance lived up there near Puget Sound. We’d stay with him and his family for two or three weeks at a crack. They had a house by the edge of the forest, which I loved. I could walk right off their terrace and disappear into the trees. There I could light up and be alone with my smoke. While this kind of privacy was nice, it was a breeding ground for weirdoes. One such weirdo was Lance’s next door neighbor. I can remember seeing the guy a few times from my smoke post. The most memorable occasion was when I was seventeen.

I was sitting on a stump puffing a cigarette. I saw the guy come out the back of his house carrying a lopsided tower of shit. There were water bottles, canned foods, flashlights, First Aid kits, etc. He took it all down to what I assumed was his basement. When he came back up I caught a hard look at him. His hair was an exploded carrot and his glasses were crooked on his nose. He was breathing heavily and sweating up his wife-beater. I snubbed my cigarette on a mushroom cap and made for the house. Lance was out on the terrace watering his tomatoes. I walked up to him and smirked.

“What the hell is your next door neighbor’s deal?” I asked.

Lance smiled with half his face.

“Who, Gus? Don’t mind him, he’s a fucking idiot.”

“Haha, why’s that?”

“Oh he buys all that Y2K crap, so he’s getting himself ready for the end of the world.”

I vaguely recalled hearing something on the news about the possibility of a global digital meltdown the coming New Year’s Day. I knew it had something to do with computers only being able to store two decimal digits and suddenly flipping back to 1900. I voiced this to Lance and he laughed.

“God, that’s garbage. I can’t wait till January first comes. I’m gonna march right over to Gus’s bomb shelter and tell him what a gigantic moron he is.”

Lance and I cracked up. Gus stumbled out his back door with another pile of supplies. New Year’s Day came and went. I barely remember the fireworks.

….

The years rolled by. Though there was no apocalypse, a lot of bad things happened. Airliners slammed into New York’s Twin Towers and reduced them rubble. America went to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The economy tanked around the world. BP dumped five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes, cyclones and earthquakes caused mass destruction in Southern Asia and the US. And in Fukushima, Japan a 130-foot tsunami engulfed a nuclear power plant and triggered the release of countless amounts of radiation into the Pacific Ocean.

All of the above is merely a fraction of the horror that transpired. Despite this, I was able to maintain an aloof attitude towards it. Sure a few things shocked me here and there. But with enough booze, bimbos and bullshit, I could easily cloud my mind into grey indifference.

….

After blasting all over the planet like this, I settled in Prague. It was the ideal spot for me because the alcohol is cheap, the girls are pretty, the teaching is here, and the winters are long. This last one was especially important to me. I’m a huge lover of sunshine so I knew that if I moved somewhere like Thailand or Brazil, I’d never get any writing done. My main goals when I came here were to edit my first book and bang out my second. Three winters in and I was well on my way.

At the start of my fourth, I blew the sun a kiss and got down to the heavy writing again. I drilled out chapter after chapter after chapter. I took a little break to see my family in Cali at Christmas. Come January, 1st (2014), I was back at it here in Prague. Things flowed smoothly down the same vein. I began rewarding myself with ripped weekends on the town. These weekends became more frequent. Soon the liquor was spilling into my weekdays. I woke up one morning in March with the sun blazing through my curtains. My windows were actually hot to the touch. The previous Marches had been snowy and freezing. I realized the passing winter had been more of a spring. This explained my binge drinking. It also explained my stumbling productivity.

I made a focused effort to get back on track. Within three weeks, I had my writing up to speed. Instead of drinking, I rewarded myself by diddling on Facebook. On one such occasion, I came across an alarming post. The title read “New U.N. Report: Climate Change Risks Destabilizing Human Society.” I remembered that hot “winter” morning and clicked. The article’s contents were terrifying. They said, quote:

“For the first time, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has scientifically linked the changing climate with the destabilization of nation states. It is also increasingly confident of serious effects on food crops, water supplies, and human health, plus global species loss … Unless we change our path, the simple answer is: Climate change could put our future into question.”

Something snapped on inside my head. I could feel the fog peeling apart like a steamed onion. I wondered if this information would affect others the same way. I posted it on Facebook and waited. Over the course of an hour it garnered a few likes. Someone’s cross-eyed selfie below boasted 40 comments. My fingers curled in anger.

“What the fuck is wrong with these people?!” I yelled.

I thought of myself not three weeks prior. The answer was clear. My peeps needed more exposure. I did too.

….

That week, I tried to get on it. I did a bit of research but was sidetracked by my writing. I had my poetry reading at Alchemy the following Monday to prepare for. I also had a ton of work to do on my book. All this lasted through the weekend. That Sunday night, however, I was left with a few free hours. I used them to watch documentaries on YouTube. I’d recently gotten into the TV-series Vice, which does awesome docs on some of today’s craziest political and cultural topics.

I punched through a few of them. They were good and I wanted more. I scrolled down further to see what I could find. I came across an interesting one entitled “Apocalypse, Man.” The cover-pic was of an old guy bearing his teeth. He had sweaty hair and wild eyes. His face was red as a cherry. It dinged me sidelong like a stray rock.

“Good Christ, he looks like Gus,” I muttered.

I saw that the documentary had six parts. I decided to watch it the next day after my reading. I closed my computer and hit the sack. Sleep took me with strange fingers.

….

The next day I was tired. I hadn’t slept well due to a general feeling of anxiety. I made it though my classes and came home for a nap. It was a fruitless exercise, so I went over my poems. At 7:00 pm I hit the road. I made it to Alchemy in time for the open-mic sign up. Everyone there was excited about the readings. My mind was still glued to “Apocalypse, Man.” I sat through poem after poem after poem. I read mine, slammed a beer and came home. My computer was there waiting for me like a silent maw. I clicked its teeth and its throat lit up. The documentary started rolling. It opened with the toll of a bell and these words:

“How would you know if you were the last man on earth?” he said.

“I don’t guess you would know it. You’d just be it.”

A smoking mountain came into focus. An unseen man began narrating. His voice was raspy and urgent. As scenes of global mayhem crawled across the screen, he warned us.

“The planet is being destroyed all around us,” he said. “Using money to try to address that problem is shooting yourself in the foot. Evolve or perish, grow up or die. An entirely new level of human consciousness is needed right now … or we’re all dead.”

An explosion rocked a nuclear power plant. My eyes, ears and mouth blew open. My heart sucked in and out like a balloon. I was flush with needles but I was listening. The man continued speaking. He said we fought our hardest at the moment of death. He said he was ready to die. Then the camera showed his face. It was red and haggard. Tears jittered around his pollywog eyes. He clenched his jaw and breathed in deeply. When he exhaled, he said:

“The Scout’s knife is sharp on both edges. It cuts in both directions.”

The words “Apocalypse, Man” faded in to nails-across-the-blackboard guitar. From the confines of a teepee, the man in question (Michael C. Rupert) told his story. He mentioned his well-known documentary “Collapse.” He told of his books “Crossing the Rubicon” and “Confronting Collapse.” He spoke of his career as an LAPD narcotics detective. He said he’d begun questioning the validity of that career because he’d caught the CIA bringing drugs into the country in the late 70’s. He explained that some twenty years later, he confronted the then director of the CIA, John Deutch on national television about CIA drug distribution.

“That confrontation and John Deutch’s poor handling of it cost him his job …” he said.

After being thrown on to the world stage by this incident, Michael started a newsletter called “From the Wilderness.” With it, he and his team attempted to blow the lid off a great many government cover-ups. In the process, however, they were accused by some as being conspiracy theorists. The stress of this, compounded by the deteriorating world situation via wars, peak oil, tar sands, and fracking, pushed Michael to wash his hands of everything and move into isolation. He chose the valley outside Creston, Colorado as it’s the home of his friend (and former band-mate) Doug Lewis. Michael’s plan was simple:

“I came here to die or commit suicide,” he said.

Upon arrival, he met Lakota medicine man, Christopher Long. He doesn’t say this, but I suspect Christopher’s spiritual teachings had a lot to do with why Michael decided to shirk death and keep going.

….

In parts 2-6 the documentary fettered in many directions. The meat of it, however, was delivered right there in that teepee. Mike broke it down for us in a matter of minutes.

“Where I am,” he said. “With the prioritized threats facing humanity … there are only two. One is climate collapse. The collapse of the jet stream, global warming, in which we know of an absolute scientific certainty that we have baked a 4 degree centigrade rise above baseline, baseline being the start of human industrial civilization … The second threat, which is more imminent, is Fukushima.”
According to Mike, the tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima is the more imminent threat because of its not-yet-collapsed fourth tower. He claimed that this now-crumbling tower “contains the radiation equivalent of 15,000 Hiroshima bombs.” All of the measures to secure it have thus far failed. If it collapses, he said, it will be a “human extinction event.”

Hearing this information put my jaw in my lap. I was up till 4:00 a.m. staring at the ceiling.

….

The next day I was in a panic. I did everything I could to effectuate change. At the supermarket, I bought organic vegetables and chicken. At home, I separated all my plastics down to the soda cap. I then went on Facebook and posted “Apocalypse, Man.” My headline read:

“I have no snooty hook. Just please, please watch this.”

My post got a whopping ONE like. I slammed my fist down and screamed. For the next five hours I did research on Fukushima. Though I didn’t find much on the infamous “tower four,” what I did find concerning the other three destroyed towers was pretty scary. According to “Greenpeace:”

“Many people have been exposed to significantly elevated levels of radiation. Thousands of square kilometres have been contaminated and will be for many decades to come by radioactive fallout from the accident.”

Despite this, they claimed that “it’s not the apocalypse.” I was confused and wondering if this wasn’t a cover-up. I did what I always do in times of great stress. I emailed my Dad, the big chemist. I sent him all the shit that was frightening me. I told him to call me after he’d gone through it. That evening, I got his call. I was chewing my nails off when I answered the phone. He asked me how I was doing.

“I’M FUCKING FLIPPING OUT!” I said.

He told me to “cool down.” I took a few deep breaths and did. We started talking about the information I’d sent him. The first thing to come up was “Apocalypse, Man.”

“So what the hell do you make of this guy, Mike?” I asked. “Is he crazy right or just crazy?”

My Dad cleared his throat.

“Well, he’s a whistleblower. This means he’s out there lookin’ for stuff.”

“Yeah? Well, what if he’s right? What if climate change and Fukushima do end the world?”

“I don’t know about Fukushima ending the world, but he might be right on climate change. Any idiot can see that global weather patterns are all screwy. Christ, your uncle Jim out in Chicago was just telling me what kinda winter they’re havin’. He’s still freezing his balls off.”

“God, that’s scary. We just had the warmest winter on record here.”

“I know, I was reading about it.”

“Well, what if it keeps getting worse? That Michael guy was saying that if Fukushima didn’t take us out, climate change for sure would by 2030.”

There was a pause. I heard my father scratch his beard.

“Something like this might happen,” he said. “But I suspect we’ll be OK.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if you look at history, when the shit hits the fan, it’s usually the very poor who are affected most.”

I felt a wave of relief. This was followed by a greater wave of guilt.

“Are you saying they’re a buffer for us?”

“Not in so many words.”

“Well, then who are we a buffer for? The rich? And them, the super rich? What kind of fucked up system is this?!”

My Dad told me to “cool down” again. I refused.

“You know, maybe Mike was right. I mean, during one of his rants he said the fix for this isn’t about more technology but more spirituality. The native populations of the world have always created a balance with their environments. And all we do is fuck everything up!”

“Do you really wanna go back to living like an Indian?”

“I don’t know. But there’s gotta be some fuckin’ thing we can do besides just fracking and jacking off.”

….

I ended the conversation with my father. My face was red and my scalp was sweating. I lied in bed and tried to meditate the anger away. It clung to my heart with black talons. A slow, sinking feeling overcame me. I was being pulled through the middle of the bed. I clawed at my sheets and kicked at the air. A voice in my ears kept saying:

“Useless … Useless … Useless …”

I fell through space. My back cracked the sky and I landed on a green hill. There were many green hills around. Their grass dissolved into a grey sea. I stood up and brushed my knees off. I saw others doing the same. We all looked at each other. Then the earth started rumbling. I tried to catch my balance. My foot slipped and I went tumbling downwards. Others tumbled with me. As they approached the sea, they were covered by earth and crushed like wet grapes. Their screams hissed from their splitting skin. I felt my brain wrinkles swell. I threw my eyes backwards. An enormous boulder was crashing down at me. I tore my mouth open and screamed. The boulder slammed into me and I awoke.

….

The next day I was a wreck. I staggered through my classes like a man made of glass. Every wind-rustle threatened my composure. It was a miracle I made it home in one piece. I ate a bland lunch and stared at my computer screen. It stared back at me like an endless corridor. I searched it for something I could use. I watched more documentaries and did more research. The horizon went from grey to black. I saw proof that we’re turning our ocean waters into plastic. I saw killing after killing after killing in Mexico, Pakistan, Syria, and the Ukraine. I contemplated my abilities against all this.

“I’m not a scientist,” I sighed. “Nor, a politician.”

This got me thinking about “Apocalypse, Man.” I remembered what Michael had said in the beginning about the “Scout’s knife” being sharp on both edges. I decided to watch the documentary again. I came across a part of it I’d overlooked. In it, Mike was sitting in his teepee. He was smiling painfully and explaining what he’d meant.

“I’m a scout for all ‘two-leggeds,’” he said. “‘Two-leggeds’ being a native reference for all human beings.”

He said he was one of the first. He said he’d been unaware of this until he’d met his Indian teacher. He grabbed at his belt.

“That’s why the scout’s knife is sharp on both edges,” he said, whipping it out. “It cuts your life to go out into the world of the enemy and see what they are … [But] ya gotta bring back a good scouting report. Ya gotta do it with honor … once you get to the belly of the beast you have to make your way back to the light, to balance.”

He explained how at the start he’d walked alone.

“[But] I realize [now] that I’m not alone,” he said. “I see other really exceptional people rising up and innovating and kicking ass and leading … leading.”

Hs last word drilled into my ears. I looked at my hands and saw hope. My fingers came to life and wove this story. I pass the knife to you …

….

While writing this piece, I discovered that Mike had committed suicide soon after I’d first watched his documentary. He was found in his home with a “single self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.”
 
 

 
 
 
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Machinegun Wally (Part 2)

The silence between me and Wally continued. It was actually quite nice. Sure he was a vinegary old prick when I’d catch him in the hall. But at least he wasn’t asking me to wipe down the toilet with a silk towel or demanding I trim my butt hairs for aesthetic purposes. This went on for about a week. Then I got an email from Fuckface. The subject line was “Hi.”  Below are the contents of that email:

“Hans, how is it there? Please, can you be nice to that guy? U talk to him the way that he though that u want to beat with him. Now he is scared that u can even poisoned his food. Can u solve it with him? I payed 2 month after Michael (referring to “Michelle,” our previous flat-mate) and its hard to find someone to that room. Thanx a lot. He is a nice guy. Don't akt please as a mad man.”

I was tempted to tell Fuckface to shove it. This desire was overridden by the fact that if I didn’t at least try to make amends with Wally, the guy might leave, after which point Fuckface would surly seek to charge me for the empty room. I told homeboy I’d take care of it. I wrote Wally a letter saying we should talk. It evoked no response from him. I knew I had to go bolder. One afternoon, I knocked on his door. He opened it in his mustard-stained t-shirt.

“Hey man, I know we’re having problems,” I said. “But I really don’t wanna fight anymore.”

Wally stared at me from behind his reading glasses. I didn’t know whether he was gonna drop dead or bite my nose off. Suddenly, his face softened. The tiniest smile parted his lips.

“I don’t exactly want to fight also,” he said. “Let’s just agree on this.”

….

A sense of calmness pervaded our flat. Wally now worked nights so I never saw him. I had the whole joint to myself. This was great because it meant I could let the lunatics hiding in my bones out. I walked the halls naked. I drank with abandon and banged out poems on my computer. When I took showers, I sang songs. Many of them were about Wally. My favorite was one I entitled “WWFF.” It went something like this:

“Wally! Wally! Fat Fuuuck! Fat Fat Fuuuuuuuk! Fat Fuuuck! Fat Fat Fuuuuuuuk!”

Once, while I was in the middle of howling this little ditty, I had a lucid moment. I wondered what I, a thirty two years-old man, singing “Wally! Wally! Fat Fuck!” to himself in the shower, might look like to another person. The thought terrified me at first. Then a thousand screaming hands ripped it to pieces. I collapsed in the shower, laughing. The entire flat filled with my laughter.

After that, I was downright happy. Wally’s crummy little peccadilloes couldn’t get to me. I dusted the sound of him cooking at 2 am off my shoulders. I snubbed my nose at his blanket of back-hair covering the tub. His cigarette smoke went in one nostril and out the other. Even his hacking, his infernal fucking hacking, was reduced to a mouse fart. I was a mad king in an empty castle. Wally just rented a candle flame.

….

One Tuesday, I came home from work, whistling. I opened the door to my room and strolled in. Just then, I heard a stirring in the hallway. I looked back and saw Wally standing there in his sweats. My veins hiccupped.

“What are you doing home?” I asked.

Wally frowned miserably and bumped the floor with his big toe.

“My boss is a shit,” he said. “Just today, he fired me.”

“What?!”

“Yes, can you believe this? He didn’t ever give me a notice. Only today came to me and fired. What will I do now? Go back to Lebanon? There is always war. I will for sure be in streets with a machinegun.”

The thought of Wally lumbering through the streets of Beirut with a machinegun was disturbing. The thought of him hanging around our flat all day every day until he left, was equally disturbing. I asked if there wasn’t another job he could find. He shook his head slowly.

“It will be very, very hard. I am only IT guy and there are many in Prague. Plus, I am from Middle East. Employers prefer Czechs or Slovaks because they will stay here. I was lucky to find this one job, which I had.”

“Well, don’t you know anyone here?”

“Not one person. I came here for experiment, that’s all. Now, I am seeing it is a shit. I will try to find something for next three weeks. If I don’t, I will leave to Beirut.”

I felt bad for Wally. But three solid weeks of him piddling around our flat in a mood would be a nightmare. I wondered if Fuckface knew of any available jobs (preferably with long nightshifts). I got online to ask him. When I clicked open my post box, I saw I already had an email from him. In it he complained that Wally still hadn’t paid his second month’s rent. I went to Wally and asked him about this. He told me he’d already given Fuckface a deposit, which he’d use to pay for his last three weeks. This seemed fair given the circumstances. But if I knew Fuckface, he was counting on that money to party with in The Gulf for his honeymoon. I knew he’d come back furious. Even still, I advised Wally to stick with his plan.

….

I was certain Wally would be grumpier during the following weeks. I was also certain he’d be more demanding. What I didn’t account for was him becoming particular to the point of weirdness. The crap he pulled was almost breathtaking. For starters, he began separating his garbage. He’d put it in a knotted trash bag next to the can. From there he went on to separate more of “his things.” He put his fruit on the windowsill, his dishes on the counter’s edge, his soap in the top cupboard, and his sponges in the bottom. He even went so far as to throw away my vegetable container. When I asked him about it he said:

“I’m sorry, but your vegetables were too close to mine and making them stink.”

I tried to choke this all down. It kept getting worse. One night I was walking to the bathroom. Wally opened his door and scowled.

“Do you have any big soft sandals?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“Yes. When you walk by my room it’s waking me up.”

“But I wear socks!”

“This is not helpful. The tiles are old and loud. You must wear big soft sandals.”

I told Wally to shove his “big soft sandals” up his “big soft ass.” I hoped that would shut him up. The fucker just got weirder. He started demanding I keep the door to my room completely closed “at all times.” I told him that was insanity.

“Why the hell should I do that?!” I asked.

He pretended not to hear me. I yelled my question at him again. He poked his head in my room.

“Don’t ask why,” he said. “Just do it.”

“I’m not gonna shut the door to my room every time I take a piss!” I said.

“No? Then you are clearly an uncivilized Bedouin!”

“Ha! I’ve partied with Bedouins in the deserts of Egypt. They are nice people. I’m glad to have you think of me as one!”

My defiance infuriated Wally. In an effort to demonstrate what he expected of me, he started slamming his own door just to use the toilet. He even took to locking it.

What in Christ’s name is his deal? I thought.

One evening, just before Fuckface returned from Dubai, I was at the stove cooking. Wally opened the kitchen door and walked up next to me. He poked his nose over my food and sniffed. Then he licked his lips.

“I’m going to be frank with you,” he said. “And I want that you be honest.”

“Ok?”

“Have you been entering my room when I’m not home?”

My knees buckled. I almost dropped to the floor laughing. It took me a few seconds to cringe away the smile.

“Absolutely not,” I said.

“Well, what about your friends? Or those girls you bring home? Do you think they have entered my room?”

“Why on earth would ANYONE go in your room?”

“I don’t know. Nothing is missing. But I am ninety nine percent sure they are entering.”

“How?”

“I won’t tell you this. But I know for sure. Anyways, if it is not you or your friends, it is probably old tenants who have keys and are coming in, or possibly strangers who made copies. You should be very careful.”

I was stunned. Any attempt to make sense of Wally’s horseshit was now futile. I needed a witness to prove I wasn’t going insane. I called up my childhood buddy Bert, who also lives in Prague. He answered the phone, chewing.

“Zhuuuuuuup?’ he said.

“Hey man, you know that Wally guy I’ve been telling you about who’s my new weird-ass flat-mate?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, dude I think he’s going crazy.”

“Haha, why?”

I proceeded to give Bert a detailed account of the past two weeks. He laughed his balls off the entire time.

“I gotta meet this guy,” he said.

I told him it would have to been soon. Fuckface would be arriving that weekend and would surely want Wally out by the end of the following week. We agreed Bert would come over that Saturday. We’d drink it up in the common area and hope for a chance encounter with Wally. Bert ended the conversation with a single statement.

“I wanna see a show.”

….

Saturday came. I waited in front of the grocery store for Bert. We were gonna select that evening’s beverage. Then go up to the flat, have a few and see what transpired. As I stood there fixing my coat, a figure appeared. He was whoofing up the hill his sunglasses. His gut was jiggling and his titties were flapping. As he got closer, I realized it was Wally. I gave him a curt “hello.” He gave one back and walked up the ramp to the grocery store. Just then I saw Bert come around the corner. I pointed to Wally and mouthed “That’s him!” Bert brought his teeth out and laughed. He walked up and we went in the store together. As we passed the produce, I said:

“Should we try and talk to him?”

“Why not?”

We rounded the corner. There was Wally scowling at a container of yogurt.

“How’s that shit lookin’?” I asked him.

He glanced at me and sneered. He put the container back and walked off. Bert and I cracked up into our fists. Then it was off to the alcohol section. We bought a bottle of whiskey and brought it up to the flat. We started drinking and chatting about travel. The idea of going to Olomouc the following weekend came up. We’d both had it with Prague and needed to get out. We agreed we’d split the coming Friday. This put us in fantastic moods. We broke out the iPod dock. The tunes blared and the drinks poured. Soon the entire common area was swollen with good vibes. Then the kitchen door opened. Wally marched in wearing nothing but flannel. A storm cloud rumbled and flashed above him. He dragged his rain right through the middle of our party. He went to the windowsill (where his fruit was) and snatched a banana. As he turned back around, I rose. I looked him in the eyes and winked.

“How ya’ doin’ there, guy?” I said.

He walked past me without saying anything. He left the kitchen and went to his room. After his door shut, Bert laughed.

“Dude, he knows you’re fucking with him,” he said.

“I don’t care. He’s not just gonna come in here and shit all over our good time. Seriously, man, I’ve had it with him. But whatever, I wanna have fun tonight.”

Bert and I tried to reanimate the good vibes. The minute they came back, so did Wally. This time it was to wash out his coffee mug. As he scrubbed away at the sink, I approached him.

“Hey, bro, what’s your deal?”

Wally didn’t answer. He just continued scrubbing. When he finished he brushed past me. As he reached for the door handle, I said:

“You just gonna ignore me?”

He turned and shot me a look. It crippled the remains of my good mood. I still had the wherewithal to keep it together. I stood there, clenching my jaw. Wally opened the door.  He stepped past the threshold and slammed it. The blowback knocked my bones loose. Rage welled up in me like a charging tiger. I threw open the door and caught Wally in the hall. He stopped walking and turned to face me.

“YOU MOTHERFUCKER, DON’T YOU EVER SLAM THAT FUCKING DOOR AGAIN!” I screamed.

Wally dangled his arms and blinked.

“I was the wind,” he said.

“BULLSHIT! YOU SLAMMED IT! YOU DO THAT AGAIN AND I’LL NAIL YOU TO THE FLOOR!”

He left without a word. I went back to the common area and sat down. Bert’s face was in a state of shock. I reached out and clinked my drink against his.

“Was that enough of a show for ya’?”

“Haha, yeah, but now I’m worried.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, there’s something about that guy. Like maybe he holds it all in. Then one day, BOOM!”

“He ain’t gonna do shit. Let’s just get back to it.”

We tried to “get back to it.” The mood was officially spoiled. We kept thinking Wally was gonna kick the door open and blast us apart with a machinegun. Lord knows, we probably deserved it. The entire common area was silent. It stayed that way for a while. When we thought the coast was clear we started drinking again. The alcohol made us sentimental. We began to feel for the poor sap. He had just lost his job, after all. We contemplated inviting him to drink with his. Miraculously, he returned. I glanced at his hands to see if there was a weapon there. When I saw there wasn’t, I said:

“Hey Wally, wanna drink?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t drink alcohol.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

He filled a glass of water over the faucet. He looked absolutely miserable.

“Hey look man, I’m sorry about what happened,” I said.” It’s just that you slammed the door and I lost my temper.”

“It’s OK.”

“Well dude, at least come and chill with us. If you do, I’ll light up the hookah.”

Wally’s eyes sparked. A grayness behind them drowned the sparkles. He set his glass down and looked at me.

“I can’t,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because. I don’t know how to talk with people. When I do, it is just shit coming from my mouth.”
His words were like a long needle. They popped my heart and sent it withering to the ground. I wanted to tell him he was wrong. All I could muster was:

“I understand.”

Wally told us to enjoy our night and walked out. Six days later, Fuckface kicked him out. He left Prague jobless, friendless and penniless. I pray he’s not in the streets of Beirut with a machinegun ...






Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.