Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Bet You Completely Forgot About Easter, by Vojtěch Ettler

I Bet You Completely Forgot About Easter

Seen through the eyes of your average weirdo, the story exposes Brno as a curious place inhabited by curious people. Or not curious at all.

Let us be honest with each other.
I dropped into a habit of staring at people. All you have to do is find a suitable locality and chance upon suitable circumstances, and you have oodles of material. Read: individual human beings. For instance, take Masaryk Street, add a just right amount of foul weather so neither the city empties because of rain nor excessive exposure to the sun turns the population of Brno into zombies lazing around, and Masaryk’s people will be merrily bustling along his boulevard. And I will be watching the passers-by and sipping snatches of their conversations until I lose interest.
So for example, an elderly gentleman whizzed by on a vertical flying saucer which, in my ignorance, I dare not designate by taking silly guesses. This eccentric old-timer was zooming so fast that his ankle-length black leather coat and a tangle of his long white hair — to the accompaniment of booing by a bald pate at the top of his head — streamed in the wind. His goggling eyes fixed into the distance… a real doc from Back to the Future, no kidding. Perhaps he had crawled out of this splendid astronomical cock we have in the square.
And since I am talking about doppelgangers, Brno has put copies of both close and distant friends, from all corners of the Republic, in front of my eyes so many times that it might not be out of line to consider the following theory valid: there is some kind of prefabricated human forms which are drawn lots for at birth, based on DoNAtions of each two parents in question, and though further postfabricated by circumstances of life, the initial archetype forever stands out. How else to explain there is so much sameness in diversity?
Beautiful people. Ugly people (indeed, remember the first sentence?). People quickly passing by and those who deliberately make the streets their stage. Homeless. Buskers, of course, whose Irish jigs, klezmer tunes, traditional folk songs and wannabe covers on clarinet coalesce into crossover world music of the not-many-good-busking-spots city. Loud fervent preachers. And silent indifferent holders of The Watchtowers and other magazines of instant enlightenment.
Or, here is an idea: let us turn it around. All these people are — in need of an umbrella term — essentially streetful, as opposed to streetless: those absent from the streets in mind and/or flesh.
Now. Two women. Walking close to each other. But not too close. Friends then, not more. One slowly learns to check such things in our modern society. The first has a mass of flowers growing on her legs in a faded flowerbed of her tight leggings. A red blossom on her ring finger, red buds on her nails, red petals in place of her lips. The second differs from the gardener not more than exactly in the scope of the prefabricated template: that is by her distinct uniformity. Very much the same, only in black. Including her hair and, most likely, thoughts.
I leave my spot by the apothecary slash bank and mend my pace with them few steps behind them. I cannot help but overhear what they are chatting about: well, this is just how the phrase is used, is it not?
“He ain’t telling me the shit what I should or shouldn’t do,” the plantswoman unknowingly welcomes me into the conversation and encouraged by the blackbird’s smacking and nodding understandingly she continues: “I don’t give a damn.”
“Dead on. He’s got no right to meddle in your hobbies,” the blackberry stands by her companion. She comes to a halt for a moment as if thinking about turning left to invade Zelný trh, but instead she grabs the black belt loops on her black jeans and flutters her legs. “And what about that strapping hobby of yours?” she winks slyly with her black eyelashes.
It has occurred to me that they have scheduled shifts which of them asks and which talks when. The horticulturalist seems quite happy with the status quo because her petals widen with a smile.
“He’s a hunk of a man. Everywhere, if you get my drift.” Wink, smirk. “And he’s got a house too. Listen, the other day I saw an awesome recipe in the TV. Kluci v akci were baking donuts —“
“The kingdom of God is within your grasp! Open your hearts and knock on its gates. For my Father guides the seeking to his arms, but renounces the indifferent.”
All three of us raise our eyes. ‘This man is streetful it hurts,’ we say inwardly each in their vocabulary. The Stendhal’s red-black duo withers the man, standing at the tram stop, with a haughty, dismissive glance, which is, it must be said, more than he gets from other people walking by: ignorant daddies, businessmen, respectable greybeards, even students. Yes, the oversaturation of our times.
As for me, I swiftly put together a nice picture of the man from his long hair and beard, goofily plain attire — probably so as to attract attention — and blatant NOTHING MORE; a nice picture of a bum prophesying for Jehovah’s Witnesses or something like that. Why do people even do that? Do not try telling me that the prophet syndrome is not an illness. The only salary they have for a hard day’s work of shouting, ‘God loves you!’ in the streets is an evening look into a mirror. And if they do not feel good about themselves when looking, it leaves them nothing at all.
The gals lost me a bit; and they apparently traveled some distance in their conversation, too. “It’s absolutely terrible what they’re doing there. If it stayed the same as always, everything would work just fine.” To which the gardener: “Have you at least got a raise?” I see, they have just swapped for the afternoon shift.
“Thousand crowns, but with this inflation, you know, when everything keeps going up in prices and all, how much is that?”
The plantswoman shifts her handbag on her winglet and shakes her head: “We’re working our guts out, and then those bastards come and get those subsidies and live it up.”
The House of the Lords of Lipá witnesses my slowing the pace down. I am getting bored with the ladies so I look around for someone who could replace them for the next five minute’s amusement. When I turn my gaze downhill, I notice that the bum is being frisked by the police; there are already two cops performing the task so I am not sure about the third in their car, if he can count or what. In any case, the bloke does not resist and looks like a creeping Jesus.
“You could have made use of this, dude,” flashes through my mind, “someone would have finally given you an eye.” If anything, satisfied and approving faces are passing him now: Czechia for the Czechs, the streets for decent citizens. No wonder then that no one sticks up for the man evidently high on drugs when the police, with the needless use of violence, put him in their heap and disappear.
This all has quite sapped me of energy, and anyway I need to buy a loaf of bread, so I call it a day and set off for a nearby supermarket. “Add some cheese when at it,” I let my inner shopping list take control of my mind. “And fruigetable.” Thinking that, I smile with the last thought of the gardener, the blackland and the bum in my life.
The following day, precisely at noon, a meteorological anomaly happens: the sky darkens menacingly. And with the chiming of bells, the curtains of all 47 churches in Brno are torn asunder.
Curious, newspapers say, Quake Or Clothmakers To Blame?
Forget everything I said before.
Curious, is what I really say, how the lack of curiosity will mark our ultimate end.

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