Marco opened the door and let in the three who were standing outside. The three detectives set up a table and three chairs in the center of the room. The boy named Jakub grabbed another chair and pulled it to the opposite side of the table in the center like an interrogation seat. The three then sat down and simultaneously crossed their arms. It seemed oddly rehearsed to me. Hana, who was seated in the middle, leaned forward and in an important tone she yelled out to the class: “We would like to first call Josef Vockovec.”
The frail boy rose with an awkward stance and with one hand clasping his wrist, he moved to the single chair and sat across from them.
Hana leaned forward further and stared at Josef with an intense gaze. The boy Otakar kicked his feet onto the table and Jakub leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed at his chest. He chewed at his cheek. All four of them sat like that for a second.
I put my hand over my mouth to stifle a sudden laugh.
“What is your name?’ Hana asked.
“What’s that?” she yelled. “Speak up!” She slammed her fist onto the table.
“Josef Vockovec.” He repeated at the same volume.
Jakub jumped up from his chair and kicked it to the floor. I jumped in my seat at the unexpected high drama. I looked to Marco to watch his reaction. He had a light smile playing over his face. The kids started to giggle. Jakub paced back and forth then spun on his heels and slammed a fist down on the table. “Where were you on the night poor poor Petr Hrušínský was murdered?”
“I was with my mother.” Josef Vockovec said.
“Liar!” Yelled Otakar dropping his feet from the table and throwing his body forward. “You have no mother!”
“Yes I do!’ He yelled. The classroom burst into belly aching laughs.
“Do you eat pizza!” Yelled Jakub.
“Ah ha!” Jakub yelled and the three of them huddled together. Then broke apart with Hana leaning back in.
“Did you kill Petr Hrušínský?” She asked.
“No.” Josef said.
“Liar!” Yelled Jakub again pounding his fist on the table.
“We think you did it.” Said Hana.
“I didn’t.” He said.
“Okay. Go sit down.” She said.
Otakar waved him away with his hand. Some of the kids were doubled over in their chairs laughing. I had to continue to hold both my hands over my mouth to keep me from laughing out loud. The whole thing was far more intense than I had expected.
They called up the girl in the lavender turtleneck.
“What is your name?” Asked Hana.
“You know my name.” She said giggling.
“What is your name?” Hana repeated her sentence slowly as if the girl had trouble hearing.
Jakub walked around her chair then with one hand on the back of her seat and the other on the table he leaned into her ear. “Where were you the night Petr Hrušínský was murdered?”
She said something, but her voice was inaudible. She twiddled her fingers shyly.
“What?” Said Otakar,
“Do you speak English?” Hana asked. She clicked her tongue in disapproval.
The classroom again exploded in a rocking laughter. With rapt excited volume they spoke to each other in Czech.
“If you’re going talk it needs to be in English.” Marco spoke over the kids. They continued to giggle.
“Are you Petr Hrušínský’s friend?’ Hana asked.
“No.” Lenka said.
The class released a unanimous drawn out “oooo” and laughed and teased Lenka. She swung her hand dismissively back at her classmates “Yes. We know each other. We are of acquaintance.” Lenka said back to Hana.
“She did not do it she can sit down.” Said Jakub who was still pacing and circling the table. He walked over to Petr Kostka, the boy who recited Hamlet to me moments earlier, and slammed both of his palms down on the table in front of Petr. “We would like to speak to you.” He said and then he pointed to the chair that Lenka had been sitting in. Petr stood up and walked over to the chair sat down, and then crossed his legs and placed his hands in his lap.
“Where were you on the murderous night?” Asked Hana.
“I was on my grandmother’s farm.” Said Petr.
“What were you doing?” Asked Otakar who now stood up and put both hands on the table.
“I was pitching hay.” He said.
“With a pitchfork?” Asked Otakar.
“Yes.” He said.
“Do you like pizza?” Asked Jakub.
“Yes I do!” Petr yelled.
“He does!” Screamed Otakar throwing his arms over his head. The kids started laughing and hitting playfully at one another.
“Did you kill Petr Hrušínský with a pitchfork while eating pizza?” Hana asked rising from her feet and slamming her hands on the table.
“No.” He said.
The classroom was flooded with laughter.
There was a light knock at the door. Marco stood up to open it. A tall dark haired boy walked in, and the classroom began screaming and convulsing with laughter, some kids falling out of their seats. I looked at the boy and then back to the students. I was unsure of what had set them off, but their laughter was riotous. Marco never once told them to chill or be silent. He just sat there with an amused expression on his face and watched as the energy bounced around the room filling up the space like a giant balloon. I suddenly felt like the walls were painted bright and that colors were reflecting and swirling as in a kaleidoscope.
Petr Kostka jumped up amidst all the commotion and pointed at the boy in the doorway. “It’s a ghost! Petr Hrušínský has returned from the dead to avenge his murder!” He yelled.
Petr Hrušínský walked in looking around confused and gripping the strap of his bag. He walked to an open chair, and immediately a group of kids leaned in and start chatting in Czech and pointing to various people.
“English.” Marco said. “English.”
Petr Hrušínský began to relax and started laughing as he was filled in on the events.
“We think we know who it is.” Said Hana standing up and turning to face Marco.
“Okay. Who is it?” Asked Marco.
Jakub stood and turned to Marco then back to the class then in an impression of a judge with a booming rotund voice he announced, “It is Josef Voskovec.”
“Is not.” Said Josef.
“What made you come to this conclusion?” Asked Marco.
“He was squirmy in his chair.” Otakar said kicking his feet back onto the table.
“I was no such thing.” Said Josef.
Petr Kostka lifted a sign over his head that read FREE JOSEF VOSKOVEC. Again the class broke into laughter.
A loud buzzing sounded several times. The students clamored to their feet, and with hurried movements they gathered their things and rushed out of the room and disappeared outside.
“Alright,” Marco yelled as he rearranged the tables. “I’ll see all of you on Monday. On time.”
The classroom was empty accept for Marco and I. All of the energy and color of the room immediately vanished and we were again standing in an empty unemployment office.
“That ‘on time’ was more for me than them.” Said Marco. “You see them all lined up outside on time? Shit.”
I helped Marco put the tables back in order. “That was fun. And kind of intense.” I said to him as I pushed the last chair under a table. “They really got into it. I wasn’t expecting that, like when that kid kicked the chair over. What was his name Petr? Oktar? That was some serious conversational exercise. They were really into slamming their fist against the tables.”
“Yeah this job is great.” He said stretching his arms over his head. “’Cept muthufuckers wont pay me on time.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Well, first it was visa shit. I had to go to Dresden to get my visa cause you gotta go to another country in order to get a visa to work in the country you want to work in. But that all got fucked up and I didn’t have enough money to get back because mutherfuckers said they would pay for my trip but they didn’t. Then I got kicked off the train somewhere just over the border and had to walk my ass home. Took fuckin forever, and was cold as shit. I thought I was gonna get eatin by some Czech wolf or something.”
He walked out of the classroom, and I followed close behind. Locking the door behind us he took a deep inhale of the cool air. “So now I got my papers but fuckers still haven’t reimbursed me for the train ticket and I still don’t get paid on time.” We started to walk down the stairs. “Fuckin gets me so pissed I want to quit. But I love these kids.” He stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked back at me. “One of them came up to me and said I was the best English teacher they ever had, and if I could stay for her entire school term.” He began to walk toward the street. “This was a fourteen-year-old, so we’re talking three years and I don’t think I can handle three years. But shit I felt special.”
I looked up at the bleary, cloudless sky. I wondered if I could get a teaching job. Except I didn’t have a degree. I dropped out of college.
“Well that’s it for class today. Wanna go get a beer?” He asked.
“Yeah, well I don’t work much. Just one class a day four days a week, so, even when I do get paid, it ain’t shit.” He stared toward the school then shook his head. “Let’s go back to Žižkov.”
We headed back into the city center via bus, metro and tram. This time I got to keep my seat.