Category Archives: The Novel- Hello From Zizkov

A novel I will never publish

A Lost Novel

I had that moment when you lose everything that you’ve written, and I survived it.

Those of you that followed my postings of my novel Zizkov, have probably noticed I stopped posting the chapters. Part of it was my instability and then moving to a new country, and then, well, I lost it. Not my mind but the document.

I needed to make room on my computer in order to update my software… I put it on my external hard drive… erased it from my computer…updated the software…and then the external hard drive crashed. I do have a copy of an older draft on google docs, but it’s an older draft and I had changed the ending.  I have some hard copy somewhere also with the older ending and none of the editing, but the final draft is lost, at least at this point before getting to a computer place to see if any data can be restored. Basically, the final draft is lost.

I spent a really long time working on that novel. Years. The funny thing about losing it is that I remember talking with a writing instructor about my book and the possibility of it never being published— actually he was talking about the possibility of it never getting published, and he used his own first novel as an example. He had said, it was okay, and that first novels are not meant to be published they’re for practice. I insisted that that was not the case for my first novel. Oh, no. A person does not spend years on a book and then just willy nilly say, eh, that was practice.

That was about four years ago. I think the novel was for practice. I also think the novel was a block. A block from writing other things. I’m okay with losing it. I think there was some really good parts, and that the story was interesting, but I rewrote it so many times, and it was never right. Maybe, one day I’ll write it again. I don’t know.

When I realized that the disk was corroded I was surprised by my reaction. It was, “Welllll shiiit.” And, that was about it. I think it’s okay that it’s gone. I can never again use the excuse of perfecting my novel as a way of not writing new work.

Speaking of new work. I’ve been pretty quiet for awhile. I was thinking maybe I just didn’t have the energy to write anymore, and then I got a little spark here and there, and have been sketching some new short story ideas and crafting another, and fooling around with a script. I’ll go back to posting random excerpts and stories and ideas here as I “play around”.

I recently finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and I am currently reading The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. It’s fun to go from a classic to a modern style of reading and really see the difference in the use of language and structure to tell a story. In the non-fiction world I’m reading a book on the brain called The Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel which is slow going for me, but really fascinating, and also I’m racing through Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story.

In the poetry realm I’ve finished Patti Smith’s the Woolgathers. It doesn’t necessarily fall under the genre of poetry as it is written in prose, but it is so poetic in tone and rich in language to me it is poetry. It was a peaceful and calming read and I could read it again and again.

I hope everyone had a good November novel month. I did not, but that’s okay.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 214-221

Endres held my hand as we ascended the stairs to the front door. The palm of his hand was cool and soothing. The street smelled like dirt and piss. It needed to rain. We sat on the stone sill of the basement window and listened to the roars from the Norwegians and what sounded like the turning over of furniture.

“Ahh Annnnnna this is so nice.”

I thought it was okay. I was drunk, it smelled like piss, and I was tired. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t go home with Marco. I supposed that I must have liked Endres, but I was starting to want my bed more than this young man. I rested my head in Endres’ lap as he played with my hair. I could go to sleep right there looking at the world from a Dutch angle. The night was a beautiful cerulean blanket waiting for me to close my eyes.

“Did you wash your hair today Annnnna?”

“No.” I said. My eyelids were starting to feel heavy, “I’m afraid of the shower.” I mumbled.

I could smell raspberries the scent was so strong I felt like I could taste them. I was certain that the scent was coming from Endres. People stumbled out of the bar laughing and holding one another up. They looked over at us and said something then stumble away like they were conjoined. Cash clumped out soon after the couple, and stepped into my frame of view. He bent at his waist his hair cascading to the ground as the tangled ends brushed the dirty cobblestones. He was eye level to me, his face side ways, his torso twisted. He looked into my face and then with his finger he traced my eyebrow. “Look how it arches so perfectly above za ie.”

He stepped back to look at me as if he was getting a better view of a painting. “Beautiful.” Then he turned and clumped away into the dark street.

“You are beautiful Annnnnna.” Endres said.

“Thanks Endres.” I said with a heavy sigh. I used his knee to push myself up as straight as I could sit.  I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt dirty and like shit. I felt like I needed a cleansing.

“Would you maybe meet me at the park tomorrow?”

I climbed and pulled myself to a standing position, using the brick-stone wall. That sounded like an amazing idea to me. I hadn’t gone to the park since the first day I had arrived.

“I would love to.” I said with a nod of my head.

“I think if I would need to find you I would. I think that I would be out walking and maybe run into you in the park. There is a place where you can see the castle; it is very nice. I find I spend a lot of time in the park. It is a very nice place.”

“I would like to meet you tomorrow.” I said imitating his cadence.

I leaned down to kiss him. It was our first kiss, and I had intended it to be sweet and short like a peck as if we were fourteen and trying out love for the first time. He grabbed me in a feverish embrace pulling me to my knees, and scrapping them against the sidewalk. I tried to cry out, but Endres had his mouth on mine, and the only sound that escaped was a high-pitched mew. He kissed at my ear.

“I want you so badly Anna. I want to be with you.” He whispered.

“Yes. I’m getting that,” I said, repressing a laugh. I climbed back up the side of the building scurrying and clawing like a rodent. I jumped to my feet and then rubbed at my knees. I immediately thought about sex with Endres. I imagined having zippers get stuck, and hitting a nail that happens to be sticking out of a wall or falling out of a window to my death because of some farcical stumbling while trying to get busy.

“I need to go. I’m tired and want my bed.” I said.

He stood up and grabbed my shoulders. “You need to go.” He said pushing me.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.” I said holding my hand up in a wave.

He smiled and I spun around and ran down the street toward home.

I slammed the door behind me and cringed. “Sorry sorry.” I said to no one in particular. Using the walls as my guide I slid into the kitchen. Koontz was sitting in the easy chair. He looked up at me without a smile.

“Did you get rid of him?” He asked.

“Yes. I threw him away.”

“Good. Stupid Norwegians.”

I walked toward my room, and as I did Koontz jumped up to hold me, but I shoved him back down into his seat. The momentum of my push caused me to stumbled back against the doorway. I was sick of people grabbing and pulling at me. Marco walked into the kitchen from the front door.

“Hungry?” He asked.

“Yes.” I said at the mention of food. My now drunken reptilian brain completely forgot about Koontz. “Where’d you go?”

“To the gas station.” He pulled out a wrapped sandwich and placed it on the table in front of Koontz.

“Oh no. I can not eat.” He said.

“Are you sure?” Asked Marco.

Marco and I exchange concerned glances, and we both look back to Koontz.

“You sure, you’re sure?” I asked.

“Oh yes.” He answered.

Marco and I sat down at the table as Marco pulled out two other sandwiches taking one and giving another to me.

I unwrapped the saran and opened the sandwich that looked like ham with tomatoes and lettuce, “Are those eggs and pickles on the sandwich?”

“Yep.” Said Marco eating.

“Weird.” I said before taking a bite.

Without a word Koontz got up and walked into Francisco’s room.

“Where’s Francisco?” I asked with my mouth full.

“Didn’t your momma teach you no manners? Don’t talk wit-chor mouth full.” Said Marco.

“Sorry. I’m drunk.” I let out a loud, ha, and took another bite.

“I saw him stumbling toward the A-Krop.” Marco said.

“He was very drunk,” Yelled Koontz from the other room.

“He’s fucked up. I think he’s getting drunk easily because of the stuff with the doctors.” Said Marco.

“Ahww yeah.” I chewed my food with thoughtful machinations then swallowed. I took a deep breath then blew the air threw my lips in a drunk bored manner. “Or,” I said, “ maybe it’s because we started drinking hard liquor when the crow started and now it’s the next day. Technically the next day.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Marco said as he rose and then stumbled into our plutonic room.

“Hey Annabelle.” He said as if a thought just hit him, “Will you do me a favor and listen for the door for Francisco? Because I know I wont be able to hear it to let him in.”

“Yeah sure.” I said. Then I sat alone in the kitchen, just staring, and chewing my sandwich, thinking of nothing.

*

A repetitive buzzing pulled me from my dreams. It was persistent and aggravating like a horsefly biting into my mind and eating my REM. I opened my eyes. It was still dark in the room. I craned my head back and saw Marco in a deep sleep. I heard the buzzing again. I rolled out of bed feeling groggy, and swayed one way to the other as if I was walking on a ship deck. I shifted like this till my equilibrium balanced out. I was supposed to do something, but I couldn’t remember what. I looked into Francisco’s room and saw Koontz asleep and snoring loudly on the couch, but no Francisco. The buzz came again in rapid succession like gunfire. I turned and picked up the receiver of the phone.

“Hello? Hello?” My voice was hoarse with the dust of sleep.

I knew I was walking around, but I had a hard time pulling myself into my waking life. No one answered on the other side of the line. The buzz started again, this time long and deep. I looked dumbly at the phone in my hand then around the foyer as if some clue where the noise was coming from would jump out at me. I hung up, and the buzz came again. Suddenly, from the muck of my brain, I remembered that Marco had asked me to listen for Francisco, and Francisco was not in his bed, so through a painfully slow deduction, I figured the buzz was from Francisco at the building door. I should never try detective work. I hit the button that unlocked the building and pulled open the front door.

There was the sound of someone clomping up the stairs slow heavy clomps, like an elephant or a drunk. I left the door ajar and then ran into my room and jumped into bed so I could avoid getting into a conversation. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I didn’t know him yet, really, but the real issue was that I figured by now he would be so inebriated that he would try to talk to me as he half hung out the window, something I noticed that he liked to do. This hanging out the window of a five-story building caused me a minor amount of stress especially when he was so drunk he could barely stand. He must have had a death wish; he’s tempted it more than once. There was a crashing sound from the kitchen. I threw the covers over my head and fell asleep to the sound of glass breaking.

There was a long loud moaning sound. I rolled over to face the door, and stared directly at Franscisco’s crotch. He was prostrate and spread eagle on the floor wearing his ridiculously tiny boxers and using a beer bottle for a pillow. I could have sworn I had shut the door before falling asleep. He moaned again. I looked toward the window. It was still dark outside, but I wasn’t sure what time it was.

“Francisco.” Marco yelled from under his covers. “I have to wake up in an hour.”

It must have been around five in the morning. Marco had to work early. I had no idea how he kept time. He had some sort of internal working clock.

Francisco answered Marco’s request with another longer moan. Marco threw his covers off his head, and reached over to the door and slammed it shut. I closed my eyes and fell back to sleep.

*

I awoke to yelling. The kitchen door was open, Marco’s bed was empty and made, and Francisco and Koontz were spitting out the kitchen window and laughing. I was not ready to face those two animals. If this was how it was going to be every night and day now that Francisco had returned I needed to find a new place. I thought about the English girls, and pictured myself trying to become an amateur drug dealer. I remembered that Francisco had screwed them over and took all their money as payment for “helping” them sell. I pulled my covers up over my head, and turned away and managed to fall back asleep even to their screaming.

*

The next time I woke up, anxiety grasped my sternum and sent a shutter of nerves to my brain, and I sat up holding my hand to my chest. My breaths where thick and rapid. I felt panic like I did before I first left for Prague. I looked around the room. The flat was quiet. It was possible that my freak-out before I left for Prague may have been a premonition. I didn’t want to be a drug addict or an alcoholic. I climbed out of bed and tiptoed to look into Francisco’s room. Koontz and Francisco were passed out. I had to get out of the apartment. I ran on tiptoes into the shower room stepping over ear swabs, gel, and towels. I brushed my teeth, splashed water on my face, and then walked back through the kitchen that looked as if an earthquake shook it to pieces. Francisco’s beer pillow was still on the floor. I dressed and rushed to the park to meet with Endres.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 209-214

Feste’s was raucous and crowded, and most of the commotion was coming from our area. I looked at my beer. I didn’t think I could take another drink. I was pretty drunk. We’d started in the morning and the whole day just turned into one extended shot glass of Bekerovka. It was like we were swimming in it. Eight or nine of us were gathered around a table near the bar. We met up with Koontz’s band, whose lead singer was a screaming, aggressive, brown dreadlocked man with a permanent scowl. He had a thick goatee and huge unkempt lamb chops. He wore black and torn hand-stitched clothing, and every sentence he said was punctuated with a fist slamming against the table. Marco sat between the singer and another band member, dwarfed by their size and staring into his beer. I felt disengaged almost high. I knew it was because I was tired, and I just wanted some quiet. I didn’t know exactly how we had gotten from the apartment to Feste’s. There had been so much drinking, and yelling, and spitting. I couldn’t figure out why I was still there and why I wouldn’t just leave. I’d gone numb. My fingers clasped my pint and I vanished into the swirling bubbles floating at the top. Occasionally, I would look over to Marco and start giggling at him, at the way he sat, expressionless, between the two Norwegian giants. He was probably wondering how the hell he had gotten there in the first place. I was wondering how he ended up in the middle.

Francisco, who had been wandering indiscriminately around the bar, brought a Czech girl named Ruby to join us at our table. He was in his element, matching the lead singer with every yell and slam of pints and fists onto the tables. Ruby, who was just as loud, shook her head when she yelled and her bright pink flapper bob shook wildly like it was on fire. Her wiry arms were covered with self-made tattoos, burns, and scars, and multiple black plastic bracelets and silver bangles that dangled from her wrists. She preferred to stand and swing the heavy wooden staff that she was holding in her hand. Francisco whispered into her ear. She pushed him away from her and slammed her staff onto the table. I looked at Marco who remained seated in a seemingly catatonic state.

“Hello Annnnnna.” Endres fell into the chair next to me. I wondered why he was so thin and quiet while his fellow countrymen were so big and loud.

“Hey, Endres.” I said. I was relieved to see him. To imagine the drug angel as the calm in the sea of giants was comical, but I couldn’t have been more grateful to see his throbbing and dilated pupils.

“When you left Annnnna, I fell back to sleep, then when I awoke I had time to think of you.”

I looked at him as he swayed forward and then back in his chair. “I thought,” he said, “about how you left and how nice it was to be near you. A girl I lived with back home her and I did what we did last night, what do you call it?”

“Sleeping together?” My words came out slowly and hesitant like a question. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about. He was confusing me. Every moment felt heightened and confusing.

“Sleeping together.” He said, “It was nice. I think it was good Annabelle. Not making love but sleeping together.”

I felt my head spin a second, and I sat up straight. There was a loud bellowing yell as the Norwegian death metal singer slammed his fist on the table. With every outburst everyone in the bar turned to look at us. Canada Mike looked at him with a nervous expression as he wiped down a wine glass. Endres stood for a moment unfazed, and said something to me, but his voice was drowned out from all the sounds. I looked over at him swaying. He looked as drunk as I felt. I gave him a meaningless nod of my head and then looked back to my beer. I couldn’t hear anything. The room had turned into a giant single rumble, and my eardrums were humming. I slid the beer onto the table, and then slowly turned away. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going but my body wanted to move. I didn’t feel sick, but I needed air. I walked past the table. Koontz grabbed me, and pulled me down onto his lap. He squeezed me tight around my waist. I didn’t have the strength or energy to fight him off.

“I like you.” He said looking up at my face. “I don’t mean I want to sleep with you; I just like you.”

Endres stumbled back to his seat.

“You like him?” Koontz asked me.

“Sure.” I said, sighing. I just wanted Koontz to let me go and leave me alone. I was tired. I hated people pulling and grabbing at me.

“You should go to him.” He said giving me a gentle push toward Endres. “Get off me.” I said swatting his hands away. I was annoyed and drunk. I shuffled back to my seat forgetting why I got up in the first place.

Somewhere between my swatting Koontz’s hand and returning to my seat pandemonium had broken out. By the time I sat down the singer had Koontz by the neck and his back on the table. He was screaming in Norwegian into Koontz’s face as he shook him. Koontz had his arms out holding his hands up in submission. Everyone had left the table except for Marco who held his drink closely to his body, as he stared emotionless at the wall across from him.

“What happened?” I asked Enders, but he didn’t seem to notice the choking that was taking place a few feet away. This was how waitresses got their throats slit in alleyways next to telephone booths.

Ruby started laughing and jumping up and down cheering the singer on. She swung the staff around. I waited for the cane to make contact with any one person’s head. I couldn’t seem to react as the bar blew up into absolute anarchy. It all felt so wrongly normal. Marco was vacant. He had no reaction to the chaos that was ensuing around him. He was centered between the two death metalers. The dreadlock guy had to reach over Marco’s body in order to grab Koontz’s neck. I wondered what Marco was thinking right at that moment. Suddenly, Ruby began singing to Marco, and dancing. Like in a striptease act she dropped to the ground, and carving figure eights with her hips, holding the staff between her legs like a pole, she slithered up the staff then slammed it onto the table as she climbed onto it and starteed crawling across the table toward Marco. The singer had Koontz by the shirt and had pressed him up against the wall, which gave Ruby tons of room to crawl as people quickly grabbed their beers before she knocked them off. Koontz and the singer screamed at each other in a slicing language. I knew things were happening in a rapid succession, but every moment had been condensed into what felt like an extended minute; a time-elapse, it was like watching thunder storms fly over a midwestern sky. I looked back to Marco. He looked bored. I looked at Endres. He looked stoned.

“I’m gonna make love to you all night long… Gonna make love to you…” Ruby crawled onto her hands and knees and leaned into Marco’s face, nose to nose, and sang louder.

“I’m gonna make your juices flow.”

He shook his head like he was done. He took another sip of his drink then set it quietly onto the table.

“I’m gonna make you sweat.” Ruby straddled Marco who promptly stood up with her legs still draped around him. She hung on Marco like he was pregnant with her. He turned to Francisco, peeled her off, and held her out as she squirmed and kicked.

“Can you take this please?” He handed her to Francisco.

Francisco held her trying to avoid her fisted swings and punches.

“Get the fuck off me! Where is my goddamn it fucking American boyfriend!” She said thudding her open palms against Francisco’s broad chest.

“It’s not me.” Said Marco. He climbed over chairs that had been tossed to the ground during the fight and drunken band members who had returned to the table to watch and cheer the fight on.

“I’m going home,” he said to Endres and me.

“I’ll be home in a second.” I said.

“Suit yerself.” And he left the bar.

“Would you like to go outside?” Asked Endres.

“Yes.”

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 204-209

The man grabbed three shot glasses from the shelves above my head and immediately poured the liquor into each one. He turned with a drink in each hand one for me and one for Marco.

“I see you’ve met Koontz.” Said Marco looking with disgust at the shot. “Mutherfucker didn’t you hear me in there puking out my spleen. I’m dead man. My shit is fucked.”

“You’re funny, Marco.” Koontz said as he pressed the drink closer.

Marco relented and took the shot. With a resigned moan, I grabbed my glass. I knew how this day was going to go. Friends in town, even ones we don’t know, and it’s a celebration. I sneak in from not shacking up in a dorm room, it’s a celebration. Marco throws up from the night before, it’s a party. I was getting to know the drill. I felt a little laissez-faire to the whole thing. I really just wanted to go to bed. Koontz picked his shot up from the table and held it up high over his head. “We toast. To friends and crazy days.”

Marco and I glanced at each other. We both had the look of defeat: drooping eyes filled with water and down-turned mouths, not that we put up much of a fight. With simultaneous shrugs we knocked back the sweet powerful shots of Becherovka. I was already wondering why I made such a bad decision, and so early in the morning too. I usually wait until noon before making such a bad choice.

Koontz howled, his head bent back toward the ceiling, and slammed his glass on the table. He pulled the glasses out of our hands as Marco lurched like he was about to gag but managed to just release a short convulse.

Koontz poured three more shots.

“Oh fuck.” Said Marco, and he rushed into his room and slammed the door. Leaving me alone with Koontz. I looked to the door shocked and dumb. Why would he shut the door? That bastard.

Koontz turned to look at me. I rushed to sit in the chair as if sitting in the chair was the safest place to keep from getting an embrace. It was about the equivalent to putting my head under the covers. As Koontz moved toward me I grabbed the shot glass and held it to his chest, stopping his forward motion.

“To American pants! ” I said and swallowed my drink with a throat-burning gulp. With my thumb I pointed back toward the shower room. “So I think I’m just gonna-’

Before I could finish he spun my chair out to the center of the kitchen and climbed onto my lap.

“Marco!” I yelled. I also laughed because I could not believe this scenario was actually taking place. I had just consumed two shots of hard liquor before eleven a.m. and now I had a pygmy wrestler sitting in my lap. What were the odds? I just wanted to sneak into my bed.

He put his head to my chest like a child. “I want you.” He said.

“Oh. My. God.” I moaned. “Listen,” I said trying to get up from the chair. “I just want to go to sleep. By myself.” He moved his hand toward my face and I grabbed it with a firm squeeze. He looked at my clenched fingers like it was a romantic gesture and then back to my face and placed his other hand on the back of my head, like he was petting my hair. He smiled showing several crooked yellowing teeth. The entire act was non-threatening, but it may have been that I was tired and already felt buzzed, so any fear I should have had over some stranger creeping all over me was lost, but if he tried to kiss me I was going to punch him. I figured he’d probably like that, though.

“Marco!” I barked. “God Damnit! Come out here!”

Marco pulled the door to his room open and stared at us for a moment. “I’ll leave in a second so you two can be alone.”

“No!” I yelled, and I shoved Koontz off my lap. “No, no non no. What the hell? Do you think this is mutual? Koontz is trying to molest me here. Aren’t you? ”  I said turning to Koontz.

“Yes! Yes! I like a lovely woman.” He roared out a laugh.

“Some friend and protector you are.” I said crossing my arms.

“Shiiit girl—” I never got to hear Marco’s response since Koontz interrupted him by jumping up and lifting Marco off of his feet, and spinning him around.

“Put me down mutherfucker! I ain’t your goddamn girlfriend.” Marco struggled against Koontz’s embrace.

As funny as it was to watch him swing Marco around the room, I decided to make a break for it. I made a quick dash for the door, but Koontz grabbed me by the back of my shirt and pulled me into an embrace with Marco. “I like you both.” He said squeezing us both tightly and nuzzling into us like we were pet bunnies.

“Oh Christ.” I moaned.

Marco looked at me from over Koontz’s shoulder, the edges of his eyes wrinkling into a narrow scowl.  “This is your fucking fault.” He said.

Koontz let us go and grabbed the bottle to pour more shots then pulled a couple more beers out of the paper bag.

“My fault?” I said rubbing at my arm. “I didn’t bring him home. You knew his name.”

“I didn’t bring him home either.”

Koontz raced around the kitchen like a spastic child.

“Did you load him up on Pixi Sticks before bringing him home?” Marco accused me.

“What? Me? I told you I never saw this guy till I walked in a few minutes ago. Then next thing I know he’s putting my hand to his heart. Where the fuck were you last night anyway?” I said.

“I don’t remember. To his heart? Hmm girl that weren’t his heart.” He looked me over and a mild smirk danced over his face. “Where were you? Comin’ in this mornin’ mm chil’?”

“Do you remember this guy?” I pointed at Koontz who beamed a smile at me then held out two shots.

“Yeah. He’s with some Norwegian Death Metal band.” Marco said taking the shot glass and holding it in his hand.

“What? You mean like burning churches and eating each other’s brains?” I grabbed my shot.

“What the fuck is you talking about?” He swallowed the shot.

“Something I read once.” I drank my shot and threw my head back.

“That’s some sick shit.”

We both handed our glasses back to Koontz . He immediately poured two more shots and held them out. We stared at the shots.

“There’s so much fucked up about this moment, Marco,” I was beginning to whine, “I cannot even bring words to my mouth.” I grabbed my shot from Koontz’s hand and spilled the liquid over my fingers.

Marco grabbed his glass and mumbled something about being sick.

I watched as Koontz stuck his head out the window and began to howl.

“So if you didn’t bring him home, and I didn’t bring him home, how did he get here?” I asked still watching Koontz bark and howl at the construction workers.

Marco and I heard a moan from behind us. We turned to see Francisco standing in his tiny boxers and stretching in the doorway, his body filling up the entire door space.

“Whaaaaaat’s going on here?”  He said with a yawn.

“Put some goddamn clothes on man.” Marco’s face was contorted and pinched, “Nobody here wants to look at your package.” He threw his shot back. “Shit’s disgusting.”

Francisco chuckled as Koontz ran to hug him and then brought him a drink and they toasted. Francisco drank then threw the glass into the sink and it shattered against the metal.

“Goddamn it.” Marco tossed his arms into the air. “Now I gotta steal more glasses from Feste’s.” He let himself fall back into the recliner and pouted.

I was starting to feel loopy from the last couple of shots mixed with the drinks from the night before. I looked at Marco. “There’s no escape.” I really wanted to feel sober right at that very moment, but I knew the day was lost. I had a choice, I still had a choice, but I was swept up into the early morning madness. It was senseless and I knew it.

“No goddamn escape.” Yelled Francisco spitting out the window.

Koontz danced around the room stomping and howling and spitting.

“Don’t leave me alone with that guy.” I whispered to Marco.

“Don’t you leave me alone wit’ em.” He whispered back. “My shit is fucked.” He said as he dropped his head into his hand, and closed his eyes.

I looked at him curled up in the chair and I stared at the CDs circling his toes. The potential for this day was lost. I knew it. Marco knew it. I watched Koontz and Francisco drinking and spitting out the window, occasionally howling toward the morning sky. This was Francisco and Koontz’s day, and the potential had not even been breeched- they were the minions of chaos. It wasn’t hard to figure out how Koontz got into the apartment. I didn’t know where this day would end up. I hoped it would be in my bed, by afternoon, and alone.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 200-204

I woke with a start. I was not staring at neighboring windows that looked into an apartment with lace curtains, but instead at a white stone wall. I felt a warm body around me and had that feeling of dread. I turned around to look at Endres, and sighed with relief as my memory flooded back. I looked at him and then at the bottom of the bunk above us. Endres smelled like stone fruit. When he was sleeping his sharp features softened and looked even more fairy-like or more elfin. I felt the urge to touch his face but I fought it off and instead thought of an escape plan. He stirred awake and opened his eyes to look at me. He squeezed me and pulled me into him and began to kiss my neck and shoulders. Someone stirred on the other side of the room.

“I gotta go.” I whispered sitting up and climbing over him.

He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me on top of him. “No” he whispered, “Stay.”

“No.” I said pulling myself off him nearly falling onto the ground, but Endres caught me and set me on the floor. I stood up and looked around at all the sleeping bodies. Some people were up packing, and others were reading in bed. I found my shoes under the bed and slipped them on. Endres walked me to the door of the communal room shutting the door behind him. He hugged me in a long embrace. I was in a strange panic mode, but managed to fake it.

“I don’t know why you would sleep with me here.” He stepped away from me. “Too noisy. Too many people. It is bad.”

“Yah. I know. Well, bye.” I gave a quick wave and rushed down the stairs toward the bar and out the front doors onto Bořivojova. As I walked I realized I was still wearing Endres shirt. I lifted my arm and smelled my armpit. I smelled like apricots. I was such an asshole. I didn’t know how I felt about Endres. I didn’t know how I felt about anyone when it came to intimacy.

I pushed the door to the flat shut, making little sound, and pressed my back and head against the door. I took in a deep breath. I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t want the guys to know I had stayed the night with Endres. I didn’t know why I felt awkward about the whole thing. It wasn’t like I did anything wrong, and I was an adult, I could be wrong if I wanted to be, but I couldn’t shake this overwhelming weight of embarrassment. I wasn’t sure where it was coming from; after all I could do whatever I wanted. I was a young American woman traveling free. Hell, backpacking across Europe was permission for a sexual revolution. The damn stereotype was that I was easy. In my travels I was rarely easy. I was complicated, and I knew this about myself, and complication in the lifestyle of a traveler isn’t fun. I didn’t want to reveal this “I’m not a fun easy chick, I’m complicated, and don’t know what to do with myself and that’s why I’m here now” part of me.  I didn’t want to reveal it to anyone, not even Marco. It was a strange secret to keep.

The place was still. All I needed to do was sneak into bed without waking Marco. I peeked into Francisco’s room. He was geometrically splayed on his bed like The Vitruvian Man, and snoring, and wearing his small tight boy shorts that were grey and blue. I had the sensation that I was looking in at my half-brother half naked, and the longer I lingered the more wrong it was. I shuddered and turned away from the room. I had seen more of Francisco than I had wanted to. He was an attractive man, but I wasn’t interested in knowing every detail of his body.

I turned the doorknob to the kitchen as slow as possible, to not make any noise, and tiptoed into the room. I shut the door behind me with a quiet click and turned around to see someone sitting in the easy boy. It was a man I had never seen before. He was drinking a beer. It was ten in the morning. Even we didn’t start drinking at ten in the morning. We stared at each other for a beat than a crazy grin spread over his face. I stepped with mild trepidation into the kitchen then I looked toward Marco’s closed door. I wasn’t scared, as much as cautious, like I didn’t know what kind of animal I was facing. It seemed small and fuzzy, but did it bite?

“Hi?” I said.

He didn’t answer but smiled larger. I could tell even as he was sitting that he was short, his stocky build protruding from the chair like he was a pro wrestler sitting in the corner of the ring in between bells. His head was shaved, and he kept rubbing over it, massaging the surface of his skull. He tugged on his baggy brown cords then stood up to adjust them. They hung low on his hips. They looked like Marco’s teacher pants. He returned his gaze to me and started smiling again. I gave a quick smile and then grabbed a glass, and filled it with water from the sink. I could feel him staring at my back. I spun on my heels to look at him. He was still standing in front of the chair. I wondered where Marco was and who the hell was this smiling man. I got the psycho vibe off of him from the second we locked eyes. Not killer psycho, just crazy psycho. I was pretty sure this was one of those humans are animals moments.

“So…I’m Annabelle.” I said taking the first move.

“You are lovely.” His voice was gruff and stocky like his body.

“Thanks. Uh is Marco here?” I pointed toward the bedroom door.

“I wear Marco’s pants!” He shoved both of his hands into the pockets and flared the pants out like a parachute. “I look American huh!”

Marco’s door flew opened and he rushed from the room, physically pushing the guy then me as he ran toward the water closet, while holding his hand over his mouth. He slammed both the kitchen door and the water closet behind him.

The man in Marco’s pants started coughing a laugh and smacking at his belly that was slightly protruding in his stance.

“Here!” He yelled. “I bring you this.” From a paper bag he pulled out two bottles of Becherovka and set them with an aggressive clunk onto the table. “Today we drink!”

“We drink every day.” I said swallowing the kitchen’s water with a mild distaste. “We drink a lot.” I said turning to wash my glass. “Too much.” I said, more to myself than to the man. When I turned back around he was standing close to me. I jumped back startled. He grabbed my hand and pressed it to his chest.

“I want you. Feel my heart. It beats.”

“Holy shit.” I said choking on the last gulp of water. I couldn’t tell if I should be afraid or start to laugh. It was ten in the morning, and already some drunk guy was asking me to feel his beating heart. I knew it was going to be one of those days. He dropped his head to my shoulder.

Marco kicked the kitchen door open and I pushed the man’s head off my shoulder with a shrug.  I looked to Marco for an answer. He took two large steps into the kitchen and glared at me.

“My shit is fucked.” He said.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 193-200

I walked through the double doors and headed toward a door that opened into the backyard that was built out of an old courtyard. It was bucolic in a druggy kind of Warholian fashion. Blankets were spread over the small grassy plot. To one side of the courtyard was an actual garden with leafy greens sprouting from the ground and thin tall sticks with twine to make tepees for beans and flowers. The remainder of the small yard was a hard patchwork of grass and dirt. I sat on an empty blanket and drank my wine looking at all the various people that were sitting, laying or milling about. There was a mellow bohemian air to the crowd. People spoke in quiet tones and intimate gestures. I didn’t know any of them. I adjusted my shirt a bit, sat crossed-legged and stared off into the garden. There was a scent of lilacs and cake in the air. Sandy had baked a traditional beranek cake for Easter. I was told it had looked like a lamb, but what I saw passing from hand to hand was more like a slaughtered ameba. A guy wearing a black top hat and stripped bell bottomed pants walked into the garden carrying a guitar and a folded wooden chair. He placed the chair at the edge of the garden, between tomato plants and dangling beans, and sat down. He strummed a few strings of his guitar before he began to play The Velvet Underground’s, What a Perfect Day. I felt suddenly like I was sitting in a photograph.

Sandy ran out giggling and holding up a bottle of white. “Hold yor glasses up if you want wine.” She yelled.

People cheered and held up their glasses. I held up my empty glass and Sandy poured it to the top then moved to the next group. Someone made a joke about her needing a wine skin. Jiri rushed out and grabbed Sandy around her waist and maneuvered her and the wine back into the hostel to the soft boos of those sitting outside. I took a large drink to keep my wine from spilling. A woman with glittery face paint held out her hands; she had a crayon in one palm and an egg in the other. I smiled but shook my head with an involuntary wrinkle of my nose.  I didn’t want to color on eggs. I was certain that this crayon coloring business was not a Czech tradition in the decorating of eggs. I was certain it was a “we don’t have any money for dye so let’s use crayons instead” tradition because other than Demitri not one person could color a decent egg, and he was Russian not Czech. I watched the guitarist’s fingers slowly strumming over the strings, his brush so light it seemed as if he wasn’t really touching them. I started to notice a heady feeling, like a contact high, from all the milky people clouding around me. Either that or I was already feeling drunk from the wine. I looked down into my overflowing glass that was more like a chalice by the abundant pour that Sandy offered in her short-lived role as Bacchus.

Endres stumbled through the door in his usual fashion. He wasn’t sober today. He noticed me, trip-walked his way over, and sat beside me on the blanket. He inhaled deeply and then exhaled with a hum.

“I had a nice picnic in the park Annnnnna.”

“Hmmm.” I said, not having any response. I took a gulp of wine and set my glass on the ground. I thought about getting up, but Endres stopped me by laying his head in my lap. I looked down at him, and held my arms up in question. I wasn’t sure what to do. I hadn’t expected to have Endres’ head in my lap. He had his eyes closed and a smile played over his lips. I looked to my wine glass then back to Endres.

“I need to be on drugs, Annnnnna, so I do not think of my first time in Prague.” He mumbled.

Endres’ eyes were almond shaped, and when they were closed they looked like smiles on a happy face. He was really very beautiful. His skin was smooth like porcelain, not a blemish. It was his coloring that was off sometimes, like he would appear blue-grey or with light plum circles under his eyes. But most of the time he was a soft ceramic white with just a faint dusting of blush. Something about his fine features, his sharp nose and chin reminded me of the feminine. I wondered what it would feel like to pull my fingers through his messy hair, and I moved a hand toward his forehead, but I stopped short and set both of my hands on the ground behind me. Now I had a male drug-addicted angel’s head in my lap. Seemed like a perfect scenario for Easter. I looked up at the sky. We stayed like this in silence for a moment until my leg began to get uncomfortable.

“Endres, I’m sorry but my legs are falling asleep. Here you can use my bag as a pillow.” He lifted his head as I removed my legs and placed my bag under him. I stretched my legs in front of me, massaging them for a bit. Endres kept his eyes closed. I wondered what time it was. How late had I slept this time? Endres had already had a picnic in the park. I had thought it was still early since the streets were so quiet, but maybe it was just that everyone was at home with their families. I flipped over onto my stomach beside Endres.

“How long were you in Thailand?” I asked pulling out a blade of grass and wrapping it around my finger.

“Mmm. Nearly a year.” His eyes were still closed.

“How long have you been traveling?”

“Nearly three years. But I do go home in between.”

“How old are you?”

“I am four and twenty.”

“Can you guess how old I am?” I asked still playing with the blade of grass. That was a stupid question; I wish I hadn’t asked it. I sounded juvenile. I realized I was flirting. This was my flirting. Terrible.

Endres turned to his side facing me and leaned his head on his palm. “It is hard to tell.”

I felt a blush wash over me as Endres examined my face looking for my age. I caught sight of Francisco from the corner of my eye as he walked from the door into the courtyard. I sat up in relief at the chance of breaking this awkward moment, and waved to him. He smiled at me, and tossed an orange in my direction. I caught it over Endres. Francisco turned back inside.

“It must be night.” I said looking up at the dusky sky. “How’d I not notice?” I began to peel the orange by first puncturing it with my nails then tearing back the skin. The rind perspired sweating drips of citrus odor onto my fingers.

Francisco returned holding two glasses of wine. He handed the white one to me.

“How’d you know?” I asked surprised.

He shrugged and set his wine down, then picked up an egg and a crayon. He sat behind me and leaned his back against mine. I could feel the heat from Francisco’s body beating against my back. Even with my initial apprehension on meeting Francisco I felt comfortable leaning up against him for support. I couldn’t figure it out. I had a sense that Francisco wasn’t to be trusted and yet he felt protective, like a guardian almost. I decided to stop fixating on it and just let it go.

I peeled off a part of the orange and handed it to Francisco. I fed a slice to Endres as he lay looking up at me. I was not the kind of woman to feed orange slices to a man, but this was not real life. This was an art film. His eyes were hard blue, striking and somewhat insane. His pupils dilated with a rapid pulse.

“Whoa.” I said, “Your eyes just did something freaky.” It was freaky like a snake’s or cat’s eye.

He smiled up at me. I fed him another orange as if pupils pulse into the size of a dime and then back to the size of a pinhole all the time. What kind of drug did that? Whatever it was it made him mellow. I took a drink of my wine. I felt Francisco move against my back as he scribbled with brisk jerks over his egg.

“I remember things I say Annnnna.” Endres said to me.

“That’s nice Endres.” I said feeling pretty warm from the wine.

“What I said to you the other night.”

“That you thought I was attractive?” I said.

I felt Francisco chuckle his back shaking mine. I felt a flush of embarrassment. I handed him another slice of orange from over my shoulder. He took it from my fingers. I took another drink of wine. I really felt like Francisco and I were bonding.

“Where’s Marco?” I felt Francisco shrug.

The sky was continuing to darken as people passed around ribbons to tie onto sticks. It was that perfect light — the magic time that photographers and filmmakers love when the light is bouncing off the spectrum and pulling out the deepest, sharpest colors.

I felt Francisco growl in frustration over his egg.

“You know I think it is going to be too dark for an Easter egg hunt.” I said.

Francisco tossed his egg and crayon into the grass and abruptly rose and headed into the bar.

It was now dark and starting to get chilly. I lay back down onto the blanket beside Endres. I felt fine being alone with him out in the Easter night. I was drunk on wine.

“I love Prague.” He said up to the sky. “Don’t you love Prague, Annnna?”

“I don’t know if I do.” I said.

“Really?” He sat up and looked at me, his expression hidden in the shadow. “You are the first person I have met that hasn’t loved Prague.”

“Well, I don’t know if I do or don’t yet. I mean, I guess it’s not what I expected. I mean my street is kinda trashy.” I said taking a drink. I was drunk and starting to feel a little cold. “Can I wear your shirt?” I asked.

“What? Are you cold Annnnna?”

“Yep.” I said feeling a shiver move up my back.

“I have a shirt you can borrow up in the room. You know Annna, a lot of beautiful art comes out of trash.”

“Yes. Yes it does.” I knew he was right.

Endres stood up and helped me to my feet and led me, wine glass in hand, into the hostel. He walked me up the first few steps into the hostel then asked me to wait for him for a second as he went to grab the shirt. I leaned on a window ledge and finished my wine. I set the glass down on the ledge beside me. I wondered where Marco was and why he wasn’t here. Endres returned. Handing me the shirt he sat next to me on the ledge. I drunkenly pulled it over my head.

“Would you like to share a splif with me Annnna?”

“Sure.” I said.

We sat on the staircase and shared the splif in silence. Once we finished Endres stood up and helped me to my feet.

“I think for tonight I am going to bed.” Endres’ said.

“Oh are you leaving?” I felt my weight sway back just slightly.

“Yes. Tonight I am tired.”

“Well, can I stay the night with you?” If I hadn’t felt so drunk and stoned I would have been surprised at my boldness. My sober side gave me a thumbs up on the forwardness- you go girl– it said.

“What Annnna? Oh no. It is not nice. It is not a private space. It is full of people.”

“I don’t care. It’s not like we’re going to do anything. I just want to sleep.” We were facing each other holding hands like we were about to play London Bridges.

“I don’t know Annnna. Why would you want to sleep there?”

I shrugged. I didn’t have a smooth answer or any answer.

He looked at me for a minute and then dropping one hand and grabbing the other tighter he led me up the stairs to the communal room.

It was a large room with multiple bunk beds and backpacks, sleeping bags strewn around. We stepped hand and hand over bags, and some people who were on floor cots. Endres let go of my hand and made up the bed as I swayed from one side to the other like a top winding down.

“I’m sorry Annnna,” he whispered, “I told you it wasn’t that nice.”

I shrugged and climbed onto the bottom bunk where Endres was assigned to sleep. I pulled up the covers and scooted in toward the wall. Endres got in after me and snuggled up behind me spooning me with his body. He pushed my hair aside and put his face into the back of my neck, and that is how we fell asleep with 25 strangers.

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Hello From Žižkov-Chapter 6, pgs. 187-193

I woke up hung over. I moaned as I turned on my side toward the window. The bed I was now sleeping in was almost level with the window, which on one hand was nice because I could stare out over the street without moving. However, it was a little scary to think I could roll out and fall five long stories to a quick death. Marco had teased me saying that the fall would be so quick I probably wouldn’t even wake till I hit the ground and then it would be just like a flashlight turning off. I had thanked him for the refreshing insight. I lay on my side somewhat comatose looking at the white lace curtains in the facing window of the building across the street. They looked fresh and clean — not dingy and brown like the curtains in my room. The exterior of the neighboring building looked as if had been repainted or power-washed. Our building was a faded lime green stained from time and streaked from pollution and moisture. The grime looked like finger paint or those art pieces done by cats. My eyes moved down toward the street where the angel jutted out like an awning covering anyone that stood under her. It was baroque, I thought, or art nouveau. I didn’t know why I was bothering to guess. I started to get a headache from the thinking. It was Easter morning. Holidays were sudden events. Even though Sandy had us color crayoning eggs a few days ago, I hadn’t really understood that it was already here. While having drinks at Feste’s, Rachele had cornered me and made me promise that I would go to Feste’s to help paint or color crayon, and hide Easter eggs for all the guests. I really didn’t want to go. My head was throbbing, my stomach felt like it was rotting: another morning in Žižkov.

“Priorities, priorities,” I whispered, as I sat up. I threw the thin blanket from my lap.

Marco was still asleep curled up in a fetal position with the covers over his head and a single air hole.

“Marco,” I said. “I may be dying.”

He didn’t stir. I stared back out the window.

“What time is it?” I said, not giving up on waking him. “Why aren’t there any clocks in this place?”

“Time is irrelevant.” He mumbled.

“Oh true. I suppose.” I stood up and my head pulsed. I sat back down. “Oh my god. My head is throbbing.” I sat for a second, took a few breaths, stood back up, and grabbed some clothes. I headed into the shower room.

Back in the bedroom I put on my shoes and pulled my hair back with a headband. I sat staring at the opposite wall. I suddenly remembered that there was a clock in Francisco’s room. Funny, the one who had a job didn’t have a clock and the one who didn’t did.

“You taking off?” Marco’s voice was muffled under the duvet and his body remained still.

“Yeah. I told Rachele I’d go to Feste’s and help paint, draw, whatever, decorate the eggs.” I grabbed a sweater and pulled it over my head. “You going?”

He tugged the cover from his face and peaked at me with squinty bloodshot eyes. “I’ll wait for Francisco then go.”

“Kay.” I headed out the door.

“Watch out for little boys.” He called to me.

“What?” I said stopping in the doorway.

“It’s Easter. Just watch out for groups of little boys, especially if you see them holding birch sticks.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I said peering back into the room.

“And if you see one with a lot of ribbons on his stick? Run.” He rolled away from me.

“That sounds a little pervy. How old are these boys I should be looking out for?”

“It is very much pervy.” I heard Francisco call from his room. I wondered if he actually ever slept.

“Eleven.” He mumbled, “the age when you barely start understanding sexual symbolisms.”

 

I walked down the stairs humming to myself. “Easter,” I said out loud my voice echoing in the stairwell, “A time for coloring eggs with crayons, having egg hunts with drug addicts and for some reason running from little boys with sticks wrapped with ribbons.” I pushed open the heavy wooden door and stepped out into the cool bright, late morning. “Ah smog. It’s Easter.” I said this to the angel across the street, and tried to do my best Francisco imitation. “I have a premonition that I may end up drunk tonight or lost or both.” My hangover was fading as I wandered through the cobbled and broken streets. I heard a sound and stopped for a second to listen. I thought I could hear the screams and laughter of children. “Fucking Marco making me paranoid.” I paused a moment longer. Then kept walking toward Feste’s. It occurred to me as I passed the Churchill statue that I had been talking out loud to myself a lot lately. I didn’t know what to think about this revelation. I kicked at a cobble that was pulled loose from the street.

It was a blue spring day, the smog was light, and there was a soft low wind lifting twirls of dust into the air. Summer was just around the corner. I made a note to myself to spend less time in the bars at night and more time out in the city during the day. It was unusually quiet on the streets. I didn’t pass one person. There was the sound of laughter from far behind me. The sound had echoed and ricocheted between the buildings. It was like the laughter of children, of boys. I had no idea what Marco meant, but I wasn’t about to get hacked apart by some rampaging Czech children of the corn. I looked over my shoulder and then back down in front of me, barely missing a pile of dog poo.

“Damn it.” I muttered. “Poo don’t pause for Easter.”

I jumped the pile and ran the rest of the way to Feste’s.

Jiri was standing behind the bar and Rachele was leaning one arm on the counter talking with him. She was wearing her usual light baby blue colors. Jiri placed a wire basket of boiled eggs onto the counter and Rachele took the basket and set it in front of Dimitri who was dipping the eggs in a dye. Dye. Actual Easter egg dye was sitting in a bowl with several boxes of crayons, and loose crayons, spread out around him on the table.

“Happy Easter.” I said, feeling cheery anticipating dying some eggs, which I hadn’t done in years.

“How are ye?” She asked giving me the once over with her pink eyes. Her tone was bored.

“Fine.” I said.

She nodded then walked away. I stood looking for a moment where Rachele disappeared into the back then slowly spun on my heels to face Dimitri. Sandy was leaning against the wall next to him, smoking a cigarette and staring ahead with a vacant expression on her face.

“So, you need help with decorating the eggs?” I asked them.

“No.” Answered Dimitri not looking up at me. Sandy looked down to Dimitri as if that was the first sound she’d heard all morning. She gave him a slow dreamy smile and then returned to her cigarette.

“Okay.” I was a little deflated. I was glad I forced myself through a hangover for this. I had the impression that Rachele liked me better when she was wasted. I stood at the bar. Cash was working. He saw me and gave a long drawn out smile before leaning over the counter like cartoon version of a melted candle. He rested his jaw in both palms. “Vhat vould you like?”

“Well, being that it’s Easter, I think I’ll have white.” I said.

“Don’t you mean red, za blood of Christ?”

“I’m more of a pagan. You know spring, light equals chilled white wine.”

He smiled at me and pulled himself like adhesive from the counter.

“So Cash, Marco told me to watch out for groups of little boys. What’s that all about.”

Sandy giggled behind me. “Aw, that’s right.”

He placed a glass in front of me and poured the wine. “It’s a Czech tradition.”

“What is?” I said taking the glass.

“The little boys, they take switches an’ hit the little gurls.” Said Sandy.

“Wow.” I said, perplexed, and amused. “That sounds— fucked up.”

“Zhere’s more to it. Za branches are suppose to be from birch trees or veeping villows,” Said Cash putting the cork back in the bottle and setting the bottle in a fridge under the bar. “Now some are bought. Za boys hit za girls till za girls give zem an egg and tie a ribbon on za stick.”

“What do the girls get?” I asked.

“A good whippin.” Giggled Sandy, “isn’t that right Dimitri? A real good whippin. But you can’t have my eggs.” She giggled more. “Oh no. No. No. No.” She snorted and curled into herself as she chuckled.

Dimitri kept his eyes on his eggs and didn’t respond.

“Alright.” I said looking back to Cash. “Is she high?”

Cash shrugged. “Probly. You should go outside into za garden.” He said this gesturing with his Gibson hair toward the double doors. “Ve are going to have an Easter egg hunt.” He flipped his finger at my drink. “20 krowns.”

I pulled a coin from my pocket.

“You’re alvays smiling and laughing. It’s a beautiful sing.” Cash said leaning in again this time resting his jaw on one palm.

I handed him the coin holding it between my thumb and forefinger. He reached for it but gently caressed my index finger before taking the coin

“Thanks.” I plucked my drink from the counter. “I’m gonna go look for eggs.” I said. The caressed finger bit, I thought, was that a come on or an accident? Maybe everyone was high.

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