Lazar entered a big, half-empty bus. Two men were talking aloud about football game. One elderly woman was clutching a bag in her lap. A many-coloured scarf and a garlic garland were protruding from her bag. At the end of the bus, a boy was smoking stealthily. The rain was falling. Lazar felt a strange aching in his stomach. Hunger?
Lazar bought an automobile. Beautiful, powerful, red car with a radio cassette player in it. Before, when he was going to work by bus, he used to watch beautiful girls holding to the rods and whose flash was trembling beneath their shirts on every curve. Now, every morning - semaphores and bobbies. Sometimes he catches himself looking passionately at the crowded, stinking, and sweaty bus, full of beautiful girls.
The Poet, Lazar's friend, spent most of his life drunk. One day, completely sober, he went out of his room at the attic (all poets live in cold rooms at the attic) and at the street crossing he was ran over by some drunk driver in the Bugatti, who then ran away from the place of accident. At the end the Poet was killed by alcohol, as everybody kept telling him.
Lazar has a friend Mohammad. Mohammad has a hobby. He collects hotel Bibles. There are people who collect hotel ashtrays, those little soaps which can be used two or three times, cups, night lamps... Mohammad collects hotel Bibles. Whenever Lazar feels blue, he goes to visit Mohammad, takes one of his Bibles, goes to the bathroom and, sitting fully dressed at the end of the tub, he leafs through the Bible which is written in some strange language. After that he feels better.
And then, I was hired as a semaphore.
On Lazar's wall, above his writing desk, one flamboyant, sezession picture of Madonna with small, plump Jesus is nailed. Both of them are wrapped with stylized flowers. The picture is printed on a yellow, stiff cardboard paper.
Previous tenant hanged it - a man who lived in that room before Lazar - and who also put in a corner one flat bicycle tire. Lazar did not throw away a tire. He hanged it on a wall, next to Maria and Jesus. Now, before he goes to sleep, he watches his small exposition: Maria, Jesus and a bicycle tire. Then he turns off the light, and if he did not dine spicy food, he falls asleep instantly.
This is your life
His hands usually don't shake. One can't notice anything. Except in the morning, when he brings the first glass near his lips.
- I don't have to hate you, to hit you - the Boxer said.
Lazar was trembling. In a second, it hit him that he doesn't even know how he manages to stand still, since his legs are shaking so much. He asked himself does anybody see his fear - no, vanity made him to pretend that he's not afraid. And then the Boxer hit him.
Pigeons No. 1.
Lazar was smoking on a terrace. On the opposite balcony a gray pigeon was walking. Lazar was watching the bird, thinking:
- I envy this pigeon.
He put out his cigarette and entered the room.
Pigeons No. 2.
Two gray pigeons with red feet are walking on a roof. Lazar is sitting on a terrace, watching the opposite roof, and he sees those two pigeons. Pigeons are cooing. Lazar is pretending not to see them. He is taking out his cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket, slowly, and clutches a lighter in his hand. Suddenly, he brandishes a lighter and throws it at pigeons. They fly away, and Lazar's lighter smashes against a concrete roof of the next building. Lazar rises slowly, enters the room and pulls the curtains.
Pigeons No. 3.
Lazar was sitting on as terrace watching a flock of pigeons on the next roof. He only watched them for some time and then, he got up and started to jump and scream, to wave his arms and legs. Pigeons flew away, and from an apartment he heard his mother's voice:
- What is it? Pigeons again? Leave them alone! Do you hear me?
Lazar is walking
Lazar's dog was pulling his leash today much harder then previous days. He pulled the leash like crazy.
Lazar was sitting in a restaurant waiting for a girlfriend. At the table next to him, a man dressed in liftboy uniform was sitting, drinking his coffee. Lazar was mused watching the rim of his hat. The morning was quiet and sunny.
A man in liftboy uniform turned to Lazar very slowly and quietly, almost in whisper, told him:
- You know, for these past fifteen years as I work as a liftboy, nobody told me ground floor, just - that simply - down. Interesting, isn't it?
Then, Lazar's girlfriend walked into the restaurant.
Lazar was reading a book, holding loosely to the rod. Trolley stopped suddenly. Lazar lost his balance and fell on a floor. A fat woman looked at him gently from her seat, and with a smile, she whispered to him:
- You deserved it.
Glouchester Rd, London. Middle of March, rain is falling. Two men are walking down the street, slowly. First man is bending down:
- Look, I've found a pound!
They are looking at a small, round coin: pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad. First man looks another man in the eyes (or something like that - in that direction - he can not focus his gaze).
- We'll drink coffee in this Italian restaurant.
The other man smiles, takes off his glasses, pulls a dirty handkerchief from his pocket and rubs his glasses with it. Two men enter Italian restaurant, drink coffee with brown sugar. One coffee is fifty pennies. They come out from the restaurant.
First man has a short coat and a scarf, the other has a rain coat on him. Neither of them has hat. They are walking slowly in the rain.
Birds don't sing at night
Around midnight, rain stopped. Lazar was lying in his bed, smoking in the dark. Suddenly, from a tree under his window he heard birds singing. Pleased, with a smile on his face, Lazar was listening to the birds for fifteen minutes. That beautiful song occupied him so much that he let three cigarettes to burn in an ashtray - he was lighting one cigarette to another.
After some time, the chirping of birds was becoming much louder then it was normal. Lazar turned on a lamp next to his bed. From a vent on a radiator with a twitter and chirp, hot, dirty water was dripping right on a parquet which started to swell.
- Where am I supposed to find a handy man at this hour? - Lazar inhaled deeply, got up and went into the kitchen to take big pot for dipping water.
Lazar in the morning
(Seasons No. 1.)
Today, the sun was shining brightly. Lazar was passing the Ministry building. From its roof, a big, pointy, half-melted ice, cut loose and fell on Lazar's shoulder. The blow was hard and his shoulder started to ache. Cleaning his coat with a glove Lazar thought:
- It looks like the spring finally came. I should grease my bike and get it ready.
Lazar in the morning
(Seasons No. 2.)
He hardly waited for a trolley door to open. He ran out, pushing people and stepping on their toes, came to a tree, leant with one hand on it and threw out his breakfast: tea, corn flakes with milk, toast with butter and jelly. From a pocket of his jacket he pulled a handkerchief, whipped his mouth with it, packed the handkerchief and put it back in his pocket. He looked at a sky and thought:
- It is going to a fine day.
Calamus Fortior Gladio
Lazar and the Friend went out of jewelry store. Lazar showed his Friend his new tie pin. Calamus fortior gladio - was written on a pin.
- Latin? What does it mean? - his friend asked.
- The pen is mightier than the sword.
- Don't just believe in it!
- Are you kidding? - Lazar said, looking at a beautiful woman who was walking down the street. He waved his head, and said more to himself: Yes. Yes.
In the family circle
He was laying on a bad. All his family was around him. He opened his eyes and looked at their figures, positioned all around the room. Just like at the old flaman painting: all in sfumato, golden brown, with a sun coming through the blinds. Sun in stripes. Their looks: wife's frightened, son's cold, almost spiteful, daughter's empty. He shut his eyes and opened them again - to sharpen his gaze - then he raised himself up on his elbows and said:
- I will come back! - and died.
Whenever he would hear a hymn, something would stuck in his throat. Any hymn, hymn of any country. War and revolutional, choir songs, mass songs - they would even make him cry sometimes.
A day which name was Thursday
She put a book on a floor, near an armchair, coughed and said:
- I think it is clear that you can not count on our hospitality after this.
- I paid until the end of the month.
- Your money will be returned to you.
- But I don't want my money back!
- All right, then you won't get it back. Anyhow, you'll have to leave the apartment today.
- I haven't find another apartment yet... This was so unexpected.
Obviously, it was all in vain,. She didn't want to talk any further. She picked up a book again, opened it where the red, knitted bookmark was. He got up and said:
- Well, then... goodbye Madame.
She didn't say a word.
Lazar went out, closing the door quietly behind him. He looked back, went up the stairs, to his room. A suitcase was laying on his bad and a few books, twined with rope. He went into the bathroom and put a shaving kit and a toothbrush into his pocket. He looked one more time around the room. The window was opened. The curtain was flickering. He went to the exit, taking his old and crumpled raincoat over his arm. It was a chilly, nice morning. Ice-cream salesmen with their straw hats were pushing their carts across the street. There was a milk truck in front of the restaurant. Lazar paused and looked at his watch.
Lazar stepped into a bog. His shoes were filled with water.
Midnight has passed. Lazar went out of his apartment. He crossed the street, creaking snow under his feet, and went down the sideway by the park, toward the bridge. Light was off, only one street lantern was on, which sent a kernels of yellow light onto the snow in circuits. On his way, Lazar met a sentinel who looked at him and, uninterested, raised the collar of his coat, and turned to the other side. The wind became stronger and Lazar hurried. He approached the fence of the bridge. Suddenly, it seemed to him that he saw something in the water. He stopped so that he could eyed it better. He leaned over the fence, slipped and fell down, into the water. Block of ice hit him in the head and smashed his skull. Sentinel didn't notice anything, even though he was only twenty meters away, stamping to get worm
That was a very cold winter.
A year already, maybe even two, Lazar is sleeping only with other men's women. Not all of them are married but they are always tied to other men. Very quickly, they meet their boyfriends, fiances or husbands with Lazar. They approve of him and characterize him as harmless. "With Lazar, nothing could happen to a woman". Not a ray of jealousy. One girl who was very attached to her finace, told him once: - When I sleep with you, I don't cheat on him. With somebody else, I would be cheating on him, but with you - no.
Her fiance like to come over to Lazar for a glass of vine. Then they talk about politics, literature, music. There's some perverse pleasure in it, sometimes.
Lazar ordered a croissant and a white coffee. Croissants were stiff, and a coffee cold.
Every morning Lazar makes French toasts. He wraps them while they are still warm in colorful paper and puts them in his pocket, when he goes to work. As soon as he gets in the office, he hangs his coat on a hanger, and forgets about French toast in his pocket. Around noon, he gets hungry, and goes to a cafeteria across for an omelet and a glass of vine. When he comes from work, he discovers French toast in his pocket and throws them away because they are all stiff and cold.
On the beach
Tree boys are walking down the beach. Lazar is lying behind the rock, sunbathing, eavesdropping on their conversation.
- And when a black bird comes out, three times flies around somebody, croaks three times and disappears... that means...
- That means that that somebody is going to die - the other boy carried on.
Lazar decided to have a little fun. He turned into a black bird, rose up to the sky and flying around the boys three times, croaked three times. That evening all three boys get diarrhea, probably because they ate green fruits which they stole from their neighbor's orchard.
Mother sent Lazar to a mall to buy a turquoise thread. On his way, he met his old friend from a war, and went with him to a bistro, for a glass of pastis. In the evening, when he came home without a thread, mother threw a wooden shoe pad at him. Lazar locked himself in the bathroom and cried.
For a third time, Lazar put out a cigarette he just lit. He took a glass determined to drink it all up, but when he saw that bottle was empty, he decided to drink slowly those few last drops of vine.
He reached out for cigarettes, but he didn't feel like smoking so he put his hands on the table. He scrutinized his nails. Then he looked at her hands, which were holding a cup of coffee, trembling a little. Her nails were different: red, long, threatening.
- Why are you panting horny sheaths at the end of your fingers?
She looked at her hands, then at Lazar:
- Please, don't be so stupid in the morning.
Lazar was quite.
That was one of those days.
A tall woman with big, sprayed hair entered the restaurant.
Lazar's friend took a sip of coffee, added one more spoon of sugar - sixth - if Lazar's count was right, and while stirring the coffee, said:
- Hair spray is product of human alienation. It is used by women who do not think that somebody will stroke their hair.
Muggy it is. Window is opened. From the outside heat, smells and noise are coming. Neighbors from the floor bellow are cooking curry. French chanson can be heard. The same record for months now. Somewhere in the middle it clicks and pops and then invisible hand pushes the gramophone needle a little further. Somebody is watching television. Speaker says that we can expect some heavy rain in the afternoon, and maybe some hail. All in all, nice weather. Just muggy. Lazar approaches the window. Floor in his room is made of rotten planks that are crackling and which dangle when you step on them. He walks slowly. First he gropes each planks with his toes before he steps on it with his full weight. Just like in a swamp not long ago, when they went to hunt ducks, near Veneta, and they did not have money to pay for a boat or a guide. From a window, roofs of buildings, chimneys of some factory, gray sky (someone said like a colour of a TV monitor which is set on a wrong frequency) can be seen.
If he leans over, Lazar sees the street, cars on the street, parking clocks, waste containers, one red mailbox and few men.
ECCE DEVS FORTIOR ME, QVI VENIENS DOMINABITVR MICHI
Whole village was congregated around the Revolution monument, despite the heat. Men were playing balote and trick track in the canteen's yard, women were whispering and laughing covering their mouths with their hands, children were running around, all smeared with fruits. Lazar was sitting on the porch of the Casina de la Silva in a rocking chair, drinking warm Anis del Mono with sugar cane, chasing the flies reluctantly and looking over the square at the volcano in a distance, which crest was covered with snow - Quauhnahuac. The doctor and the drunk former British consul had gone two hours ago, taking the tennis racquets with them. So, a boring afternoon is to be expected.
Suddenly, around the corner, Jovan appeared, with his hair in a mess and all in rags, like usual, and exclaimed:
- Ego vox clamantis in deserto – parate viam Domini qui est per omnia saecula benedictus!
All was quite, only flies could be heard buzzing. The square was looking in the direction of Jovan's hand. From there, a small, hairy dog, with his tongue stuck out, finally appeared. Lazar inhaled deeply, looked at his drink and said, more to himself:
- I wish there were some ice.
The sun went down. Lazar is buttoning his vest, examining the tie knot in front of the mirror and then, using a cane, he slowly walks to Al Aktar, a small bar in Suleyman-Pasha street. The heat presses even in the dark. Lazar sits at his table in a corner, with a glass of arak made of mastic - he drinks it because it reminds him on ouzo - with a thin, Indian cigar between his teeth. Caoutchouc cufflinks incommodes him, like usual, so he unbuttons them in the dark. Like any other evening the restaurant is filled with students, dock workers, barber from across - who is also a Turkish spy, and retired police commissar - cabalist. They sit, they are silent, they are waiting. Something to happen.
- Garn, kam wah... and bring me another...
He died stupidly, in an unnecessary duel.
He was killed by some er-lieutenant Cohen from Czech Budejovice, rabbi's son, who converted to Catholicism and joined the army so that his parents won't make him marry.
Copyright by Dušan Gojkov
Translated from Serbo-Croat by Danijela Jovanovic