(scroll below for links to other stories in this series)
Dorota is surly on their return from the party, and still in the doorway Slava rips off that magenta Twiggy dress, the frilly Viennese bra and throbs. Spent, he slips into a nightmare in which Dorota’s perky breasts are squished by a traditional Slovak carved bowl, as she says, “Please, Slava, can I have more?” She is surrounded by a throng of other naked nymphs. Slava groans as she wakes him, tight-lipped, telling him that she cannot face him in the morning. Ever since the pregnancy scare and her sob spectacle at the Koliba party, she’s been bouncing him around like a basketball and the only reason he hasn’t moved on is that she is Ravishing Beauty. He’s under a spell: when she cut herself in the kitchen a drop of blood dripped on his hand and immediately absorbed into his skin without a trace. He wiggles into his Tuzex jeans; his hand brushes against Dorota’s basket of decorated Easter eggs. He palms one, robin’s blue, and walks bare-chested into an April shower.
“In anger always keep your trap shut,” his father counseled many years ago. “Acid cannot be unsaid and it corrodes.” Slava considers his father a guru on the subject - he’s been married four times.
When he wakes in his room, eyes stinging, for the beginning of rehearsals, he wishes he’d bought some dexies off Duro so he can soar. Šturova Street, as he veers out of the way of a reeking garbage truck, is ramshackle and rough in the driving rain. He’s been cast as Fagin - a career-maker role in a serious theater, not a student production. The director apprenticed for a year in the West End and has brought revolutionary ideas to Bratislava theater. His vision of Oliver Twist is a psychedelic class struggle, showing the decadence of the West and the siren call of hallucinogens.
Slava pushes against the theater door but something heavy is holding it in place. Using all his weight he slides it enough to slip through a crack. Three waist-high wooden barrels of sauerkraut are pushed aside; an acrid puddle of brine reflects the spotlight. The director, Vroňa, strokes his rusty beard with his left, emphasizing his yelling with his right. “In a Slovak Oliver Twist we don’t encounter porridge, for god’s sakes, but sauerkraut. And because we are in 1968, not 1868, we’re surrounded by acid and pot fumes.”
The stage risers are splashed with orange paint. Everyone in the cast is putting on strings of beads. Flowery blouses and tie-dyed T-shirts litter the stage. Vroňa snatches the top one, peace symbol on the front, throws it at Slava. “Fagin, finally. As you are feeling Fagin coursing through your blood stream, I want you to assimilate sauerkraut into your characterization. It’s crucial.”
Slava drops the blue Easter egg he stole from Dorota’s dresser and steps on it. He’ll have no time to consider her today: it’ll all be sauerkraut.
published 17 March 201
click below for more stories in this series:
• Sweets Dreams (#1)
• Salty Tears (#2)