(scroll below for links to other stories in this series)
Slava is knocked off the sidewalk by the strand of hair she brushes from her eyes, by the spark off her teeth, by the dimple, by the bare shoulders, by the endless long legs, by the red dress with the shoulder strap he wants to bite through to see it fall, fall.
He’s been struck by a bolt of lightning, again. No, can’t be again. He knows he’s never been zapped by such electricity. This goddess who’s sizzled the blood out of him is not similar to any past experience. His mouth is parched and the tongue sticks, incapable of forming words. She is disappearing through the store entrance and Slava knows he’ll never see her again and he bellows, “Slečna, krasavica,” and by god she turns. She takes on the ownership of “Ravishing Beauty”.
Slava has seen a dress like that on the covers of the kiosk fashion magazines. The new supermodel called Twiggy wears it, parading around London or New York or Paris but Ravishing Beauty is only steps away as he bounces; she’s smiling, waiting for the pitch.
The burlap string bag digs into his palms, numbing his fingers; he knows rabbit blood blotches are still covering them and he itches. Can he use four freshly-skinned rabbits as an offering, as a unique, irresistible come-on? As long as you are funny, as long as you keep them guessing, you have a chance. “Tea. Espresso. Cream custard,” he begins. “I have a secret to share with you, state secret actually, you never heard anything like it, give me a few minutes, ten minutes; you won’t be sorry. Sit with me for a few winks.”
Her nose crinkles; her eyes laugh. “Half an hour is all I have for lunch. I need to buy a lipstick. I’ll give you ten in the sweet shoppe.”
They are six blocks from the Danube but all his senses are razor-sharp and he smells it, hears the squawking gulls. He’s about to put his arm around her but the bag is so heavy; blood is dripping on the sidewalk and she’s half a step ahead, walking towards Slovak National Theater.
“I’m Slava,” he says, “like in the song, Slava Vlasti Vyletu, you know, Hooray, Hooray, Our Trip Was Joyful and We’re Home Again, that’s what they call me, Slava, Hooray, because I bring joy to everyone. And now I’ll share it with you. Joy.”
Her laugh tinkles. “You’re funny,” she says and Slava notices a soft twang in her speech. “I’m Dorota. In Moravia, where I grew up with my granny, they called me Dorta, like a Birthday Cake. So you’re a Hooray Boy and I’m a Birthday Cake and over sweets and tea you’re going to tell me a state secret.”
“Spare a few coins for an unfortunate one,” the hunchback outside the cukraren rasps, and Slava throws her a three-crown coin. “Many blessings upon you, young gentleman,” she croaks as Slava makes the door chime. It’s a day worthy of his name. A Hooray Day.
published 3 March 2013
click below for more stories in this series:
• Salty Tears (#2)
• Sauerkraut (#3)