One who shall die - greets you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Handful of Rags


The cover is done! (All right, I admit - almost :-)). But all stories are translated and it is matter of week or two before I publish my first short story collection. I'm thrilled. A little. :-) 

So, to celebrate that in advance, I present you, dear readers, one story from collection. It's A Handful of Rags, a short story that won Zlatko Tomičić prize for the best short story back in 2006.

Hope you'll enjoy it.

Here you go people: A Handful of Rags!

His jaw was clenched. His nostrils were flared. His eyes were devouring the monitor. There were beads of sweat on his forehead. His left hand was jerking rhythmically. He timed his climax for when the first squirt hit the garter belt and the stocking, but he missed. He squinted at the scene he had missed through half-closed eyes.

“Uuugh!” He was dizzy from the relief. His head hung. The sweat above his eyebrows dripped down his eyelid. The back of his chair squeaked.

Alt + F4 erased the window on his screen. The movie now seemed stupid to him.

***

“Hey, do you know that Eiffel invented the garter belt?”

“Bullshit!”



“No, really! I read it somewhere. His wife complained about her stockings constantly falling off so he decided to solve her problem.”

“Was that before or after he built the tower?”

“I have no idea. The text I read wasn’t about towers.”

They laughed.

“Why don’t you suggest that Maya buy some garter belts and stockings?”

“Are you insane!? Do you know what she’d say to me?”

“What?”

“I shit in your stocking!”

Laughter.

“No, really. Ask her. What? If that turns you on so much…”

“Yea right! She’d think I was some sort of maniac.”

***

He was drawing lines in the sand with his heel. His forehead revealed worry. The cheerful Hey! made him look up. Maya’s smile made him smile.

“Hi!” he replied, but there was no joy in his eyes. Their lips met softly.

“Are you okay?” she asked him right away.

“Yea,” he smiled a bigger smile to confirm that he was in a good mood. “Why?”

“You look a bit strange. You were staring at the ground…”

“No, no!” he interrupted her. “Everything’s good! What’s up with you?”

“Ugh! I almost went nuts in class today. I wanted to tell that cow in pantology to go to hell!”

“Why? What happened?”

“She was bullshitting too much! She explained to us that we have to attend classes and that we have no right to complain about the fact that they take attendance like they used to in primary school because the government finances our university education and that it’s our responsibility to attend lectures. And that when we pay for our education ourselves, then we’ll be allowed to come and go as we please, but for the time being, while the government is paying for our education, we have to attend lectures! And I thought, “Who finances this goddamn government and country? Who, Miss Know-it-all? Who? My mom and my dad who pay taxes, goddammit! That’s who! My parents work their asses off so that you can do your so-called scientific work and get paid! So don’t give me shit about the government paying for my education and having to attend classes!” I know what she’s afraid of. She’s shitting her pants because her course and her classes suck! That’s what she’s worried about! If she didn’t take attendance, no one would come to her lectures and then people would wonder what the point of her course even was. That’s what she’s worried about! Not about the government, the state, moral responsibility, paying for one’s education and shit like that. It’s her scientific ass that’s on the line! That’s what it is! Get it? I hate shit like that!”

“And? Did you tell her that?”

“No,” she put her hair behind her ear. “I thought about it, but didn’t…I kept my mouth shut like the rest of them.” The tone of her voice resembled a white flag.

“Probably better that you didn’t annoy her. You’d only have issues with her later.”

She dug out her cigarettes and lighter from her knitted backpack.

“Give me one, too.”

Yellow plastic. A flame. Smoke. He tapped his thumb on the filter and ashed his cigarette although there was nothing to ash.

“You know, I’ve been thinking…”

She raised her eyebrow. “What have you been thinking?”

“How long have we been together now?” he blurted out. “Two years?”

She looked at him. “And two months almost. Why do you ask?”

“Just because…”

“Is something wrong?” Her body quivered.

“No, no…”

“What’s the problem?”

“There’s no problem…” He took a drag of his smoke.

“Victor! What is it?”

He scratched his head.

“Are you happy with our sex life?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you find it kind of boring?”

“Boring?”

“Wouldn’t you like to change something about it, maybe…”

“No. Would you?” She started shaking her leg.

“I don’t know…”

“Listen to me carefully!” She blew out the smoke and tossed her cigarette. “If you’re going to suggest something lame like group sex, I’m going to kick your ass1”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“Well, what did you mean?”

“I just thought that you could maybe, here and there, put on some sexier clothes, you know?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know… Well…” he pressed his lips together.

“Spit it out, Victor!”

“Stockings and a garter belt, you know?” He took a drag of his cigarette and waited for the verdict.

“You’re a total moron, you know that? I thought ‘who knows what he’s going to say now,’ but all you want is for me to wear some stockings and a garter belt. I can’t believe it!” She started laughing.

He felt like someone had poured pickle juice all over him.

“I’m such an idiot! That’s what I get for listening to Rogi!” he thought. “I should’ve kept my mouth shut and continued watching porn at home…”

“Do you know how much that stuff costs?”

“How much?”

“Too much for my student income. But…” she was having fun, “if you want me to wear them, then buy them for me.”

“You’d wear them if I bought them?” he said happily.

“Yes.”

Victor’s happiness was at an all-time high. It was the best day of his life.

***

“These garters and stockings are expensive! Fuck!” stated Victor.

“Really?”

“40 euro!”

“Listen, the pleasures in life are expensive if you have to pay for them,” Rogi said wisely.

Yea, just you philosophize! What do you care?”

They watched the ducks under the bridge.

“So? When are you going shopping?”

“Yea, make fun… Sure!”

“I’m serious!”

“I don’t know. I thought I was going to have an issue with getting the money, but now that I’ve gotten it… Yesterday I went to all the stores in the center of town and window shopped.”

“Why didn’t you go in?”

“I don’t know!”

“What the fuck’s wrong with you?”

“I’m embarrassed, fuck!”

“What are you embarrassed about? To go in and buy some garters?”

“Yea…”

“You’re insane! Just go into one of the fucking shops and buy them!”

“But I’m embarrassed. Why don’t you go?” he pleaded.

“I’m not buying fucking garters for you! Go buy them yourself if you like them so much!”

“You’re such a dick!” he said to his buddy.

“Go fuck yourself!”

***

He waited for all the people to leave the store and quickly walked in. He felt all eyes on him. The sales lady avoided small talk.

“How can I help you?”

“Well… I’d like to buy some… Umm… Garters and stockings,” he said in a shaky voice, as though he was lacking air.

“What kind?”

“Black ones,” he exhaled.

“We have a few different models. Let me show you…”

“That won’t be necessary! Just give me those on the mannequin.”

“What size?”

He gawked.

“What size?” asked the sales lady again.

His ears went red.

“Just a second.”

He walked out of the store.

“What size are you?” he drooled into his cell phone.

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean what do I mean? The garter belt! Fuck!”

“Why are you yelling at me?”

“Why are you fucking with me!?”

“I’m not fucking with you! What’s wrong with you? Are you nuts?”

He inhaled.

“Okay, okay… Please just tell me what size garter belt you wear.”

“Are you buying me a garter?”

He could hear her smiling over the phone.

“No. I’m buying bananas. Don’t tease me now. I’m next in line.”

She giggled. He felt sick to his stomach.

***
She walked in smiling. If he could have noticed, he would have seen that she was slightly embarrassed. She wore a démodé bathrobe and walked across the room to the closet door, to the mirror. She stood there, her legs slightly apart. She moved her hips slightly, leaning from one leg to the other. Victor licked his dry lips, biting his lower lip. His heart was racing. She untied the knot on her bathrobe and opened it up.

“That’s what I’m talking about!!!” he thought. He fixed his eyes on the lace and the nylon. Everything else seemed to cease to exist. His heartbeat beat the world record.

Victor took a deep breath. He seemed to have inhaled all the air in the room.

His fascination interested Maya and she again leaned on one leg, then the other, watching his stare, which meandered like a hypnotized cobra. She felt the excitement. Her breathing became heavier. She put one hip forward seductively. Victor watched her. She felt warmth on her lower stomach. She let the robe fall to the floor.

Victor caught a glance of himself in the mirror.

It wasn’t him. Someone else was watching him through his eyes. Someone that looked very much like him, but was totally unfamiliar to him. The Victor he knew never looked like this. Obsessed, confused, and distorted. He looked at Maya, then at the garter, then at Maya again, then at himself. The floor creaked under his weight.

“What… What is it?” she asked insecurely.

“Nothing,” he replied as he stood behind her.

He fiddled with the clasps and finally took off the garter and the stockings. She stood there, confused.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“No,” he replied as he threw the handful of rags into the garbage.

Translated by Petra Pintarić
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