George Harrison was a rabbit Krishna
Our city has about three and a half thousand inhabitants. Most of them work in factories, in three shifts. My papa too. Mom not. She stopped in accounting and now she has a pet shop. There are hamsters, guinea pigs, brown rats, gerbils, jerboa, snakes, water turtles, tortoises, tarantulas, fish, parrots and budgies. She also sells granulate sacks for rabbits, cats and dogs there. Also collars and leashes. And grains. I hope that I will never have to work in a day-shift business. When Dad is on night shift, he is not available. When dad isn't at work, he sits in front of the television. If there was no television, the lives of a great many people would be totally empty. But I don't need TV anymore. I have the Beatles.
In our city there are fifteen pubs, a hotel with a fitness center, eight Vietnamese shops, a jeweler, a shop with textiles and shoes, two butcher shops, a pastry shop, a bookstore where you can also borrow videos, a library, a church and two Brothels. The city is living through golden times. Mama says that a lot of Austrians buy from the pet store, which is good. After school I will work for mom. I won't have to work three-shifts and I will definitely be approachable.
I find round sunglasses in the drawer. Lennon glasses. I'm really unlucky that I have such eagle eyes. Because because of them I don't get optical glasses. So I push the black lens out of the Lennon glasses and put the frame on myself. My hair is four inches long. I look in the mirror and blink a little. I shape my eyes into slits like John Lennon has.
Then I'll go out and show myself to the public.
John Lennon has never been to our school. People come to my class and want to look at me. My classmates can't tear their eyes away from me. Even the teachers come to look at me, and the headmaster comes during the long break.
I'm sitting in the bench and with my thin fingers I show everyone the V. Now I am a hippie, and a hippie is called to show the V in all directions and to proclaim peace.
And that's exactly what I do.
Anyone who looks at me, who walks past me, or who glances at me a little, I show the V and say:
Peace brothers and sisters
Peace woman teacher
Everyone laughs about it. I'm famous, and because I've always loved celebrities, that's good for me. The pink buddy calls me John. And soon everyone will say John to me.
I am delighted when I notice that my eyebrows are growing together. John Lennon had that too. I've never liked my crooked nose, but since I've found out that John Lennon also had a crooked nose, I don't care anymore.
It's worse with my braces. I have a stuck one. I'm lying in the chair with my jaw dislocated and the dentist is tightening my nuts with a wrench. It happens every month. Then we go shopping to the Penny Market.
"Let's do everything at once when we're already there," says mom.
Then we go home with a trunk full of food and I have to suffer. I won't actually be able to eat any of this because I have drawn wires that pull my teeth apart and that hurts. I can't chew anything and for a week I just eat soups and semolina.
"Now you have to suffer," says Dad, "but later you will have beautiful teeth, and then you will be happy about it."
Mom once told me that I had a head injury when I was about two years old. I fell off my armchair and got a bruise on my head. The doctors wanted to operate on me. And when the time came, the bruise went back. That was a phenomenon that nobody understood, nobody could explain it. The bruise was getting smaller and smaller and all the specialists shook their heads. It disappeared right in front of her eyes until nothing was to be seen at all. The doctors announced that without a bruise I would no longer be interesting. They told my parents that they should bring me back home, which they did. Mom suspects that this head injury is responsible for my crooked teeth because my teeth are not like the others'. Perhaps it would have been easier for me if I had read somewhere that John Lennon had also worn braces. But John Lennon didn’t have to wear one, he didn’t get a blow on the head like I did, and he didn’t become a freak at pre-pubescent age.
I found the Beatles
With my enthusiasm for the Beatles, I infect a few others in the class. We then fill the magnetic board with keywords, for example:
Give Piece A Chance
Al You Need Is Love
A day in the life
Strawbery Fields Forever and the like.
The magnetic board immediately becomes an attraction similar to mine. The next day I found the Beatles. A fan of ships, trains and of Adolf Hitler, who suffers from ear infections and whose ear is always yellow, is George.
"It comes over Djordj again."
I'm trying to convince George that the real Harrison wasn't a Nazi, but a supporter of the Hare Krishna movement. I even teach him the Krishna mantra. George listens to me and yellow pus runs down his face.
"Do you understand now?"
"Sig hail, Hare Krishna!"
Potato is named ringo. He owns most of the tapes and CDs of Beatles music.
Paul is a computer pro with a blonde afro. He's the only one of us who plays an instrument, the piano. Paul can play Let It Be, and his parents have the Abbey Road LP. As if in a trance, we hear Come Together, I Want You, Here Comes The Sun, Octopus Garden and more. The only thing that doesn't really suit me is Paul's hair color. He even admitted that the blond curly hair doesn't fit that well and has had it dyed black. Now the people from school not only come to look at me and the magnetic board, but also at Paul.
They call him Bubo.
There is a ping-pong table on the concrete sports field next to the school. In a short time it became a cult place. Everyone starts playing ping pong. I'm sitting on a bench and look at an exciting foursome through the empty Lennon glasses frame.
"Servus, little Lennon!"
"Peace, brother!" I greet my yellow buddy.
He sits down next to me and starts scratching a huge scab on his forearm.
“Do you play ping pong?” He asks.
"And do you have a bat?"
The yellow buddy goes silent for a while. He shows me the peeled scab.
“I heard you were looking for a guitar,” he says.
"Yes that's true."
"My sister has one."
"I do not have any. But I'm looking for one. "
"And I need a ping-pong racket."
We agree on an exchange deal. That same evening the yellow buddy rings my bell and brings me the guitar. That's why he gets the bat.
Gradually everything ceases to exist
Terrorists rage in the United States and fly into American trading centers in airplanes. I watch a benefit concert that is held in memory of the deceased, but it's boring. At least I enjoy the appearance of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Mick moves like a puppet.
With a guitar, life is completely different.
I'm starting to write my own songs. Especially on the upper and lower strings.
I recently learned that George Harrison has died. The real. This resulted in a song that I dedicated to him.
The rest of the Beatles have lost another member. Cancer took it away from them. It was funny to learn that Harrison's death, like John Lennon, had been assassinated a few years before Harrison's death. George was walking through his garden when a mentally ill guy jumped out of the bushes and stabbed him a few times with a knife. Allegedly, George watched the killer run over to him and didn't move at all. He waited until he attacked him with the knife and to pass the time he sang the Hare Krishna. So I wrote a song for Harrison. I am pleased. But it's true that it's more about such a sad joy because the song would never have been made if it hadn't been for Harrison's death.
At the main square I meet the yellow friend's sister.
"Apparently you have a new guitar."
"She just stole that asshole from me."
"I gave him the ping-pong bat for it."
"I've already found out."
The yellow friend's sister has big breasts and a small T-shirt.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know that the guitar was yours. "
"Does not matter. I didn't play on it anyway. "
During the day I stop by the school. The yellow buddy sits on a bench and watches his sister play ping-pong. She's playing with my former bat.
I'm in the guitar club. Our physics teacher leads it and it takes place in the workshop of our school. The physics teacher is bald and has red hair cut very short around his ears. He wears glasses, has a small nose and a harelip. He looks like a frog because of his small, greasy double chin. He can't say r and pronounces it like a w.
"Now try to play miw."
“I'm not coming with you, teacher. You're playing too fast. "
"I'm sorry. I'll take it slower. "
In the guitar club I learn the basics of rhythm and the chords E and G.
Otherwise it's embarrassing here and I don't plan to come more than once.
My cousin gives me math tutoring so I don't fail. She is currently teaching me word problems when I notice a yellow songbook on one of her shelves.
"I didn't even know that you were playing too."
“But I don't play anything. The book just lies here. "
"And do you borrow me?"
"OK. But you can't do anything with it. "
"I'll read it."
As soon as I'm home, I jump on my guitar and open the yellow songbook. Between all sorts of nonsense, there is also yesterday. Unfortunately, I only know two chords, and Yesterday is as many as a dime a dozen. No problem. That's shit anyway. If only there would be Help. Help is really great. Help is frenzy, manifesto, slogan; Help is an outcry. But there is no Help in the yellow songbook. There is Adresát neznámý, addressee unknown, by Karel Gott. I don't have to learn songs. I'll only use the yellow songbook to learn chords. So far I've made up my own chords. I enjoy it when I just hit the guitar like that. When I keep repeating two tones and falling into a trance. Let go of the environment. Gradually everything ceases to exist. The bed I'm sitting on, the posters on the walls, the walls, gradually my whole room, the house and the city are disappearing.
In the Czech lesson we make comparisons. In order to occupy myself somehow, I scratch the words Come As You Are on the bank. I think of Kurt Cobain and the hypnotic sound of that song.
“And now try to compare myself to something,” the Czech teacher urges us. Our heads are heavy because we know so much and we have to support them. With absent eyes we gaze at the teacher and count the minutes and seconds until the bell rings.
"For example you, Denisa."
"Me?" Beeps Denisa, red to the hairline.
"Yes. Look at me and try to compare myself to something. "
Denisa is embarrassed.
“Well, for example my eyes. How are you? "
"Her eyes are like two wells," Denisa stammered out.
“Excellent!” She praises the teacher and Denisa breathes a sigh of relief.
"Now you, Tomáš."
"Your costume is blue like the sea."
Standa's hand shoots up at the fluorescent tubes.
"They have earrings like two corals."
“Me!” Shouts Standa. The teacher ignores him.
"You are wise as an owl."
“Me, here, here!” Shouts Standa.
The teacher gives in to Standa's insistence and takes him on.
"You sit there like a pile of shit!"
Despite Standa's obvious retardation, there are undoubtedly signs of ingenuity in his behavior here and there. Much like Pepa Josef, Standa is obese and regularly beaten up for its simplicity. He comes from a rural family, so he has the strength of an ox. Unfortunately, he is unable to use them effectively against these aggressors who are constantly circling around him and waiting for a suitable moment in which they can then pounce on poor Standa and thrash him. Once the six of them attacked him. They hung around his neck and Standa dragged them through the corridor and muttered non-stop: "Stop that, stop that ..." Someone even injected a few charges of tear gas into his eyes. That would have blown a normal person. Standa just rubbed her eyes and said: "What is that, but that burns ..."
I saw Standa howl once. He was sitting there alone, with his back to the other children, who were laughing at him and shouting something to him. I was surprised that even people like Standa can cry tears without any tear gas.
Standa is one of those. At home on the farm he drives the tractor and mucks up the cowshed.
His hands are always dirty from the earth.
He manages to smoke a chick in just three pulls.
I start a band with the red and blue buddies, we call them withdrawal symptoms. For rehearsals we meet in the hut at Red. We build drums from plastic buckets and basins from pieces of sheet metal. The red buddy gets a guitar. It has two strings. None of us even think of buying new ones or maybe replacing the guitar. We don't want to play folk music. The blue buddy sits behind the drums and I sing. I've long since shed my Lennon image and turned into a diabolical mix of Kurt Cobain and Iggy Pop. Our songs are created through improvisation and we record them right away because otherwise we would forget them. I sing into a small tape recorder. I have to hold it very close to my mouth because otherwise you wouldn't be able to hear me at all through the strong tin thunder. Our biggest hit is the song I have no satisfaction:
And nothing happens!
There are other hits too. For example the hymn I have to hit myself, or shitty people on the bus. This is what the red buddy produced in his frustration; he has to sit in this moving box every day that takes him to vocational school.
The bus environment has a strong effect on him:
When I get on the bus in the morning
I want to throw up what I see there
Are disgusting people who chat
About their experiences from yesterday
Shitty people on the bus!
The red pal's guitar sounds different every time you rehearse. The blue one often has to change his drum kit. He found out that the sticks couldn't take anything, so he started drumming with hammers.
At rehearsals we smoke my brother's weed. I pick the buds from a half-forgotten plant in our garden. It has frozen several times. It's not green, it's brown.
We call her the brown one.
On the run
I open my eyes about half an hour before my alarm goes off. I can hear Papa downstairs, he's getting ready for the morning shift. I crawl out of bed, clear all school supplies out of the backpack and put them on a shelf. I'm looking for the clothes I'll need out of the closet. The rest of the space in my rucksack is filled with books.
I'll take the guitar with me too, that's clear.
I borrowed it from my uncle. A Gibson from the seventy-two year. The price at that time can still be seen on the yellowed plate. 349 Czechoslovak crowns.
I turn off the alarm clock, now it is no longer necessary for it to ring.
I sit on the bed and wait. I hear papa closing his jacket. Then the creak of the apartment door.
Dad is gone.
I pack my backpack and guitar, go down the stairs and head for the kitchen.There are breads in the refrigerator that Mama prepared for me for school. They still fit in the crammed rucksack. As always, the money for the bus is in the same place. I put it in my pocket. Then I rummage around in my mom's wallet. I'll take out three hundred and a little change. In the anteroom I slip on my jacket and tie my shoes.
I check the breast pocket.
The envelope with the letter is in its place.
Outside there is light snow. I look at the thermometer. It shows five degrees below zero. I lock and put the envelope in the mailbox.
I'm not going to the bus station this time. I'm going out of town, where the residents of the local prefabricated buildings have their gardens and huts.
One of them will be my temporary home. Bluebeard gave me the keys.
"My parents don't go there over the winter," he told me.
In addition to Bluebeard, the pink friend is also in on the action.
"We'll bring you something to eat," she promised me.
“Don't you want to reconsider that?” She asked.
I shook my head and she hugged me.
"You might be a sausage." She smiled at that.
Then I put out my hand and Bluebeard gave me the key.
It's a shame I don't have a headlamp. There is no public lighting in this area. The snow crunches under my soles and sometimes a frozen puddle cracks. When I finally get to the hut, it is already getting light. I didn't meet anyone on the way. In the distance I can see the main street and the lights of the cars speeding across it in both directions.
I unlock the hut.
It's tiny, about ten square meters. There are two rooms. I know my way around here, it's not my first time here.
There is a lamp next to the bed and a flashlight is on one of the shelves. I turn on the lamp and sit down. Then I take a box of Start out of my pocket and light one. I watch my backpack and the guitar. It's six in the morning. Dad just started chopping. Mama gets up at eight. Before she opens the shop, she takes the dog for a walk. She'll look in the mailbox and find my letter.
All day long I read and strum the guitar. I'm rehearsing a few songs that I've written. I sing softly, although most of the songs are supposed to be screaming correctly. But I'm not going to rehearse that here. Not that anyone else can hear me.
At about two-thirty in the afternoon, the pink and blue beards arrive. Immediately I start asking her if there's anything going on in town. They both shake their heads. So far they haven't heard anything.
“Bring the sausages here,” says Bluebeard.
The pink buddy gives me some tea bags and some sugar. Plus two chips. They stay there a little longer and promise that they will come back tomorrow at the same time and bring me something.
But shortly afterwards they are back. Apparently they met my mom. She asked if they didn't know something about me. The pink woman says that mom was close to tears.
“Go, she's been crying,” says Bluebeard.
"She did not."
“She had red eyes. She probably cried before that. But when she talked to us, she didn't cry. "
"Are you sure about that, yes?"
"Well, I will probably know what I saw ..."
I lie in bed and watch the yellowed curtain in the window. I think about mom. I imagine how she goes from one young person to another and asks everyone if they haven't seen me by chance.
In the evening I light myself up with a flashlight to read. I decided not to use the lamp. I've wrapped myself in blankets. There's no electric radiator here so I'm shivering from the cold.
I close the book.
Then I get up and go to the window.
My view is of the main street, from which a narrow path leads here. There is snow there, but you could get here by car without any problems.
Every time I see the lights of the cars slowing down at the junction, my heart rate beats faster. But nobody goes here. I wonder if there might be some police cars among the cars. You should have already started looking. How many are there? I still feel like smoking, but the chicks are disappearing quickly. I have to start saving. The two won't come until tomorrow afternoon, and who knows if they'll even have Tschick with them. It's going to be difficult with tobacco. Sooner or later I can stop smoking. Where will I get the money for it from? I have almost five hundred with me. Tomorrow I'll give them something, they should buy me a stick of it. Yes, of course, a pole. And then they'll stay here with me.
Yes, that's what it would look like.
I can't go into town. Everyone knows each other here. Maybe the whole city already knows that I'm missing.
I remember the words I used in the suicide note. Especially the last. The text ends with the words: love each other.
That's such a message. I underlined the sentence twice. He seems really strong to me. I wrote that nicely. I turned out the whole letter very well. But above all this one sentence.
Mum and Dad were sure to be moved by it too.
I look out the window onto the main street. I hold the burning cigarette in my half-closed hand so that someone at this speed of a hundred kilometers per hour doesn't accidentally notice the little red light in the window.
What if mum and dad are standing by the window right now? Nice side by side. They put an arm around each other's shoulders and think of my last words. You look at the illuminated nocturnal street, because it is quite possible that at the end of it, as if out of nowhere, a lonely figure with a backpack on his back and a guitar in his hands emerges from the darkness.
The next day the same: books, guitar, Tschick, books, Tschick, Tschick. The tea bags and sausages lie untouched on the table. The bottom of the mason jar is covered with ash and cigarette butts. Right now I'm crouching under the covers and staring into space ...
I can think of a song. I write the individual words and sentences on a piece of paper. The whole thing is about me and my escape: I'm sitting in the hut in the middle of a snowy landscape. Every night a strange creature hangs around the area. I don't know what she looks like because every time I hear her quiet demeanor, I crawl under the covers and prefer to hold my breath. Actually, I'm not sure if it's really some terrible creature, or just a person who is wandering around. And that is exactly what the text is supposed to capture. Uncertainty, restlessness, anxiety and who knows what else ... The music should be calm and unclear ... can music be unclear?
The pink and blue beards come in the afternoon. Actually, I wanted to play them the torso of my new song, but then I prefer to listen to what the pink woman is saying. The police were at school and they asked about me. You talked to the pink buddy, Bluebeard, and a few others.
"And what did you tell them?"
"Me nothing," replies Bluebeard, "I said that I don't know where you could be."
I look at the pink buddy. She didn't say anything to the policemen either. In return, she is now recommending that I go back home.
"I can't," I say.
"That simply does not work."
“But what are you going to do?” Asks Bluebeard, “you can stay here until spring at the most. And then what?"
"I'm going away and looking for a job somewhere," I say, not very convincingly.
The pink woman asks Bluebeard to go outside for a moment. He grudgingly agrees. He puts on his cap and leaves.
The pink friend offends me. She says I have to go home and fix everything.
"I can't go back on that," I say.
"Then at least stop."
The door opens and Bluebeard looks into the hut.
"Give me a chick if I have to stand outside," he calls out to us. I watch the pink buddy knees. They are trembling and their hand is cold as ice.
Nobody stopped me on the way home. I had the hood on and watched over police cars. I didn't even meet one.
The house is empty.
I'm going to my parents' bedroom. The blankets are laid out, the alarm clocks are ticking on the bedside tables.
Then I go to my room.
I throw myself on the bed and hide under the covers.
I hear them.
You are out.
I get up, walk over to the stairwell and listen. My parents inform the police that I will be back. So you can stop the manhunt. One of the cops says something like that everything turned out well. Dad adds something, but I don't hear that.
I'll have to go to the ward so they can write a report with me.
In the evening mom brings me a plate with dinner in my room. I just lift my head slightly from the pillow. Mama puts the plate on the table and stands over me in silence. I know that even though I am lying face to the wall.
"Dinner is on the table."
"Thank you," I say.
“Don't you want to come down later? We watch TV. "
"Maybe I'll come."
"Okay. We're down. "
In the middle of the night I leave my room and go down the stairs. I go quietly to the bedroom. The door is open. I look carefully into it.
My parents' bed is empty except for two wrinkled blankets.
Two rigid figures stand at the window and look at the illuminated nocturnal street.
They are far apart. Papa is wearing pajamas, Mama is wearing a nightgown. I have no idea where they are looking.
There's nothing there!
I get insecure. I look at the two figures, my parents, and I dread that they will now turn around and look into my face.
I step back with horror and wait for nothing. I run off and into my room.
"If you ever have any problem, you have to tell us about it," instructs me Dad.
My escape bothered him. And mom too. My brother said that my father went down on his knees when he read my suicide note. I'm sorry for you. Mom and dad. I think it's a shame that they have a son like me. Mom and Dad would be happy if I confided in them. I know they care about me. But I won't confide in anyone. There isn't even someone. I am okay.
Now it is quite clear that I will not become a cook or a waiter. I agreed with my parents that I wouldn't finish this school and start somewhere else from September. There's no point in tormenting yourself unnecessarily.
Ten horses won't get me after Oxford, and by the end of the school year I'll be in sick with my back. I go to rehabilitation regularly. In addition to gymnastics exercises, my recovery program also consists of two procedures:
I'm lying on a lounger with devices around them that beep, and I feel like I'm in a horror by Cronenberg. The silent nurse puts white, damp pillows on my bare back, through which she gives me electric shocks. They have different levels of intensity.
Sometimes I try how much I can take.
A bubble bath awaits me after the electric shocks. I undress and get into a tub full of hot water.
"We don't have to do an x-ray of your spine," laughs the doctor, "I haven't seen a beanstalk for a long time."
Then she turns a cog, somewhere below me it roars properly and it starts: Thousands of bubbles lift my body, massage my non-existent back muscles, burst near my ears and tickle my limp balls.
After all that, I can go home. Most of the time I stop to save. If I don't have a chick, I collect the stubs at the bus stop.
Translated from the Czech by Julia Miesenböck
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