It was a pale blue Friday morning in the new center of Prague, and Michael Adamov was busy packing his suitcase and wrestling a few lines by the noble prize winner: Computer and charger and 7 pair of underwear… A boy’s transformation into a Poet, Money, shirts, computer, present, the poet is transformed once more, I have to write it down…. Becomes the shrub on which he slept, present for mother, when he loved beauty till he wept. Every poet has a different ache in his body. Before he started to translate from Czech, before he knew this country shall be his home and his prison, he tried to translate from English. Edgar Allen Poe was a headache, Emily Dickinson was a toothache, but the publishing houses would rather give their translation works to older poets, so he had to withdraw to Polish and Czech, and Russian, where the payment was a bit higher, but the translation works were scarce.
Still, through a wise choice of projects and a publishing house that was willing to fight over every manuscript that he chose, the fact the Takayasu arthritis, a rare blood sickness that mostly affects women, made him a beastly looking person and drove him away from Mediterranean climates, somewhat bearable, because it helped him to consolidate. He didn’t leave the house much, a tiny room that was built before world war one, to the park next to Karl bridge perhaps when he was sad and to the old city when he was too happy, but now it was summertime, and every descent settler of Prague would prefer to leave it and go spend some time in the country and to leave the city for the tourists and merchants, but he didn’t have the money or the time, and then the phone call came.
He was just during his session of four hours on translation eating a 150 kr. Pizza, when a local Jew loving publisher, who published most of the most important books in Hebrew modern literature and was a close friend call him to say that the ministry of culture was so impressed by the volume and quality of the books that Adamov translated that he wants him to fly to the Czech embassy in Tel-Aviv to get a special reward, a certificate and some money that wouldn’t cover his bills or pay the apartment fees but was something that would enable him to see his family after more than a year of Skype talks and loneliness in Prague.
He didn’t want to take a cab, but he was so handicapped there was no other way for him to get to the plane with all his belongings on time. Sure, there were the minivans to the airport, but he had an hart time fitting in and that is why even if it was hard on him, financially and morally to call a cab that he did so, and now the driver is calling him from downstairs.
The cab looked exactly like In porn films where young women a seduced to undress and to have sex with the drivers. Prague’s taxi drivers are notoriously known for being cheaters, but there was something very innocent about this driver who was waiting for him outside dashing his Skoda with a clean cloth. The moment the drives saw him, he rushed to take the baggage from his hands, and that allowed Adamov to rest for a while on his cane.
“Why are you cleaning your car so hard? Asked Adamov, you have the whole day ahead of you.”
“Not me, no.” Answered the cab driver I’m actually from Kutna Hora”. Kutna Hora is a small town roughly around 70 kilometers from Prague. All of the great builders who built cathedrals in Prague, but also in Kutna Hora, but what made the city famous is a church completely built out of human bones, that were collected in its graveyard for centuries, because some sand was brought there from the holy land. “Not enough work in Kutna Hora?” asked Adamov joyfully
“Never enough work in Kutna Hora, answered the driver.
“Not even with the tourists?”
“They come by train and take the bus, or walk” answer the driver in sorrow.
“So why won’t you move to Prague? Living here isn’t so hard”.
“What can I say? It’s our fatherland.”
Adamov knew something about fatherland he had three, saint Petersburg, where he came from, Israel, the Jewish land, and Prague who was for the time being his linguistic fatherland where books were sold in a cycle of nearly 7 billion Kr. Per year, which are roughly around 300 million dollars with a state of but ten million inhabitants 300 million? His line of thought was caught by the driver asking “Are you set?”
“Let’s go, ” said Adamov.
They started driving, leaving the decorated city behind them and moving towards the industrial suburbia, when Adamov remembered suddenly that he left his wallet at home. He went in and while looking the phone rang. It seemed that it was ringing endlessly. Adamov could not think straight, so he answered
Adamov should have known better, but he was afraid that this is some message in regard to his trip abroad. That was his landlord “Adamov!!! Where is my money?! You haven’t paid in three months and now another check has returned!”
Normally this was a solvable problem, he tried to promise his landlord that he would deal with this in a week, the moment he returns from the ceremony. He just has to talk to the social security in Israel, who stopped paying his allowance when they saw that he isn’t returning to Israel anymore, someone from his old friends would probably be able to help him, if he could just have the time –
The landlord refused to hear and became more and more furious, Adamov’s blood pressure rose, he started yelling in broken Czech, and suddenly Adamov fainted.
He didn’t know how long he was out, but when he woke up, it was already 10 am, his flight is supposed to be at noon and his cab was nowhere to be seen. He tried to call the cab company and got screamed at, but in the end they have admitted that the cab driver already left Prague, and that the cab driver won’t answer his phone or radio and won’t be back by Monday. “Why didn’t he leave my belongings?” asked Adamov.
“He wanted to make sure that you pay”.
Pay. He is already paying
Adamov was close to fainting again, and be called his mother and asked her what to do. Normally he would have had a copy of his passport on his neck, but since he felt so save he left it in the taxi. His mother screamed at him, and told him to dash to the Israeli embassy, and she would take care of everything from her side, including delaying his flight to later that day. It would probably be very late, but they will manage somehow to pick him up, to their small cocked up apartment in the outskirts of Tel Aviv.
The wallet held no real certificate of him, just 500 Kr and a library card, but the ambassador must know him, they used his services in the last book affair in Prague!
The embassy, as he once learned in the hard way, works until 12 pm. Adamov needed a new passport or at the very least a lessee fair, and he needed it fast, before the Shabbat would come and he would have no one to talk to. Natasha, one of his friends and colleagues (who are we kidding? His only friend in Prague) drove him to the embassy. He passed through the gate quickly because he had nothing on him, only to discover that the embassy was on some sort of Italian strike: the young and pretty clerk (brown eyes, long lashes) told him that right now, only “humanitarian cases” are being dealt with. Adamov said that there is no more humanitarian case then his. An hour passed and two with Adamov hoping and hating and waiting, thinking he wouldn’t have been in this mess if the state would have recognized him as one of her sons. The clerk was OK, she brought him a tuna sandwich that tasted like home, and was sympathetic to his needs, and adamov was starting to think about his options, including asking for sanctuary like the hunchback of Notre dame, but he thought that at least he has his apartment and Natasha, and even if he won’t get his new passport, at the very least he will be able to survive for three days. He was a bit worried about his computer, but he was thinking that maybe this break from his work is something that he needed.
Little did he know that the ambassador, reading his application thought this might be the case that would prove how important his job is and would deny his request.
Adamov called the Czech ministry of culture, the ceremony was proposed for a week, until Adamov would be able, hopefully to solve his problems, and get his passport back
He strolled home, feeling sorry for himself, looking at all of the happy tourists without a care in the world, hoping to hear some Hebrew, and talk about his trouble, and even though he was sort of cash, he bought a sausage with some cabbage, and went on the subway to his apartment.
The key did not fit the lock.
Just when Adamov thought that nothing else can go wrong, he was unable to get into his tiny apartment, and cried this day over. He called his landlord to discover that he changed the lock and won’t let him in until he pays six months’ rent. It was no use fighting over it, he was a stranger in a strange land.
With a dying cell phone, 500 Kr. And only the clothes on his skin, and Natasha is hosting her father and mother in law and could not help him financially, the best way to survive this seemed to be sitting in a 24-7 café at night, and sleeping by day at the park. His only worry was that he will lose his dignity and human form, so he bought in the close supermarket shaving cream, a dispensable razor blade, au de toilette, and a couple of underwear. This fight on his human figure cost him 200 Kr.
Adamov was sitting on a bench in the park. A short while ago a band of classical musicians was playing Beatles songs for cash. On Kral Bridge they were selling artifacts and painters, some good, some horrible were painting the tourists for cash. Adamov never learned how to play beyond the note C, he always said that he is a specialist in playing on peoples nerves, not to play them a lullaby, but right now it seemed that any ability to play something would have put him in a far better position. But what if the cops would come? Being arrested without your papers is a problem. Maybe he should file a complaint? But what would he say in his complaint? I was an idiot? Can he really state that his belongings were stolen?
This is all a big misunderstanding and anything that he would do right now will only make things worse. If only someone would open his house and his heart for him right now – he is in a very delicate situation, without food, or drugs of clothes…
He can get arrested, to steal something, to break a window to eat a fine meal and to say that he can’t pay like in one of Henry’s stories, but then they can take his reward, for being a criminal, even worse, they may never give him citizenship here. He can hospitalize himself, but will he be able to pay the bills later?
He can order a room in a cheap motel, or hire a car or a van, with the promise that he would pay at the beginning of the week, but for that you need to identify yourself to the clerk, and he had no ID, and it seemed idiotic to do the whole proses for something that would be solved on Monday. It’s an idiotic situation. In Hebrew one would call it a Kafaian Situation. Funny it happened to him in Prague. If one wants to define this sort of situation in three words, it’s being out of [Place, and he definitely was out of place. Adamov thinks, you have such a big brain and something so small you can shatter all of your life. What will you do? Beg for mercy?
Then he remembered: I’m a Jew and an Israeli. One of them would probably help me.
The sun was beginning to set when he started walking over Karl’s bridge to the Jewish quarter. He once thought this is one of the most beautiful sites that Prague has to offer for it’s cticens and visitors, but now he was in a hurry, and he couldn’t walk very fast, and he didn’t want to catch a cab or he would subway over there, because he remembered that in his first days in Prauge he was nearly fined for a sum worth 100 dollars for not buying the right transportation ticket, and he wanted so spend as less as plausible, the sun during that time was stunning with beauty and with each and every step he took, he couldn’t help the think about jesus.
It all began when he started to think which prayers did he know in Hebrew. In Russia, where he came from, it was not allowed formally to believe in god and all that he could remember there were tiny fractures of prier from his grandmother who was short and traditionally dressed and knew how to make the best dishes out of the few ingredients they received in long lines in the end of each day.
When she died, he tried to make sense out of the prayer for the dead, the Kaddish, that different versions of it, as he was told. He found no sense in those Aramaic words, but the need to learn, and to learn more, forced him to read the Torah, the newspapers, the poetry and prose. It didn’t take long for the dreams to come, instead of talking in Russian, he was dreaming in Hebrew, which was frightening because he didn’t understand a word in the beginning but pretty soon he knew Hebrew better than the Israelis themselves which caused a different problem because half the time they didn’t know what he was talking about.
People were crossing his path, and none of them really cared about him, young people, old people with summer clothes in suits and briefcases, here and there people stood with leaflets and tried to persuade him to eat in restaurants, to hear music, to see the opera or the black theater, but he refused. He knew that his life was hanging on a thread, and that thread was his brain and his mental ability. This is what kept him alive, he found no pleasure in earthly delights anymore, he just survived. But now in this quiet afternoon like a husband discovering his wife for a second time, he could have told to himself that there was something in prauge who seemed so internal in regards to Israel, who seemed like all of it’s houses are there just for the meanwhile, just up until someone would come and reagainged the seenary, tel aviv was build out of eclectic parts that represented trends in style and difficulties of economy, Prauge had values, but the people here, can’t they see he’s in trouble, why couldn’t Natasha let him in her house, he was a man of compensation and thought, she told him that here father was a bit anti-Semitic, but still, like in a classical story, he is distrested, and if he needs to define his problem, it’s that he doesn’t have the strength of the stamina to do something radical or to really ask for help.
The old stone walls were leading to the old Jewish quarter where there were five synagogues that some of them were transformed to museum’s even during the Nazi reign where they wanted to build a museum for the Judaist that existed and disappeared. There were not many, if at all authentic Jews of Prague, more that 90% of them were killed in world war II and we know the names because the records in Prague were pretty good and they are all listed at the Pinkas synagogue, but in this time of year, they are probably holding services at the AltNoushul Prague’s oldest synagogue from the15 century.
He got to the synagogue around eight when the prayer was starting and he was so tired that he just fell asleep, for the first time today he felt as a part of something bigger than him and although their accent’s wasn’t so clear to him, he found comfort in just being there.
When the prayer was finished, he talked to the rabbi of the congregation and the person in
Charge of the finance, and they have found him a young family of CHABAD affiliate to spend the Shabbat with them.
He tried to be as gentle and forthcoming as he could and he went with them to their small apartment in the quarter, thinking that all his trouble were over, when in fact they were just beginning.
The meal was decent, the young woman didn’t really know how to cook so things were either too sweet or salty for his taste. Since he never really kept the Shabbat, he could not imagine how long those evenings without computer of television can be.
He tried to talk to the young rabbi, but he could not find any common ground with him except from stories of the holy land which portrayed it in a much different light that he remembered. He thought about going to sleep, when one of their small children began to play with him, and he who knew nothing about the world of children found in himself powers that he didn’t know that he had.
He was riding the child on his knee when the sudden intimacy with another young body aroused him. It was now in a sexual way, but still his pines began to harden and he stopped the game as soon as he could. He hoped no one saw that, but still after the children were put to sleep he was asked to leave. Even thought it was Shabbat the husband gave him all the cash that he had, 2000 Kr. And showed him the door.
He was back at square one.
He walked around the streets with no purpose, not knowing where he was or what he was doing. He didn’t think that he was a pedophile, even if he was, he would have liked to think that they would give him more credit than to do it in front of the parents’ eyes, but now he had 2500 Kr. This has got to be worth something. Perhaps he would talk to one of the clerks in one of the hotels to give him shelter for the night, just to sleep a room or in the lobby, if they can’t accommodate him or something. The weather is still ok, and coats are not necessary, but still he didn’t want to spend the night in the street, the Czech, one of his old roommates, once told him can get so pissed off, that they could even pee of shit in the middle of the street, and for them this is also a weekend.
It was already 2am, he had some nice talks with clerks in different hotels, and motels, some of the clerks even came from the middle east in the sole prepares of smoking weed and having fun, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t help him. Most of the café’s and restaurants were closed were closed because as someone once said unlike New York and London Prague sleeps at night and sleeps hard. In the end he found a small restaurant called Kozička looked like the well-decorated underbelly of a railway bridge, and was open until 4am that day. The menu is European with an emphasis on steaks and salads. It was conveniently located near to Staroměstská, but the only the beer on tap is Kruovice and the prices weren´t cheap.
He decided that if no one can help him, perhaps he should drink, that way at least the time would pass and he wouldn’t give a damn. A gentleman next to him was eating Caesar salad, which in Prague like most dishes, contained meat, the gentleman was trying to eat, drink and talk on the phone, but it seemed like he wasn’t very skilled it none of those fields, and he began to choke.
Adamov, stripped from his, title, family and friends could have just let it fly, and let the waiters handle the situation, but he thought there no point in waiting for a waiter.. He stuck his fingers in the man’s jaws and removed the piece of beef that was stuck in his teeth. It was a very dangures and stuped thing to do normally, he should have done the himlich menuver, and not to risk his fingers which were his main tool of working and livelihood , but for some reason it worked, and the guy’s fsace that was already in a kind of blue mode were filled with gratitude, he first called the waiter and ask for a ccouple of glasses from their finest champagne he asked for Michal’s bill, and when he heard how Michael’s day was (Minus the most embarrassing parts) he invited him to spend the weekend with him. Little did Michael knew that Farants, his new best friend (who will “for ever be in debt to you”) is the consigliere of the Czech-Russian mafia, but he was about to discover that in the most inconvenient way.
Michael was exhausted, all he wanted to do was to sleep already. Finally, he was lying on a comfortable bed, if a furnished room with air condition and he was able to take off his clothes and get some shut eye when automatic fire was shot in his window.
If there is a God thought Michael he must really have a grudge for me.
He went out of bed when Farents throws him a 4000 Dollars suit and told him to come with him.
They were walking in an old tunnel when they finally made it to some sort of a meeting. Farants told him to keep quiet and say nothing. That was alright with Michael he was too tired and they all were talking too fast for him, he laid his head down and fell asleep when Farants padded him on the shoulder and asked him if he is willing to do some old sitting. “You mean babysitting” said Michael, fearing the memory of what that happened earlier this evening with the small child,
No, said Farants, I want you to keep an eye on an old man for us. You seemed intelligent enough to amuse him. He doesn’t like stupid people.
“OK”, said Michael. “Do I get something in return?”
“We will solve your little problem in one way or the other,” answered Farants, “the most important thing is that this old man must not sleep, not for three minutes” in a row tonight. The tone of his voice told him not to ask any more question.
“Fine, said Michael let us begin”.
“What are you doing here, who are you?”
“My name is Michael, I guess I’m here to entertain you”
He could see now the old timer, he looked a bit like a poet. He was slim and he had a long beard and hair.
“How long are you with those crooks?”
“They are mobsters, they are holding me here so I will say, they are holding me here so I will not tell… but I won’t tell”.
“All I know is that I have to spend the night with you, which isn’t very long – just four hours”
“I must sleep.”
“I’m afraid that I can’t let you do that.”
“That’s what they told me?”
“Where is your moral?”
“Can we talk about moral in our society?”
“You are avoiding the question”
The night was still pitch black, and Michael drank some more coffee and he poured some into the old man’s cup.
“What’s the story here anyway?”
“A hidden treasure?”
” A hidden treasure?”
“Have you ever been to the Jewish Museum?”
“When I first visited Prague”
“There is much more than you see there, much more gold, much more artifacts”
“The Nazi’s hid it under the city, deeper that the subway deeper than the mines”
“So what are we doing here?”
“I’m the last one who knows where is everything”
“So why do you let yourself to be touched in this manner? Just tell them where it is and we can all go home”
“I will never tell them where it’s I would rather die first”
“You know my father once told my grandmother when she was cheap about something “you can’t take it with you”
“Do you know the story of Everyman?”
“It’s a moral play from the middle ages. Death comes to every man and tells him that he must go with him. Everyman turns to his money and asks him to go with him, the money says I can’t go with you. He turns to friendship and says “come with me” and she says “I can’t go with you”
In the end only love and good virtue come with him and this is all I have, and that they can’t take from me.”
“So tell me a story about love an good virtue.”
“I had only one love, god bless her a wife in the village, Jewish. I hide her during the war.I had to pretend that I was an anti-Semitic, still people in our village think I’m the most anti-Semitic man they have ever met. When the war ended, it took us a very long time to have a child, she lives here in Prague. They caught me while I was going for some smokes from her house. There you have a good virtue and love entangled in a bad virtue and hate.”
Now it was Michaels turn to be surprised. “Are you Natasha’s father? I must get you out of here!”
“Forget about it, young man. You can only hurt yourself, do what you came to do and perhaps you would find some peace.”
“But what I’m doing is immoral,” said Michael “I feel like I’m draining your life in order for me to live…”
“I’ve lived long enough”
“But why won’t you tell your secret for your own good?”
“Sleeping dogs have to lie and you won’t manage to persuade me otherwise”
“Don’t do it for their profit, do it because these sort of stuff shouldn’t be lying on the ground, someone will discover them someday”
“But it wouldn’t be on my shift”
“What if you told it to me, and I would be the one to discover the secret”
“Why should I trust you?”
“Because I don’t need anything, and I don’t want anything than to give Natasha a good life.”
” I will give you a riddle which only you can solve and it goes like this…”
In a different room it that building Farants was watching the dialogue from an LCD television screen. The big boss was watching with him.
“Do you think he would understand that everything he did today was supposed to bring him to this fake moment?”
I don’t really see why it matters. When it will be Monday, if he is as good as you say he is, we will have the treasure, and he won’t miss anything
And if he won’t then he won’t be missed.