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At the End of the World

Smrt kozy na konci>From: Johnny < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>To: “Me“ < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>Cc: editor < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>Subject: Letter with a twist

>Date: 6 March, 2002 08:34 AM



I'll mention to you one more story by Castaneda that I'm reading now. At the time when he was just starting to learn and didn't understand many things, he mentioned a folk proverb to his Indian teacher that no leaf falls twice from the same tree. The Indian only smiled saying that he hadn't heard such a baloney for quite some time and told Castaneda to watch a leaf on the tree standing next to them. The leaf broke off and fell to the ground.

“Look up there", the Indian instructed him. Castaneda looked up at the tree again and in amazement he saw the same leaf falling to the ground just the way it did a few seconds ago.

“How is it possible? How did you do it?" asked Castaneda thinking that it was some kind of a crafty illusion.

“Just give me one valid reason why it couldn't be possible that one and the same leaf couldn’t not fall even thousand times from the same place," prompted him the Indian. Castaneda could not give him any substantial answer.

You see, Jerry, from birth people are taught to understand the world in conventional ways. They invent some facts, define what is possible or impossible by all sorts of laws and then they die accordingly. It is their type of existence. Essentially, it is a sort of a shield that preserves their integrity in its own way. In reality, the world is totally different from how people understand it.

Take care.



>From: Gaspar < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>To: Johnny < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

>Subject: From the other side of the world

>Date: 7 March, 2002 2:22 PM



I'm listening to the radio and hear that a humid climate is causing the cyclone that swept around Cairns, broke the power lines, destroyed banana crops, transportation is lame and tourists are cancelling their trips. It's hundred percent certain that the rain will not cease for the next three days, 93-percent humidity will rise and temperature will remain at around 30 degrees Centigrade.

In the morning I set out to visit the Koorana Crocodile Farm located amidst swamps at the mouth of the Fitzroy River passing through Rocky. They have 33 crocodiles there. It is a commercial farm producing crocodile leather and meat, and occasionally they get orders to catch dangerous crocodiles in tourist areas. On the farm you can buy crocodile leather products such as belts, briefcases, footwear, and you can buy buns stuffed with ground crocodile meat for four dollars each at the local buffet.

I really liked the tour through the crocodile farm. The crocodiles live in captivity, but they have enormous space for themselves, so they probably don't even realize their being captive. For lunch they get big chunks of meat from John the farmer, and people look in on feeding they pay for as admission. John makes sure the animals live in good conditions. He knows their behavior and needs. He stops by each crocodile, and introduces it to the visitors by its name and distinctive attributes.

"This one is a young fighter. It's aggressive and good looking. Over there is Buka, an old tame peace loving gentleman weighing 1,500 pounds. Beware of the other one yonder. It's whimsical. It was sent to us from a zoo where it drowned it's caretaker.”

When John sees that a male crocodile feels lonely, he puts a female into its enclosure. That does not always have to turn out well though. If the male does not like the female, he can bite her and damage her precious leather. In such a case the farmer has to find him another female.

The female lays eggs in a remote place. She lays 50-80 eggs in one place and with her hind legs she very gently and carefully covers them with clay, leaves and dry grass. Then the female stays in the proximity of her nest for three months in order to protect it. But the farmer, with the help of his assistants, catches the female with a loop of rope, ties her to a tree and meanwhile takes the eggs from the nest. He then puts the eggs into an incubator, and the tricked female, not aware of what has happened, continues to guard the empty nest, while the eggs remain in the incubator. Part of the show was hatching of a new crocodile. John brought an egg from the incubator, tapped on it and a new crocodile covered with slime emerged from the shell.

I went back to Rochampton with a couple of young people, who also had attended the show. A young lady was appalled by a neurotic aggressive male crocodile that had bit a female assigned to him. A heavy rain began on our way, and in the evening, when I was walking from the monument marking the Tropic of Capricorn to St. Joseph's Cathedral it was already pouring cats and dogs everywhere. A homeless was sitting on a bench with a canopy over it in a park near the Tropic. He was patiently waiting for the rain to stop. Maybe he had a bottle of wine in a plastic bag to cheer up his spirit in this horrible weather.

I have to do the same. 





by Peter Gaspar


Mick Jagoda arrived in Wellington and checked in for two nights at a dusty YHA hostel for "fucking backpackers” as he called them. He considered them to be a certain type of scum of the society, drifters surviving from day to day, botchers, nihilists, cowards, drunkards, atheists, cowards once again, hypocrites, fools and spineless clowns he wanted to distinguish himself from one day forever, and that day has been imminently looming. Mick no longer wanted to be counted among them in spite of the fact that he had been roaming the globe for several years while tied to a big backpack also worn-out from all sorts of experiences that had transpired during his years of wandering. It was made in a textile plant in the town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, many years ago. Nowadays, the backpack is placed in a social hall of the YHA Hostel, Horsts Place, New Zealand. In the past it was cut through with knives of co-passengers on an overcrowded train in a suburb of Bombay, carried away by water after a rupture of clouds in the Malaysian mountains, a kea parrot pecked out a hole in it in Tasmania, and in the town of Needles on the outskirts of the Mojave Desert, Eastern California, a stray dog sprayed it with a hot piss while Mick was buying cigarettes and cheap but tasty sliced bread at a gas station.

Mick wanted to forget these abasing years of wandering. The next day he bought a newspaper and he found what he was looking for in the wanted-ad section: a sunny room with a separate entrance, where he would start a new life of a settler. In the evening, he looked around the neighborhood over the hilly country beaten by a sharp wind bringing the scent of ice from the adjacent Antarctica; hills overlapping and twisting around intricate bays with water too calm compared to the masses of air being transferred there. Water keeps serenely hitting the concrete piers and low lying coast hemmed with exposed roots of trees that have strange names in the Maori language. Some of the once war-like Maori nation, with their heads on short necks and sticking out forward like those of charging bulls, are wandering the ascending and descending streets. Yet they are not charging, only staggering half asleep and looking for a place where they could hit the sack and peacefully spend the night spanning the dawn of a new day. They are looking down and shuffling their feet on wrinkled asphalt of narrow streets that also have names in Maori.

A police squad car was cruising around the Beehive, and through an open car window Mick twice caught a glimpse of a checkered band police hat and policeman's shiny clean shaven face, which looked as if a word with an exclamation point had been written on it. The squad car passed by him twice and slowed down at the corner where two men were aggressively standing opposite each other and wildly throwing their arms in the air. But when they spotted the car, they stopped as if at the command of a magic wand, turned around and saluted like young soldiers on guard. Mick set out into the side streets shrouded in darkness that was randomly penetrated by narrow cones of light from street lamps circled by flying insects. The icy wind was dancing around even in the narrow streets, and cars bunched together were standing in its way. Trees, houses and cars were defiantly hissing under the onslaughts of wind. Nobody was roaming these streets any longer. Most of the windows were dark and no shadows of figures could be seen anywhere behind the lit windows. Mick crossed over three or four hills and apparently lost his sense of direction. He could hardly feel the breath of the sea. At the end of a dead-end street he got a whiff of putrid smell from a wet forest after which his feet suddenly sank into the mud.

Slowly he got on his way back giving up the hope that he would find a house with a sunlit room where he would live for next few months or perhaps years. Darkness was setting in everywhere and the way back to the hostel took him twice as long. He walked over different hills and different streets, but all lashed by wind just the same. In the hostel all globetrotters were already asleep, except the night shift doorman, who was sitting and counting his small change spread out on the desk. His concentration was interrupted by the door’s creaking and the short slim bloke sprang up on his feet. His face turned long and his scrawny arms, reminiscent of cut-off telephone cables, bent forward to possessively embrace two small stacks of change. He had to stop separating the silver and yellow coins after Mick opened the creaking door, and the stacks of coins tumbled down getting mixed up again.

“Is this a hold-up?" asked the doorman, whom we will call Joe Stenham, as he beheld the new tenant attempting to smile apologetically.

“The hold-up happened somewhere else today," replied Mick.

“Next time, please don’t stomp your feet and don’t slam the door, I beg of you. I’ve got a weak heart. In fact, I’m going to have a pacer implanted. I want to live to enjoy my retirement. The insurance will pay only a half for the implant, and the other half I have to pay myself. I’m literally counting every dime. God knows whether I’ll live to see the pacer if everyone around here keeps slamming the door. Please, lock the door."

Mick turned the key once, then once again and tried out the door handle.

“Pull the curtains, please. I hope that no one else will come today, and I’ll be able to finish this work. Better yet, I’ll turn off the outside light too not to attract drunkards."

“Have the Irish women come back yet, sir?"

“Yes, they have, but I haven’t checked yet whether they’d crawled into the bedroom. They’ve come in quietly and one of them on her four. I don’t know where they’d got so blasted. Those backpacking scumbags! And where’ve you been? You look practically sober, which looks unusual."

“I went for a health walk in the streets at night."

“Have you seen the police and Maoris? Be careful about them, both of them," said Joe Stenham, the doorman, lifting his hand from the change and pointing his index finger in the air. Mick watched the doorman’s face become round again. He saw caution, worry and uncertainty written on it, which the doorman was trying to dispel by thoughts about something positive to count on as, for example, a pacer powered by batteries and invigorating the worn-out heart muscle. Joe Stenham was a short and indistinctive man. Most of his presumably indistinctive life was already behind him, and he was left with nothing else but, based on his experiences until then, to carefully go on as far as he could.

Mick knew that if he stayed and sat down on the couch riddled with holes from cigarette ashes, he would learn the whole life story of the short slim guy, and he would not have to say anything about his own. He would probably hear about the doorman’s wife and how the latter might not even be able to stand her any more, about the doorman’s children that must have gone out into the world and his hobbies that could have been a fishing boat, watercolor painting or models of famous steamships. Mick knew these kinds of stories from before: the hostels, caravan parks, campsites and lodging houses offering accommodations for low prices which look alike with their doormen, temporary guests, creaking stairs and beds, smell of mustiness, cleaning detergents, smoke or breath of alcohol from drunk clients.

So the Irish girls have returned just as Mick had expected, and he was glad that he had not accepted their invitation to go out for the evening. This is how he would have ended up too; with a splitting headache, upset stomach and depression. In all likelihood, he would have also not been able to avoid having a sexual experience with one or more likely both young Irish ladies, which was drawing close earlier that evening. He gave preference to sobriety and preservation of energy which he would definitely need to start a new life. The girls, Judy and July, that is most likely what all those backpackers are called who like to get their rocks off somewhere far away from Dublin and their sexual desire growing proportionally to the distance from Dublin as Mick knew quite well, were in a deep alcoholic sleep, one across the other. Also another twisted figure was lying under a cover on the floor, obviously a male victim of their sexual gluttony with whom Judy and July had topped off their evening.

Once again Mick was glad that it was not him and carefully stepped over the man lying on the floor to get to the window from which fresh air was coming and whistling in half-inch cracks. Before Mick entered, thanks to the window cracks, the air laden with a smell of tavern and breath of vodka got thinned down by a crisp salty envoy whizzing from southern seas beginning beyond the last hill pockmarked with blinking lights. He opened the window and the louvered shutter bumped against a loose gutter the man had used to climb after his ladies. Mick took a brief look at the white butts sticking out from under the blankets and meaty Judy’s red hairy Irish armpits indecently exposed to the entire room. He tried not to breathe and suddenly realized he was on an island from which he felt was no way out. He ran downstairs to assure the doorman that everything was perfectly all right. The doorman had just finished sorting his small change and now he had two piles of magazines on the desk, which he was sorting according to some unknown criteria.

“They're sleeping like logs and having sweet dreams," said Mick half-way down the last flight of stairs.

“OK, please try to understand my worries. On the average, once every half a year someone chokes on his or her own vomit here. Vomit is sometimes really very dangerous, young man, OK?

“Some young women have good stomachs."

“I agree. People who suffocate here are mostly young men like you. Perhaps the local vodka is too hard for them. I haven't taken alcohol in any form for many years, but I remember quite well the moments when after warmly touching my tongue vodka would run down the throat and produce a pleasant explosion inside of me which I cannot compare to anything else," said the doorman and paused in his work with the magazines while holding one of them with two fingers half way from the disordered pile onto a neat stack.

“Do you think that the Irish ladies gave in to this kind of internal explosion?"

“You got that right, young man, and what the hell is your name?"

“My name’s Mick."

“And mine’s Joe. If you care to sit down by me for a while, we can flip through these magazines together."

It was already long past midnight and Mick thought that he should take a rest for a few hours before the new day, and so he was going to end the conversation with some common excuse, but none was coming to his mind. So he went to the desk and waited wondering why the doorman makes such a fuss over the magazines.

“Some of the articles are by me," said Joe the doorman.

“Are you trying to say that you’ve written them?"

“You’ve got it."

Mick got to bed just before the dawn but did not sleep long because he made a point to leave the hostel before Judy and July would pull themselves together. The naked man on the floor got dressed and disappeared through the window into the cold morning. Mick did not see him get up nor climb through the window, but the rattling of the torn off gutter naturally followed by a shower of “fuckings" woke him up. If the swearing had not followed, Mick would have had to jump to the window and see what had happened. The climber may have fallen down, hurt himself, become unconscious or outright killed himself. The young ladies must have drunk a lot more to which attested an emptied bottle of vodka in bed next to their naked bodies peacefully breathing and resting after being severely exhausted. No vomiting, no upset stomach nor restless alcoholic sleep. Thanks to their natural skill and experience the alcohol obviously did not pose any big problems for them.

Everything was in great order. Joe the doorman finished his night shift duty early in the morning and was relieved by a student. The stacks of magazines were replaced by textbooks and notebooks. The magazines, which had been nostalgically sorted by the doorman depending on whether there appeared his own article or not, included old issues of Yachting Monthly, Sailing, Sea Eagle and American Yachtsman that had been dedicated to the sport of yachting ever since its infancy. Joe Stenham contributed satires to the magazines and made up stories for them about lives of sailors. He drew his inspiration from a great writer Joseph Conrad and his personal experiences on the waves of the Pacific.

The wind did not cease even by the morning, and small drops of rain were whizzing past Mick’s ears like a sad song about his pitiful fate of a drifter. In broad daylight there was more cheerfulness in the streets even in this weather, but somehow he still felt no gayness in his spirit pinched by a feeling of loneliness dragging behind him like a shadow everywhere he went. He recalled how he used to unexpectedly change from a train onto a long-distance bus and the present feeling of loneliness lagged behind for a while, but looking out from the bus window at vast pastures or peaks of an unknown mountain range brought him the desire to philosophize. Then the old feeling of loneliness, which he was so familiar with, quietly came back and Mick would spend hours immersed in his favorite melancholic speculations. The same used to happen when he was walking through towns and villages, mountains and deserts, and in conversations with strangers such as Joe Stenham, a former writer of adventure stories about pirates. Everyone would quietly walk into his life; all these unknown writers, poets, philosophers concerned with the origin and demise of the world, painters, madmen, criminals with fake passports, wandering prostitutes, treasure seekers, braggers, swindlers and all kinds of clever Dicks. All came and went. Actually their lives just carefully brushed against his in a chaotic swarm of panic. Impatience was gnawing at him during his travels everyday and his thoughts were moving in a vicious circle where nothing of importance could be recognized. He remembered many conversations by heart and faces of speakers just as well, direction where the wind was blowing from and the taste of beer in pubs on street corners in towns with meaningless names full of grammatical errors. He ended most of his conversations prematurely and impatiently moved away to sort everything out. But now after hundreds of thousands of kilometers he made up his mind to put an end to his travels and buy a big TV, tower stereo with a multitude of music CDs, aquarium and good quality fipple flute with sheet music for beginners; all this for his future sunny room.


The owner of a house with rooms for rent was repairing a tin roof over a separate entrance into a sunny room ready for a new tenant coming from the city. Recently, it has been raining for several hours every day, and sometimes a fierce whirlwind blew in from the ocean which gradually broke apart the metal roofing of houses atop the hills in the Te Aro District. Gordon, the owner, was a short stocky well built man of a strong character, which was also manifested in his bold manner of talking. Jokingly he would threaten his weakling tenants with all kinds of a horrible death, while his facial features tightened and pupils narrowed sending out sadistic signals. Many older tenants got quite used to his sporadic visits and perceived his vociferous voice as an entertaining intermezzo in their weighing down daily struggle for a bite to eat, sip of alcohol and a pinch of weed. Gordon was standing in an uncomfortable position on a shaky ladder and working while holding onto a half broken-off tin plate. In a choking voice he was muttering to himself his favorite threats like "I'm gonna strangle somebody here! Today I’m gonna beat someone’s scabby head in! Watch out you sons of bitches right now!" and so on as a worn-out guy, bent and struggling under a heavy backpack, emerged from behind the corner.

Mick had a feeling that he finally found the place he had been looking for, and he was relishing the thought of how he was finally going to take off his backpack in his sunny room with a nice view and how he would begin the preparation to stabilize his ruffled soul.

“Mr. Gordon Farrady?" he asked the man hanging from the roof.

“I’m gonna break somebody’s jaws!" said Gordon the landlord. “Yes, of course that’s me. I’ll just hammer this fucking nail in and I’ll be right down."

“I called about an ad Sunny Room with a Great View. It seems that first I’ll have to wait for a sunny day."

“And who do you think I am climbing the roof for? I don’t like being provoked, young man. Stop cracking jokes and I suggest you keep your words in my presence to the barest minimum," said Mr. Gordon Farrady charismatically now standing firmly on the ground and slightly bending forward in a basic showy stance as if in one of Asia's wrestling styles that had earlier become tremendously popular thanks to Asian TV channels. His grayish mane was freely blowing around a reddish face containing small eyes prying into a new victim who was surprisingly shying away out of embarrassment. But this was not enough for Gordon, and so to emphasize he nervously began tapping with his foot, fencing with his arms and spitting so hard that his cheeks were shaking.

“So, can I take a look at the sunny room?" asked Mick as he was looking around shyly evading Gordon’s eyes and searching for something he could fix his sight on, which was expected of him.

“You’re gonna have to if you wanna live here, smart alec. Well, let’s go then!"

The room’s layout had the shape of a trapezoid since the outer wall of the big house, lined with large porches, followed an original huge rock on the top of a hill. Also the hallway, passing through the center of the first floor, was slightly curving before the exit into the backyard for the same reason. The room was small. A writing desk under the window there was also small. Even a wardrobe with shelves, which was placed in an obtuse angular corner behind the door, was small too. Only a massive bed was big there, which had brass fittings and threaded legs allowing it to be leveled in a stable horizontal position even on the bumpy floor like a kitchen scale or theodolite can be leveled. Certainly a lot of precious space would have been saved if instead of the old-fashioned monster bed, one of those modern folding chairs had been placed in the small room. The kind of a chair that when unfolded would not take up more space than a military field mat. But deep inside Gordon was a good man. What he sometimes managed to do very successfully was that he masked his goodness with an ostentatious vulgarism. He cared that his tenants get a good night's sleep on comfortable beds, which to him was an alpha and omega of a good rental house. After all, he could not give a man of a medium height, such as Mick was, a smaller-than-average bed. He could not expect that the crowds of people coming into the town, who obviously were people of different sizes from small to very big only the smaller ones would show interest in the sunny room with a view.

“Eighty bucks," said Gordon, “and if you paint the walls, you’ll get a discount. Tomorrow I'll bring paint and Bradley, the tenant in Room No. 4, has the brushes."

“The room is not bad, but it is small and has an oblique shape. Dammit, where am I gonna put the TV in here? The base by height," said Mick and put his hand on the shaven chin as a sign of thinking. “Put in other words, that is about 60 squared feet. Is this then eighty dollars a month? Plus the ceiling here is pretty low and it’s leaking!"

“Bullshit!" said Gordon readily. “Stop being smart! It's eighty dollars a week paid in advance for two weeks. Better write this down. I'll bring you some paper and a pen right away. Once you’ve got this written, I’ll be more confident that you’ll remember it. Eighty!”

Gordon was gone in the blink of an eye as he whirled up the stale moist air in the room with his brisk leap followed by a squeak of the door at the other end of the hallway and then a brief muffled conversation with some person ensued there. Only Gordon's part of the conversation could be heard, but his words were absorbed by the walls of the house, and only sounds like barking of a dog reached Mick’s ears. A few seconds later, the dogs in neighboring yards started barking and did not stop even when Gordon returned to the room with the paper, pen and a bottle of vodka.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve run out of ice," said the landlord putting down the bottle and pulling shot glasses out of his pockets. “Take down the notes. By the way, if you’ve just heard sound wheezing a while ago, it was the wheezing of a tenant called Brad, who I grabbed by the throat. He is a crafty non-payer."

They quickly emptied the drinks Gordon had poured and then Gordon poured another round. Mick did not believe that Gordon had grabbed anyone by the neck, even though he could easily imagine it by looking at Gordon’s lumpy arms. He supposed that Gordon's harsh words were meant figuratively. He enjoyed the vodka and did not even realize that he actually pushed his decision on the sober beginning of a new life one day further into the future.

They opened a window through which a damp but fresh stream of air with a scent of clay and wet leaves rushed in. Gordon replenished the glasses for the fifth or sixth time, to which Mick slightly protested each time out of politeness. Gordon told him a few things about the current tenants, who Mick would come in contact with every day.

“You'll see they’re quite a scum.”

Mick learned about a Maori couple tattooing each other and a drunkard Malcolm de Vries, whose name Gordon spelled out on the paper. Malcolm used to own a fishing boat but drank it away and has not got shit now. Mick also learned about a distinctive character of the house, crazy Ryan, who lived in the attic.

“Be especially careful about snakey Bradley. You’ll recognize him by a peculiar smell. A small young lady named Julie lives in the room behind the kitchen. She’s looking for a lover. If you fall for her, I’ll have nothing against it. She’s all yours. By the way, there’s a lack of men in our country, and at this point I’ve got to warn you that women will go after you like mosquitoes. You're young and they will love your accent. They’ll probably like your pale face too, even though for my taste it’s too pale and smooth like an ass. You’ll see and then you can tell me about your experience. You have an excellent bed," said Gordon as he sat down on the bed next to Mick, and together they rocked on the soft mattresses a bit. “You can bring girls as often as you want, but remember that they must come and go, and if they hang around the house, I’ll kick you all out in the street. First your Sheila and then you right behind her with your tool and TV you care about so much."

Rustling could be heard from the hallway again as someone went out the back door and came back into the house a few moments later. It was raining outside.

“We’ll put the television on the wall mounts," said Gordon with his eyes fixed at the acute corner by the window. A young white lad peeked inside. He seemed Caucasian with greased hair and body impregnated with several kinds of cologne. This was how Mick got to know Bradley, a tenant of Room No. 4, who did not really show any signs of strangulation on his neck decorated with a black bow tie pierced by a pin.

“I’ve got a hundred percent cinch bet, Gordon. D’you know Joey from Joe’s Café? A pack of cigarettes wasn’t enough for him this time, so I had to give him two," said Brad, with shining leery eyes and cheeks red with excitement, while giving a pat on Gordon’s shoulder.

“What’s its name?"

“Jungle Rum, a marvelous animal," winked Brad. “So lend me at least two sawbucks."

“And who’s gonna pay the rent?"

“We’ll talk about that after the race."

“Here’s a hundred to win. Jungle Rum, Jungle Rum, Jungle Rum, I’ve never heard of it. If it finishes the second, we’ll have fun. In the end I’ll kill you and we’ll both be at peace."

Bradley the tenant went away to bet on the horse. Only a little whiff of cologne was left in the room after him like a business card or like a signature in the book of guests.

“There ain’t no God," said Gordon unexpectedly digging into a topic that even Mick could have joined. Mick was suddenly offered an opportunity to partially lower his deficit of conversation with this outstanding extrovert even though he had instinctively realized from the beginning that in case of a direct duel of words he would have to pull in his tail like a coward and skillfully create an impression that it is all just a sly gambit. The landlord and his new tenant were already getting smashed and boisterously bobbing on the bed while imbibing vodka straight from the bottle, now the third one in a row.

“There ain’t even a single god," Gordon refined his idea and twitched his eyebrows twice. Mick put it down in his notes and twitched his eyebrows too. During his studies, Mick heard of a field called scientific atheism. Therefore he could give Gordon an advice on how to develop liberal thinking in this area. Just the combination of words “scientific atheism" would blow Gordon’s mind by its succinctness. He could get Gordon writings of prominent atheists and other freethinkers as well as give him advice during the study of them. If Gordon wanted, Mick could also get him “samizdat” reflections of totally anonymous Albanian anarchists, which Mick translated into English during his studies in Timisoara; but it was already too late for that now.

“Gee whiz," exclaimed Mick and whistled, “that’s awesome."

“Religion is for the weaklings," said Gordon blasphemously as he banged the table with his fist.

“Long live Marxism!" sang Mick jumping about on the bed like on a trampoline.


“Marx! Let’s bet on Marx, hundred dollars he’ll win!"

“Jagoda, Jagoda, you’re my dearest tenant. I trust you. I should’ve bet on Marx, I should’ve bet on Marx! A horse with the name Jungle Rum will never win anyway. Horses like that never win. Oh my God, oh my God," lamented Gordon the heathen. “I should’ve bet on Marx. Bradley is a dickhead."


Ever since then, Mick was avoiding the landlord. He would remember the godless talks with aversion. His conscience was bothering him, depression after vodka poisoning was dragging on for several days and Mick was left with nothing more than to bear his intolerable impatience and devote himself to repentance. He would then go to a little church of St. Columban at the bottom of a hillside where he would beg God in his prayers: “Lord, show me what my position in Your Divine Plan is." And he was patiently awaiting a sign from God. In time he got to know all tenants. He was helping many of them with small five-, ten- and twenty-dollar loans that were seldom paid back to him, although all were nice to him and used to give him valuable advice on how to pump some money out of the government and make it through the life without working. They were teaching him how to live. All except Brad lived on unemployment compensation and support from other charitable organizations, public welfare, institutions and small donors like Mick, who still had something to give and could be softened up. 

The Maori couple, Mae and Walker from the attic, occasionally invited him into their little room dominated by a great disorder. Mick admired their ability to maintain such a grandiose mess, and each time he found himself in their small room, he felt amused. They were seated on piles of textile under which something cracked – skeletons of cadavers? – and they talked about fishing and traveling. Afterwards, Mae ceremoniously rolled up a fine cigarette and everyone took a couple of festive drags from it.

All tenants were common people armed with the necessary shrewdness, craftiness and other attributes that gave them the chance just to survive. An exception was a thin timid man named Ryan living in the smallest room in the corner tower of the house. Ryan was definitely insane and unable to communicate with his intelligent fellow citizens, even unable to utter one sentence cohesively. It seemed he actually did not understand Mick’s question: “What’s your name?" Ryan only stuttered something so it was not even certain that his name really was Ryan. Maybe his name was Mr. Brown. He used to prowl through the hallways like a mime on a stage, always in a hurry somewhere, always very busy with separating trash in the back yard and who knows what he was doing during his walks in the streets. He was probably occupied with trash bins there too.

Mick sometimes passively watched Ryan working in the back yard where he had a good view from the window. Ryan emptied a bin on a plastic sheet, thought for a moment, put on rubber gloves and with a professional confidence he started working on plastic containers, empty cans, pieces of hoses, boards, newspapers, boxes, magazines, posters, moldy bread and some rags – all these he first looked over, assessed their usefulness and importance to him, put most of them in his bag and took them away somewhere. He carefully put the refuse not salvaged back into the trash bin. Once Mick saw how Ryan found a piece of raw steak and took even that away, rinsed it in a kitchen sink, then baked it and finally ate it with a gusto.

Ryan had many phony friends, who used to come next to the house on Wednesday evenings and hung around until they bamboozled Ryan out of his last penny from a compensation for an unemployed, ill, pitiful, constantly belittled, hurt, poor and helpless man. As a reward for the money he got taunts, scoffs and an uproarious laughter resounded in the street, which the thin man Ryan, however, paid absolutely no attention to thanks to his own backwardness, and he delightfully returned to his garbage. The pests banged on the door and threw little stones at the window. Sometimes Mick chased them away shouting: “Get lost, Ryan doesn’t live here anymore!" But somehow they still managed to wait for him somewhere and squeezed the last penny from him. 

A month later, a young man moved into the house, who would be of great significance in the future. He was a physicist of low temperatures and an author of a series of articles in which he was introducing unheard-of novelties. Wrapped up in a sleeping bag, he studied brochures and scribbled complex derivatives on paper, which he often showed uncomprehending Mick. Sheets of paper were densely written on and each one showed complex mathematical relationships as triple Kuibyshev’s Integral, for example, by which he was gracefully proving his assumptions.

Neither Mick nor anyone else in the house understood mathematics too much, but what was happening outside could have been suspicious to anybody except poor Ryan. The weather suddenly changed and paradoxically to the young physicist’s specialization, it was rapidly getting warm. Puddles were drying up, grass wrinkling up and forests turning pale. The wind stopped blowing and during the warm evenings a demonic chirping of unknown invisible insects covered the hills of Te Aro. The temperature changes had an obviously unfavorable effect on Mae and Walker, whose ancestors had lived here since time immemorial. Both were nervously running around the house, fanning themselves and covering their ears with cotton so as not to hear the chirping of repugnant insects. Allegedly Joe Stenham the doorman died from heat exhaustion, Mr. Gordon the landlord left for Vietnam and Brad disappeared leaving a multitude of debts behind.

Mick, however, was quite comfortable with the weather change, so he frequented woods above intricate bays more often than before, but only until the genius physicist suddenly moved away from the common hall, where to this day he had been rolling around bundled up in a checkered sleeping bag. The checkered sleeping bag was left behind hanging over an armchair, and a few days later the Ruapehu Volcano started letting out yellow sulfur smoke in half-hour intervals. Shortly afterwards the smoke could be smelt in the streets of Wellington too. Mick felt that the smell belonged to the genius physicist of low temperatures, which was later proven when his yellowed sulfur covered files were discovered. This inconspicuous scholar was actually the devil’s envoy or something like that. A feeling of nervousness started to reign on the island. The media were paying attention to the volcano where something was bubbling and police closed the roads leading to the nearby log cabins, but people were surprisingly rushing to the volcano in spite of the menacing forecast of experts worldwide. But it was not just the professionals who were rushing to the dangerous territory. Among the curious there were also decent working people, families with children, students and retirees. People seemed as if unafraid of death. It was still warm. A fine gray dust was falling from the sky and all the land turned gray.

Mick, too, set out for the volcano on a crowded train and together with excited Ryan he slipped through the police barrier into a forest on the volcano’s slope where the red-hot molten lava could start hurling at any moment. They climbed the slope and rested only when they reached the point where the forest ended and volcanic rock covered with tufts of prickly grass began. They drank some mint tea from Mick’s thermos bottle and ate tuna salad from a can with a few buns from a Chinese bakery on Thompson Street. Mick was looking at the valley through tree leaves where swarming of humans could be sensed while sulfur vapor was creeping down the slope lower and lower, and the world around was turning yellow little by little. They continued their journey in the fog. The volcanic ash colored the surroundings and the gravel under their feet was hot, but the rocky ridge, behind which the volcanic lake was bubbling, was not far anymore. Mick and Ryan got lost from each other in the fog. The sulfur stank and Mick noticed it condensed on his clothes. He also felt it condensed even in his nose and on his tongue. He was sputtering and spitting as he was trying to get rid of the bad aftertaste reminding him of death. Ryan got lost. Most likely he ran up the slope to the edge of the ridge and then down into the crater towards the boiling lake in order to get there first and to show who is the most skillful. For a while a strong wind blew from the desert thus cleaning up the air. But Mick did not see Ryan anywhere even though he was already standing on the crater’s edge and there was nothing to block his sight. The bubbling of boiling sulfur paste could be clearly heard and the view of this phenomenon was amazing – a fantastic attraction, divine music and colorful showers of lava shooting up higher and higher. Suddenly, Mick felt embarrassed when he realized that perhaps the poor idiot had already been devoured by the sulfur paste.

“What if this is the end of the world?" he thought and in sadness got on his way down the slope.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 25 November 2009 22:06)