Dada (Fragment #018)

I marched towards the library and collided with Patrick near the main entrance. I remembered this boor. He was an assistant at my entrance examination. I decided not to waste time greeting him and just passed on by.

The 20th century German literature section wasn’t a very popular place. Well, good riddance! It was much better to work without the silly background chirrup of girls writing endless nonsense about heroic troubadours and sighing over modern guys who’d forgotten the art of courtship.

Anyway, I figured I should get to work, so I thumbed along the high stacks looking for the letter ‘T’. Gotcha! Tristan Tzara, ‘Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries’.

“Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.”

So, professor, you didn’t like my poem? I giggled at the thought. I’ll learn how to break something that was already broken. Let’s dada, baby! And suddenly, my attention was drawn to some other voices. They sounded pretty tense. I cocked my ear.

“I need this book!”

“The rules are the same for everyone. You can only read it in the reference room. This book mustn’t leave the library.”

“But…”

“No.”

I peeped out of the stack and looked over to the counter. A disappointed Patrick was talking with the library custodian, a large leather bound book clutched to his chest. Serves you right! I thought with gloating delight.

I’d always considered the ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ to be a bit of a joke. I didn’t think anyone of stable mind could ever truly take it seriously. My eyes flicked across Patrick’s sad features again. What a putty head!

Anyway, I needed to care more about completing the task at hand.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

White Starts & Wins (based on a true story)

I don’t know what got into me that evening, but I crossed to the other side of the street. Nope, I wasn’t expecting to see if the grass was greener there or if a lion could play chess with a lamb. I was simply going home from my yoga, and had decided to vary my usual route a little bit. What could go wrong? It was an innocent decision!

When I noticed a black dog near the porch of a small grocery store, I immediately realized that it was ill and disabled. And not because of its unnatural pose (its hind legs were spread out). Not even because of its pathetic and emaciated look. But because of its eyes.

I’m not a dog person, it must be said. Moreover, I’m rather afraid of dogs, especially stray ones. But at that moment it wasn’t about my attitude to dogs. It was about being humane toward another living being.

So, in the heat of the moment, I entered the store. If I’m honest, I don’t like this place much. It’s crowded, noisy and stinky, with rather gross staff (though what would you expect from the cheapest chain store in town?). I didn’t plan to hang about in any case. I grabbed the first packet of cheesy sausages that was available, and joined what appeared to be the shortest queue to a checkout. Of course, my choice was wrong. Isn’t that usually the case?

Outside on the porch, I tore open the plastic packaging, trying to not spill its smelly liquid on my new sneakers. I took up a sausage between finger and thumb, and carefully cast it to the dog. Point-blank shot! I was puffed up with pride and the realization of my own coolness.

Alas, while the black dog was sniffing at the sausage, another dog came along. It was a white one. It jumped over, grabbed the sausage, and ran away. I gasped. I wasn’t ready for such a turn of events! The black dog wagged its tail at me apologetically, as if to say: “Sorry, human! I’m such a goofball.”

Of course, this was rather amusing at first, so I didn’t make a drama of it. The night was still young after all, and the packet of sausages still full. Naturally, I tried a second time, and the next sausage landed near the black dog in much the same spot. But it too was quickly swallowed up by the white dog. The black dog looked at me with guilt, as if this was somehow its own fault. I tried a third sausage, but this only shared the same fate as the first two. By this point, that impudent white dog wasn’t even bothering to run away with its spoils. It would sit a little to one side, wolf down the ill gotten gains, and lick its muzzle. Obviously, my tactic was coming apart at the seams. Damn.

A group of idlers started to gather around me. Someone felt sorrow for the poor black dog, and someone else was making rather ruthless comments like: “The strongest survive.” But the most annoying category of spectator started to give me ‘indispensable’ advice. Still, the matter didn’t go any further than mere words. No one was rushing to take a damned sausage, approach the black dog, and feed it. Why? Because, let’s face the truth, it was a stray dog (hell, two stray dogs!) that would bite you in all probability. And not to mention ringworm, ticks, rabies and other side effects of such contact. So, of course no one else volunteered.

I decided to change my tactic. I divided the next sausage into halves, and threw one part as far as possible toward the bushes. My plan worked. The greedy white dog immediately rushed over there. I moved a bit closer to the black dog, pushing the second part of the sausage toward its muzzle. I was getting ready to make a little happy dance when the black dog finally took the piece of sausage from the ground. Its tail said: “Thank you, kind human.” But, alas, my joy was short lived. The black dog dropped the piece of sausage from its jaws. And that’s when the white dog took its chance. The whole scene was beginning to look like a cheap comedy, and I was in no mood for laughing.

In just five minutes, two wasted sausages and a total disregard of safety around stray dogs, I became convinced of two sad facts. Firstly, for some reason, the black dog was unable to keep a piece of food in its jaws. It was perhaps so weak that it couldn’t make the effort to chew. Or it had given up and didn’t want to continue its senseless life any more. Secondly, the white dog had a voracious appetite, and was not going to rest until it had gotten everything I had. It wasn’t going to give the black dog any chances to get some food.

I don’t know how long I stood there with the last sausage between my thumb and forefinger, and the empty plastic packaging. It was dripping right beside my left sneaker from the other hand. And the crowd was melting away. People had lost interest in this mini-spectacle, and were going back to their usual affairs. Daylight slowly faded away.

I looked at the black dog one last time. It seemed to be dozing peacefully. The white dog sat near it, yawning. Then it laid down and nuzzled into the black dog’s hip. It was at that moment I gave up.

I cast the last sausage towards them, turned, and went home. It was only when I was taking my keys from my pocket that I realized I’d still kept the empty plastic packaging in my hand.

I haven’t walked on the other side of the street since.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2019

Today’s Special (March 4)

“Don’t faff around, Sally! She’s harmless, I tell ya!”

It’s a perfect spring day, shining like a new penny and smelling like a wild honey wind. On such days, sunlight reflects into people’s eyes, they’re late to work, and everyone falls in love at a glance.

Two young waitresses chirp near the back door of a little café. Cigarette smoke blends with the aroma of coffee and the smell of fresh baking. A big cat sprawls in delicate sunbeams, sharing a timeworn bench with some perky sparrows. There’s enough sun to go around!

“Hey you, young ladies! Quit slacking off! Come on, get busy!”

The manager’s shrill voice crushes this idyllic scene in the space of a clap. It shatters into a myriad of tinkling colourful pieces. The waitresses flit into the café. The sparrows scatter away like spilt sugar dragées. Only the cat continues to enjoy itself, correctly supposing that it’s busy enough anyway.

“Look! Look, Molly! It’s her again!”

Sally tugs on her girlfriend’s sleeve. Molly brushes her hand away. The new barista with his bright sapphire eyes and dazzling smile is working his magic near the old coffee machine. No one understands how he manages to get such a divine taste from third-rate beans. Every day, Molly’s all eyes and bated breath, spying on him. It feels so very close, but again and again the secret slips past Molly like a cheeky little Casper to hide in the vanilla steam puffs. The barista flashes her a wink and places some cups on a tray. Order’s up!

Molly takes the tray and rushes out into the street. She’s almost skipping. No one wants to sit inside a café on such a wonderful day!

She’s here. An old woman in a worn coat and a ridiculous straw hat, standing near an empty table. Some visitors have just left, and there are empty clay cups, dirty saucers and cutlery on the table. There’s also an ashtray with two stubs, and one of them has left a tip. The old woman carefully sweeps something from the table into a handkerchief, which she then folds and puts in her pocket. Molly looks at her. The old woman notices Molly, offers a shy smile and a nod, and walks away.

Molly stands there for a little while longer, enjoying the sweet air and its symphony of vehicle horns, then goes over to the table. She places the empty clay cups onto the tray, as well as the dirty saucers and cutlery, changes the ashtray, and drops the coins into her apron pocket. After ensuring that none of the other visitors needs her attention, Molly goes back inside the café. And just in time to see the barista grinding a new portion of coffee beans too! Another chance to distill his secret…

Sally and Molly walk down a sleepy street, eating mint ice cream and talking a mile a minute like they haven’t seen each other in ages.

“No, Molly, I can’t make it out. What is up with her?”

“Silly chickadee! I tell ya, she’s sweet. I’ll prove it to you. Let’s go!”

The girls turn into a narrow side street. It is adorned with small lanterns, sweet peas in big garden pots, and clotheslines. Sally and Molly approach a tilted shabby fence and find a hole to step through. Of course, the gate is right there—only a brick throw away—and it’s wide open, but who cares about gates when there’s such an alluring fence hole?

The old woman is here. She’s writing something on a scruffy blackboard. When she steps back, Sally and Molly see… a menu. It reads: ‘Madam Maganti’s Bird Pastry. Twenty kinds of the freshest every day cake crumbs!’

Sally stands open-mouthed. Molly smiles, pulls a small package from her pocket, and approaches the old woman.

“Twenty three, ma’am.”

Madam Maganti nods, and goes to the kitchen to put the kettle on the fire.

Day rolls under the bench, jumps one more time, and settles itself in the cozy warm dust. If you ask the cat, it tells you that the day lays tails-up. However, no one really cares.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2019