an extract from the novel
I ran across the sidewalk, just about collided with a woman,
then stopped on the curb as though at the edge of a precipice. Frozen
to the spot,
I couldn't look behind me. I felt doubly humiliated. Most of all because
I'd succumbed to fear. Of everything they'd filmed so far, this panicked
retreat was the most mortifying. If I'd had to playact it, such authenticity
would have been impossible. How could I, a person who looks death in
the face every day, be afraid of something in the dark, like a child
left alone in a room without a light? And then, what must the passers-by
think of me, seeing me burst out of a closed secondhand bookstore? Luckily,
I hadn't taken anything with me and didn't continue to run, so I probably
didn't look like a burglar. Maybe just an oddball, which would be nothing
new. I'd made my peace with being considered that long ago.
Finally, when I felt that enough time had passed, I slowly turned around.
Nothing unusual seemed to be going on. Passers-by were going about their
business, paying no attention to me. But that would be just an illusion,
of course. One look at the bookstore and I knew they were still there.
When I'd run out a moment before I'd neglected to close the door behind
me. Actually, I'd left it wide open. Now it was closed. I'd be willing
to bet it would be locked, too, if I were to try to go back inside.
Hesitating which way to go, I finally headed left. This choice, of
course, had nothing to do with the fact that the lady in purple had
gone that way. It made no difference which direction I took. I no longer
had the slightest doubt that they would follow me whichever way I went.
Even so, there was no sense in acting the fool and staring suspiciously
at the people I passed or turning to look behind me all the time. I
already had enough experience with them to know that the tail would
be subtle and imperceptible. Just as befitted a masterfully prepared
hidden camera episode.
Walking slowly along the row of secondhand stores, I started to wonder
whether I could still beat them at their own game. My injured pride
wouldn't leave me in peace. The simplest thing would be to break it
off and go home. This would certainly foil their intentions. But if
I hadn't done it before, now it made even less sense. In any case, giving
up is not the best remedy for injured pride. What if I stopped and said
loudly and clearly, "Gentlemen, we've had a lovely time but enough is
enough, the time has come to find another leading man." But what if
they turned a deaf ear? If I were in their shoes, that's just what I'd
do. If they were filming in addition to following me, it would be just
the kind of scene they wanted for this type of show. I would look like
a madman talking to himself in the middle of the street. No, I didn't
dare hope that they'd end the show just because I was no longer willing
to take part in it.
So I had no choice. The show would go on regardless of what I wanted,
and all I could do was prepare for the next scene as best I could, to
avoid being duped once more. Or at least reduce the chances of it. The
thought of the new scene reminded me of the envelope I'd grabbed as
I rushed out of the bookstore. I stopped at a better lit shop window
full of decorative doodads and paper lanterns and opened it. Once again
I found something that looked like an invitation. Any thought that there
was some sort of pattern to their scenario now changed. Unlike the previous
two scenes, both the place and the time were different. Instead of being
indoors, as it had been so far, the new meeting was scheduled in the
open air. Also, I didn't have to rush at breakneck speed anywhere. The
zoo wasn't far away and I had a good fifty minutes until nine o'clock.
I crumpled the envelope and invitation and continued down the street.
I threw them theatrically into the first litter basket I found, without
stopping. I might have kept them as a souvenir or even as evidence,
but it seemed more expedient to confuse my hidden observers a little.
Let them conclude from this gesture that I was abandoning the whole
thing. Since they couldn't peer inside my head, they didn't know that
I would still appear in front of the zoo at the appointed time. I wanted
to see what kind of plan they'd cook up to induce me to keep playing
the game if I decided to leave. I didn't think they'd take it lightly
if I pulled out. They'd invested too much in this to let it go just
like that. I felt relieved. Like me, they had no choice. We were like
If I hadn't intended to dupe them, I could have spent the next half
hour window shopping on Chestnut Street. I wouldn't actually go inside
the shops. After what had just happened, I preferred to be outside among
the crowd, something I usually don't enjoy. If I stayed in this neighborhood,
however, it would be clear to them that I was just bluffing. No, I had
to go somewhere. But where? The most convincing thing would be to head
home. I wouldn't have time to get there and back on the tram, but I
could go part way, then get off at a stop in the middle and take the
opposite tram back until I got close to the zoo. Although the idea seemed
good, it had one drawback. The first thing they would expect would be
for me to go back to my apartment. If they wanted to prevent me from
backing out, some sort of obstacle must be lying in wait there.
I had to choose another direction, one they would never suspect. Although
they were extremely well organized, they still couldn't foresee every
possibility. Particularly not those that were haphazard and not calculated.
I would head in a direction I had no reason to take. I could do it on
foot, but it would be better if I took public transport. I noticed that
buses were going along the street. There had to be a bus stop close
by. I would find it and get on the first bus that appeared. The direction
it took made no difference. I would act just as if I'd taken the tram
home. I would ride for a quarter of an hour and then come back. I would
have just enough time to walk from here to the zoo. The thought of the
confusion I would cause when I disappeared from sight coaxed a smile
to my lips.
I came across a bus stop some hundred meters later. Three people were
waiting there. Two elderly women were standing at one end under the
mushroom-shaped shelter, talking softly, and a young man was at the
other end, leaning against a metal pole, deeply engrossed in his music.
A wire travelled from small earphones to a walkman in the inside pocket
of his denim jacket. I joined them, standing somewhat aside. No one
paid any attention to me. At least that's how it appeared. But I had
to be careful. Looks can be deceiving and I was under close and crafty
supervision. The only thing I was sure of was that no one there was
in disguise. None of the three enchanting members of the hidden camera
team I'd met could be transformed into two old ladies and a young man.
What if one of them was a new member who'd been assigned to keep an
eye on me? They were pretending not to notice me, but that didn't mean
a thing. When I got on the bus they would get on with me.
This made me change my initial intention. I wouldn't get on the first
bus. I'd wait for them to get on. The one who let the bus go like I
did would be my tail. I looked up at the sign with the route numbers.
Two routes stopped here, so the interval between the buses couldn't
be very big. Indeed, a bus on route 83 soon arrived. Three doors opened.
A short, stout man got out of the middle one and walked briskly in the
direction from which I had come. The driver waited several moments longer
and when he was sure that no one wanted to get on, he closed the doors
and continued on his way.
Nothing seemed to have changed at the bus stop. The elderly women continued
to chat in low voices and the young man's eyes were half closed as he
nodded his head in time to a beat that only he could hear. I naturally
found him suspicious. Tailing requires a mobility that doesn't go with
advanced age. People that old shouldn't even take part in this kind
of program, it doesn't suit them. But then, I wasn't sure. You can follow
someone in a bus sitting down, and two retired actresses would certainly
have nothing against a little extra income. Why should a hidden camera
episode be worse than doing a commercial that was full of working-age
When a new bus soon arrived, also a number 83, my distrust in the self-evident
was substantiated. A young girl with very short, light blond hair jumped
out of the back door and went up to the young man. He took off his earphones.
They kissed and then headed down the street with their arms around each
other, talking gaily. All right, that cleared up the situation. Now
I knew what I had to do. If the next bus was another 83, I would get
on it. The two ladies would have no excuse for getting on with me, since
they'd let the previous two buses on that route go by. If they did get
on, then I would get out at the last moment just before the door closed,
as though I'd accidentally entered the wrong bus. They wouldn't have
time to do the same thing, and if they did they wouldn't dare because
that would give them away. If the next bus was a 57, then I would calmly
let them get on it. Once again they would have no excuse to do otherwise.
Whoever stood at a bus stop just to talk and not wait for a bus? There
was no third route.
A number 57 bus arrived at the stop soon after. No one got out of it.
The elderly ladies slowly climbed up the steps to the middle door and
sat in two free seats on the opposite side. I watched them carefully
for as long as I could see them while the bus pulled away, but neither
turned around even for a second to check what I was doing. Very professional.
Just like they were real tails and not actresses. I smiled in satisfaction
once again. I'd skillfully gotten rid of my escort. I would get onto
the next bus, whichever one it was. I didn't know where either one of
these routes went. For my purposes it made no difference anyway.
My satisfaction was of short duration. Just as the bus with the elderly
women disappeared down the street, a woman joined me under the mushroom.
She stood a bit in front of me, so I could observe her unobtrusively.
She was wearing a beret over flowing straight brown hair. She had an
unusually long coat with the collar turned up. Under her left arm was
a large thin square package, probably a picture, in dark blue wrapping
paper tied with twine. My smiled melted into a sour grimace. I had underestimated
them. They'd left nothing to chance. If the first tandem failed, a willing
substitute was waiting nearby.
Now what should I do? I could repeat the game I'd just played: force
her to get onto one of the two buses if she didn't want to show her
hand. But I would waste a good ten minutes in the process, and afterwards
what if they sent someone new? My plan would go up in smoke. Instead
of going for a half-hour ride somewhere, I would spend the time here,
giving them the chance to film a nice, unplanned episode. You could
be detained at a bus stop if you were caught up in conversation with
someone, but to let buses go by for no reason, now that was odd. I had
to make a move.
I got onto the 83 as soon as the door opened, not waiting to see what
the woman with the painting would do. I didn't sit down, even though
there were lots of empty seats. Barely five or six passengers were on
the bus. I looked out the window towards the other side of the street.
It was not until we were some distance from the bus stop that I turned
around and looked towards the back. The woman had not followed me. This
was meant to make me feel relieved, but it didn't. Instead, my head
swelled with weighty questions. They seemed to explode forth, so I sat
down on the closest seat to make the load easier to bear.
Had I let paranoia get the upper hand? When you realize you're the
target of a hidden camera episode, the worst thing that happens is you
can't get rid of your distrust. Regardless of how warranted it is, it
can also lead you to completely wrong conclusions. If I hadn't been
under its sway, the incident at the bus stop would have seemed quite
different. Normal. A young man waiting for his girlfriend; two elderly
women talking as they waited for the bus; a woman who has bought a painting
and is now going home. None of them had even turned to look at me, although
they should have since I'd given them ample reason. I was the only one
who didn't act normally. I scrutinized the people around me, looked
them up and down, I let buses go by and in general acted strangely.
I was fortunate, actually, that no one had called the police to come
The same thing had happened in the secondhand book store. I'd spent
almost a full hour convinced that they were spying on me and had adjusted
my behavior accordingly, and in the end it turned out that the only
reason I'd been brought there was for the last five minutes. Instead
of concentrating on what had happened in the back room, for that alone
was important, here I was driving myself crazy imagining that ordinary
people were tailing me. If I didn't force myself to my senses, it would
be easy to see someone working for the hidden camera among these scattered
passengers. If they really were, then no amount of caution would help
me. There would be no way to defend myself against such a complex and
all-encompassing setup. Then again, what television station would find
a project worthwhile if it cost considerably more than the expected
gain: having a bit of fun at the expense of a harmless citizen? The
very fact that they'd been involved with my humble self for several
months greatly exceeded a typical hidden camera episode's capacity.
Anything beyond that was quite incredible and preposterous.
I didn't have to be on this bus, just as there'd been no point in my
searching for a book in the bookstore. I hadn't put anyone in a tight
spot. They couldn't care less what I did in the meantime, until the
next scene. They were convinced that I would appear in front of the
zoo at nine, just as they'd been certain I would stay at the used book
store until closing time. Human psychology is rather predictable. The
success of these programs is based on that very fact. In any case, even
I knew that I would be there at the appointed hour. So I could have
gotten off at the next stop, but I decided to stay on. I couldn't think
of any better way to spend the next half hour. I would do what I'd originally
intended, even though I no longer had any reason. I would stay on the
bus for a while and then take a bus back in the opposite direction.
It was actually much more comfortable there than if I were outside.
There was no crowd, it was warm, I was sitting down and it didn't cost
a thing because I have a monthly transport pass. I would be able to
think in peace.
I stared out the window. The dark streets changing in rapid succession
mixed with the more or less vague reflection of my face. I soon paid
no attention to either one. My eyes glazed over when my thoughts changed
direction. The stunt with the book had been original. If I hadn't been
ready for just about anything, I would have been flabbergasted to see
a book with my name on it. Not only had I not written it, but allegedly
it came from the future. The predictability and superficiality of hidden
camera shows was what prevented me from watching them. This, however,
was different. The inventive writers somewhat compensated for the fact
that I was an unwilling participant.
My name on the book wrapper brought to mind an event I hadn't thought
about in a long time. Many years before, when I'd just started working
as an undertaker, I'd been briefly enthralled with the idea of writing
a book. It was supposed to be a melodrama. I had the subject worked
out to the finest detail in my head. It was a very romantic and exciting
story. About love and death. A very successful film could have been
based on it. But nothing came of it because I got stuck on the title.
I couldn't start writing without a proper title. I'd ruminated a full
two and a half months, writing pages and pages of possible titles, but
not one satisfied me completely. In the end I gave up and burned everything.
I wasn't destined to become a writer if I couldn't even think up a title.
I went back to cremations and burials without the slightest enthusiasm.
The thinning lights outside indicated that we were slowly reaching
the suburbs. The bus window mostly reflected my pensive face against
a dark background. I pulled myself together and looked at my watch.
Eight-thirty had passed three minutes ago. It was time to go back. I
got up quickly and headed for the middle door, grabbing hold of the
pole. I pushed the button to signal the driver that I wanted to get
out at the next stop. The three other passengers with me in the bus
clearly intended to stay on. No one even looked at me. The bus soon
stopped and I got off.
I had no idea what part of town I was in, but it wasn't a residential
area. An orangish light illuminated the brick façades of square four-story
buildings. Judging by the neon signs, they contained various factories,
services or warehouses. Almost none had display windows on the ground
floor. I turned around. I was standing alone in the middle of an empty
street. It seemed to be several degrees colder than in the city center
and the wind was blowing. I raised the collar of my coat and headed
for the other side of the street, disregarding the fact that I was jaywalking.
Compared to the reckless dash across the boulevard as I rushed to the
Film Archives, this violation was harmless. Now there was no one to
reprimand me or give me a fine.
The sign at the bus stop showed only one number: 83. I hoped I wouldn't
have long to wait. I'd noted that buses were rather frequent on this
route. But the minutes dragged by and there was no sign of a bus. Actually,
not a single vehicle went by in either direction. The stoplight at the
distant intersection went red, yellow and green at regular intervals,
uselessly directing nonexistent traffic. My stifled suspicions started
to stir once again. This was strange. A certain amount of activity was
to be expected at that time of day even in an industrial zone. It wasn't
even nine o'clock. On the other hand, this was a perfect setting for
a tense hidden camera scene. The victim would be made to think that
everyone else had suddenly disappeared without a trace and he was all
alone in the world. No, I didn't dare let myself succumb to paranoia
again. They had no way of knowing I would be there. Not even I had known
that. Plus, they were expecting me to appear at the zoo very soon.
I turned my left wrist towards a nearby streetlight and glanced at
my watch. Nineteen to nine. If a bus didn't come in two or three minutes,
I would likely be late. Now the time crunch wasn't their fault. I'd
set my own self up. I could be late, of course, it wouldn't be the end
of the world, but I was already too much involved in the whole thing
to take it lightly. Being a push-me-pull-you means complying with mutual
At fourteen minutes to nine I had to face facts. Even if a bus appeared
that very moment -- and none was anywhere in sight -- I was out of luck.
With stops along the way, it would need at least a quarter of an hour
to reach Chestnut Street, and that wasn't my final destination. Now
only a taxi could save me. The thought of a taxi, however, merely increased
my anxiety. Of all the means of transportation available, a taxi was
last on my list, for good reason. In any case, even if I'd been able
to overcome this resistance, there was no trace or sound of anything.
I was already starting to despair when two lights flickered far off
down the street, seeming to pop up out of nowhere. After they soundlessly
reached the intersection, where they stopped briefly at a red light,
I made out a private car behind them. Someone had finally appeared to
dispel the ghostly solitude of this place. Unfortunately, there was
no taxi sign on its roof, not even one that was turned off. The red
light went yellow and then green and the car started to speed up. Just
a few moments more and it would rush right by me. I had to act. This
was my last chance to arrive on time. I've never had any tolerance for
reckless behavior, even under duress. And here I was behaving not only
recklessly but suicidally. I ran out almost one-third into the street,
right in front of the car, and frantically waved both arms.
What happened next looked like a scene from an action movie. There
was the sharp squeal of tires on the asphalt, the car swerved and finally
stopped about a foot from me. The leading man had escaped death by a
hair, to the great relief of the audience. Nothing happened for several
moments. A veil of silence settled once again on the orange-colored
illumination all around us. I stood there without moving, hands in the
air, between two bright headlights. Everything happened so fast there
was no time to be afraid. It actually seemed that the whole thing was
happening to someone else, not me. Finally, the barely audible noise
of the engine stopped, the door opened and the driver got out.
He was a tall, thin man, about my age. He wore glasses and had a thick,
cropped beard. His hair had already receded quite high on his forehead
but, unlike mine, had not yet started to gray. We scrutinized each other
"You might have died," he said at last. There was no anger or reproach
in his voice. He said it the way one states the simple facts of life.
"I know," I agreed tersely, as though there was nothing else to say.
We both fell silent again. Had someone been watching from the sidelines,
the scene would have resembled a surreal heist: a man was pointing an
enormous gun in the shape of a car at another man standing in the middle
of an empty street, his hands in the air.
Again he was the first to speak. "I suppose you have a good reason
for exposing yourself to such danger."
"I have to be at the zoo at nine o'clock." As soon as the words were
out I realized how foolish they sounded. If the fact that I'd rushed
in front of his car hadn't been enough for him to realize he was dealing
with a madman, this would certainly do the trick. Had I been in his
shoes I would have slipped back into the car, driven around this suspicious
guy and hurried off.
But he didn't do that. He stood there, looking at me inquisitively.
This time the pause lasted a bit longer.
He nodded to the right-hand side of the car. "Get in, I'll take you
I didn't move right away. I watched him get into the car and put on
his seatbelt. It was only when he looked at me quizzically through the
windshield that my petrified body relaxed and I finally put my hands
down. I hurried to the other side of the car, opened the door and got
in next to him. I reached for the seatbelt to put it on. As I was awkwardly
fumbling with it, the man started up the engine and briskly hit the
accelerator. The car lunged forward and the inertia pressed me back
in my seat.
Once we were on our way I suddenly realized there was music playing.
It was very soft. Had the engine been a bit louder it would have completely
drowned it out. I couldn't determine its source. It seemed to be coming
from everywhere. The speakers must have been placed both front and back.
The right side of the lighted dashboard had a built-in sound system
with red and blue lights resembling a small constellation in the dark
cosmos of the car's interior. I couldn't understand why the man didn't
turn up the sound or turn off the music. This way you could only listen
if you strained your ears. I had to make a real effort in order finally
to ascertain that it was a composition for piano and flute. A woman's
voice appeared from time to time, but the singing was more or less inaudible.
And then we started to talk, so this background music faded completely.
"You're in luck," said the driver, not taking his eyes off the road
in front of him. "The zoo is on my way, so you'll get there before nine."
He hesitated as though uncertain whether to go on, then added, "Luck
would have been on your side even if I hadn't managed to brake on time,
but in that case, of course, it would have been a blessing in disguise.
You would have gone with me straight to the hospital."
"You're going to the hospital?" I asked in confusion. For the first
time, my conscience bothered me about what I'd done.
"Yes, but not as a patient, if that's what you're thinking. I work
there. I'm an obstetrician. The night shift starts at nine-thirty."
"Oh, I see." My conscience felt a bit better.
We drove along in silence, except for the barely audible music. Although
somewhat appeased, my conscience still troubled me. I had to make my
excuses to this man. That was the least I could do. He hadn't been angry
at my wild exploit and had even kindly offered to take me with him.
I've never been good at finding the right words in awkward situations.
That's why I'm mostly considered a cold and abrasive person, although
this isn't true at all. As I was figuring out what to say, the obstetrician
beat me to it.
"I didn't know the zoo was open at night."
The driver briefly turned his head towards me. "Then you work there?"
"No, no. I'm an undertaker."
I bit my tongue. Once again it had got the better of my common sense.
Whenever possible, I don't reveal the line of work I'm in. Not because
I'm embarrassed, of course. It is an honorable and responsible profession.
Isn't the best confirmation of its importance the fact that of all public
services only we are not allowed to strike? And with good reason. Society
could somehow manage to survive without any other service, but if we
were to stop working for even one day, everything would go straight
to pieces. No one would know what to do with the deceased, and they
would only multiply. Few people realize how many deaths there are every
day in just one large city such as this.
To be fair, they don't deny our importance, but no one is pleased to
make the acquaintance of an undertaker. They get all fidgety and jump
at the first chance of escape, although there is no need. It would never
cross my mind to talk about my work. Even I can barely wait to think
about something else. They probably regard us as a bad omen. You can't
really blame them. Even we undertakers do our best not to meet outside
of work. I'm not at all superstitious, but whenever I run into a colleague
it's almost always a sure sign that trouble is coming my way.
Now it was his turn to say, "Oh, I see."
Mentioning my profession only made my position worse. I couldn't take
back what I'd said, unfortunately, but I could and had to offer a good
excuse for visiting the zoo at this unseemly hour. Otherwise when we
soon parted ways he would leave convinced that he'd met someone with
a screw loose. Another person might not give a toss, but not me. I care
what people think about me, even total strangers. I couldn't tell him
the truth, of course. If the story about a hidden camera were to be
added to this already messy situation, the man might easily stop the
car and order me to get out. Or, even worse, he might take me straight
to the hospital and put me in the psychiatric ward. Luckily, I had no
trouble thinking up a plausible excuse.
"Actually, I'm not going to the zoo. I have an important meeting scheduled
in front of the entrance." The obstetrician might doubt this if there
was no one waiting in front of the zoo, but I would stay at the entrance
and pretend to be waiting impatiently. He certainly wouldn't hang around
to see whom I was meeting.
The driver didn't seem to hear my explanation. He stared straight ahead,
concentrating on his driving. I thought his lips were turned up in a
gentle smile, but this might have been an illusion caused by the feeble
light. We were already in the central part of town. Although still sporadic,
the traffic seemed quite lively after the total emptiness of the suburban
"We're actually colleagues of sorts," he said suddenly, after I'd already
resigned myself to the fact that he didn't feel like talking to an undertaker
and the rest of the trip would pass in silence.
"Colleagues?" I repeated, bewildered.
"Yes, as strange as it may seem. Both our jobs are basically concerned
with the same phenomenon. The spot where life and death touch each other."
I expected him to say something else, but he kept on driving as though
what he'd just said needed no further explanation.
"I'm afraid I don't understand," I replied after a brief hesitation.
"Does that mean there are a lot of deaths during childbirth?"
The obstetrician shook his head. "No, not at all. Almost none. In days
of yore childbirth was quite risky for both mother and child, but that
stopped long ago. For example, in my long years of practice I've only
lost two patients, and they were very special cases."
"So where does death appear in your work?"
The driver didn't reply at once. We were pulled up at a stoplight.
A group of happy, noisy young people passed in front of us. A willowy
girl with long hair turned towards us and waved.
"Death is what precedes the beginning of life, isn't it?" he said after
we started moving again. "During birth you go from death to life. During
death, which is your domain, you go in the opposite direction."
"I didn't know it could be looked at that way."
"Quite simplified, of course. There are two basic states, right? Life
and death. If you're not alive then you're dead. And vice versa. Those
who are not yet born are just as dead as those who have died."
"But those two states of death are not the same," I said defiantly.
"I mean, death that follows life is final, there is nothing after it,
while the one that precedes life is ... " I stopped, unable to find
the right word.
"Transitory?" he suggested.
"Yes, transitory," I agreed.
"The question is whether that is the only difference between the two
states of death."
I looked at him inquiringly. "What else could there be? Death is death,
regardless of whether it is before or after life. Nonexistence, nothingness.
There is no difference."
"Do you think so?" answered the obstetrician. His voice was very low,
so I barely heard him.
I fixed my eyes on him, waiting, but once again he failed to elaborate,
so I could only guess at what he wanted to say. In one respect, there
was indeed a strong affinity between a doctor and an undertaker. Doctors
might have even fewer illusions than we do about death. For them it
is simply the final clinical state. But clearly there must be exceptions
among doctors, as there are among undertakers. Just as some of my colleagues
have not lost hope that death is not the end, in spite of what they
see every day, there must be doctors who have a hard time accepting
what their science tells them so irrefutably. I must have run into one
of them. The best thing would be to refrain from any discussion. If
he'd gotten some nonsense into his head about life after death, I certainly
wouldn't remove it with any rational arguments. In addition, it would
be quite ungrateful to argue with someone who was doing you a favor.
In the end, there was no time for an argument. Although I couldn't tell
where we were in the darkness, judging by the time we'd spent driving
we must have been quite close to the place where I would get out.
Indeed, after turning right at an intersection, the tall iron gate
of the zoo appeared before us at the bottom of a broad street. The small
square in front of it was well lit but empty. There was no reason for
anyone to be there. Who goes to see wild animals at night? No one, of
course, except imprudent participants in a hidden camera episode. The
obstetrician brought the car up to the gate, then indicated the little
digital clock on top of the dashboard.
"Two minutes to nine."
"Here I am, first to arrive, thanks to your kindness. Please don't
hold it against me for stopping you the way I did. Circumstances sometimes
force a man to ... rash behavior."
He smiled and nodded his head. "Of course." He stretched out his hand.
"Until we meet again."
"Until we meet again," I replied, shaking his hand. As I got out of
the car, I thought how inappropriate this farewell had been. The chances
of the two of us seeing each other again were quite negligible. I certainly
would not be needing his professional services and should he need mine,
well, the meeting would be one-sided.
I stood next to the pavement, watching as he turned the car and drove
swiftly off. I didn't have to pretend that I was waiting for someone.
A few moments later he turned right down a street and disappeared from
view. I sighed deeply and then turned towards the wrought iron bars.
Only a small area on the other side of the gate was illuminated by a
floodlight. Beyond that there was pitch darkness.
Translated from the Serbian by
© Zoran Zivkovic 2003, 2005.
Hidden Camera (2003) is published in an English language
edition in 2005 by the Dalkey Archive Press.
Hidden Camera (2003) is published in an English language
edition in 2005 by the Dalkey Archive Press.
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