Friday, June 10, 2005

Broken Glass

No picture: a thousand words for Feisty Christina

Broken glass, a whole river of shattered glass pieces. Zlatko immediately remembered the milk bottling cooperative of old: stacks of cages, a dozen of one-liter bottles each, countless crates piled around the inner alleyway, where trucks loaded and unloaded. His dad used to work there; Zlatko would eagerly sneak in his truck during any school holiday. Once in a while his dad caused a load of empty glass bottles to collapse and a great mess of shiny splinters would ensue. Zlatko dreamt he magically put all the pieces back, so dad would not be in trouble. But that was ages ago. There were no cows now, no cooperative, hardly any milk to be found. He surveyed the field in front of him, unsure of where or how to cross. How had all this glass gotten there? Nobody he’d dare talk to ever discussed what this place behind the fence used to be in the old days, but he’d never heard anything, no story, no rumor, no tale even remotely connected to – glass. Yet, here it was, and very real it looked, millions of shattered little pieces laying in front of him, between his little feet and the ball. Zlatko looked at his shoes: not a pretty sight. No part of him was a pretty sight, as if anyone cared. His thin legs were bruised, his left ankle still bore the marks of last month’s clash with the Liberty Park gang, when he miserably failed to avoid Fat-Boy’s iron pole. Fat-Boy, he was mean. The older girls who knew everything and remembered everything, remembered the good days, muttered he’d killed someone during the fights. Zlatko knew they meant during the Civil War, but nobody used these words. No war is civil. Slobo would have been nineteen today, had he—

Zlatko’s train of thoughts was abruptly interrupted. He sensed a sharp increase in the ambient light’s intensity. As if someone had suddenly turned all the stadium lights on, exactly like the one and only time he had been inside the “Peoples’ Friendship” Football Stadium, the smallest spectator of the day, accompanying his dad and older brother. Slobo had warned him to stick close or this would be the last time he’d be permitted to come along. His first time proved to be his last time anyway. Dynamo were playing host to some Italian team. Dynamo was the local kids’ pride, Veselinovic and Shauta were their heroes, they scored every time they played in the National League. Zlatko liked Shauta best. He was so bright, he rarely missed a shot – and so did Zlatko. His memory of the game he had watched live was so crisp, so vivid: Dynamo was eliminated 2-1 but had performed brilliantly. Shauta had missed the equalizer, sending the ball high over the post, onto the crowd of stunned spectators. Some bloke had kept the ball, a precious memento. Zlatko had done the exact same thing earlier today: kicked the ball high over the fence, into the no-no zone. But he had to recover the ball, their only ball. Inside he’d sneaked.

Raising his gaze from his bruised ankle he instinctively closed his eyes. The glass river produced a tormenting glow, much like a mirror. The sun had finally come out of the clouds. Zlatko brought his right hand in front of his face and used his palm as a visor. Eyes half-open, he tried to assess the situation better. He felt he was wasting precious time, sitting there and thinking incoherent things. There was a mission at stake. Noises from across the fence, some two hundred meters to his left, his buddies he’d left behind who’d most probably stand motionless waiting for him to return, were greatly muffled. Some truck engine could be heard disappearing away from their game spot. No birds were signing, no flies were flying, not even a small, green lizard would appear among the dry, thorny bushes. Zlatko realized he would have to move further down the steep hill and approach the glass river, should he hope to cross and recover the ball. Unbelievable how far the ball had landed into this – this weird, dusty field. His eyes, now adapting to the intense light, gave him a panoramic view he’d no longer have the moment he started climbing down towards the broken glass. Briefly, a question crossed his mind. What would Slobo have done? But there was no answer, no concrete knowledge to find analogies to such a situation. Five years ago, when all hell had broken loose, Zlatko was only seven. Slobo was gone and there had been no time for lessons from his big brother. Zlatko grew up alone, had to learn everything by himself. He stood up and took the first step downhill.

Never before had he sweated so much. He had barely moved fifty meters and realized the traverse would be harder than expected. The glass was much closer and shone so brilliantly, he felt blinded. Keeping his eyes almost completely shut made the descent much harder. Twice in three steps thorns had injured his legs, there were drops of blood dripping and he knew this would be no easy task. Directly in front of him, the broken glass river appeared as if moving, flowing. Zlatko was certain he could hear the little pieces. Each radiated some sort of humming wave, as if the sun’s reflected rays carried the glass’ inner voices. Where it came from did not matter any more. Zlatko felt like a little piece of iron ore being involuntarily drawn towards a powerful magnet: the glass river was pulling him towards its shores, the light it reflected felt like a gigantic current which engulfed him, allowing no escape.

Across the glass river he aimed, his feet above the splinters, his body void of weight, an ethereal nothingness, sustained by the radiated ruptured dreams, his crushed childhood’s innocence, his brother’s smashed life, his family’s mutilated unity: Eyes shut, he missed his crippled power of magically rectifying all breaks.


Anonymous christina said...

Amazing! Just amazing.

Your powers of description are simply remarkable.

Well done and Thank YOU!

5:46 am EEST  
Blogger That 1 Guy said...

Wow, dude... I'm way drunk, and this just froze me up. Nice job!

9:07 am EEST  
Blogger Guy S said...

The imagery is outstanding!! Great story.

8:17 pm EEST  
Blogger sissoula said...

The acclaim is well deserved. The story is as eloquent as it is moving. I'm glad someone has convinced you not to abandon your adopted tongue (it suits you) not to mention the modest little project of the blog. Maybe we could even do a light summer story-telling thing until its fate becomes clear. I've got sth sexy I'd be willing to contribute, if it's not in bad taste to offer.

About the present story, I've (also) found myself fascinated recently with its central conceit, but in reverse. Namely, how the sea, if the sun is just right, can turn into a pane of glass, solid but ready to shatter at the slightest disturbance, reflective but blinding, revealing nothing, opaque, impossible to look at or penetrate, painful, and painfully beautiful.

In your story, it's lovely how sth as unforgiving as glass takes on the fluid properties of water. (Almost, anyway.) I remember being taught sth about that in school.

9:31 am EEST  
Anonymous christina said...

sissoula is absolutely correct.

You write beautifully.

; )

3:26 pm EEST  
Blogger dystropoppygus said...

It's a well known fact I cannot resist a woman. Two women? :-)

We'll discuss this, I promise.

4:11 pm EEST  
Blogger ιονκ said...

it's aliiiive!.. aliiiive!

2:02 pm EEST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Μαϊστα... τώρα έδεσε η μανέστρα...

3:03 pm EEST  
Anonymous karina said...

This is a beautiful story. I'm so glad you are back and writing. Missed you much. I've reread this a few times now. Each time the shimmering shards of glass seem to reflect a different hue.

9:41 am EEST  
Blogger Jinx said...

Your articulation amazes me, especially when english is not your natural language.

Brilliant imagery.

I aim to write something like that someday.

7:31 pm EEST  
Blogger koita_me said...

Prosethese kai esy to onoma sou ->

8:21 pm EEST  

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