Slavko the barman had stopped laughing, so I approached him.
"I would like a shot of afinata and a plum pirizhyk to go."
"Comrade Zhatko," replied Slavko, "I would like my wife to go. Or at least to look more like Kim Novak and less like the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia, Kostyatyn Novak. But neither is provided for in the Plan this quarter, and we do not practice voluntarist adventurism in this cafe."
I silently shared his regret at the unwholesome appearance of Madame Slavko, with whom I was conducting an affair as research for my short story "The Chiropractor: Symphonies in Squalour". From time to time I imagined that Slavko, through some dim sense developed in the Carpathian Forests of his forefathers, knew of my disinterested mounting of his wife, as every pastry-related inquiry was met with the wish that Lottie should leave him for parts unspecified.
I tipped him a full half thaler, which he bit and pocketed. A wise and dangerous man.
I left the cafe, crossed Hetman Shaxraj Boulevard and headed towards the National Library. I burned to begin research on the Danube and its dark twin that I had felt flow through me, but first to old business.
I settled myself at my customary table, that reserved for the late Academician Prof Yitzhak Zhatko, and as usual ordered the latest London Review of Books, L'Infini, Dilema Veche, Frak(tur) and the Frankfurter Allgmeine Zeitung. As usual the librarian sneered and dropped a copy of Litblatt Rutenskij and the daily papers on my blotter before wiggling off in her Bulgarian slingbacks.
Litblatt, the only arts and literary journal to lead on sports stories, provided a convenient cover for my swift perusal of the daily obituary columns for any reference to the passing of Prof Zhatko. Reassured that my table by the radiator was safe for another day, I opened my notebook at the page "Those Who Reject the Thesis of Zhatko", and sadly added the name of Slavislav Kodoba: mon semblable - mon pere.
(Yizhak Zhatko 1982)