Sunday, January 20, 2008
Anti-Danube: Chapter VIII
In which I learn not to rely on geography
"Frda's dense breasts rang out the carillon of the desecrated church of St Hydrofoilj above my burnished helmet. I had another hour before my lone raid on the nest of intentionalist vipers, where I would use only stealth, nakedness and a small armoury to smite the enemies of objective progress. Could the very fibres of Frda's basted body hold out that long, or would I have to return to her two sisters?..."
I set down the pen, my mind harrowed from producing ideologically-attuned erotica for NAKRO agents on night watch. This was my evening of voluntary labour after days spent on the basic induction course "Getting To Know And Kill The Imperialists", run by Agents Tschtjetz and Kafka.
I was warming to Kafka, an altogether more predictable and marginally less malodorous character than his mercurial, mullet-musky colleague.
Kafka's parents had realized from an early age that the security services were a reliable channel of advancement for slovenly yet meaty plebeians in a Socialist society, and did everything they could to ease their son into the ranks of NAKRO - which amounted to naming him "Agent" and writing denunciations of their neighbours in his childish hand.
It worked, and Agent Agent Kafka was recruited into the NAKRO "Young Vultures" (Mladi Gaijyi) division at the age of 15. He excelled at once, his first act being to denounce his parents' act of naming him as "Anticipating the Path of the Party and People" under Section 567/Y(xiv) of Paragraph 678 of the Criminal Code ("On Unsanctioned Enthusiasm").
He was commended by none other than Minister of State Security Jajcabiy himself in a marginal note on his annual report, which praised the lad's concern for his parents' ideological well-being - a note that Kafka thoughtfully passed on to his mother and, posthumously, his father at Corrective Uranium-Packing Plant No.4 in the Name of Fisk.
Kafka's company was edgy but, unlike that of Tschtjetz, did not present any immediate physical danger. An empurpled, hairless head erupted from the chapped collar of his uniform, and was barely restrained from entering a resentment-fuelled low orbit by his mottled peaked cap. Conversation was something Kafka kept to a minimum. In between draughts of slyvovytz he would grunt accounts of retribution against individuals real and imaginary who had slighted him, all concluding with a triumphant snort of "Kafka focked him!".
Sometimes, I gathered, this was literally true.
Agent Kafka's contribution to the induction was a module on "Active Witnessing of Interrogations", which consisted of his playing a gramophone recording of The Internationale while crushing a pair of ripe tomatoes between his thumbs.
As a citizen of Socialist, Democratic and Popular Ruthenia I was more interested in where he had found the tomatoes, but rated his classes as overall more agreeable that Tschtjetz's practical course on sewer surveillance and "The Coat Hangar: Tool of the Trade and Occasional Comfort".
In a quiet moment after he'd sent the rest of the class to the infirmary to practice their techniques, Kafka took me aside and explained the story of the missing mountain.
"Naxajlo is like fox, but fox with mind of dog," he explained. "Source says after much bucket treatment that Naxajlo will announce loss of Mount Dohrudj at cultural event here in Zhakhiv this week via his agents, on whom we spit from afar. Aim - destroy proletarian faith in government ability to control geography. Is lie. Lower than Naxajlo is only crawling slee-worm."
I could tell Agent Kafka took the sensational disappearance of our iconic mountain personally, as his accent and disdain for verbs and articles marked him out as either an Alpine Ruthenian or a simpleton.
I too was pained. How could any patriot not be? I recalled the words of our national poet, Nikolas Blinko, in our national poem "We Are Ruthenians, Please Leave Us Alone":
"Dohrudj! Twin-breasted Amazon,
Rearing twice above our shadowed plains.
Dohrudj! Goddess, huntress and defender
Of our lesser, but also divine, mountains..."
I blinked back tears. "How can a subjective comprador emigrant hijack an entire mountain?"
"Where was our People's Popular Defensive Attack Force? Where were our brave Internal Retentive Border Coordination Guards? Where is our mountain? These are the near-treasonable thoughts passing through your still-attached head, Comrade Zhatko. Please let them, and it, remain there."
Colonel Nadroth had entered the classroom through a panel concealed behind a poster of the So-Called Hungarian Menace. He lit a cheroot from the blowtorch Kafka was still dangling from his belt, and continued:
"Naxajlo may be able to ease favours from the yielding flesh of nomenklatura beldames, but he played no part in the disappearance of Mount Dohrudj. That, I'm almost proud to say, was an unintended by-product of the Soviet-Ruthenian Defensive Manoeuvre Pact of 1978.
"Comrade First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia, Kostyatyn Novak, had decided to grant our eastern Slav brothers a weapons-testing facility on the slopes of Mount Dohrudj. Some infelicities of translation led the Soviet Army to read this as 'weapons-testing facility Mount Dohrudj', which they rapidly reduced to rubble through dry-runs of the planned peaceful saturation bombing of the Ruhr Valley."
"From Dohrudj to No-hrudj," grunted Kafka, who had clearly waited a decade to make that crack.
"Thank you, Agent Kafka, you may continue the narrative," Nadroth gracefully acknowledged Kafka's bon mot.
"No all bad. First, rubble used to build NAKRO children camp, large crater make good ducking pool. Second, uncover much uranium, so open new Corrective Uranium-Packing Plant No.5 in Name of Dejevsky. Clear mountain air benefit Kafka's mother. Third, much improved views across plain to assess Hungarian Menace," Kafka continued, adding "We fock them!" in case I doubted the efficacy of Ruthenian military planning.
"But what about the Questing Marmot youth hikes in the Dohrudj foothills, the Central Committee mountain-top resort where foreign dignitaries are entertained, the mountain itself, looming majestically over the slack rooftops of Yützhrad?" I asked.
"To take your points in order," responded Nadroth, "Our inquisitive Socialist youthlings are transported at night to sororial Romania, where they wander the Carpathians in the company of horincă-dispensing Gypsy girls and are happy to keep their doubts to themselves.
"The mountain-top resort is in southern Poland, where our leaders forewarn themselves of the latest compromises our quadrant-hatted near-neighbours are making with the despised world of commerce. It also ensures foreign dignitaries have a positive impression of our Socialist society, as we have disaggregated hospitality to the Poles under a Comecon agreement. In return we repair their wristwatches."
"Lech potatoheads!" snorted Kafka "We fock them!"
"Thank you, Kafka. And finally, the outcrop glowering over scenic Yützhrad is Mount Dohlav, the identity of which was kept secret for decades by being hidden behind Mount Dohrudj. It was the prewar alpine playground of King Oleg the Invert, and widely shunned by the local peasantry for that reason. The People's Defensive Artillery carried out some basic reshaping of the summit, and a strategic adjustment to spectacle prescriptions by the local Health Board ensured that none of the berry-chewing moujiks is any the wiser," concluded the Colonel with a friendly tap of his cigar in my gaping mouth.
"Any of them go walk and talk about it, we leave them overnight in Szekler village and send pictures to family," added Kafka blandly.
"I am of course impressed and humbled by the ingenuity and compassion of the people's representatives in this, and all other, endeavours to protect the workers, peasants and progressive toilers by brain and hand from the consequences of their actions, but what role am I, a simple philosopher, to play in this?" I asked, sensing that I was not being admitted to the sanctum of state secrecy out of some brandy-based communal candour.
"Comrade Zhatko!" Nadroth rapped out his response with a crisp tattoo with his crop on my crotch. "First, you will infiltrate the event at which Naxajlo's creatures are to make their treacherous announcement, and second you will identify the translator whose error led to the destruction of our only peasant-free mountain.
"Even," he added, "if that translator turns out to be yourself!"