Sunday, October 28, 2007

Anti-Danube: Chapter VI

In Which I Encounter the League of the Wives of Dr Bohdan Naxajlo

Although words are the tools with which I fashion rude furniture from the stuff of my life, on this occasion I had to defer to our national poet Lub Farmaceuta and his epic The Sanding of St Bronislovlj:

"O Lord you judge men harshly
And none so more than me
Sometimes you pass by my affliction
With a mocking glance
Other times you return with an accordion
A flask
And a Turk."

It was as if the bard, diplomat and necrophile himself was convulsing with me there on the floor of Colonel Nadroth's office, as if he too knew what it was to have hot gravel fly simultaneously from your throat and fundament, to be raised from the Slovak shagpile on the blistering brand of your engorged glans, then spun around by the roaring trump from your own rear, and to have your nostrils slit by the stench of your spilt groin gravy. The editorial board of Literaturna Ruthenia disagreed, hence their failure to publish "Tropes of Contemporaneity in the Works of Farmaceuta". Nonetheless I stand by my analysis, which was more than I could do that grim afternoon at NAKRO headquarters.

"Tschtjetz, hose down Citizen Zhatko, he seems to have stopped erupting. Citizen Zhatko, kindly fill in this form, once you've been sufficiently hosed, paying particular attention to the sections on asphyxiation, blindness and rectal prolapse. You may use my pen." With that, Col Nadroth scraped his boots on his sword and retired to contemplate the lignite clouds from his window banquette.

Agent Tschtjetz hosed me as requested, using what he called the "organic method". He rolled me back onto the chair and handed me my unsullied trousers.

"Got 'em off in the lift. All part of the service," he grinned, pushing a form in front of me. It read:

Ministry of Disproportionate Defence Measures of the People's Democratic and Popular Republic of Ruthenia
Department of Unlicensed Chemical & Biological Warfare
Release Form

Dear citizen/relative of the deceased [delete where applicable]!

On behalf of the Cabinet of Ministers and Politburo we, the progressive scientists and troops of the People's Military and Apothecary Vanguard wish to acknowledge your ex post facto agreement to and/or sacrifice in pursuit of ever more drastic and economical means of defending the interests of the workers, peasants and revolutionarily-inclined bureaucracy.

Strychnoparalaxicum is the latest achievement of the shockworkers of Experimental Laboratory 547 of the Department of Unlicensed Chemical & Biological Warfare in the Name of Dr Paul Kammerer. You/your recently departed are/is the first person to encounter this toxin in objectively-voluntary, non-laboratory conditions. Your treatment/burial is conditional upon your completion of this form.

There followed a series of sections assessing the effects of this potion on my mind, organs, evacuative processes and ideological attitudes.

"Biological warfare," I whimpered.

"Cheer up, comrade, it's chemical in your case. All part of Prodekon," said Tschtjetz.

"Correct," continued Nadroth, lighting another Karbin filter-tip with a handful of confessions."Prodotvyrna ekonomikalyzatyja - productive economizing - the Party's new policy of saving money by having one state association farm out some of its activities to another. In this case, the Ministry of Disproportionate Defence Measures has paid us to combine its weapons research with our recruitment of informers. It's not all so challenging. The Batko Voskoboynikov Slyvovytz Distillery is trying out its new 120-proof batch on the five-year-old violin class at the Henadz Katz Special School for Panda-Eyed Prodigies. Teatime is quite an event there these days, and some of them have been signed up by the jazz department of the Gramodisk record company."

"Could be worse. Mrjakobes Meat-Processing Plant has this line of eel sausages that, well…, just don't eat out in Breb, that's all I'm saying," whinced Tschtjetz.

"You know Breb well, of course," smiled Nadroth as I tried to stuff my elephantine feet through my trouser legs. "The swelling in your extremities ought to subside within a few hours, but I suggest covering that with a waistcoat unless you want to attract the attention of the Vice Squad."

I took his second hint and adjusted my tripod stance. As for his first hint, I braced myself for further unpleasantness.

"The good if unlettered folk of Breb are convinced you're - " Nadroth glanced at some inky scrolls of what looked like toilet paper before him "- a pre- and post-war collaborator with the monarchists, social-democrats, Nazis, Trotskyists, 'so-called Hungarians’, real Hungarians and even us Communists, for dialectic's sake!"

"What did I do during the war? I forget, it’s being 20 years before I was born,"
I inquired mildly.

Nadroth leafed back a few rolls. "You were engaged in decadence, male prostitution, profiteering, and preparing for your post-war treachery. Ah, you also collaborated with 'Topo' Zjyvkowytz."

"But he was a cabaret comedian!"
I wailed.

"They didn't like him in Breb. Told Breb jokes apparently," noted Nadroth over his tinted, half-moon frames.

"That's right, comrade colonel. Where did the first Brevian come from? A Slovak banged a monkey and chucked it across the Danube! That was one his," recalled Tschtjetz.

"Thank you, sergeant," signed Nadroth. "The point is, Zhatko, that you have been denounced and condemned by an entire village of worthy if gastrically-troubled citizen-peasants, not to mention the Comrade First Secretary of the Party, for dissidence and lack of dissidence. On top of that, you've violated Socialist norms of morality and taste in your grubby ruttings with Comrade Madame Lottie Slavko and that librarian with all the Hungarian uniforms, while impersonating the son of a late possible Zionist, Professor Yitzhak Zhakto. In short, there's enough on this charge-sheet to get you a forced-labour camp all of your own, if that's what you and the Will of The People Made Manifest in The Deliberations of the Security Organs want. So I suggest that you put your addiction to collaboration to good use by performing some simple, patriotic tasks of personal betrayal for the Party, fatherland and your dear old mum."

"Prisoner 4567049/D, we were going to call her,"
explained Tschtjetz.

I pondered for a moment as my fingers slowly defused under the gentle encouragement of Tschtjetz’s truncheon. "I am ready to serve," I declared. "Can I have the antidote, and some clothes that aren't coated in most of me, please?"

"All part of your rehabilitation!"
smiled the colonel. "Tschtjetz will give you a fuller briefing later on, once you've rested and that thing's turned a normal colour. In the meantime, read this."

As I hopped away to a cell of my own, I glanced at the title of the bulky folder Nadroth had eased between my teeth. It read "The League of the Wives of Dr Bohdan Naxajlo".


M C Ward said...

I'm recommending you to my contacts at the Hay-on-Wye (Y Gelli Gandryll) book festival.

No Good Boyo said...

Wow, youre a gent/(bonheddwr)! Between us, we could destroy the world.

Oliver Gosling said...

This a wery tearful story, I do hope this will end with a merry song.

M C Ward said...

How many do you need for an Eisteddfod?

No Good Boyo said...

The standard Eisteddfod Kit issued by the Ministry of Songs consists of the following:

nine standing stones, supplied by the Welsh Slate Place (Lle Llech Cymru;

an Independent Calvinist Methodist (Calvinist) minister with a speech defect to adjudicate;

a frustrated spinster pianist who accelerates as the singers flag;

at least 14 over-animated choirs of nine-year schoolgirls;

a drill-hall full of adults denying paternity over the Varèseian melisa rolling from the stage;

a brace of cars on involuntary loan from Birmingham chiropractors, to be painted green for the occasion; and

a letter to the local paper condemning narrow nationalism and demanding that the eisteddfod should be conducted in English.

No Good Boyo said...

Sorry, that should be "melisma".

Ian Plenderleith said...

I've always thought that I would have made a good lapsed Calvinist in another century.

Now Zhlatko has caved in to the ministry's coercion, whither Ruthenia? I can only fantasise about a fusion of your two main narratives, in which Colonel Deakin storms across the Danube at the head of a camel train sporting 100,000 whooping Turkestians primed to liberate via the most direct and violent means possible.