Page 1

and Pa nicked some sugar and a book called ‘A Guide for Growing Girls or How to Win Rare and Lasting Affection from a Man.’ They also took with them a fishing rod and tackle, because they wanted to live on fish. They spent a whole week roaming around, sleeping in haystacks and brickworks. The police scoured the area looking for them and made inquiries everywhere. But then they turned up of their own accord, famished, scruffy and dirty as tinkers. Pa overheard Ma telling this tale and told her off for talking about it to me. He said that this would stop the boy having respect for his elders, but then he laughed himself and said: “Well, that was then. Those were the days.” I wanted him to tell me how he had walked to Africa, and he told me more about it and he kept adding to it, because I couldn’t get enough of his story. And I asked him why he took ‘A Guide for Growing Girls’ with him. What help would the book be among all the wild tribes? And Pa said: “What could I do, my lad, when I didn’t have any other book and the boys would do me down for turning up empty-handed? Anything’s better than nothing.” I liked Pa more after that, because I’d always thought that my father had his head screwed on all the time, but now I realised that it hadn’t always been as screwed on as all that. On the day when the circus was to have its first performance, the whole place was in a tizzwozz, because the circus artists went on a procession through the town and there were horses and elephants and caramels and clowns and giraffes and from everyone there was lots of trumpeting and drumming, so the people of the town came running out of their homes to see what was happening. The procession came past our house and the whole family stood in front of the shop and Ma had Mirabelle in her arms and Mirabelle was clapping her hands and saying in ( 98 )

Ukázka elektronické knihy, UID: KOS241687


her own language “Oss, Oss!” which means horse and Pa was smiling and said proudly: “There’s always something happening in this town of ours so just let anyone call us the back of beyond now.” One of the circus riders, who was sitting on a tiny little horse, heard him say this and blew him a kiss. Pa raised his cap to her and said: “What would you say, Mother, if I was to run off with a circus artiste?” Ma gave him a slap and said: “Aren’t you even a little ashamed to talk like that in front of the children, you old prattler?” Pa laughed and said: “Oho!” I caught sight of Alphonse Kasalický in the procession. He was sitting on a caramel and wearing an amazing jacket laced with gold. He had one hand on his hip and looked very proud and I pulled Ma and Pa by the sleeve and shouted: “That’s Alphonse who’s in our class,” and I followed the procession and kept shouting “That’s Alphonse, who’s in our class,” so that all the people around would know about it, and I kept pointing at Ka­salický. And the boys, both those of us who went round together and those we had nothing to do with, were running behind the procession, and so were the Ješiňáks and Habrováks and our other enemies and a great shout went up that could be heard all around. And while I was running I suddenly spotted Eve Svoboda running next to me, so I at once stopped pointing at Alphonse in case she got too keen on his jacket laced with gold and instead I pointed at the elephant. Some girl was sitting on it with gold coins in her ears and a turban on her head. Eve Svoboda said: “You know what, Peter, we’ll both be going to the circus together,” and I replied: “Whatever, but I have to go with my family today,” and she said that she’d be going today with her ma and pa too, which suited us fine, because at least we’d see each other at the circus. I even said “You bet!” and then I was again running and shouting. Eve ran and shouted too, so we were both yelling our heads off. ( 99 )

Ukázka elektronické knihy, UID: KOS241687


And we laughed them off too when we saw the clowns, who had such tiny wee hats and huge baggy trousers into which you could have fitted at least five of the boys in our class. They also had red noses and white faces with thick lips and they stumbled as they went along and babbled and when they saw some girl or other they doffed their hats and the girls squealed frightfully as only girls can. Mr. Fajst was standing in the square without a smile on his face. Instead he was nodding his head gloomily and talking in a low and slow voice to the bleating greengrocer who was sitting beneath a parasol selling apples. “This is an act of abomination,” he was saying, and the Bleating Goat replied: “Let no one think that the Lord God will suffer such lascivious behaviour to last long. His wrath will be kindled at this pandemonium.” And as she spoke the procession came to a halt and one of the musicians sounded the trumpet with extra power and one of the comedians announced in a pleading voice that he was drawing the attention of these esteemed citizens to the fact that today would see the first performance in their town and that things would be on show that had never been seen before anywhere in the world. He praised the animals from far-off lands for being strong and fierce and of great educational value for all lovers of nature, and said that everyone should come to see a top-notch programme. Then there was another blast of the trumpet and a really loud roll on the drums by another musician and that was it. What a spectacular! No one was paying attention in school that day, even the wash-behind-the-ears good boys who got the top marks, and the teacher said: “What’s happening here? I take a good deal of trouble to teach you something but your mind goes wandering away from the classroom. I welcome anything in the way of general entertainment but bear in mind, boys, that duty comes before pleasure.” But we went on thinking all the time about the ( 100 )

Ukázka elektronické knihy, UID: KOS241687

We Were a Handful (Ukázka, strana 99)  
We Were a Handful (Ukázka, strana 99)