Leila Samarrai: Vodka, The Adventures Of Boris K.


In his tiny two-by-two hole in the wall, Boris K. sat with a dignified expression on his face and his legs out in a straddle. He wore two left slippers of diverse colour. As he casually turned to peer in the cracked mirror, he was greatly displeased by the sight of his slicked-back gray hair. He attempted to part it à la Sieg Heil, but could not really pull it off because – he wore a flower in his hair, you see.
At springtime, as the locks of his raven hair started blooming, he left all the women breathless (left-wing ones in particular, as they were especially partial to flowers).
“There is a certain symbolism to them,” they claimed.
Boris K. was a seasoned communist, a ruin left behind by the transition, a redundant loser. Like many others, he looked back on the times when he subscribed to the Labourer newspaper with nostalgia. It used to be a matter of prestige.

Due to his former high-ranking positions as the coffee brewer and sentry for the Trade Union sessions, he retained the habit of sitting, sleeping and eating dressed in a gray business suit. On that cold evening he was waiting for the arrival of his landlady while reading “The Trial”. Remembering the times past and the chanting of the famous “Comrade Fidel, if you so said/we’d go live in a car shed,” Boris K. mused how, everything said and done, he was actually still living according to his beliefs. The very thought was heartwarming. Boris’ “car shed” belonged to none other than the very harpy, the very shrew who announced her intent to arrive at 6 AM on the dot. At that time, with the first rays of sun, she was to materialize in the flat. Boris felt hungry and mildly nauseous. Maybe it was the fear of the landlady, or perhaps an omen of the apocalypse. He felt confused. By the powers of the left wing, Boris K. was no coward!
He approached the old refrigerator, opened the handless door, and saw a drunken lady squeezed into a small glass cage. It was a bottle of vodka, the Russian standard with 40 percent of alcohol. The poster on the wall offered him support and encouragement, or at least so it appeared to Boris K. It seemed to be saying “Bottoms up, Boris! Long live the counterrevolution!”
“Alas… if only I could squeeze myself inside just like you,” Boris thought wistfully. He envisioned his landlady, the morning sun illuminating her like a halo, menacingly brandishing the electricity bill. He huddled against the wall, crying like a baby, his cheek resting against a poster. A thought pierced his aching head, which throbbed as if clenched within a hoop.  “But I don’t drink.”
“Now or never,” he spoke out loud. After the first sip, it occurred to him that he should attempt to seduce his aging landlady. He was determined to fight to the bitter end.
“This is how Alexander the Great charged against the Persians with his sword!” he thought, detaching his tear-stained cheek from the poster. “Is the casino Alexander still open?” he asked the wall hopefully, his face beaming.
Feverishly, he contemplated the way to get out of debts.  Even without a penny to his name, Boris K. decided to try his luck at the adjacent casino. He took a big gulp of vodka and stumbled. Toppling the chair, he knocked down the suit and the grey socks and grabbed for the closet. He let the bottle drop out of his hand after the second swig. Somewhere in the pile of jumbled clothing Boris spotted a formal suit à la Vienna. He looked at it from all sides. He looked both ways furtively, as if he were not alone in the room, so surprised he was at the appearance of a beautiful, shining suit in such a gloomy environment. He stroked the buttons gently with his fingertips. It was exactly what he needed. Boris K. looked up at the ceiling and muttered “Thanks!”
Delighted, he cast another glance toward the closet and noticed the secret barrier dividing it into two parts. He grabbed the handle and shook it tentatively, but it appeared to be locked. Boris K. stepped back and stood in the middle of the room. The bottle of vodka back in his hand, he raged at the locked compartment.
“You’re hiding some great treasure, I know it!” “
He heard something rattle in one of the suit pockets. His hands shook as he rifled through the pockets, but all he found there was some brass buttons.
“Pure gold,” he soothed himself.
Donning the suit, he decided to use the buttons as gambling tokens. Thrilled with his incredible discovery, Boris K. danced a few bars of the Viennese waltz in front of the cracked mirror, arranging his hair. Out of breath, he fell onto the sofa. He was transported back to the harsh reality by the picture of Fidel Castro winking – or so it seemed to Boris K – straight at him.
“Too much to drink,” Boris concluded. Pulling himself together he threw the cheap buttons into the corner of the room, took one glance at the electricity bill and burst into tears.
The old lady entered just as she promised – illuminated by the first rays of sun. On her dress, tailored back in the forties, she wore an embroidered swastika.
“The Brazilian tarantula. Such an elegant little animal,” she explained to the curious butcher’s wife in passing. She wore lace gloves, dirty fingernails showing through. Smoothing down her oily hair, she swiped a dainty finger over one of her eyebrows, tattooed according to the latest fashion. Following the unfortunately drawn arch, she cast an Ilse-Koch-like look to Boris K. A cynical smile spilled across her elderly, clenched lips.
“Cash on the table,” she pulled out a stopwatch from her undershirt, “in 60… 59… 58…” As she counted down, it appeared, the last seconds of Boris K’s short life, the age spots on her cheeks broke through the layers of golden foundation and bright lipstick on her cheekbones.
“Do sit down, old Fräulein,” stammered Boris K, pointing to the sofa as full of holes as a Swiss cheese and stinking of cigarettes. The old woman threw him a contemptuous look. Boris K. realized his mistake. “Meine Frau,.. I… I… Frau, bitte,” he stammered, hypnotized by the embroidered swastika flanked by a flashy heart-shaped medallion. Finally, he murmured “Just let me run to the casino. I forgot my wallet next to the roulette here.”
“The casino, you say?” The old woman swiped the corners of her widely open mouth using a forefinger and a thumb.
“I swear by… this poster on the wall, Fräulein Suzy!”
She studied him like one would an insect and, with a sudden twist, cast a look filled with loathing at the poster of Fidel Castro. Stalin was her true love, but it was a fact she carefully concealed.
“Too bad he is an infidel,” she said as the light pushed its way through the dirty windows, illuminating her head like a halo. Her voice rang with the austerity typical of elderly women of reckless youth, who remembered their days of decadence just a touch too wistfully. Once easy, now a puritan, she had changed the dirty skin of her body and threw it on the altar of martyrdom, akin to a snake.
Boris K. repented his actions. He felt like taking off his nonexistent à la Vienna hat.
The old woman turned, eyes bulging, and approached him at a menacing pace. With the stance of an SS officer, her long nose touching the chest Boris K, Frau sniffed him, noticed the empty a bottle of vodka and contemptuously waved her hand. Settling into the sofa, she closed her eyes in the manner of a yogi. It lasted a whole of fifteen minutes, with Boris K. perspiring, dabbing the sweat from his brow and occasionally massaging her feet, until she cried
“Genug! Stop!” Her wide open eyes startled Boris K and he immediately stood to attention. “At ease!” Boris K. threw the left shoe off his right foot, hips swaying. “I forgive you, just as my Fritz would have done,” she murmured wistfully, remembering her old love – a high ranking SS officer, carried off by the maelstrom of war. Boris K. burst into tears of happiness. “But, under ein condition! ,” she roared in a thunderous voice. Boris K. was all ears. “I will write off your debt if you can squeeze yourself into this bottle.” The Frau pointed at the vodka bottle. “Verständlich? Understand?” the implacable Frau screeched.
Boris K. glanced at the bottle, then at his soft, pink hand (he was an artist, and it is well known that they do absolutely nothing under the sun). He wanted to protest, to say that one could not treat the oppressed classes so. Squeezing people into bottles like that? Not even Mengele would have thought of that, he thought – but said nothing. Somehow he managed to bend his back; he crumpled, growing smaller, lowering his proud fists, his skillful fingers curled and his head hung low. Thus his entire body distorted.
Boris K. kept diminishing before the terrible powers of the frau, finally growing small enough to squeeze his tiny hand into the vodka bottle, followed by his shoulder, chest and spine – the latter proved easy enough to squeeze into the bottle – and finally his feet, which by that point had completely refused to obey him. Thus Boris K. successfully completed his task under the Frau’s contended smile. Only Boris’ two large, terrified eyes remained visible.
The giant frau stood up, took the vodka bottle and headed for the locked compartment – the strictly guarded secret of all secrets. For years she was suspected of hiding, if not jewelry, then at least Fritz’s letters there. She reached into her pocket for the gilded key and opened the plywood compartment. Frau looked with pride upon the arranged bottles of numerous manufacturers – English and French, but mostly German. One bottle contained Sir Gawain, her former tenant, the second Herr Hans, and the third, Jean-Paul. From the fourth, the Obergruppenführer Fritz (the former supreme commander of the Waffen-SS) smiled at his lover, the Frau, who blew him a tender kiss. Each of the bottles contained a tenant hopefully peering through the stained glass of his prison, every one of them grateful to his landlady for being so very generous as to write off his debt.

image found here

Leila Samarrai: THE ADVENTURES OF BORIS K, Intro


Leila Samarrai

THE ADVENTURES OF BORIS K

Веlgrade, 2013.

Layout 1

Contents

Persons, participants, extras, casual mentions, not-quite-unimportant, perhaps even crucial for the story although (seemingly) collateral, many of whom never appear but are always present – the personifications of context.

Author’s note

Names of political parties

PCP = Party of Conscientious Prosperity

The Communist-Capitalist Conjunction

Coalition YOUR CHOICE

The Rationally Humanist Party

The Labour-Anarchist Team

The Vocal Party

Coalition SERVICE

CURSE — Communist Ultra Resident Suburban Entente

SCOURGE — Solvent Communist Offspring Union Relevantly Guiding Employees

The Noteworthy Personnel Party

GAOLS — General Alliance Of Lawabiding Socialists

Introduction: The Life and Tribulations of Boris K.

A stone’s throw from a large river, a paradise on earth was built.  According to the media in the friendly Uganda, it was a small country – an oasis of peace among the lighthouse-studded hills. The earth was a shimmering white, as if illuminated by numerous torches; the sky was imbued with various shades of pink. If one was to look at the majestic city from atop a hill, the Republic would have appeared utterly bared in its beauty. People compared it to Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt and Alexandria, and many reminisced about the golden gates of the city which opened automatically, dousing the newcomers in a veritable deluge of cash.  What the visitors did not know, however, was that, once inside, they would never be able to leave the city. There was but one city gate, and it was heavily guarded. The aforementioned notwithstanding, Citizens were regularly assured by the local media that the Sun, indeed, shone its very brightest in their country, and that its people were – without a shadow of a doubt – most content with their lives and lots.

Following one lavish speech by a certain Member of Parliament – the wealthiest man in the City, who spoke to the people without prevarication, with a lofty style and his head held high – the Republic was named Phenomenublic. His speech was so eloquent and inwrought with poetry.

Many people disliked this flamboyant style and immediately left the premises. Thus they missed on learning about phenomenization.* Yet this citizen, this idealist (to some extent, yes, even a revolutionary), this billionaire, this poet, did not miss the chance to open the door of Knowledge for his fellow Phenomenublicans, describing the terrifying effects of phenomenization with all its limitless powers in his work titled “Res Publicus Phenomesationes, in which he defined this, to put it mildly, unusual occurrence.

If a foreigner was to enter the Republic, he would take one look around and realize that the Republic was not quite what it had seemed. Parts of the city looked sophisticated, some of the sidewalks wrought in solid gold. The buildings were brand new, and the list of reforms published on the eye-catching billboard aprawled across the government building (formed by the coalition of leading parties – CURSE /Communist Ultra Resident Suburban Entente/ and SCOURGE /Solvent Communist Offspring Union Relevantly Guiding Employees/) grew longer by the day. Stepping around the handful of newly built edifices, however, the traveler would find himself staring at ruined asphalt pockmarked with manholes.

Behind those, caught in a strange trance verging on insanity, toothless beggars would emerge with blindfolds over their eyes. Within the shadows of multiple stairways, the narrow streets hid their leprous residents feeding on refuse – those were the losers of phenomenization. The winners – strictly for the greater good, of course – spun stories of the brighter future for these wretches, attempting to allay any and all thoughts of ire, offensive or revenge.

“Dear losers, rejoice! For hunger is the mother of ingenuity and without your leprosy there would be no splendour of this City. It is all, as Buddha had said, just one big spiral going from one extreme to another only to stop in the middle.” And the Losers were satisfied. The greater their satisfaction, the bigger their chances were of becoming clerks or venal top dogs.

“We strongly recommend a bird brain,” the authorities advised a Loser with a scheduled frontal lobotomy. “You will make a grand Minister of health one day,” they’d say.

Mere visitors, however, knew not the secret of this land – it was known to the Grand Pulpiteer alone. To all questions like “Are those just ragamuffins who will put up with anything as they wait, stuck in a manhole, for the arrival of better days ?” he would answer thusly:  “Each and every one of them is infinitely more avaricious, infinitely more hypocritical, than any of those living upstairs in their golden pavilions. You should be aware, my good people, that all the mighty patricians you pout and glower about used to live in manholes once. The roles change, it is only I that remain the same,” whereupon he would laugh and fall into the sweetest of dreams.

II

Preparations for the memorial service were well under way in the Phenomenublic – dully covered by the daily newspapers Informer,The Phenomenublic News and each and every one of the 76,548 Phenomenublican TV stations.

“Boris K has died – a bohemian and an intellectual, a Loser with no regular occupation, declared redundant. Penultimate among the last, or so it has been said, yet once upon a time the ultimate coffee bringer. A seasoned communist and ‘the most eminent of glass cutters’, an honorary member of the Nutritionist Association. His faithful admirers flock in from the remotest of areas… Members of the Losers’ Party are expected to attend the funeral; the widely famous State Jester will be performing fairy tales in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, sponsored by the publishing house Scheherazade & daughter,” thundered from the loudspeakers mounted atop the Phenomenublican government building.

The news were received with no small amount of surprise, as Boris K. was known to be healthy as a horse.

“Considering how many tons of protein powder he pumped into his muscular superhero body, we kind of expected him to live at least ten times as long as Methuselah,” some said.

“But haven’t you heart he was a bit… Especially as of late,” the others whispered.

“It has to be the alcohol that finally got to him,” still others mused.

Regardless of being a gym regular, it was a fact well known that Boris K. was no stranger to tossing back a drink or two (just to relax, mind you) before returning to the latest job he was assigned to – that of an armourer. He was cleaning semi-automatic rifles at the National Museum when, as rumour would have it, one of them accidentally went off.

Accidentally? Boris K had a significant number of enemies.

One of them was known to be the rude mustachioed post office clerk. Infuriated by Boris’ “Operation Feather Pillow” which he used for courting women – soliciting them in passing and, contrary to all logic and necessity, slapping their behinds while flaunting his flexor muscles – and utterly outraged by being the only female Boris K. had failed to smack, she threatened revenge, becoming more aggressive towards her Post office clients with every passing day.

Others pointed their fingers at the mayor Haji-Honorstone.

Others still were quite adamant in their beliefs: “A completely kooky guy; I’m glad he is dead. And I will surely attend the commemoration.”

Whether they hated him or loved him, prior to his completely unexpected and sudden death he was respected by many for his contradictory nature: “A bit strange, but most industrious lad.” He really did give the impression of being a young man.

Boris did not mince words. He was known as a traveler through space and time, an urban legend equally respected for his relentless devotion to work as for his wealth of both manual and intellectual skills.

“The best known taxi driver in the world after De Niro,” the citizens of Phenomenublic whispered amongst each other.

A rumor spread recently that Boris K. was working on something very important before he died and that many different hands were involved in his “departure”. It was expected “never to be completely explained”.

The Phenomenublic Jester, a man of vast imagination (and, if the local lore and beliefs are to be trusted, Boris’ own fraternal twin brother) was invited to deliver the eulogy. Before long, scenery of impressive proportions was set on the main Phenomenublican square.

“Let us bury him, and get it over with once and for all!” Head of the Ventriloquist Association swore up and down that those were the exact words the Prime Minister Paramountson, affectionately referred to as “Whitebeard”, uttered upon the occasion.

The memorial service was held on a sunny day, under an almost white sky adorned by little but the pompous sun. And what a service it was! First to arrive were the Losers. They sat themselves down by the open waste containers, hardly believing their luck in managing to escape the manholes. Dressed in formal black suits and white hats in honor of Boris K they devoured the food prepared, piously planting handfuls of altar candles into the ground. Eventually they settled down to listen to the advertised stories, as told by the Jester, the waste container genie.

Professional sound systems guaranteed the quality of sound. Powerful video beams placed at the main square, where the memorial service was scheduled to be held, alternately displayed video messages, advertisements, and the gloomy face of the pondering Jester; he was planning on using the final part of his speech to demystify a secret: who exactly was Boris K?

The Jester sighed deeply, Boris’ favourite striped t-shirt held firmly in his hands. Everyone present – including those who had absolutely no idea who this Boris K. fellow was – burst into tears.

Are you wondering who Boris K. was yet?

Spreading his hands, the Jester glanced at the sky and approached the microphone. Catching a glimpse of the reflection of his own weary figure sprawled across the video wall, he began thusly:

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A word or two on Boris K.

Boris K. – The First Loser of Phenomenization

Some countries were ruled by the Inquisition. Others were subject to questionable privatizations. Boris K’s country was exposed to inexplicable phenomenizations. For Boris K, a man with no permanent occupation, phenomenization was so unexpected that he had no choice but to come to terms with it.

He got into different time periods without the use of a time machine. He found himself performing strangest of jobs without ever applying for them. He kept adapting to the situation, akin to a player advancing to the next level in an unpredictable computer game.

“What have I ever done to deserve the things happening to me?” Boris K. wondered. “I am no different than any other semi-skilled worker who got carried away by the idea of equality in our Republic. I enthusiastically neglected to further my education for the sake of blind faith in “better times” when the voice of the small, the ordinary, and the nameless would be heard as well.”

Boris K. was prepared to endure greatest of sacrifices in order to achieve this goal. As one of the deserving participants at the end of the great Revolution he was offered great benefits – which he promptly refused with utter disgust. It was against just such privileges that he had fought in the first place, he claimed, hence benefiting from them would be contrary to his beliefs. So he settled for an assembler’s job on a car factory production line, where he happily worked 12 hours a day fitting mirrors on the passenger doors.

One day he was laid off. Introduction of new technologies and reductions in work force, or at least that was what he was told; he was well aware the real cause lay in that ultimate evil slowly but surely corroding the fabric of humanity – the profit. Disposed of like an exhausted battery, empty hearted and with eyes full of tears, he moved from his humble but furnished apartment to the so-called “Lepers’ Valley”. The place was nicknamed for its inhabitants: hardly true lepers, but merely desperate souls befallen by a fate similar to Boris’ own. It was dubious in which of the two skins they would have thought themselves better off. The ancient buildings huddling together in irregular patterns, the abodes of unhappy families, were not made of concrete reinforced with Pittsburgh steel; they were built with eco-bricks with insulating layers of pure asbestos, which almost certainly guaranteed the tenants a case of lung cancer. As if there was not enough trouble in their lives.

It was in such a building that Boris K. found his new apartment. It was not the vacancy ad that attracted him, but rather the unusual appearance of the landlady – who was in a habit of swatting at the heads protruding from the adjacent manholes using the highest-circulating newspapers of the City.

“Like swatting flies,” thought Boris K, eyes fastened on a greasy rosary. Frau Suzy (as the landlady was called) and Boris K. exchanged just one glance and immediately recognized each other. Brushing his graying hair back, Boris K inquired about the price. The Frau leveled one measuring, scornful look at him, flicking the ash from her cigarette holder straight onto his hole-pocked shoe. Boris K glanced at her defiantly. Frau’s response came in a raspy, ancient voice.

“Ha!”

It was a mantra that meant one thing and one thing only and was uttered by the old woman only on the rarest of occasions. Boris K. liked mature blondes with an attitude, so he decided he would start his mission in that very unfortunate place.

Mission? What mission?

You will find out soon enough.

* Phenomenization, phenomenosition, from fenomenon (gr. φαινόμενо, occurence), something observable but utterly mysterious and untraceble, and better kept that way.

PHENOMENIZATION

from

Res Publicus Phenomesationem The people of the Republic have fathomed the secret of the phenomenization by the agency of a mysterious clairvoyant gammer: since the Parliament was hit by a lightning at the moment when there were 111 storks on the roof, 222 members in the building and 333 rants under the foundation – the famous phenomenization occured. The thoughts of storks, rats and Members of Parliament commingled in the air and fell to the ground. Thus certain individuals realized they preferred living in the sewer, others keep trying to fly and carry babies, while the rest just keep babbling about politics. Anything is possible in the land of phenomenization.