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Domestic apocalypse
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978-619-150-474-9
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Rosi Yourukova
Дата на издаване
13 август 2014

Domestic apocalypse

Rositsa Tasheva has three books to her credit and they have established her as a talented humorist. She was born in 1946 in Sofia, where she has graduated from an English Language High School and then – from the French philology Department at Sofia University. She has been on the staff of the “Sofia Press” Agency, the French Embassy in Sofia and the Bulgarian Embassy in Paris. Presently she is working as an editor at the Colibri publishing house.

In her first book “Of Diplomats and Men” (1998) the life of Bulgarian diplomats during the first years of democracy is described with a subtle sense of humour.

For the novel “So much for Scottie” (2010) – the life of a painter, looser with a heart of gold and a knack for easy living, the author has been given the HELIKON award for contemporary novel (2010).

“Domestic Apocalypse” (2000) is her second novel. With her peculiar good-natured sense of humour Rositsa Tasheva makes an amusing dissection of the everyday life of a typical and at the same time quite untypical Bulgarian family and its circle of friends. In the first part, “Domestic Apocalyse 1”, the reader is made familiar with the life and problems of this family before the Great Democratic Revolution. In the second, “Domestic Apocalypse 2”, life is already different as well as the problems it poses, but an unfading maxim about it remains valid: the more it changes, the more unchanged it becomes. Specific features of fascination in this book are its humour, irony and self-irony, along with all the present-day political references. In the comic scenes of everyday life readers often recognize themselves and their own domestic reality.

За автора

Росица Ташева е родена в София, където завършва Английската гимназия и френска филология в Софийския университет. Автор е на нашумелите хумористични книги „За дипломатите и хората“ и „Домашен апокалипсис“. Работила е в агенция „София прес“, в посолството на Франция в София и в посолството на България в Париж. В момента е редактор в издателство „Колибри“. В неин превод от френски са излезли към 50 заглавия на автори като Балзак, Мопасан, Флобер, Селин, Албер Коен, Сан Антонио, Милан Кундера.

Носител на награда за съвременна българска художествена проза „Хеликон“ за 2010 г. за „Колкото до Шотландеца“.

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Rositsa Tasheva - Domestic apocalypse

Scissors

(Or an Introduction to the spirit of things)
I don’t know how it works in other households, but in ours the scissors are always on the move. In fact, the truth is, that somewhere in our home there must be a stash of scissors, as we buy replacements regularly, and everyone knows that the scissors are not an object that your friends might be inclined to liberate, nor are they the pointless type of kitchen utensil that might get thrown in the bin by mistake. I want to add here, however, that occasionally, the scissors do re-appear when you are looking for something else, a pen maybe. This will never happen if you are actually looking for the scissors.
Occasionally, someone would bring a well-wrapped object, neatly rounded with a decorative string. If I tried to open the package, without damaging the wrapping paper, I immediately find that the string is tied in a tight knot. It would, of course, be a completely different matter if I wasn't so worried about damaging the wrapping paper. Things like these are extremely popular in our everyday existence and are sometimes commonly referred to as The Universal Law of Abomination.
While I am fighting with the stringy twine, Damian is looking at me with an increasing level of interest, and soon he smugly says:
- “Give it here.”
I give it to him, and in turn I watch him with interest.
In the meantime, our son Moni has joined in, and he too is impatient to intervene:
- “Give it here.”
Now both Damian and I are observing Moni’s efforts with an even greater level of interest.
Not long after, Damian takes pity on Moni and says:
- “Moni, get the scissors!"
With an ill-concealed readiness, Moni puts down the package and asks:
- “Mum, where are the scissors?”
- “Where they usually are”– I answer, and two seconds later the conversation continues as follows:
- “They’re not here.”
- “Really? Look on top of the TV.”
Moni looks on top of the TV.
- “They’re not on top of the TV.”
- “Any chance they'd be on the piano?
I personally check on the piano, and they’re not there either.
- “Any idea where the scissors are?"
Damian doesn’t know. Moni says that he has seen them hanging around somewhere in the vicinity, but can't remember where. I, too, remember that perhaps recently I might have caught a glimpse of them ‘somewhere around the house’. Damian establishes that yesterday morning he saw Moni cutting his nails with the scissors. Moni, on the other hand, insists that I had been cutting my nails after he had finished with the scissors. I am almost sure though, that I noticed Damian cutting his nails late last night.
The three of us are staring at each other vacantly. We can, of course, cut the string with a knife, but we don’t like drastic solutions. After all, none of us is Alexander the Great. Instead we swarm through the flat like a plague. We look in places where the scissors might be, and also in places where the scissors definitely won’t be. They are to be found in neither one of these places. In the process, we are of course constantly encountering the old sewing scissors, which should have been thrown out a long time ago, but which we keep ‘just in case’. Furthermore, we are blaming each other: 'You’re not putting much effort into this!', and we persevere to look where the other person has already looked. As a result of this whole ordeal, Moni finds three pens and Damian finds my golden coin, the one we were looking for yesterday with exactly the same determination. I feel like a complete failure.
Moni and I believe that objects in general, have a personality of their own and that our objects in particular, are somewhat uncooperative. Damian, on the other hand, believes, and I have no idea why, that Moni and I never put anything back in its place. I’m not convinced he’s right. I can’t speak for Moni, but as for myself, I know for certain, that as soon as I catch a glimpse of the scissors, which only happens when I am looking for something else, I consciously put them back in their designated place, so that they are close at hand the next time I need them.
I was elated when Damian gave me a manicure set as a present. Inside were two whole pairs of scissors, one slightly curved, the other one straight and many, many nail files. A wholesome sense of satisfaction permeated our home. I kissed Damian and expressed my sincere gratitude by praising him on how he always knows precisely what to get me and how he is so sensitive to my needs. God only knows why, but Damian is convinced that any praise thrown in his direction is well deserved. His smug response is: “Of course” and he goes on to lock the manicure set in the cupboard containing important documents.
Is it necessary for me to specify that, with the exception of the front door, this is the only cupboard in the house, which has a lock on it, and Damian has sole custody of the key?
Soon total confusion set in. There was no point in looking for the scissors any more because everyone knew where the scissors were. At the thought of the scissors, lying neatly in the locked, impenetrable cupboard, at a time when we have such urgent need of this humble object, and when Damian is not home and it is unlikely that he would return in the next eight hours, Moni and I fall into silent state of madness. And things were no less complicated upon Damian's return. Instinctively but hesitantly, I'd ask if he would eventually be so kind as to unlock the cupboard so that I might gain access to the scissors. In response, he would grimly toy with the question of why I needed them and the purpose I intended to use them for, before concluding that, ‘Surely you didn’t need them at all?’ Lacking requisite assertiveness, I would somehow manage to prove that I couldn’t do without them. Simultaneously growling and warning me that the scissors must be returned immediately after use, Damian would eventually open the sacred cupboard.
I am normally a pretty tidy person (in spite of Damian’s malicious remarks to the contrary), but this particular pair of scissors I put down somewhere, only for a moment, and later could not, for the life of me, remember where I left them. Damian, on the other hand, would remember hours later, when there no longer was a trace of the incident in my mind. Moni was showing the same inclination towards unexplained amnesia. “What scissors?” he would ask. He wouldn’t dare ask Damian for them though, instead leaving that burden to me, seeing as he considers me closer to his father than he is.
Worth noting at this point is that I was initially, foolishly pleased with Damian’s present (the manicure set).
Following its appearance, our family underwent a couple of months of continuous tension. During the day we would be unnecessarily anxious and during the night we would wake suddenly, drenched in sweat. Moni and I started to suffer intense feelings of guilt, while Damian became even more aggrieved than usual. At times, I would try and feed him some healthy reasoning, suggesting the sober and, in my opinion, intelligent question of whether it wouldn’t be better to place the scissors somewhere in the unlocked vicinity, and, if they happened to get lost again, we could simply purchase a new pair. It was not long before I abandoned these suggestions, because Damian took them as a manifestation of my innate ungratefulness.
Things came to a halt, when one day, our daughter, Baby, went to school with her unnaturally long manicure since Damian wasn’t home to unlock the cupboard. It was then that I explained to him that, by the way, this manicure set is my property and I had the right to lose it, if I so wished, to throw it out, if I so wished, or to cut it into small pieces, if I so wished. To this, he replied that the manicure set might be mine, but he had purchased it for me, and I would not have thought about buying such a useful object, and I replied to him, that I don’t care one bit for his useful objects, when the use for them is equal to zero, and he told me that I can’t cook, and I told him that I now understand why his son is such great success, taking after his father, and he told me to ‘excuse’ him, because Moni is the spitting image of me, the same insufferable know-it-all that I am, and I replied that he is a maniac, materialist and consumer, and then he extracted from his heart, I beg your pardon, I meant to say from the cupboard - the Scissors of Discord, flung them on the table and told me to do whatever I want, for he has no further interest in this matter.
From this day onward, a sense of normality returned to our home, at least as far as the scissors were concerned, and they disappeared a couple of weeks later as if they were never there in the first place. The nail files, to date, are in flawless condition.
In fact, Damian should be ashamed of himself for saying that Moni and I are untidy, as I have seen him desperately hunting for his car keys with my own eyes. For me this image has a unique appeal. No less delightful is listening to his monologues during such a time of loss.

The Car and the Money

(Or the title speaks for itself)

I am leaving for work. As I am walking out of the flat, to my surprise, I notice that Damian, who should have left hours ago, is rushing around the car in a very peculiar manner. I approach him and ask what has happened. Damian is looking at me as if he has never met me before in his life. I repeat my question. Damian murmurs something like “k.. k…” Next thing, I see him hurlinghimself onto the seat, and then proceeding to burrow under it. He re-emerges and sprawls over the entire front of the car. He is rummaging in the glove compartment, fondling the steering wheel and peeping behind the mirror.
- “Looking for something?" I ask innocently.
At this point he has already gotten out of the car, where he is pirouetting in quite a complicated manner. He gracefully lifts himself onto his toes and slides his hand across the roof of the car. Straight after this, astounded, I see both his feet sticking out near the back right wheel.
I am beginning to understand what is happening and I am thinking 'it is precisely for precious moments like these that a person can truly appreciate being born into this world. I am remembering all the things that I have previously lost, and how Damian has mocked me every single time and thrilled with delight I sit on the curb in anticipation, all eyes and ears.
- “They were here a minute ago,” whines Damian, “Is it possible for them to disappear? Did I put them my pocket? Why would I put them there? Let me see again, just in case. Well, no, they're not there. And they're not in my wallet either. How strange! I must be losing it completely.”
As if to prove his last point, Damian opens the boot and starts rummaging through the assorted junk, after which he checks the glove compartment, again, and finally lifts the bonnet.
- “You wouldn’t believe this!” he murmurs again, the offence in his tone of voice rising: “It's a true mystery to me!”
In the end he gets tired of it all, sits down beside me and wipes up the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. He shakes the handkerchief just in case the keys are in there. They are not.
- “OK”, I say, “Try and remember exactly what you did when you came downstairs.”
Damian is remembering. He is retrieving everything from his mind, down to the smallest detail, with the only exception being where he put the keys, and through tears of defeat says:
- “I can't remember...”
Damian often imagines that he has a great memory, and this is precisely where most of our troubles come from. He frets around another couple of minutes, and then jumps as if stung by a bee.
- “Have a good look! Just in case it’s caught in my clothes somewhere.”
Me ‘having a good look’, consists of walking around him, and in turn Damian walking around me as I stay in the same location while the passers by wonder what has gotten into us.
- “Here comes Dimo!” – Damian shouts cheerfully and tells him the whole story from the beginning.
Dimo isn’t as shocked as he should have been, in fact, Oh God, yes, he is also enjoying Damian's misfortune. He gets into the car, opens the glove compartment and takes out the keys.
Damian is looking at him with a deep sense of suspicion. If it wasn’t for Damian’s one and only irreplaceable key, one could have assumed that Dimo had a duplicate. But that was indeed unthinkable. The car key, as well as the car itself, and everything related to the car, are all entities that are so important to Damian that if something should happen to them he would…. Ok, he might not slaughter another person, but he would at least take some time off work.
It all began back in the day when Damian was a little boy and had no bicycle. I think that if his parents were the least bit aware of how much this lack of a bicycle would cost us through the years, they would have pulled their socks up and bought him a new bicycle every three months. After all, this total lack of foresight on the part of his parents, and Damian's unlived childhood, has caused three bicycles and two motorbikes to materialise in our basement, if we're not counting the Fiat parked outside our apartment block.
It is a mystery to me how a man can part with ten thousand lev [1] for a Fiat, instead of paying five thousand lev for a Zaporojetz, bearing in mind that the two cars fulfil the same function.
- “I don’t want to hear such nonsense”, cuts in Damian, as if I was thinking out loud.
And as for the Zaporojetz, the definition “car” seemed highly exaggerated to him. How can you compare a miserably underprivileged Zaporojetz (it shakes, jingles and jumps like a goat) with the elegant Fiat (She drives you gently, she’s roomy inside, cosy and comfortable…) Note that the Fiat is a third person singular, this denotes tenderness amongst other things.
Damian turns into a poet when the Fiat is under discussion. Furthermore, he has paternal feelings towards it (pardon me, Her!). He is so protective of this car that we have long ceased visiting friends that have a curb around their driveway, packed with other parked cars. And our other friends, under whose eaves it is possible to house the Fiat, are hardly ever happy with Damian’s company, as he mostly stands leaning over the side of the balcony protectively watching the car almost the entire length of our visit.
As I see it, Damian spends a third of the day inside, under or around the Fiat. He, of course, protests my observations. According to his calculations we are talking about half of the day (Damian thinks that a 1/2 is less than 1/3), as well as disagreeing that he is a madman when it comes to cars. “What's the Big Deal?” he would often wonder, “It's just a hobby! Is a man not allowed to have a hobby?"
"Of course he is" I would reply, and then suggest that he start collecting matchboxes or going fishing with Dimo. Damian does not give in, but ploughs on (here you start to familiarise yourself with his banal way of thinking), and tells me that I should be happy that he doesn't drink or smoke, or chase after women… and so on and so forth, and that he only buys himself cars for more or less ten grand.
Damian has the remarkable ability to justify the presence of given character flaws by pointing out the availability of his existing good qualities. By the way, it is not true at all that he doesn't smoke. It would be far more accurate to say that he doesn't smoke his own cigarettes. He unashamedly helps himself to mine. He would go as far as to accuse me of smoking his cigarettes. This is yet another example of his hypocritical nature.
As we were talking about parking the car, Damian believes that this issue is extremely difficult to solve. According to him, for a person who does not own a garage, it is practically impossible to find a reliable parking space. He has personally befriended every policeman who is in charge of guarding anything in the area, and the Fiat is carefully observed by a few concerned pairs of eyes at all times (excluding Damian’s). Of course, the Fiat does not stay in the street, God forbid! She spends the night on that part of the pavement, which is equally far from both the bend, and the bushes, and also from any other car that is parked in a twenty-meter radius. A mathematician could not calculate this space. However, Damian is not a mathematician and that explains it all.
Unknown are the roads that drivers of Fiats take, and once as I was coming home from work I came across Damian, who had assumed a posture in the style of Byron, gazing mournfully into the distance, exerting all the world’s sorrow.
- “What’s wrong?” I ask, fearfully.
Damian shakes his head and does not reply.
Terrified, I juggle the worst possibilities in my mind – the kids, I can hear them thumping around somewhere in the distance. My mother and father were in good health yesterday, friends, family…
- “What is it?” I raise my voice, “Have you got cancer?”
Damian regains his composure, his stare becomes slightly more meaningful and he explains that someone has bashed the car, while it was parked.
I sigh with relief, and almost fling myself around his neck with happiness, but I regain my composure and in turn change my expression to that of sympathy. I try to comfort him with a string of generally meaningful phrases like “Ah well, its no big deal” and "No one has died?" but of course without much success.
For about a week Damian is on the brink of a cardiac arrest. During the day he runs around car auto-mechanics and panel beaters, and by night-time he bawls and holds his chest, where his heart should be, and pops tranquillisers.
On the eighth day the car is completely restored and freshly painted. However, Damian continues to look anguished and keeps taking his pulse.
On the ninth day, I can’t stand it any longer and I deliver the following speech with as much conviction as I can muster:
- “Get yourself together,” I tell him, “This is ridiculous! You can’t let yourself run off the rails for a scrap of metal! There are much worse things that could have happened. Just imagine for example: you could have been sacked for incompetence then we would have lost all our money and been forced to sell the car, then what? Would you have died?”
Damian listens carefully to what I have to say and nods in understanding. At last he admits defeat:
- “You are right.”
And adds with dignity:
- “I would only ask you not to call my car a scrap of metal, please”.
Our family has always owned some kind of a vehicle for transportation. Before the Fiat, we used to have a Zaporojetz ‘banana limousine’. We also had the pleasure of owning the previous modelZaporojetz 'tortoise’, and even further back, we used to have a motorbike, our family consisted of only two members back then, and even further back, was the time when Damian did not own a bicycle. The uneducated folk should be aware that vehicles cost money and that an expensive car does not necessarily speak of prosperity. On the other hand, however, the lack of car does not necessarily mean that one has a stash of money saved either. My humble experience tells me that one has no money under any circumstances. I have heard of people who have money but they are not in my circle of friends.
There is nothing more mysterious than the way in which money seems to run through your fingers. I personally have money for three days in the month. On the fourth day I am left with twentylev. On the fifth day, I ask Damian if he has any money, and he tells me that he has twenty lev. I am very curious what this man does with his money. But I don’t go on about it. Money is something that Damian and I pretend we don’t get angry about. When it completely runs out, we sit and wait for it to magically materialise out of somewhere. And since normally that doesn’t happen, we start borrowing. We have so many debts, that, God forbid, something happened to one of us, I would have to keep paying them back for the rest of my life.
When money is concerned, Damian and I are very loyal. If we each have five lev left, without telling the other, we each buy a bottle of Grozdova Rakia [2]. We don’t get into conflict over it; the only necessity is to invite a few friends over. We borrow ten lev for party food and another ten lev to see us through to the end of the week.
Sometimes, we sit and plan and dream – an exercise in which Moni and Baby enthusiastically participate – what would we do if we won the lottery. Not that we ever play the lottery.
Moni would buy himself a new bicycle and pyjamas. I have been planning to change my wardrobe, and Damian can't think of anything else, naturally, than to exchange the Fiat for something a little more upmarket. Baby dreams of crayons and a Rubik’s Cube.
After a while we get our salaries, we buy Moni a bicycle and a pair of pyjamas, Baby a Rubik’s Cube and crayons and we feel entirely content with our lives for about three days. Then we are left with twenty lev each. Again.
Even more peculiar is the fact that we have no money all year round, be it winter or summer, bearing in mind that during the summer we don’t pay much electricity or a foreign language tutor, the kids are at the village and Damian and I are still always loitering around hungry as dogs. Unexplainable, but a fact. What can you do? Every misfortune is another experience.

Rositsa Tasheva - Domestic apocalypse

Scissors

(Or an Introduction to the spirit of things)
I don’t know how it works in other households, but in ours the scissors are always on the move. In fact, the truth is, that somewhere in our home there must be a stash of scissors, as we buy replacements regularly, and everyone knows that the scissors are not an object that your friends might be inclined to liberate, nor are they the pointless type of kitchen utensil that might get thrown in the bin by mistake. I want to add here, however, that occasionally, the scissors do re-appear when you are looking for something else, a pen maybe. This will never happen if you are actually looking for the scissors.
Occasionally, someone would bring a well-wrapped object, neatly rounded with a decorative string. If I tried to open the package, without damaging the wrapping paper, I immediately find that the string is tied in a tight knot. It would, of course, be a completely different matter if I wasn't so worried about damaging the wrapping paper. Things like these are extremely popular in our everyday existence and are sometimes commonly referred to as The Universal Law of Abomination.
While I am fighting with the stringy twine, Damian is looking at me with an increasing level of interest, and soon he smugly says:
- “Give it here.”
I give it to him, and in turn I watch him with interest.
In the meantime, our son Moni has joined in, and he too is impatient to intervene:
- “Give it here.”
Now both Damian and I are observing Moni’s efforts with an even greater level of interest.
Not long after, Damian takes pity on Moni and says:
- “Moni, get the scissors!"
With an ill-concealed readiness, Moni puts down the package and asks:
- “Mum, where are the scissors?”
- “Where they usually are”– I answer, and two seconds later the conversation continues as follows:
- “They’re not here.”
- “Really? Look on top of the TV.”
Moni looks on top of the TV.
- “They’re not on top of the TV.”
- “Any chance they'd be on the piano?
I personally check on the piano, and they’re not there either.
- “Any idea where the scissors are?"
Damian doesn’t know. Moni says that he has seen them hanging around somewhere in the vicinity, but can't remember where. I, too, remember that perhaps recently I might have caught a glimpse of them ‘somewhere around the house’. Damian establishes that yesterday morning he saw Moni cutting his nails with the scissors. Moni, on the other hand, insists that I had been cutting my nails after he had finished with the scissors. I am almost sure though, that I noticed Damian cutting his nails late last night.
The three of us are staring at each other vacantly. We can, of course, cut the string with a knife, but we don’t like drastic solutions. After all, none of us is Alexander the Great. Instead we swarm through the flat like a plague. We look in places where the scissors might be, and also in places where the scissors definitely won’t be. They are to be found in neither one of these places. In the process, we are of course constantly encountering the old sewing scissors, which should have been thrown out a long time ago, but which we keep ‘just in case’. Furthermore, we are blaming each other: 'You’re not putting much effort into this!', and we persevere to look where the other person has already looked. As a result of this whole ordeal, Moni finds three pens and Damian finds my golden coin, the one we were looking for yesterday with exactly the same determination. I feel like a complete failure.
Moni and I believe that objects in general, have a personality of their own and that our objects in particular, are somewhat uncooperative. Damian, on the other hand, believes, and I have no idea why, that Moni and I never put anything back in its place. I’m not convinced he’s right. I can’t speak for Moni, but as for myself, I know for certain, that as soon as I catch a glimpse of the scissors, which only happens when I am looking for something else, I consciously put them back in their designated place, so that they are close at hand the next time I need them.
I was elated when Damian gave me a manicure set as a present. Inside were two whole pairs of scissors, one slightly curved, the other one straight and many, many nail files. A wholesome sense of satisfaction permeated our home. I kissed Damian and expressed my sincere gratitude by praising him on how he always knows precisely what to get me and how he is so sensitive to my needs. God only knows why, but Damian is convinced that any praise thrown in his direction is well deserved. His smug response is: “Of course” and he goes on to lock the manicure set in the cupboard containing important documents.
Is it necessary for me to specify that, with the exception of the front door, this is the only cupboard in the house, which has a lock on it, and Damian has sole custody of the key?
Soon total confusion set in. There was no point in looking for the scissors any more because everyone knew where the scissors were. At the thought of the scissors, lying neatly in the locked, impenetrable cupboard, at a time when we have such urgent need of this humble object, and when Damian is not home and it is unlikely that he would return in the next eight hours, Moni and I fall into silent state of madness. And things were no less complicated upon Damian's return. Instinctively but hesitantly, I'd ask if he would eventually be so kind as to unlock the cupboard so that I might gain access to the scissors. In response, he would grimly toy with the question of why I needed them and the purpose I intended to use them for, before concluding that, ‘Surely you didn’t need them at all?’ Lacking requisite assertiveness, I would somehow manage to prove that I couldn’t do without them. Simultaneously growling and warning me that the scissors must be returned immediately after use, Damian would eventually open the sacred cupboard.
I am normally a pretty tidy person (in spite of Damian’s malicious remarks to the contrary), but this particular pair of scissors I put down somewhere, only for a moment, and later could not, for the life of me, remember where I left them. Damian, on the other hand, would remember hours later, when there no longer was a trace of the incident in my mind. Moni was showing the same inclination towards unexplained amnesia. “What scissors?” he would ask. He wouldn’t dare ask Damian for them though, instead leaving that burden to me, seeing as he considers me closer to his father than he is.
Worth noting at this point is that I was initially, foolishly pleased with Damian’s present (the manicure set).
Following its appearance, our family underwent a couple of months of continuous tension. During the day we would be unnecessarily anxious and during the night we would wake suddenly, drenched in sweat. Moni and I started to suffer intense feelings of guilt, while Damian became even more aggrieved than usual. At times, I would try and feed him some healthy reasoning, suggesting the sober and, in my opinion, intelligent question of whether it wouldn’t be better to place the scissors somewhere in the unlocked vicinity, and, if they happened to get lost again, we could simply purchase a new pair. It was not long before I abandoned these suggestions, because Damian took them as a manifestation of my innate ungratefulness.
Things came to a halt, when one day, our daughter, Baby, went to school with her unnaturally long manicure since Damian wasn’t home to unlock the cupboard. It was then that I explained to him that, by the way, this manicure set is my property and I had the right to lose it, if I so wished, to throw it out, if I so wished, or to cut it into small pieces, if I so wished. To this, he replied that the manicure set might be mine, but he had purchased it for me, and I would not have thought about buying such a useful object, and I replied to him, that I don’t care one bit for his useful objects, when the use for them is equal to zero, and he told me that I can’t cook, and I told him that I now understand why his son is such great success, taking after his father, and he told me to ‘excuse’ him, because Moni is the spitting image of me, the same insufferable know-it-all that I am, and I replied that he is a maniac, materialist and consumer, and then he extracted from his heart, I beg your pardon, I meant to say from the cupboard - the Scissors of Discord, flung them on the table and told me to do whatever I want, for he has no further interest in this matter.
From this day onward, a sense of normality returned to our home, at least as far as the scissors were concerned, and they disappeared a couple of weeks later as if they were never there in the first place. The nail files, to date, are in flawless condition.
In fact, Damian should be ashamed of himself for saying that Moni and I are untidy, as I have seen him desperately hunting for his car keys with my own eyes. For me this image has a unique appeal. No less delightful is listening to his monologues during such a time of loss.

The Car and the Money

(Or the title speaks for itself)

I am leaving for work. As I am walking out of the flat, to my surprise, I notice that Damian, who should have left hours ago, is rushing around the car in a very peculiar manner. I approach him and ask what has happened. Damian is looking at me as if he has never met me before in his life. I repeat my question. Damian murmurs something like “k.. k…” Next thing, I see him hurlinghimself onto the seat, and then proceeding to burrow under it. He re-emerges and sprawls over the entire front of the car. He is rummaging in the glove compartment, fondling the steering wheel and peeping behind the mirror.
- “Looking for something?" I ask innocently.
At this point he has already gotten out of the car, where he is pirouetting in quite a complicated manner. He gracefully lifts himself onto his toes and slides his hand across the roof of the car. Straight after this, astounded, I see both his feet sticking out near the back right wheel.
I am beginning to understand what is happening and I am thinking 'it is precisely for precious moments like these that a person can truly appreciate being born into this world. I am remembering all the things that I have previously lost, and how Damian has mocked me every single time and thrilled with delight I sit on the curb in anticipation, all eyes and ears.
- “They were here a minute ago,” whines Damian, “Is it possible for them to disappear? Did I put them my pocket? Why would I put them there? Let me see again, just in case. Well, no, they're not there. And they're not in my wallet either. How strange! I must be losing it completely.”
As if to prove his last point, Damian opens the boot and starts rummaging through the assorted junk, after which he checks the glove compartment, again, and finally lifts the bonnet.
- “You wouldn’t believe this!” he murmurs again, the offence in his tone of voice rising: “It's a true mystery to me!”
In the end he gets tired of it all, sits down beside me and wipes up the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. He shakes the handkerchief just in case the keys are in there. They are not.
- “OK”, I say, “Try and remember exactly what you did when you came downstairs.”
Damian is remembering. He is retrieving everything from his mind, down to the smallest detail, with the only exception being where he put the keys, and through tears of defeat says:
- “I can't remember...”
Damian often imagines that he has a great memory, and this is precisely where most of our troubles come from. He frets around another couple of minutes, and then jumps as if stung by a bee.
- “Have a good look! Just in case it’s caught in my clothes somewhere.”
Me ‘having a good look’, consists of walking around him, and in turn Damian walking around me as I stay in the same location while the passers by wonder what has gotten into us.
- “Here comes Dimo!” – Damian shouts cheerfully and tells him the whole story from the beginning.
Dimo isn’t as shocked as he should have been, in fact, Oh God, yes, he is also enjoying Damian's misfortune. He gets into the car, opens the glove compartment and takes out the keys.
Damian is looking at him with a deep sense of suspicion. If it wasn’t for Damian’s one and only irreplaceable key, one could have assumed that Dimo had a duplicate. But that was indeed unthinkable. The car key, as well as the car itself, and everything related to the car, are all entities that are so important to Damian that if something should happen to them he would…. Ok, he might not slaughter another person, but he would at least take some time off work.
It all began back in the day when Damian was a little boy and had no bicycle. I think that if his parents were the least bit aware of how much this lack of a bicycle would cost us through the years, they would have pulled their socks up and bought him a new bicycle every three months. After all, this total lack of foresight on the part of his parents, and Damian's unlived childhood, has caused three bicycles and two motorbikes to materialise in our basement, if we're not counting the Fiat parked outside our apartment block.
It is a mystery to me how a man can part with ten thousand lev [1] for a Fiat, instead of paying five thousand lev for a Zaporojetz, bearing in mind that the two cars fulfil the same function.
- “I don’t want to hear such nonsense”, cuts in Damian, as if I was thinking out loud.
And as for the Zaporojetz, the definition “car” seemed highly exaggerated to him. How can you compare a miserably underprivileged Zaporojetz (it shakes, jingles and jumps like a goat) with the elegant Fiat (She drives you gently, she’s roomy inside, cosy and comfortable…) Note that the Fiat is a third person singular, this denotes tenderness amongst other things.
Damian turns into a poet when the Fiat is under discussion. Furthermore, he has paternal feelings towards it (pardon me, Her!). He is so protective of this car that we have long ceased visiting friends that have a curb around their driveway, packed with other parked cars. And our other friends, under whose eaves it is possible to house the Fiat, are hardly ever happy with Damian’s company, as he mostly stands leaning over the side of the balcony protectively watching the car almost the entire length of our visit.
As I see it, Damian spends a third of the day inside, under or around the Fiat. He, of course, protests my observations. According to his calculations we are talking about half of the day (Damian thinks that a 1/2 is less than 1/3), as well as disagreeing that he is a madman when it comes to cars. “What's the Big Deal?” he would often wonder, “It's just a hobby! Is a man not allowed to have a hobby?"
"Of course he is" I would reply, and then suggest that he start collecting matchboxes or going fishing with Dimo. Damian does not give in, but ploughs on (here you start to familiarise yourself with his banal way of thinking), and tells me that I should be happy that he doesn't drink or smoke, or chase after women… and so on and so forth, and that he only buys himself cars for more or less ten grand.
Damian has the remarkable ability to justify the presence of given character flaws by pointing out the availability of his existing good qualities. By the way, it is not true at all that he doesn't smoke. It would be far more accurate to say that he doesn't smoke his own cigarettes. He unashamedly helps himself to mine. He would go as far as to accuse me of smoking his cigarettes. This is yet another example of his hypocritical nature.
As we were talking about parking the car, Damian believes that this issue is extremely difficult to solve. According to him, for a person who does not own a garage, it is practically impossible to find a reliable parking space. He has personally befriended every policeman who is in charge of guarding anything in the area, and the Fiat is carefully observed by a few concerned pairs of eyes at all times (excluding Damian’s). Of course, the Fiat does not stay in the street, God forbid! She spends the night on that part of the pavement, which is equally far from both the bend, and the bushes, and also from any other car that is parked in a twenty-meter radius. A mathematician could not calculate this space. However, Damian is not a mathematician and that explains it all.
Unknown are the roads that drivers of Fiats take, and once as I was coming home from work I came across Damian, who had assumed a posture in the style of Byron, gazing mournfully into the distance, exerting all the world’s sorrow.
- “What’s wrong?” I ask, fearfully.
Damian shakes his head and does not reply.
Terrified, I juggle the worst possibilities in my mind – the kids, I can hear them thumping around somewhere in the distance. My mother and father were in good health yesterday, friends, family…
- “What is it?” I raise my voice, “Have you got cancer?”
Damian regains his composure, his stare becomes slightly more meaningful and he explains that someone has bashed the car, while it was parked.
I sigh with relief, and almost fling myself around his neck with happiness, but I regain my composure and in turn change my expression to that of sympathy. I try to comfort him with a string of generally meaningful phrases like “Ah well, its no big deal” and "No one has died?" but of course without much success.
For about a week Damian is on the brink of a cardiac arrest. During the day he runs around car auto-mechanics and panel beaters, and by night-time he bawls and holds his chest, where his heart should be, and pops tranquillisers.
On the eighth day the car is completely restored and freshly painted. However, Damian continues to look anguished and keeps taking his pulse.
On the ninth day, I can’t stand it any longer and I deliver the following speech with as much conviction as I can muster:
- “Get yourself together,” I tell him, “This is ridiculous! You can’t let yourself run off the rails for a scrap of metal! There are much worse things that could have happened. Just imagine for example: you could have been sacked for incompetence then we would have lost all our money and been forced to sell the car, then what? Would you have died?”
Damian listens carefully to what I have to say and nods in understanding. At last he admits defeat:
- “You are right.”
And adds with dignity:
- “I would only ask you not to call my car a scrap of metal, please”.
Our family has always owned some kind of a vehicle for transportation. Before the Fiat, we used to have a Zaporojetz ‘banana limousine’. We also had the pleasure of owning the previous modelZaporojetz 'tortoise’, and even further back, we used to have a motorbike, our family consisted of only two members back then, and even further back, was the time when Damian did not own a bicycle. The uneducated folk should be aware that vehicles cost money and that an expensive car does not necessarily speak of prosperity. On the other hand, however, the lack of car does not necessarily mean that one has a stash of money saved either. My humble experience tells me that one has no money under any circumstances. I have heard of people who have money but they are not in my circle of friends.
There is nothing more mysterious than the way in which money seems to run through your fingers. I personally have money for three days in the month. On the fourth day I am left with twentylev. On the fifth day, I ask Damian if he has any money, and he tells me that he has twenty lev. I am very curious what this man does with his money. But I don’t go on about it. Money is something that Damian and I pretend we don’t get angry about. When it completely runs out, we sit and wait for it to magically materialise out of somewhere. And since normally that doesn’t happen, we start borrowing. We have so many debts, that, God forbid, something happened to one of us, I would have to keep paying them back for the rest of my life.
When money is concerned, Damian and I are very loyal. If we each have five lev left, without telling the other, we each buy a bottle of Grozdova Rakia [2]. We don’t get into conflict over it; the only necessity is to invite a few friends over. We borrow ten lev for party food and another ten lev to see us through to the end of the week.
Sometimes, we sit and plan and dream – an exercise in which Moni and Baby enthusiastically participate – what would we do if we won the lottery. Not that we ever play the lottery.
Moni would buy himself a new bicycle and pyjamas. I have been planning to change my wardrobe, and Damian can't think of anything else, naturally, than to exchange the Fiat for something a little more upmarket. Baby dreams of crayons and a Rubik’s Cube.
After a while we get our salaries, we buy Moni a bicycle and a pair of pyjamas, Baby a Rubik’s Cube and crayons and we feel entirely content with our lives for about three days. Then we are left with twenty lev each. Again.
Even more peculiar is the fact that we have no money all year round, be it winter or summer, bearing in mind that during the summer we don’t pay much electricity or a foreign language tutor, the kids are at the village and Damian and I are still always loitering around hungry as dogs. Unexplainable, but a fact. What can you do? Every misfortune is another experience.

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