prose

Neven Vulić: The Crap Master

Neven Vulić was born in Zagreb in 1983. He graduated in French Language and Literature and in General Linguistics at the University of Zagreb.
He regularly writes literary reviews for magazines. His story was included in the „Bez vrata, bez kucanja“ anthology, a selection of short prose written by the youngest generation of Croatian authors. Vulić has worked for the Subversive Festival (Director of the Book Fair, editor-in-chief of all publications, panel organizer and moderator), he currently works as an editor in Naklada OceanMore publishing house. Bibliography: 'Nagni se kroz prozor' (Lean Out of the Window, a collection of stories), Celeber, Zagreb, 2006, 'Povijest bolesti' (History of My Disease, novel), Sysprint, Zagreb, 2010.



 

THE CRAP MASTER

 

Two dogs followed one other on a spacious meadow between two lanes of a road. The one behind stuck its nose into the ass of the one in front and pushed it. They trotted like that for a while. And then I couldn’t see them any more; I was too far.

The bus was taking me to an unknown place. I didn’t feel like getting a job, but some things needed to be bought.

 

* * *

 

Getting off at the station, I saw a building with a big black sign. On the paper I held in my hand it said: go to the basement and wait.

The man I talked to over the phone approached me. His voice sounded as if he were two meters tall, from his tone it seemed he worked here firm part-time, that is, when he was not acting in superhero movies. In reality he was shorter than me, he weighed at least twice as much, he smelled and looked like a pig. He told me to follow him, introduced me to my new boss and told me: “Slap those texts down as fast as you can.”

I worked as a translator. He told me that productivity was all he cared about, and then went to threaten someone to get them fired.

My new boss was very busy and he told me to pretend to be doing something. He said that the guy who’d brought me here was his boss and the main man in the basement. My boss’s boss had a huge desk only he was allowed to use, a huge leather armchair and a huge screen at the very end of the room, right next to the toilet. There he slapped his own job done.

On that first day I didn’t meet anyone, I didn’t look back to find someone to ask something, I didn’t even try to talk to anyone. I only slapped down texts like fat, sweaty pigs. I worked for eight hours straight, but later they told me that I had to take a half an hour, unpaid break. In the evening I went home. It rained, but there was no wind to blow it into my face.

 

* * *

 

Every day I loyally went back to my stinky chair, which an ass after ass farted upon. At that time at work we ate fast food ordered from nearby restaurants. Grease and cheep meat were very popular, just as a bad breath.

I stayed working with my boss until the evening. I moved next to him behind the shelf thus hiding from my boss’s boss’s view. I made him company, and he told me he didn’t understand the people who drank. His alcohol was his job. After work he often drove me back to the city, otherwise I would have to take a bus and a tram. I watched the cars from the inside—they looked like wild beasts—and women hiding their faces with umbrellas.

One time I came home late in the evening and went to the woods. I stayed there for two hours, which meant I had only five hours for sleeping. It was the third day in a row. I told myself: “I’ll rest, I’ll rest…”

I barely managed not to start laughing.

 

* * *

 

In the beginning I worked full eight hours, kept my mouth shut and my eyes pealed on my screen, which radiated and the picture on it shook. After a week, in my mouth I tasted blood, and my veins wanted to break through my skin, they jerked and twitched like a wild animal.

Strange things started happening. On my way home I started seeing things. Faces peeked out from behind fences, around corners, and then disappeared. Before going to sleep I thought about my job. I didn’t want to think about my job before going to sleep.

With time I couldn’t see anything anymore, just shadows. The words I translated pressed into my eyes like live coals. I kept spending between ten and twelve hours a day in front of the screen in that basement. My face turned white. I lost weight. Then suddenly gained a lot of weight.

 

* * *

 

I woke up, but couldn’t force myself to get out of the bed. It took me fifteen minutes to open my eyes. I knew I was going to the place where instead of exit it said entrance. I couldn’t run away. To tell the truth, I didn’t want to.

I found myself in a tram taking me to work. At the last second an old man stepped in. The door closed and the tram started, and the man was still on the steps. He tried to get to a seat. As he went, he kept saying: “Oh my, oh my.”

The tram slowed down suddenly, he wasn’t holding on to the handrail, and he just kept saying: “Oh my, oh my.”

The tram started to pick up speed suddenly, and he only managed to utter, “Oh my, oh my,” because he still hadn’t reached his seat and he started to lose balance. He went down, yelling, “Oh my, oh my,” as he was falling on some woman’s leg. She moaned with pain. He said, “Oh my, oh my,” and fell to the ground.

A woman dusting her apartment windows showed no interest in what happened in the tram. She was shuffling dust and sand in her desert.

When I arrived at work I already felt a bit better. I wanted to tell the world, the people, to stop scratching their asses, because crap got stuck under your nails. I remembered how we used to beat up some boy just because someone said he stuck his hands in his ass after he took a dump. At that time it seemed like a good decision.

My boss’s boss was talking to a customer. The phone wire hung over the desk, just above the floor, stretching all the way to the receiver in his hand, like a carcass whose tendons had rotten a long time ago.

My boss’s boss was yelling at someone. This one was leaving, and my boss’s boss followed him and yelled after him in his manly, caring voice: “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!”

The guy picked up his pace. Everyone laughed at this loss of authority.

I realized that recently I could taste blood whenever I ate meat. I would take a bite and there it was. It wasn’t like blood sausage I used to eat a long time ago, that sweetness and nectar, but a taste of anemia, pain and calcium deficiency.

 

* * *

 

For an hour and a half I was trying to get out of the bed. My head was so dizzy and spinning that I remained sitting on the bed with my feet down on the cold floor. I started shaking. That helped me wake up. Five minutes later I managed to get up and go to the bathroom.

It rained outside and the rain made its way into shoes. Shop-windows passed by, pads with remnants of moonlight between their thighs; legless dogs wallowed over the wet ground. Women who sell themselves were still asleep. It was early; noon was far.

I caught a tram, some old people got in at the next station. A girl got up for one of them to have a seat and shut up. I took out my book and started reading, she stood right next to me.

Looking at all those words I hoped she was watching me, secretly reading what I was reading. Let her think I was smart. Let her think I was the one. Such youth are the future, one of those trams, nuns and retired people could be proud of.

At moments like this my mind dances can-can. In my brain a huge erection takes place on which ladies in azure dresses danced, kicking their legs up high to the sky.

I put the book in my bag; hawked through the spit in my throat and swallowed it. People passed by.

I got off at the station, reached into my bag and took out a piece of paper and a pen. I wrote down that I needed to write something about a girl staring at my neck, something about reading a book, something about shop-windows, something about fashion. Then I walked on, then turned right into another street. As the train passed, the guard looked in my direction, his thumbs tucked under his belt.

I imagined it was summer, sat under the first tree and sunbathed in the snow. I ignored each and every dog shit, and the butterflies convinced me that every day was completely different from the day before.

 

* * *

 

One day I was singing: “I am great, just me, I’ve got feelings, I love pudding, I am the best…” and decided to try out the restroom in the basement of the building I worked in for the first time. The urinals were placed in such a way that dwarfs needed to get high heels in order to take a piss. The lighting in the toilet worked like a strobe light. Behind the urinals there was a room of about one square meter in size with a toilet bowl. On the wall there was a sign: Gentlemen, please leave the door open after you are done; the room is not ventilated. Thank you.

I glanced down in the toilet bowl. It wasn’t dirty but I could tell the traffic had been heavy: a little bit of brown was visible at the shoulder, where the crap gets stuck, and down at the bottom, where it breaks against the sides. I laid some toilet paper on the seat, took off my pants and pressing hard against the walls lowered myself. Later I left the door closed.

One day someone told me it was Lent. I don’t believe in myself let alone something else, but I did decide to give up masturbating. One the first day I did okay, I didn’t think of women more often than every two minutes. And then she marked my entrance into a bus. She looked as if she had just got out of a commercial: half naked yet dressed completely, beautiful. She wore her sunglasses as graciously as Grace Kelly, although the sky was gray and it rained. I couldn’t muster the courage to approach her and ask her to marry me. Later I got home and became a true heretic.

 

 

                                                              Translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović 

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