prose

Jurica Pavičić: Saturday Showdown

Jurica Pavičić is best known as an award-wining journalist, who writes a weekly column for the national, daily newspaper, Jutarnji List. He is also a film critic, a college professor and a novelist. He recently finished his seventh novel, Crvena Voda (2017) (Red Water).

In Saturday Showdown, Pavičić explores the themes of familial obligation and self-determination in a story that is uniquely Croatian, in a place where multi-generational households are still common and opportunity doesn’t come knocking twice.

Read Pavičić’s short story below. Translation by Will Firth.



 

Saturday Showdown, by Jurica Pavičić

Translated by Will Firth

 

“Buddy!”

He heard someone call but decided not to react. He put his soccer bag on the bed and did a double-check. Everything was there, as usual: two towels, jersey, socks, shin guards, knee pads, boots. He laced up his track shoes and got to his feet.

“Buddy!” the voice came again from the kitchen. It was Lenka calling, a hint of panic in her voice.

He did up the zipper and called back, “Here, Lenka.”

“Come here please!”

He left the room and closed the door behind him. He’d slept in that room all his life, and his brother had slept there before marrying Lenka. He went into the kitchen and saw her.

She was standing in a faded old singlet that made her breasts bulge out indecently. Dinner was almost ready. She was cooking a hotchpotch with leeks or kale in a big enamel pot. He didn’t like the smell of it.

“Buddy, I can’t see or hear Pop. Can you go and check where he is?”

You know where he is–down at the lofts, Buddy thought, but didn’t say it. He did as he was asked.

Out on the veranda the air smelled of coming rain. In the distance was the River Sava; a little nearer he saw the other houses and the dry moat around the Baroque fortress; the railroad tracks ran behind the garden fence, and there was a pedestrian crossing nearby. His gaze passed over the garden, which suddenly seemed neglected and overgrown. And he saw Pop down at the lofts.

The old man didn’t notice him. He was trudging around the garden in his slippers and knitted cardigan, doing heaven knows what with some filthy water–cleaning out the pigeonholes or the food trays. He looked aged and bent. It was best not to disturb him, Buddy decided.

He went back to the kitchen. Lenka was cutting bacon into strips and peeling garlic.

“Pop’s down at the lofts, he’s okay.”

“Are you off now?”

“Yep. The match is at four.”

“I have to watch he doesn’t run away from the garden like last time.”

“I know,” Buddy replied. He didn’t know what else to say.

“Off you go. See you for dinner,” Lenka said, tossing the bacon into the pan.

Buddy pondered for a moment, took his bag, and left.

*

Ever thicker clouds gathered over the Sava, heralding a summer storm. The birds were darting to and fro over the river like fugitive glyphs that had left their letters, but the river greened blithely, unconcerned by the goings-on above. Buddy looked for a bench by the river that wasn’t so badly broken and sat down. He laid his bag with his wet clothes and boots beside the bench. He was wearing his spare, dry tracksuit that sported the name of his club’s sponsor. That would have drawn attention to him straight away if anyone else had been down by the river.

 

Read the rest here

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