Dalibor Šimpraga: In the tram / The Storm

Dalibor Šimpraga was born in 1969 in Zagreb, where he lives today. He studied Croatian and Southern Slavic Literature and Linguistics in Zagreb. He was a free-lance author, now he is cultural editor of Globus, the main news-magazine in Croatia. He was a co-founder of the literary magazine Fantom slobode. He has published:Anastasia, a novel (2007), and Kavice Andreja Puplina, a collection of short stories (2002). He edited 22 u hladu, an anthology of young Croatian prose (1999). For his debut novel Anastasia, he received the literary prize ”" (one of main prizes in Croatia) in 2008.

In the tram


Hey, man, lissen to this! I'm in the tram today, sittin, mindin' my business, an' there's this old hag next to me, eyeing me from above, spott'd me way back on the station, zero'd in on me through the window, an' she's standin' there, loomin' over me, like, spookin' me to stand up. Me, I ain't payin' attention, like, interest'd in night life, I gaze thru the window, it's 6 fuckin' ay-am, like, nobody in fuckin' sight. She mutters, she coughs, all the time stuck to that bar at the exit, middle of the car, right next to where I fuckin' sit. So, the stops go by, people crowd in, push her aside, but she's just kinda standin' there, like a log, not backing a fuckin' inch. I think to meself, just you stand there, no fuckin' way I'am movin'. An' she's, like, fat'n'bearded, that shoppin' cart trailing after her. So, people come in, people get out, pushin', pullin', an' then this geezer – a suit an' a tie, a fuckin' gentleman – enters the picture and goes, like: "Are you getting out now, ma'm?" The hag says, like, "I ain't". An' he goes, check this out, he goes: "What the fuck've you been doing at the door for the last five stops, then?" Y'know, I fuckin' scream'd. The bat then goes babblin', like, the kids today and all that crap, good for nothing bunch and so, when a drunk right behind her goes: "Yeah, yeah, if it wasn't for those kids, lady, you'd still be writin' Cyrillics!" The hag, like, under fire, goes crazy, red as a crab, breathing hard, can't speak for shit. She turns, says: "You'd be better off making babies at home, than wobbling around here drunk". And the drunk goes at her: "A' least I still can, an' you wouldn' be spittin' poison all over us, either, had' ya done your share, back when ya still could." Like, man, a parade, a madhouse, people grinnin', laughin' like hell. And now comes the best bit. A guy enters at a stop, smells like a ticket controller from a mile off, no mistake. Fuck if I care, still have my army ID, like to see him give me trouble. Doors closing, like, let's see those tickets, please. The hag starts diggin' in her bag, the tram takes a left, the hag hits the man, him standin' by the exit. And the drunk goes: "Now y' wanna? T' late for babies now?" Everybody freaks, rolls on the fuckin' floor, tears burstin' from laughter. The fat cow, can you believe it, I'd do her right in the head, no mercy, goes: "Listen, ask him for the ticket", points at me, fuckin' stupid bitch, what've I ever done to you, fuckin' cunt, what d'ye care if I have a ticket or not. The controller, like, gets the picture, saw right through her, an okay guy, goes: "Sure, sure, right after you show me yours" and winks at me, like, he knows what goes down. The bitch fumbles, gropes around the bags and the drunk behind her says: "Don't lissen to 'er, mister, she ain't got no ticket, tries to fuck ya over. Show no mercy." The hag says to the ticket man: "And him, too, ask him! And the likes of him, taking a free ride, not me" and she starts spittin' poison again, like, she's fuckin' impaired a ninety percent invalid, sick and all that shit. And the drunk goes: "Arrest 'er, b'hind bars with 'er. Not to fuck wi' us, honest folks, early inna mornin', damn'd bitch. Should've stay'd home, if she's a fuckin' invalid!" Believe it or not. A fuckin' live show, fuckin' stand-up comedy, I'm tellin' ya!



The Storm


And, 'bout the war. The Storm*… Much as I hate previous actions, this was heaven. Man, like, felt like last men on earth. You wander 'round, doin' nothing, jerkin' off, gettin' hungry – you hit the market, the chemist's – getting' thirsty – a carton of brandy from some bar. If it's not open, you smash in the window, breakin'n'enterin', no questions ask'd. Like, no trouble at all, peace and quiet, nice weather today, I'm tellin' ya, a fucking pastoral. You kinda get his feeling inside, like, you know you're winnin', not like before, not like in ninety-one. Everything's there, you find a shop, grab a Coke, gulp down some, throw the can into the glass window, see if you care shit. I'm tellin' ya, I'm pickin' some gum and smokes around a shop there, Mile comes in, y'know the guy, dress'd like a policeman, fillin' up his own pocket like I do mine. I'm starin' at him, dinna get it's him at first, and he goes, like "Hey, hey, Zendra, whacha doin' here?" What I'm doin' there, fuck, if it's not obvious – I went shopping, took a wrong turn. He goes: "Take it, grab it, ain't gonna last forever!" Weird times, it's what I'm thinkin', me an' the cop stealin' together. Or, take this pharmacy, clean windows, it's almost a pity to smash them. I go in, everything's fresh scrubb'd, smells like a fuckin' virgin hump. No kiddin', just like it! I hit the till, take their funny money for souvenirs, dig thru the drawers, find, some, whassa word – inhalators. I take one, later I go back – it's quite okay to breathe that shit – but no luck, some fucker took the whole box. And then again, you go thru the shops, like childhood all over again… Jaffa cakes, that old brand of potato chips, those yellow ones, y'know, the originals, then those smooth candies with chocolate inside, I'm standin' there, thinkin' what a fuckin' idyllic scene it must've been, before we came. You look at those houses, three days ago people liv'd there, found a diary of a thirteen-year-old chick, she was hot for some Dario. But fuck, what can'ya do, it's war, and all. It's bad as it goes, but I gotta admit, got a payback for all the shit I took, all those past actions. Wish'd we'd stay a day or two more. Summer, my man, joy, I blew my vacation that year, but the fuck I care, was better there than on the fuckin' seaside! Like, y'sleep in some house, get up in the mornin', get your ribbons, drink coffee and off for a stroll. Found a moped under hay somewhere, messed with it and it came alive, did nothing but drive round all day long. And the weather, like, sheer heaven, warm, sunny, the best part was a shady, straight road, on full throttle, like, But, dad, we go eighteen miles an hour. So, you roast baby lambs, can't get any better. Not like over there, over Dubrovnik. I mean, what the fuck we went there for, God knows. Nothing but rocks and rumble. Like, where the lava flowed, there's a road, the rest is a fucking stone garden, no way you can walk straight, whole day long you squat on the spot. Days're hotter'en hell, nights a freezin' nightmare, you drink, you smoke pot, while the rookies keep guard. OK, like, I done that, too, but fuck the guarding, the state I was in. You tie yourself to the pole so the wind don't blow you the fuck away, and you nap. Wake up to wake up the next one to keep watch and go back to nappin'. But, fuck all that: it's rainin', the tent's leakin' water, like, it's even worse, all of it pourin' down the same spot. Y'see, when I think of that, I mean – no fuckin' veteran paycheck'd cover that shit… I mean, fuck it. Anything'd do now. And they say the last war was three times as bad. Come off it, man.
* Military action of croatian army in 1995.


Translated by Tatjana Jambrišak


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