Journey to the Heart of the Croatian Dream

Vlado Bulić's novel Journey to the Heart of the Croatian Dream won the Jutarnji list Prize for the best book of fiction in Croatia in 2006.
This is a journey from “the shovel to the Internet” that could easily be read as a “journey” of the society as a whole.
Read a sample translation from the novel translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović.




A Novel

AGM Zagreb, 2006


Translated by Tomislav Kuzmanović






The cold was unbearable. I used every blanket and sheet I had to cover myself, I turned the radiator to the max, but nothing helped. I lay in bed in the fetal position, shaking with cold. The room was in complete darkness, only the red light on the stereo pulsated to the rhythm of the music that flowed from the speakers:


Everything you touched turned to gold

may you rest in peace forever and ever more…


Suddenly I was blinded by light. Don opened the door. He stood half-bent in the doorway, holding his dick.


…they covered your tomb, it’s our turn now

to live and earn what our life’s worth.


                He fell down to the floor, crawled into his sleeping bag, curled up in fetal position and moaned. All the time he was holding his dick.

                “What happened, you can’t get it down?” I mumbled from my fetal position.

                He didn’t reply. He only pressed his eyes shut, swore through his teeth, and moaned.


It’s three a.m. You’re listening to Croatian Radio One. Here is the News. The President of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tuđman, the founder of the modern Croatian state, a man whose statesmanship marked our decade, a man who, following people’s will, turned centuries-long Croatian dreams into reality, has died.


“Fuck it, Don, are you okay?” I crawled out of my bed, still shaking with fever.

He was still holding his dick. “Shit, what a pain!” he kept repeating. He was as white as a sheet.

                If I hadn’t had a fever, I would’ve probably laughed, but in this condition, I just wanted him to shut up and fall asleep.


In this most difficult moment, our Constitution and my destiny oblige me to announce to all the citizens of the Republic of Croatia and all the Croats living outside of the motherland that the great heart of Dr. Franjo Tuđman, statesman and nation-builder, the first president of modern, independent, sovereign, democratic Republic of Croatia, has stopped beating.


“Try to beat it off,” I suggested. “Maybe you’ll get it down.”

                “Not…a…chance…” he tried to say. “It hurts…” he was still moaning. “I…have…a…feel…ing… it’s…gonna…ex…plode, fuck!”


This historian made immense contribution to our recent history; he helped realize the dream of countless generations, the dream that came true only in the last decade of the second millennium through the renewal, establishment, and international recognition of the Croatian state.


                “Wanna try a cold compress?” I continued with my ideas. “I’ll soak the towel in water. Put it on, maybe it will be better.”

                “Ok,” he groaned.


Not only his comrades, associates, followers and admirers, not only Croatian people crushed with sorrow, but also his most unjust adversaries, in this difficult moment understand the greatness of this loss which can only be compared to the greatness of his person predestined for victories, even for the final victory over death by securing a permanent place in Croatian history.


I started towards the bathroom, carrying a towel, and then I stopped. “I just remembered. I’ve got some tranquilizers. Want one?”

                “Give it.”

                He took two and gulped them at once. I came back after a couple of minutes with a towel soaked in cold water. Don was still writhing in pain on the floor, cursing through his teeth. He took the towel, pulled it into his sleeping bag, and the expression on his face and the long “Aaaaaah” that followed told me he’d put it on his dick.

                “Is it better?” I asked.

                “Yes, better, but I still can’t get it down. Fucking hell it hurts.”

                We lay down and waited for the tranquilizers to take effect. I was in bed, he was in his sleeping bag on the floor. Both of us in fetal positions. In complete darkness broken only by the red dot on the stereo, pulsating to the sound of music, which, together with Don’s groaning, filled the dark with depression.


                                Stone heads whisper from church walls,

                                The voice of Juraj, Radovan

This is our land.


                The tranquilizers had no effect and I couldn’t sleep because of his groaning. Curled in the fetal position I watched the pulsing of the red dot, shook with cold, and listened to Don’s moaning.

                His dick hurt long into the night.



While you’re waiting for the guy with the pot, you can do a ton of useful things. You can read, you can study, you can clean up your room. But you do nothing. You’re just waiting. Thinking about that first joint you’re going to roll when the guy finally shows up. After it, everything will be much easier. You still won’t read, or study, or clean up your room, but everything will be easier. And this everything is waiting. Everyone in the dorm was waiting for something—the next exam, next semester, diploma, job, wife, money… That’s what all the visions came down to. Visions are like pot, they make waiting easier. I never had them. Maybe because I had pot. Maybe because when I’d light the joint and look at the ceiling, there were no visions but images alternating like a slideshow picking up speed. When it would pick up enough speed, it seemed that the people in the pictures were moving, coming down from the ceiling and taking a stroll around the room…

                “Dena, you asleep?” I heard Miha’s voice.

                I opened my eyes. He was standing above my bed, taking off his thick winter jacket.

                “How did you get in?”

                “You left it unlocked. Here’s your pot.”

                He sat at the table and took the pot out of the sack.

                “Fuck, Dena, you’re always asleep. Whenever I come by, you’re in bed. At least get some chick to go to bed with.” He pulled the rizla out of the roll.

                “I wasn’t asleep, I was watching my head from the inside.”

                “It must be nicer that way.” He grinned, still concentrated on rolling the joint.

                “Fucking Dracula.”

                Miha was a Romanian Croat. He lived on the first floor of the building number nine, in the Romanian quarter. There were about a dozen of them in the dormitory and all of them came from the same village near Temishvar. Every so often a new one would arrive. The Ministry would arrange the papers and a room in the dormitory, the guy would then find a job and go to campus only to get his student status verified. It would go on like this until he lost his rights. Then he’d usually go back to his village and continue living his Romanian depression. He lit the joint.

                “I bought a huge TV and a VCR. Now I’m getting some porn,” he said.

                “Get a woman, it’s more practical.”

                “Not for myself. I bought the whole room. Now I’m going to rent it. An hour in the room, TV and porn, all for twenty-five kunas. Meal vouchers accepted as well. If they want a joint on top all this, another ten kunas.” He blew the smoke and smiled proudly. “I got the idea yesterday while we were getting high. Everyone’s talking about pussy, but no one’s getting any.”

                That was Miha. A man with a vision and one of the few from that bunch who never even considered going back. He could arrange everything in the dormitory—from pot or job position to a room or a roommate. He knew all the cleaning ladies, guards, receptionists, the secretary, the director, and he was on first name basis with all of them. The guy turned dorm life into a business and made enough money to leave it all behind and begin what people call a normal life, but that didn’t interest him. He’d say he was too young, but even the oldest students didn’t know how long he’d been there. He passed me the joint.

                “Dena, I need a favor.” This was a surprise.

                “What, you need a bouncer for the room?”

                “No man, for real. I need a place for my cousin to crash for a week or so.”

                “Okay, and?”

                “Can he stay with you?”

                I couldn’t believe what he’d just said. “Wait a minute, you’re gonna rent a room for jacking off, and dump some guy on me. Are you fucking crazy?”

“I’ll pay you. In pot.”

He saw right through me. Not that that was very difficult. I bought pot from him almost every other day. I looked around the room. It was a total mess. Too small. Even for me. But that was not the problem. The problem was it was a single room. My single room. I passed the joint back to him.

“Miha, why do you think I’m in a single room? Company is not my fucking thing.”

“That’s not my problem,” he said, completely cool. “If you can’t be with someone for a couple of days, go get a treatment. Fuck, I’ll give you fifty grams of pot. And that’s for just one week!”

“Shit, it’s a small room!”

“I’ll give him a sleeping bag so he can sleep on the floor.”

                He took the last two drags and put out the joint. He stared in my direction, waiting for an answer. I looked at the room. Then the pot. I smoked it the way others drank coffee.

                “Okay, but if I kick him out after half a day, don’t be surprised. I’m not fucking around, Miha. If he’s a jerk, he’s out.”

                “Just don’t bust his head open like you did with that guy at the reception.” He grinned.

                “Fuck off!”

                He took his jacket and started toward the door.

                “I’ll bring him Friday night. Is that ok?”


                He put his hand on the door knob and then turned around.

                “Do you know anyone who needs Viagra? I have a whole box.” He said it as if he was offering me a stick of gum.

                “Where the hell did you get Viagra?”

                “Some guy owed me money so he gave it to me.”

                “I have no idea. You’re in a fucking dorm, you should be dealing something against a fucking hard on.”

                “I don’t know what to do with it. Take care.” He turned back again. “I counted this into those fifty grams.”

I sat at the table and turned on the radio. I rolled slowly. I always made a ceremony of rolling the first joint in the stash. It needed to be perfect—long, thin, and slow-burning. Rolling a joint calmed me more than the joint itself. I turned up the volume and got in bed. There were still no visions on the ceiling. Just a nail and a slide-show picking up speed.



A high frequency sound from the radio, marking the top of the hour, woke me up. Another followed.


It’s twelve o’clock. You’re listening to Croatian Radio One. Here is the News.


                The room was in total darkness, only the red dot on the radio pulsated to the rhythm of the speaker’s voice.


President, Dr. Franjo Tuđman, is still being treated at the Dubrava Clinical Hospital.


                I turned on the lamp and sat at the table. It was filled with seeds, filters from torn up cigarettes, pieces of rizla, crumbs of tobacco and weed…


The doctors’ council reports that the President’s condition is stable.


                I turned off the radio and looked through the window. What day is it? I looked at the pot. My stash was usually good for two days and there was enough of it on the table to roll one more joint.

                There was a knock on the door.

                “Who is it?” I yelled.


                “Aha, Friday.”

                I staggered to the door and unlocked it. A short blonde guy, with a crooked nose and googly eyes stood next to Miha. He reminded me of a cartoon character who goes flat and then needs to be pumped up again to normal.

                “You were sleeping again!” Miha began without introduction and darted into the room. “This is Martin.”

                I shook hands with the guy. He put his sleeping bag on the bed, sat next to it, and stared at us as if waiting for instructions.

                “There, I gotta split now,” Miha said and started toward the door as if he was scared of something. This was a surprise. I went after him and caught him in the hall.

                “Wait, you bring this fucking guy in and then you disappear as if he’s an orphan. What the fuck is wrong with you?”

                “Bah, the guy is ok, you’ll see.”

                “Ok, fuck, but you could’ve stayed at least five minutes until we get it going or whatever.”

                “Dena, I’m in a hurry. I really gotta go. See you.”

                I watched him disappear, and then, feeling the flash of my hangover, I turned toward the door. “Miha, you motherfucker,” I mumbled and entered the room. The guy was still waiting for instructions.

                “So, ahem, how was the trip?” I tried to start the conversation.

                He looked at me with a question mark. “Trip?”

                “Yeah, you know, from Romania and all that?”

                He was still confused. “I didn’t come from Romania, I’ve been living here for two years now.”

                Now I looked at him with a question mark.

                “Miha didn’t tell you anything?” he said.


                “I’ve been living in Zagreb for two years now.”

                “You’re a student, or what?”

                “Well… yes.”

                “What do you study?”

                He mumbled something.


                “I’m in the seminary,” he said louder.

                Miha, you motherfucker! I thought, trying to keep my composure. I glanced toward the table. The pot usually resolved such situations. Whenever I met somebody new, the awkwardness lasted until the sentence “Wanna smoke” was uttered. If the guy said “Yes”, the atmosphere would loosen up on its own. But this was a fucking priest and the only thing coming to my mind was to show him the door.

                The priest broke the silence. “Wanna smoke?” he said and took a bag of grass from his backpack.

                “You’re shitting me!” It just popped out of my mouth.

                “Why does everybody go nuts when they see a priest smoking a joint? I’m human just like everyone else.” He said it in the voice of a film Jesus with a holy expression on his face and then sat at the table and took the pot out of his bag. The atmosphere loosened up immediately.

                “You’re nuts… Why aren’t you there now? They figured you out, huh?” I threw my question marks at him.

                “Something like that. Now I’m going through the self-reflection stage.”


                “Well, when they figure out that you’re not exactly sure about some things, they send you to self reflect on it for a year. So, here I am, self reflecting.” He was crumbling the grass.

                “So what did you do?”

                “I came home drunk one evening and vomited all over the toilet.”

                We laughed. I watched the guy as he crumbled the grass. I could tell this was routine for him.

                “I was an altar boy back in the day,” I said.

                “Good for you. Now hand some rolling paper to don Martin.”

                I passed him the roll. He pulled about three centimeters out. It didn’t go farther.

                “No paper.”

                “Fuck, Father.” I looked through the drawers for my stash. “Shit… Is the kiosk still open?”

                “That’s ok. And… don’t call me Father. I’m a don. Everybody calls me that.”

                He extended his arm toward the shelf and took the pocket edition of the Bible. Each room got a copy when the students moved in. Together with the linen.

                “The paper’s really thin,” he said and opened the book. “I see you’re not exactly a model Christian, you don’t open it often, all the pages are still here. Let’s see, New Testament, the Gospel According to John.” He ripped the page out.

                “This is insane! Out of a million people in Zagreb, I get a fucking Romanian priest who’s rolling the Holy Book.”

                “Dena, God works in mysterious ways,” he said ceremoniously and read from our rolling paper.


In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word was with God.


Five minutes later, he proudly showed me the joint with the text on it.

“And in the beginning there was only the word.”

He drew two puffs and passed it to me. I took one. And another. With every drag a couple of letters burned out. I tried to read it. It didn’t burn evenly.

“Don, your God’s all burned out, the Word’s almost gone too, ‘D’ is catching on fire,” I said, laughing.

“What ‘D’?”

I showed him the joint. The text looked like this:


In the beginning was the Word,

And the Word


We began laughing hysterically.

                “D is the beginning and end of all things!” He tried to make a serious face. But he couldn’t.

                “It’s good, fuck, it’s really good!” I said and almost started crying from laughter.

                “We revel in its goodness,” he said laughingly, ripped another page from the Gospel According to John, and began crumbling more pot.



* * *


Ds live in Dville. All Ds have similar features. They have legs, arms, heads, and call themselves people. S is one of the Ds.

S was unhappy in Dville so he decided to leave.

And so S’s journey began. He traveled through darkness until he heard the sound of fire. It was coming from within him and it burned parts of his brain. He was burning in his own hallucination, fear was taking him over, but then he saw Skoks and the fear disappeared. Skoks wore a dark suit, dark tie and a white shirt. His hair was tidily combed back, and the dull eyes of an intellectual gazed through the lenses of his glasses. S didn’t like Skoks so he continued his journey.

Nights passed. S traveled through darkness until he reached the place where he had met Skoks. He heard the sound of dripping water. It was coming from within him and it spilled from one side of his brain to another. He was drowning in his own hallucination, fear was taking over, but then he saw Skoks and the fear disappeared.

Skoks was so different from Skoks that even his name was completely reversed from Skoks so his name was Skoks. Skoks was lying drunk on the road, breathing the stench of his own vomit. S didn’t like Skoks so he continued his journey.

Nights passed. S traveled through darkness until he saw his goal, Sville.

Ses live in Sville. All Ses have similar features. They have legs, arms, heads, and they call themselves people. S is one of the Ses.


“Does anyone want to comment on this assignment?” The teacher turned to the students who were staring at her without interest. No one raised a hand, but then “And this is your brain on drugs.” echoed from the back row. We all began laughing. It was Beka, the only punk in the class. We could care less about that punk thing of his, but we all walked out of school in protest when a year earlier he got kicked out because he showed up with half of his head shaved.

She ignored him.

“This paper shows everything we studied in these four years. Well done, Denis,” she concluded just before the bell went off.

Ten minutes later Beka stopped me in front of the school. “Man, that’s some story.”

I was confused. He usually didn’t communicate with anyone in the class, which was probably the only thing we had in common.

“Well…, thanks,” I said confusedly.

“Wanna come with me?”

This was even more surprising. “Where?” I was still confused.

“Downtown, to Peristil, I need to get my sister, so we’ll go somewhere drink something and dick around.”

He was waiting for my reply.

“I don’t know… I mean…”

“C’mon, we’ll dick around, what the fuck. It’s only seven o’clock. Where you gonna go?” He didn’t want to give up.

“Ok, let’s go.”


Beka lived in Town, and, ever since he’d got his license, he’d driven to school in his Citroen Diana, which was older than him. LET 3 always played full volume:


Because we can turn off the lights and turn on the dark.

And the time is ours, and only for us…


“Man, that story is fucking fantastic,” he didn’t stop until we got downtown. “And all this time I thought you were just a little dork from that village of yours.”

He parked at the town quay. I waited in the car, looked around and listened to LET 3. What the fuck am I doing here? I kept asking. Ever since the fifth grade I’d lived between my apartment and school and waited for the weekends to go to the country and get stoned with Krle. I’d been living in Split for eight years and I still didn’t know the names of all the parts of the town, let alone have a friend. I couldn’t fit in, I just couldn’t. Not with this town, not with these people, not with anything. I sat there in my pants and sweater with a little dorky village boy haircut and waited for Beka to bring more punks with him. He showed up some ten minutes later with two bottles of Kaštelet, his girlfriend and his sister.

“This is my buddy from school. You should see the story he wrote!” he said.

They were looking at me, wondering. I definitely didn’t fit in.

“Ivona,” said his sister. She was all dressed in black. Her eyes looked like she was about to start crying and she needed someone to hug her and tell her, “Don’t worry, everything will be ok.” Or did it only seem so because of her makeup? Because of the black that lined her eyelids.

Half an hour later we were in some woods, near some church and a graveyard, a few kilometers away from the nearest house. The silence was deathly. We sat on a wall and drank. Still in silence and total darkness, waiting for someone to say something.

Beka took a bag with pot and rolling paper from his pocket, and the girls looked at me as if waiting for some kind of response.

“Do you smoke?” he asked.


“I knew it the moment I heard your story!” He grinned. “You can’t write that without being high.”

My “uh-huh” broke the dullness.

“So what’s your story about?” Ivona asked and looked at me with those paranoid eyes of hers.

“Well…” I began, but Beka interrupted me.

“You can’t just tell it like this. That’s like asking what LET 3 songs are about.”

“You have it here?” she asked.

“Yes, back in the car, in the notebook.”

“So go get it, what are you waiting for?”

But Beka wouldn’t budge. “Wait until we light up, it’ll sit better.” He pulled the paper out of the roll, but it didn’t go further than three centimeters. “God damn, fucking shit!” he screamed. “Now what am I gonna roll it with—your mother’s pussy?!”

“Give it to me, I’ll roll,” I said.

“What the fuck with?”

I tore the pack, peeled off a layer of paper and began rolling it. “The paper is a little thicker, but fuck it now,” I said.

“Dude, fuck!” his girlfriend said. “First time I’ve seen this! How long have you been smoking?”

“Since my freshman year.” The moment Krle got into Naval School, pot became like cigarettes to us.

“Bullshit!” Beka said. “Fuck, you’ve smoked longer than any of us here but you look like a little dork from the village.”

“And you as a true punk should know that you shouldn’t judge people by their clothes.”

Halfway through the joint I brought my notebook and gave it to Ivona. Her paranoid eyes with her lined eyelids were now going over the letters, widening every so often as if she was surprised about something, and when she finished, she looked into my face with the same surprise in her eyes. “Fuck, this is totally me!” she said.

“Didn’t I tell you?” Beka was as proud as if he had discovered a new band.

“Can I take it?” she asked. “I have a homework assignment for tomorrow so I’d like to copy it just to see how that idiot teacher of mine will react. Can I?”

“No problem.”

“Cool!” She kissed me on the cheek, and I felt shivers all over my body.

Half an hour later, Beka and I were in his car. He dropped the two of them off and was now driving me home. He was speeding down the highway as if he were driving a Ferrari and not an old Citroen Diana.


…be what you are, there’s no law higher than us.

The ghosts were just a voice, fear no one…


And then, out of nowhere, he turned off the headlights and crossed into the opposite lane, pressing the pedal as if someone were chasing him, some invisible force that shot from the speaker directly into his stomach, and then into his foot that pressed on the accelerator. When the headlights appeared from the opposite direction, he would wait until the last moment and then suddenly go back into his lane.

“You scared?” he shouted.

“No. Knock yourself out!” I shouted back.

He continued speeding in his Diana until suddenly the gearshift came off in his hand.

“Fuckshitfuck!” he screamed and hit the breaks.

We pulled over.

“It unhooked again,” he said and took out a safety pin from his first aid kit. The he popped the hood and fastened the gear-shift lever with the safety pin.

“You weren’t scared for real?”

“Hell, no!”

“Motherfucker, you really are something! Others just shit their pants.”

He thought he’d found a soul mate. An adrenaline freak just like him. But that’s not what it was. The whole time I was waiting for one of the trucks to hit us, but Beka always swerved back into the right lane at the right moment. A car accident sounds better than a suicide. Just five days before I’d been sitting on the overpass, looking down. I didn’t have the balls to do it. The image of my mother telling my little sister that I was never going to come back had repeated itself in my head so I’d turned back, gone home and written that story for my homework assignment.

Two days after the ride, Ivona called me. “Man, I’ve got to tell you this!” She sounded almost hysterical.

“Go ahead.”

“I got an A on my homework, and the teacher took me to her office after class and, like, apologized. Man, she fed me this story about how all these years she’d had a wrong opinion about me.” She was laughing her head off.


“And one girl from my class asked me if she could put the story on her wall.”




When I woke up, Don was already sitting at the table, flipping through the Holy Scripture while one of its pages slowly burned in his hand.

                “You’re fucking nuts!” I said.

                He passed me the joint.

                “And now you are too,” he said, tore out a new page from the little blue book and began rolling.

                Five minutes later, each of us were smoking his own joint.

                “What are you doing today?” he asked.

                “Nothing,” I said and put out my joint.

                “And what about classes and that stuff.”

                “I haven’t been on campus in a month.”

                “So what do you do in life?” He handed me his joint.

                “Nothing. Smoke pot and stare at the ceiling,” I said and took a hit.

                Suddenly he became serious, leaned in on his elbows, crossed his legs, and stared into my eyes. “Dena.”

                I looked at him. His face resembled the face of a psychiatrist from American movies and announced a dead serious conversation. “Yes.”

                “Would you like to be confessed?” he said and burst into laughter.

                “Go fuck your mother, you asshole!” I said and burst into laughter.

                “I’m serious.”

                “Don, c’mon. Stop screwing around with me! You’ve lost it, man!”

                “I’ve got to stay in shape while I’m in the self-reflection stage,” he said and stretched his back. “You seem like an ideal candidate. Do you remember how it goes?”

                “I do,” I said. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been ten years since my last confession.”

                “Ten years?! You’re good,” he said and pressed the Bible against his chest like a real priest. “So, my child, confess your sins.”

                The whole thing was becoming more and more amusing. “Father, I think I lost my faith,” I said seriously and put out the joint.

                “In God, the world or yourself?”

                “All three.”

                He looked at me seriously and then went off. “Dear child, you need a plan. In these most important years of your young life you’ve abandoned yourself to darkness but you need light.” He threatened me with one hand and waived the book in the other. “You need light, my child, to take you out of your dark tunnel and lead you to the fullness of life, just as the shooting star led the Magi to the infant Christ. And on this journey you mustn’t give up!” he let his voice boom and then raised the Bible higher. “Here! Here you shall find your inspiration!” he concluded and ripped another page from the source of inspiration.

                “You’re really good at this!” I said.

                “That’s my job, man!”

                “What, to look into people’s eyes and bullshit them?”

                “I’m not bullshitting,” he said, picking out seeds.

                “No, you have a plan, right?”

                “Of course, I have a plan.”

                “So, what plan could you possibly have? Even if you end up a priest, you’ll screw yourself up because you’re going to fuck the first horny believer that comes your way.”

                “Germany, my friend, Germany is where salvation is.” He lit another page from the Holy Scripture. “When I get ordained here, I’ll try to go there and sell my bullshit to our Gast Arbeiters. It’s tricky, but if you have good connections, it can work out.”

                “OK, but you still can’t fuck legally,” I was persistent.

                “Wait, I haven’t finished yet. They’re very generous when the Church is in question so I expect they’ll give me something. Look how poor I am.” A tragic expression appeared on his face and then he went on, “Then I’m transferring over to the Protestants, they can fuck.”

                “What, you can do that?”

                “They all need a workforce; no one in their right mind wants to do this anymore. You come up with some idiotic reasoning and no problem,” he concluded proudly and passed me the joint. “But, I forgot to give you your penance.”

                “Go ahead!”

                “You’ll buy me a cup of coffee and a shot of Pelinkovac at Smash.”


* * *


We were sitting at the bar, flipping through newspapers and drinking coffee and Pelinkovac. It was two in the afternoon, and our eyes were already red and shiny.

                “Wanna get wasted?” he asked, sipping his coffee.

                “But you’re already drinking.”

                “No, for real,” he said and grinned. “Let’s get wasted.”


                The waiter brought us two double shots of Pelinkovac and turned up the volume on the TV. The news was just beginning:

The President of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tuđman, is still being treated at the Dubrava Clinical Hospital…


We were almost the only customers. The morning coffee crew had already left, and it was too early for those who usually got wasted at Smash. Outside it seemed like the day couldn’t get past dawn and it all looked like one long sunset—an atmosphere in which you couldn’t do anything but get wasted, get stoned, or get some sleep. Or it just seemed like that to me. Because of the pot.

“Don, I don’t get one thing,” I broke the winter dullness.

“Go ahead.”

“How the hell did you end up in the seminary?”

“Because of the cow,” he said as if this was something completely obvious.

I watched him with a question mark in my eyes.

“What fucking cow?”

“Long story,” he said, took a sip of his drink, and continued staring at the newspaper.

“It’s not like we’re in a hurry,” I insisted. And the thing sounded interesting.

“Well, in that village of mine,” he said and closed the newspaper, “we’re all, fuck it, poor. Shit, we don’t even have paved roads there. Now, you can imagine what the situation was in the 1980s when Ceausescu was in power.”

“Ok, but what about the cow?” I was losing patience.

“Wait a second! Goddamn!” He lit his cigarette, took a sip of his drink and went on, “Anyhow, my father, being a true Croat and a Catholic, couldn’t find a job, and my mother was pregnant with me and none of it looked very promising, and then, on top of all that, their cow, the only thing they owned, got sick. It swelled up as if from clover.”


“That’s what my mother told me. And then, since they had no money for the vet, they called in the priest, Don Martin. The guy showed up, blessed the cow, and told my father to go to the butcher’s and get the stomach contents of a freshly slaughtered calf, mix it with water, and pour it down the cow’s throat.”


“He did it, poured it down the cow’s throat and then they waited until the next morning, but my mother couldn’t remove herself from the Blessed Virgin’s picture. She vowed that, if the cow got well and she had a son, the son would become a priest.”

I was staring at him as if I were a calf.

“And the fucking cow pulled through!” He downed the rest of his Pelinkovac.

I was still staring at him as if I were a calf, trying to stay serious. But I couldn’t. Suddenly I caved in and began convulsing with laughter.

“I know, everybody finds this funny, except for me and my parents,” he said.

We got a couple more rounds of Pelinkovac, but after that story no other topic would catch on so at one point he said, “Let’s get out of here.”


“Let’s get some food and a bottle of Pelinkovac and let’s get smashed.”



We got back to the dorm with the food and a bottle of Badel Pelinkovac. We had already opened it on the way and had started drinking. The temperature was around zero degrees Centigrade and already around four the dorm was empty and quiet. Only here and there bundles of clothes appeared in the distance, making their way through the snowflakes that were just beginning to flutter. We ate bologna sandwiches and drank Pelinkovac, and when we finished chewing, he began rolling. It was five in the afternoon and we had already fucked ourselves up thoroughly. But the day called for it—it was cold and cloudy and the only thing you could do was crawl back into your room and wait… For a new day, a better tomorrow, a brighter future.


“Let’s do something, I’ll go insane!” he said after two hours of being half-awake in a state of complete dullness.

“What?” I asked, holding god knows which joint in my hand and looking at the snow through the window. A couple centimeters of it had already stuck to the ground.

“I don’t know, anything, I’ll start banging my head against the wall.” He was pissed off and so he paced the room nervously.

“Let’s go build a snowman,” I said.

“What?” He froze immediately.

“I mean, back home, in Dalmatia, we never get enough snow to build one. Fuck, I’m almost twenty and never in my life have I built a decent snowman.”

It didn’t take long to talk him into it. Half an hour later, we were swaying in place in front of the building, watching the snow.

“What are we going to build?” I asked.

“A fucking snowman.”

“C’mon man, I know that, but what shape. I don’t want that idiotic snowman with a carrot and all that bullshit. It needs to have something… you know what I mean… something.”

We thought, trembling with cold. Like those two morons from Home Improvement.

“We can smoke another one to get our creative juices flowing,” he suggested. He’d brought three joints and what was left of Pelinkovac with him.

“C’mon Don, fuck, we’ve smoked so much since this morning that we should be the most creative duo on the planet.”

“Doesn’t matter, it’s nice to smoke in the fresh air,” he said.

He wanted to light it right in front of the reception booth.

“Wait, you idiot!” I said.


“I’ll go ask if the guard’s passed. He does rounds every three hours.”

Mislav was still working at the reception booth. And ever since that mess he’d behaved as if he owed me one so I asked him to warn us when the guard showed up.

“What’s the problem?” Don asked when I got back and nodded him to light the joint.

“Bah, the guy acts as if he owns the fucking dorm, and on top of that he’s had his eye on me for the past couple of months. He’s like threatening to kick me out if I screw something up again,” I said and began jumping to warm up. It was too fucking cold.

“What happened?”

“I beat up a guy here in front of the reception booth.”

“You did?”

“Ah, fuck it!” I puffed on the joint. “Forget it, what are we building?”

“No clue!”

We kept on staring at the snow, smoking the joint. It didn’t burn evenly.

“I know!” I said. “The letter D.”

“Fuck, for real! D is the beginning and end of all things!” He grinned.

We threw away the joint and began.


* * *


A month later, summer began. I was spending it in Town. I had a cousin there who owned an exchange office so he gave me a job for the summer, while his employees were on vacation. I functioned like Skoks from my story. A split personality. During the day I wore an ironed shirt and a little dorky village boy haircut and handled tens of thousands of kunas, while in the evening I transformed into something called an alternative, as Beka had explained it to me. I had the whole outfit—black, faded jeans, Doc Martens, worn-out T-shirt with Joy Division printed on it, and a long black coat which I wore even in 35 degrees Centigrade. And of course a walkman. By then I’d learned the difference between metal, punk, grunge, noise, goth, hard rock and similar genres.

                My crew called me Skoks and introduced me as a guy who wrote crazy stuff, and I declared myself a goth who listened to Joy Division, the Cure, and, of course, LET 3. Incidentally, all the bands that made Ivona wet.

                We were in the Diana, driving to Town, to get pot, and Beka just wouldn’t shut up. He was organizing a guitar contest at the summer theatre and couldn’t stop talking about it. Five bands from Split were supposed to perform, including his own, and the top of the evening was supposed to be the D Complex. They were already stars, at least according to Beka, and I couldn’t stand them for one simple reason—Ivona was dating their guitar player. Just before the bridge at the entrance to Town, a guy in front of us stopped his car and started talking to a guy with a shaved head leaning against his window.

                “What a fucking jerk!” I was getting pissed. “Hit the horn!”

                “C’mon, what the fuck is wrong with you? You know who the guy with the shaved head is?”

                “No clue!”

                “Axe, man!” he said as if he had just seen Kurt Cobain.

                “And he is?”

                “The biggest moron in town,” he said in half-anger, half-paranoia.

                “What do you mean?”

                “Well, you have those old thugs. You know, came back from the war and that kind of shit and they almost own the town. They control the drugs and all that stuff. And Axe and some others from our generation are like their youth so they control the pot. This is their check point, the entrance to town.

                I watched the guy. His head was shaved, he had two huge earrings and a tattoo of a pirate with a clenched fist on his upper arm. He acted as if he owned the road. When he stepped away from the car, he caught sight of Beka. He wouldn’t stop staring. He watched him with some sick, you’re fucked, motherfucker look in his eyes, and then he pointed his finger at him and motioned as if shooting.

                “What the fuck was that?”

                “Well, he, like, doesn’t want any punks in his town.” He lit the cigarette nervously. “He’s been threatening to kick my ass. That’s why I get pot from this other guy. He gets it from Axe and then sells it to me.”

                “And you’re organizing a concert here? Some balls you got, man!”

                “The cops are gonna be there so there shouldn’t be any trouble,” he said, trying to sound cool.

                “Why do they call him Axe?” I asked as if I were a cop.

                “Two years ago some jerks from Split beat the shit out of him in front of a club. Half an hour later he came back with an axe and massacred their car.”

                “Fucking nutcase!”

                “Bah, the whole town is like that. Idiots!”


                There was an old rec center on a hill just before the entrance to Town. Now in ruins, it was the best place in town for getting high. The town, together with the river and canal was in plain view and from this distance it looked like an idyllic coastal town from a picture postcard. The locals could care less about this idyllic picture. They were hanging out here because Axe and his bunch left them alone there so the place functioned as a kind of safe haven.

                I smoked the joint and stared at the bridge. From this high, the people on it looked like ants, a bunch of vermin that would never get the cosmic truth of LET 3’s songs, or Cobain’s screw-up. Already stoned, standing here above everything, I was the most intelligent and the most screwed-up man on the planet. I liked that feeling. Without it you were nobody in the crew.

                “Why don’t you write me a song?” Beka screwed up the picture when he finally finished rolling his joint and leaned against the fence.

                “What song?”

                “For the concert. We don’t have our own songs yet.” He was very serious about it. He lit his joint.

                “I don’t know. I’ve never written one. Only stories. I can’t get the rhyme.”

                “It doesn’t have to rhyme.”

                “Like hell it doesn’t, if it’s a song,” I said it as a writing expert.

                “C’mon, stop bullshitting, you’re Skoks! You write and stuff. Yours will be better without rhyme than any shit I can come up with.” He handed me the joint.

                “I don’t know… I mean… I can try, but I can’t guarantee anything.”

                “That shit is easy. You know, something like LET 3 and that stuff. Try it and see what happens.”

                An hour later we pulled up in front of my house.

                “What are we doing tomorrow? It’s Saturday,” he asked.

                “I’m not doing anything. I have to go to a wedding. A friend from my village is getting married.”

                “What, his rubber broke?”

                “Most likely. I’ll call you on Sunday.”




We were building our snowy D in absolute silence. We were completely focused, as if our future depended on this project. Actually, this was the only meaningful thing Don and I had attempted to do in the past month or so. This was definitely true, at least for me. And I was completely stoned. So much so that neither the cold air nor the frozen fingers of my hand could sober me up.

For starters we gathered the snow in a pile, then we smashed it together trying to build a vertical post—the base of our letter D. After half an hour without taking a break, our base was almost a meter tall, but we weren’t giving up yet. We agreed that our D needed to be recognizable from a hundred-meter distance and at least a meter and a half tall, if not taller. It was a symbol, after all. The beginning and end of all things and the only real project in our lives. Whenever someone passed by, they’d stop, look at what we were doing, and when they wouldn’t get it, they’d start with their questions. When Don told them that we were building a letter D and began explaining its symbolism, they’d look at us as if we were morons and leave. But that didn’t discourage us one bit. After some fifteen more minutes, the base of the letter D was almost a meter and a half tall. Now it was time for a break. I waved in Mislav’s direction, he signaled back to me that there was no danger so we sat down in front of the entrance, lit another joint and looked at our project, which for now looked like a big I.

“Let’s leave it like this,” Don said and took another sip from the bottle without taking his eyes from the snowman.

“Why? D is the beginning and end of all things, not I, fuck!”

He slid his hand into his shirt and took out a chain. On it, next to the cross, was a round gold charm with letter I in the circle.

“What’s her name?”

“Ivanka,” he answered and took another sip. “She’s why I came to Zagreb in the first place.”

“Wait a minute, you came to the seminary so that you could be with your girlfriend! You’re a fucking legend, man!”

“Hell, I had no choice.” He slid his chain back under his shirt. “She left first, and the only way to talk my parents into letting me go was to enroll in this shit.” He took another sip. “I was pressing them for two months because they thought I was bullshitting. Every fucking day I went to two masses until they finally bought it that I heard the call from God.”

“And where is she now?”

“Who the fuck cares! She told me to fuck off when I got here.”

“What, she didn’t like your plan about Germany?”

“Not one bit,” he said and downed the rest of Pelinkovac. “We’re young, we have a life ahead of us…,” he parroted her words.

We continued smoking our joint and looking at the snowy I.

“So what are we gonna do?” I interrupted the dullness after a couple of minutes. “You wanna leave the I?”

“Who gives a fuck about her! Bitch!” he answered. “Let’s build the rest of it.”

We got down to business again.


* * *


                “Fuck, what happened to you?” Beka said when he saw the bruise on my face. My eye was closed, and everything around it were shades of blue and gray.

                “We got into a fight last night at the wedding, and then the cops finished us off.”

                “Does it hurt?” Ivona jumped in and ran her hand over my bruise, looking at it with her eyes wide open. She already reeked of Kaštelet.

                “Not at all,” I said as if taking a beating was the most normal thing. “Where are we gonna go?”

                “Fuck, what a question? Either the rec centre or the church.”

                “Let’s go to the church, pleeeeease!” When she got drunk, Ivona behaved like a child asking for an ice cream.

                “Marina, where do you wanna go?” Beka turned to his girlfriend.

                “I don’t care,” she replied like always.

                The night at the church seemed darker than the last time. Or did it look like that because of my bruise? I don’t know, I only know that that little moonlight that shone on the wall and the graveyard didn’t help much. I was in pain, and my eye was becoming more and more closed, producing some strange red and yellow foggy shapes that pulsated to the rhythm of my pain.

                “C’mon, roll us a joint, I need to loosen up,” I said. “Did you manage to get any?”

                “Not a whole lot. The Pope is in Split so the cops are everywhere, no one wants to sell. The guy gave me some of his skunk. Enough for two joints.”

                “Is it any good?”

                “The guy says it’s great. We’ll see.”

                He began rolling a joint.

                “Have you written anything new?” Ivona interrupted the darkness in which only three cigarette tips were shining.

                “Yeah, I have. Beka, I wrote you a song. I got the idea yesterday at the wedding when they were dancing. But I have no idea how you’ll put it to music.”

                “Where is it?” Ivona began digging through my pockets. “Can I read it aloud?” she asked when she fished out the paper.

                “Wait till we light up. It’s not as good when we’re dry.” Beka said as always.

                We lit up; Ivona took out a lighter for light and began reading:


Anonymous Holy Virgins

In white wedding dresses

Dance the first waltzes

Of the slow death


To the nostalgic tunes of

Private revolutions:

Hangover Stratocasters

And wah wah disappointments.


To kill time,

They will give birth to the shadows

Of some new demigods.


                “This is fantastic!” she said. She was stoned and drunk.

                “Great stuff, man! Fucking great! This thing at the end is totally sick,” said Beka, smoke in his lungs.

                “But how will you put it to music?” Marina jumped in.

                “Leave it to me, it’ll be great! You’ll see! Fucking great!” he said, smoke still in his lungs. “I’ve got it already!”

                He rolled another one. The skunk was fantastic. Some red shit that made us fall to pieces already after the first joint. The second one fucked us completely. We each stared at our own point, some crazy movie playing in our heads. I was lying with my head in Ivona’s lap while she ran her hand over my face, over the bruise, as if trying to erase it. With my eyes closed I followed the red and yellow shapes that pulsated in the rhythm of her strokes. I imagined we were alone. All alone in complete darkness, many kilometers away from all those ants on the bridge and the pirate on Axe’s arm.

                “I’ll kill myself when I turn twenty-seven,” she said quietly, beginning one of her stoned rants. “I’ll put on my mom’s wedding dress… you know, she has a great dress, with a long veil, all white… and I’ll jump from the bell tower. Here, from this church.”

                I opened my eyes and looked at her. Her eyes were completely red so I couldn’t tell if she was about to cry or was just stoned.

                “You have to bear me a child before that,” I said, to loosen up the situation.

She laughed. “What?”

“A little goth girl, with teary eyes.” I ran my hand over her face.

“No way, man. You know what that would come to. I mean, fuck, look at us!” Her lips were still smiling. “But we can have one each with someone else. With someone normal, you know, and then…”

“Then we can kill ourselves,” I finished her sentence.

“No, we’ll kill ourselves if we don’t have them. Ok?”


I closed my eyes again and waited for her to go on and then one of her sudden mood swings took place. This happened every time she fucked herself up.

“Guys, let’s go to the graveyard!”

“Ivona, c’mon, what the fuck!” Marina said.

“There you go with your shit again! Sit here and fuck off!” Beka was getting pissed off.

“You’re all fucked up!” She jumped to her feet and began screaming hysterically. “You fucking faggots, you’re all fucked up! Motherfuckers!”

She ran toward the graveyard.

“Go fuck yourself!” Beka was really pissed off. I got up and ran after her.

I caught up with her at the gate. She stood there with her mouth wide open, staring at the graveyard. In the middle, in total darkness, one of the graves shone as if lit by a spotlight. Made of white stone, with large bouquets of lilies and white candles it looked like an apparition from a lousy horror movie. She didn’t even realize I was there. She walked toward it as if she were hypnotized. She ran. Through the labyrinth of graves. Some were not yet finished, no headstones. They looked like open, concrete mouths. When I caught up with her again, she was already talking to an angel. A small, marble angel, kneeling above the headstone and the photo of some kid. The kid couldn’t have been more than ten.

“Why are you saying that?” she said, looking at it. “I’m not evil, I’m really not. So what if I smoke and drink, there’s nothing bad about it… Don’t be like that!” She was almost crying.

I watched the photo of that kid as if I were hypnotized. I felt like shit. Like some tiny, pathetic, stoned shit. I lost it, “Ivona, god damn! Get up!” I pulled her by the arm.

She finally realized I was there and she screamed. She began running again. She was screaming, “The devil! The devil!” The closer I got to her, the more hysterical she became.

My black coat fluttered around me as I ran. She thought the devil was chasing after her and she screamed. I caught her after some hundred meters, in the woods, in complete darkness. I grabbed her and pushed her against the tree, she screamed as if someone was cutting her throat. I slapped her face. She finally realized where she was. She began crying and hugging me. I hugged her back.

“Calm down. Calm down. Everything will be ok. Just calm down, please,” I kept saying, running my fingers through her hair.

Then we started kissing.




We continued building our D in silence. Now we had to make the lower part of the arc and attach it to the I. We were building it on the side. We piled up the snow and smashed it together just like we’d done with the base.                 Fifteen minutes later it was done. We separated it from the ground, shaved off the extra snow, and leaned it against the I. The whole thing now looked like a J in a mirror. We stopped to rest.

                “How are we going to build the other half of the arc?” I asked, walking around the half-built letter.

                “I haven’t got a clue.” Don scratched his head, thinking.

                “If we build it on a side like this lower half, there’s not a chance we’ll attach it. It’ll collapse for sure.”

                “We should put some rod into it to hold it in place,” he said.

                “Good idea, but where are we gonna find the rod?”

                “Here’s what we’ll do,” he took over. “I’ll find some dried up cypress branch, and you go ahead and build the arc.”


                Fifteen minutes later, the upper half of the D’s arc was lying on the ground, waiting for Don and the branch. He showed up with a big ass branch some meter and a half in length. We scraped the dried up needles from it, broke it in several places and inserted it into the arc. But it didn’t work. We fixed the sticking part of the branch into the I and placed it on the lower part of the arc, but it managed to stand like that for ten seconds total. Then the upper arc collapsed and broke into pieces, leaving a hole in the I.

                “Fuck!” I said. “There’s not a chance we’ll fix it.”

                Don stared at the pile, thinking. “Let’s light up and think about it.”

                I repeated the procedure with Mislav. The guard was still not planning to show up. We smoked the joint, racking our brains and staring at our snowy J.

                “You wanna leave the I? Fuck, what else can we do?” I suggested.

                “Not a chance, I’d rather knock it all down.”

                We kept on staring at the J, then Miha appeared with a sack in his hand. He had some kind of box in it. We passed him the joint.

                “What are you up to?”

                “I was at the sex shop,” he said and grinned.


                “I bought Belinda.” He took the box from the sack. The box contained an inflatable doll. A blonde with her mouth wide open.

                We couldn’t stop laughing. Being stoned helped.

                “What the fuck is that for?” I asked.

                “I’m organizing a Viagra party tonight,” he said proudly. “I couldn’t dump those pills on anyone so I bought the doll. So tonight there’s a party. In one room we’re gonna watch the porn and pop Viagras, and in the other room a little gangbang on Belinda.”

                Don and I looked at each other and then started laughing our heads off.

                “Are you coming?”

                “Sure thing! I have to see this,” I said. “We’ve just got to finish the snowman.”

                “What snowman?” he said in surprise.

                We pointed at the snow J.

                “Fuck, it looks like a dick with an arc,” Miha said.

                We looked at each other again. “Miha, you’re a fucking genius!” we said almost simultaneously.

He didn’t understand what was going on. He just said, “See you later.” Then he got lost.

We got back to our snowman. The plan was simple: detach the lower part of the arc, put in on top of the I and turn the I into a dick. A two-meter-tall dick. When we finished, the future dick looked like it had been broken at the top, but that didn’t bother us. I kept on hauling the snow and putting it on the top, while Don smoothened the sharp edges of the former I with his gloves. He looked like he was jacking off that huge snow dick. Then reinforcements started arriving. Two guys from Rijeka showed up first—they’d realized that we were building a dick—then five guys from Šibenik, and finally two from Osijek. In the end, the ten of us ran around that giant snow dick like ants, hauling more snow, while Don kept jacking off, trying to give recognizable shape to the whole thing. We didn’t even notice a guy and his girlfriend who walked around us like two inspectors and examined the thing.

Then the guy said, drawling like a true Dubrovnik native, “It looks like it broke on the top. I can fix that for you.”

“And who the fuck are you, a sculptor or something?” I said, bringing more snow.

“Not yet. When I graduate,” he said.

“Come on in!”

The guy said goodbye to his girlfriend, told her not to wait for him, and got down to business. First he brought a chair from the reception, took a piece of bark from Don’s cypress branch, stood on the chair and began straightening the hump.

When he was done with the hump, he moved on to the head. We just watched him from below and laughed, and then the guy saw that we weren’t doing anything so he started giving orders. First he told the guys from Osijek to pick up the scattered cypress needles and put them around the dick like pubic hair, he ordered the Šibenik guys to make two big snowballs for the nuts, and then he sent the two of them from Rijeka to the canteen to get some yogurt. Everyone obeyed without complaint. When the sculptor from Dubrovnik finished with the head, he moved on to the vein. He shaved the extra snow with the cypress bark and the thing began taking its recognizable form. So much so that the guys from Rijeka, when they came back with the yogurt, claimed that it was clear what it was from a hundred meter distance. When the sculptor finished the balls, everything was ready for the grand opening. In the manner of a future priest Don climbed the chair and said, “Živko, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” And spilled the yogurt on the snowy head.

Everyone was in delirium. Twenty-some people gathered around the dick, laughing hysterically, tossing in comments, and the peak were some guys from Trogir who’d seen it from their window. They ran down in their swimming trunks and started taking photos with the two-meter-tall dick. Then Mislav suddenly showed up. He was in a panic, but he didn’t cause a general fuss. He just came up to Don and me and said, “The guard’s coming.” We made ourselves scarce immediately.


We walked into Smash and sat at the only open table. Just under the TV. It was Saturday and the bar was full; the people were warming up for the parties at the Best and Jarun.

The eleven o’clock news was just beginning:

President Tuđman’s condition has abruptly deteriorated…


We ordered double shots of Pelinkovac. I was becoming more and more aware of my wet shoes and frozen hands. I couldn’t bend my fingers, and my sneakers, the only winter shoes I had, were completely wet.

“Let’s go to Miha’s?” Don yelled, competing with the music, and downed his Pelinkovac.

“Let’s go by the reception first to see what’s happened with Živko.”

Živko was knocked down. Broken in half. The upper half lay on the needles like a fallen hero and the two snowballs, the nuts, were completely destroyed.

“Motherfucker!” That really pissed me off. “What a dick! What’s he got against our dick?”

Don just stood there, staring at the pile. It seemed he was praying or getting ready to hold Živko’s funeral. “Fuck it, Živko,” he said and headed toward the reception booth.

Mislav was all wound up. “Guys, what a mess.” He was almost hysterical. “When he saw the dick, he went completely nuts. He almost got into a fight with those guys who were taking photos.”

“He must’ve been drunk,” I said.

“Totally. He chased them all away and then he knocked it down and started kicking the balls like mad.”

“Did anyone rat on us?” I continued with questions.

“No, as far as I’ve seen. They all just ran away. Then he came after me, but I told him that there were fifteen-some people here and that I hadn’t recognized anyone.”

“That’s my man!”

“Yeah, and he even made a note.” He opened the notebook.

We read it. There was the date, the time, and a lot of mistakes:




* * *


For the next month, the guitar contest was the focus of our attention. We spent whole afternoons at that theatre, decorating, cleaning, setting up the stage, testing the sound system, and in the evenings the band practiced at Beka’s garage. Ivona and I almost stopped communicating. Ever since we’d decided that that thing at the graveyard was just an episode between two wasted people, every conversation ended up in some semi-formal dullness, and as the concert neared even this dullness was reduced to “Pass me the joint.” Only when we got completely wasted did we go back to that conversation on suicide at twenty-seven and count the days.

                All the local alternative crowd gathered at the concert. Twenty of them all together, and with the bands and their friends from Split, there were no more than fifty people—a heavy metal gang, punks, grungers, and rockers. Not even the oldest Townies had ever seen so many “junkies” in one place. The whole day Beka was high on adrenaline. He tested the sound system, held the last rehearsal with his band, assigned tasks for the crew helping him, and drank like there was no tomorrow, so by the time the whole thing began he was fueled like a rocket and convinced he was going to launch the moment he finally got onto the stage.

                Marina and I positioned ourselves on the top row of the theatre, overlooking the entrance, so that we could keep an eye on the park in front of the theatre, the guy selling the tickets, and two cops who kept him company. We were drinking wine from a plastic two-liter bottle and screwing around. Like a true punk she thought everything was stupid, and when she had a little to drink, she’d come up with the most cynical comments, generally at Beka’s expense, which was almost more interesting than the event itself. Between her comments, I observed the situation. It was around eleven o’clock and the whole thing was about to begin. The eager ones in the first rows were already pogoing to the music from the speakers, Beka was climbing up and down the stage, Ivona was making out with the D Complex’s guitarist two rows below us, and the last of those who had been getting wasted at the benches in the park were entering the theatre.

                Beka’s band opened the thing. The first song—Anonymous Holy Virgins. Beka turned my poem into a punk-rock recitation. I didn’t know if I should laugh my head off or die of shame because of it. He would recite two lines, and then, all wired up, without a plan or a program, they would ravage their guitars and the drum set. Then two more lines would follow. Everyone went nuts. About the thing between my lines.

                “Dena, this sucks!” Marina was almost crying with laughter.

                “I know.” I laughed too and drank from the bottle.

                They continued with the classic repertoire—a little bit of Nirvana, then some unarticulated pounding on the instruments. The crowd was having a blast and no one was looking at the door. And that’s when the shit began. First I saw three cops who approached the two already at the door and told them something that made the guy selling the tickets disappear immediately. I was watching the cops, one of them seemed very familiar—he was the one who beat me up at the station after the wedding. I didn’t give a shit about a concert anymore. Now I watched the park. Five figures were approaching the entrance, and when they came nearer, I recognized Axe. He came up to the entrance and said hello to the cop who had beaten me up. Shit!

                “Marina, get outta here!” I said.

                “What is it?”

                I glanced toward the door. Axe and his four thugs were already in. The cops took out their sticks and positioned themselves at the entrance.

                “Look!” I showed her the cops.

                “Fucking shit!”

                We ran to the other end of the wall. It was around three meters high, and we almost couldn’t see the ground. But then again, a total mess was about to happen, and those fucking cops had blocked the exit.

                “Climb over!” I told her.

                “No way, man, look how many of them are there!” She was completely paranoid. “They’ll beat the shit out of Beka and Ivona!”

                “I’ll get them! Go!”

                “But how? Shit!”

                “I’ll hold you! Climb up already!”

                She sat on the wall and swung her legs over to the other side. I grabbed her by the hand and slowly lowered her down. She reached the ground.

                “Wait for Ivona!” I said.

                I ran back for Ivona and watched the stage. Axe and his thugs were already circling around it nervously.

                “Ivona, there’s trouble, get lost!”

                “What happened?”

                “The cops’ve blocked the exit, and Axe is here.”

                “Fucking fuck!” She shat her pants immediately.

                “Who’s Axe?” her guy asked.

                “Don’t ask, run!” I yelled at him.

                “Fuck! Where?” she was almost screaming.

                “Over the wall, go!”

                “But my band is down there!” the guy was becoming hysterical.

                “Go get them then and jump the wall, you’re fucked if you stay,” I said and dragged Ivona away.

                The guy got lost in the crowd and we reached the wall. I helped her down as well and then went back. The trouble had already begun. Axe stood at the edge of the pogo circle and punched some guy in his head, then another one. His four thugs followed and the fight began. Five muscled idiots were punching all those fucked up kids from the first rows, throwing them around as if they were made of Styrofoam. Then two cops got in too and watched their backs. The crowd ran toward the door and there were three cops with sticks waiting for them while reinforcements were running through the park. Almost every cop in town was there. Beka stood on the stage completely confused and watched. I ran down toward him, repeating to myself, “Don’t be stupid! Please, don’t be stupid!” But he was. The jerk took his guitar by the neck, ran toward the commotion, jumped right into the middle of it, and smacked one of the thugs right on his forehead. This just pissed them off even more. Two of them and a cop beat him up, while he was on the ground, jerking in fetal position. I grabbed a chair and smashed it against one of the thugs, and then I felt the stick on my back, a foot on my stomach, and a fist on my temple. All at once. I fell, and the next thing I saw was a shoe approaching my face at full speed. After that, darkness.




The Viagra party at Miha’s was just beginning. Almost a dozen Romanians from the first floor of the building number nine were in the room. They smoked pot, drank, and waited for the thing to begin, staring at the porn playing on Miha’s huge TV set. Best of Briana Banks, the Deepest Throat of the Porn Industry. Miha greeted the guests like a real host and arranged them around the room, which had so much smoke in it that it looked like the fog had sneaked its way in. First he gave us a beer, then rolled us a joint, and then he dragged us to the empty room next door. Candles and incense burned in the room, while Belinda lay on the bed with her mouth wide open, waiting for the first horny Romanian.

                “Miha, you fucking rule!” I said, barely managing not to explode from laughter.

                When everyone that was supposed to show up showed up, Miha began with the program. He put Briana on pause, took out some sack and said: “Here are the numbers, from one to ten, and here are the Viagras.” He pointed at the box. “Each of you will draw one number and then we’ll follow the order. Twenty minutes before you go to Belinda, you will take your Viagra, and when you go to her, you have to put on a condom. If you don’t have one, there are some on the shelf.” He pointed at the condoms. “If one of you sticks it in without a condom, I’ll beat the shit out of you. Since there’s a lot of us, you can fuck fifteen minutes each. Any questions?”

                Everyone just giggled stupidly and then we moved on to drawing. “Yes!” or “Shit!” followed after every number was drawn. He came up to Don and me. I pulled my hand in the sack, shuffled the papers, and pulled out an eight.

“Shit!” I said.

                “Yes!” Don yelled and began waving his two.

                “Faggot!” someone tossed in.

                When we finished the drawing, the program began. The first guy swallowed his Viagra, focused on Briana, and waited for it to start taking effect.

                “Is it working? Is it working?” the questions kept on coming, but the guy didn’t know what to say. He’d had an erection ever since he’d walked into the room and seen the porn playing on the TV.

                We continued with our beer, pot, and porn, and the only topics were Belinda, Viagra, Briana Banks and who was the next in line. No one could wait. When the first guy went in to Belinda, everyone fell silent. We all strained to hear the squeaking of the bed, and when it finally squeaked, the crowd fell to the floor from laughter and began screaming, “That’s it, man! Give it to her! Make her scream!”

                I watched them through the fog, and suddenly felt a wave of cold cut through me and the shouting turned into an undefined murmur. I began shaking.

                “Are you ok?” Don asked when he saw me. “Fuck, you’re all white!”

                “Fuck, I don’t know! I’m freezing.”

                “Miha, where’s the thermometer!” he yelled.

                The noise stopped and everyone looked at me. Thirty nine point two degrees Centigrade.

                “I’m done for!” I said.

                “Want me to take you home?” Don asked, getting ready to swallow his Viagra. He was next.

                “Fuck off, you’ll rape me along the way!” I said and left.

                “Leave the door unlocked,” he yelled after me. I was already in the hall.

                I staggered through the hall and suddenly a door opened. The first guy came out of the room, but without a smile on his face. He was holding his dick, writhing with pain. He recognized me. “Where are you going?” he asked through his teeth.

                “To sleep. What’s wrong?”

                “I can’t get it down,” he squeezed through his teeth, convulsing with pain. “It hurts so fucking much.”

                Had I not had a fever, I would’ve probably fallen on the ground laughing. But I only continued toward the exit. When I walked out, a wave of cold shook every cell of my body. I barely managed to breathe in. I dragged myself toward the building number one which was just across the way, but in this condition, it seemed a thousand kilometers away.

                “Everything is ok…” I was becoming delirious. “It’s warm in the room… Just a hundred steps… You mustn’t give up, Don said…” I was making my way through the snow just like the partisans in that story with a little rabbit. “They didn’t have to eat it…” The story was coming back to me. “It’s all the same shit for them, nothing or a small rabbit for five of them… And the kid loved the rabbit… Fuckers… He really, really loved it…”

                Half way to my building was Živko. Dead, like a fallen hero from God knows what war. The broken half was lying on the ground. Covered with a fresh layer of snow it looked like someone had covered it with a white sheet. Or a white flag.

                “There’s no giving up…” I kept repeating. I was drunk, stoned, shaking with fever. “There’s no giving up, Don said… Tomorrow you’re fucked, you’ll see… Our time will come… Tomorrow… Tomorrow you’re fucked, motherfuckers… It’s a new day tomorrow… It’ll snow tomorrow again… Tomorrow you’ll see… There’ll be more of us… Shitload of us… One, two, three, four… We’re not alone… And when we get together… You’ll have to send a SWAT team… In this most difficult of moments… Tomorrow is a new day… It’ll snow tomorrow again… We’ll get together tomorrow again… The guys from Rijeka, and the guys from Trogir, and the sculptors from Dubrovnik, and those from Osijek… It’ll snow tomorrow again… You’ll see… Tomorrow we’ll build a bigger, nicer, and even better dick…”




Rebecca Duran's Take on Modern Day Life in Pazin (Istria)

Croatia is a small, charming country known today as a prime European tourist destination. However, it has a complicated often turbulent history and is seemingly always destined to be at the crossroads of empires, religions and worldviews, with its current identity and culture incorporating elements from its former Communist, Slavic, Austrian-Hungarian, Catholic, Mediterranean, and European traditions.


Review of Dubravka Ugrešić's Age of Skin

Dubravka Ugrešić is one of the most internationally recognizable writers from Croatia, but she has a contentious relationship with her home country, having gone into self-exile in the early 90s. Her recently translated collection of essays, The Age of Skin, touches on topics of of exile and displacement, among others. Read a review of Ugrešić’s latest work of non-fiction, expertly translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac, in the link below .


Vlaho Bukovac Exhibition in Zagreb Will Run Through May

Vlaho Bukovac (1855-1922) is arguably Croatia's most renowned painter. Born in the south in Cavtat, he spent some of his most impressionable teenage years in New York with his uncle and his first career was as a sailor, but he soon gave that up due to injury. He went on to receive an education in the fine arts in Paris and began his artistic career there. He lived at various times in New York, San Francisco, Peru, Paris, Cavtat, Zagreb and Prague. His painting style could be classified as Impressionism which incorporated various techniques such as pointilism.

An exhibition dedicated to the works of Vlaho Bukovac will be running in Klovićevi dvori Gallery in Gornji Grad, Zagreb through May 22nd, 2022.


Review of Neva Lukić's Endless Endings

Read a review of Neva Lukić's collection of short stories, Endless Endings, recently translated into English, in World Literature Today.


A Guide to Zagreb's Street Art

Zagreb has its fair share of graffiti, often startling passersby when it pops up on say a crumbling fortress wall in the historical center of the city. Along with some well-known street murals are the legendary street artists themselves. Check out the article below for a definitive guide to Zagreb's best street art.


Beloved Croatian Children's Show Professor Balthazar Now Available in English on YouTube

The colorful, eclectic and much beloved Croatian children's cartoon Professor Balthazar was created by Zlatko Grgić and produced from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Now newer generations will be able to enjoy the Professor's magic, whether they speak Croatian or English.


New Book on Croatian Football Legend Robert Prosinečki

Robert Prosinečki's long and fabled football career includes winning third place in the 1998 World Cup as part of the Croatian national team, stints in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona as well as managerial roles for the Croatian national team, Red Star Belgrade, the Azerbaijani national team and the Bosnian Hercegovinian national team.


Sandorf Publishing House Launches American Branch

Croatian publishing house Sandorf launched their American branch called Sandorf Passage earlier this year.


Jonathan Bousfield on the Seedy Side of the Seaside

From strange tales of mysterious murders to suspected criminals hiding out to scams, duels and gambling, Opatija, a favourite seaside escape for Central Europeans at the turn of the last century, routinely filled Austrian headlines and the public's imagination in the early 20th century.


Review of new English translation of Grigor Vitez's AntonTon

Hailed as the father of 20th century Croatian children's literature, Grigor Vitez (1911-1966) is well known and loved in his homeland. With a new English translation of one of his classic tales AntonTon (AntunTun in Croatian), children around the world can now experience the author's delightful depiction of the strong-minded and silly AntonTon. The Grigor Vitez Award is an annual prize given to the best Croatian children's book of the year.


The Best of New Eastern European Literature

Have an overabundance of free time, thanks to the pandemic and lockdowns? Yearning to travel but unable to do so safely? Discover the rhythm of life and thought in multiple Eastern European countries through exciting new literature translated into English. From war-torn Ukraine to tales from Gulag inmates to the search for identity by Eastern Europeans driven away from their home countries because of the economic or political situations but still drawn back to their cultural hearths, this list offers many new worlds to explore.


More Zagreb Street Art

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Welcome to Zagreb's Hangover Museum

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Jonathan Bousfield on the Future as Imagined in 1960s Socialist Yugoslavia

How will the futuristic world of 2060 look? How far will technology have advanced, and how will those advancements affect how we live our everyday lives? These are the questions the Zagreb-based magazine Globus asked in a series of articles in 1960, when conceptualizing what advancements society would make 40 years in the future, the then far-off year of 2000. The articles used fantastical predictions about the future to highlight the technological advancements already made by the then socialist Yugoslavia. Take a trip with guide, Jonathan Bousfield, back to the future as envisioned by journalists in 1960s Yugoslavia.


Untranslatable Croatian Phrases

What’s the best way for an open-minded foreigner to get straight to the heart of another culture and get a feel for what makes people tick? Don’t just sample the local food and drink and see the major sights, perk up your ears and listen. There’s nothing that gives away the local flavor of a culture more than the common phrases people use, especially ones that have no direct translation.

Check out a quirky list of untranslatable Croatian phrases from Croatian cultural guide extraordinaire, Andrea Pisac, in the link below:


Jonathon Bousfield on the Museum of Broken Relationships

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Cool Things To Do in Zagreb

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Jonathan Bousfield on Diocletian's Legacy in Split

Diocletian’s Palace is the main attraction in Split, the heart and soul of the city. Because of the palace, Split’s city center can be described as a living museum and it draws in the thousands of tourists that visit the city annually. But how much do we really know about the palace’s namesake who built it, the last ruler of a receding empire? Jonathan Bousfield contends that history only gives us a partial answer.


The Poetry of Zagreb

Cities have served as sources of inspiration, frustration, and discovery for millennia. The subject of sonnets, stories, plays, the power centers of entire cultures, hotbeds of innovation, and the cause of wars, cities are mainstays of the present and the future with millions more people flocking to them every year.

Let the poet, Zagreb native Tomica Bajsić, take you on a lyrical tour of the city. Walk the streets conjured by his graceful words and take in the gentle beauty of the Zagreb of his childhood memories and present day observation.


You Haven't Experienced Zagreb if You Haven't Been to the Dolac Market

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Croatian Phrases Translated into English

Do you find phrases and sayings give personality and flair to a language? Have you ever pondered how the culture and history of a place shape the common phrases? Check out some common sayings in Croatian with their literal translations and actual meanings below.


Discover Croatia's Archaeological Secrets

Discover Croatia’s rich archaeological secrets, from the well known ancient Roman city of Salona near Split or the Neanderthal museum in Krapina to the often overlooked Andautonia Archaeological Park, just outside of Zagreb, which boasts the excavated ruins of a Roman town or the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe, Vinkovci.


Croatian Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List

A little know fact is that Croatia, together with Spain, have the most cultural and historical heritage under the protection of UNESCO, and Croatia has the highest number of UNESCO intangible goods of any European country.


Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The National Theater in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, is one of those things which always finds its way to every visitor’s busy schedule.


Zagreb's Street Art

So you're visiting Zagreb and are curious about it's underground art scene? Check out this guide to Zagreb's street art and explore all the best graffiti artists' work for yourself on your next walk through the city.


Zagreb Festivals and Cultural Events

Numerous festivals, shows and exhibitions are held annually in Zagreb. Search our what's on guide to arts & entertainment.

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