a-mans-home

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					A Man‟s Home…



      A short story by
    Lawrie Jordan




                         1
I could have killed Kyles.
First she makes eye contact with „Stan‟, the local barfly. As in Stanley Stories,
and boy does he live up to that nickname. Then she strikes up a deep and
meaningless with the old codger. And then – get this – then she tippy-toes off to
play the pokies leaving me at the mercy of the famous local artist.
Bullshit artist that is.

It was just after opening time last Saturday morning and The R.E. (I don‟t think
I‟ve ever heard anyone call it the Royal Exchange) was as empty as Stanley‟s pot
glass. Yeah, I know it was real early, but we were celebrating. Kyles and me had
been out house hunting (yet again) and this time we think we‟ve finally found
“the place” down in Augustus Street, as she proudly spilt her guts to our new-
found friend.

“It‟s just what Karl and I have been after, isn‟t it Karl? An old Queenslander, just
come on the market, needs a bit of work, well a lot of work actually, but we‟re
up for it, aren‟t we Karl? We‟ll convert the fourth bedroom into a home office,
rework the kitchen – it‟s so wrong isn‟t it Karl – then we‟ll re-roof the roof….”

Tote that barge, lift that bale, blah, blah, blah.

Well I gotta say that to his credit old Stan, who claimed to be a retired builder
(first I‟ve heard of it) hung on her every word. Turned out to be as good a
listener as he is a talker. Again, news to me, I‟ve always avoided him like the
plague, ever since he rabbited on all the way through the Test Match I was
trying to watch in the Sportsman‟s Bar last year. Talk about an ear bashing! But
anyway after Kylie had gooone, and I‟d sprung for a couple of pots, Stan shook
his head slowly from side to side, sighed theatrically and said in his slight
Hungarian, Croatian or whatever-it-is accent, “Young people and their plans, eh?
The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”

I looked at him for the longest time, trying to work out what the hell he was on
about and trying equally hard not to ask. I saw a once tall, now slightly stooped
70-something bloke. His hair was like rusty steel wool, same colour and texture,
and his eyes were smoggy sky-blue. A bushy white nicotine-stained moustache
sprouted out wildly from under a pointy, pisspot-purple nose. The more I looked
the more I thought he could have been a builder; the leathery skin, the calloused
hands, the steel-capped boots. Finally it all got too much for me and I had to
ask. Well you would, wouldn‟t you?

“What do I mean?” he said, leaning back precariously on his stool and wiping the
froth from his mo. “Buy me another Fourex and I tell you story…”

                                           *


                                                                                   2
“His name was Zigfried. He was born just after the war in Slovakia, in Harblad
Castle, near the Polish border. Ha! I see from the way you roll your eyes when I
say castle, you think I am speaking about a handsome prince yes, that this is
fairy tale, but no. It is true he was born in castle, at one time one of the
grandest in all of Europe, and handsome too, but he was far from prince. Then
again, maybe not so far.

“Zigfried‟s mother, Margot, was servant to Duke Lubrovna whose family had
owned Harblad Castle for 300 years until 1945, when the communists simply…
how you say…ah, yes, confiscated it. Spoils of war, you understand. The 45-year
old Duke was allowed to live in one wing of castle until his death, but after that,
kaputski…no more Lubrovnas in Harblad. Perhaps that is why the stubborn old
bastard lived to be over 100, eh? Died not so long ago I am told.

“Where was I? Oh yes. The Duke and his beautiful young wife Ester had taken
Margot in when she was 14 after rest of family – mama, papa, three
grandparents, four brothers and a baby sister – were dragged off kicking and
screaming to Auschwitz „Holiday Camp‟. Why the cursed Hun soldiers spared her,
who knows? Perhaps they thought a desperate young girl on her own could
serve the Fatherland in other ways, if you get my meaning. She had the body of
a woman even then, and she was very attractive. What you young people would
call a… hottie, yes?

“The Nazis weren‟t the only ones who thought so yes, because two years after
she starts work at castle – and she worked very hard – Margot was pregnant.
She would not say who father was, however there was gypsy boy with deep dark
eyes working at Harblad for several months fixing stone walls. Also lots of royal
visitors to Harblad Castle. Who knows? The Duke himself, a famous playboy
when younger man, was also high on suspects‟ list. But in big coincidence,
Duchess Ester also fell pregnant at same time and that took his lordship out of
fire and only into frying pan. For a time at least.

“Ester and Margot gave birth within hours of one another; the Duchess in her
grand boudoir attended by Slovakia‟s best doctors, Margot in servants quarters –
converted stables – helped by a chain-smoking, vodka-swilling old babushka
from the nearby village. After not-so-hard four-hour labour by Ester and 16
hours of sheer agony for the sixteen year old, both bore sons. The quick-thinking
doctors who delivered baby Marek put his dark eyes down to „throwback‟ to the
blue-eyed Duke‟s grandfather – ha, and I am Father Christmas! And as drunk as
Margot‟s midwife was after polishing off whole vodka bottle, she did not miss
baby Zigfried‟s long toes.”

“Er…long toes?” I asked, during the pregnant pause when Stan stopped long
enough for a big swig.



                                                                                   3
“Ah yes, in Slovakia long toes are a sign of royalty. Interesting, yes? Excuse me,
I must make leak…back in few shakes, OK?”

And he was gone. Here was my chance to get the flock out of there! But then I
glanced across at Kylie, over in the gaming room. She looked pretty settled, still
hadn‟t put much of a dent in her lemon, lime & bitters or her pile of shiny coins.
And well, I guess it wasn‟t such a bad yarn so far, plus I didn‟t really have much
else to do or anyone else to drink with, so I set us up with a jug of Castlemaine‟s
finest and waited for Stan to come back and continue.

                                          *

“They were best of mates for years, like brothers were young Marek and
Zigfried. Always playing together, birthday parties together, exploring all the
centuries-old caves and tunnels underneath the castle, climbing the 400-year old
lime trees in castle gardens and running wild and barefeet through the cobbled
streets of the village. Ah, boyhood bliss, yes?

“But deep down they were as different as chalk and chestnuts. Marek was often
sickly, while Zigfried was strong as ox. Zigfried loved animals, Marek loved killing
and torturing them. Zigfried soared like eagle at school and in science, while
Marek hated school, thought he already knew all there was to know. Also as
befits son of a Duke, Marek was always dressed in Sunday best, however it did
not ever take long before his fine clothes were covered in dirt, dust, grass stains
and blood. He was unworried, there were many more where they came from.

“On other hand, Zigfried kept his few clothes, patched hand-me-downs that they
were, as clean as whistle. Perhaps because his mama was castle cleaner, it
rubbed off on him. Or maybe it was just nature of boy, who can say? But biggest
difference was this: despite dawn of communism in Slovakia, one was master,
one was servant. Marek never let a chance go by to remind Zigfried who was
boss, always pulling rank, twisting the knife. Oh yes, always twisting the knife.
And as years went by, as the boys became teenagers, the two former friends
became the best of enemies.

“When did war start? Hostilities had bubbled away for years, like witches pot, but
it had never been nasty, and both boys managed to keep lid on. Then one day,
pot boiled over. Zigfried, now 13, had been to village, running errand for mama,
buying weekly vegetables. The woman at shop had given him some stale carrots
to give to his favourite pets, two pure white rabbits called Max and Minki. He
knew something was wrong when he approached pen. Max could smell carrot
from 100 paces, but was not at gate, nose twitching. Zigfried looked in and there
were his beloved pets, deader than doornail.




                                                                                     4
“With tears running like river down his face, he picked up Max, then Minki. At
first he saw nothing, then he sees the small round puncture marks on their
chests, and trickle of blood. They had been stilettoed through heart. Marek!

“He found the boy in darkened bedroom, lying in bed, pretending migraine. If he
had not headache before, he soon did. In fit of fury, Zigfried began laying into
Marek with both fists and pulling no punches. He had broken his master‟s nose,
closed one eye, split his lip and knocked out two front teeth before the Duke‟s
butler heard the boy‟s screams and managed to drag Zigfried off, still flailing
away with his fists and getting one last kick in for good measure.

“Zigfried lost a little skin off his knuckles and a lot more off his back. The Duke
himself took riding crop to the boy, giving him a dozen of the best for beating his
son and heir, another six for so cowardly attacking him on his sickbed and still
six more for refusing to cry. This was in days when corporal punishment was
thought not so bad, and even Margot who tended her son‟s bleeding back knew
the Duke had every right to do so.

“The bodies of both boys got well. Father Time heals all wounds, but in the next
few years the two rarely came within spitting distance and when they did, the
only words either spoke to each other were “Bastard!” (Marek) and “Milksop!”
(Zigfried). Ester and Margot tried in vain to end feud and mend friendship, but
one youth could not forget and the other would not forgive.”

“Er…sen-bloody-sational story, Stan,” I said, “but what‟s all this got to do with
what you said before, about the afternoon knowing everything?”

“Yes, yes, please be patient, I am coming to that,” he replied, “Is just a little
background for you. Here, let me shout you beer,” he said filling my glass from
the jug that I had bought, “then all will make sense”.

                                          *

“He may not have had grand clothes and only worldly possessions were his
prized racing pigeons, but Margot saved all her pennies to make sure Zigfried
had good education. He too did many chores to help pay for books. At age 17,
when children of other working families were working full time, he was at Poprad
University, studying the Physics and the Chemistry. It was there that he fell in
love with Irena Serédy.

“Not that she knew about it. Zigfried was too shy to say even hello to the green
eyed blonde beauty, new to his lectures. She did not even know his name and
had it not been for twist of fate, he may not have met her at all.




                                                                                    5
“Zigfried rode rickety old pushbike to and from University four days a week.
Poprad was 47 kilometres southwest of Harblad Castle and long hard ride on
steep mountain roads had made him fit and strong. One Friday afternoon, he
had just parked bicycle at back of castle and was walking around side of stables,
head buried in book, when bang! He walks straight into Irena, knocking her
over.”

      “You!” she said, looking up at him. “All day in class I see your piercing
      blue eyes undressing me…”

Sprawled on ground as she was, with pleated pink skirt up around waist, Zigfried
could not help but stare at her skimpy white panties and smooth creamy thighs.

      “…and now, you pervert…now you follow me here!”

      “Follow you? No, no,” he replied, hurriedly helping her to her feet and
      turning beetroot red, “I live here!”

She looked the tall youth up and down, taking in the long windswept brown hair,
the ruggedly handsome face with its sharp nose and square jaw, and the faded
old clothes. And of course the tanned, strong legs and manly chest. Good job
she could not see the pounding heart.

      “You…are Marek?” she said at last, a frown creasing her pretty face.

      “NO! No, I am Zigfried,” he replied. “When I said I lived here, I mean I
      live… here,” pointing to humble stables and becoming even more shamed
      by how poor they looked. Like him, so out of place in castle grounds. “But
      wait…what are you doing here?”

It turned out that Irena was daughter of Viscount Serédy – old Polish friend of
Duke – and her family was visiting for weekend. Zigfried could not believe his
luck, he would have this beautiful creature all to himself for whole weekend. But,
as luck would have it, just then Marek walked around corner.

      “Ah, Irena, enchanté,” he said, bowing low and then kissing her hand. “I
      am Marek and I am honoured to finally make your acquaintance. I have
      been looking for you. Your mother, the Countess, said you had walked
      this way. Let me show you around the estate. Come now, these animal
      stables have a most unpleasant smell.”

      “Hello Marek, I am also delighted to meet you at last,” she answered.
      “Yes, I would love an escorted tour. Er, perhaps Zigfried here would be



                                                                                  6
       kind enough to accompany us,” she added, flashing Zigfried a perfect
       smile that caused him to go weak at knees.

       “Him?” Marek sneered, baring the two gold teeth that had replaced the
       ones Zigfried had dislodged. “No I am sure he has many chores to do,
       such as cleaning the riding crops.”

Then Marek took Irena‟s arm in his and led her away. Zigfried‟s heart sank as he
watched them go, but soon soared again; just before Irena disappeared around
the Armoury, she turned and blew him kiss.”

“So she liked him too?” I asked, when Stan suddenly stopped and slid down from
the stool.

“Oh yes, very much,” Stan replied. “In fact only reason she went with parents to
visit Duke and Duchess was she knew he would be there.”

“Wha..? Oh, I get it…so she knew who he was the whole time?”

“But of course! She was smart girl and smart girls always do homework. There is
old Slovakian proverb: „The man chases. The woman catches.‟ Is so true. Excuse
me, I must have cigarette and cannot smoke here, dammit, or Smoke Nazis will
take me away and flog me.”

I don‟t smoke, but risking passive lung cancer, I walked outside the R.E. with
Stan onto the High Street footpath where we dodged Saturday morning shoppers
jaywalking across to Toowong Village. I thought he would continue the story out
there, but no such luck, he was too into his fag to speak. Dead set, I‟ve never
seen anyone smoke a durry so slow. I counted 12 light changes at the Coro
Drive intersection, before he finally squashed his fag-end out with his left
Blundstone and got his butt back inside.

“I have lost train of thought,” he said, topping up our glasses. “I should start
again perhaps?”

“Oh no, please don‟t do that!” I blurted out. “Irena was visiting with her oldies
and despite the fact that she wafted after Zigfried, had just gone off with Marek.
Remember?”

Stan took a long gulp of his grog, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then looked me
in the eye and said dramatically: “Ah yes, I remember…just as everyone there
that weekend will never forget.”

                                         *


                                                                                   7
“Zigfried saw nothing of his secret admirer that night or next morning. Irena was
guest of Lubrovnas after all and there were the formalities, like black tie dinner
and formal reception, champagne breakfast and polo game to attend on
Saturday morning. But he had just finished mucking out pigeon coop in
afternoon, miles away and with thoughts of only you-know-who, when you-
know-who appeared behind him.

      “Do you always keep their cage so clean?”

Zigfried froze for fraction of second as he was closing coop door, then relaxed…
well as much as possible with her mere metres away.

      “There is never any excuse for being dirty,” he said, not yet daring to turn
      around, “besides it is not a cage.”

He flicked gently at copper wire curtain hung on hinges above a perch over the
door. It swung open and shut, open and shut, like saloon doors.

      “See, they can come and go as they please. They are as free as a bir…”

He turned now and saw her. And was…gobsmacked, yes? Her long blonde hair,
usually tied up or in ponytail, was out in all its glory and gleaming in afternoon
sun. It spilled down past sparkling sea green eyes, perfect pink cheeks and the
sweetest red lips. Her hair flowed on and on, down past firm full breasts trying to
break free from her strapless white summer dress, but he could not drag his
eyes from hers, not now that she was smiling that impish smile.

      “Why do they come back?” she asked, tentatively taking half a step closer
      to him.

      “Free food, water, shelter and love,” he answered.

      “Love?” Another half step, bolder this time.

      “Yes, if their mate comes back, they do too.”

      “I see. And do you decide which bird pairs with which?” A full step now.

      He laughed. “I try to. Try to mate white hen with white cock, or to get
      unusual colour combinations…like that brown, white and black saddleback
      over there…but no matter who I put them with, some birds are just
      irresistibly drawn to each other.”



                                                                                   8
       “Only birds?” she said.

“They were now but a foot from each other and nervous as Zigfried was, he
knew it was now or never. Faint heart, it never won fair maiden. He cupped the
face he had dreamt about gently in his long, strong hands and bent and kissed
her willing lips, butterfly lightly at first then with fire. It was first real kiss for
both, but both were eager learners. It was Irena who finally opened her eyes
and forced herself away; she must not appear too eager. The chase was far from
over, you see.

       “And how,” she began in throaty voice, then swallowed hard and asked
       again. “How do pigeons find their way home from so far away?”

       Zigfried somehow dragged his eyes from her, back to birds. “Ah, that is a
       mystery,” he said, “and yet, despite sometimes overwhelming odds, they
       instinctively find the way.”

       Irena took his hand in hers. “And do they always come back, Zigfried?”

       “Yes. Unless they are taken by a hawk.”

       “Irena! Here you are,” a familiar voice called out, shattering the moment.
       “slumming it with the hired help again. The Countess sent me to remind
       you we shall be dining early tonight and afterwards we will watch very
       special advanced screening of new James Bond movie, „To Russia With
       Love‟ in Ballroom. Has not even had Hollywood Premiere yet. Come, it is
       time to make yourself beautiful,” he added, leering at her cleavage,
       “although you could come as you are.”

And as he had done previous afternoon, Marek had strutted in and taken Irena
away.

“What an A-grade asshole!” I said. “Boy if I was Zigfried, I would‟ve been pretty
pissed off.”

“Oh he was, make no mistake about that. Long after Margot had gone to sleep in
curtained-off other room, Zigfried lay awake listening to sounds floating down
from castle. Popping of vintage champagne corks. Tinkling of crystal glasses.
Silver knifes scraping on finest Wedgwood china. Much laughter. Finally, sounds
of Sean Connery single-handedly winning Cold War. And then silence.

“Still Zigfried could not sleep. He got out of bed and began to study. He had
seed-of-idea about making plastic stronger and was head down, backside up in
books when he heard it. A muffled scream? Perhaps was just an owl. But no,


                                                                                     9
there it was again, only louder, more high-pitched. He walked out of stables into
balmy moonlit night, ears pricked. No sounds now, but something led him to
door leading down to tunnels underneath castle. Door was shut, but Zigfried
glanced down and spied large upturned rock. He picked it up and felt the clay on
top. Still damp! Someone was down there and in trouble maybe.
He opened door, grabbed torch hanging on wall and ran. This way. That way.
Nothing. Until he rounded a corner and saw light at end of tunnel # 10.

“Zigfried raced, fast as rat but quiet as mouse, up tunnel until he saw them,
bathed in torchlight. Irena was gagged, bare-breasted, lying on what remained
of her party dress, and was struggling as hard to keep her panties on as a
drunken Marek was trying to remove them and spread her kicking legs.

       “Come on, you Polish slut. You know you want to,” he snarled, winning
       the tug-of-war as her panties ripped right off. “Why else would you go out
       into the grounds so late at night?”

Zigfried was furious. No, furious does not begin to describe his anger.

       “NO! Get your filthy hands off her, Milksop! You gutless…”

Quick as flash, Marek pulled his weapon of choice, his trusty stiletto, out from his
belt and held it to Irena‟s heart.

       “Back away, Bastard,” he slurred, “this is between the slut and me. Go
       back to your whore of a mother before I…”

WHAM!

“Is good chance Marek never saw the rock coming, even though it hit him just
above left eye. He sailed back through air, hit wall and dropped like sack of
potatoes to floor.

“Zigfried quickly ripped off his shirt and handed it to Irena, so she could cover
her nakedness. But she cared not if Zigfried could see her naked. She tore shirt
into strips and wrapped it tightly around Marek‟s head, trying like crazy to stop
bleeding.

       “Oh my god…you’ve killed him!”

“OK, Karl. I‟m ready now. Stupid poker machines. I‟m never playing them again.
Let‟s rock and roll.”




                                                                                 10
I was so into Stan‟s story, I hadn‟t even seen Kylie come into the public bar and
walk up to our table.

“What!? Aw no, Kyles. Not just yet. Er…five more minutes, OK? Here‟s twenty
bucks. Try another machine, might be luckier. Go knock yourself out.”

Kylie stared at me like I was mad, felt my forehead, then glanced around looking
for the candid camera. She knew I hated the pokies with a passion and always
nagged her about playing the thieving things. But by the same token, she wasn‟t
one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

“OK, five more minutes, alright,” she said pocketing the rock lobster and heading
back to feed her addiction. “But then we‟ve really got to go, you hear me.”

Stan had used this brief interlude wisely, emptying the remainder of the jug into
his glass and the dregs into mine.

“Marek was dead?” I said to Stan, trying to kick-start the yarn again before he
ducked out for another ciggie.

“There was no pulse,” he answered. “Zigfried wanted to go straight to the Duke
and tell what had happened, but Irena forbade it.

       “But Zigfried, he will surely kill you. I heard what he did to you, just for
       punching Marek. No, better for us to say it was I…”

       “Never! I will not let you do that! I will be a man and confess.”

       “Then you will be a dead man…and…and I cannot marry a dead man.”

“Irena and Zigfried argued back and forth. But to cut long story short, in the end
she finally convinced him that best thing to do was leave in middle of night, get
good head start, change name and appearance, and start new life in new
country. They agreed that one day, if he could, he would contact her and they
would be together again.

       “But for now, you must go…disappear.”

“And that, after leaving a brief note for his mama explaining what had happened,
telling her that he loved her and would miss her dearly, is what he did.”

“But that‟s crazy!” I said. “Surely after killing the son of a Duke, even if he was a
son of a bitch, he would have had half – no all – the police in Europe looking for
him. There‟s no bloody way he would ever have gotten away…not in a pink fit!”


                                                                                      11
“Yes, that is true,” Stan agreed, “they would have caught murderer. But Marek
did not die, you see. Came very close, pulse was so weak even doctor had
trouble finding. But live he did, and Interpol are not so eager to find man wanted
for assault as they are killer. Besides, soon even assault charge was dropped.”

“It was? Wow, that‟s interesting,” I said, more to myself than anything, “I
wonder why?” And then to Stan, “And he didn‟t find out that Marek hadn‟t carked
it?”

“Yes, eventually but I will come to that. God only knows where Zigfried went, or
how he survived for next six years, or if he ever got university degree, or under
what forged papers he made it out to Brisbane…”

“Brisbane!”

“Yes, Brisbane…please do not interrupt…all I know is in 1969 Fred Wilson, a tall
wiry 23-year old man with an Eastern European accent and a distinctive goatee
was named 10th richest man in Australia.”

“Our Zigfried? The 10th richest? How on earth did…?”

Stan continued like I hadn‟t even spoke. “Seems he had invented breakthrough
new, fibre-enriched plastic…strongest in world, with many, many commercial
uses. Worldwide patents were worth $22 million…and this was almost 40 years
ago! Today, billions!

“And did he…?”

“Ever see Irena again? Unfortunately Zigfried had decided that the love of his life
had probably found someone else, or would be better off without him, or had
forgotten him and moved on. So although he never stopped thinking, never
stopped loving, he never made contact. Then one day he was in office in
Boundary Street, South Brisbane, when he heard familiar voice behind him.

      “Do you always keep your cage so clean?”

      Zigfried froze for fraction of second, then turned around slowly and said,
      “There is never any excuse for being dirty.”

She slapped him hard, then kissed him harder, then at last handed him bill for
10,000 Korun, around $100.




                                                                                 12
       “Do you have any idea how expensive racing pigeon food is these days?”
       she said, and they both started laughing till they cried.”

Stan had gone quiet.

“Aw, gee mate. That‟s a brilliant story,” I said, standing up. “Fair dinkum, I
enjoyed every minut…”

“Is not over, dammit. Sit down!” he ordered (the only time he‟d shouted all
morning!) and I could see his eyes filling with tears, although I couldn‟t say for
sure whether they were tears of anger, sorrow, or whether he was just
hammered.

“Irena wanted to get married right away,” he began again more calmly, once I‟d
parked my arse back on the stool. “Zigfried did too, naturally, but he did not
think the bachelor pad he rented at West End was fit place for daughter of
Viscount, so he bought best land in all of Brisbane. You know Highgate Hill Park
near Torbrek Building on Dornoch Terrace, one high on hill overlooking CBD?”

“Yes, I‟ve…”

He did not wait for my answer. What do they call it…a rhetorical question?

“It was not park then. He bought land for small fortune, then employed best
builder in Australia to build for him finest house in Brisbane. One that made even
Governor‟s House at Bardon look like first home owner‟s bargain. Ah, you should
have seen it! Marble and sandstone mansion five storeys high, 20 bedrooms, six
bathrooms, kitchen with all that opens and shuts, stained glass windows
throughout, heated indoor swimming pool, four turrets like castle, and crowning
glory…domed observatory with floor-to-ceiling concertina windows that opened
right up for magic views of city.”

I looked at him. His eyes were closed and he was clearly seeing it fresh in his
mind‟s eye.

“It took builder 12 months to finish, working with 20-strong team ten hours a
day, six days a week. And only one month to pull down, block by block, window
by window, until no trace of it remained.”

“Pull it down!?” I exclaimed, although I should have seen it coming. I know that
park real well. Went up there with Kyles when we first hooked up to watch
Riverfire. I think I would‟ve remembered a joint like that, don‟t you?

“But why?”


                                                                                  13
Stan was now crying into his beer, or he would have been if there was any beer
left. “Would you like another pot, mate?” I asked gently.

“No thank you,” he said, “Whiskey, please. A double. No ice.”

I fetched him his scotch plus a single for myself, set them down, and engaged
him again. “You were the builder, weren‟t you, Stan? What happened?”

He skolled the whiskey in one go, then with shaking hands picked up a “Let‟s Go
Broncos” coaster and began to tear it into tiny shreds as he spoke.

“Zigfried was like little schoolboy when house was finally finished. Believe it or
not, he had not set as much as one foot inside, instead waiting for day when he
would carry Irena across threshold. Big day came. He was at work. He called
taxicab to pick his beloved up from Lennons Hotel in city and take her to house,
and second taxicab for himself.

“Then at very last minute, phone rings. Is big client in New York. He wants to
cancel multi-million dollar contract. Go with rival plastic maker. By time Zigfried
sorts him out, gets knot out of client‟s knickers, is 20 minutes later. Cab has
been and gone. He rushes out to street. No cab in sight. He sees man on $10
pushbike. Offers him $50 for it. Man says bike not for sale. Zigfried thrusts ten
$100 notes into man‟s hand. Man says „Enjoy your bike.‟

“Zigfried rides like wind up hill, even overtaking the cars. He gets to house and
can‟t find Irena anywhere. “Strange,” he thinks. He walks to back of house and
sees Irena sitting peacefully on loveseat staring out at city skyline. He walks up
behind her, taps her on shoulder…”

“Oh shit, no. Don‟t tell me…”

“…and she falls forward. He catches her and looks into her eyes. They do not
look back. Then he notices the small round puncture mark on her chest, and the
trickle of blood…”

“Bloody Marek!”

“Who else? But seven trusted and true witnesses, including Roman Catholic
priest, swear on bible he was with them in Budapest on other side of world,
when Irena was murdered. Plus there is no record of Marek Lubrovna ever
visiting Australia.”




                                                                                  14
“Aw, bullshark! He must‟ve used a bogus passport! Or got someone else to do
his dirty work, most likely. Yeah, that‟d be his style. Bloody hell Stan, Zigfried
must have been devastated.”

“Devastated? I only knew her for few short months and I was devastated,” Stan
said, lighting another fag then and there, not even bothering to go outside. The
barman‟s nose twitched as he smelt the smoke. He looked up, saw Stan dragging
deeply on his cancer stick and started walking over. Then he stopped, looked
around, saw we were still the only ones in the bar and decided it wasn‟t worth
the agro.

“Zigfried was shattered like a million mirrors. He was like living ghost. Gave up
work, gave all his millions to charity, gave land on hill to City Council and like I
say, gave me orders to pull my beautiful house – my masterpiece – down. Even
paid me bonus to do it quick as flash.”

“And you say he never even went inside?

“Bah! He never went inside any house again. Ever. To this very day.”

“What the..! But where does he live?”

“On street not far from here, with feral pigeons his only friends. Worse still, the
man who was so always clean now rarely washes at all. Only when it rains and
that, as you know my friend, is not so often these days.”

“OK Karl, I‟ve blown that $20, now we really should be going. Give me the keys…
I‟m definitely driving!”

“Hang on, Kyles,” I said, as the penny slowly dropped.

“He‟s tall…has blue eyes…a goatee…lives on the street…never washes…was into
plastics… he‟s Slovakian…and his name is Zigfried! Of course! Ziggy! You‟re
talking about Ziggy the Bagman, aren‟t you, Stan?”

Stan, who suddenly looked very old and very tired, looked at me for a moment.
Or maybe straight through me, I couldn‟t be sure where his sad, sad eyes were
focused. Then he stood up, stamped out his cigarette on the pub carpet, turned
to my lady and said:

“Ziggy the Bagman? Bah! Where does he get such crazy ideas? You better take
your man home, Kylie…I think he has had too much to drink.”




                                                                                     15

				
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