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Vol. 3, No. 3

by Ivan Klíma


They could now see the hill and its castle from the other side. The dilapidated battlements were bathed in moonlight and looked majestic and threatening in the night.
      He stopped the car and switched off the lights. "Where to now?" he asked.
      The night was chilly and the autumnal grass, leaves, and mist gave off a scent that was almost nostalgic. It would have been quite pleasant to walk with her along this footpath through the meadow if he had felt like walking.
      "The light here is weird," she remarked. They were walking along some path that was really no more than trampled grass, his arm round her shoulders. He longed for her and hated her for it.
      "Do you remember that night when we were traveling in France?" she asked.
      "It was raining," he said. "And the path was almost impossible to walk along."
      "Yes. The rain drummed on the roof of the car." She shivered with cold. Then she started telling a story out of the blue. "When I was about four years old I used to pretend I had a dog. I took him on walks with a lead, as if he really existed. I would wait while he peed against a tree and I'd always put something from my dinner plate into a bowl for him. I used to make up a bed for him out of a cushion beside my own bed and pretend he was lying there. And every night before I went to sleep I would talk to him. I never gave him a name, I just used to call him 'my dog.'" She sighed. "I don't think I ever loved anyone as much as that dog."
      They had reached a wooden hut in the middle of the meadow. From within it came the scent of hay.
      "Come on, darling," she said, "let's make love now."
      He helped her climb up.
      The space inside was half filled with hay and the air was stiflingly thick with hay dust.
      "Darling," she whispered, "do you like it here?"
      "I don't care where I am when I'm with you," he said.
      "Yes, I know," she said, quickly undressing, "but it couldn't have been in a bedroom today. You're not cross with me because of it, are you?" She pressed herself to him. He put his arms around her. With every movement they sunk deeper into the soft stuff beneath them and the stalks tickled and pricked their naked bodies.
      "Darling," she whispered.
      From outside came the sound of footsteps. He raised himself and made out a familiar shape.
      "So this is the place, then?" the soldier asked after they had climbed up.
      "If you like it here," the girl whispered. Her face and even her hairstyle were now hidden in the darkness. The soldier had laid his belt aside ceremoniously the moment he arrived, as if loath to make any unnecessary movements.
      "You're so handsome," the girl whispered.
      He seemed to be kissing her. All they could hear were short breaths, drunken wheezing, the sound of groping hands, the crackle of the straw, and the girl's moaning whisper, "Don't worry about me, don't worry about me, just so long as you're satisfied."
      A few minutes later, as silence suddenly fell, the soldier stood up and tried to read the time from his watch by the light of the moon.
      "Do you want to go already?" the girl whispered.
      "It's almost midnight," the soldier said ruefully. "Why didn't you tell me earlier about this hayloft?" He spat. Maybe it was only to spit straw from his mouth. He snapped his belt on again and the two of them climbed down into the darkness almost without a sound.
      "Darling," she whispered when they were alone once more, "do you love me?"
      He tried to make out her face in the dark, but it was so indistinct it could have been any face. Moreover, the scent of her body was smothered by the irritating stench of hay.
      "No," he said. And he thought to himself, I hate you. Because you make a game out of what for me is love and because you are my only and final future while for you I am simply a moment that's already passing.
      "No," she repeated after him. "He doesn't love me."
      He remained silent. If only he were fifteen years younger.
      "He simply doesn't love me anymore," she said. "Why?"
      "Because you're . . ." But he didn't continue.
      "Because I'm a whore?" she asked.
      He said nothing.
      "So you went off on a honeymoon with a whore?" She cuddled up to him. "My love." She kissed him. He held her in his arms.
      "At last, at last," she whispered. "At last."
      "I love you," he said. "I love you madly and I'd give everything, absolutely everything for this moment with you."
      "I know," she whispered. "I know. Dog," she then said quietly. "My dog!"


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