A story about a holiday spent in the Czech countryside that goes a little haywire.
The Czech public sector has made a number of half-hearted attempts to drum up some sort of patriotic pride over the past several years, and I am convinced that their highway system is the result of a nationalist conspiracy to make the country seem bigger than it really is.
My general idea of a "highway" is a multi-laned affair running in a reasonably fast and direct route between two major metropolitan centers which is designed to facilitate the movement of goods and persons: typical bourgeois utilitarian sentiment.
The Czechs have more sophisticated ideas. Secret directives from an ethereal realm of the highway bureaucracy have stipulated that no highway shall extend for more than twenty miles without either:
- a massive construction site causing traffic to back up to the previous construction site,
- degenerating into a semi-paved one-and-a-half lane track taking unexpected turns through unkempt villages and muddy pig farms, or
- an unmarked fork or traffic circle forcing one suddenly to make a wild guess about the proper direction to turn and hope for the best.
The highway population is an eclectic mixture of vacationing Germans and Czech yuppies in Mercedes and BMWs hurtling by at 120kph, Czechs trundling along at 45kph in Trabants and Skodas, and gigantic Soviet-made trucks and buses proudly belching filth at passing motorists. Traffic continually comes to a dead halt because of accidents and overheated communist-era relics, which have nowhere to go because the term "breakdown lane" has yet to enter the official vocabulary.
I had been gripping the wheel for a good five hours by the time we reached the cottage. No doubt a bad idea to begin with, it had been positively deadly by the end. Rain sheeting down the whole time, Teresa and Nadia making respectively hysterical and acidic remarks about my driving, assorted maniacs attempting to bring our promising lives to bloodily premature ends, two solid hours in a traffic jam just outside of Prague, watching the temperature gauge slowly rise while the weaker cars around us ground to steaming halts in greater and greater numbers.
The whole time cheerily burbling Germans on neon motorbikes roared by us on the way to a convention somewhere as their eastern neighbors looked on grimly. After we got off the highway, twenty minutes of high-speed aquaplaning to the accompaniment of shrieks from the girls, followed by the final desperate climb up the mountain along hairpin turns on the muddy, flooded track that served as a road.
And as a proper denouement to the whole wretched evening, when we staggered in wet, bedraggled, with frazzled nerves and trembling hands, it was to the shocking announcement that Petra and Pavla had forgotten the beer.
Probably for the better, since I would have degenerated immediately into catatonia.
The plan for the New Year's weekend had been a merry drunken bash involving swimming, frisbee, and barbecues. Unfortunately the weather gods were not smiling and that morning the rain came down steadily, the soft patter of drops on the roof periodically interrupted by distant booms of thunder.
I didn't know what time it was when I awoke, but most everyone was already up and about. I didn't get out of bed, but lay on the bed next to Nadia and studied her features. She was clearly of Polish stock, with clear white skin, a fine, well-shaped nose placed in between her wide set eyes, the slightly flat forehead peculiar to that nation, and the weak chin characteristic of European nobility.
Sometimes I also saw a hint of the Asiatic about her as well, when the light struck her just so: she had dark, beautifully straight hair, sharp, high cheekbones and almond-shaped, chocolate brown eyes. Genealogical residue of some forgotten invasion from the steppes of central Asia. Under the bulky comforter I lightly traced the outline of her body.
She stirred as my fingers brushed across her breasts (no oriental influence here, they were as round and full as any Bavarian milkmaid's). I had a perverse desire to squeeze her nipples until she yelped, which I suppressed with difficulty. She had little tolerance for my early-morning sadistic urges. I moved down to her taut stomach, her thin yet rounded hips, her firm and hairless thighs.
Absolutely irresistible. I moved closer to her and wrapped my left leg around hers. Closer still, and gently bit her earlobe and whispered "f*ck me."
Her head shifted toward mine and her eyes opened a bit. Half-lidded, they looked demonically feline. She shut them again and murmured, "Co?".
"Hey, beautiful." I said that to every girl I woke up with who I liked. Usually I meant it, but it still gave me a pleasant feeling of furtive misogyny. It also had the practical advantage of ensuring that I never confused someone's name at an inopportune moment. She smiled the wide smile of a contented, bedded girl and snuggled against me.
For a few minutes we spoke about the dreams we had had. She remembered nothing of hers except that she had been a child, running and searching for something. Mine had been intense and somehow violent, which often happened when I slept in a strange bed. I toned it down a bit for Nadia's sake: one can't be too careful about relating one's dreams to girls.
On the one hand, they require the occasional disturbing image or story line in order to reinforce their image of you as a serious man with serious things going on in his brain. On the other, nothing makes a girl more uncomfortable than a nagging suspicion that she is sleeping with a disturbed maniac. A fine line, and one difficult to negotiate successfully.
When we went downstairs for breakfast, I got my first good look at the cottage. Two floors plus a loft, all of solid pinewood construction. A large fireplace and an electric heater kept the chilly Moravian mountain air at bay. The kitchen was small but serviceable, inhabited at the moment by a couple of bluff and cheery Englishmen fixing themselves spots of tea.
A couple more bleary-eyed expatriates were sagging into the couch nursing their coffees, while spritely, blonde Czech girls bustled about and attended to breakfast. One of the most endearing and dangerous things about Czech girls is their unabashed domesticity.
The power of the Czech woman in its full glory is extraordinary, and unfathomable until it is experienced firsthand: hypnotic eyes and perfect faces, seductive voices and irresistible accents, a perfect feminine calm forming a maddening alabaster façade over an explosive and volcanic sexual libertinism.
I could cry when I think of all those ridiculous American women with whom I wasted so many nights: big blonde ponytails and tight jeans, bulimic feminists by day and beaten up by their boyfriends at night. They try to walk like men and talk like men and drink like men and f*ck like men in the name of empowerment and equality, but in the end they are weak, pathetically weak: whores to lipstick & bubblegum.
Hence the four couples at the cottage, each consisting of a Czech woman and an expatriate male. Each of us had been captured by this peculiar eastern feminine voodoo without ever really understanding what was happening. In addition there was another solo American who hadn't been in town long enough to get his standard-issue gorgeous Czech girlfriend, a Brit girl who was visiting Tom and Teresa, an additional Czech girl, and an insane New Zealandress who continually rolled her wild green eyes like some sort of trapped animal.
I had spent a night with the latter a couple of months previous, but had sensed something deeply wrong and extricated myself politely before anything irrevocable happened. In total, a splendid mix of international miscreancy.
Most of them left after breakfast to go looking for hallucinogenic mushrooms. Nadia and I decided there was no reason to brave the rain and remained huddled by the fire, drinking tea and listening to the news.
My Czech was good enough to pick out that Princess Diana had apparently been killed in a car wreck in Paris, due to causes that remained yet unclear. Too bad - I had always felt kind of bad for the poor girl, first married to that sexless fop and then pursued mercilessly by the press in their repugnant efforts to feed the insatiable public maw of celebrity gossip consumption.
I could imagine the scene that would follow: tearful wailing at the gates of Buckingham palace, months of tabloid coverage screaming WHY, WHY WHY, HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO SOMEONE WE LOVED SO MUCH?
I wanted to vomit at the thought. When I think of the suffering and poverty in so many parts of the world, of the billions of people whose lives are empty shells of pain and hunger and war and death, and of the vast and absolute responsibility we in the west bear for these unspeakable crimes, I can't excuse shedding tears over some poor dumb bimbo even as a kind of ghastly and obscene joke.
Nadia was more or less in agreement with me on the matter. She was a scientist by training and had learned that elusive art of thinking logically. She shrugged her shoulders at the news - yes, it's too bad, but so what? People die all the time, and in worse situations than tearing through Paris in a chauffeured Mercedes on the way to some posh function.
If we had the tiniest sympathy for everyone who died in a tragic and premature fashion, she observed, we would quickly become dysfunctional. To allow oneself to be affected only by those incidents which became media sensations was mindless hypocrisy. One either has to resign oneself to the world being how it is, or not. Ah, my Silesian woman, cold and calculating as a rattlesnake. I found it unbearably erotic.
The crowd came stumbling back in, wet and bedraggled, but bearing a basket of dank and withered small white mushrooms, apparently with the proper chemical properties for our purposes. Charmaigne the Kiwi was nowhere to be seen: somebody mentioned that she was swinging around outside in the trees (I should have known at that moment that trouble was brewing).
As the others scraped around, trying to find dry clothing and arguing about who was going to use the sauna first, I joined one of the English fellows who was busy preparing the midday meal. I had had some experience with him previously, and knew him to be a loud, fat, obnoxious drunk, the sort who tended to raise everyone's hackles just by virtue of his very presence.
Nevertheless, he was my kind of cook. We sauteed up an enormous pan of greasy Czech sausages, the kind that are half pig fat and half sawdust, with a half dozen onions, a clove of garlic, three bell peppers, and the magic mushrooms thrown in for flavoring.
This was dumped into an even more enormous pot of boiling water, into which he proceeded to throw everything he could get his hands on: salt, black, red, and white pepper, flour, honey, mustard, instant coffee, whiskey, curry powder, cans of tomato paste, tabasco sauce, bay leaves, beer, and nutmeg. He was on the verge of pouring in a jar of ancient cocoa mix before I pointed out the weevil carcasses resting peacefully on the powdery surface.
His next idea was to brew up a cup of hot chocolate for the Kiwi, whose manic cackles were resounding from the sauna (which was now enjoying a steady ebb and flow of naked women, to our delight). Having dissuaded him from the latter, we set the thing to simmer for an hour and broke into the beer in earnest.
The women had gotten up early and gone for three cases of beer: hefty, thick, no-nonsense racks of twenty half-liter bottles apiece, brewed in some doubtlessly unhygienic brewery in a nearby village. It was good. The fire blazed, the beer was cold, squeals of delight came from the sauna where the women tried to sweat off imagined fat, piercing through the cheery sounds of the early Beatles years emanating from an old and battered stereo.
The talk was friendly and loud and about nothing. The only drawback was the dogs. Two of the couples had brought their pathetic weiner-shaped excuses for proper canines, both with accompanying medical maladies. One had a tumor in his nasal packages which made him sneeze loudly and wetly several times a minute, while the other had some kind of chronic bronchial infection which led to a continual horrible, hacking cough.
The damn thing sounded like an ancient smoker on his deathbed, with that violent, rattling cough which means the end is near and that it's almost time to go to that great Marlboro Adventure Ranch up in the sky.
Eventually our goulash boiled down to an acceptable level of thickness and the hearty, suspicious-looking liquid was ready to be consumed. Tom doled out great, viscous spoonfuls of the reddish soup into the eagerly awaiting bowls. We had a few loaves of that ubiquitous brown bread which dominates the diet of central and eastern Europe, which were rapidly torn apart and set to soaking up the fragrant juice.
Murmurs of approval rose from the crowd.
After the goulash had been consumed the Brits taught us a card game simple enough for everyone to pick up quickly. Six of us played, with the rest rotating in and out of the sauna. Some of the women at that point abandoned beer in favor of gin and tonics (a foul mixture I was never able to stomach, except when I had to).
The card game gradually degenerated into hysterical and anarchic card tossing as the mushrooms took hold.
I could feel the smile on my face getting wider and wider until I thought my face would crack open. How could such a stupid game be so damn funny? I watched the Kiwi play her hand forcefully, her tits bouncing up and down like basketballs, or perhaps more slowly, more like balloons, inflating and expanding mercilessly.
"Charmaigne, make your tits stop bouncing. I can't concentrate."
"Pig," she spat and threw the rest of her cards at me. Tom rushed to defend my honor and threw his cards at her. Watch it, he warned her. We're all friendly Anglos here. We can't fight among ourselves when we're on foreign soil. This was terribly funny somehow. The Czechs retaliated by swearing at us in their spittle-ridden tongue: "Yankee go home", or suchlike.
Nobody understood except the dog with the nasal tumor, which sneezed an enormous spray of snotty waste on the foreigners in their support.
"Your f*cking weiner dog sneezed on me! God, that thing's disgusting." Charmaigne laughed her bizarre laugh, a piercing and lasting cackle which emanated from deep in the chest and made her eyes bug out insanely as she vainly struggled to push the animal off the couch.
She looked capable of anything at that point. She reminded me of the videos from the famous Yale authority experiments in the 50s, where American housewives thought they were administering excruciating electric shocks to human subjects - in some cases, for all they knew they had killed the subjects but kept on giving the shocks anyway. The subsequent interviews were the interesting part.
They were told that they had not really been giving shocks to anyone, but that it was an experiment to see how they reacted. God, the jittery, maniacal laughter of those women when they realized what they had done! "Oh, you know I could never hurt anyone, I couldn't hurt a fly..." laughter. But you knew those shocks were painful, ma'am.
You felt the most mild one yourself, you heard the shrieks of pain from the next room. "Oh no, never, I couldn't do that, I've never been able to hurt anyone..." more laughter. What did you think when the subject stopped responding at all? After all, he told you he had a heart condition. Didn't you think he might be unconscious, or even dead? "Oh, no, no..."just laughter now, even more uneven and uncontrolled.
Thank you for your time, ma'am. Charmaigne had those eyes, the jittery laugh of the suburban murderess.
"You! Get off or there'll be weiner roast for dinner!" The dog was finally dumped unceremoniously on the floor. The fat English cook looked at her darkly. "Don't be cruel to him", he said quietly. Bad and crazy vibes were flashing between those two, sending discordant tremors through the generally placid atmosphere of giggling hallucination.
I left them to their own amusements and walked outside onto the balcony in search of calm. Everything felt light and good. The cabin stood on a small hill which was the highest in the vicinity, but the view was nevertheless limited by the heavy mist which shrouded the forests and fields below.
It almost seemed alive, languidly wrapping its vaporous tentacles in envy around the solid trunks of the trees in its midst. Indeed, who was to say it was not? We claim the blindly synchronized firing of billions of neurons in a primitive response to somatic stimuli qualifies as consciousness and is no less than sublime:
perhaps on some equally ethereal level the continual jostling of water molecules (each with its own grim atomic triad, bonded together forever in an unhappy circling dance, every step determined by the ineluctable laws of nature).
The more I thought about it, the more likely it seemed, in fact. The roiling of the mist seemed to accelerate in joy as I gained an inkling of its purpose. A wildly yawing face coalesced out of the misty tendrils, winking and laughing, only to dissipate an instant later. I felt suddenly cold and weak. Jesus, what the hell was that?
Had I had a momentary glimpse of the legendary Gaia spirit, seen the stern visage of the Faceless, the eternal, the immovable, the dharma-body? I felt sickly, unclean... judged and found wanting.
I fled to the sauna in an attempt to clear my head, joined by Bill the solo American. Nadia had wanted me to help roast the chickens, but one look at those childlike bodies turning in agony on the spit, fat erupting from their crisping skins, had sent me fleeing in horror.
We sat gingerly on our towels, struggling to breathe in the suffocatingly hot atmosphere. Better, the reduced visual input was making everything easier to deal with, though I was unable to stop my eyes from obsessively following the grain patterns in the wood. I felt slightly ill.
We spoke in the shortest sentences possible of - what else - the elusive and inscrutable Czech woman. My partner in sweat was a tall, trim, fine-looking specimen of American manhood, with an entirely agreeable disposition, a good job and better prospects. I had difficulty seeing what his problem was with finding himself a woman.
Prague is the easiest place in the world west of Bangkok in which to get laid.
"So when are you going to start sampling the local produce there, buddy-boy?"
He snorted in disgust. "As soon as I get a chance."
"Oh, come on. There are loads of Czech chickies out there looking for a slice of Grade-A American beef, if you get what I mean."
"God, but where do you meet them?" He shook his head in despair, sending droplets of sweat to a hissing demise on the scalding wood of the floor.
In bars, you imbecile. You live in Prague. That particular conversation, per usual, went nowhere. Unable to walk the fine line between self-respect and ravenous plundering of the local hootchie market, he took the easy out of sitting around and bemoaning his troubles.
Drunken and aimless self-pity, that smug and ubiquitous counterpart to the American Dream. Come to Prague, and do it on the cheap.
A post-sauna shower of frigid Moravian spring water and a vigorous toweling more or less cleared away the befuddling chemical haze in which I had been wandering around until then. The women had completed the preparation of the chickens, god bless 'em, and the sizzling carcasses awaited our dining pleasure. Slowly dissected and devoured and washed down with ever more bottles of amber beer. My gut felt bloated and my head light and empty.
Nadia was off in a corner with some of the other Czech girls, all of them sucking down glass after glass of wine and chattering incessantly. All of the other girls were close friends with Dita, making me wonder at the cozy camaraderie which had sprung up between them and Nadia.
I was glad everyone was being nice to her, but she was at least the nominal cause of the complete emotional collapse of one of their dearest friends. The blithe lack of loyalty was a bit shocking. Such is friendship among the international elite of the female race, I suppose.
She caught me looking at her and gave me one of her looks over her wine glass, the kind where the inky black wells of her eyes sucked me in and pierced me straight through at the same time. I blushed and turned away, cursing my weakness once again.
What had that woman done to me?
We met outside later. The rain had stopped hours before, and the ground was soft and spongy underfoot. By then it was completely dark, save for a residual glow from the interior of the cabin. The other girls had returned to the dubious pleasures of gin and tonics and were frolicking in the nighttime underbrush.
I stood close to her, not sure what to do. I was still completely off balance in the relationship. Sometimes she treated me as though we had been lovers for years, others she did everything she could to communicate it was merely a casual fling. Not that I knew what I really wanted myself, of course: the only reality in the matter was that she had inspired in me a raging and incessant desire for conquest.
She stood close to me, somehow seeming to look down on me in spite of the fact that she was a couple of inches shorter. Her full breasts squashed pleasantly against my chest as she grabbed me firmly by the ass. I tried to bend down to kiss her, but she had locked her arms around me too tightly and I couldn't even bend over.
"Come on baby, give Big Daddy Butthead a kiss."
"No. No kisses for you, you are horrible person."
Before I knew what was happening, her leg was behind mine and she struggled to push me down with all her might. We tumbled to the ground. I tried to roll her off of me, but she resisted savagely, pinning my arms to the ground with her entire body weight. I had to use all my strength to push her away from me to arm's length where I could roll on top of her. I sat straddling her torso, laughing, while she pounded my chest and tried vainly to push me off. You're drunk, I exclaimed. I had never seen her drunk before.
Her eyes were slits of opaline fire. "You are crazy. I am not drunk."
"Of course you are. I saw you drink about eight glasses of wine."
"What, are you stupid? These small glasses, they hold nothing." I let her roll me over onto my back. Her hair fell into my face as she leaned close, her hand moving back to massage my crotch. I tried to kiss her, but she smiled and moved just out of reach. Mmm, Jime, sesh zhviratko.
She suddenly lunged forward and sank her teeth into my neck, stroking my genitals gently as she did so. I yelped in pain but dared not move lest I sacrifice the pleasure of her tender ministrations. After a moment she slowly released her grip, and looked at me carefully, scientifically evaluating the impact of her activities. She often did that after we made love, looking at me like a cook examining a dish and wondering if it was complete or if some vital ingredient was yet lacking. Satisfied, she grinned maliciously.
Sorry baby, tonight no luck for you.
Supinely she arose and strode back to the cabin. I remained behind, looking up at the sky, trying not to think about the erection still painfully swollen in my pants. The ground was suddenly very comfortable and my body was very heavy. I decided I would rest for a minute. The sky had cleared and the stars were out in all their ineluctable brilliance: one forgets how many there are out there when one lives in the city, I thought to myself.
It was already eleven when I roused myself from the lawn and went back into the cabin. Debauchery had ensued in my absence. The air was thick with cigarette smoke, empty beer and wine bottles cluttered every conceivable surface, and a variety of bottles of the harder stuff had been consumed. I swore to myself irately - they'd polished off the whiskey already, and I hadn't even had a sip.
Charmaigne and the visiting English girl seemed to have had more than their fill. They were wrapped around either side of Bill and were running their hands under his shirt. Charmaigne was whispering something in his ear. She was wearing an absurd little dress that hid her shame in an unsatisfactory manner.
Bill's face was bright pink, and he stared straight ahead like a shocked deer mesmerized by oncoming headlights. Seeing a camera lying handily on the table, I snapped a photo - priceless. Tom was there sniggering lasciviously, perverse voyeur that he was.
"Whoa-ho-ho, eh? Things are looking up for Bill!"
A sudden tearing sound brought my attention back to the couch. Charmaigne had torn Bill's shirt half off and was giggling maniacally. Without a word he pushed her away, rose from his seat, and stalked outside.
The other girl's unfeeling head, deprived of support, crashed down onto Charmaigne's voluminous bosom. Charmaigne gazed down on her face hungrily as she put her feet up on the table. She wore large, woolly socks, a ridiculous complement to her revealing dress.
She started to lean close and whisper something to the other girl when she was interrupted by the English cook.
"Eh, get your goddamn feet off the table. They smell like dead sheep."
Charmaigne's hair flew angrily. f*ck off. f*ck you too. I'll put my feet where I f*cking want, etc. Just when it appeared the conversation would go nowhere, Charmaigne trumped him with a comment on typical English imperial arrogance.
Force being the weapon of the weak, he capitulated by ripping her sock off and hurling it into the fire. Charmaigne screeched something unintelligible and yanked her smoking sock out of the burning embers. Casting a venomous look at her adversary, she grabbed Lisa by the hand and dragged her outside, drunken giggles abruptly punctuated by the slamming door.
Into his beer he opined to the other Brit, "I'm really sick of that goddamn lesbian whore."
After a few moments of discussion, they began to sing. Loudly. The volume was, in fact, extreme. They closed their eyes and clenched their fists, coaxing the maximum amount of sound possible from their cavernous chests. Holding my girl/ by the factory wall/ Dirty old town/ Dirty old town...
As I was directly in front of them, there was no possible way to leave without giving gross offense. My eyes hurt just watching them. I sat and smiled carefully, nursing my beer. They were obviously mad and I had no desire to precipitate some drunken nationalistic brawl which no one would win.
The fat cook's fat girlfriend wandered back in, more than slightly off-balance. She had lived in England so long she had acquired both the accent and the waistline typical of that race. She had heard the singing emanating from the cabin.
"So you're in one of those moods, eh?"
"So what if we are?" He looked at her defiantly. The dog wandered back in and sneezed happily all over him.
I used the opportunity to make my escape. Outside, the situation was little better. Most of the girls were sprawled on the ground and laughing, bereft of human speech capabilities or even basic motor control, while the men nudged one another and made inappropriate comments about one another's girlfriends. Charmaigne was straddling Lisa and giving her a dry hump.
Lisa had passed out completely, but Charmaigne either hadn't noticed or didn't care and obliviously continued grinding away with her pelvis, emitting soft, keening sounds of stolen pleasure. I watched the rhythmic, circular motion of her hips with interest, as she tried to drive her clit ever deeper into Lisa's flaccid stomach.
She was so small that from the back she looked quite childlike, with tiny legs and desperately clenched fists as she concentrated the whole of her being into the growing sweetness between her legs. Sort of how I imagined one of Nabokov's nymphettes to look.
My musings were interrupted by the host. His bleary and unfocused eyes were disturbingly magnified by thickly convex glasses. "Eh, matey, enjoyin' the show? Jesus Christ!" He leaned on me for support.
Our reverie was interrupted by a familiar odor wafting by our nostrils. "What's that smell? Is that Charmaigne?" I asked.
Tom got a bit more alert. "Don't know. Maybe we'd better check it out."
The smell grew stronger as we cautiously negotiated the perimeter of the cabin in the pitch blackness. As we rounded the corner to the rear, we were greeted by a billowing cloud of smoke.
"Holy sh*t, the cabin's on fire!"
Pandemonium ensued. The sauna had been left on and the heating element had ignited the wall. Everyone was suddenly running everywhere, shouting orders, falling down drunkenly, searching ineffectually for items to fight the fire with. The first efforts to enter the sauna with buckets of water were frustrated by the intensity of the smoke: it was impossible to be there for any length of time. Teresa was sobbing and wailing, running after Tom as he tried to organize some sort of response.
"Tommy, do something! The f*cking cabin's going to burn down, the f*cking cabin's going to burn down! Do something!"
He turned on her aggressively. "Well shut the f*ck up and let me figure out what to do!"
"Tommy, we can't do nothing! We can't get in there to put no f*cking water on it! The whole thing's going to burn down!"
Shut up! he screamed at her. She continued babbling hysterically. Without further ado he balled up his skinny little fist and gave her a good one right on the cheek. She collapsed whimpering to the ground. The fat Czech girl immediately ran to her and held her consolingly.
That settled, he came over to me and Bill. "Right, what the f*ck do we do now?"
We had been consulting the matter already. The heating element was against the outer wall, and that was probably the extent of the fire. We proposed to chop through the wall and pour water on it from the outside, while one of the more sober Czech girls went to look for a neighboring cottage with a phone. Bill and I being the most sober and least likely to chop off our feet, we would hack through the wall while Nadia and Tom went for help.
It was surprisingly anticlimactic. We demolished the wall with verve, knocking a hole in it about a yard square. The logs were quite badly charred and still smoking heavily, but no live flame was immediately apparent. We were still dumping water on it when Mark and Nadia came back with one of our better-prepared neighbors equipped with a fire extinguisher.
It turned out that the nearest fire department was twenty miles away and nobody in the area had a phone, so they had decided to come back and re-evaluate the situation and see if it could be solved without the meddling of proper authorities. We spent about twenty minutes spraying the area down with the fire extinguisher and soaking everything with water, until we determined the danger had been satisfactorily dealt with.
A few of the neighbors had arrived by that time and were looking at the scene with curiosity, as though we were some kind of ethnological exhibit. Some of the Czech girls tried to explain what had happened, but even I could tell they were so drunk that it was all just rambling nonsense.
Teresa was standing off by herself, sniveling and shivering. She already had a nice bruise developing just under her left eye. That wasn't going to make it any easier to explain the situation to her parents in the morning, I thought.
Around two everything had quieted down. The whole cabin stank of smoke and spilled liquor. The smoke smell wasn't terribly bad, since the sauna was pretty well sealed off from the rest of the cabin, but it was still pretty pungent. Nobody cared, though.
Tom and Teresa and a couple of the other Czech girls had gone to bed, Bill and I had hauled Lisa in from outside and she had been throwing up in the bathroom ever since, and the other English guys were having another couple of rounds as a nightcap before they went to bed.
Charmaigne had gotten a burst of energy from somewhere and was flapping around the room wildly, demanding more alcohol. The fat chef watched her irately, squinting his piglike eyes.
"Eh, why don't you give us a dance instead?"
She promptly complied, lurching around in a feeble attempt at an erotic dance. She could barely stand, but bravely wiggled her ass and shook her tits for us. It was revolting. Her childlike body and utter lack of motor control made me feel like I was watching some kind of pornographic review of mentally disabled children.
We looked on in horror as she tried to mount the only remaining girl in the room, a Czech girl named Ivana who spoke virtually no English. She laughed as Charmaigne tried to kiss her, attempting to push her away but unable to work around the Kiwi's formidable breasts. She looked at us wildly for help.
It was too much. For once I was glad we had an utterly crass and insensitive asshole in our midst.
"Jesus Christ, sit down, you f*cking whore! You are a very pretty girl, but not when you dance around like a goddamn drunken slut! That's not sexy, it's just disgusting." The cook took a swig of beer. Charmaigne stood there, frozen in shock.
Ivana wiggled out from underneath her and fled upstairs. He continued. "Look, you're completely sick. That's obvious. But these are all nice people here. They can help you, if you'll just sit down and act like a lady instead of some kind of lesbian b*tch in heat!"
Charmaigne, trembling, collapsed on the floor and began to sob. The two dogs sneezed and gasped in applause, their nasal cacophony a demented counterpoint to the human drama unfolding before them.
Having satisfied some horrid voyeuristic need deep in my soul by watching this complete degradation of another human being, I roused myself from my torpor and went up the stairs to bed, shell-shocked from the whole evening. The cook's voice followed me. He had gone to Charmaigne and put his arm around her violently heaving shoulders and was speaking to her kindly.
"I think the best thing you can do is walk out that door and look east. You'll see a ridge of hills off in the distance. I want you to walk to that ridge. When you get to it, you'll see another ridge beyond that one. Keep walking until you get to that one, and then to the one after that, and to the one after that.
And the whole time, I want you to think about how utterly twisted you are and if there will ever be any possibility for you to act like a normal human being...eh, where the hell are you going?"
This last was to his girlfriend, who was apparently storming out in revulsion.
"Away from you, you pig!"
"Good riddance. Take those f*cking dogs with you while you're at it."
She didn't. They kept sneezing and coughing merrily long into the night, determined to have the last word on the matter.