"I have decided –" Fráňa wrote down in his diary – "that I
will go on living an independent, liberal and free life, that
I won’t sell my freedom and that I won’t compromise even a minute
a day from it, let alone four hours! I must resist various pitfalls
of moralists but that doesn’t put me off, on the contrary! They try
to cause me trouble through various tricks and intrigues. But even worse
enemies are my friends, favorers and relatives. They are at my heels!
They desire to bring me back on the right path, to the camp of diligent
and exemplary moral people, to make a hero of work even out of me – The
unwished-for benefactors and self-appointed saviors and those handing
straws to the drowning ones are one-hundred-times more disagreeable
to me than apparent avengers. Various aunts and cousins and similar
leaches emerge from God-knows-where. They lecture and preach and offer
small services and jobs, so easy, so precious, to be immediately taken
up – Moved, I thank them for their care and I delude them about how much
I have already undergone to save myself, ha, ha!
And yet – no and no! I don’t feel like working and I won’t! To slave
four hours a day – brrr – there’s chill running down my spine. –
When I wake up in the morning, I comfort myself sweetly:
– Lie nicely, my little feet, you’ll get up when you feel up to it,
nobody has any right to command you! Don’t worry, I won’t let anybody
harm you! –
And the feet luxuriate, the big toe is wiggling to me in agreement, each
droplet of blood sweetly nods to me, each nerve, each little vein in my
body praises me – And when I get tired of lying, I get up, I have a bath
in warm water and when I don’t feel up to it, then I don’t – And then I
go where I want and I do what I want –
I’m not alone. There are more of us. I discovered the "Club of the Independent".
I joined it. When I explained my views to them, why I refuse work (ideas
that sparked in me at the very moment when I was defending myself, having
been provoked by that girl), – I was elected the chairman.
There are interesting people in the club. Next time, I’ll describe their
characters. Only as the chairman of the club, I have realized what grudge
there still is nested among people. There still exists disrespect of one
man for another, contempt hasn’t vanished yet – Sometimes, great ingenuity
is necessary for us to get out of the labyrinth of snares. The mood of the
members is put down most of all by ridicule. The low-spirited don’t endure
and leave. They are harnessed into work again –"
Fráňa didn’t have the time to describe the individual members of the club
any more. The entry from the first day was the last one – It was interrupted
by an event in his life unexpected –
As usual, he was sprawling on the bed, sleep had already flown away but
he didn’t feel like getting up. Sweet-blooded languor was flowing through
his limbs, accumulated in the dimples under his knees and Fráňa was
hedonistically getting rid of it by stretching his muscles. It was in
that uncertain day time when the early morning stealthily melts away but
nobody can strictly say that the late morning has already come, the time
when the newly-born day matures into its youth age and contains the most
drive and energy. This fluctuating and overflowing of time would have
immediately disappeared if Fráňa had looked at his watch, but why look
when it doesn’t tell him more than a random number?
And suddenly, somebody rang the doorbell. – A man behind the door. –
Who can that be? – He locked the disheveled bedroom, went to the bathroom
and then, speeding up only a little, he was adjusting his appearance in
front of the mirror. In the meantime, the bell rang relentlessly, strictly
Just keep ringing! You’ll live to see me after all – the world won’t
collapse, he thought, agreeing with the fact that he was going to see
a man, to do justice to his curiosity. There is always tension in the
voice of a bell, a man secretly believes that he will be pleasantly surprised.
With his hesitation, Fráňa only lengthened and stirred his curiosity, and
this time he was really surprised!
On the doorstep, there stood his father!
Fráňa’s astonishment was so great that he had time neither to feel
embarrassed nor to apologize. He flung himself into father’s arms.
How many years haven’t they seen each other! He wasn’t embarrassed
now to express the feelings of filial love and felt blissful in father’s
At that moment, he remembered his mom as well and burst into tears. Father
understood. He pressed his son towards him, averted his face and Fráňa felt
behind his neck a pleasant tickling of a bearded chin. That thickly woven
black beard was, according to Fráňa’s image from childhood, the most
important part of dad’s face and, in general, of his whole being. There
was heroism of distant travels in it, there was also a secret Fráňa wove
the appearance of his almost unknown dad into. Yes, if I had a black beard,
Fráňa used to dream once, I would be able to carry mountains!
On his bony and wiry body, old Kalous was wearing a showy coat in the
style of a colonel sports uniform with the badge of the Northern Institute
next to a line of red ribbons, which gave the evidence of the stars and
ranks the explorer had acquired.
When there came the lull after the emotional storm of a father’s reunion
with his son, it seemed to Fráňa that his dad’s face was sad and glum.
His brown eyes were placed deeper under the bright forehead than with
"What do you do?" – he asked his son.
Fráňa wanted to start his old tirade of obscuring, how he’s looking for
a job and not finding any, but he stumbled at it. As if the direct, truthful
eyes of his father were already in advance from their depth weighing the truth
"Nothing so far!" he admitted.
"How long have you been doing – that nothing?"
Fráňa felt the irony of his father’s words and was preparing for defense.
"After that poetry crash –" he said, "I realized that it’s possible to
live even like this –"
"Really," father smiled calmly, "it’s possible to live even like that –
And how did you find that out?"
Fráňa became alert. What’s that? Is his dad getting ready to preach about
the dignity and nobility of work? He already knows all that by heart. He’s
an adult man now and has his own opinion about the matter although he loves
his dad. He’ll show him he can think independently and not parrot others –
The thoughts he had reached aren’t ordinary and must impress even his father
with their modernity and revolutionary nature, the more that his own son had
"How did I find that out?" – he started cold-bloodedly. – "So! – Everybody
works like obsessed and makes a great uproar around it! People and stars,
look how I work, how I love my work! Work – my lover! I can’t live without
her! Give me more work so that I crack up! – They burlesque and bow to her
like that and jump around like fools, – well, I took a dislike of it –"
"Well – well –" his father nodded his head and lit his little pipe. It sounded
neutral. Fráňa began to hope his father would understand him, that he would be
astonished at the boldness of his idea.
"There’s so little work," the son continued, – "you know it yourself, dad!
Why still take it from people when they lust for it so, when they basically
scramble for it? It’s said that the desire for work is inborn in people. How
come then that it’s not inborn in me? I can’t help but it is so! You say that
not to work is amoral – where’s that written? I don’t know anything about that!
Why do you push to work those that don’t feel such a need? And why, on the
contrary, do you take the work away from some people when they are guilty with
something inhuman and you say it’s the greatest disgrace for them? – On one
hand, you deprive people of work as a punishment and, on the other, you push
me towards it – where’s the logic there? –
I am for the freedom and independence of work! Who doesn’t feel the need to work,
let them not work! Work belongs to machines, freedom to people! And dummies again
take work away from machines – certain poet makes shoes manually –" he smiled
bitterly, "that far have we gone! If there is anybody I should honor and praise
for perfect work, then only machines! One man is enough for a whole factory!
Who wants to labor, there you go, we don’t prevent anybody! But let those that
want to free themselves from work – that’s a new idea!"
Father raised his eyebrows. His forehead frowned anxiously as he looked at
his son from the bottom.
"Indeed –" he said, "it is a new idea. Have you come up with that idea?"
Fráňa was somewhat perplexed with such a question. Where’s his dad headed? What
is he following? Is there surprise or agreement or irony in it? –
"They are mainly my ideas – but not all of them –" he admitted. "There
are more of us, like that –" he paused. "And how about you, dad? Are you, in
fact, for or against? What do you infer about it?"
And in a sudden surge of communicativeness, he added in a trembling voice:
"You don’t even know, dad, how much you would please me if you agreed with me!
How you would strengthen me, how you would support me in my fight – That would
be the most beautiful, that would be the happiest day in my life –"
The old man paused on for a moment. Then he puffed several times but the pipe
burnt out in the meantime. He looked at it sadly, as if he felt sorry for the
pipe but he didn’t light it again. He knocked out the ashes and hid it in his
pocket. Perhaps he was implying by that that something had ended.
And he said:
"We will talk about that together later – But allow me, Fráňa, one more
question, really the last one. Everything depends on how you answer. If
positively, I’ll laugh and the whole debate of today will disappear in memory
like a bad weather forecast – when, instead of sleet, the sun comes –"
Fráňa paused. That was a strange reply to how he had been emotionally carried
away. That didn’t forebode anything good.
"What question?" he asked, alert.
"If you would like to go with me. – Where? – To the north!"
Fráňa was dumbfounded. He hardly forced out of himself:
"And what there?"
"Don’t you know what I do there? You too can become an associate of
the Northern Institute for the forecast of the Great weather. I would
take you with me, Fráňa! We would travel together by planes and icebreakers,
even by submarines and sledges, pulled by reindeer and dogs. Descend from a
helicopter on ice floes and place radar stations on them –"
"What for all that and why?"
"So that they can look into tomorrows! They are the eyes of our planet!
They see everything air and water do, what’s going on on the ground, above
the ground and under the ground –"
"That’s interesting –" Fráňa said politely.
"Amazing work, boy! You would find happiness in it. When you understand
everything, when you learn everything, you’ll become a forecaster –"
"Weather engineer. A true soothsayer of tomorrows – A traveler into the
"But what for –"
"To control the Great weather –"
"I still don’t understand. Don’t we produce drifts and clouds and rains
and even storms by ourselves? –"
"That’s naturally the local weather, within the range of several kilometers,
when it’s only to spray a town, to water a field. But I’m talking about the
Great weather – above the whole Earth, to know it not days but months in
advance! – There, Nature is not to be commanded – But we can already now
completely see through it – we know a month ahead what it’s going to do –"
"As a forecaster, even you, Fráňa, will peek into the kitchen of Time.
People will ask you when it will rain and when it will freeze, how much
snow will fall, where storms and gales and floods will break out, and you
will know all that in advance – An individual can manage nothing. But
thousands of people have come together and created a wonder of wonders –
they’ve brought us closer to omniscience – And you can be one of those
chosen ones, of those fortune-tellers and reporters of future weather, too,
Fráňa, my son! So now I ask you: What do you infer about that? Are you for or
Fráňa listened carefully, with his head bent between the raised shoulders and,
at the same time, he was already refusing it all in advance. He understood it
in such a way that there is a trap being set for him here, that his own, private
future is here being played for with beautiful words in the name of some wide,
one-thousand-headed future and that his quiet, calm, content life he doesn’t in
fact obstruct anybody with, is at stake – More and more certainly he knew what
he was going to answer.
"Don’t be angry, dad," he said almost ceremoniously, "that I can’t agree with you.
It’s certainly illuminating what you are describing to me here but how did you
come up with it after all that I had told you? You didn’t refute my arguments
with a single word. Aren’t they worth it? I had an impression for a moment that
you were looking at the matter objectively, and you, out of the blue, allure me
somewhere to the North Pole! What, have you already forgotten how delicate my
lungs are? – and you’re as if you wanted to destroy me! I assume –"
"Hold on!" his father interrupted his suddenly and he raised. He looked at
"Really – I remember – those lungs of yours – forgive me – – – You’re ill,
Fráňa, and you’ll undergo medical treatment! But now I already have to go!
I want to be in Archangelsk tomorrow night – but I’ll be back again in a few
days. I say good bye for now. – You can let out of your head what I’d told you.
I also wanted to talk to you about your mom – but we’ll leave that for the next
time. As far as your illness is concerned, it’s more serious that you think –
You could use a treatment –"
"But why, there’s actually nothing wrong with me, dad –"
"That’s what you think – But now I’m really in a hurry – Have a good time
here, Fráňa, and I’ll see you in a week!"
A week passed and somebody rang the bell. With certainty, Fráňa expected his
dad. Their last good-bye was in a way somewhat strange, rushed, something
remained unsolved between the two of them – You can let out of your head what I’d
told you – was dad sincere about that? – But this time, Fráňa was ready – He won’t
allow anybody to surprise him any longer! He already knew what he was going to
tell him –
However, there wasn’t his father in the doorway but an unknown young man.
"I’m looking for Fráňa Kalous," he said and he immediately added with a smile:
"That must be you!" As if that was a reason for a smile!
Fráňa invited him in into his study and there he motioned him into a plastic
armchair. The unknown man sat down, looked around and was still smiling. The
form of the seat sensitively captured the frame of his back part. Fráňa asked
him politely about the purpose of his visit.
"I am Cyril Möricke," the unknown man introduced himself and the smile on his
face immediately went out, as if now jokes ceased. – "You don’t know me?"
Fráňa didn’t know the name. He had never seen that man. But he liked him.
It was a rather small stocky young man with soft, fair hair and wide cheeks,
as if radiating with heat. His blue eyes were focused with black pupils,
which made one constantly look into them.
"You don’t know me," he said, "but I know your name –"
"From many sides. Don’t you proclaim the idea of man’s liberation from work? –
Isn’t that so?"
"Is that why you came?" Fráňa was surprised.
"I wanted to see a courageous man. To make certain of how far my image is
from the reality –"
Fráňa became alert. He wasn’t sure whether he should be happy or afraid of
something – Such a tricky thing that was.
"Perhaps somebody sent you –"
"I don’t have any other intentions than meeting you. We must know about
each other when there are few of us –"
"What do you want to say by that?" – Fráňa asked distrustfully. "Do you
agree with me?"
"If I agree!" – Cyril exclaimed. – "I have been working on it for two years.
But first tell me how you do it –"
Fráňa started talking. He had a desire to win him over, to evoke trust in
him. He liked his wide smile, by which as if he was constantly promising
something. He immediately assessed him as a man worthy of friendship. Cyril
was among those people that kindle ambition. Such a person is to be appreciated.
Of course on the condition that he would appreciate me in the same way!
That’s why he was particular about his speech. He spoke about what had
already thought out during his early and late morning lie-ins in bed,
what he had already told Daisy – Fráňa had, after a good sleep, a lucky
moment full of ideas and speaker’s ease, new, ideas unspoken yet were
blazing through his head. Really, he did everything he could – so much
was he up to that man.
Cyril listened to him carefully and then he said with his nice smile,
which promised something:
"That is, of course, a theory. Indeed, a very extensive one. You’ve
touched everything. So to say: gospel. – But what about practice? What
do you look like in practice? What have you already undertaken or are
going to undertake?"
"I fulfil what I say. Theoretically, I refuse to work because of these
and those reasons. And practically then – I don’t work!"
"You yourself – That’s, however, selfishness! And, what is more, you
show yourself to the moralists to beat you like a fool! But foolishness
will become the truth if a thousand people follow it! – What do you
undergo to win new champions for the idea?"
Fráňa began to flaunt with the club but he couldn’t say anything worthwhile
about it, there was nothing to show off with, even though he was its chairman.
He himself suddenly realized that there was nothing going on in the club.
Everybody there is thinking only and only about themselves. Several sports
fanatics, they aren’t interested in anything else than championships, cups
and records – They don’t practise sports themselves – they are too awkward
or careful but they passionately drive or fly to see their favorites to the
end of the world. They have their heads stuffed with numbers and charts,
their joys and sorrows are decided at playgrounds, tennis courts and stadiums.
There are also several neglected "geniuses", painters, actors, singers and the
like. They had broken down with their talent already a long time ago but they
didn’t manage to join other jobs. They obstinately refuse all opportunities
the society offers them. Also a couple of everlasting students appear there.
Those wander to various schools to attain some universal knowledge, they are
permanently "studying" but they never take any exams.
"We know that we don’t know anything –" they say skeptically.
"Whenever I hear somebody talk about a club," Cyril remarked, "what I
always imagine are not people but club armchairs. It’s possible to find
new people even without a club. To campaign, go from one man to another,
show them the senselessness of their behavior, gain other courageous
fighters, move on from passive resistance to action! To arouse, shake
those bewildered work gluttons, who have so little imagination that they
can’t invent anything better –"
"But why – somebody does have to work –" Fráňa howled, surprised, and
God-knows-why he looked behind him.
"Leave work only where the human force is indispensably necessary to
keep the standard of living. Win everybody else for our lines! –"
In the depth of his soul, Fráňa agreed with that but he felt overshadowed,
surpassed and perhaps even reproached for doing it wrong. He quickly
collected himself. It was now up to him to express his own opinion too,
at least an equal one to Cyril’s. He found in his pocket a cigarette case.
He was getting ready to formulate his idea. The suggestive magic of scent
and smoke was good for that, he completely forgot to light a cigarette in
the tension of the debate –
"Do you smoke?" – he offered.
"Why not? I’ll take one. What is it?"
"Venuses – I don’t smoke any other –"
"How many a day?"
"I don’t count that. I don’t want to know it!"
The cigarette allowed Fráňa a moment of concentration.
"You’re right," he said, "but I would have a different idea. As you know,
we ‘work’ four hours a day and some people think that’s still too little.
They would slave even six hours, as it used to be in the past. Why not lengthen
the working hours to those strainers, possibly even to six and a half hours a
day? That way, a number of people will be released from the working process,
who want to be liberated anyhow! Thus, everybody will get what they want,
fully! Am I not right? What do you say to that?"
"You don’t like clubs but I would begin precisely in the club! I’d like to
ask you to explain the matter there and discuss your experiences with us. I
guarantee you full attendance –"
"I have a passion for numbers. I’m constantly asking: How many?"
"Twenty-two people. The full number of members –"
Cyril made a painful face, as if he wanted to crush in his teeth a sudden
burst of laughter. But he said only:
"That’s not much –"
The following day, Fráňa made in the club a grandiose speech with the theme:
Work to machines, freedom to people! – About the necessity to spread this
idea from one man to another, fight and possibly even die for it – To turn
people away from work so that they can live independently and freely like
birds in the sky, like bugs in the ground, like fish in the sea! –
The proclamation brought about a sensation in club. Many rejoiced and
applauded and trampled and clinked unbreakable cups with each other. Into
that, there suddenly burst an applause so vehement as if all at once a million
people had begun to clap their hands. The applause grew into an earthquake-like
rattle and absorbed all other sounds. The members of the club plugged their
ears and ran to the casket by the window the hellish racket was coming out
of. The first one jumped to it and threw it out of the window to the yard.
Immediately, the aggrieved owner and inventor appeared. It was a former band
director, who wanted to surprise his audience and, for the first time, was
demonstrating his instrument there. Offended, he explained that by his
"self-applauder", he wants to ease off the labor of the audience, to spare
them the pain from clapping their palms at concerts and theaters and he
couldn’t understand that nobody would have their right of own applause
The inventor went to pick up his instrument at the yard and others continued
applauding in the natural way, slowly or quickly, significantly or passionately,
softly or joyfully, each according to his or her temperament.
There were, however, also those that didn’t applaud at all. They were too
surprised at the new thought and were quiet. They crouched at their places,
baffled and shamefaced, insecurely looking around. A couple of them used the
chaos with the "self-applauder" to disappear from the hall.
When then a lull came, one of those surprised ones asked for the right to
speak. He began to prove that it’s more practical for the club to be safely
quiet, not to expose itself too much to the attention of the jealous society.
He was shouted down as a coward. They raised Fráňa on their shoulders and
carried him triumphantly around the hall and tossed him towards the ceiling.
Cyril stood bashfully aside. Fráňa wanted to show him in a fit of
generosity to the roaring crowd of twenty heads as the actual author
of the idea, but Cyril silenced him in time. He was smiling again as
if he was promising something and it seemed to Fráňa now that indeed
there is not a mere promise in that smile.
One evening, they went together to see a film at the outdoor movie theater
"I S e e S t a r s".
An interesting film was on there, which was named:
"HOW MR. ZACHARIÁŠ ZDICHINEC
BECAME THE SATELLITE OF THE EARTH."
The film depicted the life of a crew on an artificial celestial body, which
is a transfer station, a kind of springboard at the borderline of terrestrial
atmosphere for further flight of cosmic rackets. Mr. Zachariáš is the manager
of the air-conditioning equipment on the satellite and he unfortunately falls
in love with Miss Líza, who is a younger micro-atmosphere inspector there. However,
Líza loves a rosy-cheeked Aljoša, who is the main calculator at the machine.
A triangle is formed in the plot, though not a matrimonial one but an eternally
human one, elevated, however, about 300 kilometers from Earth. Love-crossed Mr.
Zdichinec chooses an amazing way of suicide – jump out of the satellite – And
exactly at the moment when he opens the cabin lid to fling himself headlong
into the space – the colored picture on the screen went out and the wretch’s
scream was cut in half.
From the chests of the audience, a unanimous sigh of disappointment resounded.
Calls, laughter, clinking of teaspoons on the saucers left after eating ice-cream
were heard. It seemed that the malfunction will be immediately dealt with but the
minutes of waiting lengthened. Some visitors already got up from their rocking
chairs and were leaving, surprisingly quietly and unconcerned, as if there was
no human curiosity in the world.
"A moment, please!" Cyril said and he got up too. "I’ll go ask –"
Well! – Fráňa wanted to drink a glass of orangeade in the meantime, but
there was no sight of service at all. Other visitors were leaving. – Fráňa
was surprised by their cosmic calm. It even seemed to him that he detected
several pairs of eyes to have dwelled on him with interest but he immediately
rejected that nonsensical supposition after he had made sure that everything
on him was all right.
Cyril returned with an annoying piece of news. The movie-theater operator
left his work the previous day to join the free citizens that have definitely
got rid of all work ties. The trainee that stood in for him doesn’t know what
to do with the torn tape. Other members of the personnel are leaving for the
same goal too –
Fráňa felt thirst but even more he was being burnt by curiosity – What would
he give for it, to see, if only for a moment, how the jilted lover Mr. Zachariáš
Zdichinec breaks away from the satellite to become a satellite himself, running
around the Earth. In flaccid mood, annoyed to the very bottom of his being,
Fráňa was leaving the damned establishment.
Or the day before, he lost two games of chess with Cyril in a row. Third time,
luck smiled at him. His partner had lost a knight and was creating incidents
in vain – the position of his queen was endangered. Fráňa was getting ready
for a surprising move to get the queen into a trap but at the very moment,
the lights went out! Darkness arose, perfect, barbarian darkness. It came
so suddenly and unexpectedly that Fráňa was frightened and hit the board. At
the same time, he felt how the playing table jumped up and how its figures
were going off to the floor!
When he recovered from the shock, he heard in the darkness next to him Cyril’s
"A trifle! – A failure of the electrical circuit. A technician will repair
A trifle! – A technician! – But who will place the figures back on the
chessboard as they were in the won game? – And the darkness lengthened,
five minutes, ten minutes, no technician was coming. He was said to have
refused his service too – he could’ve thought that right away! He wanted
to scream and trample with fury but he only clenched his teeth into the
lips. And in his ears, alarming rumors resounded that Cyril assiduously
announced him and that he didn’t want to believe. Unfortunately, Fráňa
soon experienced their truthfulness himself.
Three dispatchers in the automatic factory producing the "Venus" brand
of cigarettes refused further work. They left everything and flew to the
Alps for a mountain hike. They say it’s as quiet in the factory as on the Moon.
Fráňa, full of bad forebodings, ran to the vending machine. He threw the
token into the opening, pushed the button – and instead of a packet of
cigarettes, the token came back with a deferential apology. – At the first
moment, he felt it as a provocation. – It hadn’t happened to him yet that a
vending machine would refuse to obey him! To go without something he got used
to, which he considered a matter-of-fact need of his life!
Like a devil-tempter, Cyril offered him "Poema". Fráňa never refused a
cigarette offered to him by somebody else. But he sorely cried for his
pale-blue "Venuses" – He raked about for them, tried other vending machines –
in vain –
But also the following days, wherever they went, whatever they undertook,
they always had bad luck in the end.
He began to sigh, sometimes he contemplated. Even earlier, at the wanderings
together with Cyril, he would be overcome by strange, heretical thoughts.
The wonderful idea of freedom immediately becomes monstrous as soon as it’s
seized by a man to bring it into practice – He carried the torch of a new
idea but he would constantly trip and always burn himself with it. Somebody
must work, he pondered, surely I’m neither an idiot nor a fool or a villain
not to accept this truth. – only – who has to and who doesn’t have to? – In
the past, before meeting Cyril, it was self-evident: I don’t have to! Who
else than me! – And then he was losing his old certainties. Everything
somehow went wrong, turned against him – Fráňa felt taken by surprise –
Who has to and who doesn’t have to? – Yes, in this question, there is all
the captiousness. As long as he didn’t ask like that, he was happy – During
new meetings, Fráňa would become silent. – He held his tongue hard and
obstinately. From time to time, he would stick to Cyril with a questioning
look, as if he was waiting for something. For something he hadn’t made clear
in himself so far, what he was afraid of but what was being more and more
assured in him. Then it became an idea. He refused it, it would, however,
return and importune again and again. But he would never dare utter it
Once Cyril suggested to him that they go together to see the manufactory
of "Jupiter" cigarettes, which was still in operation. It has to be in the
morning so that he can catch the engineer he wants to talk to.
"What do you want to talk to him about?" Fráňa got frightened.
"It’s an old acquaintance of mine. I haven’t seen him for a long time –"
Fráňa couldn’t stand it. He decided to talk.
"Look, Cyril," he said gravely, "why would we lie to each other – both
of us smoke –"
"I see!" – Cyril smiled. "No, don’t worry! I won’t even by a word – But
I’m afraid that he himself – –"
"If he himself –" Fráňa continued in silences, "then you should him – then
we should him – both of us –"
"You mean – speak to him, persuade him – to –"
"– to – I think so too. – Because –"
"– because both of us –"
"So!" – Fráňa nodded. "And to leave work everywhere where it’s inevitably
necessary – for the benefit of the human society –"
"– and to speak with those that want to liberate themselves –"
"– and persuade them –"
"Well, perhaps about the fact that work is the virtue and beauty and
fame of a man –" Fráňa said and he felt those words on his tongue like
milk from a dandelion.
But Cyril shook his head.
"No, Fráňa! – You can’t be serious about that. You yourself certainly
wouldn’t want that! Don’t you feel how wretched it would be, how we
would disgrace ourselves? Anybody else could be persuading him like
that but the two of us don’t have the right to do that – I’ll be silent,
I can promise you that. I will neither hinder him nor drive him out, let
the engineer do what he wants!"
When they said good bye to each other in front of the gate of the
"Two keys" house, there had been one more surprise awaiting Fráňa.
The elevator number "9" that was supposed to raise him to the twelfth
floor and drop him in his hallway, wasn’t working!
That was an unprecedented event. Fráňa rushed to the home phone. At
first, he was calling in vain and trying to revive that dead thing by
all means. He was already dreading the idea that even the phone is broken
and that hell conspired against him. After a long waiting, he finally
reached the voice he needed. He was going to storm and protest and
demand an immediate reparation but the janitor’s voice on the other
end sounded dry and strict:
"Nine failed. – The mechanic has left."
"How come he has left? – Where did he go? –"
"He quit his work. He said he’d worked enough!"
"And what about me? – How will I get up?"
"You must walk. – Am I expected to carry you?"
"How walk?" – Fráňa groaned.
"On the stairs! – Good night!"
"Hello! – Hello!"
But the voice didn’t resound any more. – And thus Fráňa was left nothing
else to do than walk step by step, floor by floor. Before reaching the
tenth floor he had the time to gradually curse the janitor’s voice on
the phone as well as master mechanic that had run away from his work
to succumb to idleness, as well as all other negligent employers,
carelessly leaving their workplaces, he was also cursing Cyril, who
like Mephistopheles was always insinuating something to him and who,
in fact, caused it all. And when he was subsequently practically only
crawling on all four to the last floor, he was crying and cursing already
only himself – his fate and his birth – rather than live like this, it’s
better not to live at all!
In the morning, the elevator was working again and the endless staircase
remained in him only as an ugly dream. – Thus, he was able to come to the
meeting with his friend still in time. Cyril led Fráňa to one of the white,
narrow pavilions, which stretched somewhere to the infinite distance. It
was surrounded by garden architecture on all the sides.
Fráňa had never been in a factory before. He marveled and marveled as
they were walking then on an outstretched carpet through an extremely
long hall, through whose center a machine unit stretched along its whole
length like a fantastic lizard, composed from perfect geometrical shapes,
tied together and melting into each other. The organism itself was inside,
under its panzer, mat-shiny skin –
Nothing moved in the hall – Fráňa flurried that even these machines were
already stopped and he turned with his dread to the girl that accompanied
them. She was wearing a white cloak, perfumed with tobacco. Even her eyes,
only magnified under the thick glasses, resembled the color of the dried
leaf of precious tobacco. She introduced herself to them as a dispatcher.
She opened a control window and at the very moment, satisfied growling resounded
throughout the hall. – Fráňa took breath. It could be seen in the small windows
how large yellow leaves of the same size are being placed on each other,
how they travel under the knives that cut thin golden hair from them. The
scent of ethereal essences and oils gushed from them. And in each of those
windows, something miraculous was going on, how tobacco wedded paper until a
cigarette was born. And over there, steel fingers were again forming boxes
from transparent plastic and others were filling them and sealing them up
and placing them into large boxes and those were then going somewhere on the
conveyor belt until they disappeared from view.
"That’s the tail of our crocodile –" the girl smiled. "If you want to
see his brain, we must encircle it all –"
Fráňa would manage to look into each of the small windows perhaps until
the evening, but the girl led him without other words over a small
suspension bridge to the other side. On the other side of the "crocodile"
as well, the extremely long coco stretched on parquets. Between the large
windows, there were hanging framed canvases and tapestries with smoking
motives, among the palm trees, there stood white wicker armchairs. It
looked here more like at an exhibition of paintings in a winter garden.
Thus, they came as far as the engineer’s study. That’s where the brain of
the factory was in the shape of dials with trembling index hands, buttons
and light signals, placed on white boards, it was here where all the nerves
of the "crocodile" led towards them.
The engineer was a white-haired man with a pointed beard and with still
black vulture eyebrows above mocking eyes. He greeted Cyril, it was
evident he was glad to see him. He looked at Fráňa and smiled captiously.
"Engineer Krubert –" he introduced himself. He seated them in armchairs
and he himself sat in such a way that he had the whole nerve system of
the "crocodile" in the electric shortcut from the teeth to the tail in
front of his eyes. It was immediately evident that he liked talking but
he talked somehow casually and with chattering, as if it didn’t matter
to him what he was saying and what the other thought of it. He said he
couldn’t complain about his work but that he was going to leave the place
with calm and with a sigh of satisfaction, like leaving a good movie that
must end at some point.
Fráňa wondered at such a talk and couldn’t guess whether it was a joke or what.
"I didn’t understand it right – why in fact are you leaving?" he asked.
"Everybody’s leaving – but you know why!"
Engineer Krubert glanced at him somewhat shrewdly, as if he was appealing to
cooperation on some mischief. Fráňa was puzzled. I wonder if that man knows
me? Since when and where from? After such embarrassing experience when he
was losing the ground under his feet, it would be definitely unpleasant.
Or has Cyril given away anything? He searched for him with his eyes but
he had, in the meantime, inconspicuously got up and was talking at a
distance with the short-sighted dispatcher. Fráňa could then easily ask
about things he would maybe keep silent about in front of Cyril. When he
remembered those small windows where the wonder of creation was taking place,
disagreement resounded in him, even a protest against this fool that allowed
himself to be so carelessly caught.
"You must have certainly got used to your work –" he started discreetly
"Won’t you be bored?"
"Oh, certainly – it will be difficult at first… It’s a good job –
I play the keys and the crocodile rolls out cigarettes – But after all, it
is a job, an obligation, a responsibility, a limitation of personal liberty.
Anyway – I have a piano at home – I prefer absolute freedom, freedom of the
birds in the air – Well, even a sparrow on the roof is freer than a man, I
surely don’t have to tell that to you –"
– An idiot – or he’s making a fool out of me, Fráňa thought sorrowfully.
"Anyway –" Krubert went on, "I’ll look for solace and forgetting in my
collections – That is to say I’m a passionate collector of antiques. Do
you have at home by any chance an old coin or a bracelet or a pendant, as
our great-grandmothers used to wear in their ears? Or a watch – nickel or
golden – it doesn’t matter. I collect also violins and cigarettes –"
"I don’t have anything like that –" Fráňa said in a choking voice. "I would
only like to say to that absolute liberty – an idea bright as a morning
but it can’t be generalized. You’ve overlooked, sir, a trifle – I mean the
necessity to leave the work where it’s indispensably needed to keep a
standard of living. Let’s say, what would you smoke if all cigarette
manufactures closed down? –"
"I happen to not smoke –" Krubert smiled and it looked like he wanted to
say: How I’ve outwitted you, baby boy! –
"A non-smoker –" Fráňa wondered out loud, "and a collector of cigarettes!"
"If I was a smoker, sir, I would’ve already smoked my collection a long
time ago –" he replied quite logically and then he began to talk about
what specialties he had in his collection.
"You’re a non-smoker then –" Fráňa admitted. "But what will smokers say to that?"
"Simply – they’ll learn not to smoke! If there’s no tobacco, there will
be no smokers. They’ll die out like electric lamps did. – But seriously –
the air will be cleaner! It will be easier to breathe – it will serve the
national health – From the whole Earth, tobacco smoke is pouring to the
stratosphere," Krubert chattered and observed with interest how the visitor
was lighting one cigarette from the other.
– A selfish man – Fráňa passed a judgment on him in the end. – It’s a waste
of words with one like him – But he knew well it wasn’t so. Simply – he
wasn’t acquainted with Krubert. Perhaps he’s just pretending like that?
Does he chatter emptily and hide something from Fráňa? He liked his face
but his discussions were worth nothing. They provoked, ridiculed him, his
whole appearance, however, proved the exact opposite of what he was saying.
It seems to Fráňa that all those bracelets and watches and what he’d talked
around them are irrelevant, non-serious, perhaps there are no collections at
all. Fráňa infers that from how the engineer watchfully looks around, how he
guards the apparatus, how he immediately interrupts his talk when some secret
signs begin to phosphoresce on the screen.
That man has passionately taken to his work! He wouldn’t leave it for
nothing in the world! Those nonchalant and non-serious discussions –
that’s just a disguising maneuver – Fráňa would put his hand in fire
for that – but why? – Why?
If he didn’t chatter like that, he would like to tell him that he hadn’t
seen anything so beautiful yet as what is going on under the panzer scales
of the automatic monster. Some new, fantastic hands of wonderful shapes,
they have hundreds of fingers and joints and knuckles! Without making a
single mistake – they accurately perform their deal and transfer their part
to further and further fingers. He would like to tell Krubert that he envies
him his service in that wizardly skull, full of dials and bells and lights,
white, green and red, through which things command and prohibit a man!
Cyril was coming back when both of them were already silent. He smiled at
Fráňa with his smile, which was promising something and never fulfilling
anything. Fráňa was sitting heavily pensive and didn’t say a single word.
Then he coldly said good-bye.
The main road from the entrance led them through a cypress alley to a
two-storey ringing fountain but Cyril turned aside to a side path. – A
gardener in a Mexican straw hat was cutting roses past blossoming there
and throwing them in a basket. At a distance, another was watering with a
hose a lawn, flowered with daisies, sweet-johns and wild bells. They passed
a girl that was tying small climbing roses to arches, where they formed
gates of flowers from salmon-pink bouquets. – In a blooming flowerbed of
high tobacco, somebody was walking with a measuring apparatus.
Fráňa observed with what concern, with what passion they were devoting
themselves to their work. It was little important, insignificant work,
as he inferred, but they performed it as if the benefit of a human life
depended on it. If he told those people now that work is slavery, that
they should liberate themselves from it, they would fall upon him like
hornets – or – rather – they would only laugh at him like at a fool –
They passed a man that was raking a path. But how dignified his expression
was! How he held the rake! – What bliss it must be to rake white
sand on a
A desire for an instrument that he could take in his hand took hold of him,
no matter what it would be! – And it seemed strange to him that his hands
hadn’t been doing anything until that moment – He looked at them – he
moved his fingers – he felt as if he saw them for the first time. And
suddenly he felt sorry for them, that they are moving in vain and idly –
That they touch those things in the world that had been already created,
already finished, and only small and nice, smooth, soft and round things,
which serve only him, his senses, which are only the receptors of delights –
Cyril noticed his look at the open palms and said only:
Nothing more. But he said it in such a way as if he had caught his thought,
as if he had guessed in what connection he had reached it. Fráňa looked at
him and turned red. And suddenly he got angry with his friend. That’s the
perpetrator of all evil! It was Cyril’s idea to campaign, to go from one
man to another, "to shake those work eaters!" – – But his anger immediately
changed into maliciousness again. We’ve both lost, bro, you and me, we both
are on the Moon, we don’t have anything to blame one another for –
He had the urge to tell him that, but no! Let him begin on his own! Let
him admit his mistake like a man! – He said: Hands! – What did he want to
suggest by that? Let him finish! He wanted to laugh at me because the
gardeners’ hands had reminded me of my own? Or to tempt me? What should
he think of him?
He looked at him from the side and waited. –
See, he doesn’t smile with that constantly-promising-something smile of
his any more. He promised, promised until he finished promising! So far
was he led – by the damned smile – and here it went out! And if it lit up
again, and if it shone like the morning star, shepherd’s star, it won’t
deceive Fráňa any longer!
But what is he waiting for? Let him talk then! Let him say something!
And if he begins to twitter about bird freedom again, about lark liberty,
I’ll wave my hand in front of his eyes: Man, go on! – Don’t fool me and others!
In a mutual tension they came to the "Ladybug" crossroads. Cyril suddenly
"Fráňa –" he said and held him softly by the elbow.
"What is it?"
He looked in his eyes with a long, searching look.
"Wouldn’t you like to tell me something?"
"I would!" Fráňa became angry, "but you talk first! I think you have
something to tell me as well!"
"We’ll part, Fráňa!" Cyril replied to that.
"What?" Fráňa startled. "You want to leave? – Now, – when – That wouldn’t
be honest –"
"Why that?" Cyril didn’t understand.
"Because – because – both of us are in a real mess anyway! – I don’t want
to blame anything on you, I was equally wrong, like you! But now it would
be just if we tried to find out together how to get out of the mess!"
"I’ve already found a solution for me, Fráňa. – You know what, though. –
If I advised that to you, you could even think that I’m pushing you –"
"But why, even I am thinking about it!" Fráňa cried out, "even I will
find something for me! That’s clearer than all suns!"
When he uttered that, it seemed to him that some heavy fog had fallen
to the bottom inside him. He felt joy but in no way would he be able
to say why and what from. Something cleared up inside him. He laughed
at that. But that reply made an impression on Cyril too. Once again,
he had around his mouth that well-known smile of unrealizable promises,
but it suddenly seemed to Fráňa that he had just fulfilled one of those
"I’ll begin tomorrow," Fráňa blazed up, "and not four but five hours a
day I’ll slave – Bro, we’ve got a lot to catch up with, don’t you think?"
Eventually, tired by long travel, they sat down in a little pub that has been
called "Vikárka" since time immemorial – They asked for a wine list.
"To remain in the old style today –" the old man joked, we’ll have champagne
from the vineyards of Troy –"
But Fráňa suddenly became sad, not even a cup of ice-cold sparkling wine
didn’t manage to cheer him up – He was reminiscing about Cyril. He hoped
in vain that the lost friend will himself somehow call – There was
no Cyril –
"I said good bye to everybody," he opened his heart to his father, "everybody
except one and it was specifically him I was up to. It was my best friend –
What we’ve experienced together, that is, dad, so miraculous that you wouldn’t
believe it. – It seems to me like I had experienced it in hypnosis. – How
much I’ve already looked for him – he vanished like a stone in water –"
"Could it have been Cyril by any chance?" – father asked him as if by the
Fráňa remained staring at him with his mouth open –
"What, do you know him, dad?"
The old man smiled omnisciently. He placed his hand softly and as if
soothingly on the back of his son’s hand. – It’s alright again – that
hand was saying and there was some good power in it –
"You were ill, Fráňa, seriously ill. I was frightened by you, you know,
though – It was necessary to undertake something – Do you remember how I
told you you should undergo medical treatment? – Now, when you are healthy,
you can hear everything, I’m not afraid that a complication can arise any
longer – except a surprise –"
Fráňa sank his eyes and with disgrace pulled his hand away from under his
"Who is Cyril?"
"Doctor Cyril is a professor at the Characters’ Treatment Institute –"
"I haven’t been to that institute though –" Fráňa objected quietly.
"Of course you haven’t. You would’ve only hardened your heart more then –
Many patients undergo treatment outside the institute, under psychiatrists’
"So that’s how it was –" Fráňa cried out bitterly. That great friendship –
that was a big trick! – What hatched from a friend was a – psychiatrist!
Friendship – ha! Kuratela, medical help, and not friendship – I was such
a fool –"
The old man anxiously paused. Then he said hesitantly:
"Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you that yet after all – You haven’t
ripened yet –"
Fráňa got frightened. He immediately pulled himself together.
"No, no! – Tell me everything! I know it had to be like that! I’m
already completely healthy – but understand me, dad, I liked him –"
Father nodded in agreement.
"I understand that. He liked you too. And then – he cured you!"
"Yes, yes, I thank him for that. But I still don’t understand so many
things, how is it possible –"
He fished in the memories of the past days. And all those meetings and
conflicts, those troubles and messes he suddenly saw in different light.
They were then created artificially and they led only and only towards the
fact that somebody, an individual, a member of society, was brought back to
sense. – A drop of water that had rebelled! One cell in an organism had
What all had Cyril undertaken in order to cure him! How wisely and
ingeniously he acted, how infallibly he headed towards the goal! –
Fráňa told his father about the conspiracy in the "Šimáček" pub. Did
the cook arrange it with Cyril?
"I wasn’t present," the old man said. "I know, however, that the institute
disposes of an enormous apparatus, that it has a whole personnel
of voluntary services to its use, that it has its own institutes
in the field –"
"How much work he had with me!" Fráňa finally laughed.
"Perhaps not even so. You were neither the first nor the last one
of those philosophers of laziness Cyril treats and returns to the
society. – They catch up with what they had missed then. They make
the best laborers!"
"So that horrible little ‘Šimáček’ restaurant, that bitter coffee,
the lights turned off during a chess game, those vending machines
without ‘Venuses’, that interrupted film with Zachariáš Zdichinec,
that broken elevator and that tearsome learning on the stairs – all
that repeats like on a conveyor belt, today and every day – for all
the lazy people in the same way?" Fráňa asked with laughter.
"I suppose that Cyril has many more opportunities than those he had
showed you. Not all the cases are the same – rather each of them is
"And what kind of case was I?"
"Quite an obstinate one‚ I persuaded the king of the drones‚ – Cyril
conveyed to me."
"Tell me everything he had told you about me –"
"He said he had a great time with you, that he had fallen in love
with you and that you are among his great successes. He apologized
for not being able to come to clasp your hand to say good-bye, he’s
just immersed into a new case, a hard and complicated one –"
"Still, I like him –" Fráňa called out.
"Before I forget, that little article in the ‘Message’ was his – And
how he rejoiced when I’d announced to him that you’re flying to the
Arctic with me. He said he would definitely write to you –"