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Hacktreks Travel

Hacktreks 2

First Chapters
Lifestyles 1
Lifestyles 2


The Bonfire
Jim Curtiss

Her friends couldn't understand
what she saw in him...

For Josh, weekends at Sonja's home were normally pleasant and relaxing. Even though Sonja had a big family and a mother who found great satisfaction in hard work, concentrated efforts allowed Josh to avoid most of the family mess.
For example, because the family totaled 12 when everyone showed up for a weekend, feeding them was a serious task which the mother approached with an unalterable plan. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to communicate this plan very well, nor to delegate. So if you stepped foot in the kitchen, you had better know exactly what was expected of you and be able to do it well without getting in mom's way.
Sonja knew what mom expected and could function well in the kitchen. She was therefore lost to Josh during mealtime preparation and cleanup, and in order to avoid stress, he would go into the garden to read or study.
So of course Josh found the weekends fulfilling; after exercising every day during the week, he did nothing but laze about on the weekends. Sonja, however, struggled to balance the tensions involved with parental expectations and one's own needs, not the least of which was spending time with the boyfriend that she brought home at weekends.
This tension is what they wished to appease that evening by going to a pig roast Sonja's brother had invited them to.
Josh was looking forward to the evening, because being alone with Sonja was the only time that he was able to fully open up. He just couldn't communicate with her family, which was something that troubled Sonja about bringing Josh home at weekends – if her family didn't like him, then being with him would always be an uphill battle.
In fact, she already faced some mild misgivings about dating him. Her friends couldn't understand what she saw in him, but Sonja was able to speak with him easily and they laughed and made love and to her it seemed that the relationship was going perfectly.
Josh thought so too, but had some misgivings of his own. The biggest was the huge distance that her family lived from his. However, he wasn't yet so serious about her that he really thought about such issues. He was still just having a good time, and that suited Sonja well.

That evening on the way to the pig roast they laughed and joked and enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the protected forest which they drove through. Sonja was driving, and Josh was looking out the window making comments and asking questions about the people they were going to see that night. Sonja described some of the people, including her brother's family so Josh wouldn't forget any names. Making good impressions on her family and friends was still important to them both.
After emerging from the main forest road, the trees suddenly stopped and there were uncultivated fields on both sides. They turned right onto a side road that led through wheat fields, the wheat bending lazily now that harvest time was approaching. After two more turns onto auxiliary roads, they came to a grassy brown clearing where a group of weekend cabins sat back from the road, sheltered by large pines. They drove through the clearing and took, through a small opening in the trees, the narrow way that led down the steep hill to the river. The way was paved but steep, bumpy and potted, and it was dark in the twilight from the overhanging branches.
When they reached the level ground of the basin, the trees opened up on the right side to reveal a wide, lazy river with heavy, leaning trees all alongside it. Across it one could see weekend cabins along the river basin and then the land shooting up to form high, forested hillsides.
It was beautiful country in the twilight and it relaxed Josh, who was nervous about coming to the party. He hardly knew anyone and Sonja had known these people for years. He was happy when he recognized her brother and nephew kicking a football around in the field beside the bonfire because it meant that he wouldn't have to speak to anyone for awhile. He'd just kick the ball around. You didn't need to speak for that.
Sonja parked the car in the field next to the other cars. When they were climbing out, the host of the party, Pater, was already walking towards them. He was in his forties with salt and pepper hair, had a heavy glass of beer in his hands, and staggered in the uneven grass coming towards them. The party had been going on all day.
They greeted each other and Josh thought Pater held Sonja just a bit too long. He didn't understand anything they had said. They were speaking in Czech, which he hadn't even begun to study since he was unsure how long he would be in the country.
Sonja introduced Pater to Josh and Pater smiled broadly and said, "It's good to have someone I practice my English with! How long you been in Czech Republic?"
"About six months or so."
"Really? You like our country? So many beautiful girls, eh? Like Sonja!"
Sonja blushed and brushed her hair behind her left ear. Josh, who was standing on Sonja's right, was surprised and pleased to have someone he could speak to. Just then, Sonja's brother came over and shook hands with Josh, then spoke in Czech to Sonja. After a moment, brother and sister went off to get beers and Josh and Pater were left alone.
It was on the dark side of twilight now and the orange of the bonfire was getting brighter. Josh was looking at the bonfire and Pater, who was looking at the side of Josh's face, said, "You fucking American, I hate you."
Josh turned slowly to look at Pater. He wasn't sure he heard it correctly, but looking into Pater's narrowed and drunken eyes confirmed it. Never taking his eyes off of Josh, he took a slug of his beer.
Josh said, "What?"
Pater said, "You fucking American pig, you come to here, you take our women. I hate Americans! I hate you all, but most you, because you have chance with Sonja!"
At first, Josh thought Pater was making a bad joke. But now, sensing the seriousness of the situation, he didn't know how to react. He began to say something about not taking anyone's women when Sonja came walking towards them through the grass. She was smiling and holding two beers.
After they had toasted and had a drink of the beer, Pater asked, "So, how long you know our Sonja, Josh?" He said it with genuine friendliness, so genuine that it surprised Josh.
He looked at Pater and answered flatly, "About three months."
"That's nice. And what about you, Sonja? Jake je skola?" (How is school?)
Sonja wondered why Josh had seemed so unfriendly to Pater. She answered Pater's question and they spoke Czech together, very animatedly and full of laughter and Josh didn't understand a word.
He did, however, understand that Pater hated him, and that he, Josh, would be stuck there for the rest of the night. He tried to act interested in the conversation but found himself thinking about other things. He drank the beer quickly.

After a few moments of standing there, Pater was called up to the cabin by his wife. He took Sonja's hand and led her up to the wooden deck with him. As they were walking away, Sonja looked over her shoulder at Josh, but he had already looked away.
Josh stood next to the fire and was looking into it. He didn't like the way that the evening had started and he felt strange - isolated. He needed a beer but didn't want to go up and get into the middle of all the people that he didn't know.
Across the bonfire from him was a tall, skinny man with wide shoulders. After making eye contact, he spoke to Josh. In English, the man said "You speak Czech?"
"No, I have only been here for two months."
"What do you doing here?"
"I'm an English teacher. And you?"
"I'm in army. Pater my best friend. You need beer."
"I sure do," said Josh, and gave his empty glass to the outstretched hand of the army man. The man went up the hill.
Josh stood there looking at the fire and feeling very alone before Sonja came back five minutes later. The army man hadn't returned.
Sonja and Josh talked a little about the party and the beautiful nature surrounding them. Sonja was telling a story from her childhood when the army man came back holding a beer. He only had one in his hands, half full, and he wouldn't look at Josh. Josh quietly told Sonja about the beer issue and she said the man must have forgotten about it. Josh knew better, but let it slide.
So they walked up themselves to get beers and when they passed the army man, he looked sideways at Josh and smirked. Sonja, of course, did not see it. Josh was beginning to feel his temper rise.
Mixing into the middle of the party to get the beer, Josh was introduced to the 10 or so people on the deck surrounding the keg, and then finally to Pater's wife. She was in her mid-forties, good-looking, and was tipsy and flirty with Josh when she spoke to him in English.
Her eyebrow was arched when she asked, "How you like Czech women, Josh?"
"As much as I can," Josh flirted back. Sonja, who was standing beside him, laughed and so did Pater's wife. They got him a beer and stood there talking until he finished it. Then they got him another and he and Sonja went back down to the fire.
Sonja's brother was sitting on the smoky side of the fire, playing the guitar and singing. He was a little off-key in both his playing and his singing, but he was very absorbed by it. He had been drinking all day and the cigarettes had given him a raspy voice. Josh didn't understand his words but was happy to sit there and watch him sing.
Sonja went to get them more beer and the blonde woman who was sitting next to them spoke to Josh. "He's a little off tonight."
"Yeah, but it looks like he doesn't care very much," Josh answered. "True. Can I ask what you're doing here in the Czech Republic?"
"Sure. I'm an English teacher at the university."
"Oh, that's great. I love reading in English. I read a little Hemingway from time to time."
"Is that right? He's one of my favorites. In fact, I have a book of his short stories in the car."
"Which one?"
"The first 49 stories or something like that."
"Can I see it?"
"Sure, I'll go get it."
Josh got up and walked over to the car. It was about 15 meters from the fire and since he was up, he walked past the car and into the bushes. When he finished, he walked back towards the fire. Halfway there, he met Pater.
"You pig American fuck. What you still here for?"
"I'm with Sonja," Josh answered coldly. "Do you want us to go?"
"Sonja no. You yes, you fuck. I hate you. You have chance I never have."
"What chance?"
"To marry her!"

Josh blinked. The idea had never crossed his mind. He was so far from home that everything seemed surreal, and marriage especially. The first time Pater had spoken like that to him, he didn't know what to do. But now with a few beers in him, he said, "Stay the fuck away from me," and stepped around him.
Pater said, "Pussy."
Josh stopped and looked sideways at him. It would be a simple fight. Pater was drunk as hell. Even standing there now, he swayed slightly. Josh shook his head and walked away.
When he got back to the fire, the army man was staring at him. He had seen the episode with Pater and it was obvious which side he would take. Josh felt isolated. Threatened. Frustrated.
Sonja was at the fire again and Josh sat down to her right. The blonde woman asked him about the book and Josh suddenly remembered about the Hemingway collection. Apologizing, he went back to the car and fetched it.
Back at the fire now, he stood beside the blonde woman and spoke about Hemingway stories. He relaxed a bit but then became distracted when Pater sat next to Sonja and put his arm around her shoulders. Sonja coolly accepted it, and laughed from time to time. Pater then got up and walked over to where the army man was standing. The guitar was laying there and Pater took it over to Sonja.
Sonja didn't want to play.
Pater insisted.
So did Sonja's brother, and finally so did the blonde-haired woman.
Josh went over and sat on Sonja's right side. Pater was still on her left. When Sonja played, everyone got quiet. Her playing was rudimentary but clean and precise. She played a soulful, yearning song in Czech and while Josh didn't understand the words, he was deeply stirred. When she finished, he told her that he was continually impressed by her. She smiled and leaned over the guitar to give him a kiss.
She started another song and wasn't halfway through playing it when one of Pater's friends, a man in his 50's, staggered over with a folding chair and tried to sit between Josh and Sonja.
Josh looked over his shoulder and gave the fellow a nasty look. But the man was drunk and it didn't matter what kind of look Josh gave him. He had it in his mind that he wanted to sit close to Sonja and it didn't matter where her American boyfriend was.
Josh sat there, tense at the situation. He didn't like it at all. On Sonja's left was Pater, sitting very close and putting his hand on her left leg from time to time. On Sonja's right side, almost completely between them, was this other drunk letch who from time to time would reach up and put Sonja's hair behind her ear, stroking her cheek on the way down.
Josh asked her "Are you ok?"
She nodded yes at him.
"Are you sure?"
Again the nod.
Josh didn't believe her. He didn't believe that she was alright. He drank some more of his beer and stewed.
The letch on his left reached up again and stroked Sonja's cheek. Josh was exploding inside and asked her once more how she was.
Again the nod.
Josh sat forward in the folding chair. He finished his beer and looked across the fire. It was now only Josh, Sonja, Pater and his letch buddy, and the army man at the fire.
Sitting up and alert, Josh decided that he would get things rolling by giving the letch on his left an elbow to the face. That would send the letch over backwards on his seat and probably take him out of the equation. The force of the blow would also help Josh stand up quickly and get to the log in the fire that was half burnt. He'd pick that up with his right hand – that was the side the army guy would come from, and with his left leg he would kick that son of a bitch Pater square in the face. Then it would only be he and the army guy and he'd have a torch that he'd burn that bastard with if he got anywhere near him.
Yeah, that's how it would be if he was pushed any more.
He sat there on the front of the chair perfecting the plan, placing his feet properly to stand up. He even thought that by bending over and pretending to tie his shoelaces, he'd be able to start the elbow lower and thereby pack it with more force to hit that fuckin' letch with.
The problem with the plan was what to do after handling the three by the fire. How would they get out of the situation? Would he and Sonja run to the car and speed away? He didn't know where the keys were. Would they (he) have to fight more of the people at the party? Most importantly, how would he convince Sonja that what he did was right? It wasn't as if they were licking her and cupping her breasts. True, they were being extremely inappropriate, but did that merit an ass-stomping followed by burning some guy with a fucking log?
Sonja didn't even know that Pater had been insulting Josh all night. And then suddenly Josh erupts into a volcano of violence? He couldn't see much of a future with her if he started a brawl at the first party that he was taken to. But those fuckers want…

It was in the middle of these unwholesome thoughts that he found Sonja standing in front of him with her hand out towards him. He took her hand and she walked him over to the car. She asked him straight out what was wrong, and he said that he was tired and ready to go whenever she was. He figured that he would tell her about his problems in the car.
She said ok, and they went back into the party to say goodbyes. They were met with many "No, you can't leaves," and Sonja was flattered that they wanted her to stay. Another set of songs was demanded and Josh disgustedly went to get another beer.
He could hear Sonja playing the guitar before he could see her, and walking back to the fire, he met Pater along the way.
"Asshold! I hate you," said Pater.
"You can hold your ass, too Pater," Josh said and gave him a hard shoulder as he passed him. Pater spilled beer on his shirt and spoke strongly to him in Czech but it didn't matter. Josh had left him behind.
Sonja sang the last set wonderfully and Josh really loved to watch her play. He loved it even more, however, when she finished and they left. In the car ride home Josh ironically told Sonja what a great time he had and how he couldn't wait to come again.
But Sonja didn't understand the irony and was pleased to hear that he got along with her family and friends.
"Maybe Pater is wrong about him," she thought to herself.

© Jim Curtiss November 2003

Jim Curtiss lives writes and studies in Germany

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