f i c t i o n

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Daniela Fischerová
Translated from the Czech by Neil Bermel


Sometimes it seems that everything’s pretend. That it’s only a gesture that misses its mark. I am ten years old.


This was the year synthetic materials hit Prague. A new store, Plastik, appeared on Wenceslas Square and there were lines in front of it every day. Everything still amazed us: parkas, nylon bags, PVC statues.

One day my mother returned victoriously with plastic cutlery that looked like wood. The marvel was that wood wasn’t wood, just like the statues’ marble wasn’t marble. This collective seizure would soon pass: within a year, the plasticware would land in the trash, but now we raised the strangely weightless knife up to the light; the knife tipped upwards like a finger pointing somewhere else and, marvelling, we fell under the spell of its artifice.



One morning Comrade Principal comes for me and for my best friend Hana. To the envy of all our classmates, she plucks us out of a quiz and brings us to her office. She doesn’t say a word. Hana’s dark ponytail trembles. She is perpetually alarmed, always more exemplary than me.

“Our school,” the principal says curtly, “has decided to write to President Eisenhower.”

She sits behind a large desk, wearing an army jacket: small, bent, and wrinkled. To my horror, I see that she is holding our notebooks. Hana’s are much more attractive than mine. Hana has great handwriting. She gets to write for the bulletin board. Her handwriting is just like her: tiny, well-formed. Always the same, neat.

“The West,” the principal continues, “is secretly preparing for war. They want to stab us in the back. But we won’t let anyone take peace away from us!”

She picks up a composition I recognize, and fear makes my heart leap in my chest. It is my contribution to the Young Writers competition. It won second prize in the Prague 10 district. It is called “A Merry Christmas Party.”

“You,” the principal points her finger, “you will write the letter. And you: copy it over in your best handwriting. I want to see it before vacation. You have two weeks.”

She opens the desk and spends a long time looking for something. She seems to have forgotten about us. I don’t even dare utter a word. Suddenly she stands up and stares me straight in the eye.

“It’s high time the truth be told!” she shouts as if from a deep sleep. The tips of my fingers go numb with excitement. The principal hands me an outline to work from.



I fly home, riding the crest of the moment. Outline, point one: greeting. Dear President Eisenhower! Outline, point four. The horrors of war. Like in Soviet films. Signature: We, the children of Czechoslovakia. And it was I who was given this historic task!



Fourth grade took something out of me. Just last year I swam through life like a fish through water. Now I’m a dry cork on the surface. I tread water and try to get down inside it. Life’s every-day certainties are irrevocably gone.

Everything is just pretend. Since I can still faithfully imitate that loud, plump little girl I was not so long ago, no one has caught on yet. For example, everyone believes I love writing essays, but actually it bores me to death. My “Merry Christmas Party” was made up out of thin air. About thin-air kids doing thin-air things. In spite of this, everyone believes I’m going to be a writer. I’m sentenced to fiction for life.

It doesn’t bother me. I play laboriously at playing. Sometimes I sense adults’ fleeting anxiety that everything’s already happened. I secretly hope for a “jolt,” for some sort of catapult of transformation, as if I were a larva that ravenous inertia drives forth from the cocoon.



Is this my jolt? Presenting mankind’s credentials in a letter? It’s high time the truth be told! For ten days I write as if in a fever.

First I describe rivers of blood. I awaken the conscience of the American government. I speak with Eisenhower as an equal, but then behind all mankind’s back I chew my pen. I cross out whole mountains of pages, I don’t sleep, I fall exhausted beneath the steps of the White House. Hana’s mother says the whole thing is pretty stupid. Hana, of course, repeats this to me.

Finally the letter is ready. It has the horrors of war, as depicted in films. It has many, many exclamation points. It has the sentence: “After all, I myself am still a child!” Hana complains that it’s too long, but doesn’t take a stand. Her copying is exemplary, without a single mistake.



That evening I come up with an excuse to go out, and I run over to Hana’s. My authorial pride goads me on. I want to see that beautifully copied letter. I want to touch it before Eisenhower does. To weigh in my hands the paper confection in which my challenge to the White House will arrive.

Hana hesitantly lets me in. Usually we run right to her room, but today we stand in the hallway, shifting from foot to foot as if on a train. Suddenly I hear an explosion of laughter behind the wall and the voice of Hana’s mother. She’s reading my letter to her guests. “We children are still too weak, our hands cannot carry bombs,” she quotes in a flat, cadaverous voice. That’s how the TV comedian they call the Sad Man speaks. Hana doesn’t laugh, but from her neat, perfidious face it’s clear that she completely agrees with the antics behind the wall.

“My parents say the principal’s crazy,” she says defensively, and she looks straight at me with prim courage.

“You’re the one who’s crazy! Just wait till there’s a war!”

I turn on my heel and trot down the dark hallway. Hana quietly closes the door, from which waves of laughter roll forth. Blind with humiliation, I vanish into the darkness.



For the three days till the end of the school year we don’t speak to each other. On Friday, on the very brink of vacation, she stops me and says she can’t be my friend anymore. Stunned, taken unawares, I say that I never asked her to. She says that there’s no point in it. I say that I agree. Hana heads home with an even stride, trailing straight A’s from her beribboned folders.

I flee into the coatroom and cry a little. It’s my pride that hurts, not my heart. This year I have no heart. The principal sees me in front of the school and stops me with a stern gesture. She stares at me silently for a while, as if trying to remember who I might happen to be. Then she shakes her head with a strange horselike movement, strides off and, as she walks, says adamantly: “The letter’s fine.”



July is desolate. I wander listlessly around the garden with nothing to do. A dull film lies spread over everything; the summer fades under its protective coating like a cabinet under a plastic slipcover in a deserted room. I attempt to think about President Eisenhower, but since the incident with Hana a film has spread over him too. The cool gray days slide by.

On Sunday evening someone rings the bell. The superintendent’s wife, Mrs. Zámský, runs to the gate. Boredom keeps me forever hanging out the window and so I see a burly old man come in. He has a cane and keeps coughing. Behind him walks a strongly built, dark-skinned girl. She furrows the ground with her dark, indifferent eyes, and scowls.

“Hello!” Mrs. Zámský shouts, and she waves at me. “We’ve brought you a friend! She’s from Votice! Show yourself to the young lady, Sasha!”



The next day they put us together. It’s wet, and we’re wearing sweats and jackets. We hang around near the house. Sasha is glum.

“How old are you?” I ask.

“Just turned thirteen.”

Even under the jacket I can see that she has breasts. She doesn’t look at me. She doesn’t look at anything. She just walks wherever she’s headed, with a heavy, uninterested tread.

“Are you starting eighth grade?”


“Why not? If you’re thirteen. . .”

We pass by the bench. Mr. Zámský lets out a guffaw. He slaps Sasha on the backside and for about the fifth time says:

“Thatta girl! And what a piece of girl she is, huh?”

Mr. Zámský gives me the jitters. His big head is continually shaking. His tongue hangs out of his mouth and his eyes swim around as if bobbing in formaldehyde.

“Is that your uncle? Is he nice to you?”

Sasha just shrugs her shoulders. “He’s nuts.”

My feet are killing me. I’d like to go home. I have no idea what to say, but the footpath pulls me onward like a tugboat.

“What do you like to play?”

“You won’t tell my aunt?”

I raise two fingers, wet with my saliva.

“Lovers,” Sasha says. I’m dumbfounded.

“But . . . how?” I ask. It begins to rain again. Sasha looks around.

“Come over behind those trees,” she whispers. We step into the cool, damp shadows. Rainwater drips down our necks. Sasha doesn’t hesitate. She bends over and kisses me on the lips. Her mouth is smeared with baby oil.

“That’s how,” she says matter-of-factly. I guess that’s all there is to it. We run out into the rain and then play rummy with Mrs. Zámský until evening.



And after that we’re together all the time. We don’t budge from the garden; we play uninterruptedly. At what? At being lovers. Sasha doesn’t want to play anything else. How? It’s simple. We walk through the birch trees hand in hand and give each other kisses. Do I like it? Not at all. I have just outgrown the cuddling phase and they won’t get me back so quickly. Besides, there’s something missing for me in this game, but I don’t know what it is.

“And what are we called?”

“What is who called?”

“Ow, why’d you bite me?! I mean the lovers!”

Without names it just won’t work. A name is always more than a body. Sasha licks a blade of grass, and concentrates on tickling my ear. I fidget uncomfortably.

“So are we going out with each other? And will we get married someday? And have children? Yes or no?”

Who knows. Sasha never asks things like that. The world around Sasha stands still. I have a Young Writers silver medal and I know full well that the world is a story, a finger pointing somewhere else: a direction.

“So let’s make something up!”

“Why? I don’t want to.”

“If I make something up, will you play it with me?”

Sasha doesn’t know. It’s all the same to her. She stops tickling me and focuses her attention on squashing ants with her fingernail.



The next day I’m in the garden at eight. Furiously I stomp by the Zámskýs’ ground-floor window. Sasha is sleeping and doesn’t want to get up, but I’m stomping like a real live elephant.

I have a story! I couldn’t fall asleep until two last night. A profusion of versions ran through my head. I’m as prolific as Adam in paradise. I am amazed how easy it is to create new worlds. Before sleep finally overtook me, I decided with solemn finality who Sasha and I really were.

At the window, Mr. Zámský is threatening me with his cane; he’s angry that I’m making noise. Sasha yawns. She spends ages eating breakfast. Finally we’re together behind the birch trees. Mumbling, I tell her her role. I know everything, absolutely everything! I (he) am called Mount Everest. Sasha (she) is Kilimanjaro.



There exist two famous mountain climbers. They bear the names of the mountains they have climbed. They have never in their lives met, but the world considers them fierce rivals. There is but one unconquered mountain left in all the world. It is the highest of them all and it has sent hundreds of climbers to their deaths. In the language of its country — Himalayan, I think — it is called the Mountain of Mountains.

Both decide to climb it. The whole world waits with baited breath to see who will be the first to raise the flag. The reporters are frantic, every transmitter is straining its ears. But a shock hits shortly before they set out.

At the foot of the Mountain, Everest discovers the amazing truth. The whole world thinks this is a battle of man against man. Only Kilimanjaro is not a man.

Sasha: It was only for your sake that I played this silly game. If you’d known I was a girl, you would never have competed with me.

Mount Everest (horrified): Kilimanjaro, I warn you — the Mountain of Mountains is the ends of the earth! At the summit there is nothing but sheer frost.

The ascent begins. Step by step the way grows harder. The sky is like a white abyss and the world is so tense it forgets to breathe. The most frightening part of the mountain draws near, the Wall of Death. No one, not even Sasha or I, foresees the truth.



From that day on, the game takes an unforeseen turn. At the end of the garden is a steep hill. The ground here is perpetually moist, covered with brushwood. So it becomes the Wall of Death. We press through the bushes on our bellies; a mountain hurricane rips us asunder, thorns catch on our sweatpants. The Young Writer has turned a fin-de-sičcle stroll in the park into a military exercise.

Most of all, our love is now different. There’s no more kissing, thank God. Love is no longer a perpetual dance in a circle. It’s a contest, agony. It’s a finger pointing straight up — direction! We crawl across the icy plain, exhausted. There is no thought of embraces, and anyway we are kept apart by layers of walrus skins. At these heights, a kiss without an oxygen mask spells death.



My parents are just thankful I’m playing and not lazing around the apartment with a bored expression on my face. Two or three times they invite Sasha over for a snack, but in the apartment she’s glum again.

That evening my mother says that Sasha’s a dim bulb.

“She’s got breasts big enough to be nursing, but she keeps getting held back.”

It doesn’t make any sense to me. Sasha doesn’t seem at all dim. On the contrary, she’s fabulous. For example, she figured out how to freeze all by herself. I’ve never seen anyone freeze; I have nothing to compare it to, but she stiffens up like an icicle. She says I have to massage her with snow. Everest diligently rubs her with hands calloused by the fasteners of his coat, but Kilimanjaro does not wake up.

“Kiss me!” she hisses suddenly out of her unconsciousness, her eyelids still squeezed shut.

How do I know that the fateful moment has come? Like the snake-prince, I can even see in the dark. I know even what I don’t know at all. With a single tug I rip off my oxygen mask. Everest falls head over heels in love.

The elderberry thicket encloses us. All around, the silence rumbles like a cracked bell, and the distant roar of avalanches gradually falls silent. Face to face with the sheer frost of death, Everest comes to know the terror of love. Practically without touching her, in a panic, he kisses the frozen girl. Sasha immediately opens her eyes, and — although she knows I don’t like it — the cunning girl licks me all over.



One evening, there’s a commotion downstairs. Sasha and I secretly peer through the window. Mrs. Zámský is chasing her brother around the kitchen; she swipes at him with a broom whenever she’s close enough, while he cowers in horror against the wall and, with a shaking hand, parries with his cane.

“Shame on you, you pig!” she screams, and she swings the broom round her head. “I’ll throw you right out! Go back to Votice, you pig! Bet they don’t want you either, you swine!”

She throws a brush at him. Mr. Zámský bursts out of the door and makes his getaway. Sasha’s eyes are shining.

“I know why my aunt’s upset!” she whispers. She bites her fingers until red marks are left on them, brushes against me, and giggles with excitement.



By the end of the week, Sasha starts to revolt against me. We’re all scratched up, we’ve broken our nails, and under our sweats our knees are thoroughly bruised. We’ve already climbed a slippery path along the Wall of Death, where the brushwood straggles to the ground. Sasha grumbles that she’s lost interest.

I understand her. After all, we’re always playing the same thing. What’s more attractive in love than the starting line? I am perpetually rewinding the hands of our story back to zero. Sasha freezes, Everest stands over her. The circulation of his blood pauses, like an elevator. This helping of emotion is quite enough for me, but Sasha is muttering. She wants to know when we’re going to get to the top.

The worst thing is that I don’t know myself. The Young Writer is stuck in a creative crisis. I dragged us out to the ends of the earth, and for a week I’ve been holding us there like a customs official. Just short of the goal, my imagination has run dry. What awaits love at the summit of the Mountain of Mountains?

I compress my feelings like a cylinder of gas. I cross out the kisses; we’re fighting for every gasp of air. The mountain belches frost, I camp just shy of the summit and lack the courage for that last step.

“I’m not playing!” Sasha pouts. Spitefully, she sticks a thorn through my sweats. I beg her: just one more time. We both roll down to the fence and with a sense of relief I slip back under the starting line of love and once again I’m crawling along on my belly like a newt.



On Sunday, Sasha gets the flu. I can’t go see her and I’m desperate. I thrash around the apartment like a Christmas carp in a trough, I talk back and cut people off and am so nasty that my mother ironically asks me:

“Do you love her so much you can’t be apart for even a day?”

The question takes me by surprise. I don’t love Sasha at all! It would never occur to me to love Sasha! Everest loves Kilimanjaro with the insanity of sheer frost, but it has nothing to do with Sasha and me. We are mere game pieces — a finger pointing somewhere else. We are only representatives, even if I don’t know what of.



A dull excitement dogs me all day. I read a little, but made-up stories irritate me. I stuff myself with cookies. Finally, right before dinner, I get an idea for the next act of our game.

The exhausted Kilimanjaro is sleeping in the cliff grotto. Everest sets out for the summit. He stands right beneath it. One more step and he could leave his fingerprint upon the very apex of the world. The lofty vacuum turns his blood to foam. He is alone like no one anywhere ever. He sits down on a rocky protrusion and takes out a piece of stationery. Beloved Kilimanjaro!

The love letter is an utterly alien genre for me. Laboriously, I look for sentences to borrow, and cobble them together into something exceedingly odd. I don’t believe what gets into my pen. What I understand perfectly as an inarticulate feeling is, when put into words, even thinner air than my Christmas Party.

Kilimanjaro! It’s high time the truth be told. Until today I did not know what love was! . . . They call me to dinner, three times. Woodenly I stack line on line. I love you. Meanwhile, the spinach on my plate is getting cold. Till I die I will love only you. The fourth time around, they hound me to supper.



Then, to stay within the boundaries of the story, I figure out how we can correspond properly this far above sea level. With the help of some thin rope, of course! I run downstairs. Mrs. Zámský is in the kitchen with curlers in her hair. I’m hopping with impatience, I’ve explained it to her so many times! I’m even shouting a little. Mrs. Zámský wants to know why I don’t just hand her the letter. With a speed borne of exasperation, I spill the whole thing again. Mrs. Zámský asks: And what kind of game is it? Finally she waves her hands at me and goes to wake Sasha up.

I stand on the balcony, tying the rope. Carefully I lower the letter. WRITE BACK IMMEDIATELY! Everest adds. I mope around upstairs, practicing my blandishments on the twilight. Hurrah! Sasha’s hand sticks out from the rocky grotto. She attaches a note:

“My temperature’s almost normal. My aunt’s going to the movies tomorrow so if you want, come over.”



As if to spite me, the heat today is like a frying pan. The sun pours through the closed windows. The basement apartment is oppressive and stifling. Mr. Zámský is sleeping in a chair in the garden, and Sasha is sitting on her bed in a rumpled nightgown.

“Do you still feel sick?”


“Still have a temperature?”


Suddenly I don’t know what to say. I stand up and look around. Most of all I’d like to crawl right into the game, like a hand into a glove.

“So are we going to play? Like always?”

“Hey, could you bring me something to drink?”

“I’ll bring it to you when we pretend.”

“What do you mean, pretend? I’m dying of thirst!”

“So pretend like he’s coming back to free her from the snow.”

Everest brings her warm lemonade in a plastic glass; even Mrs. Zámský has had a plastic seizure, but she doesn’t have a refrigerator. He finds Kilimanjaro asleep. No, she’s frozen. Everest stands for a while, completely taken aback. Then he puts the glass aside and begins to massage the forearms of this victim of the Mountain.

“Kilimanjaro! Don’t die!” he whispers — today he’s not at all convincing.

The victim opens one eye slightly: “Got the drink?”

She gulps it down at once and wipes the spills off her nightgown.

“You know what you have to do!” she says, and freezes. Mount Everest is taking his time. It’s not easy to introduce sheer frost into a hundred-degree zone. Sasha breathes aloud. The hairs on her neck glisten gold with sweat. Everest still cannot get into the game. Finally he leans over, perplexed. A dying arm grabs him around the throat. He didn’t expect this; his legs slide out from under him and he topples right into the featherbed.



When it gets dark outside, Everest’s first fear is that they will find him in the Zámskýs’ bed in his sneakers. He jumps up and comes to attention like an army major. Mr. Zámský is squatting outside, tapping on the glass and snickering.

“Go jump in a lake, old man!” Sasha says irritably.

“What’s he want with us?”

Sasha puts on an idiotic expression:

“Go for it, girls, that’s right, do it!”

Then she tumbles back into the featherbed and snores. Mr. Zámský shuffles inside. He slaps me on my rear and sits down on the bed.

“Well, girls! Want to look at some pictures? Not a word to Mrs. Z.! She doesn’t need to know everything, right girls?”

Sasha is snoring like a steam engine. And she’s poking me in the back with her foot. The fever has unleashed her somehow. Mr. Zámský pulls out a tattered book.

“Come on, girls, let’s have some fun together! After all, I saw you — you know how to have fun!”

Sasha leans forward and props her chin on his shoulder. Cardboard figures stand out on the page, a ballerina and a man holding a hat right below his belly. Strings hang down beneath them. Mr. Zámský winks at us. He pulls one of the strings and the ballerina raises her leg up high. It turns out she isn’t wearing any panties.

“Whoa!” Sasha yelps, and she rips the book away from her uncle. She pulls the other string. The man jerks his arms backward.

“Give it back! Sasha!” Mr. Zámský shouts. Sasha jumps around the bed, the bed springs like a trampoline. In a panic, her uncle grabs the footboard.

“Get on over here!” Sasha calls to me. I waver, but she holds out her hand. I don’t recognize her at all today. Hastily I kick off my shoes and climb over to her.

“Sasha! You little devil!” Mr. Zámský moans. He’s afraid to stand up and can barely hold onto the crossrail. I’m jumping as well. It’s easier than keeping my balance. Suddenly a strange hotness enters me. Sasha jerks on the string, the man thrusts his naked belly against the ballerina, and we both yelp, “Wow!”

“You! Little girl! Make her give back the book!”

I’m choking in the stifling heat. I don’t recognize either Sasha or myself. I jump and shriek with all my might, “Wow!”

Suddenly Sasha yelps, “Auntie’s coming!” and quick as a flash throws the book behind the bed. Mr. Zámský is horribly frightened. As he shoots out of the room, he drops his cane, but leaves it lying on the ground and flees. I’m also horribly frightened; I’ve turned white as a sheet. Sasha laughs wildly and burrows into the featherbed up to her nose.

“No one’s coming, don’t worry. I just said that so he’d leave. Come crawl under the featherbed so he can’t see us!”

She pulls out the book and blows off the dust. She nods at me and pats the place next to her.

“I’m still going to tell my aunt on him tonight!”

She sits up, takes off her nightgown, and spreads her legs apart. Carefully she examines the picture and then between her own thighs. Everest stands on the bed; he can’t move, must be frozen.

“Come on already!” Sasha shrieks at me. The featherbed falls on us like an avalanche.



As I run up the steps, lightning flashes. It creates the impression that evening has arrived early today.

My parents aren’t home, but there’s a letter on the table. At first I overlook it. Only when I get out of the bathtub do I see that it’s from Hana. I spend a long time rubbing my face with a handtowel. My hot skin itches as if an electric current were buzzing through the air.

The letter takes me by surprise; I had completely forgotten about Hana. I take out the folded pages and can barely focus on what I’m reading.

Two, three pages, an ordinary vacation letter. Swimming, the country house at Strakonice, colds, trips, mushroom picking. Do you already have your assignment done for September? Not me. Then I turn the page over.

“And I also wanted to write you and say how much it bothers me that we ended what was a beautiful friendship. Maybe you already have another friend, but I still love you and will love you till I die.”

All of it in tiny, perfectly formed handwriting, good enough for the American government. Just outside the window, lightning flashes. Suddenly fear pins me to the wall. Scarcely an instant later, the thunder hits.



Sometimes it seems that everything’s just a fiction. A substitute for something that doesn’t exist. In spite of this, each life has its moments that stand for nothing but themselves. This is one of them.

Outside it’s pouring. In bed, flashlight in hand, I’m writing a letter propped on my knees. I love Hana so awfully much that there is no room for wonder. I didn’t know it this morning, but now the whole past serves only as the foundation for my love. In the feeble glow of the flashlight lines pour forth from me onto page after page.

I love you. Till I die I will love only you. The mountain hurricane carries me through the skies. A full five pages spill forth, foaming, over the margins of the paper.

When I finish writing, it is midnight. The house is asleep. I run along the balcony in the pouring rain and try to guess where Strakonice might be. Then I stand there in sheer triumph and transmit myself south-southwest. This is no fiction. This is no gesture. It is love itself. For it is high time the truth be told: what wouldn’t I give to experience such love again!



In the morning, Sasha is allowed out into the garden again. For the first time she hangs around alone. I stay home reading. Sometimes I peer out under the curtains at her as she wanders along the paths. Only when I should be chopping carrots do I run out to see her.

“Hi. Were you sleeping?”

“No, why?”

“‘Cause you’re later than usual.”


We sit, swinging our legs, on the edge of a basin full of wet branches. Sasha brushes lightly against my ankle.

“Are we going to play?”

“Play what?”

“The usual.”

I don’t respond. The sun makes a burning cap on my head. I twist my ankle around my other leg.

“I can’t today.”

“Why not?”

“I have a vacation assignment to do.”

“An assignment? Over the summer?”

“Only the best students have to do them. Like me and my friend Hana.”

Sasha loudly kicks at the basin wall. A yellow powder drifts down from a crack.

“We both write pretty well. We wrote to President Eisenhower together.”

“So then will you come down?”

“And we also wrote to the American government. To make sure there isn’t a war. My friend has the prettiest hand-writing in the whole class. And I have the best essays.”

Sasha falls silent. Mr. Zámský comes trudging down the path. As soon as he spots us, he heads off somewhere else. At that moment a black spark of hatred flashes through me.

“Why do you keep kicking our wall?” I say. “You’re going to wreck it!”

Sasha jumps down off the rim. Out of spite, I carefully pick up bits of gravel out of the grass, but she doesn’t turn around. I have to go home for lunch anyway.



Sasha left Prague two days after this. We said good-bye casually. Mr. Zámsky left with her. I never sent the letter to Hana. I carried it around with me for a few days and then left it in the pocket of my windbreaker.

As for the Mountain of Mountains, Mount Everest got the furthest, but even he never made it to the summit. His transmitter went dead. He must have wiped away the snow and then covered the frozen girl with his own body. Somewhere there the track was lost. No one ever conquered the Mountain of Mountains.



In September, Hana and I sit next to each other, but it’s awkward and futile. The wheel of friendship doesn’t spin up again. Fifth grade languidly and painlessly draws us apart.

One day, I’m rushing somewhere through the hallway at school. There’s a bulletin board there for the class council. Suddenly something stops me in my tracks. “Dear President Eisenhower!” a tiny, familiar hand has written.

For a while I can’t believe my eyes. Our letter has been in America for ages! After all, it was for President Eisenhower! Until finally the shock hits me and in a flash I understand it all.

That letter was never intended to be sent. There was no hope it would reach its addressee; it was just pretend. It too was a gesture that missed its mark — a finger that might point somewhere, but somewhere it will never touch.


©1997 Catbird Press, from DAYLIGHT IN NIGHTCLUB INFERNO: Czech Fiction from the Post-Kundera Generation, selected by Elena Lappin. This story will also be included in the upcoming collection of stories by Daniela Fischerová, translated by Neil Bermel, FINGERS POINTING SOMEWHERE ELSE.For more information about or to order either of these books, please visit www.catbirdpress.com, e-mail to catbird@pipeline.com, or call 800-360-2391.

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