Page 15 - Vladimir Bartol catalogue, 2019
P. 15

15Al Araf(Short stories. Chapter 2) e Birth of a GentlemanI had rented a room in some Parisian hotel that was o  the beaten path. I had just changed clothes to go visit an elderly lady, when Walter and Berthold came storming in to take me to see some new acquaintance of theirs. And because I enjoy doing things that it would otherwise never have occurred to me to do, I followed them into the metro, which drew us underground and toward the opposite side of the city.When we reemerged in the daylight, we veered o  into some side street, where weentered a hotel that was very much like the one I was staying in. On the sixth  oor Walter knocked on a door with number such and such on it, and when no one answered, he pulled out a key and opened it himself.  en all three of us stepped into a small, humbly appointed room.My two friends  ung themselves down on the bed as though they’d come home. It squealed beneath them, as if injured by their sudden weight. I sat down on a chair that started rocking beneath me suspiciously, and I felt like a customer at an inn who has nothing to pay for all the food and drink he’s just made disappear.It wasn’t until then that I learned the name of the room’s occupant: Sergei Mihailovich, Mag. iur., currently an employee at some factory, who earned his living from that and giving English lessons. Today, however, they had come to collect money for a pair of shoes that Walter, on whom they’d been too tight, had sold to him.  ey had brought me along as the resident “psychologist,” to have a look at this curious creature.Just as we were beginning to enjoy our conversation, the door  ew open and someone came  ying into the room with a deafening laugh, as though some enormous spring had sent him  ying at us straight out of hell. Walter tried to introduce me, but the stranger waved dismissively, as if to say that was the last thing he cared about.“Wissen Sie, meine Herren,” he began in German, trilling his r’s and hushing his sibilants in a typical Russian accent. “Gentlemen, I’ll have you know that last night I met two ladies whom I’m scheduled to meet again this evening at eight. I assure you, both of them are top-quality goods. So I’m in a hurry and you’ll excuse me if I change while we talk....”He kept chortling as he spoke, and it was then I noticed him furtively yet persistently scrutinizing me. I listened in amazement and my friends winked at me, as if to say didn’t we tell you he was a character. I couldn’t fathom how someone who so resembled a tramp could talk about his exploits with beautiful women. Even his face, with its diabolically

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