Kosta stammered at “k” when at the beginning of the word, and during that September, his harmless disability again became a source of disturbing, for he was deprived of all the proud romance of the statement that he was a communist. The sudden change, the moment when the people took power, suddenly thwarted his persistent attempts to avoid all words that begin with the damn letter. Otherwise, he had learned to use synonyms. To be able to pick them up, he spoke slowly and carefully, and if he did not make a mistake in choosing his words, he sounded like a wise old man. He was gradually improving. But we all remember the first time he did it. How long had he been thinking about it? It was a long time ago, back in high school, on a break between classes. We had already gathered and we were just waiting for you to come out in the yard, you were always the last to come out, you flatterers, you collected your notebooks as long as possible and asked the teacher about Goethe and Mendeleev; and we were already flying down the stairs and, if it was the beginning of the month, we pushed each other with the elbows in front of the lemonade kiosk, Someone shouted: here they are! And immediately you were attacked by a mob of bullies, predators, a flock of violent crows, we surrounded you, we ran in a circle, we plucked like monkeys and we shouted: Kosta, say cock, come on, K-K-Kosta, say c-c-cock. In the past, during such attacks, the stutter would turn red and refuse to say the words, which often cost him slaps and kicks, and you got your share too standing next to him, but then, while we were shouting K-K-Kosta, say cock, he solemnly raised it his hand waited for the noise to subside, and calmly he said: dick. We froze, so shaken because failed to torture, that we did not even try with a beating, even more, because the shadow of the janitor appeared from the entrance. We never repeated the same joke, nor did we invent another one.
However, there was no sufficiently precise and dignified synonym for the word c-c-communist.
Emil Strezov should have been grateful that the neighborhood gangs were harassing Kosta so much because otherwise the two of them would hardly have teamed up like that, no matter that they were similar: black-haired, dark-skinned, supposedly of medium height, but as they walked bowed, they looked small and bent. Whispering around the corners, the neighborhood quickly cached the details of that sudden arrival. In short, Emil Strezov came from a dingy town down the Iskar gorge with a frightened gaze and a single set of rough clothes, badly sewn for his already weak figure, so that his high school uniform came to him like heavenly manna. In the last war, Uncle Peter had fought side by side with Emil’s recently deceased father, and he had only one child, so he agreed to take the boy under his roof, to help him get back on his feet in the big city. In every other house Emil Strezov would probably spend the night in a shop, and in his few vacant hours he would sit alone and sullen, and there would not even be a drawer in which to hide the poems written late at night. (Verses! From the beginning we were sure you were writing verses; and what fun it would be if we got to them then!) But because Kosta stuttered, he had no friends and was terribly anxious even when he was at home; at home among his own family, where Emil Strezov’s poetry unexpectedly received a loyal audience. He listened intently and praised his poetry with awkwardly disguised enthusiasm, and the author, a lodger-friend, almost a brother, stared out the window. And in the first moments, the gaze, bathed in easy rhymes, dashed into the courtyard and at the family shoemaker’s workshop, and further the buildings of the high school, the cinema, and the chocolate factory with its burgundy facade could be seen. They could be seen well because all the surrounding houses were low: houses of common workers and war refugees, built overnight on vacant plots. Among them, the shoemaker’s two-story home stood out as an anchor of security and tranquility. Kosta’s father, Uncle Petar, was a native, born in this house that his father, who was also a shoemaker, had built, in the forgotten years when the neighborhood was still making its way through the melons fields and swamps. And by the size of the neighborhood he was not poor, and for some of us he was really rich – they said that in his house was milk on the table every morning, and on market days his wife came home with a big piece of meat. The cobbler made good money. Because, no matter how poor Yuchbunar was, we still needed shoes, and the shoes were torn and repaired, torn and repaired until one night they fell apart completely, and even then the healthy pieces of leather came into use to make a new pair.
Uncle Petar also kept models of bar shoes in his workshop and, for sure, several times a season he received an order to make a pair of them. Ah, how we enjoyed it when we had some money in the pockets! We were buying Uncle Peter’s bar shoes, new caps, bow ties, and galluses and then walked around Pirotska, gathered in the gang and went to the cinema, passed like models in front of the girls’ high school – first on the left, then on the right sidewalk – and we were buying cakes for the girls in the pastry shop; and then some of Uncle Petar’s shoes, which had already fulfilled their task, found themselves on the other side of the bridge in Konyovitsa, resold to the local dudes.
And then it all exploded. Uncle Petar’s shoes began to clang on the pavement of Pirotska Street like cavalry boots. The news spread throughout the neighborhood that the people had taken power. Poor people. And yet, when we say that the news has spread, this departure and circumnavigation would still have had some form, body, method. Later it became very fashionable to collect memories. Do you, comrade, remember on the morning of the ninth of September where you learned the good news? Well, on the morning of September 9, I was at home, the children came in and shouted: the people have taken power. Also, it was said on the radio. It was Saturday, so I was home. It was Saturday, true, so we slept late. However, is it possible Emil Strezov have overslept, dreamed sweet dreams until the sun burnt his face and waked him up, and in the meantime time such important, decisive events were taking place in the city? He who gets up early, to oversleep on the most important day! Was that so? Emil Strezov, it is too early to guess what you will ever write in your memoirs when you will walk hunched over and with fine dandruff on the shoulders of the padded jacket, but I do not promise to read them. We don’t promise anything about the bound volume with hardcovers, because from now on we suspect that you will lie, and you, for all your merits, have this weakness that you can’t lie well, so why read it?