They arrived at the mountain lodge at dusk. The spontaneous glee had already taken shape without their participation but they hope to make up for their dropping behind. Not only did D.J. Alex host a two-hour program called “Crazy Rhythms” in Atlanta Radio but he also earned some extra income as a D.J. in Borledo club so his blood was absolutely raving up. For days on end Vladi’s accountant’s petty soul was squeezed by figures which quietly swelled out of the various accounts and books and now he was seeking to take refuge in noise and intensive experiences. That’s why with no hidden enthusiasm he welcomed Alex’s idea to leave the town at the end of the week. The wives showed resistance but only for a while. Moreover, the wives’ enthusiasm grew to the point that they invited two more friends and because of this the rucksacks on the men’s shoulders grew rather heavy with food. And with drinks as well.
The first fifty grams the two of them gulped down at the bus station in the small town before they changed to the little plain bus specially designated to crawl up the hills, which was to take them to the mountain. The second fifty grams they dedicated to the village not because of its pub – excessively traditional and plain as it was – but because of the real beginning of the hike. For the third they opened a bottle from the rucksack. Having climbed up the steepest part of the road, they left half of the way behind their backs. At first the women stigmatized them as alcoholics but as it was getting dark, they decided to have a gulp so as to keep their courage up. The shorter of the two friends was the only one to refuse to do so.
‘A person who does not drink cannot be expected to do anything good.’ – D.J. Alex tried to make a joke without realizing how right he would turn out to be later on.
‘Everyone has principles of their own’ – answered the shorter of the two friends and it seemed as if these were the only words which she had blurted out since the beginning of the excursion . As if she was begging to be called Ms Principle.
‘Mine are somewhat different’ – said Vladi and took a sip of another cap before screwing it on and putting the bottle back into his rucksack. Neither he nor Alex had the habits of alcoholics but here some aberration had taken hold of them. They had met each other at the stadium as they had been trying to outdo each other in the number of laps. Their friendship dated back to that moment.
“Stop playing a macho!” His wife snapped at him.
“I am not playing at all. Now you take the rucksack.”
“Thanks. I shall not take it. Everyone has principles of their own.”
No one considered the bursting laughter as a personal insult. They kept on going ahead. The darkness caused by the twigs of the high fir-trees had slipped down over the path.
Ten minutes before they reached the mountain lodge, there was a real danger for them to get lost because they could not see anything in front of themselves. All of a sudden it grew cold as well. They took out warm clothes and torches and the men began fretting about their slow wits and reactions. The alcohol gulps at that particular moment were a mandatory medicine for warming up and no one needed to be persuaded. Even Ms Principle took a sip. The rest of the road they walked slowly, holding each other’s hand and sticking to the luminous paths created by the torches. To enter the mountain lodge came to them as a relief.
The revelry had just started and they were welcomed in the canteen with unforged joy. Every newcomer would have been welcomed with no less cordiality. They verbally exchanged their business cards’ information – after all, it had to be made known who came from where. The four women had not managed to finish unpacking all the dishes from the rucksacks when bottles for tasting already started to fly towards the table. The stout man, who was the closest one sitting next to them together with a group of ten people or so, was from the town of Sliven; the teenagers at the far end of the room – from the town of Russe; the teachers who naively thought that they had successfully put the children to sleep in the encampment in front of the mountain lodge– from the town of Haskovo; the cheerful grannies – from the town of Kardjali… Nothing but unnecessary details. All of them loved the mountain, the high spirits and the improvisations. This was what really mattered.
A powerful Sony stereo system wired for sound the canteen with cassettes on professional level as D.J. Alex marked rather to himself.
On the improvised dance floor everyone moved their body the way they could and the way they wanted. Vladi first invited his wife and then he started to take turns with everyone else from the party. With the taller of the two friends Alex danced a rock dance with which they amazed all those who were present. A real explosion. He turned her around ruthlessly, throwing her over at times to the left, at others to the right. While he was pulling her towards himself with measured rudeness and was abruptly pushing her away again and again, there was formed around them a circle of people who were clapping by following the rhythm.
His next dance again won loud applause. He had tied to his head a huge scarf and together with Vladi he created a tango with unforgettable twists in the waist like a fatal woman. They were laughed at wholeheartedly. Vladi became hot and started to take off all that he had on himself.
‘He is burning with desire to show off his physique’ - his wife explained cold-bloodedly to her friends and added lovingly: ‘do not overact so as not get cold.’
‘Who? Am I the one to get cold? Bullshit! I can go out for a walk in the mountain just like that.’ He had already taken off his vest so as to remain naked to the waist.
‘He looks good’ – the taller of the friends exclaimed and the other two agreed. His wife thought quite the other way.
‘You know what if you can stay outside like this for ten minutes, I will give a thousand levs! Are you in?’
‘Why not? You don’t believe me? When did you ever show belief in/believe me? I will stay not mere ten minutes but a whole half an hour and it will not cost you anything. I will do it for free.’
Vladi stood up heroically from the chair – in his determination there could be perceived something of a mariner’s spirit. D.J. Alex felt this/ caught this up with some delay because he had been staring at the two miniature reproductions of Marilyn Monroe who were swaying and bending at the far end of the dancing floor.
‘Is it worth doing it? I am sure you can do it! Leave it, stay here!’
‘Yes, it is, how come it is not worth?’
His friend got close to his ear:
‘If you stay, I will introduce you to two great chicks.’
Vladi hit back – he put a handful in front of his mouth and bent towards him:
‘This is not a reason to prevent me from going out. You can still introduce me.’ And then he said in everyone’s hearing: ‘I am going now.’
The three women, without his wife, tried to hold him. ‘It’s silly!’ – Alex’s wife said. The taller of the friends mockingly tie him up towards herself but he got her out of his way.
‘This is not a matter of standing one’s grounds?’ – The silent woman explained at last.
‘No, it is not’ – D.J. Alex answered instead of him. ‘Wait!’ Firstly, he slipped out of his pullover/sweater, then he unbuttoned his shirt and took off his T-shirt until he also remained naked to the waist. ‘I am coming with you.’
Vladi put his hand around his friend’s shoulder, kissed him on the pate and in this way they went out through the door. The sky was glazed with cold, the stars having grown big were winking and the tops of the fir-trees lowered as if they were looking for shelter. Hardly had they made fifty steps or so and they they were all gooseflesh/had already bristled up. It seemed as if Vladi did not notice this. He spread out his arms, took a deep breath, breathed out noisily and again took a deep breath.
‘It’s cool. What a crystal air, what a sky…’
‘Do pretend to be Ikarus’ – said D.J. Alex because he felt his skin wrinkled with cold.
‘It is not that, I feel good, do you get it? I feel like living’ – the accountant admitted silently as if he doubted the just said after that he shouted: “I feel like living. Do shout, too. You would feel much better.”
‘I sure would’ – the friend seemingly agreed in order to hide the shaking of his hands.
“When my wife enters the room, it seems to me as if she charges the atmosphere with negative electricity and I immediately get a headache. It may as well be only in my imagination but this is the effect she has on me. I have to save myself because this is fatal. In fact, I have always agreed with her. Not anymore! Now I am the man who rebels. People say that a rebellion breaks up a human being and helps him to pour himself out. I am pouring myself out. I feel good that you are here, that the sky is beautiful, that I feel like living and that I can shout: ‘I feel like living without giving a damn who will say what, who does not like the fact that I am naked during a mountain night…’
If he did not feel his head as if bitten by a freezer and wasn’t trembling all over, D.J. Alex could have admitted that this ‘I feel like living’ charges him with determination as well. He could have remembered that if each value did not bring along a rebellion, then certainly each impulse towards a rebellion is silently based on some value. Besides this, men were born on Mars and women – on Venus or vice-versa and in each marriage sooner or later there would pop up a rebel who could bury the good things experienced or create something new. He could have explained to his friend other “smart” things as well but his teeth were frankly chattering, his shoulders were shaking as if he were sick with malaria. He only managed to whisper:
‘I feel like living, too. Let’s go back inside.’
To his surprise, Vladi obeyed without murmuring. Even more surprising was the fact that something intangible in one of them had passed onto the other but D.J. Alex needed the whole night to realize it. The four women welcomed them in almost affectionately. One after another they tried to outdo each other in handing them the clothes. They poured them drinks as well. So that they can warm themselves.
The dances continued. The six of them were immersed in the dissolute indulgence of body movements.
“So, how was outside, you do not tell us anything?” – D.J. Alex’s wife asked in a roundabout way with a mysterious smile.
‘It was terrific. Don’t you believe that? We shall go out again in a while’ – answered Vladi imperturbably as he was spreading out his arms zealously high above his head.
‘It is true, it was terrific but I must admit that I prefer inviting those two blonde girls to our company to repeating the experience’ – D.J. Alex said and turn twice round the imaginary pivot.
‘Stop it, as if four beautiful women are not enough’ – Vladi’s wife snapped at him.
‘Besides, it is far too obvious that they look cheap’– the taller friends added.
‘Surely, this foolish thing is the last straw. Don’t you dare!’ – His wife warned him, and he had already headed with a dance step towards the other end of the dance floor where there swam in the music two miniature reproductions of Marilyn Monroe.
It turned out that they had expected him. They had known him as well. From Borledo club, of course. He might have well forgotten but at several times had paid compliments to them for them for their dancing. Now they were not lonely because they were spiritually rich. They said this through laughter. They were about to catch up with their friends who had set out before them. Well, why didn’t they join D.J. Alex’s company. Laughter. They might as well join it. They did not study. This year they failed the exams. They worked. Where? Laughter. There could be felt something jumpy under their blouses. At the post office, for example. What exactly at the post office? Again laughter. They were not to tell because it was not interesting at all. Where did they stay at? On the second floor, room 220. They were alone. ‘I can seize the opportunity’ – D.J. Alex admitted aloud. The two girls answered with laughter and their bodies twisted lustfully and provocatively quite in tune with the music.
He was not sure what urged him to make this plan: whether it was Vladi’s call ‘I feel like living’ or the awakened rebel, or the threat ‘don’t you dare’ or the laughter of the couple Marilyn Monroe. He was not eve sure whether there was a plan and the events which followed from this were difficult to give in to exact restoration.
‘They do not want to come’ – said D.J. Alex when he went back to his company. ‘They said you were too beautiful and that you would overshadow them.’
There were more dances and more drinks. Those who knew the lodge-keeper begged him to sing something and he picked up a song about a sleeping lad in “a lass’s arm” and “her heart didn’t let her wake him up”… One by one there joined other voices as well. There came a time for singing…
The first ones to sneak away were the teachers, after them there left the group from the town of Sliven and the double reproduction of Merlin Monroe. Before long they were also followed by the four friends accommodated in a separate room. D.J. Alex and Vladi were set in the common tourist bedroom but they did not rush to make use of the collective opportunity for relaxation.
The two of them began to play backgammon for money. In the first two triads Vladi lost at five thousand levs each and put at stake his Omega watch. At one point the lodge-keeper got tired of singing and as he was propping up on his elbows over the table, he fell asleep. Almost everybody had left the canteen before Vladi wasted his watch as well. After a lot of insistence D.J. Alex informed his friend that the two blonde creatures are in room 320 on the third floor and that he would go after him. If he had had any plan at all, then in the beginning, this would have been a lie…
With the two rucksacks Alex dragged himself to the room of the four beauties. He lit the lamp, stood in the middle among the beds and stated that he was very cold after that he staggered now to the left, now to the right. First he uncovered his wife’s blanket and tried to huddle next to her because he was sure of her reaction. She kicked him out contemptuously: ‘You, drunk cad!’ Vladi’s wife kicked him out as well although he reminded her that they, the beauties, did not allow him to invite other women. The tall friend pushed him away gently rather out of solidarity. But he uncovered only the edge of Ms Principle ‘s blanket because her rigid look hypnotized him. He backed off with slow steps and demonstratively flung the window open so as to jump off it out of despair. It seemed that he was convincing because they swallowed the bait and started to pull him inwards.
‘Go to bed like a normal person’ – said Ms Principle – ‘do not pretend to be what you are not’
‘Ok’- D.J. Alex agreed after he had grabbed the two rucksacks. ‘I will go somewhere where I am sure to be warmed up.’
He was sincere but it seemed that nobody believed him. It was only the taller friend that snickered. At that time Vladi had already been sleeping somewhere on the third floor, the lodge-keeper continued to propped up on the table in the canteen and the students in the encampment did not suspect that for the first time their morning breakfast would be late because the kitchen stove would not be heated on time.
‘I came for a while to get warmed. You won’t chase me away, will you?’ – asked D.J. Alex as he tripped over while bringing in the two rucksacks in the girls’ room.
‘Hush’ – one of them whispered and he, without waiting for a second invitation, crawled under the blankets between the two so as to feel soon on himself hands which were warming.
When the morning light filled the window he opened his eyelids timidly to see two smiling faces with loose blonde hair.
‘What are you doing next to me?’ – he asked as innocently as it was possible.
‘You tell us’ – the plumper one answered.
‘Someone, I guess, was to warm me up.’
‘Don’t say you don’t remember anything because this is well-worn.’
‘I remember nothing. Is there anything for remembering? You promised that in the morning you would tell me what you worked at the post office. Is it so confidential?’
‘It is very confidential’ – answered the slimmer one and the two of them started to be shaking with laughter.’
‘If I beg you a lot? Quite a lot?’
‘It is just as if we are telephone operators’ – the plumper one blabbed out and pressed her mouth with her palm.
‘What does “as if” mean?’
We do not work at the post office. We work on a phone line and lead special conversations.’
It became clear to him in a flash after they gave him a one-to-one explanation and he got angry at his own slow wits.
‘In my view this is not so confidential. A normal job. Ok, what do they usually ask? Hello, hello…’
‘Stop that bullshit’ – said the plumper Marilyn Monroe.
‘Ok, I am curious…just show me a little bit…’
At last the slimmer one agreed. “Hey, what would you like honey? I am Danny and I am very sexy, my eyes are blue, my hair is black, I open my gown, my underwear is made of silk...’
There followed descriptions of how she took off one of her shoulder-straps, then the other…how a strong male hand approached her and how her nipples became hard. She started to groan lustfully after her there joined the other girl as well and Alex, too. It all became quite real. This was how Ms Principle found them. She had knocked on the door but there was no one to hear her. She had been looking for the rucksacks. Her eye spans widened from the spectacular sight and she hurried to go out. In a while his wife opened the door. He had not put down his hands off the girls’ shoulder.
‘What are you looking for in this room? – D.J. Alex asked peevishly so as to make her feel guilty and rejected.
‘I am looking for my toilet articles. I have to wash my teeth!’
‘At least one morning you shall not wash your damn teeth. Shut the door at once!
His wife got really embarrassed and just slammed the door behind her. Outside her friends started to comfort her sympathetically but she emphatically declared that she had no intention of getting a divorce yet.
D.J. Alex was not aware of this celebrated remark; he pulled on his trousers guiltily, said goodbye to the two girls with no superfluous sentimentalities and took the rucksacks along outside the room. Only now did he realize that a headache was torturing him. He had no one to share his feelings with. No one from the group wanted to speak with him. Only Vladi at one point got close to him to have back the Omega watch which had been put at stake in the game of backgammon.
Yet, his wife washed her teeth, moreover, she did this at the very time when at her either side the two Marilyn Monroes washed themselves at the neighboring wash-basins. They refreshed themselves decently with no unnecessary talking, no hair plucking – D.J. Alex tried to comfort himself. After breakfast – he was not offered food by anyone – the company immediately set out for the town.
He had a splitting headache and nobody cared whether he was a rebel, whether he felt like living or what his pain was. He dragged along the rucksack shamefully, tripped over the stones along the path without any reason and racked his brains to think of at least one out of the read 101 ways of scoring points in the relationships with women. He managed to think of one: when you go back home, find your wife and hug her before doing anything else. Because women are from Mars and Men are from Venus – or vice-versa.
No matter how much he tried to get close to her on their climbing down and to tell her in summary about the hundred ways, she avoided him.
Only when they went back home, wash themselves and change their clothes, did he ask her timidly:
‘Would you like us to have dinner in a restaurant?’
‘Yes,’ she answered and he couldn’t believe his ears.