Go to homepage

Previous story

Next story

Issue number one




Go to writer's guidelines

Mysteries by Marian Palla


I got the idea about a week ago, thanks to my girlfriend. She was telling me about something that had happened a year or so before: basically, she had just poured some coffee into her cup, put two cubes of sugar in and was stirring the coffee with her spoon when she happened to look out the window. Just at that moment, the spoon again scraped against the rim of the cup.

"Yeah, and so what?" I asked, feeling rather skeptical.

"Except that, I was no longer holding the spoon!"

She seemed rather disconcerted, and I did my best to comfort her. It was while I was doing this that it occurred to me that I might well be able to make a business of solving such problems, and so I decided to start a detective agency.

No sooner had I put my shingle out than the telephone rang. "I can't sleep. There's this rattling sound coming from the basement," a woman's voice confided. I was able to get to her place straightaway, and once there I told her to go about her usual routine as if I wasn't there. So she began to preserve cherries. At first nothing happened, but after a while she gestured to me and, listening carefully, I was able to hear a suspicious sound coming from the cellar. I indicated to her that she should continue with what she was doing and, full of enthusiasm for the adventure, I went downstairs.

Even before my eyes adjusted to the dark, I didn't feel particularly scared, and, when I could finally see in the dim light, I was still able to keep calm. This was really rather remarkable because I could now see that there was a body lying face down on the floor. It was holding a small rattle in its hand, which it was trying with the last of its strength to shake.

I told the woman to come down and, with her help, turned the body over. "Dear god! That's my husband!" she cried. "Last week he went out to buy some cucumbers, and I completely forgot about him! Heaven help me!"

I closed the corpse's eyes and collected my fee. Bursting with pride at having solved my first case, I returned home, stopping to buy a hot dog on the way.




his case was a little bit more difficult. I was lying on the beach with my eyes closed so I wouldn't have to look at my large belly and skinny hands when somebody stepped on me. "I'm sorry," an older man said, "but I thought there were just some newspapers here and an inflatable balloon."

"You guessed correctly about the newspapers," I answered.

"I'm very sorry," the man continued, sitting next to me in the sand, "and I certainly don't mean to be offensive, but I'd guess you to be some kind of a computer expert who doesn't believe much in physical exercise."

I didn't want to insult him, so I replied, "Perhaps it will rain."

"It certainly might," he answered and fell silent.

"I'm director of the firm 'Mystery,'" I continued.

He jumped up, looked around nervously, and then leaned so close to me that I was able to tell at which restaurant he had eaten lunch. "They sent me a finger by mail, but I don't know whose finger it is!"

I got dressed and accompanied him to his home. Along the way we decided on a fee. Once we were there he opened his freezer and pulled out the finger. It was frozen stiff, but I could still tell it was the finger of an old person. I poured myself a drink, sat in an armchair and thought about it.

"Where did you last work?" I asked.

"At a sawmill," he answered, pouring me another drink.

I endeavored to look professional and then asked him to count his fingers. At first he looked at me like I was crazy but then, when he was only able to count nine, he came to his senses. Without saying another word he paid me my fee. On my way home I celebrated again by buying a hot dog.



Iopened the newspaper and happened to glance at a notice that read: Owner seeks run-away dog. I thought for a minute about this and decided that I wouldn't stand for it. I grabbed the telephone, dialed the number and put on my sunglasses. Then I released the safety on my revolver and looked forward to guessing, if the phone was busy, whether it was so because someone was using it or because it was off the hook.

"Hello," a woman answered.

"I'm calling regarding your ad in today's newspaper," I said, trying to secure the safety while placing the revolver in my back-holster.

"My dog ran away, but I no longer know what he looked like. So many of my dogs have run away, you see, and sometimes they come back and sometimes they don't, and I really don't know any more which was which, if you know what I mean."

"I see...," I answered before the gun went off, ripping some skin off my backside.

When I came to, I was lying on my stomach. On my backside there was a large bandage, and the nurse handed me my clothes.

"You can go now. The shot only passed through some fatty tissue," she explained, showing me how to get home.

In the parking lot I saw a dog. He had a curly tail, one ear and didn't answer to any of the names I called him. I took him home, released the safety on my revolver and dialed the woman's number.

"Hello," she answered.

Like last time I tried to secure the safety on the revolver while placing it in my back-holster, but once again the gun went off...


(translated by G.S. Evans)

Marian Palla was born in 1953 in Kosice, Czechoslovakia. Currently, he is a special assistant at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Technical University of Brno. He has written for radio, various publications, and two books of his writings have been published. The stories presented here were originally published in 1996. In revised form, they are being incorporated into a book of 100 similar tales, S chloupkem na jazyku, due to be published in February 1999 by the Petrov publishing house.

Back to the Top

Issue 1 | Archives | Theory | Links | Guidelines

Previous | Next


story copyright by author 1999 all rights reserved
translation copyright 1999 by G.S. Evans