The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination 

Issue Seventeen

Selections from The Coconut Ape by Tomáš Přidal
The First Day of School by Steven Schutzman
The Fever by Gleyvis Coro
Reflecting Dreams by Peter Roberts
A Meal by Anca Szilagyi
Minor Renovations by Sean Adams
The Clafouti Syndrome by Adam Benforado
The Train by Alta Ifland
Viewing by David Zerby


irreal (re)views


Selections from The Coconut Ape
by Tomáš Přidal

The Reflection of a Stag in a Display Window

Every Friday afternoon, when the people abandon the city, the animals move in. They wait under the freeway overpasses until the last SUV disappears around the bend and then, with a gentle enthusiasm, they cross the boundary between untamed nature and civilization.

They roam about the streets and sidewalks, looking with wonder at the displayed goods and sniffing the cash machines in the hope that they will dispense food. The city square reverberates with animal calls and the clapping of hoofs. I really should shave, one stag says, looking at his reflection in a department store display window.

Meanwhile the people have arrived out at the lake and are plugging in their phones, their hot plates, and their electric clocks. The swimsuits they're wearing encompass all the colors of the rainbow. Such quiet, they think contentedly. It's so quiet here...

The Man with the Name Minus

"Somebody else lives in our pussycat," my wife announced to me with a serious look on her face. I knew what she was getting at. Some number of times recently we'd caught him listening to what we were saying, or watching television with us; yesterday, he'd even taken a flower from our neighbor's flower box and laid it at our feet.

"Somebody else lives in our pussycat," my wife repeated with a sense of unease, believing as she does in reincarnation. Was this possible? I wondered, looking directly into his luminous eyes. We called him Minus, but what if that name wasn't suitable for him? I wondered if he had an ear for music. Or if he could write. Maybe, I thought, he was an excellent skater.

Maybe he's really angry, having repressed a long and slowly building inner rage, and now finally wants to get his revenge on us. But why did he bring us the flower then?

Now that we know this about him we will have to prepare ourselves for any eventuality. I observed how he drinks from his bowl and looks nervously around. Is there really a human spirit living inside of him?

I try to imagine this: a naked man kneeling on all fours and lapping down water, which is spraying out on all sides. (We should probably tie him up, just in case he really is dangerous.)

Suddenly he stops, raises his head and begins to lick himself anxiously. What can I expect for my new body? his glance asks. A kick, or a dinner?

Sheep City

She looked carefully around, ran across the street and then disappeared into the nearest passageway. She hoped that maybe they wouldn't come after her, but there was no way to be sure of this. She leaned against the wall and tilted back her head. Her nose was bleeding, but a lot less than it had been before. Perhaps I've shaken them off, she thought, or maybe they've given up and now they're looking for the rest.

Just an hour ago it would have never occurred to her that she'd be in hiding like she was now. But that's the way it is sometimes, you go out to do a little shopping and a few minutes later your life has been turned upside down. Admittedly, she'd heard about them, and what they were like, but she'd never actually encountered them before. Not before she tried to cross at that intersection. She'd only wanted to cross it so she could get on a city bus when she suddenly found herself in the middle of a throng of them. The sheep didn't look at all like sheep. It's true that they had sheep's heads, but underneath they had human torsos, arms, and legs. They crashed into each other and into her, emitting bleating sounds and finally knocking her to the ground.

She remained lying in the crosswalk and felt the hooves trampling her along the length and breadth of her body. Her skirt was all torn up, her coat rumpled, and as soon as she succeeded in getting up she got the hell out of there. Were they really after her? She raced all the way from there to here but didn't meet anyone along the way, except for some ignoramuses that she tried in vain to warn.

It's only a question of time, she thought. Someday they will certainly trample somebody into the ground. Sheep! Pah! She fretted a bit more and then, still horrified, quieted down. The bleating sounds echoed off the opposite wall.

Slowly she raised herself and stole away down the street.

She noticed that she was still holding onto her shopping bag, even though nothing much was likely to come of her shopping trip today.

The Execution of a Komodo Dragon

A completely empty room, scrawled from top to bottom with notes. Night. A professor of zoology is crawling around on all fours writing on the floor. In the corner a Komodo dragon is rolling his eyes around. A bell rings, and the professor hobbles to the door.

Professor (angrily): Who's there?

Repossessor (behind the door): Your very own court-appointed repossessor. I'm here to execute the judge's decision, so open up.

Professor: It's one thirty in the morning.

Repossessor: Open up, you bastard, or we'll kick the door down.

The professor unlocks the door and into the room stagger the drunk repo man and an equally soused policeman.

Repossessor (fitfully): God damn it, grandpa, there isn't anything here.

Professor (politely, but with emphasis): Excuse me, but there must be a mistake.

Repossessor: No mistake here. Each time I finish at the pub, I do a few more cases. (He winks at the policeman and burps). So out with it, where did you hide all your stuff!

Professor: I don't have anything. Furniture would distract me and I don't need anything else besides a pen. Besides which, you obviously got the wrong address so get out of here, I need to continue my work.

The repossessor stiffens. This kind of behavior he never permits anyone. He turns to the policeman.

The policeman, tanked out, falls to the ground. The Komodo dragon rolls its eyes around and crawls closer. The repossessor notices him as he helps the policeman to his feet.

Repossessor (meaningfully): And you said that you had nothing, you old liar! (He gestures at the lizard): Tsssss ------ tsssss------ tsssss, come here, you beauty you.

He tries to entice the lizard toward him, holding his thumb and index finger together. The professor doesn't know what to do first: Drive the object of his investigatorial efforts back into the corner of the room, or throw the two idiots—the repo man and the policeman—out. Then, to help out his master the Komodo dragon jumps forward suddenly and bites the repossessor in the hand.

Repossessor (hysterically): Shit, somebody put that thing down before it gets my whole arm!

A gratified smile can be seen beneath the professor's beard for a brief moment, before the policeman pulls his service revolver out of its holster and shoots the lizard in the head.

Professor (desperately): No. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!

Repossessor (in disbelief): That's not what I meant, you idiot.

Policeman (stupidly): So what was I supposed to do, then?

The repo man drags the policeman away, his injured hand thrust into his pocket. As he leaves, he looks back at the professor, who is leaning over the forlorn body, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief.

The Repossessor (uncertainly): I'm sorry...

Professor: Get out. Get out of here before I...

After they've closed the door behind themselves, the professor takes the dead Komodo dragon and carries it into the corner of the room where he covers it with a sheet. On the floor he notices the sentence he'd been working on before and which he hadn't been able to complete, and so he grabs his pen and again kneels down to his task. The room is then as quiet and empty as it was before the repossessor made his entrance.

(translated by G.S. Evans)

Tomáš Přidal (1968) was born in the city of Brno in The Czech Republic, where he lives and teaches art. A member of the Czech surrealist group A. I. V. until its dissolution in 1996, he is the author of five published works of prose and poetry. His art has appeared in exhibitions both in The Czech Republic and abroad. These selections were translated from his collection kokosová opice (Petrov, Brno 2004), for which he also provided the illustrations.

G.S. Evans is a writer and translator, as well as the coeditor of The Cafe Irreal. His fiction has appeared (in translation) in Czech literary journals such as Labyrint and Host, and his translations of the work of the Czech writer Arnošt Lustig have been published in The Kenyon Review and New Orleans Review.

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stories copyright by author 2006 all rights reserved
translation copyright 2006 by Greg Evans all rights reserved