We all have bad days now and then. Kay-Kay was having hers, what actually amounted to a run of about three contiguous bad days with the middle day being the worst. My worst days amounted to me snapping: “Oh, CRAP!” a lot. Kay-Kay’s days were a-blaze is ways that turned one’s gaze toward her craze… It was as if someone dropped a hydrogen bomb on top of an atom bomb and then threw rocks at the mushroom cloud. She was a psycho dipped in a nutcase and wrapped in a lunatic.
I think it started on the morning of the second day. We had a two-slice Bosniak toaster in our Bosniak safe house that had a really weak up-spring, so by the time you poked a really unfortunate metal object in there to dig the slices out they were burnt!
Kay-Kay, trying her best to get out in front of her sump, stood slumped over the toaster glaring at it madly with a fork in her hand waiting… just waiting. Then with a “CLICK,” the toaster gave her both bores right in the face: the two slices of toast launched out vigorously slapped her in her face and tumbled to the filthy floor.
“The Cantor fixed the toaster, by the way…” I mentioned.
With an incredulous look she retorted: Unless Cantor ‘fixed’ the toaster WHILE my toast was toasting, you had time to warn me that he ‘fixed’ the toaster — but he wasn’t here!”
“Also, that was the last two pieces of bread — dreadfully sorry, Kay-Kay.”
Kay-Kay was already going cra-cra before most of Bosnia had even awakened for the day-day. She stopped off to her room, and from the sound of it, it seemed she suddenly felt that her room was gosh-darned-near 180-degrees from how she wanted it. Everything on one side of the room looked much better on the opposite side, giving it greater practicality of convenience and smarter usability of space.
I puzzled at the odd time she picked to redecorate but dismissed it as just a girl thing as I sipped my coffee and ate the toast that I didn’t even really want but deemed a shame to throw away.
“Waste not, want not,” I often said.
“Neither borrower nor lender be,” was another thing I said but not as often — especially if I needed something. Such was the rate of rule-change in geo’s Bosnia.
I turned my head to a dragging sound to absorb the spectacle of Kay-Kay lugging a huge bag toward the front door. Reading the label a couple of times I gathered that it was… food for a pet doggie.
“Hey, Kay-Kay… if you’re having trouble making ends meet I can spot you some Deutsch.”
“It’s not for me, shit-head; it’s for dogs.”
“What dogs, Kay-Kay?”
“Homeless dogs, stranded dogs, cold and hungry dogs — they’re all over the place!” She explained as she paused the drag to pop a mood pill.
“Oh, and you’re going to save all of Bosnia’s starving dogs? Let me tell you something… Charles Darwin just called and wants you to get rid of the dog food cuz there’s already a mechanism in place to take care of the dogs.”
“Natural Selection, Kay.”
“What does that mean? Who’s Charles Darwin??”
So, there was already an operational rub going on with Kay-Kay wanting to feed stray dogs, and me not wanting to sacrifice operational time to pull over and dump little piles of dog food on the side of the road for the Rovers.
“There’s one!” she chortled with glee.
“Christ we’re not even off our own street yet, Kay-Kay!”
“Pull over!” And she scooped a helping of kibble in a pot she pinched from the kitchen in our safe house. She opened her door and dumped out a pile for the dog:
“Here boy, here boy! Whooooose a good boy?… whoooooose a good boy?… thaaaaaaass-a-goo-boy!!”
“Okay, okay… that’s enough; we gotta go, Kay-Kay.”
Driving on, I started feeling a distinct mushy lean on our right-side rear tire. Hopping out I circled the car and saw that we indeed were running on a nearly flat tire. I drove with my left hand and flipped through my dictionary with my right to piece together the appropriate phrase for the serviceman at the next petrol station: “Guma ima rupe,”… “Tire has hole.” That would just have to do.
I pulled in and went into the main office. The serviceman and I had somehow passed each other because there was nobody in the office and he was already outside at our car. When I showed back he was already jacking up the car to change the tire.
“What the heck did you say to him, Kay-Kay?”
“Nothing, I just point to the flat tire,” — a lesson in humility I got as I felt my Bosnian dictionary in my pocket.
I was standing in my door facing out toward the street traffic noting license plates as Kay-Kay finished gassing the car. I heard her re-hook the gas nozzle and taking cautious crunchy steps on the ice… then a dull thud and rattle of mood pills in a plastic medicine bottle. I whipped my head around in time to just catch Kay-Kay’s two feet up in the air tumbling down. She had made a classic cartoon slip on the ice where both feet simultaneously shot up in the air landing her flat on her back.
Her door opened showing where she lay on the ground propped up by her arm. She hesitated then began to pull herself in the car. I sat in the driver’s seat and watched her:
“Y’o-kay there, Kay-o?”
After a silent while (cool!) I had to swap out with Kay-Kay simply because I needed to talk on my INMARSAT satellite telephone. It perked her up a tad as she had not driven in-country yet and was eager to do so. She revved the engine of the mighty Volkswagen Jetta, dropped her head low down on her shoulders and raised her elbows out and up. The car accelerated! I reached a hand out and pressed her elbow down and back to her side as our speed gradually reduced. I chatted away on the phone when:
“These Jettas are great; I may get myself one back in the States!” she grinned.
At that moment we wondered why the car in front of us was getting bigger — and then it hit us; or rather, we hit it. It was a fender-bender and it seemed like we hardly tapped it, but I knew these Bosniak cars were like soup cans. I bolted out and forward to play the part of the penitent concerned citizen. The other driver was a woman of about 40 years old, not looking happy at all as she surveyed the rear of her car.
“Baš, nema šteta!” (Well, no damage!) I chirped with a smile.
“Šteta ima!” (There’s damage!) she countered unhappily looking past the bumper.
Sure enough, there was a dent in the body of the car. Nearly crapping my pants I pictured the cash in my pocket and started to try to piece together a conducive sentence:
“Ja hoću da podajem novac po šteta i…” my mouth was falling down a spiral staircase when the woman did the most amazing thing — threw me the ‘penguin salute’ as Kay-Kay so named it.
Essentially she was shrugging off the minor jolt and wasn’t going to make a scene. I was carrying several hundred Deutschmarks — enough to buy her shitty car — in my pocket so I wasn’t worried. Kay-Kay contributed to the dilemma by tossing back two-banger duo of mood pills and retreating to the Jetta for a water bottle.
The penguin salute was an odd way the Bosniaks had of shrugging an “I don’t know,” or an “I don’t care — so what.” With their arms straight and up against their sides, their hands bent at the wrists with palms up, they shrugged their shoulders two-three times as they turned from side to side. It was mostly the men that did it, but bless Kay-Kays bloody little heart they did indeed look like penguins when they did it.
Now Kay-Kay was fuming because she “wrecked” the car in the first few minutes of her driving. That would translate into a lengthy bout of silence — cool! That was a long run that day over the ZoZ just to see if a “thing” that was there a week ago was still there this week.
Finally pulling up to the safe house, I was petrified that I had misplaced my house key. I just wanted to get the cock-a-doody door open so Kay-Kay could go to her room, slam the door, and pout in silence — SILENCE! When I told her I lost my key her face flushed bright crimson and my countenance dipped south.
“Well, I have my lock picking set with me as always.” I tried to encourage her but I was of little faith in my ability to work Bosniak locks. Kay-Kay said not a word, just stepped away several feet and laid down in the snowy grass in a sliver of sunlight that was just wide enough to cover her face. She popped a mood pill and there she lay with closed eyes.
I worked the lock faithlessly, but by the Gods in the heaven that bend above us I thew that bolt in under ten minutes!
“Thar she blows, Kay-Kay… sorry it took so long,” I swaggered.
Without a word — cool! — she went straight to her room and slammed the door. As serendipity would have it, she was not so enamored after all with her new room layout; Its staleness was just sooo “this morning ago!” But she was always up for the challenge as she did so engage in the most spirited of fashion to rearranging the flow of convenient practicality into (likely) a more Victorian setting, solemn yet not grim, vociferous but not pretentious.
“Just a girl thing,” I dismissed… as I tinkered with the toaster.
Dr. Seuss said it best (to the effect):
By Almighty God and with honor,
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