A Cracked Vase



       "I have decided " Fra wrote down in his diary "that I will go on living an independent, liberal and free life, that I wont sell my freedom and that I wont compromise even a minute a day from it, let alone four hours! I must resist various pitfalls of moralists but that doesnt put me off, on the contrary! They try to cause me trouble through various tricks and intrigues. But even worse enemies are my friends, favorers and relatives. They are at my heels! They desire to bring me back on the right path, to the camp of diligent and exemplary moral people, to make a hero of work even out of me The unwished-for benefactors and self-appointed saviors and those handing straws to the drowning ones are one-hundred-times more disagreeable to me than apparent avengers. Various aunts and cousins and similar leaches emerge from God-knows-where. They lecture and preach and offer small services and jobs, so easy, so precious, to be immediately taken up Moved, I thank them for their care and I delude them about how much I have already undergone to save myself, ha, ha!
       And yet no and no! I dont feel like working and I wont! To slave four hours a day brrr theres chill running down my spine.
       When I wake up in the morning, I comfort myself sweetly:
       Lie nicely, my little feet, youll get up when you feel up to it, nobody has any right to command you! Dont worry, I wont let anybody harm you!
       And the feet luxuriate, the big toe is wiggling to me in agreement, each droplet of blood sweetly nods to me, each nerve, each little vein in my body praises me And when I get tired of lying, I get up, I have a bath in warm water and when I dont feel up to it, then I dont And then I go where I want and I do what I   want
       Im not alone. There are more of us. I discovered the "Club of the Independent". I joined it. When I explained my views to them, why I refuse work (ideas that sparked in me at the very moment when I was defending myself, having been provoked by that girl), I was elected the chairman.
       There are interesting people in the club. Next time, Ill describe their characters. Only as the chairman of the club, I have realized what grudge there still is nested among people. There still exists disrespect of one man for another, contempt hasnt vanished yet Sometimes, great ingenuity is necessary for us to get out of the labyrinth of snares. The mood of the members is put down most of all by ridicule. The low-spirited dont endure and leave. They are harnessed into work again "
       Fra didnt have the time to describe the individual members of the club any more. The entry from the first day was the last one It was interrupted by an event in his life unexpected
       As usual, he was sprawling on the bed, sleep had already flown away but he didnt feel like getting up. Sweet-blooded languor was flowing through his limbs, accumulated in the dimples under his knees and Fra was hedonistically getting rid of it by stretching his muscles. It was in that uncertain day time when the early morning stealthily melts away but nobody can strictly say that the late morning has already come, the time when the newly-born day matures into its youth age and contains the most drive and energy. This fluctuating and overflowing of time would have immediately disappeared if Fra had looked at his watch, but why look when it doesnt tell him more than a random number?
       And suddenly, somebody rang the doorbell. A man behind the door. Who can that be? He locked the disheveled bedroom, went to the bathroom and then, speeding up only a little, he was adjusting his appearance in front of the mirror. In the meantime, the bell rang relentlessly, strictly and insistently.
       Just keep ringing! Youll live to see me after all the world wont collapse, he thought, agreeing with the fact that he was going to see a man, to do justice to his curiosity. There is always tension in the voice of a bell, a man secretly believes that he will be pleasantly surprised. With his hesitation, Fra only lengthened and stirred his curiosity, and this time he was really surprised!
      On the doorstep, there stood his father!
      Fras astonishment was so great that he had time neither to feel embarrassed nor to apologize. He flung himself into fathers arms. How many years havent they seen each other! He wasnt embarrassed now to express the feelings of filial love and felt blissful in fathers embracement.
       At that moment, he remembered his mom as well and burst into tears. Father understood. He pressed his son towards him, averted his face and Fra felt behind his neck a pleasant tickling of a bearded chin. That thickly woven black beard was, according to Fras image from childhood, the most important part of dads face and, in general, of his whole being. There was heroism of distant travels in it, there was also a secret Fra wove the appearance of his almost unknown dad into. Yes, if I had a black beard, Fra used to dream once, I would be able to carry mountains!
       On his bony and wiry body, old Kalous was wearing a showy coat in the style of a colonel sports uniform with the badge of the Northern Institute next to a line of red ribbons, which gave the evidence of the stars and ranks the explorer had acquired.
       When there came the lull after the emotional storm of a fathers reunion with his son, it seemed to Fra that his dads face was sad and glum. His brown eyes were placed deeper under the bright forehead than with other people.
       "What do you do?" he asked his son.
       Fra wanted to start his old tirade of obscuring, how hes looking for a job and not finding any, but he stumbled at it. As if the direct, truthful eyes of his father were already in advance from their depth weighing the truth and lie.
       "Nothing so far!" he admitted.
       "How long have you been doing that nothing?"
       Fra felt the irony of his fathers words and was preparing for defense.
       "After that poetry crash " he said, "I realized that its possible to live even like this "
       "Really," father smiled calmly, "its possible to live even like that And how did you find that out?"
       Fra became alert. Whats that? Is his dad getting ready to preach about the dignity and nobility of work? He already knows all that by heart. Hes an adult man now and has his own opinion about the matter although he loves his dad. Hell show him he can think independently and not parrot others The thoughts he had reached arent ordinary and must impress even his father with their modernity and revolutionary nature, the more that his own son had reached them!
       "How did I find that out?" he started cold-bloodedly. "So! Everybody works like obsessed and makes a great uproar around it! People and stars, look how I work, how I love my work! Work my lover! I cant live without her! Give me more work so that I crack up! They burlesque and bow to her like that and jump around like fools, well, I took a dislike of it "
       "Well well " his father nodded his head and lit his little pipe. It sounded neutral. Fra began to hope his father would understand him, that he would be astonished at the boldness of his idea.
       "Theres so little work," the son continued, "you know it yourself, dad! Why still take it from people when they lust for it so, when they basically scramble for it? Its said that the desire for work is inborn in people. How come then that its not inborn in me? I cant help but it is so! You say that not to work is amoral wheres that written? I dont know anything about that! Why do you push to work those that dont feel such a need? And why, on the contrary, do you take the work away from some people when they are guilty with something inhuman and you say its the greatest disgrace for them? On one hand, you deprive people of work as a punishment and, on the other, you push me towards it wheres the logic there?
       I am for the freedom and independence of work! Who doesnt feel the need to work, let them not work! Work belongs to machines, freedom to people! And dummies again take work away from machines certain poet makes shoes manually " he smiled bitterly, "that far have we gone! If there is anybody I should honor and praise for perfect work, then only machines! One man is enough for a whole factory! Who wants to labor, there you go, we dont prevent anybody! But let those that want to free themselves from work thats a new idea!"
       Father raised his eyebrows. His forehead frowned anxiously as he looked at his son from the bottom.
       "Indeed " he said, "it is a new idea. Have you come up with that idea?"
       Fra was somewhat perplexed with such a question. Wheres his dad headed? What is he following? Is there surprise or agreement or irony in it?
       "They are mainly my ideas but not all of them " he admitted. "There are more of us, like that " he paused. "And how about you, dad? Are you, in fact, for or against? What do you infer about it?"
       And in a sudden surge of communicativeness, he added in a trembling voice:
       "You dont even know, dad, how much you would please me if you agreed with me! How you would strengthen me, how you would support me in my fight That would be the most beautiful, that would be the happiest day in my life "
       The old man paused on for a moment. Then he puffed several times but the pipe burnt out in the meantime. He looked at it sadly, as if he felt sorry for the pipe but he didnt light it again. He knocked out the ashes and hid it in his pocket. Perhaps he was implying by that that something had ended. And he said:
       "We will talk about that together later But allow me, Fra, one more question, really the last one. Everything depends on how you answer. If positively, Ill laugh and the whole debate of today will disappear in memory like a bad weather forecast when, instead of sleet, the sun comes "
       Fra paused. That was a strange reply to how he had been emotionally carried away. That didnt forebode anything good.
       "What question?" he asked, alert.
       "If you would like to go with me. Where? To the north!"
       Fra was dumbfounded. He hardly forced out of himself:
       "And what there?"
       "Dont you know what I do there? You too can become an associate of the Northern Institute for the forecast of the Great weather. I would take you with me, Fra! We would travel together by planes and icebreakers, even by submarines and sledges, pulled by reindeer and dogs. Descend from a helicopter on ice floes and place radar stations on them "
       "What for all that and why?"
       "So that they can look into tomorrows! They are the eyes of our planet! They see everything air and water do, whats going on on the ground, above the ground and under the ground "
       "Thats interesting " Fra said politely.
       "Amazing work, boy! You would find happiness in it. When you understand everything, when you learn everything, youll become a forecaster "
       "A what?"
       "Weather engineer. A true soothsayer of tomorrows A traveler into the future "
       "But what for "
       "To control the Great weather "
       "I still dont understand. Dont we produce drifts and clouds and rains and even storms by ourselves? "
       "Thats naturally the local weather, within the range of several kilometers, when its only to spray a town, to water a field. But Im talking about the Great weather above the whole Earth, to know it not days but months in advance! There, Nature is not to be commanded But we can already now completely see through it we know a month ahead what its going to do "
       "I see!"
       "As a forecaster, even you, Fra, will peek into the kitchen of Time. People will ask you when it will rain and when it will freeze, how much snow will fall, where storms and gales and floods will break out, and you will know all that in advance An individual can manage nothing. But thousands of people have come together and created a wonder of wonders theyve brought us closer to omniscience And you can be one of those chosen ones, of those fortune-tellers and reporters of future weather, too, Fra, my son! So now I ask you: What do you infer about that? Are you for or against?"
       Fra listened carefully, with his head bent between the raised shoulders and, at the same time, he was already refusing it all in advance. He understood it in such a way that there is a trap being set for him here, that his own, private future is here being played for with beautiful words in the name of some wide, one-thousand-headed future and that his quiet, calm, content life he doesnt in fact obstruct anybody with, is at stake More and more certainly he knew what he was going to answer.
       "Dont be angry, dad," he said almost ceremoniously, "that I cant agree with you. Its certainly illuminating what you are describing to me here but how did you come up with it after all that I had told you? You didnt refute my arguments with a single word. Arent they worth it? I had an impression for a moment that you were looking at the matter objectively, and you, out of the blue, allure me somewhere to the North Pole! What, have you already forgotten how delicate my lungs are? and youre as if you wanted to destroy me! I assume "
       "Hold on!" his father interrupted his suddenly and he raised. He looked at his watch.
       "Really I remember those lungs of yours forgive me Youre ill, Fra, and youll undergo medical treatment! But now I already have to go! I want to be in Archangelsk tomorrow night but Ill be back again in a few days. I say good bye for now. You can let out of your head what Id told you. I also wanted to talk to you about your mom but well leave that for the next time. As far as your illness is concerned, its more serious that you think You could use a treatment "
       "But why, theres actually nothing wrong with me, dad "
       "Thats what you think But now Im really in a hurry Have a good time here, Fra, and Ill see you in a week!"
       A week passed and somebody rang the bell. With certainty, Fra expected his dad. Their last good-bye was in a way somewhat strange, rushed, something remained unsolved between the two of them You can let out of your head what Id told you was dad sincere about that? But this time, Fra was ready He wont allow anybody to surprise him any longer! He already knew what he was going to tell him
       However, there wasnt his father in the doorway but an unknown young man.
       "Im looking for Fra Kalous," he said and he immediately added with a smile: "That must be you!" As if that was a reason for a smile!
       Fra invited him in into his study and there he motioned him into a plastic armchair. The unknown man sat down, looked around and was still smiling. The form of the seat sensitively captured the frame of his back part. Fra asked him politely about the purpose of his visit.
       "I am Cyril Mricke," the unknown man introduced himself and the smile on his face immediately went out, as if now jokes ceased. "You dont know me?"
       Fra didnt know the name. He had never seen that man. But he liked him. It was a rather small stocky young man with soft, fair hair and wide cheeks, as if radiating with heat. His blue eyes were focused with black pupils, which made one constantly look into them.
       "You dont know me," he said, "but I know your name "
       "Where from?"
       "From many sides. Dont you proclaim the idea of mans liberation from work? Isnt that so?"
       "Is that why you came?" Fra was surprised.
       "I wanted to see a courageous man. To make certain of how far my image is from the reality "
       Fra became alert. He wasnt sure whether he should be happy or afraid of something Such a tricky thing that was.
       "Perhaps somebody sent you "
       "I dont have any other intentions than meeting you. We must know about each other when there are few of us "
       "What do you want to say by that?" Fra asked distrustfully. "Do you agree with me?"
       "If I agree!" Cyril exclaimed. "I have been working on it for two years. But first tell me how you do it "
       Fra started talking. He had a desire to win him over, to evoke trust in him. He liked his wide smile, by which as if he was constantly promising something. He immediately assessed him as a man worthy of friendship. Cyril was among those people that kindle ambition. Such a person is to be appreciated. Of course on the condition that he would appreciate me in the same way!
       Thats why he was particular about his speech. He spoke about what had already thought out during his early and late morning lie-ins in bed, what he had already told Daisy Fra had, after a good sleep, a lucky moment full of ideas and speakers ease, new, ideas unspoken yet were blazing through his head. Really, he did everything he could so much was he up to that man.
       Cyril listened to him carefully and then he said with his nice smile, which promised something:
       "That is, of course, a theory. Indeed, a very extensive one. Youve touched everything. So to say: gospel. But what about practice? What do you look like in practice? What have you already undertaken or are going to undertake?"
       "I fulfil what I say. Theoretically, I refuse to work because of these and those reasons. And practically then I dont work!"
       "You yourself Thats, however, selfishness! And, what is more, you show yourself to the moralists to beat you like a fool! But foolishness will become the truth if a thousand people follow it! What do you undergo to win new champions for the idea?"
       Fra began to flaunt with the club but he couldnt say anything worthwhile about it, there was nothing to show off with, even though he was its chairman. He himself suddenly realized that there was nothing going on in the club. Everybody there is thinking only and only about themselves. Several sports fanatics, they arent interested in anything else than championships, cups and records They dont practise sports themselves they are too awkward or careful but they passionately drive or fly to see their favorites to the end of the world. They have their heads stuffed with numbers and charts, their joys and sorrows are decided at playgrounds, tennis courts and stadiums. There are also several neglected "geniuses", painters, actors, singers and the like. They had broken down with their talent already a long time ago but they didnt manage to join other jobs. They obstinately refuse all opportunities the society offers them. Also a couple of everlasting students appear there. Those wander to various schools to attain some universal knowledge, they are permanently "studying" but they never take any exams.
       "We know that we dont know anything " they say skeptically.
       "Whenever I hear somebody talk about a club," Cyril remarked, "what I always imagine are not people but club armchairs. Its possible to find new people even without a club. To campaign, go from one man to another, show them the senselessness of their behavior, gain other courageous fighters, move on from passive resistance to action! To arouse, shake those bewildered work gluttons, who have so little imagination that they cant invent anything better "
       "But why somebody does have to work " Fra howled, surprised, and God-knows-why he looked behind him.
       "Leave work only where the human force is indispensably necessary to keep the standard of living. Win everybody else for our lines! "
       In the depth of his soul, Fra agreed with that but he felt overshadowed, surpassed and perhaps even reproached for doing it wrong. He quickly collected himself. It was now up to him to express his own opinion too, at least an equal one to Cyrils. He found in his pocket a cigarette case. He was getting ready to formulate his idea. The suggestive magic of scent and smoke was good for that, he completely forgot to light a cigarette in the tension of the debate
       "Do you smoke?" he offered.
       "Why not? Ill take one. What is it?"
       "Venuses I dont smoke any other "
       "How many a day?"
       "I dont count that. I dont want to know it!"
       The cigarette allowed Fra a moment of concentration.
       "Youre right," he said, "but I would have a different idea. As you know, we work four hours a day and some people think thats still too little. They would slave even six hours, as it used to be in the past. Why not lengthen the working hours to those strainers, possibly even to six and a half hours a day? That way, a number of people will be released from the working process, who want to be liberated anyhow! Thus, everybody will get what they want, fully! Am I not right? What do you say to that?"
       "You dont like clubs but I would begin precisely in the club! Id like to ask you to explain the matter there and discuss your experiences with us. I guarantee you full attendance "
       "I have a passion for numbers. Im constantly asking: How many?"
       "Twenty-two people. The full number of members "
       Cyril made a painful face, as if he wanted to crush in his teeth a sudden burst of laughter. But he said only:
       "Thats not much "
       The following day, Fra made in the club a grandiose speech with the theme: Work to machines, freedom to people! About the necessity to spread this idea from one man to another, fight and possibly even die for it To turn people away from work so that they can live independently and freely like birds in the sky, like bugs in the ground, like fish in the sea!
       The proclamation brought about a sensation in club. Many rejoiced and applauded and trampled and clinked unbreakable cups with each other. Into that, there suddenly burst an applause so vehement as if all at once a million people had begun to clap their hands. The applause grew into an earthquake-like rattle and absorbed all other sounds. The members of the club plugged their ears and ran to the casket by the window the hellish racket was coming out of. The first one jumped to it and threw it out of the window to the yard. Immediately, the aggrieved owner and inventor appeared. It was a former band director, who wanted to surprise his audience and, for the first time, was demonstrating his instrument there. Offended, he explained that by his "self-applauder", he wants to ease off the labor of the audience, to spare them the pain from clapping their palms at concerts and theaters and he couldnt understand that nobody would have their right of own applause taken away.
       The inventor went to pick up his instrument at the yard and others continued applauding in the natural way, slowly or quickly, significantly or passionately, softly or joyfully, each according to his or her temperament.
       There were, however, also those that didnt applaud at all. They were too surprised at the new thought and were quiet. They crouched at their places, baffled and shamefaced, insecurely looking around. A couple of them used the chaos with the "self-applauder" to disappear from the hall.
       When then a lull came, one of those surprised ones asked for the right to speak. He began to prove that its more practical for the club to be safely quiet, not to expose itself too much to the attention of the jealous society. He was shouted down as a coward. They raised Fra on their shoulders and carried him triumphantly around the hall and tossed him towards the ceiling.
       Cyril stood bashfully aside. Fra wanted to show him in a fit of generosity to the roaring crowd of twenty heads as the actual author of the idea, but Cyril silenced him in time. He was smiling again as if he was promising something and it seemed to Fra now that indeed there is not a mere promise in that smile.


       One evening, they went together to see a film at the outdoor movie theater   "I   S e e   S t a r s".
       An interesting film was on there, which was named:


       The film depicted the life of a crew on an artificial celestial body, which is a transfer station, a kind of springboard at the borderline of terrestrial atmosphere for further flight of cosmic rackets. Mr. Zachari is the manager of the air-conditioning equipment on the satellite and he unfortunately falls in love with Miss Lza, who is a younger micro-atmosphere inspector there. However, Lza loves a rosy-cheeked Aljoa, who is the main calculator at the machine. A triangle is formed in the plot, though not a matrimonial one but an eternally human one, elevated, however, about 300 kilometers from Earth. Love-crossed Mr. Zdichinec chooses an amazing way of suicide jump out of the satellite And exactly at the moment when he opens the cabin lid to fling himself headlong into the space the colored picture on the screen went out and the wretchs scream was cut in half.
       From the chests of the audience, a unanimous sigh of disappointment resounded. Calls, laughter, clinking of teaspoons on the saucers left after eating ice-cream were heard. It seemed that the malfunction will be immediately dealt with but the minutes of waiting lengthened. Some visitors already got up from their rocking chairs and were leaving, surprisingly quietly and unconcerned, as if there was no human curiosity in the world.
       "A moment, please!" Cyril said and he got up too. "Ill go ask "
       Well! Fra wanted to drink a glass of orangeade in the meantime, but there was no sight of service at all. Other visitors were leaving. Fra was surprised by their cosmic calm. It even seemed to him that he detected several pairs of eyes to have dwelled on him with interest but he immediately rejected that nonsensical supposition after he had made sure that everything on him was all right.
       Cyril returned with an annoying piece of news. The movie-theater operator left his work the previous day to join the free citizens that have definitely got rid of all work ties. The trainee that stood in for him doesnt know what to do with the torn tape. Other members of the personnel are leaving for the same goal too
       Fra felt thirst but even more he was being burnt by curiosity What would he give for it, to see, if only for a moment, how the jilted lover Mr. Zachari Zdichinec breaks away from the satellite to become a satellite himself, running around the Earth. In flaccid mood, annoyed to the very bottom of his being, Fra was leaving the damned establishment.
       Or the day before, he lost two games of chess with Cyril in a row. Third time, luck smiled at him. His partner had lost a knight and was creating incidents in vain the position of his queen was endangered. Fra was getting ready for a surprising move to get the queen into a trap but at the very moment, the lights went out! Darkness arose, perfect, barbarian darkness. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly that Fra was frightened and hit the board. At the same time, he felt how the playing table jumped up and how its figures were going off to the floor!
       When he recovered from the shock, he heard in the darkness next to him Cyrils soothing voice:
       "A trifle! A failure of the electrical circuit. A technician will repair it immediately."
       A trifle! A technician! But who will place the figures back on the chessboard as they were in the won game? And the darkness lengthened, five minutes, ten minutes, no technician was coming. He was said to have refused his service too he couldve thought that right away! He wanted to scream and trample with fury but he only clenched his teeth into the lips. And in his ears, alarming rumors resounded that Cyril assiduously announced him and that he didnt want to believe. Unfortunately, Fra soon experienced their truthfulness himself.
       Three dispatchers in the automatic factory producing the "Venus" brand of cigarettes refused further work. They left everything and flew to the Alps for a mountain hike. They say its as quiet in the factory as on the Moon.
       Fra, full of bad forebodings, ran to the vending machine. He threw the token into the opening, pushed the button and instead of a packet of cigarettes, the token came back with a deferential apology. At the first moment, he felt it as a provocation. It hadnt happened to him yet that a vending machine would refuse to obey him! To go without something he got used to, which he considered a matter-of-fact need of his life!
       Like a devil-tempter, Cyril offered him "Poema". Fra never refused a cigarette offered to him by somebody else. But he sorely cried for his pale-blue "Venuses" He raked about for them, tried other vending machines in vain
       But also the following days, wherever they went, whatever they undertook, they always had bad luck in the end.
       He began to sigh, sometimes he contemplated. Even earlier, at the wanderings together with Cyril, he would be overcome by strange, heretical thoughts. The wonderful idea of freedom immediately becomes monstrous as soon as its seized by a man to bring it into practice He carried the torch of a new idea but he would constantly trip and always burn himself with it. Somebody must work, he pondered, surely Im neither an idiot nor a fool or a villain not to accept this truth. only who has to and who doesnt have to? In the past, before meeting Cyril, it was self-evident: I dont have to! Who else than me! And then he was losing his old certainties. Everything somehow went wrong, turned against him Fra felt taken by surprise
       Who has to and who doesnt have to? Yes, in this question, there is all the captiousness. As long as he didnt ask like that, he was happy During new meetings, Fra would become silent. He held his tongue hard and obstinately. From time to time, he would stick to Cyril with a questioning look, as if he was waiting for something. For something he hadnt made clear in himself so far, what he was afraid of but what was being more and more assured in him. Then it became an idea. He refused it, it would, however, return and importune again and again. But he would never dare utter it aloud.
       Once Cyril suggested to him that they go together to see the manufactory of "Jupiter" cigarettes, which was still in operation. It has to be in the morning so that he can catch the engineer he wants to talk to.
       "What do you want to talk to him about?" Fra got frightened.
       "Its an old acquaintance of mine. I havent seen him for a long time "
       Fra couldnt stand it. He decided to talk.
       "Look, Cyril," he said gravely, "why would we lie to each other both of us smoke "
       "I see!" Cyril smiled. "No, dont worry! I wont even by a word But Im afraid that he himself "
       "If he himself " Fra continued in silences, "then you should him then we should him both of us "
       "You mean speak to him, persuade him to "
       " to I think so too. Because "
       " because both of us "
       "So!" Fra nodded. "And to leave work everywhere where its inevitably necessary for the benefit of the human society "
       " and to speak with those that want to liberate themselves "
       " and persuade them "
       "About what?"
       "Well, perhaps about the fact that work is the virtue and beauty and fame of a man " Fra said and he felt those words on his tongue like milk from a dandelion.
       But Cyril shook his head.
       "No, Fra! You cant be serious about that. You yourself certainly wouldnt want that! Dont you feel how wretched it would be, how we would disgrace ourselves? Anybody else could be persuading him like that but the two of us dont have the right to do that Ill be silent, I can promise you that. I will neither hinder him nor drive him out, let the engineer do what he wants!"
       When they said good bye to each other in front of the gate of the "Two keys" house, there had been one more surprise awaiting Fra. The elevator number "9" that was supposed to raise him to the twelfth floor and drop him in his hallway, wasnt working!
       That was an unprecedented event. Fra rushed to the home phone. At first, he was calling in vain and trying to revive that dead thing by all means. He was already dreading the idea that even the phone is broken and that hell conspired against him. After a long waiting, he finally reached the voice he needed. He was going to storm and protest and demand an immediate reparation but the janitors voice on the other end sounded dry and strict:
       "Nine failed. The mechanic has left."
       "How come he has left? Where did he go? "
       "He quit his work. He said hed worked enough!"
       "And what about me? How will I get up?"
       "You must walk. Am I expected to carry you?"
       "How walk?" Fra groaned.
       "On the stairs! Good night!"
       "Hello! Hello!"
       But the voice didnt resound any more. And thus Fra was left nothing else to do than walk step by step, floor by floor. Before reaching the tenth floor he had the time to gradually curse the janitors voice on the phone as well as master mechanic that had run away from his work to succumb to idleness, as well as all other negligent employers, carelessly leaving their workplaces, he was also cursing Cyril, who like Mephistopheles was always insinuating something to him and who, in fact, caused it all. And when he was subsequently practically only crawling on all four to the last floor, he was crying and cursing already only himself his fate and his birth rather than live like this, its better not to live at all!


       In the morning, the elevator was working again and the endless staircase remained in him only as an ugly dream. Thus, he was able to come to the meeting with his friend still in time. Cyril led Fra to one of the white, narrow pavilions, which stretched somewhere to the infinite distance. It was surrounded by garden architecture on all the sides.
       Fra had never been in a factory before. He marveled and marveled as they were walking then on an outstretched carpet through an extremely long hall, through whose center a machine unit stretched along its whole length like a fantastic lizard, composed from perfect geometrical shapes, tied together and melting into each other. The organism itself was inside, under its panzer, mat-shiny skin
       Nothing moved in the hall Fra flurried that even these machines were already stopped and he turned with his dread to the girl that accompanied them. She was wearing a white cloak, perfumed with tobacco. Even her eyes, only magnified under the thick glasses, resembled the color of the dried leaf of precious tobacco. She introduced herself to them as a dispatcher.
       She opened a control window and at the very moment, satisfied growling resounded throughout the hall. Fra took breath. It could be seen in the small windows how large yellow leaves of the same size are being placed on each other, how they travel under the knives that cut thin golden hair from them. The scent of ethereal essences and oils gushed from them. And in each of those windows, something miraculous was going on, how tobacco wedded paper until a cigarette was born. And over there, steel fingers were again forming boxes from transparent plastic and others were filling them and sealing them up and placing them into large boxes and those were then going somewhere on the conveyor belt until they disappeared from view.
       "Thats the tail of our crocodile " the girl smiled. "If you want to see his brain, we must encircle it all "
       Fra would manage to look into each of the small windows perhaps until the evening, but the girl led him without other words over a small suspension bridge to the other side. On the other side of the "crocodile" as well, the extremely long coco stretched on parquets. Between the large windows, there were hanging framed canvases and tapestries with smoking motives, among the palm trees, there stood white wicker armchairs. It looked here more like at an exhibition of paintings in a winter garden.
       Thus, they came as far as the engineers study. Thats where the brain of the factory was in the shape of dials with trembling index hands, buttons and light signals, placed on white boards, it was here where all the nerves of the "crocodile" led towards them.
       The engineer was a white-haired man with a pointed beard and with still black vulture eyebrows above mocking eyes. He greeted Cyril, it was evident he was glad to see him. He looked at Fra and smiled captiously.
       "Engineer Krubert " he introduced himself. He seated them in armchairs and he himself sat in such a way that he had the whole nerve system of the "crocodile" in the electric shortcut from the teeth to the tail in front of his eyes. It was immediately evident that he liked talking but he talked somehow casually and with chattering, as if it didnt matter to him what he was saying and what the other thought of it. He said he couldnt complain about his work but that he was going to leave the place with calm and with a sigh of satisfaction, like leaving a good movie that must end at some point.
       Fra wondered at such a talk and couldnt guess whether it was a joke or what.
       "I didnt understand it right why in fact are you leaving?" he asked.
       "Everybodys leaving but you know why!"
       Engineer Krubert glanced at him somewhat shrewdly, as if he was appealing to cooperation on some mischief. Fra was puzzled. I wonder if that man knows me? Since when and where from? After such embarrassing experience when he was losing the ground under his feet, it would be definitely unpleasant. Or has Cyril given away anything? He searched for him with his eyes but he had, in the meantime, inconspicuously got up and was talking at a distance with the short-sighted dispatcher. Fra could then easily ask about things he would maybe keep silent about in front of Cyril. When he remembered those small windows where the wonder of creation was taking place, disagreement resounded in him, even a protest against this fool that allowed himself to be so carelessly caught.
       "You must have certainly got used to your work " he started discreetly "Wont you be bored?"
       "Oh, certainly it will be difficult at first Its a good job I play the keys and the crocodile rolls out cigarettes But after all, it is a job, an obligation, a responsibility, a limitation of personal liberty. Anyway I have a piano at home I prefer absolute freedom, freedom of the birds in the air Well, even a sparrow on the roof is freer than a man, I surely dont have to tell that to you "
       An idiot or hes making a fool out of me, Fra thought sorrowfully.
       "Anyway " Krubert went on, "Ill look for solace and forgetting in my collections That is to say Im a passionate collector of antiques. Do you have at home by any chance an old coin or a bracelet or a pendant, as our great-grandmothers used to wear in their ears? Or a watch nickel or golden it doesnt matter. I collect also violins and cigarettes "
       "I dont have anything like that " Fra said in a choking voice. "I would only like to say to that absolute liberty an idea bright as a morning star but it cant be generalized. Youve overlooked, sir, a trifle I mean the necessity to leave the work where its indispensably needed to keep a standard of living. Lets say, what would you smoke if all cigarette manufactures closed down? "
       "I happen to not smoke " Krubert smiled and it looked like he wanted to say: How Ive outwitted you, baby boy!
       "A non-smoker " Fra wondered out loud, "and a collector of cigarettes!"
       "If I was a smoker, sir, I wouldve already smoked my collection a long time ago " he replied quite logically and then he began to talk about what specialties he had in his collection.
       "Youre a non-smoker then " Fra admitted. "But what will smokers say to that?"
       "Simply theyll learn not to smoke! If theres no tobacco, there will be no smokers. Theyll die out like electric lamps did. But seriously the air will be cleaner! It will be easier to breathe it will serve the national health From the whole Earth, tobacco smoke is pouring to the stratosphere," Krubert chattered and observed with interest how the visitor was lighting one cigarette from the other.
       A selfish man Fra passed a judgment on him in the end. Its a waste of words with one like him But he knew well it wasnt so. Simply he wasnt acquainted with Krubert. Perhaps hes just pretending like that? Does he chatter emptily and hide something from Fra? He liked his face but his discussions were worth nothing. They provoked, ridiculed him, his whole appearance, however, proved the exact opposite of what he was saying. It seems to Fra that all those bracelets and watches and what hed talked around them are irrelevant, non-serious, perhaps there are no collections at all. Fra infers that from how the engineer watchfully looks around, how he guards the apparatus, how he immediately interrupts his talk when some secret signs begin to phosphoresce on the screen.
       That man has passionately taken to his work! He wouldnt leave it for nothing in the world! Those nonchalant and non-serious discussions thats just a disguising maneuver Fra would put his hand in fire for that but why? Why?
       If he didnt chatter like that, he would like to tell him that he hadnt seen anything so beautiful yet as what is going on under the panzer scales of the automatic monster. Some new, fantastic hands of wonderful shapes, they have hundreds of fingers and joints and knuckles! Without making a single mistake they accurately perform their deal and transfer their part to further and further fingers. He would like to tell Krubert that he envies him his service in that wizardly skull, full of dials and bells and lights, white, green and red, through which things command and prohibit a man!
       Cyril was coming back when both of them were already silent. He smiled at Fra with his smile, which was promising something and never fulfilling anything. Fra was sitting heavily pensive and didnt say a single word. Then he coldly said good-bye.
       The main road from the entrance led them through a cypress alley to a two-storey ringing fountain but Cyril turned aside to a side path. A gardener in a Mexican straw hat was cutting roses past blossoming there and throwing them in a basket. At a distance, another was watering with a hose a lawn, flowered with daisies, sweet-johns and wild bells. They passed a girl that was tying small climbing roses to arches, where they formed gates of flowers from salmon-pink bouquets. In a blooming flowerbed of high tobacco, somebody was walking with a measuring apparatus.
       Fra observed with what concern, with what passion they were devoting themselves to their work. It was little important, insignificant work, as he inferred, but they performed it as if the benefit of a human life depended on it. If he told those people now that work is slavery, that they should liberate themselves from it, they would fall upon him like hornets or rather they would only laugh at him like at a fool
       They passed a man that was raking a path. But how dignified his expression was! How he held the rake! What bliss it must be to rake white  sand  on  a path!
       A desire for an instrument that he could take in his hand took hold of him, no matter what it would be! And it seemed strange to him that his hands hadnt been doing anything until that moment He looked at them he moved his fingers he felt as if he saw them for the first time. And suddenly he felt sorry for them, that they are moving in vain and idly That they touch those things in the world that had been already created, already finished, and only small and nice, smooth, soft and round things, which serve only him, his senses, which are only the receptors of delights
       Cyril noticed his look at the open palms and said only:
       Nothing more. But he said it in such a way as if he had caught his thought, as if he had guessed in what connection he had reached it. Fra looked at him and turned red. And suddenly he got angry with his friend. Thats the perpetrator of all evil! It was Cyrils idea to campaign, to go from one man to another, "to shake those work eaters!" But his anger immediately changed into maliciousness again. Weve both lost, bro, you and me, we both are on the Moon, we dont have anything to blame one another for
       He had the urge to tell him that, but no! Let him begin on his own! Let him admit his mistake like a man! He said: Hands! What did he want to suggest by that? Let him finish! He wanted to laugh at me because the gardeners hands had reminded me of my own? Or to tempt me? What should he think of him?
       He looked at him from the side and waited.
       See, he doesnt smile with that constantly-promising-something smile of his any more. He promised, promised until he finished promising! So far was he led by the damned smile and here it went out! And if it lit up again, and if it shone like the morning star, shepherds star, it wont deceive Fra any longer!
       But what is he waiting for? Let him talk then! Let him say something! And if he begins to twitter about bird freedom again, about lark liberty, Ill wave my hand in front of his eyes: Man, go on! Dont fool me and others!
       In a mutual tension they came to the "Ladybug" crossroads. Cyril suddenly stopped there.
       "Fra " he said and held him softly by the elbow.
       "What is it?"
       He looked in his eyes with a long, searching look.
       "Wouldnt you like to tell me something?"
       "I would!" Fra became angry, "but you talk first! I think you have something to tell me as well!"
       "Well part, Fra!" Cyril replied to that.
       "What?" Fra startled. "You want to leave? Now, when That wouldnt be honest "
       "Why that?" Cyril didnt understand.
       "Because because both of us are in a real mess anyway! I dont want to blame anything on you, I was equally wrong, like you! But now it would be just if we tried to find out together how to get out of the mess!"
       "Ive already found a solution for me, Fra. You know what, though. If I advised that to you, you could even think that Im pushing you "
       "But why, even I am thinking about it!" Fra cried out, "even I will find something for me! Thats clearer than all suns!"
       When he uttered that, it seemed to him that some heavy fog had fallen to the bottom inside him. He felt joy but in no way would he be able to say why and what from. Something cleared up inside him. He laughed at that. But that reply made an impression on Cyril too. Once again, he had around his mouth that well-known smile of unrealizable promises, but it suddenly seemed to Fra that he had just fulfilled one of those promises.
       "Ill begin tomorrow," Fra blazed up, "and not four but five hours a day Ill slave Bro, weve got a lot to catch up with, dont you think?"
       Eventually, tired by long travel, they sat down in a little pub that has been called "Vikrka" since time immemorial They asked for a wine list.
       "To remain in the old style today " the old man joked, well have champagne from the vineyards of Troy "
       But Fra suddenly became sad, not even a cup of ice-cold sparkling wine didnt manage to cheer him up He was reminiscing about Cyril. He hoped in vain that the lost friend will himself somehow call There was no Cyril
       "I said good bye to everybody," he opened his heart to his father, "everybody except one and it was specifically him I was up to. It was my best friend What weve experienced together, that is, dad, so miraculous that you wouldnt believe it. It seems to me like I had experienced it in hypnosis. How much Ive already looked for him he vanished like a stone in water "
       "Could it have been Cyril by any chance?" father asked him as if by the way.
       Fra remained staring at him with his mouth open
       "What, do you know him, dad?"
       The old man smiled omnisciently. He placed his hand softly and as if soothingly on the back of his sons hand. Its alright again that hand was saying and there was some good power in it
       "You were ill, Fra, seriously ill. I was frightened by you, you know, though It was necessary to undertake something Do you remember how I told you you should undergo medical treatment? Now, when you are healthy, you can hear everything, Im not afraid that a complication can arise any longer except a surprise "
       Fra sank his eyes and with disgrace pulled his hand away from under his fathers palm.
       "Who is Cyril?"
       "Doctor Cyril is a professor at the Characters Treatment Institute "
       "I havent been to that institute though " Fra objected quietly.
       "Of course you havent. You wouldve only hardened your heart more then Many patients undergo treatment outside the institute, under psychiatrists supervision."
       "So thats how it was " Fra cried out bitterly. That great friendship that was a big trick! What hatched from a friend was a psychiatrist! Friendship ha! Kuratela, medical help, and not friendship I was such a fool "
       The old man anxiously paused. Then he said hesitantly:
       "Perhaps I shouldnt have told you that yet after all You havent ripened  yet "
       Fra got frightened. He immediately pulled himself together.
       "No, no! Tell me everything! I know it had to be like that! Im already completely healthy but understand me, dad, I liked him "
       Father nodded in agreement.
       "I understand that. He liked you too. And then he cured you!"
       "Yes, yes, I thank him for that. But I still dont understand so many things, how is it possible "
       He fished in the memories of the past days. And all those meetings and conflicts, those troubles and messes he suddenly saw in different light. They were then created artificially and they led only and only towards the fact that somebody, an individual, a member of society, was brought back to sense. A drop of water that had rebelled! One cell in an organism had gone mad!
       What all had Cyril undertaken in order to cure him! How wisely and ingeniously he acted, how infallibly he headed towards the goal! Fra told his father about the conspiracy in the "imek" pub. Did the cook arrange it with Cyril?
       "I wasnt present," the old man said. "I know, however, that the institute disposes of an enormous apparatus, that it has a whole personnel of voluntary services to its use, that it has its own institutes in the field "
       "How much work he had with me!" Fra finally laughed.
       "Perhaps not even so. You were neither the first nor the last one of those philosophers of laziness Cyril treats and returns to the society. They catch up with what they had missed then. They make the best laborers!"
       "So that horrible little imek restaurant, that bitter coffee, the lights turned off during a chess game, those vending machines without Venuses, that interrupted film with Zachari Zdichinec, that broken elevator and that tearsome learning on the stairs all that repeats like on a conveyor belt, today and every day for all the lazy people in the same way?" Fra asked with laughter.
       "I suppose that Cyril has many more opportunities than those he had showed you. Not all the cases are the same rather each of them is different "
       "And what kind of case was I?"
       "Quite an obstinate one I persuaded the king of the drones Cyril conveyed to me."
       "Tell me everything he had told you about me "
       "He said he had a great time with you, that he had fallen in love with you and that you are among his great successes. He apologized for not being able to come to clasp your hand to say good-bye, hes just immersed into a new case, a hard and complicated one "
       "Still, I like him " Fra called out.
       "Before I forget, that little article in the Message was his And how he rejoiced when Id announced to him that youre flying to the Arctic with me. He said he would definitely write to you "