“Alice. Can you come for a bit. Where’s Kačenka?”
“Are you calling me? We’re outside. Come on out here, too, what are you doing in there?” David took the small envelope and walked outside into the sun-drenched garden behind their house.
“David, those are the roses that we bought. Katuška and I planted them here.”
“That’s the best spot. They should bloom yellow. See here, a bud. They’ll be yellow.” The June sun was hot, as though it wanted to make up for the lengthy winter. It was the first weekend when stress loosened its reigns. They bought a new stove and that for Alice meant a kitchen. And kitchen means home. It was David’s foresight to prioritize specifically the stove. Until six o’clock last night Alice had been cooking on a small cooker they’d purchased in a pawn-shop. According to the label, it was made in nineteen forty-two in Denver. It emitted heat, whirred and after twenty minutes it inexplicably began clattering at the bottom. Yesterday the Říha’s were delivered a brand new stove. So far, that was the only thing they could check off their shopping list. They had nothing to play the cd’s that had made the cross-oceanic journey; they didn’t own a vacuum cleaner or carpets and slept on mattresses, but they now had a stove and also bought a yellow coffee-maker. Every day, they now ritually made coffee in it.
Their income had crossed a rung above which Rosita no longer had to sublet the basement. She knew it. It was Alice who suggested to David that Rosita could stay longer. Until she herself finds something of her own; she’ll leave freely of her own accord. They didn’t want to chase her out like a stray cat. Rosita was touched and truly happy; she liked it at the Říha’s and was glad she wouldn’t have to face the stigma of a run-away refugee with a suitcase in each hand, constantly knocking on someone’s door. David and Alice agreed to lower her rent by fifty dollars a month. Rosita wasn’t expecting that and never would have expected such a rent adjustment; she never heard of such a thing. But David and Alice had their own answer – ‘why not’?
“I have something for you here. For us, actually.” David had their attention and showed the envelope.
“What is in there?” jumped up Kačenka.
“That’s just a piece of paper with some writing on it. It’s nothing,” smiled David proudly.
“Something’s there,” she was reaching with her hand.
“Give it to mom then, so she can read it.” With the back of her hand in the plastic garden glove Alice wiped her forehead and, intrigued, reached for the envelope. She ripped the edge and pulled out two folded sheets. She opened them and read.
“…three-day stay…National Park Yellowstone…, David! We’re going on a vacation?”
“Three amazing days. We have a vacation. A vacation together and we have to cross our fingers for only one thing. That our ‘ford’ makes it.” David wished for and dreamt about this moment. The moment when he offers to his family more than a struggle for tomorrow. He continued in his proud speech. “We’ll see geysers and freely roaming bisons….”
“…won’t they eat us?” asked Kačka, alarmed.
“I hope they feed them better.”
“David, I’m so happy. That’s our milestone.”
“It is, Alice. And, what’s more, I’ve got a detailed itinerary for three days. Actually, including the way there, it’s four, and five with the way back. And when we add the two weeks of excitement beforehand and the month of joy immediately after, then it’s a vacation unlike any other. Exact schedule of activities is the following.” Now they both got a little nervous and exchanged looks. Is there a catch? David continued, pretending a stern tone.
“In the morning we will sleep in, we’ll get up when we feel like it, then we’ll enjoy a breakfast – the kind we happen to have appetite for. We’ll roll out of the motel when we’re ready and will go look at the geysers and from our ‘ford’ we’ll see the bisons. Then we’ll buy some souvenirs and trinkets that we don’t need but that we would still like to have. Only from pure desire and lavishness. In the afternoon, we can lounge in the pool and sip slurpies. I’ll put it to a vote but declare that my vote has the weight of three votes.” David was in an excellent mood. The extraordinary summer day only multiplied the experience.
“I’m really looking forward to it, David. Really a lot. But I’m happy even more so because your company is really starting to take off. That it’s happening. What’s the assistant like, that Jenny?”
“You know, business is a little bit like water rings. If the conditions are good and you have enough pebbles to throw, the rings start to multiply and grow. In the wind, or if competition creates giant water circles because they’re throwing boulders big as a shoe, that can sink you. Or, Alice, you have to throw your own little pebbles further and further so that they become visible. And so we’re throwing pebble after pebble. I think we’re becoming visible now.
David’s wife watched him and sensed in him both tenderness and strength. Craziness and wisdom. Vulnerability and indestructibility. His values and motives, those he never changed. Is it stubbornness? Persistence? Most likely, it’s simply him. David lifted his finger to indicate his point: “The key is that you must enjoy it. Then it doesn’t hurt.”
He took the letter from his wife and sat down on the step in the garden. He was simply taking pleasure in that beautifully painted summer day.
The phone rang in the kitchen. On a Saturday? Who could it be? David got up and rushed to pick up before the answering machine did.
“Ray, it’s Jenny. Am I disturbing you?”
“Not at all. I’m just riding through my lands on my stallion and hunting game.”
“I’d like to join you then.”
“If you’ve got a net and some lures, I’ll be expecting you in the ivory salon of my hunting lodge. There’s room here for six more helicopters.” Jenny chuckled, but she had a reason why she dragged work into the weekend.
“I printed it, too.”
“What did you print, Jenny. Did something happen?”
“I was looking for competing prices on the internet. Then I searched for our own company, too. On that public site where someone had complained about our service that time – about our valves and cardiostimulators – another patient wrote that he feels tingling and that our service takes too long. Several times he named HeartGong. As though he really cares about the fact that we are the distributors.”
“Jenny, was it really us who expedited it?” David pulled up a chair to the phone.
“One moment, I’ll bring it up.” David heard rapid typing on the keyboard, then clicking of the mouse and then Jenny again.
“No. It’s not our device. We never sent that anywhere. Did someone make a mistake?”
“No mistake. We see the result. To be more precise, the result is supposed to be the impact on the customer. Whoever searches for HeartGong will come across this site. Nothing more, so far. They’ll look and see that our goods are unreliable and bad.”
“Do you think somebody’s doing this on purpose?” Alice entered the kitchen and whispered.
“Did something happen?” David gestured to indicate nothing serious was going on and replied to Jenny.
“Yes. Think about it. Is it plausible that someone is having problems only with our devices? And still the client would want to continue buying from us? And they’d never express dissatisfaction or complain to us directly? And even if there were more than one dissatisfied customer, as is supposed to be indicated by the various names, would they be all using this same site – a site that is intended to alert the public about defective goods generally? And besides, who signed themselves this time?”
“One moment, here below. Associated Professor L.L., PhD.”
“There you go. Jenny, keep searching. In the meantime I’ll think about our next step. Tonight we’re playing with ‘King of Hearts’ and on Monday we’ll put a stop to it.” In David’s voice sounded terrifying decisiveness and resolve that Jenny didn’t know yet. They said their goodbyes. David looked even-keeled, but Alice knew him well enough to see that his blood was boiling, saturated with adrenaline. She didn’t want to ask directly. Her heart was pounding; she had some question on her tongue, but didn’t say anything. David broke the silence.
“Alice, would you please be so kind and make two aromatic coffees in that fancy coffee-maker of ours? And I’ll go get some ice-cream for the three of us. I’ll bring one for Rosita, too, so that we all feel good and summery. I’ll be right back. I won’t mind a little walk, actually.”