For children, source
The most important thing in all the world is friendship. When you find a good friend, life becomes much better and easier. The best proof of what I am saying is Ivo.
Ivo is my best friend. Thanks to him I don't have to study all my subjects at school. I learn half, and Ivo learns the other half. For example: I learn the Croatian and he learns the mathematics. I do the Croatian homework and he does the maths.
If we are writing tests, my crib sheet becomes his and his becomes mine. Our friendship is the real thing, something I have been waiting for all my life.
I only met Ivo when I started the fifth grade. Quite by chance that we sat at the same desk for the first period, and that's the way it's been ever since.
Once when we were on our way back from school, Ivo stopped in front of me, fixing me with his look and said:
- Listen, Pero, are your hiding something from me?
- Yes, you.
- Where did you get that idea?
- You've been acting funny lately - said Ivo, not taking his eyes off me.
- What makes you think that?
- Well, you don't talk movies and comics any more during breaks, you keep staring at the one spot, or, more like it, at the one person.
- Which person?
- You know very well which person.
I felt the blood rush to my face. I was embarrassed. I almost started stuttering:
- I... you know... I don't know who you're talking about.
- Pero, aren't the two of us real friends, or are we just...? - asked Ivo, looking straight into my eyes.
- I think we're real friends, better than the best friends in westerns where their lives depend on it - I answered.
- And you know that there can't be any secrets between real friends?
- Of course I know.
- If that's true, why don't you admit that you're in love?
- Don't exaggerate, I'm not, really... where did you... why do you think...
- Pero, friends mustn't have secrets. You can tell me who you like, and I'll tell you who I like.
- You fancy somebody, too?! - I had never been more surprised. I would never have thought that my friend Ivo, who has dreamed all his life about becoming a mountain climber, could fancy someone.
- I really do. But that's quite natural and normal - said Ivo, and by the way he said it, it looked as if he was proud to think that some girl had captured his heart.
- And who is she? - I asked.
- I'll tell you when you admit that you like Tihana.
- It is that obvious?
- Of course, it's obvious. You don't take your eyes off her, not in class and not during recess.
- Well, if that's the way it is... I do think she is very beautiful - I managed to say in a shaky voice.
- She's pretty, of course she is. But, I like one of the other girls better.
- Which one?
- Aha. There's nothing wrong with your taste, either.
- I think that Dinka is the most beautiful girl in the whole class - said Ivo.
- She's not bad, but to me Tihana is the most beautiful girl I have ever met in my whole life.
- If that's what you think, then you are in love with her, one hundred percent - said Ivo.
- I'm just not sure if it's a good thing that we have fallen in love.
- What could be not good about it? We are in the fifth grade. That means something. We're at the best age to fall in love. I think about Dinka every single day.
- And I think about Tihana. But, please, don't tell anyone.
- What is wrong with you?! I'll keep your secret, just like you'll keep mine - said Ivo.
We kept on walking without talking for a few minutes, as if we were both happy that we had revealed out most important secret to one another. A large motor car was parked where it shouldn't have been, under a huge chestnut tree whose branches stretched out over the whole street. I stopped, leaned on the car, and looked into Ivo's eyes.
- And what do you think, does Tihana like me?
Ivo looked back at me, shrugged his shoulders and replied:
- Even if she doesn't at this moment, it's up to you to do something to change her mind.
From that day on, from that conversation about the secrets of our hearts, our friendship became even stronger and even more sincere. He was the only person in this whole world who knew what I felt for Tihana, and I was the only person he dared to tell about his feelings for Dinka.
I started going to the movies with Ivo, we exchanged tapes, and rode our bikes in the Maksimir Park.
I lived in Rendić Street, and Ivo in Maksimir Street, not far from the Dinamo football stadium, so we were close neighbours.
When I rang him on the phone and suggested we went out to play, he was always ready for action.
Simply put, Ivo and I were like brothers.
Ten days before Christmas I bought two packets of banger firecrackers from Muki, who was in Grade 6B. I hid them in the toy cupboard where I kept my toys.
Mum always said:
- Your toy cupboard is your concern, I am not going to tidy it, that's your job.
So I put the bangers at the bottom of the toy cupboard, knowing that it was the only place in the house where my mother would not be cleaning.
Ivo and I agreed that we would go to the Sava River bank on Saturday and to throw the bangers there on the levee, where we wouldn't bother anybody.
I couldn't even admit to my best friend that I had never played with bangers before, so that this was to be my baptism by fire and just the thought of it made my heart beat wildly.
In my imagination I could see my bleeding hand, wounded by the exploding banger which I hadn't thrown on time.
It sent shudders up and down my spine to think that Saturday was coming nearer and nearer.
MY FIRST BANGER
After breakfast on Saturday, I kissed my Mum's cheek and said:
- I'm going now.
- Where to?
- I going to play here in Maksimir Street with Ivo, and I'll be back before lunch.
- Have you forgotten about asking for permission? Don't I exist any more as far as you're concerned?
- Come on, Mama, don't complicate things. Ivo and I talked about it yesterday and...
- So why didn't you ask me first yesterday whether you could go out and play today?
- I didn't think you'd mind. Anyway, I'm asking now: Mama, please, may I go out to play with Ivo?
- Ivo here, Ivo there. Who is this Ivo, anyway? I think it's time I met him. I don't want anyone being a bad influence on you.
- But, Mum, Ivo is very good at school, how could he be a bad influence on me?
- Very good but not excellent? - asked Mum.
- My marks aren't excellent either, and there's nothing wrong with me. Not all the pupils in the world can be swots. Let me go out and play, I'm fed up with this flat and the TV! Anyway, it's such a lovely sunny day, and we might have rain or even snow tomorrow.
- Alright, alright. Off you go, but don't stay out too long.
- Thanks, Mama. I knew that you could never be a strict, nagging mother, but that you have to act the part.
- Watch it, young man, don't make fun of me or you might have to stay home.
- I'm joking, I'm joking.
- What's that in your pocket?
I froze. The packet of bangers was in my pocket. I could feel cold sweat running down my back. If Mama found the bangers, I could be grounded for a whole month - just when the Christmas holidays were coming and there was so much going on in Zagreb. I coughed and managed to say:
- Lego blocks. I promised Ivo.
- Do you still play with Legos?
- No, but Ivo does, so...
- There's nothing wrong with that. I'd rather you played with Legos than rushed about on those skateboards or did those dangerous stunts on your bicycles.
- We're not like that.
- I hope not.
So I managed to get out of the house without my mother finding the bangers, although I was a hairbreadth away from not seeing Ivo or the Sava levee that day.
My mother really is a good and sweet woman, but sometimes she acts as though she's my father. Perhaps that's because my father died when I was only one year old, so that I don't even remember what he looked like. But my mother sometimes thinks that she has to be strict with me, to make up for me not having a father. It's really quite silly. She's a gentle woman at heart, and it would be better if she stopped acting so tough with me.
When Ivo and I finally reached the Sava levee, it was already eleven o'clock. There was no-one in sight, except for a woman with her dog in the distance. They were walking in our direction.
Ivo took a box of matches and a banger out of his pocket. He handed me the banger and said:
- Do you want to go first?
- No. You do it.
Ivo struck the banger against the match-box and threw it.
The banger exploded!
- Your turn - said Ivo.
There was no retreat. My palms were sweating. My whole body was quivering. I almost dropped the firecracker. I struck the banger against the match and threw it.
I heard a bang, followed by shouting:
- Maniac, idiot, hooligan!!!
It was that woman doing the shouting, the one who had been at least fifty paces away from us when Ivo threw his banger, and was now only an unbelievable fifteen feet away.
My banger had exploded not far from her feet. As frightened as I was, I hadn't even looked where I was throwing it.
- You could have killed me! You little thugs!
The woman was shouting so loudly that there was nothing for it but for us to run away as fast as we could.
Her angry shouts were mixed with the barking of her dog, who got an even bigger fright than she did.
Only when she and her dog were far behind us did we slow down.
- You are really crazy, you could have hurt her - said Ivo.
I could see both fear and admiration in his eyes, so I pretended to be very cool:
- I only wanted to scare her a bit.
So, that's how it was: I threw my first banger that day. And quite a few followed. I smoked up the whole parking area, just like an experienced warrior. I felt that I had become bigger and more resolute than I had been the day before.
When we were walking home, Ivo suddenly put his hands up to his head.
- Gosh, I almost forgot!
- My father has invited you to come to lunch tomorrow. He wants to meet you. I have talked a lot about you and so...
- I'll ask my mother, if she says yes... I'll be there.
A SUNDAY TO REMEMBER
When I rang the door-bell of Ivo's flat that Sunday I had no way of knowing that I would remember that particular day forever .
I expected Ivo to open the door, but instead the door was opened by a young, athletic looking man with black hair.
- Ah, you must be Pero.
- Yes, I am.
- Hi, I'm Luke, Ivo's father - said the man, and held out his hand. We shook hands firmly, like men, like grown-ups.
- Come on in, Ivo is in the bathroom. He'll be here in a minute.
The man lead me into a large comfortable flat in which everything was normal, but still - it was as though something was missing.
- Are you chilled to the bone? - asked Uncle Luke.
- Pretty much. But it's nice and warm here.
- We use wood for heating. We reset the tiles in the room heater this autumn, and it's really keeping us warm this winter...
At that moment, my best friend Ivo came out of the bathroom.
- Pero, it's super you could come. I was already thinking that your mother said no.
- I was afraid she might. But she was invited to my aunt's place today, so I easily talked her into letting me come.
- If nobody minds, I'll put the spaghetti on - said Uncle Luke.
- Put it on. I'm really hungry - said Ivo.
And that's how that wonderful Sunday started. Uncle Luke made spaghetti bolognese for lunch and he baked Zagorje štrukle [rolled pastry with a cream cheese filling] in the oven. They are both favourites of mine.
Admittedly, Ivo was a little bit disappointed that his father always cooks Italian dishes and said he had had enough of that type of food. But his father defended himself, saying that he hadn't made spaghetti for at least three days, and that it wasn't his fault that he wasn't such a good cook.
I comforted him and told him that spaghetti and štrukle were my favourite foods in all the world, along with pizza with mushrooms, and that I wasn't interested in those big lunches my mother makes, which start with clear beef soup and noodles and go on and on.
So at Ivo's place we had a real man's meal, just the way I like. It was only on that day that I found out that Ivo's mother doesn't live with him. She had left her son and her husband and gone off to live with her new husband in South America in a country called Argentina.
- She only sends me a card at Christmas time. And not even that for my birthday - said Ivo in a sad voice, commenting on the behaviour of his mother who had gone off into the big wide world and forgotten about her son.
- Maybe she'll come back some day - I said.
- Never. And, anyway, why would I need her? My uncle, her brother, told us that she is doing some ugly job there, something no woman should ever do. She has shamed herself and me and Dad, forever.
After lunch, Uncle Luke invited me into his study and asked me:
- Do you know how to use a computer?
- No, I don't.
- Would you like me to teach you?
- I don't know if I could learn to use it.
- Why wouldn't you be able to? I taught Ivo in two days.
And then Uncle Luke put a game called Prince of Persia on the computer, and it really was a super game, the one with the prince who escapes from an Ottoman jail.
He showed me what I had to do, and after only a few minutes I could play the game without him helping me.
And when we were tired of that game, Uncle Luke said:
- Now I'll show you a game which I invented.
- You can just make it up yourself! - I said in surprise.
- Of course he can. My Dad makes a living from the computer programmes and games he makes up. He is a mechanical engineer, but he stopped working for the factory three years ago. Now he works at home and makes much more money than he did before.
Then Uncle Luke wrote a new command on the screen and an unusual game appeared with two policeman racing around town trying to catch two robbers who were running away with sacks full of treasure. That game was even more fun than the Prince of Persia.
When we played ourselves out, Ivo and I went to his room where he showed me all his comic books and the toy revolver and rifle he used to play with before he started school.
I also saw his herbarium and his books about the world's greatest mountaineers. They are the ones who climb the world's highest mountains. Ivo says he is going to be a famous mountain-climber one day and conquer the highest peaks on our planet Earth.
At the end of that lovely day, Uncle Luke suggested we all go to watch an important volleyball match. I said I had to phone my mother and if she said I could go then I would, but otherwise I would have to go home.
Of course, Mama spoiled the rest of the day because she said I had been out for ages, and that she had come back from my aunt's two hours ago, and that I had to come home.
That's the way it is with women who just don't understand us men and our need for sport and volleyball matches.
At our last class with our home-room teacher [form-master] before the Christmas holidays, we spoke about the excursion the class went on every school year.
Now, as could be expected, we all wanted to go on the excursion as soon as possible. The end of the school year was so far away, and so much could happen in the meantime, that it seemed better to go on a winter excursion than to wait for summertime.
That's the way we all thought and felt, and even our home-room teacher was prepared to think along those lines, until Tihana raised her hand to say something. She suggested that we go on our excursion in June, and that we go to the seaside.
Tihana was very convincing, explaining that a summer excursion was the real thing, and that no-one normal ever went on an excursion during the winter or spring. Half the class started to agree with her.
I like Tihana very much, I would even say I love her, but I wanted so badly to go on our excursion as soon as possible that I shouted loudly so that the whole class heard me:
- Anyone who's afraid of the cold can stay home.
Tihana gave me a sharp look and said:
- That's very rude.
And that's how I closed the book on my love story with Tihana, even before it actually began.
Ivo tried to console me later, saying it was nothing so terrible if a girl got a bit angry, but everything was clear to me from the expression on her face and I said to Ivo:
- Listen, mate, thanks for trying to comfort me, but I know that I don't stand a chance with her from now on.
And then the cleaning up for Christmas began. If there's one thing I hate, it's Christmas cleaning. It's the loveliest part of the year as far as my mother is concerned, and the worst for me.
I told her once that all lawyers - and she's a lawyer - are slightly crazy, because they want everything in life to be just as they think it should be, but now I did not dare to argue with her because I knew anyhow that it would achieve absolutely nothing.
I worked like mad and kept quiet. I did so much that I grew to hate the vacuum cleaner, and anything that looked like rubbish brought flickering spots before my eyes, and my hands were trembling from the effort I put into beating the carpet.
And to make things worse, every half hour or so my mother found something new for us to do, just this... and just that.
This madness lasted for three long days during which I had to forget about playing, and all the other things in life which make it worth living to a boy like me.
Worst of all, on the last day I had to help with baking the cakes, and dicing up the potatoes, and the carrots, and the hard-boiled eggs for the French salad.
For Christmas Eve dinner, my mother made the traditional dried cod dish, and we had the same guests as last year and the year before: my aunt, her daughter Barbara, and my grandma.
My aunt is divorced and her husband lives on the coast in Split. So the house was full of women talking about fashion and recipes. I don't need to tell you that it couldn't have been more boring.
Then my mother told me that I had to go and play with Barbara, my cousin, and that made it all even worse. I ask you, what could I possibly play with a nine-year-old girl, who is only interested in dolls and dressing up.
But, if you think that Christmas Eve was the worst day last year, then you are very wrong. The next day was the worst - when all those women came again for Christmas lunch, and when all those stupid female conversations about fashion, perfume and cooking were repeated all over again.
There was supposed to be a TV broadcast during the afternoon on Christmas Day of an exhibition basketball game between Boston and San Francisco. I knew all the boys from my class would be watching and would all talk about it in detail when we went back to school after the Christmas break.
So I looked forward to it from when I woke up right up until four in the afternoon when it was set to start. But my patience did not pay off.
After lunch, I excused myself from the table and said to my mother:
- I am going to watch the game.
Mama looked at me and said:
- Excuse me, Pero, but there is a moving love story on the first programme with that actor from the Santa Barbara serial.
My grandma added:
- That could really be a good film.
And my cousin chipped in:
- I can hardly wait for it to start.
In a trembling voice, I managed to say:
- But I have been waiting for the match all day. I must see it. It will be more exciting that any film could ever be.
Then my mother gave me one of those looks and said:
- Let's be democratic. We'll vote on it. Who would like to watch the film?
Naturally, the four of them raised their hands in the air, eliminating my basketball match in the most underhand way.
- There, you see, the majority is for the film - said Mama.
- The majority is for the film because the majority in this house is made up of women. If I had a father and a brother, we would be watching a real man's basketball match, and not a stupid love story.
I said this in an angry voice, went to my room and shut the door with a bang.
Later, when the film was finished and our guests had gone home, my mother came into my room.
- Your behaviour was not very nice - she said.
- If you were me, you would feel the same.
- Perhaps. But people should not quarrel on Christmas Day - said Mama.
- I know, Mama. I was not shouting at you. I was shouting because of my unfortunate fate.
- Oh. Strong words. And why do you think that your fate is so unfortunate?
- Because I'm the only man in the family, and because none of you women like sport.
- You can learn more from a film than from a hundred basketball matches.
- You think that because you are a woman.
And so my conversation with my mother ended without me being able to bring her around to a way of thinking which is natural to every normal man.
AN IMPORTANT CONVERSATION
On Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, I went to play with Ivo. As soon as he saw me, he put the most painful question possible.
- Did you see what a super game it was?
- No, I didn't.
- What do you mean, you didn't?
- I couldn't watch the game because there was a love story on the first programme.
- You didn't miss the game because of a silly love story?
- Yes, I did, unfortunately.
- But why?
And then I told my best friend how my aunt, my mother, my grandma and Barbara had outvoted me four to one.
- I watched with my Dad and we commented on every goal and really enjoyed it.
- Ah, it's easy for you when you have a father.
- So this is not the first time that women have ruined it for you where sport is concerned.
- It sure isn't. She wouldn't even let me enrol in karate, because to her, as a woman, it's a stupid sport.
- It must be hard for you.
- Of course it is, since I'm the only man in the family. That's why I wanted to talk with you about something very important.
- What is it? - asked Ivo, looking into my eyes with curiosity.
- It's not so easy to say.
- But we're friends, and friends...
- I know: no secrets between friends.
- That's right - assented Ivo.
- Look. I have realised that I can't go on living like this with my mother. It's no sort of a life. Well, everything's alright, but, at the same time, nothing is.
- What are you trying to say?
- I am trying to say that I need a father.
- What do you mean?
- Look, I'd like to have a father, I'd like to have a brother, I've had enough of women, cooking, fashion, love stories, all of it. Understand?
- Yes, but how...
- My mother is only thirty-three years old. She could still have a baby brother for me. She had me while she was still a student. I don't even remember my father because he died when I was one year old. He died during an operation, some medical mess-up, so...
- But wait a minute, what does your mother say to all this?
- She has no idea that I want a father and a brother. Let's say a brother like you, who loves sport and loves life. Understand?
- Well, you could tell all that to your mother.
- No way. She always has something against men, saying how stupid, and insensitive and half-educated they are, and how smart she has been in not marrying again.
- How are you doing to get her to change her mind then, and get her married?
- I have no idea. I'll have to palm off some unattached man to her, without her realising it.
- So, that's the way it is - commented Ivo, falling quiet and thinking deeply.
So the two of us were silent for a long time, trying to think of something clever and cunning, trying to find a solution for this complex situation. Suddenly Ivo jumped to his feet.
- I've got it!
- Listen, there's a man in our block of flats who never got married. His name is Uncle Ivo, he really is a very nice man and he could be a good father to you.
- In your block?
- Yes, in my block. He is a plumber by trade. I think he likes children. Once he threw a ball around with me in front of the building.
- And what can I say to him: Uncle Ivo, my mother is not married, I would like you to be my father and to make me a little brother. How can I say that without frightening the man?
- You just can't do it like that.
- How then?
- It all has to look accidental and spontaneous.
- What does that mean?
- The best thing would be if he came to your flat, you know, by chance, to fix the tap over the kitchen sink, and met your mother and you just by the way.
- But why should he fix the tap when there's nothing wrong with it?
- There's nothing wrong with it so far, but if you tried hard enough, it could need fixing - said Ivo with a devilish smile.
- What do you mean?
- I mean I could show you how to unscrew it and take out the washer, and then screw it back again.
- And you can be sure it will start dripping after that. And when your mother comes home from work and says: 'Son, we have to call a plumber' and you say: 'Mama, I just happen to have the telephone number here in my pocket of the plumber who fixed the tap at my friend Ivo's place'.
- You think it will work?
- Why wouldn't it work? - my friend Ivo said, answering my question with a question.
- Well, I don't know...
- If you want to have a father, you have to make an effort. Isn't that so?
- Yes, you're right. That's the way it is.
IVO THE PLUMBER
It really did take a lot of effort and sweat but while Mama was at work I managed to unscrew the tap, take out the washer, cut a piece out of it and - as soon as I screwed it back, our kitchen tap started dripping madly.
When Mama came home from work, the loud TOK, TOK, TOK sound greeted her!
- What's that?
- There's something wrong with the tap. We have to call a plumber.
- Oh, Lord, now of all times, three days before New Year. It's enough to drive you crazy. Where am I going to find a plumber now?
- I rang my friend Ivo. He gave me the name of the plumber who fixes their taps. He lives nearby - in Maksimir Street.
- Well now, you really are growing up. A real man of the house. You are not a child anymore. What would I do without you?
Mama gently stroked my head, having no idea that, without me, the tap would be working perfectly.
And so the doorbell to our flat rang an hour after Mama phoned to Uncle Ivo.
- That must be the plumber now, open the door - said Mama, wiping a place.
I went to the door and opened it.
- Hello, I am Ivo the plumber.
- Hello, I'm Pero.
- You needed a plumber?
- Yes, we certainly do.
The man standing in front of me was red in the face and was holding a box of tools.
- Won't you come in?
- Thank you.
Ivo the plumber stumbled into our flat, barely maintaining his balance. Together with him, the strong smell of poor quality brandy came into our front hall. It was probably the worst kind of herb brandy.
And what can I say? That Uncle Ivo made more trouble for me than any three other repairmen could have.
All afternoon he worked on the water pipe in the kitchen, smoking cigarette after cigarette and downing glass after glass of home-made plum brandy, which Mama kept for very special guests.
- I really don't know what's wrong with this pipe. It must be some major fault - said Ivo.
- Perhaps you could check the washer - I said, and immediately bit my lip.
I simply could not keep quiet and had to give him a hint, because I was fed up with him fussing around in our kitchen.
- I don't think it's the washer - said Ivo.
- You could check it, just the same - I said insistently.
- Don't bother the repairman, if you want the tap fixed as soon as possible - said Mama, who had no idea that I could fix it much more quickly than Ivo, if I had half a chance.
So it was only around ten o'clock at night that Ivo fixed the tap. On his departure, he overcharged so much that Mama almost fainted.
- That's daylight robbery! - she said.
- Ah, Madam, everybody wants me to work for nothing. That's a thing of the past. We have the capitalist system now and the rights of workers have to be respected.
With a heavy heart, Mama paid the price Ivo asked, and when he left she turned to me and said:
- Just throwing money away! I really am sorry I won't be able to buy you those new skates for New Year.
- I'm sorrier than you are, Mama - said I, and something caught in my throat at the sadness of it all.
Instead of getting a father, I had lost my skates. That's the way it goes when a person has no luck in life.
When I was back at school after the holidays, there was some sort of good feeling in my heart which I could not explain at first.
- What is this? Can it be that I really like school!?!
But when I looked deeper into my soul, I understood that I was happy to be back at school because of Tihana. Whatever the situation, it was good to be sitting in the same class with Tihana.
It was good to be near her, even if she didn't love me, even if she despised me a bit. Nobody - not even Tihana - could forbid me to look at her and to be delighted with what I saw.
- You have to do something. You can't spend your whole life looking at the girl you fancy while she is talking to other boys, with not a word for you - said my friend Ivo, trying to force me into action.
- But what can I do. I can't make her love me. If she doesn't want to, then she doesn't want to.
- You haven't got a clue what she thinks about you.
- I know enough: she avoids me, she pretends not to notice me, and almost never says hello to me.
- That could be a good sign.
- Come on.
- No, seriously. My Dad says that women often avoid young men they like, so as to attract them even more.
- I don't understand.
- Neither do I. But I believe my father. He never speaks without thinking first.
- Does that mean I might have a chance with Tihana?
- You must never give up hope.
- Perhaps you're right. But I wanted to talk to you about something more important than Tihana.
- More important than Tihana!? What can be more important that the girl you love?
- I wanted to talk to you about my idea that Mama gets married and I get a father.
- Listen, I've already apologised about that business with Uncle Ivo. I really didn't know he was a drinker. He was completely sober when he was at our place.
- I wasn't thinking about him. I have crossed him off.
- Who were you thinking about then?
- Listen, I have thought of a plan, a good idea.
- What is it?
- I saw that women who want to get married put ads in the Evening News.
- Well, I thought it would be a good idea for me to put in an ad.
- You? I have never heard of a child advertising for a husband for its mother.
- I wouldn't put it in under my name.
- I would put it under Mama's name. As if Mama was looking for a husband. Get it?
- What if your mother won't let you?
- I won't ask her. I'll put in the ad, and when it comes out, I'll say: that's how it is, I need a father, I need a brother, please invite the men who answer the ad to come to see you, and you pick out the best one.
- That's not such a bad idea - said Ivo.
- But there is a problem.
- What's that?
- I don't have the money for the ad. I asked, and those ads are very expensive.
- We'll settle that problem together - said Ivo.
- Used paper.
- What do you mean, used paper?
- If we try, we can make money selling used paper.
- But I...
- We'll do it together - said Ivo.
- You are a real friend.
So the two of us collected used paper for two weeks, ringing people's doorbells and asking them like two beggars:
- Do you have any used paper?
I was a bit uncomfortable doing what I was doing, but if a person wants to get a father, nothing is too difficult.
At the end of January, I was sitting in Ivo's bedroom, holding Saturday's Evening News.
- These are the MARRIAGE ads. I should write something similar for my Mama, but I don't know how.
- Let me see - said Ivo, taking the newspaper and starting to read.
- This sounds good: 'Well-educated woman, comfortably off, 41 years old, because of the pressure of work choosing this way to meet a serious well-educated man with marriage in mind'. I don't know what comfortably off means.
- That probably means serious - I said.
- Or this one, listen: 'Likeable, pleasant appearance, a lady of fifty, without obligations, wants to meet a sensitive cultured gentleman, non-smoker up to sixty years of age'.
Then Ivo and I read all the marriage ads in the Evening News, to finally compose together an ad for my mother. It read: 'Young widow, through no fault of her own, long dark hair, expressive eyes, gentle nature, without obligations, comfortably off, looking for a man who loves sport in order to marry.'
And I added our telephone number.
I overdid it a bit saying Mama had a gentle nature, but what normal man would marry a woman who did not have a gentle nature.
We then took the ad to the Evening News classified ads office on Floral Square.
The lady behind the counter looked at me suspiciously and said:
- Why didn't your mother bring in this ad?
- Mama is working, so she asked me to do it - I lied.
- Alright - said the lady, taking my ad and typing it up on her computer. She even gave me some change, so that Ivo and I were able to go to have a Coca-Cola.
While we were drinking our Cokes from plastic mugs, Ivo looked at me and said:
- Tell your Mama right away. So that she gets ready for Saturday.
- Yes. I'll tell her today.
That was on Wednesday, but I did not tell her that day or the next. I waited until Saturday morning, I waited for the last day.