GilThis is the twelfth part of my short story "The Poet". Please would you correct my mistakes.
I paid for the book and returned to the queue. It was a strange feeling to hold something in my hands which completely belonged to me, but did not have my name on its cover. I had enough time to read through some poems and I could conclude with sadness that he had stolen every single verse from me, even the titles of all the poems. If I had been alone, I would have cried, but here among the people I had to pretend to be excited as anyone else and infatuated with The Prime Minister’s poetry. I heard the people in front of me and behind me raving about his verses, and I wanted to shout at them, “You stupid idiots! It’s me you should praise! You’ve been fooled again!” But I stayed silent knowing that my fellow citizens would rather believe in the lies of the powerful leader than in the truth of a poor man.
As I was coming closer to the table where the Prime Minister was signing his book, I had an opportunity to watch him and observe his movements and facial expression. He sat alone, but to the right and left of him, a few meters away stood two tall, unsmiling guards, ready to pounce on anyone who would dare to harm their boss. And he was beaming - well-styled, well-dressed and well-made up - he was the embodiment of the new political leader, who was not only competent as a politician but also possessed a sensitive soul, and was able to express the deepest feelings. He and his poetry spoke to everyone: children, teenagers, students, workers, jobless, pensioners, intellectuals...Soon there would be no home without his book, no citizen of the country who would not be able to recite at least one poem from this great volume.
I felt anger welling up in me. My heart was pumping so hard that it sounded like large kettledrums inside my head. I came face to face with him, but he hardly glanced at me. He took the book I had stretched towards him and put it on the table. His perfectly manicured fingers held the fountain pen covered in gold and diamonds, poised above the blank page. “What is your name?” he asked without lifting his eyes. When I said my name, he blushed and looked at me. Little beads of sweat appeared on his hairless head. Wrinkles came out of the layer of makeup and did not want to return. His mask had melted away and his body started to shake. I was unable to control myself and clasped my arms around his thick neck. I heard some women screaming hysterically, men shouting something I did not understand, and took several painful blows on my body, followed by orders to let go. But I could not obey them, because I heard my poems pleading with me to kill the man who had separated us for ever (forever) and caused us so much pain. My grip tightened and I saw his face turning into a hideous mask of
thea man facing death. Then, I received a crushing blow on my temple, which made me unconscious.
I woke up in a small, cold room without windows. The light was coming from a single fluorescent tube in the ceiling. On the concrete floor there was only a thin rubber mattress with a pillow and a grey blanket, and in the corner stood a toilet bowl. I had a pain in my whole body, especially in my head, and I felt an intense thirst. The door opened and in came a strong man dressed in black.
“Good morning,” Mr Novak he said in his hoarse voice.
“Where am I?”
“You’re in police custody. Do you need something? Are you hungry?”
He brought me some sandwiches and coffee on a plastic tray, which he put on the dusty floor. He stood at the door watching me eating, and then, before closing the door said, “Man, you almost killed him.” When I became alone again, I started to think of the mess I had put myself in. I had done something nobody had ever done before. People are seldom attacked in bookshops, let alone during a book signing. And I had not only attacked, but tried to kill the Prime Minister. I knew nothing about our criminal law, but I had a premonition I was going to spend years in prison. The nation would never forgive me my heinous crime. In the past, culprits like I would have been lynched on the spot by the angry crowd, or
burningburnt at the stake. Although we had left such barbarities behind us, there was no doubt that my fellow citizens hated me from the bottom of their hearts. The Prime Minster had certainly many political enemies, but his poetry had united the whole country and made people proud of their leader. He had become an idol, and I, a good-for-nothing, was just an envious loser who could not bear to see someone succeeding in life. Without proof of authorship I was hopeless. Who would believe in the words of a parasite who is going to sponge off hard-working people until he dies?
Later, prison warders came in, put handcuffs on my hand and then shoved me into the police van. They took me to the large building, but we did not pull in front of it, but behind, away from the curious eyes. They put me in front of an old man, dressed in a black robe. He showed no emotion and looked at me straight in the eyes. He asked me my name, age, address and occupation. I wanted to tell him that I was a victim of an outright theft, and that our Prime Minister was a conman, but even before I managed to open my mouth, he raised his right hand and the prison warders took me away.
I spent another night in police custody and then, they took me outside the city to the largest psychiatric hospital in the country. They told me they would make some tests to see the state of my mental health. Every morning after breakfast they would take me from one room to another and ask me everything about my life. What was my first memory? Did I fight as a child? What was my relation towards my parents? Did I hate my father? Did I like to play with other children or alone? Had I ever contemplated suicide? I felt exhausted and wished they would stop, but they seemed never to tire. A female psychologist gave me some cards with strange pictures and asked me what I had seen. I told her it could be an animal hide or a vagina, and she seemed to be pleased with my answers and nodded in acknowledgment. But when I told her that another picture reminded me of a conman tricking a naive man, she became angry and insisted that I explain to her where exactly I saw him. I answered that it must have been in my mind. She grumbled something I could not understand, but she dutifully wrote down in her notebook everything
whatthat I told her. Her colleague ordered me to draw a picture of a man and a woman and when she saw my drawing, she asked me why the man was looking at the woman with suspicion. I told her that the woman was devious. She had stolen something from the man and ran away. Then the psychologist asked me what she could have stolen, and I answered that people stole all kinds of things: gold, diamonds, watches, books...She seemed not to like my explanation either, but nevertheless, she took down my words. I was also given a few intelligence tests and had to perform some arithmetical operations. I had no contact with other patients, although I saw them sitting in the TV lounge, playing chess or walking in the corridors as the nurses followed me from one psychologist to another. When I was not doing tests, I was sitting in my little room, eating my meals and sleeping. I was calm and did not bemoan my fate. I knew that everyone was against me, includedincluding all these psychologists, doctors and nurses who wore the masks of humanity. I was convinced that even my mother would accuse me if the prosecutor asked her as a witness in the court.
To be continued.