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Thriller – Part seven

Entry by Tom Geraghty – May 08

The seat was hard, and lumpy. Once upon a time there were some springs, or some padding or something in there, but it had long ago decomposed, along with much of the truck. Though the light was starting to fade, Alex was sure there was a small hole in the floor of the footwell through which the road surface was visible, rushing past. Still, as long as there are no sudden bumps, it’ll hold together, he figured.

Petri held the wheel like he was wrestling a bull, and those bear-like arms looked like they’d be able to hold a bull at bay for the foreseeable future.

“Cold day.” Said the bear.

“Isn’t it always?” Alex replied.

“It gets colder.”

A man of few, but well chosen words, thought Alex, and English words at that. “How did you know I was English?”

“No Czech would go near that shit-hole of a brothel you just came out of, and you sure as hell aren’t German. Maybe American, but what’s the difference?”

“A sense of decorum?”

“A what?”

“Nothing. Listen, could you drop me on Jilska?”

“No. Van won’t get down there, I’d never get out again. Anyway, it’s out of my way. I can leave you at Karlov Most, it’s only a short walk from there.”

“Appreciated.”

The rest of the journey, what there was of it, was conducted largely in silence, save for the rumble of the engine and the disconcerting rattle every time they navigated a left-hand turn. As they traversed one of the numerous bridges crossing the Vltava, Alex saw the weir to his left, and further up the river, tourists in small red boats, rowing or in some cases, pedalling their way back to the pontoon as it was nearing dusk, and he assumed the boat hire gentleman wanted to get in the warm pub on the other side of the road. Behind, to the south-west, he could see the steeply rising hillside of the Vltava valley. Nothing like the hills and mountains back home, or rather, his mother’s home, where the summits were usually blanketed in cloud, and if it wasn’t raining, well, it was at least very wet, and probably about to rain. But at least Wales was quiet, peaceful, and had a certain majesty about it. His father’s home however, was majestic in a different way. In a decadent, indulgent, and grandiose way. Befitting of an ambassador, but not particularly to Alex’s taste.

The alarming rattle of the truck’s front axle roused Alex from his reverie as they swung a sharp left across the lights and beared north. A soft, dull ache in his lower back reminded him that it had been some time since he’d drunk anything other than alcohol, and he was in some danger of becoming dehydrated.

“Nearly there.” Growled the grizzly as they passed a small shopping arcade on the left.

Most of the traders were shutting up shop for the day, packing their goods into boxes and stacking them neatly on the shelves, or simply piling them on the floor. The rolling steel shutters of a couple of stores had already been pulled down, one displaying a rather concise piece of Czech graffiti, simply stating “Go gently”, followed underneath, in stylised writing, by the word “Zeko”. A nice sentiment, thought Alex. If you’re going to write graffiti, it should always be worth writing. Simply daubing or scribbling your name, or your tag, onto a wall somewhere always seemed fairly pointless – in all other methods of communication, the author usually has to create something before they sign it off. An artist simply signing a plain canvas rarely receives much in the way of praise, and a writer who signed off their blank manuscript would rightfully be ridiculed. But creating a statement, something that people read, absorbed, considered and potentially discussed? That’s different. It’s something artistic, or at least creative, and while it might not make much sense, it at least causes the viewer to consider the statement that’s been made on that wall. Alex could remember seeing some graffiti at the south bank in London, written along the top of a wooden bench, which plainly stated “I’m not resting.” He felt for a while that it begged the question of what they in fact were doing on the bench, but came to the conclusion that it didn’t really matter, and the writer was probably just being intentionally obscure.

The truck ground to a halt, and Alex pushed the heavy door of the cab open.

Charles Bridge wasn’t a bad place to be dropped off. While there were vantage points everywhere for someone to spot Alex as he climbed out of the truck and shook Petri’s hand to say thanks, it was busy enough to merge into the crowd quite easily.

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