Waiting for a phone call was no different in the Czech Republic than anywhere else. Casey sat in the quiet Smichov flat as the shadows deepened in the courtyard shared with the building across the small cement garden of laundry lines and mounds of wild grass and flower bushes. December dusk came early. Normally she would still be at work but it was Saturday and her band members, Stergy, Lukas and Zdenik were supposed to come by and they were going to hit a few Jazz bars and pubs in Old Town.
Casey sat by the humming refrigerator, with her notebook open staring at an open word document she was trying to fill with goals for the editorial board for the next year and found herself spending more time looking out her kitchen window at the people walking on the landing of the building across the courtyard as if she had never seen people before.
The old woman dressed in a man’s work uniform was the first to capture her attention. She was sort of hobbling but not really. She walked with a fluidity defined by internal motivation and discipline ordained by grace but a limp that came from years of service work. It was the spitting image of her Momma’s neighbor Edith in the shanty part of town she had grown up in the house her Momma had died in.
Edith was the first thought that came to her mind. When Casey was in sixth grade, this lady had been pretty and wild, known for her eye rolling and an inability to be ruled by the rules of the church with her unpredictable bursts of laughter. Years later after Casey had come back for a visit to her mountainside hometown near Ashville, she had heard of Edith’s pursuit of her lesbian calling and her excommunication from the town church on the grounds of non-compliance with chastity for unmarried women.
“Well if all the sinners were kicked out, the church would be empty come Sunday,” Momma said in her wheezy cigarette strained voice.
“Good for her.” Casey’s response had been at the gossip session in Momma’s kitchen on a visit home from college years ago. She relived this conversation in her Smichov kitchen to bring Momma’s spirit to her now.
Momma looked at her, “baby are your tryna tell us somthin?” Her piercing hazel eyes were a trait Casey had matched a shade lighter with her unknown biological father’s genes giving her the olive white skin that had made her life so much easier than Momma’s had been in the backwater North Carolina mountains she had grown up in.
“No momma.” Casey poured herself another cup of blue mountain. “I aint queer.” She picked up the spoon from her saucer and scooped up a helping of natural sugar crystals. “Not that it wouldn’t solve some of my current man problems.”
Momma stood up and opened the refrigerator door. “whats the problem with them Czechoslovakian mens?” She grabbed the recycle friendly carton of Soy milk and plopped it on the table in front of Casey.
“Thanks Momma,” Casey let go a long sigh. “Those Czech men Momma,” she unfolded the lip of the carton to pour. “Slovakia’s a separate country now.”
“They called it the velvet divorce in 1993.”
“Uh huh,” Momma was over the sink rinsing off potatoes for dinner.
“Czech men have got no balls and they are as racist as a David Duke messina schooled group of inbred farm boys.”
“Them’s strong words.”
“Well just imagine a whole country full of men who haven’t lifted a finger to help themselves in about four hundred years, so they been occupied by every big country on the block.”
“The Czech women started wearin’ short skirts as soon as they figured it would drive the Russian soldiers mad to look at their legs.”
“Gotta feel a little less integrity when you always getting schooled in somebody elses language.”
“Twenty years ago they was learnin’ maths in Russian.” She stirred the cup, “now everybody who works for a living gotta learn English or get left behind and they know it.”
“So, how the hell does that affect you?”
“Well,” before I went and got me a better job so I could get a visa and all,” Casey looked at the ghost of her Momma in the kitchen of her flat in Smichov. “I was working for an American company that wanted me to sort of double duty and teach English.”
“Whats wrong with that?” Momma’s strong voice was fading.
“I can’t live by somebody else’s rules, but I’d rather learn their language than teach mine…” Casey could feel heat building up behind her eyes. “Momma?”
“Yes child?” Her mothers round, cancer ravaged face still was beautiful with Apache high cheekbones melded into her African ancestry.
Casey still wondered how Momma had managed to carry her through nine months of pregnancy after the anonymous rape that had been her father’s seed. Some mongoloid mountain man, Casey had tried to visualize him a million times even though she hated him to the core. A soldier who died in Vietnam the story had been related to her as a child. She learned different from overhearing things and finally confronted her mother when she was twelve. The quiet gaze and tale of the brutal rape in the alleyway outside the tobacco shop her Momma had suffered when she was just 16 was all the explanation Casey ever needed. They had never talked about it again after that.
“What am I doing here?”
Momma’s smile faded as she whispered, “God only knows girl…”
The buzz of the door bell interrupted, clamoring loudly overhead. Casey nearly dropped her coffee mug. She looked at the time displayed on her dell latitude. 19:18. Lukas and Zdenik would be waiting downstairs.
Closing the notebook and grabbing her purse, she walked out to the front entrance and stepped into her boots. With one last look toward the kitchen, she whispered, “bye Momma.”
Read other Blue Angel excerpts:
Cold Mountain Bayou