4 Replies to “Daily Journal Prompt #56”

  1. If she’d given it more thought, she’d have asked her parents not to call her Bear. It was a hard name to live up to and to own. It was such a heavy, smelly, strange name. A name often came to sit next to her on the bed, in the late afternoon light, with its legs out straight and its back as tall as the wall.

    With a name like Bear, she knew that no boy, no man, no woman even, was every going to climb on that bed to be with her, not while the bear sitting there. Even with an open invitation and a clean room and a brass bed, no-one was going to dare the bear, even the photographer who thought her beautiful was more in love with her name than with her. He only saw the bear. The bear only saw him. It was dilemma. It made her look away. Trying to figure things out. It made the bear put his paw on her shoulder. Her name owned her. It was hard.

    Of course, given her family history, her bear was also formal and wore its fur like a suit. It also had ears like her relatives, ears that were askew, alert and questioning. Ears that marked out their oddity, but contentment to not fit in, not to understand, to have to stare directly out into the world. Her bear was fine just being big and strange. When the photographer took the picture, she had to look away, hand under her chin, because in her life she’d been hoping for a room with a different bed, one without a bear.

    She waited for that time to come, wishing the bear would climb off the bed and leave the room. With the bear was on the bed she could not get up and dance. She liked to dress like Isadora Duncan and she was always ready to dance. But if she dared to dance the bear roared in terrible pain. She decided that her bear had escaped from a foreign circus, a Russian circus, he certainly was not an American bear.

    The way he looked out at the world, with his stiff immigrant back, told her that he’d travelled the world, been places, met heads of state, performed for queens and criminals, suffered dark places, long journeys and no food, had seen the steppes, the prairie, the mountains, ridden trains, crossed oceans. But where he wanted to be was in this room with her. Her name.

    She gave it more thought, decided she could lean against the bear and take courage. Her life was bigger than a four poster bed. Her straight backed bear was telling her, with his hand on her shoulder that no matter who her parents were or what name they’d given her she was free to get up and dance to the roar and pain of life on a bare wooden floor in the afternoon light and be magnificent.

  2. Mariska is like a doll. She is like a doll his grandmother once kept on a high shelf in her room and she said he was not to touch it but he could look. She said his hands was too big and too rough and the doll was made of glass or china. It was a pretty doll and he would watch it for hours, watch it sitting on its high shelf, stiff and still and its petticoats showing; and he dreamed of one day taking it down and holding it in his arms and kissing its red painted porcelain lips. Mariska was pretty as that doll and small as a doll, too, and for 2000 koruna he could hold her like he never once held his grandmother’s doll.

    Careful or you’ll break her with your clumsy hands, scolded his grandmother from the grave.

    Tomas waited for Mariska in a bar on Malostranské. He is known there. He has maybe six or seven beers before he finds his tongue and before Mariska comes creeping on tip-toe to his table.

    Two thousand koruna, she says.

    He counts out the money into her outstretched small hand and then finishes his beer. Stay for another, she says, and she feigns thirst so that he does. Then, when he has finished his drink and hers, they go back to her room. Mariska walks in front, leading the way. Tomas follows on behind, stumbling a little, his breath coming heavy and thick and quick as he climbs the stairs to the top of her building.

    Her room is just that, a room tucked under the eaves with a bed in one corner and next to it a simple wooden chair. There’s a sink fixed to the wall with a tap that does not stop dripping and a wooden rail that holds a damp towel. She undresses for Tomas, for if she does not he may tear the buttons on her clothes. It has happened before. Under the bed she has a bottle of slivovice and she fetches it for Tomas. He drinks from the bottle and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He offers her a drink and she shakes her head.

    You are like a doll, he says. Like a beautiful doll my grandmother had when I was small. She smiles a little tightly. She has heard the story before and before and she has not the patience to hear it again. Besides, she does not think Tomas was ever small. She pushes the bottle to his lips and encourages him to drink again.

    And you are like a bear, she says. A great black bear with paws the sixe of dinner plates. A Czech bear. Such a bear there was in the town where I was a girl. For a single koruna an old man would blow on his pipe, taking out of his tin instrument a lilting tune, rising and falling, and the bear made to dance, turning in quick crooked circles, and weaving, and waving its arms in the air and tossing its great blunt wedge of a head. And all the children laughed and clapped their hands and tapped their feet.

    Tomas reaches to hold Mariska and she cautions him to be gentle for she might break in his arms. A doll, remember, she says. They lie down on the bed and holding Mariska pressed to him he closes his eyes. Mariska hums a tune, slow and soft and clever, such a tune as a bear might dance to, only this bear slips into sleep. It is an easy 2000 koruna if Tomas has drunk enough.

    In the morning when he wakes, Mariska is asleep in the chair by the bed and Tomas has no memory of what he has or has not done. He dresses without waking her and climbs down from the high shelf and back to the street. In his head he hears his dead grandmother still scolding him and he licks his lips and turns his collar up against the cold morning air.

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