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Jungfrau Camping Chapter 01

by Anglisutuel 

Posted: 11 July 2005
Word Count: 1761
Summary: I just posted the synopsis of this into the Synopsis/Outlines forum - here's Chapter 1 - this is a rough 1st draft - but agent wants to see it next week along with polished synopsis for a meeting. Still full of typos and grammatical uglies, I'm sure. Yikes! The children characters get introduced in Chapter 2...

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The old man fought death as he had everything else: angry, vicious, and arrogant. In the darkened room he coughed and yelled, spitting phlegm into a basin by the bed. His wife hustled into the room, only to be shooed away.
“Not you, woman, not you!” he spat again, “where’s Vlado? Where is he?” He strained forward despite his fading energy. While she hurried off, plucking anxiously at her threadbare apron, he fell back onto his pillows and stared about the room. The outline of a bulky ornate wardrobe was dimly visible. This is a prison, he thought, just another prison. I haven’t long now. And the next ragged breath caught in his throat. Where is Vlado? Where is he? The words hung in the stale air.
The old woman went downstairs where the house smelt less strongly of age and decay.
“Vlado?” she called, but he wasn’t about. She headed for the kitchen. It was empty too. The door was ajar and smoke drifted in faintly from outside.
“Vlado. There you are,” she blinked in the sudden brightness of the courtyard. It was early in the season and the softening leaves of the grapevine were barely unfurled. In high summer it was a space of dense shade and the vine hung heavy with fruit, but now the bright blue sky stretched wide above them. Vlado stood with his cigarette smouldering between his fingers. He was a thick-set, thick-lipped man in late middle age, skin pock-marked and a frequent scowl which he directed at his mother now.
“What is it?” he raised the cigarette and drew on it heavily before exhaling a cloud of smoke in her face.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that, Vlado, it cost your father both his legs and it’s killing the rest of him.”
“Is that what you came out here to tell me? That I shouldn’t smoke?” he tossed the cigarette butt at a couple of reddish chickens pecking at the dry earth. My parents are peasants, he thought irritably.
“No, Vlado,” her tone placating, that of a woman used to soothing the angry men around her, adept at avoiding a lifetime of blows, “he wants you, Vlado, he’s been calling,” her voice dropped a degree “he hasn’t much time now. I can feel it.”
“And how many years have you been telling me that? How many times have you brought me running to his deathbed?” his scowl grew darker, “oh very well, I’ll go up to him, I suppose.”
It was true, ever since complications from emphysema led to the old man’s legs being amputated, they’d been waiting for the worst, but he had clung on. Vlado supposed he had worsened recently and he’d practically been living up here these last weeks, which wasn’t going down too well with Lidia – and she could be a bitch when she put her mind to it.
The old man heard the footsteps on the stairs, “Vlado? Is that you?”
“Yeah, yeah, what now? The bed pan?”
His father hawked noisily into the basin but didn’t answer.
“You’re disgusting, you know that? Why don’t you hurry up and die, eh? Then the rest of us can get on with living. I’ve got the business to run and a wife, but here I am wiping your backside and emptying your spitoon,” he peered at the form in the bed and his own eyes stared back from his father’s ruined face. A spasmodic wheeze that could have been a laugh or a death-rattle came from between cracked lips.
“Vlado,” the old man started in a voice so low he had to lean right up to him, “there’s something I must tell you, something I have not told a single living soul in nearly sixty year. Listen! Carefully.”
Vlado could not think what kind of deathbed confession his father could have: he was a man who had collected enemies at every turn and a man whose crimes would easily earn him an eternity in hell, but he had never shown any remorse. Vlado was no puritan either. He’d willingly taken over his father’s dubious “businesses” and taken them to a whole new level. There were few rackets running, and few crimes committed this side of the mountains that Vlado did not have a hand in.
The old man’s next cough shook his whole body. When he lay back once more, depleted, his voice was even fainter. In a rasping whisper he began to tell Vlado a story, a story of a cold dark night at the end of the war, that commanded his whole attention. The old man's words came quickly despite the jagged breath. In the murk, Vlado’s eyes held his father’s. Occasionally he asked a sharp question or made him repeat something he had not understood. Oh yes, Vlado listened this time, and committed every word to memory. At last the whisper faded away and the old man lapsed into a shallow uneasy sleep. Vlado rose slowly, his mind filled with thought and made his way back down to the kitchen.
“What did he want then?” his mother asked, hovering anxiously at the bottom of the stairs.
“Nothing important,” he scowled his like-father-like-son scowl at her, “just some old stuff about the past.”
“Oh, the past,” she said shrugging off any thought of that distant and unlovely place.
“Yeah, Ma, the past. Look, he’s asleep now, I’d better get home. Lidia’s going to be on my case if I don’t show up soon.”
“Vlado Stojanovic, take care as you go,” she bid him as she always did. He didn’t even acknowledge the familiar entreaty, but walked away without a backward glance. His mother returned to the tray of food she was readying for her husband. Yesterday he had thrown her offering aside with an echo of his old strength and she had ended up on her knees, mopping up gruel from the floor. He always liked to make her grovel, scrabble around at his feet.
As Vlado walked across the dusty track outside his parents’ house to his nearly new white Mercedes parked in the shade of a huge fig tree, his mind raced excitedly. But he schooled his face to impassive blankness, resisting the foolish grin that threatened to grow across his features. To think that his old man could sit on a secret like that for more than half a century blew his mind: so much wealth just there, waiting to be taken. And if he had understood, the only other person who had known about it was dead and buried along with the history. It was amazing. He shook his head. Nazi gold, that’s what the papers would call it – well he had no problem with that. And now a wolfish smile did play on his lips as he negotiated the pot-holed track down the hill to his own home where Lidia would be waiting for him, fat and indolent, painting her nails, watching some trashy satellite soap. She would pause and stub out her cigarette before trying to stub him out with her complaints. Today, she would not drive him to anger, he would not let her provoke him into a show of force, breaking, stamping, and swearing. No. He was quite calm.
“Vlado, is that you?”
“Who else?” but before she could get started he went on, “how do you fancy a trip to Switzerland?”
Now she did stub out the cigarette, a scarlet lipstick-stain glinting back from the stub in the white onyx ashtray, “Switzerland? I’ll need new clothes, Vlado.”
“No time, Lidia, we’re packing tonight and leaving in the morning, early.”
“Tomorrow?” her eyes widened, “but what about the old man and your mother?”
“They’ll have to manage,” already he was out of the room.
“Oh, Milic came by earlier. He was angry – going on about wanting his cut, or something. I said you’d be around tomorrow, he wasn’t pleased but he said he’d be back.”
“He can go to hell,” Vlado growled.
Lidia contemplated her husband before lighting up again and drawing deeply on the cigarette, “Switzerland,” she murmured, “what best to wear?”
That night, as they got ready for bed, she asked him again where they were going, why the hurry, and why all the mystery. Vlado looked at her sitting in her too-tight underwear, brushing out her hair. He was enjoying the almost girlish way that she was trying to wheedle information from him where she’d normally be haranguing him with a list of needs and wants and petty dissatisfactions. “Please Vlado, at least tell me where in Switzerland?”
He thought of the fleshy young woman she had been when the married, but how that had not mattered because of the business interests of her father and the access their liaison had given him to new sources of money, “Interlaken,” he said, “we’re going to Interlaken.”
And that was all.
* * *
Just before the old man drew his final breath, he opened his eyes wide. In the faint light between night and dawn he stared. There was blood on the ground. Coldness gathered in the still air. He remembered a flurry of movement, dragging the body from view into the crevasse, the frantic piling of stones.
He had moved so fast, putting that scene behind him, for he had to go. But the pain of leaving so much wealth behind stashed on a mountainside had been almost physical, like a loss. He would return, that was what he had thought, all this was his. Just give him time.
He recalled the young man he had been in his stolen clothes flitting like a night bird through the moon shadows, leaving the past behind him along with the blood, dirt and gold.
In death his face was creased by some other pain, some trace that had not been there the day before. His hands clamped like manacles on the fabric of his quilt. His wife of nearly fifty years stood by the bed, slowly registering the reason he did not answer her. Quietly, tearlessly, she left the room to make the slow, dusty descent down the hill to her only son’s shiny compound to tell him that at last it had happened, that this time she had been right. But by the time her aching ankles had carried her there, Lidia and Vlado had gone. The shutters were closed, the gate locked. She stood and stared, uncomprehending. Then she turned away to trudge back to her home. There were hens to be fed.

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Comments by other Members

Nik Perring at 12:46 on 12 July 2005  Report this post
Hi Adrian,

great stuff.

A couple of typos:

"nearly sixty year" years.

Now she did stub out the cigarette - didn't quite read right.

cigarette, “Switzerland" should it fullstop instead of a comma?

I thought that this was pretty much the perfect first chapter. The scene's set (well) it's got an interesting setting and characters, and we know where we're going, and it was just the right length.

Really good!

How much of this have you written?

Hope that's helped.


Anglisutuel at 13:14 on 12 July 2005  Report this post
I've written 4 chapters and the ending - I've been focused on the re-write of Symbol Stone for this agent. Feel like it's coming at me from all sides right now!

Your comments continue to be most helpful - particularly the morale boosting ones!

Nik Perring at 13:20 on 12 July 2005  Report this post
Glad to be of help!


PS How's the rewriting of the Symbol Stone coming along? Better to have too much to do than too little though eh?

Account Closed at 18:46 on 12 July 2005  Report this post
I thought this was really brilliant. Don't have any criticims at all. Rivetting stuff right from the start. Vlado depicted beautifully as cold and calculating.

As Nik said a few small typos but characters, setting, dialogue, descriptions etc are very well done.

Interesting stuff.

What age group is it aimed at?


Anglisutuel at 10:25 on 13 July 2005  Report this post
12+ I think!

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