Leon de Leeuw
Short story: "Darko"
Awoken by a thunderstorm, Darko sat himself against a pile of pillows and wept away his eye discharge. It had been quite a heavy night with the guys and as often, it ended with him getting too little sleep for his business the next day. He thought little of himself, like he constantly disrespected the day after by always getting so little shuteye. In just half an hour, he’d have to be all set for the big event of today. Opening the window blinds, the sun was still hidden somewhere. The dark and gloomy sky greeted him with an anxious ‘good morning’. Anxiety was one of Darko’s more severe problems apart from the regular alcohol abuse. It could be correlated, he thought as he wrestled his fat legs through his narrow trousers. ‘The devil’, he hissed as he ripped right through the bottom whilst bending over to reach his socks.
Darko had a rough start of the day, quickly pouring a cup of dark roast coffee which he always gulped down in a few sips. His wife Mirya told him to be safe on the road after listening to the forecast on the morning program. She was cooking eggs as Darko slammed the terrace door aside to reach the porch, lighting up his first cigarette. Darko was certainly no healthy or handsome man but he had some manly ways that left women in awe. Just a certain type of women, until they saw right through the talk and the lies. He cared just for his business and his little built up pile of wealth. Mirya was not his first wife and might not have been his last. If only..
He stood on the porch not far from the pouring rain. The porch where he and his men had drunk, played cards, grilled meat, sang through the nights and now and then had a fight. His men would pick him up in ten minutes, Darko reminded himself as he checked his golden wristwatch that clenched more and more tightly around his hairy wrist. The golden watch had been passed on by his father whom wore it until his final day. Darko had dreamed about his father the last couple of nights, dreaming about his violent death, experiencing night sweats and waking up breathless. Mirya, the caring Mirya would lay him back to rest and hugged him until he relaxed and dozed off again. Darko got sweaty palms just thinking of the restless nights.
In front of the house, just one honk told Darko that it was time to go. He rushed back in and shoved the door, leaving it open so a chilly draft crept through the living room. Mirya handed him his long coat that reached over his knees. The one garment that did not make him feel like a heavy man at the moment. He hastily kissed Mirya goodbye and she went back to check upon the eggs. Darko took his thick wallet from the hallway table and rushed through the front door. Out there on the drive was the black Mercedes with the engine running. He could just see the bright headlights beaming through the millions of raindrops coming down from the sky. He was awaited by Mitko with an umbrella which covered both their heads. He was led to the back door and got in, Mitko shaking the drops off the wet umbrella and shutting the door gently. Mitko got in the front seat and offered Darko, the driver and the bald man in the back a cigar. The driver slowly backed down the car towards the forest road leading up to the mansion. Making a turn and slowly rolling down towards the village, the men did not speak a word and slowly sucked on their cigars. Darko could say they were nervous, and so was he. They were never to be told about Darko’s fear and anxiety as it would hurt his reputation and character. Even thought they suspected he had issues, while in the car they couldn’t think of anything apart from their own nerves.
The village was still asleep with just some vans stocking up the shops with bread and household items. Darko was known in the village but nobody mingled in his business. To each his own, the men all knew. Outside the village, the weather worsened and the driver decided to break the silence and heavy breathing of the men by switching on the radio. A slow jazz tune seemed to calm the nerves they were all trying so hard to hide. Fifty minutes south from the village it was the first turn right onto the dirt road. Before dropping speed and making the turn, the driver with a leather hat and a big round nose slowly ran his fingers down the silver cross hanging from the rear-view mirror. The car turned right and the men’s heads bumped up and down to the movements of the car as it drove through some potholes. ‘Take it easy there’, said Darko with a cracking voice. The leather hat then moved left and right observing all holes and navigating around them. The windshield wipers hastily moved up and down the window but the rain was so heavy they could hardly keep up.
The music was turned off to Darko’s instructions and the wipers were the only noise apart from the wheels of the car spinning to hold grip on the muddy road. ‘Does Mirya know?’ Mitko asked. The driver with his asymmetrical head adjusted the mirror to see Darko’s reaction. Darko frowned and stared outside the window. ‘No, poor her. Forget about it. It’s over now. She’ll get to know.’ The car had trouble crawling through the muddy curves leading up the mountain. ‘You’re all worthless’, mumbled Darko. He sighed heavily. ‘Why bring this car out of all I’ve provided you with?’ Nobody spoke for the last half hour. It was another right turn and the car got almost stuck. The driver touched the cross at the rear-view mirror again and pushed the now dirty car to its limit. It got unstuck and so the men arrived at a brick and mortar barrack with a cement sheet roof. The area, cut off from everything, was surrounded by trees just having lost their last leaves in the autumn storms. ‘We’re here’, said Mitko. His heavy boots first touched the muddy ground outside the car. ‘Coffee’s ready’, said a stocky bald man named Emil, standing in the door opening of the mountain shed. His trench coat protected him from the cold and it seemed he was about to leave. ‘Coffee with cream, as you like it. Everything is here for a month’s stay.’ Darko nodded slowly and gave Emil in his trench coat a thumbs up. ‘You may all leave now’, said Darko with a low voice. ‘Don’t tell anyone about me being here. Don’t speak to Mirya. I don’t want to have the same faith as my father’s’, he said while tightly holding onto his golden wrist watch.
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