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  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Stanimir's August afternoon

Stanimir Petrovich woke up and set straight up in his bed. Awoken by the rooster, it was not even 6 in the morning. He got out of bed, put on his loafers and his dark green bathrobe. He opened the balcony doors and picked up the rakia glasses from the evening before. He emptied the ashtray onto the grass, the way he often did. The sticky glasses were put in the sink. The sun peeked into the room with a strange flowery wallpaper. Suddenly, the dog started barking outside. Stanimir tied up his bathrobe, walked outside and scared the dog by pretending to hit it with his loafer. It backed down. “Good thing you have that monster on a chain. Good morning Stanimir, it's your post.” “Thanks, the dog goes crazy for men like you” said Stanimir. “It must like seeing a man actually breaking a sweat, doing something instead of walking around sockless al day.” “Enough with the comments Emil. I’ll go read my paper now if you don’t mind.” Stanimir pulled the paper from the mailman’s hand and slammed the door behind him.

He put the paper down on the table and poured a cup of coffee. He grabbed some milk from the kitchen counter and twisted his ankle. Softly mumbling some grave insults he sat down and went through the paper. He didn’t get to the second page before he realized he was hungry. He got up to open up a cupboard, only to find some stale bread that he didn’t feel like eating. Second page of the newspaper. “Bread factory opened in town”. Stanimir had been without a job for several months now, as he was fired from his last job for ‘being untidy’, or at least that’s what his boss said. Stanimir had worked as a plumber and went past houses in town. Some people had called the hotline and complained about Stanimir’s muddy boots, which he never took off at the door. He’d then throw his toolbox in the corner, got to where the plumbing problem was, and bent down. He spent most of his days in boiler rooms or with his head inside kitchen cabinets, arching his back in some questionable shapes just to reach some piping that needed replacement. When he was otherwise bent down, he’d feel the eyes of the homeowners spearing right through his back. “Lift up your pants please. I saw the crack of dawn this morning already and it was indeed a much prettier sight.” Stanimir would then get up, banging his head under the kitchen counter and loudly swear something in terms of “Do your plumbing yourself then, stupid bint!”. Another call to the hotline. Complaints varied from his stench of garlic to the unkept, grey beard he wore. And so he was eventually called into the office and told to return his toolbox and leave. “But why, after years of service?” asked Stanimir. “It’s because you’re not representative, I rather put up my clients with my toothless great grandfather instead of you. Your beard is disgusting, do you wash it just for Christmas, if even?” “No need to comment on my beard if it’s not related to my performance, boss..” said Stanimir. “What do I care? You come here smelling of garlic, do you put it on your toothbrush? You eat stale and nearly moldy bread at the customers’ homes. Just seeing you gives me the nerves.”

It was clear that Stanimir had no horse in the race. His boss wanted him gone. “You’d only wish you could grow this beard, dummy!” he yelled at his clean-shaven boss with fancy glasses and a fresh haircut. “I wouldn’t even touch it if my life depended on it, I don’t even want to think about what is hidden in that dusty piece of grey wool” said the boss. “Not even the wolves are as manly as I am!” argued Stanimir. “At least they have wives and little pups! You’re not even worth your last payslip for all I care, go weep at home in shame! Brush your teeth and get a vacuum cleaner through that beard of yours!” Stanimir had had enough, he threw his locker keys onto the desk and told his boss to get the toolbox out of there himself. “Enjoy the stale bread I left in the locker you heartless punk. You don’t know about life, even less you know about plumbing. You can’t tell connectors from couplings or valves from pipe fittings, you’re just here to elevate yourself above your people and judging them unfairly from your pedestal.”

“Sorry, Sir, are we colleagues? Could you please leave my office now?” This reply made Stanimir so angry that he took his waterpump pliers from his back pocket, twitched his body in a backward position and threw the pliers against the wall as hard as he could. He probably tore some part of his ankle because he heard it rip. “For the love of my dear grandmother!” he yelled as he stumbled out of the office. Behind him, his boss was speechlessly looking at the big dent in the wall.

So either way, after reading about the bread factory in his paper, Stanimir thought he might have a chance to land a job again. Only if he wouldn’t come across such a boss again. He decided to trim his beard, first with a pair of scissors and then with his electronic shaver. The battery had gone flat. Stanimir didn’t mind and left his beard as it was, partly cut and very asymettrical. “Well, it evens itself out with the asymmetrical horse face” joked Stanimir with himself as he looked in the mirror. He put on his worker jacket and slammed the door behind him. He hadn’t brushed his teeth but it would only be for a quick visit to the new factory in town. His ankle still hurt. It had stayed sensitive ever since he threw his plumbing pliers with all the force he had. Besides, still hadn’t fully released his anger.

A dog followed him down the street. “What a strange breed”, said Stanimir. He kneeled down and the dog came towards him. It started licking the beard but a ball of hair got stuck on its tongue. It ran away crying. Next time Stanimir cut his beard, he’d wash it. He even thought of buying some lotion to make it a bit softer. Stanimir crossed the street and was greeted by a soft, summer-like smell of cypress. It came from a garden. The cypress trees made Stanimir remember the one time he visited Greece on a bus trip. He heard a friendly melody of conversation coming from the garden. It sounded like a bird’s song, so soft and woman-like. The chatting and giggling of ladies was something Stanimir could always appreciate. He walked along the pavement and stopped to touch and smell a cypress tree. The chatter of the ladies was now close. Stanimir stood still and listened. Through the leaves he saw the ladies were having tea. They wore satin-like dresses and even white gloves, gently holding their cups and biscuits without thinking much of it.

“Excuse me, ladies?” Six concerned eyes looked at Stanimir. Silence, not a word. “You can’t use our bathroom, Sir, if that’s what you want. We’re three ladies and don’t want more company.” said a lady with a blue satin dress, blowdried, blonde hair and red lipstick. “Cool it, I just want to know where the new bread factory is.. I’m an honest man looking for a job, nothing more.” “Ana Pavlovich, doesn’t your husband own that new factory? The one on the other side of town?” The woman, Ana Pavlovich, with a southern appearance and a pointy nose, hastily grabbed onto her purse. She seemed a bit nervous. “Yes he is but he is selective about who he hires, you know..” Stanimir saw a slight bit of hope, took a comb out of his pocket and pulled it through his beard. “Ladies, do you even want to give me the light of day? Why are you so hesitatingly looking at each other? Don’t I seem like an honest man to you?”

“You certainly seem like you could hold a broom or a shovel, it’s just that people don’t like finding loose hairs in their bread. You seem a bit careless about your appearance, Sir..” said Ana Pavlovich quite frankly. “Whether I look like a bum or not has absolutely nothing to do with my capabilities. I could do your plumbing, bring your bread to the stores, I could test if it tastes well..” The ladies started giggling and the one with the blue satin dress decided to come down and open the gate for him. No matter his personal appearance, Stanimir did always have his way with people. His honesty shone through no matter what. He was a downright simple man and for that reason people saw no danger in him.

The same lady poured Stanimir a cup of tea. He drained it instantly and drank another four. Then the woman with the bread factory owner said her husband would come home in an hour or so, after his working day. The hot August day came to an end and the birds were singing happily, flying from tree to tree. They looked down into the garden from the branches. “We do have a plumbing problem though, if you don’t mind..” “Sure I don’t. I’m flattered by your hospitality, ladies, frankly speaking, I haven’t been treated this well in ages.” The ladies seemed to like him despite the boorish body language and the odor that came with it. “Let me guide you to the problem, then..” said the woman, she and her bread factory husband apparently owned the home. She pulled her hair backwards and tied it in a strange knot, as if she was going to work herself. She wasn’t, she was just kneeling down to a tap that was leaking. The tap was outside and was apparently used to water plants in the flowery garden. “It keeps leaking. I hear it from my bedroom.. It keeps me and my husband Mr. Pavlovich awake at night..”

Stanimir took the plumbing pliers from his back pocket. They had become his signature tool, he carried them anywhere. He didn’t even have a pen, neither a signature. He liked getting his hands dirty with old-fashioned plumbing. He adjusted the pliers around the tap and slammed it as hard as he could, as a peasant slapping a cow on the butt when it refuses to seek shelter. The leaking stopped instantly. As the ladies applauded Stanimir Petrovich, a car pulled in the driveway. “It’s Mr. Pavlovich”, said Ana. “Clean your hands. Throw that tool away and wash your beard! I might do a good word for you.” Stanimir hadn’t washed his beard ever since he cut it, only the street dog had licked it. He washed it right under the tap and the white tiles underneath the tap were covered in long grey hair. It was like Stanimir finally came clean and left a part of himself down there, right under the tap.

“Stand up now and fast!” hissed Ana. Stanimir jumped up and turned around in one and the same movement and splashed the remains of water from his beard right onto the suit of Mr. Pavlovich, whom just walked into the garden. The ladies all covered their faces in shame of what an unmannered man they had invited into the garden. “I just fixed your tap, Mr. Pavlovich. I’m Stanimir and I can work for you..” With a rough handshake and Mr. Pavlovich visibly hurt because of it, they looked each other right in the eyes. “I see a bony and poor man with an oral health which is just at least as poor. But I see a man with honest eyes. I could use a man fixing things in my factory. You can start tomorrow. Now take these muddy shoes from my white tiles and report at 8:00 tomorrow morning. “Yes, Mr. Pavlovich, I will even be there at 4:00 if you want me to. Do you have any more plumbing issues in your house I can take care of?” “No, but if anything gets clogged, you are the man..” said Mr. Pavlovich. The ladies giggled and the birds in the trees seemed to do the same. Stanimir walked home as the sun set.

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