Alex. part eight


By Attila Zønn


The next evening Tata didn’t come home from work. Mama called Ray at home, but he said he didn’t know where Tata was.  Mama went outside to the bottom of the driveway and looked up and down the street. She came back in and said, “What do I do?” She sat on the sofa and said,” What do I do?”

When Alex woke up the next morning Tata still wasn’t home. Mama sat in the chair by the big front window in the living room. Her eyes were tired. Alex went to stand beside her but as soon as he reached her she stood and said, “I will call the police.”

A policeman came to the house later in the morning. He had a black writing pad and a holster. He asked Mama questions about what Tata looked like and where he worked and if they had been fighting. Mama tried to speak but she was too excited, and it was like she had forgotten how to speak English, and she couldn’t get any words out. She started to cry. Then a funny thing happened—the policeman spoke to Mama in her language.

He was a nice policeman. His name was Officer Petracek. He sat down, and he and Mama were having a good conversation. Then Mama stood and went to make coffee. And as she made coffee she kept talking, and the policeman nodded and wrote what she said in his black pad.  Cristina cried out from upstairs, and Mama asked Alex if he would go get Cristina from her crib. Alex ran to get Cristina, and when he pulled her out of the crib he hugged her warm body close and she put her face against his neck and every time she breathed into his neck it made him happy.

Officer Petracek told Mama that everything would be fine. That maybe Tata had gone somewhere to think. Some people do that. And you can’t go on what people used to be like because things change in someone’s life and they change too. That’s what Mama told Alex after Officer Petracek had left. Mama went and sat by the front window. Alex played with Cristina on the floor.

The next day Officer Petracek came by again, and he told Mama that he had checked all the hospitals and Tata wasn’t in any one of them, which was good, and no crimes had been reported that had a man like Tata in it, and that was good, and don’t worry, Officer Petracek will find Tata.

That night, Alex helped Mama give Cristina a bath.

The next Saturday, Officer Petracek came by,  but he wasn’t wearing his policeman clothes. He wore jeans and a green plaid shirt. He didn’t look like a policeman. He had a sad face. He looked at Alex, then said something to Mama. Mama slumped into a chair and started to cry. Officer Petracek touched her shoulder, then he left.

“What is it, Mama?” Alex asked.

“They found your tata,” Mama said. “He is well. They found him walking in the downtown. He does not want to come back. He does not want this life anymore. You will not see your Tata again.”

Tata was gone forever? Alex didn’t feel anything when he heard this. He wasn’t sad. He thought a life without Tata telling him what he was doing wrong was going to be a good life.


Officer Petracek’s name was Mike, and Mike drove by in his yellow police car and stopped in a lot over the next few weeks. Sometimes they spoke English, sometimes they spoke Mama’s language, and one time when Alex came home from school, Mike stood in the kitchen holding Cristina.

Then one day Mike came by in the morning, and Alex and Cristina sat in the back seat of his Malibu when he drove Mama to find a lawyer where she signed some papers. Then they went to a bank. Then they went to the grocery store.

Aunt Magda came by a lot, and she and Mama talked and talked and Aunt Magda would say, “Good riddance!” a lot. Uncle Laszlo would come by to pick up Aunt Magda, and he talked with them, and he said, “Good riddance!” a lot.

Mama sighed as she stood by the front window, and when she saw Mike drive up in his police car, she smiled and hurried to put the coffee on, and when Mike knocked she hurried to open the door. Some days when Mike came by, they all got in his Malibu, and he’d drive to an empty parking lot and teach Mama how to drive a car. Though Alex didn’t like it when Mike held Cristina, he did like how he helped Mama. He thought policemen were very helpful.


One Saturday, Aunt Magda and Uncle Laszlo came to visit. Mike showed up a little bit later and brought steaks. While Aunt Magda and Mama made a salad in the kitchen, Uncle Laszlo stood at the BBQ with a beer in his hand while Mike cooked the steaks. It was easy to see by the smile on Uncle Laszlo’s face that he liked Mike very much. And as he sat on the porch steps and viewed all this—Uncle Laszlo and Mike, and Cristina puttering along the grass, Alex thought briefly about Tata, but then Cristina started pulling the heads off Mama’s flowers, so he went to stop her.

Alex had never thought of how old Mama was. He had never thought of her as old or young, she was just  Mama. Now after they had eaten the delicious steaks Mike had cooked,  and they sat in the kitchen with their beers and wine, everyone talked about their lives, and  he heard that Mama was thirty-one. Mike was thirty-three, and he had been a policeman for eight years. No, he had never shot anyone but some bad people had shot at him one night when they were running away from stealing some televisions. His police car saved him.

As the evening wore on, Alex watched television in the living room while Mama and Mike and Uncle Laszlo and Aunt Magda laughed in the kitchen. He fell asleep on the sofa and had a dream—in the dream, Mike carried him to his bed.

Alex woke in his bed the next morning, and as he walked down the steps to the kitchen, he looked out the window at the top of the landing and saw Mike’s  Malibu parked in the driveway.


Copyright © Attila Zønn 2017



Alex. part seven

By Attila Zønn


Sometimes Mama and Tata talked about Uncle Laszlo, and Tata spoke of Uncle Laszlo’s simple mind and his wishes.

“What would you expect from an artist?” Tata would say.

Uncle Laszlo had made a painting of Mama and brought it on her birthday.  With a hammer and nail, he hung it on the wall behind the sofa, then stood some feet away from it with Tata.

Tata put his hand on his chin and squinted. “It does not look like Eva,” he said. Alex thought it looked a little like Mama.

“It isn’t a photograph,” Uncle Laszlo said. “It’s a rendering.”

“It does not look like Eva,” Tata said.

“I’ve captured the spirit of Eva.”

“According to you, but this is not Eva. Why does she wear these large loopy earrings? She does not possess these earrings. It is whoreish. And why did you make her dark?”

“I captured her in the spirit of our Romani ancestors.”

Tata laughed. “Ah, you made her a gypsy. I see,” he said, nodding.

“Our Romani ancestors.”

“Laszlo,” Tata said, shaking his head. “You are not a gypsy.”

Uncle Laszlo straightened up, puffed his chest out and said, “Our line goes back to Obrador.”

“Obrador? Are you kidding? I would not be proud to share my bloodline with him. He came from Bohemia, yes,  but he was a thief and a rascal, not a gypsy.”


Mama liked the painting. She said it wasn’t her, but whoever the woman was, she was very mysterious.

“Why didn’t you say that to him?” Tata said. “Now we have to display this…this…”

“I did not want to hurt his feelings. He is very sensitive.”

“Feelings. Feelings. Poor Laszlo and his fucking feelings.”


One evening after dinner, Tata took Alex to the coffee shop on Danforth and bought him a chocolate dip doughnut. At the coffee shop they ran into Ray who wanted to buy Tata a coffee and Tata let him. They sat at a table and Alex listened to them talk their smart words while he ate his doughnut.

“But if the speed of light is so quick and you say it cannot be bridged where are these aliens coming from?” Tata said.

“They’re not aliens,” Ray said. “Sadly, that’s a bunch of baloney.” He looked around him then leaned forward and whispered, “They’re coming from the future. It’s us visiting ourselves.”

Tata frowned.

Alex stopped chewing his doughnut. He remembered a discussion Tata had with Uncle Laszlo one Christmas. Uncle Laszlo said it would be nice to travel into the future to see how everything turns out. Tata shook his head and said, “The future does not exist.”

“Of course there’s a future,”  Uncle Laszlo said.

“Yes, the future as an imagined creation, as a metaphor, but in reality, it is blank until we travel into it. The only way you can visit the future, as you think it is, is if you are in the past and, with the aid of a device, can visit any time up to this present time. You cannot go beyond this time because nothing has happened beyond this time for you to visit.”

“But what if we, at this time, are living in a past time, then there is a future?”

“No. This is the true time.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because physics does not allow us to pretend and no one has come from the future to tell us that we are living in the past.”

“Would they?”

“There is always someone who wants to show the world how brilliant he is. Trust me, we would know. And if such an occurrence has been suppressed, there would still be rumours. Besides, the concept of a time machine has been studied by the most brilliant of minds, and no one has come up with one yet.”

“Maybe they invented one in the future.”

“Laszlo, why do you insist?” Tata said. “Think. For a future to exist that means that everything we do, everything we say, everything we will do or will say has already been determined. That our lives have already been plotted out, and nothing can be changed, then, if you are a critical thinker, you must ask yourself, how can this be? And then we have to ask ourselves by what mechanism is this possible? Is it natural? Is it supernatural? In the end, we realise it is bullshit and another example of human arrogance—that the universe revolves around and is considerate to us.”

Uncle Laszlo shook his head and said, “There are many mysteries we’ve yet to explain.”

“Do you agree at least that for the future to exist it must be immutable?”

“I suppose.”

“If there is an immutable future, taking away that a supernatural force has caused creation to be thus, because I cannot accept anything that is not a natural physical occurrence, we must conclude how terribly unfair such a notion is. Why do some people excel in life but others struggle? How can someone live a long life, yet some die on the day they are born? Why misery? For what cruel purpose has such a thing been designed? My uncle survived the great war, all his comrades shot dead or blown to pieces, yet he lived, unscathed. Then one day many years later he tripped over his own feet, fell down the stairs and broke his neck. How do we reconcile such things with a purpose to life? The answer? There is nothing purposeful about life. It is all chance, and ninety-nine percent of the time, life is unremarkable, it is actually mundane and dull. We create wishes and distractions and myths to make life more interesting, without which  our human life is no different than that of a monkey in the jungle—breeding, eating, shitting.”

“But I believe things happen for a reason.”

“Yes, things happen for a reason, but only as a result of cause and effect.”

“Cause and effect?”

“If I hit my finger with a hammer, the cause is that I am careless, the effect is the injury and the pain. But if you are suggesting that the reason I hit my finger at this moment is because there is a power in the universe that has determined long ago that on this day in my life I will hit my finger with a hammer, that by inflicting such an injury there is a cosmic purpose,  and there is no way to change this occurrence, then you are a silly man who believes in silly things.”

Uncle Laszlo jerked his body back in his chair and stared at Tata, then stood and called out, “Mags!” Aunt Magda appeared from the kitchen. “We’re leaving!” He turned to Tata. “I refuse to be insulted on this holy day!”

Aunt Magda asked, “What happened?”

Mama came from the kitchen and asked, “What happened?”

Uncle Laszlo pointed at Tata.

“Let’s go!” he said.

Aunt Magda said sorry to Mama then frowned at Tata. They grabbed their coats from the closet.  Alex automatically went to stand by the front door because Uncle Laszlo always tousled his hair before they left, but not this time—they rushed past him,  and when the door opened a cold wind brushed his face.

Mama stood in the archway to the kitchen and looked at Tata sitting on the sofa. Tata  shrugged, put up his hands and said, “It was only my opinion.”



Now, talking to Ray,  Tata closed one eye and said, “How is this possible?”

“They’ve obviously discovered a portal of some kind and can go back and forth,” Ray said. Tata still stared at Ray with one eye closed. Alex knew this face—it was the face Tata put on when he thought someone was deceiving him.

“Or,” Ray said, “They could be coming from a parallel universe.”

“A para-llel universe?” Tata said. “What are you talking about?”

“A parallel universe.  Along with this universe, there are eleven others. They are superimposed. For example, in these universes, there may be eleven other Milans.”

“Eleven Milans?”

“Or maybe none at all. It depends.”

“How do you know this?”

“It’s a new science. It’s called quantum physics.”

“And where are these universes?”

“All around us. There’s one a millimetre from your elbow.”

Tata looked at his elbow.

“It all happens at the same time, or they could be different from each other by a few, or many years. There might be a Milan who still lives in Romania.”

“A Milan who still has his finger?”

“That’s a possibility,” Ray said.

Tata sat back and looked astonished. He said, “With eleven other possibilities, why should one settle for the least likeable scenario.”

“We don’t know how to travel across universes,” Ray said. “So you’re pretty much stuck with where you are.”

Tata nodded and said, “Hmm.” He sipped his coffee and Alex finished the doughnut.

“So how do you like the custodian position?” Ray said.

“It is fine—except for that woman.”


“That Amazon teacher in room 104.”

“Miss Sharps?”

Tata nodded. “She is an asshole.”

Ray laughed.

“No, Milan,” he said. “You’ve got that cock-eyed. A woman can never be an asshole.  If you want to regard her pejoratively, you call her a bitch.”

“But she is not a bitch as I know bitch to mean. She is an asshole.”

“No, a woman is either a cunt or a bitch. Men are assholes—dicks or assholes. But I can understand you’re confusion.”

“Confusion? What are you talking about?”

“Well, English is your second language. You haven’t yet grasped the idioms and nuances that come with mastering a language. I guess it’s hard to flow the words when you have an accent.”

“What are you talking about? I do not have an accent.”

“You do.  Can’t you hear it?”

“My English is impeccable.”

“I’ll give you that. You know lots of words. More than I’d care to know, but that’s probably because you’re trying to overcompensate—you want to sound educated in your new culture. I understand. I’m just making an observation.”

Tata was silent, staring at Ray, then he said, “Well, allow me to make an observation.” He stood and looked down on Ray. “You are a fucking peon. Do you know that? You are a sad slave to your need for reassurances. Fuck you, Ray! Who are you to analyse me? You are a confused soul looking for salvation from fairy-tales and space travellers.”

Ray raised his hands and said, “Whoa! You’re taking this way out of context buddy. I wasn’t insulting you.” But Tata walked away from him, and Alex followed.


Walking home, Tata said, “It is important to be happy, my son. Otherwise, life is not worth living.”  Tata came down on one knee and hugged Alex—hugged him long and strong, which was strange because Tata had never hugged Alex  so long before, and when Tata stood he wiped his eyes. “Remember that in your life.”

It was dark when Alex and Tata got home. Tata went to the drawer in the kitchen where he kept literature Ray had given him on Extraterrestrials—sheets of photocopies and some paperbacks with grey men on the covers. Tata gathered them and dumped them into a metal garbage can in the backyard. He squirted barbecue fluid and dropped a match in it. Alex stood with him, staring at the flames, then Tata looked up at the dark sky and the few stars Alex could see and said, “Bullshit.”

Mama came out to the porch. She held Cristina. Mama said, “What are you burning?”

Tata stared at the flames and didn’t answer.

Mama told Alex to come inside and get ready for bed. He followed her in, and up the stairs to the bathroom where he washed his face while Mama ran water for Cristina’s bath then went to his room and waited for his turn for the bath. He sat on the edge of the bed and listened to Mama hum while Cristina splashed. He went to the window to see if the fire in the garbage can still burned.

Tata lay on his back on the grass and kicked his feet, as if he were swimming backwards, and at the same time, he rocked his body from side to side. Alex slid the window open a slit.

Tata in a crying voice kept saying, “Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit…”


Copyright©Attila Zønn 2017


By Attila Zønn


Out of the blue, Ludy said, “There are no virgins left anymore above the age of twelve. And I’d even question that age.”

We were driving along Highway 7 approaching Markham Road.

I felt good this morning because it was Friday and a half day, and I’d only have to endure his bullshit for four hours instead of eight.

It was the end of June, and there was a hint of heat in the air, so the wind coming in the window felt good. Ludy had been quiet since I picked him up on his driveway. He grunted a greeting and off we went. Only now, as we started seeing people on the sidewalks was he getting aroused.

“Holy Jesus!” he said jerking up in the seat. “Look at that ass! That’s a fucking 11!”

As we passed a bus stop, he stuck his head out the window and yelled, “Yeah, baby! You got it!”

“For fuck’s sake,” I said.


I shook my head.


“We’ve risen above catcalls and whistles,” I said.

“You think so?”

“Yeah. Acting like that—”

“Bullshit. I was paying her a compliment.”

“You’re judging her.”

“So? I have that right, as a free-thinking individual, to think what I want.”

“To think. Not to say.”

“Holy shit!” he said, shifting in his seat to face me. “What’s this world coming to? That—he pointed back with his thumb—that was innocent.  You want to know what bad is? My cousin Orietta told me this. She used to be a good looking broad before she had all her kids. She was walking downtown one time, and some fat-ass construction worker yelled at her from a scaffold, ‘Hey, baby. Bring that ass over here. I want to shit on your tits!’ And all his buddies laughed.  What I did just now was feathers compared to that.”

I shook my head.

“Yeah, you know,” he said and fell silent.

We drove for a while longer, then—

“Okay,” he said. “That ass can make a big deal out of it, but it’s just for show. Are you telling me that I didn’t put a bounce in her step and made her feel good because some guy in a car thought she was attractive? Is that what you’re telling me? What? We can’t appreciate beauty anymore?”

More time passed, then—

“I feel sorry for your generation, David. You’re all a bunch of pussies. In the annals of history you’re going to be known as the Gray Generation:  afraid of your own shadows, afraid of what people will think and what they’ll say, unable to deal with offense. Transposing snowflake ideals on a pile of shit. Wake up! Have you watched the news? The world is full of offense. The world doesn’t care about anybody’s feelings. It wants bread and circuses. You want to live in a world where we have to look around us before we open our mouths? So we sit around and be silent? Like dummies?”He turned away and stared out the window. “Yeah, that’s a great future: a society of pussies and dummies.”

I really didn’t want to get into a discussion because there was no logic I could impart on him to dislodge his skewed observations.

“And here’s another thing your gray society does—white shaming,” he said. “I see it all the time on TV. Comedians make jokes about evil white people like that’s all there is in the world—evil white people. And that I’m supposed to feel guilty because hundreds of years ago white people colonized or owned slaves? It’s like an original sin we’ve got to carry around. That’s why the world doesn’t move forward—because we’re too busy laying blame. The thing is, it isn’t the brown folks, or the black folks or the yellow folks, it’s white folks bitching about the unfairness of society, trying to make up for past injustices. Pansy fucking indignant whites who find offense in every subtext, self-loathing leftists who haven’t got a clue how to live their lives but are eager to tell you how to live yours. There!”

He was panting like he’d just run a marathon.

“I’ll say it like I see it,” he said, “and if nobody likes it, they can fuck off.”

After he’d calmed down, putting on his I’m going to explain the key points of my argument voice, he said, “It’s actions, David. Actions that harm, not words. Sticks and stones—you remember that saying? Probably not. You candy asses don’t give a shit  about the past ’cause you can’t pull your faces away from your phones.”

“Alright! Alright!” I said holding up my hand.

“Yeah!” Ludy said.

“It’s how you did it that’s the problem. Like she’s a sex object.”

“And what’s it to you? Do you know her?”

I turned away.

“Who are you kidding?” he said. “Women are sex objects. There’s seven billion people on this planet. How did that happen? They popped up out of the ground? Men aren’t interested in coitus with women?  And if fucking is sex then that makes women sex objects. To a man, the objective is sex. Always has been, always will be. Don’t let political correctness blind the truth little buddy. The minute a woman enters a room, a guy thinks, is she fuckable? A man can’t help themselves. It’s second nature. It’s in their biology. As she’s walking away, tell me they’re not looking at her ass. Tell me the truth, if there wasn’t that promise of sex would you put up with a woman? Day in, day out, from morning till night and all the holidays?”

“Now you’re a misogynist.”

“No, I love women. My mother is a woman, but she drove my little old man crazy.”

We stopped at a drive-thru for coffee—he paid.

“David.” He pulled the tab on the coffee lid. “I’m gonna let you in on a well-known secret—remember this—all women are sluts.”


“Yeah,” he said, nodding, “but the poor things, it’s not their fault. It’s in their biology. You’ve heard the expression: he who brings home the meat gets all the pussy? Where do you think that got started? Well, it goes back to the caveman days.”

He sipped his coffee. “Oh, that’s a good cup,” he said, then, “Picture this: the Great Hunter, arrives at the cave. He’s got a big deer buck around his shoulders. He tosses the deer on the floor of the cave, the women come from all corners, pick it up, and carry it away. Then, he goes and takes a nap on his fur bed, and when he wakes up, dinner’s ready. That guy…had it good. But he risked his life to put meat on the spit, and he had to be smart. He had to know how to spread the lovin’ around. Maybe he had a favorite among the women in the cave—probably he had a favorite— but he couldn’t show it because the one thing more important than pussy, is peace in the cave. And another thing. Women have men to thank for the way they look. The classic woman shape—ample tits, shapely legs, prominent ass. It was primitive man who shaped how a modern woman looks.”

“How’s that?”

“Okay, transpose yourself from this car to an earlier time. You’re a primitive man on the African savanna, and you’re chasing down a woman. What are you looking at?”

I shrugged.

“Her ass! And those boys always targeted the ones with the bigger ass because they ran slower. They were easy to catch. After a hard day of hunting the last thing the boys wanted was a difficult road to their pleasure. “

“How do you know all this?”

“It’s logic. And some of those savanna ladies even wanted to be caught, just like now, playing hard to get but when you get close, they give up. For some fuckin’ reason, women got it in their heads that a man’s always gotta earn his pussy treat.”

I kept my eyes on the road, hoping he’d stop talking.

“He’s most likely the Chief.”


“That Great Hunter, because he knows how to find the game, so he’s respected and gets his pick of the females.”

Jesus Christ! Deliver me.

“I guess you’d be the Great Hunter?” I said.

“No. Definitely not. I’ve got a realistic view of myself. I know my physical limitations when it comes to what a woman finds attractive. No, I wouldn’t be that Great Hunter, more like the guy who holds his spears, standing outside the mouth of the cave, happy to snag a reject. What gets me laid is this.” He rubbed his thumb and index finger together. “A fat wad in your pocket will always get you laid.”


Copyright© Attila Zønn 2017

Alex. part six

By Attila Zønn



Alex was helping Tata tidy up the shed when Tata grabbed a rusty hammer, smashed it against his workbench and shouted, “Because we are men! And when men are alone they can let themselves be men. There is no need to be soft, to hush hush like when there is a woman in the room, as if she has the sensitive ears, that if she hears a profanity she will melt into the carpet. We should let a few fucks fly. Why not? It is a profane world, why bother hiding it?”

Lately Tata talked to himself more than he normally did. Usually Tata talked about what he should do and how he should do it, but now he talked to invisible people, in an angry voice, then he would calm down and say, “I understand. I understand,” as if he was arguing with someone. He also said, “Fuck!” a lot. And he said, “I am tired,” a lot and he said—many more times than anything else— “I am not happy.”

They had stopped going to the Saturday nights at Unit 51 because when it was time to go, Mama said she didn’t feel well, and Tata didn’t want to go without her. Alex  wanted  Mama to always feel well but as the time approached to go to Unit 51 he hoped Mama would not feel well because he didn’t want to go either. Nothing ever happened in Unit 51—people talked and talked, and nothing ever happened, and he didn’t like it that Jonah always stared at him.

Mama was sick a lot these days. Sometimes smells made her run to the washroom where she threw up. And Mama didn’t go for her walks anymore which caused her to get fat. She was getting a big tummy.

One Sunday, Aunt Magda came by to see how Mama was feeling. She and Mama sat in the kitchen and they laughed a lot. When Alex walked in Aunt Magda asked him, “So what will it be, a brother or a sister?” Alex didn’t know what she was talking about. He looked at Mama who was smiling.

“Would you rather have a brother or a sister?” Aunt Magda asked.

Alex kept hearing this question a lot in the next few months—so much that he started to believe that it was his choice. It became a question that Alex was tired of being asked.

One day Tata asked him, “What do you prefer, my son? A brother or a sister?”

“I don’t know, Tata. Either is good.”

“A brother is better,” Tata said. “It is better to be a man than a woman. A man is always in control of his life. A man stands on the mountaintop and sees all the possibilities. A woman will always be  subjugated to the man. But how can we argue with that? It is nature, and unfortunately for them, nature has made women inferior to men. Yes a brother is better, then if anything should happen to me, you can teach him everything I have taught you. You are very lucky, my son, that one day you will be a man.”

Alex had never considered if boys were stronger or luckier than girls. Now being aware of such a   thing he thought that Tata was a little bit wrong because he once got into a fight with Nannerl, a big fat girl at school, over?—he doesn’t remember what. He  didn’t want to fight her but Nannerl came at him, swinging her arms wild. He tried to get away but he was unlucky—she caught him, and held him, and punched him. And this caused Alex to always be nice to fat girls because fat girls punch hard.

The more Alex thought about having a brother or sister, the sadder he got.  All his friends had brothers or sisters and the ones that had brothers were always fighting with their brothers. He thought that fighting was a part of having siblings because they competed for their parents’ attention all the time. Alex never had to compete for Tata’s attention. Sometimes he wished he didn’t have Tata’s attention so much, so it would be good to have a brother or sister to distract Tata, and he promised, whoever his brother or sister was, he would never fight with them.


Cristina was born on a very cold night in January. Uncle Laszlo and Aunt Magda had come to the house to watch Alex while Tata took Mama to the hospital. Alex  was lying on the sofa when Tata drove up in a Taxi. Aunt Magda looked out the front window. She said, “He walks like he’s not happy. Something’s  happened.”

They stood at the top of the landing and waited for Tata to come in.  When Tata opened the door he had a long face. He looked up at them, shrugged and said, “It is a vagina.” Uncle Laszlo and Aunt Magda looked at each other.

“Is Eva okay?” asked Aunt Magda.

“It was difficult,” Tata said taking off his coat, “But she is fine. Everybody is fine.”

He hung his coat then walked into the living room and sat on the sofa, put his hands together and sighed.

“Come to me my son,” he said.  He held Alex by the shoulders and said, “When you grow to be a man you must be the hope for our name my son, because there will be no more male Fierbinteanus coming from your Mama. If you do not have boys then our name will disappear into oblivion.”


Cristina was a wonderful pink baby with full cheeks that Alex wanted to pinch. When she lay in her crib sleeping her baby sleep, Alex watched her and waited for the day when he could hold her.

Alex wanted to help Mama with Cristina, so every time she cried he went to pick her up but Mama stopped him. She said, “Watch!”, moved him aside then took the baby and walked away. Sometimes Mama put a blanket on the floor and laid Cristina on her tummy, and Cristina was quiet for a while, but then she got fidgety and started to cry, and Alex rushed towards her to pick her up, but Mama was there before him, and moved him away and said, “Watch!” So it now happened that Alex let Cristina cry, though he didn’t want her to cry, because he knew that Mama would never let him hold her.

As time went on—as Cristina learned to roll over, then learned to crawl, then learned to pull herself up to where she could stand while holding onto things, Alex yearned for the day when he could hold her. Sometimes in the playpen, Cristina grunted her little baby grunts, and held out her arms to him because she wanted to be taken out of the playpen, but Alex never touched her, and it made her cry and it made Alex sad.

Tata let Cristina cry all the time.

Sometimes when Tata sat on the sofa and read his paper, Cristina crawled up to him and pulled herself up on his leg and she’d grunt her baby grunts but Tata ignored her, and that made Cristina cry and Tata would call out, “Eva!”, and Mama would hurry in and take Cristina.


Copyright © Attila Zønn 2017




Alex. part five

By Attila Zønn


The back door was open.

Alex called, “Mama?”  But there was no answer.

He climbed the steps to his room and heard a noise coming from Mama’s room. Her door wasn’t closed all the way so he pushed it open and called, “Mama?”

Mama was kneeling on the floor in front of the bureau with the big mirror. Her head was covered with a  scarf that had red flowers and her hands were clasped together. There was a lit candle on the bureau in front of pictures of Nagymama and Nagyapa and a bronze crucifix.

Mama jumped when she saw Alex.

She came towards him saying, “No, no, no,  Alexandru. No, no.”

She knelt in front of him and held him at the shoulders and said in a crying voice, “You must not tell Tata you saw me like this. Please. Never tell Tata you saw these things. Never.”

Mama stood and took off the scarf. She blew out the candle and put it with Nagymama and Nagyapa and the crucifix in a shoe box, then opened the closet and put the box deep inside, covering it with shoe boxes. She came back to him smiling, wiping her eyes.

“What can I make you? Anything you want I will make it.”

She led him out of the room, and going down the stairs she said, “Is there a new toy you want?”

Mama looked nervous when Tata came home. She kept staring at Alex. Tata was not in a good mood. Usually when Tata was this way, Mama asked him what was wrong, but today she stood silent.

Tata went to the fridge, took out a beer and opened it. He looked at Mama and said, “Some people are so stupid.” He took a long drink.

“That Ray—he is such a character. Do you know what he said?”

Mama stood still, silent, stiff. Tata looked at her and asked, “Are you all right?”

Mama nodded. She said, “What did he say?”

“He said, he and I are in the same boat.”

Mama frowned. “What does that mean?”

“He is missing a toe. Frostbite from when he was a child. But how can he say we are in the same boat? He is missing a toe while I am missing a finger, from the hand, the hand that has lifted humanity and taken us from the jungle to rule the world. The same boat? Yes, he has a slight limp, but his affliction is hidden. Mine is here.” He lifted his hand. “It is the first thing people see when they meet me. And they will always ask what happened. And I am sick of explaining it. In the same boat? Hardly, my UF—fucking—O friend.  If it wasn’t for these hands humans would still be swinging from tree to tree fighting over bloody coconuts.”

“Did you tell him this?”

“I should have, but, you know, I do not want to create a conflict with the man who gave me my job.” Tata came to the table and sat down. He turned to Alex, and said, “My son, is there anything you want to tell me?” Alex looked at Mama who looked back at him with wide eyes.

“What do you mean Tata?”

“I mean, I am at this new job at your school for two weeks now, and I have never seen you once.”

There was a reason why Tata hadn’t seen Alex at school. Alex was trying all manner of stealth to avoid Tata. Before he left the classroom he looked both ways down the hall to make sure Tata wasn’t doing one of his janitor things, and if Tata was that way, Alex went the other way, very quickly. And while he fast-walked away,  a cold sweat overcame him as he hoped Tata wouldn’t call out to him. That would be a terrible thing—if Tata called out to him in front of all his classmates.

Already the word had gotten around about the mean new janitor who had made Stacey cry that day when she had to go to the washroom. She had come back quickly, very upset, and Miss Sharps asked her what was wrong, and Stacey had cried out that the new janitor had stopped her from crossing the floor he was mopping because it was wet and he wasn’t finished, and don’t come back until it has dried.

Miss Sharps left the class saying, “Well, I’ll get to the bottom of this!”, but she also came back quickly and her face was so red, and she looked a little confused, but then she walked over to Alex at his desk and stared down at him for a long time.  Alex had turned away and focused on his hands.

Now he said, “I don’t know why, Tata. It just happens that way. Do you want me to come and find you sometimes?” Tata looked at Alex in that suspicious way that Tata’s face went when he wondered if Alex was telling a lie.

“That won’t be necessary,” Tata said, and reached into his shirt pocket. He pulled out a folded piece of paper and opened it. He turned to Mama. “Do you know who this is?”

Mama came to the table and looked down at the paper. From where Alex sat, it looked like a picture of one of those ancient kinds of statues that had their arms cut off.

Mama shook her head.

“His name is Janos,” Tata said. “In English they call him JAN-US.”

“He has two heads,” Mama said.

“No, he has two faces—one looking forwards, the other looking behind him. He is the keeper of the gates.  His name is where the word janitor comes from. My position was named after a Roman god!”  Tata laughed, took another drink of beer, then sat smiling.


Alex wanted to tell Mama right away that he would never tell Tata that she was still mumbling in front of a crucifix but Mama was doing so many nice things for him that it was fun being the boss of Mama.


It was the last day that Alex would have Miss Sharps as his teacher, and he was glad. Next year he’ll have a new teacher and Alex hoped that teacher will like him. And he looked forward to the wonderful summer coming up when he can run free with his friends and not have to show Tata his homework.

Miss Sharps brought her cat to school. He was a big white cat with black patches and his name was Oscar. Miss Sharps said Oscar wasn’t feeling well. That’s why she didn’t want to leave him home today. Oscar looked scared. He was hiding under everything because the girls wanted to hold him.  He hid under the bookshelf and the girls wanted to pull him out but Miss Sharps said we shouldn’t force him out because it would scare him more.

Nancy said, “My mom works in a pet shop and she says cats feel better when they are high up. We should put him on top of the bookshelf.”

“No,” Miss Sharps said. “Let’s just move the desks against the walls to give him more room.” After they had pushed the desks to the edge of the class Miss Sharps went to the fridge at the back of the class and got some milk and a small dish.

“Alex,” she said. “Would you  like to give Oscar some milk?”

This surprised Alex and made him so happy because after all these months Miss Sharps had finally talked to him.  He took the milk and put it just in front of the bookshelf. Soon Oscar stuck his nose out and then his whole body and he started licking the milk. The girls giggled. Oscar didn’t finish all the milk. He stopped licking and froze, and then he moved out to the middle of the class, walked in a circle, then stopped and pooped all over the floor.  It wasn’t a hard poop. His poop came out like when Mama made pancakes on Sundays sometimes and poured the batter onto the griddle, and the girls went,“Ewe!”, and the boys laughed and Alex saw Miss Sharps hurrying to the intercom with a big smile on her face, and she pushed the button and asked for the custodian to come to room 104. She said there was a slight spill.

Tata arrived with a mop and a metal pail on wheels, and when he saw what he had to clean up his face turned red. He didn’t look at Alex or anyone else but went about cleaning the cat’s poop. He tried soaking it up with the mop and made swirls on the floor and all the kids laughed, and Tata’s face  got redder and redder. But he cleaned it, and poured something on the floor that smelled nice and out he went.

Alex felt Tata’s embarrassment, and he looked at Miss Sharps who was looking at him with a big smile on her face.

That afternoon it was party time. Stacey wanted to show everybody how good a singer she was. She sang a song that was playing on the radio. It was about a dead skunk in the middle of the road stinkin’ to high heaven. Miss Sharps came from behind her desk and slapped Stacey in the face. She had her terrible face on when she said, “We must never make fun of God’s creatures!”

Alex felt the slap and thought Stacey wanted to cry but she didn’t. She held her cheek, and as Miss Sharps walked back to her desk, Alex put his hand on Stacey’s back.


©Attila Zønn 2017

Alex. part four

By Attila Zønn


Her name was Jennifer. She was a plump woman,  blonde haired, younger than Mama and Tata. She was tonight’s guest speaker. She was what everyone was calling an ab-duct-ee. They were saying she had experienced multiple encounters of the third kind. Alex didn’t know what this all meant, but it was part of Tata’s new beginning—his attempt for the family to shed abstract transparencies.

Alex had looked up those two words because he wanted to use them, and Tata had always told him if he didn’t know what a word meant he should not use it until he knew.

Tata said, “If you use the wrong word you end up looking like a fool.”

So Alex looked up abstract, but it had several definitions, which confused Alex more, and transparencies, which came from transparent and that meant see through. So Tata had said we should stop believing in the many things that we can see through? Maybe one day Alex would understand what this all meant.

Tonight was the second meeting Alex and Mama and Tata had been too. The first Saturday night nothing much happened. People were just standing around talking, getting to know some new faces. Little groups of three or four people formed about the room. There was a lot of nodding and drinking coffee and eating cookies and cakes that had been laid out on a table at the side of the room. The only other kid there was Jonah, and he kept looking over at Alex.

That first night Mama didn’t bring any food—she didn’t know—but tonight she brought her delicious meatballs, and everyone was eating them—poking toothpicks in them and going on like it was the greatest food they’d ever had, and they wanted the recipe. And this made Mama smile.

They called themselves the Starlight Society. Alex counted nineteen people—men and women. They met every Saturday night in the back room of a vacant store not far from the Busy Bee where Mama and Alex bought groceries. The store had a paper sign on its glass door—Unit 51, and it was in-between Farzhad’s Discount Shoe Emporium and a take out place called Hot Wings & Other Hot Things. The inside of Unit 51 smelled like roasted chicken.

Tonight  Jennifer was going to speak about her encounters.

The people sat down and Jennifer began:

“Ever since I was nine years old I’ve felt special. Now that may sound egotistical, even arrogant, but I realized later, in my twenties, why I had these feelings. I had been chosen. I don’t know why they picked me. That doesn’t matter. It’s beyond me to understand. In my twenties I suffered from severe migraines. It was so bad that I’d be immobilized for days. I just couldn’t function. I lost my job, lost all my friends. I lost my will to want to live. You could say I hit rock bottom in my life and it’s a cold hard place down there I’ll tell you. I found solace in food. That’s why I look the way I do today. But don’t pity me. I’m comfortable now. This is who I really am. I enjoy everything about my life and have no regrets.” She paused. “Back then I went to see a doctor who referred me to another doctor—a great man, who hypnotized me. There he is.” She pointed to the back of the room.  “Stand up Dad. Let them see you.” An old man wearing a gray hat stood up and waved.

“I don’t know where I’d be without him. He’s become my second dad. He saved me,” Jennifer said, her voice wavering. “I found out there was nothing wrong with me. I was perfectly, physically fine. They had made me this way.”

The lights went out and a slideshow began: The first shot was of the front of a house. “This is the house I grew up in,” Jennifer said. The house she still lived in, that had been left to her when her parents suddenly died many years ago while on vacation.

“You go away to relax and have fun,” she said. “And you end up dying. How useless is that?” She stood there silent for a few minutes, her silhouette black against the pictures of her house.

“Dad and I had an argument before they left. He wanted me to go with them. He said it would help me. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t snap out of what was troubling my life. He wanted me to get over it. He’d say to me many times you’re a big girl now, move on. He didn’t know how hard it was. He didn’t know what it was all about. I didn’t know what it was all about.”

She clicked to the next picture—a smiling man standing by a BBQ. “This was my father.” Another click—a woman standing by the side of a blue car.

“My mother.”

One more click and it was a picture of a young girl in pigtails, missing her front teeth, smiling big into the camera.

“That’s me,” she said. “Before it all began.”

Now there was a shot of the back of the house.

“The window on the left,” she said, “that’s my room. One night when I was nine years old, a green, but not unpleasant ray of light, came into my room through that window. And just as soon as I saw the light I was aware of three figures standing beside my bed. They weren’t very tall, and they were wearing these suits that sparkled different colors one after another, and that’s when I felt as if someone was sitting on my chest and I was losing my breath and I wanted to scream but only squeaks came out, and then I was floating out of my bed, going through the window and I was going up, up into a large disk of green light.”

Jennifer’s silhouette reached  towards the ceiling. People murmured. Alex looked over at Tata who was sitting on the edge of his seat, his eyes wide and looking straight ahead. Mama was sitting back in her chair, looking down at the floor.

“I suddenly found myself lying on a table in an operating theater. I was aware of movement around me but I couldn’t see anyone because a powerful overhead white light was blinding me. I was paralyzed but I could feel things being inserted in my ears, my mouth and other parts that I won’t mention because I notice there are children here tonight. And from one of these places that I can’t mention they took something from me. I know what they took because I can never have children.”

A collective gasp came from the people sitting in the dark.

“Then suddenly, like when your ears pop clear after an airplane ride, I could understand what they were saying, and it struck me with a terrible fear.  They were finished with me and I was of no use. They wanted to stop my heart.  A voice said, ‘That is the protocol. Proceed.'” Jennifer paused again. “I thought I was going to die. Have you ever felt like you were going to die?  I kept praying God please help me, God please help me. The overhead light dimmed and now I could see that the room was full of these figures in changing color suits. Then from my left hand side, the figures parted and a smaller figure appeared. His suit didn’t change colors. It was a solid, brilliant white. He came closer. Then he seemed to grow till his face was right in front of mine and I could see my reflection in his big shiny black eyes. I wasn’t afraid anymore. My mind was filled with the word peace. Then he deflated back to his previous size and came around behind me, put his hands gently at my temples, and that’s all I remember.”

The lights came on.

“Of course, as you can see, I’m still alive. That small creature in the bright white suit? He saved me.” Jennifer started to cry.  She had her head down and the old man came from the back of the room and put his hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay. I’m all right,” she told him as he patted her back. Then he returned to his spot at the back of the room and the lights went out again. A picture came on the screen. There were lots of stars in this picture—two were very bright, and Jennifer moved towards the screen and pointed to the star on the right hand side.

“This is where my savior is from. There it is. See how it shines brighter than all the stars around it? Agena, but they don’t call it that. They have their own name for it. In their language.”

Alex wanted to hear that name.  The picture of the stars and space looked so peaceful. This woman had been visited by people from another world? Alex had never heard of such a thing. He thought those were just stories made up for Sunday afternoon movies. Once, he watched a movie called Forbidden Planet with Tata who fell asleep through it.

“My savior has been visiting me ever since that night, but I never knew it until I was hypnotized. We talk for hours. That night on the ship when they wanted to end my life, he sacrificed a piece of himself so that I could live. And he’s told me so many things—important things that can help all of us. They have the answer for everything.”

The lights came on and people were talking to each other.

Jennifer said, “When Lenny visits”—she laughed—“that’s what I call him. His real name is too complex for our minds and unpronounceable.  He tells me that they are always there, watching us but they’re hidden,  and when we make a wrong move they can make things better—if we want, otherwise they won’t interfere.” She smiled and took a deep breath and opened her arms. “You just have to believe and they will be there for you. I know I feel better knowing they’re out there.”

Mama leaned towards Tata who leaned towards Mama, and Alex leaned towards both of them.

She said, “I don’t know how much longer I can sit here and listen to this Milan.”

Tata whispered, “Why? What is wrong?”

Mama stared at him then sat back and folded her arms.

Alex was excited. He didn’t know that people lived in other worlds for real, and when Jennifer asked if there were any questions, Alex jumped up and said, “Do you have a picture of Lenny?”

Jennifer smiled and said, “No, they don’t want us to take their picture. It’s a secret that they exist. They’re afraid of our government who might take their knowledge and use it against people on the other side of the world.”

Alex sat down and thought, if it’s such a secret, then why is she telling everyone in this room, and if they knew everything and knew how to make everything better, why would they be afraid of the people on Earth? They were obviously more powerful than the people on Earth.

A man stood up and said, “Has Lenny told you anything about Roswell?” And the people sitting around him nodded their heads.

“Roswell never happened. It’s fake,” Jennifer said and laughed. “Imagine, with their advanced technology, they have safeguards for malfunctions. They would never crash. That’s just the government seizing on an opportunity they created and all the secrecy is them fanning  fake flames to hide their nefarious activities. Don’t trust the government. They’re liars.”

It was time for a break.

People stood and stretched their legs. Jennifer had gone out the back door. Alex wanted to know more about Lenny. He wanted to know what his voice sounded like. Was it a normal man voice or, like he’s seen in those movies, was it a buzzing voice or a robot voice? He pushed open the back door. Jennifer was leaning against the dumpster, smoking a cigarette. The old man was there too. They were facing each other and the old man had his hand on Jennifer’s bum and rubbing it. Alex stepped back and closed the door.

Afterwards, Ray, the organizer, thanked Jennifer and everyone clapped, then Ray said Jennifer was on a mission to spread the word but she needed help. The old man walked around holding open a wooden box and people put money in it.


©Attila Zønn 2017



Alex. part three

By Attila Zønn


During dinner, Tata said, “I have never been more insulted in my life. Do you know what he said to me?”

“Who?” Mama asked.

“That fucking wop Angelo.”

Alex knew Angelo. He was Tata’s foreman at work. Sometimes after work, Angelo would come over and he and Tata would drink some beers in the kitchen.

“He said what is going on with you Milan? You are too slow, you are not producing, and you better hurry up if you know what is good for you.”

“Angelo said that?”

“Well…those weren’t his exact words. If you want me to quote him literally he said, ‘How are you Milan?’—no one talks to me like that!  I know what he meant. I can read the body language. He gave me a pat on the back and walked away. No one does that to me! Yes, I know it is taking me longer to do the setup, but I haven’t been working. I’m rusty.”

Mama smiled and went back to eating.

After a few seconds, Tata dropped his fork on the plate and sat back in his chair.

“Oh…” He sighed and slumped in the chair.

“It waits for me,” he said. “A machine cannot have a mind, but this one must be cursed. I still can see the blood on the blade. I can hear the sound of my bone being crunched. It wants me to engage it so it can take all my fingers.”

Mama smiled. “You are exaggerating Milan, a machine cannot think.”

Alex wondered what Tata would look like without all his fingers. He wouldn’t be able to point at Alex anymore when he did something wrong.

“Is that what you want?” Tata said. “Do you want me to lose all my fingers, possibly to lose a hand? Do you know what that would feel like to you?”

Tata formed a fist and touched Mama’s arm with it. Then he touched her shoulder. Then he touched her arm again.

“That is my stump. How dose it feel? How would you like to be touched this way for the rest of you life?”

“Stop Milan, please. We are eating.”

“How is it that you cannot see my position? I cannot face my duties efficiently if I have a conflict with this machine.” He pounded the table. “I hate that machine! It has ruined me! And it wants more!—do you want me to end up like Miklos?”

Alex liked Uncle Miklos. He was Mama’s cousin. But he was strange because he always kept his right hand in his pocket. Even when he sat down his hand was always in his pocket. One time they went to Holiday Gardens as a family and Uncle Miklos wore black swim trunks with pockets and he swam with his right hand in his pocket. Alex tried to imitate him but it wasn’t easy swimming with one arm. He had heard Tata talk about the “mystery of Miklos”. No one knew what kind of damage had been done to Uncle Miklos’s hand. No one wanted to ask. They assumed he was missing some fingers. Mama said that when she knew him as a boy, he was fine, but then she didn’t see him for many years and when she saw him again he had his hand in his pocket.

Tata said, “I have spoken to Ray. Alexandru, you know his son, Jonah?”

Alex knew Jonah. He was the weird kid who always played by himself because no one liked him because he was a liar. He once told the class that a UFO had landed in his backyard and stolen his bicycle.

“Ray is with the school board. He says he can find me a position in maintenance.”

“Maintenance?” Mama said. “To repair machinery?”

“No, in housekeeping.”

Mama thought a moment, then slammed her fork on the table.

Alex jumped in his seat.

“A janitor? You are giving up your skills to become a janitor?”

Tata raised his hand, puffed his chest out and said in a proud voice, “My title will be Custodian.”

“You are being ridiculous Milan. Why? Why are you doing this? What about the money? What about our situation?”

“Nothing can change the situation,” Tata said. “We will have to budget ourselves. No more mindless spending, like hair cuts and skirts.”

Mama looked like she was going to cry.

“Are you accusing me of wasting money?” she said. “I have always kept within our budget.”

Tata turned his face and said, “There are changes beyond our control coming and from now on we must consider the future.”

“What are you doing to us Milan?” Mama said.

“Why is this complicated for you? People make changes every day. I have decided this is the best change for us.”

Alex saw Mama wasn’t happy. Her eyes kept moving around. One second she was looking at Tata, then she was looking at Alex, then she was looking through the archway into the kitchen. She looked like someone who was lost and didn’t know which way to go. And Tata was looking at her without blinking, like he was expecting something. Finally, Mama lowered her head and let out a big sigh.

“Where is this janitor’s position?” she asked.

Tata sat up and smiled and picked up his fork.

“It will be at the school. Someone is retiring soon, and Ray will install me there, if I wish. I will work only days. Finally! There will be no more lonely nights for you.  And with our impending situation that will be better.” Tata turned to Alex.  “And I can be close to Alexandru.”

Alex’s heart sank. Tata was going to be the janitor at his school? How did things suddenly get so bad for him? Not only was he Booboo-cunt, but he was going to be the janitor’s son, and what situation were they talking about?


Sometimes when Tata was with people, talking like big people sometimes do, about things Alex didn’t understand, someone would ask Tata where he was from.  Tata didn’t like that question. He never answered it truthfully. He always used the same words as if he’d had them memorized for years, and Alex knew the story word for word.

“Where I come from is not a nice place,”  Tata told people.  “It is too painful for me to mention it.” Then he would go into the story. “My father was not an intelligent man. He was not disciplined. He lived for the here and the now. His priorities were centred on him and only him regardless of his family—the wife and the six children.”

Tata never had brothers or sisters.

“He loved to play, but sometimes you play with the wrong people. Tough, uncompromising people who do not care about your hard luck story, the shack, the wife and the six kids, and these people, because they were cowards, unleashed other people upon him, and this is what I saw, my father kicked and beaten to the ground by ugly men with hairy faces and permanent scowls who could not have been born from a woman, much less been babies in a cradle or children that giggled and squealed in the bright sunshine. These were hard men that seemed to teeter between human and beast, and with every kick against my father, the balance shifted towards animal. I saw this. I cannot forget it.”

Alex also knew that Tata had never known his father. Tata’s father had been an electrician, and months before Tata was born his father had died from electrocution. All growing up Tata had been told that his father was a hard worker, very fast in his duties because he never turned off the power so only worked with live wires. He was a man who liked to be challenged.


©Attila Zønn 2017