Steve Myers

Dejvice: The Local

Three steps down from street level, smoke-choked and claustrophobic, a four-square bunker of a bar, the only décor a picture of Svejk, the Good Soldier, Hasek’s hero, and nine boar pelts with bullet holes, each stretched taut, tacked to the wall. A spattering of German, Russian, our waiter pointing at the menu, saying Czech special, delicious, which is what we order, the only English all evening except our own, though the well-dressed man at the next table becomes so drunk on slivovice he repeatedly mutters modderfukker as he slips his hand inside his girlfriend’s angora sweater, no matter to her, who eases a forkful of onion and gravy to her lips without dripping, and less to the old man across the way, face-down in his napkin, still sleeping off Stalin, or the Staropramen, thus missing the full-arm extension and up-yours gesture the bartender shoots toward the television—two tanks in a desert wasteland—the patrons’ explosion of boozy laughter, the full-grown Shepherd next to us, haunch to hip on the same bench, lapping beer from the glass his sexed-up owner’s pushed in front of him, she lipsticked, leathered, and bracing herself on one elbow as she bends over her table, which has been carved over the years with names and initials, like an old schoolhouse desk. With a red-lacquered fingernail she begins to trace them—Jiri, Zuzana, JMJ—, then takes back her glass and drinks from it slowly, her eyes tight shut, opens them again and stares at the screen, where a sandstorm’s blown up, and the blurred images of four poor grunts burdened with field gear, staggering forward in a line, each feeling for the man in front of him with his one free hand.