The Audition - A short story

The Audition

A short story by Ivana Hrubá

Copyright © Ivana Hrubá 2013
All rights reserved

The Audition © Ivana Hrubá, 2013

Chapter eighteen in which poetry and nude photographs have a lot to do with events to come

‘I’m bored,’ Veronika announced.
We were at Mama’s, waiting for something to happen.
‘The thing is we never do anything,’ Veronika frowned, looking at Vendy as if it was her fault.
Vendula said nothing; you could never say the right thing no matter what you came up with when Veronika felt like this. Besides, Vendula hardly ever felt bored. Come to jazz ballet with me, she had suggested to Veronika a couple of times before she figured out this wasn’t really about boredom. Let’s go to the library, Vendula said the third time. Veronika didn’t go.
‘The thing is nothing interesting ever happens to us,’ Veronika sighed, continuing along the well-trodden path of self pity.
‘That’s true,’ Vendula remarked, hoping to remain inconspicuous.
It didn’t work. Veronika looked up sharply and grimaced.
‘What are you complaining about?’ she challenged Vendy, pointing at her for emphasis. ‘At least you have your guitar.’
Nodding slowly, Vendula kept her face devoid of all expression. She got it now, this was a solo act. Better tread carefully.
Veronika slumped back into the chair.
‘The thing is,’ she sighed, chewing a cuticle, ‘I wish to extend myself. Expand my horizons, you know.’
Vendula knew what she meant, she did too.
‘Maybe we could go somewhere else for a change,’ Vendula suggested, abandoning for a moment her intention to tread carefully. ‘We could actually do something instead of just sitting here.’
Rolling her eyes, Veronika sighed as if Vendula’s suggestion was the stupidest thing she ever heard.
‘That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard, Vendula. Just think, if we do something, we just end up doing the same things other people do. Is that what you want? Is it?’
Pondering the consequences, Vendula found herself nodding and shaking her head at the same time. You’re right. Let’s not change a thing. Better the devil you know.
The girls sat there gloomily staring out of the window, Vendula wishing she were a bird and Veronika not wishing anything at all.
‘I wrote some poetry the other day,’ Veronika announced out of the blue, suddenly changing the subject. She fished a diary out of her satchel and threw it on the table. Vendula picked it up.
Volume One, she read on the cover. Noting Veronika’s encouraging smile, Vendula flipped it open.
Empty, it said on page one. There was nothing else there so Vendula turned over to page two.

Empty I feel and empty I do,
Empty is such an empty word.
I wake up and then I go to bed;
The thing is, there’s nothing more than that.

I keeled over but Vendula managed to look pleasantly surprised.
‘That is so you, Veronika,’ she smiled appreciatively.
‘I know,’ Veronika smiled back, expecting accolades.
Vendula closed the diary.
‘There’s more!’ Veronika rushed to say, prompting Vendula to read on.
Page three. Yearn, it said and that was all so Vendula turned to page four.

Nourish me and I will flower,
Starve me and I will die.
I yearn to fill my soul with life,
I yearn, but who can give me more?

Continuing to smile appreciatively, Vendula turned to page five. Nothing, I mean there was nothing on it so Vendula turned to page six. It too was empty.
‘That’s it then,’ Vendula murmured but it was the wrong thing to say.
‘Well, you can’t just fill the whole book at once, can you?’ Veronika snapped, disappointed at Vendula’s lukewarm response. She snatched the diary from her.
 ‘It takes time to think of what you want to say, and then you’ve got to find just the right way to express your feelings,’ Veronika went on hurriedly explaining and looking very cross.
Feeling Veronika’s pain, Vendula was anxious to put things right.
‘Of course,’ Vendula nodded, ‘how true.’
‘So, what do you think of it?’ Veronika enquired, glaring at the frantically nodding Vendula.
Panicking because she didn’t know what to say, Vendula decided to stall for time.
‘It’s very you,’ she said, smiling and nodding.
Veronika continued to glare. ‘You already said that.’
‘Right,’ Vendula smiled. She took a deep breath. She was deliberating whether she had the courage to say anything remotely resembling the truth, but was saved by the timely arrival of Marcela who had meanwhile appeared at the door. Vendula waved to her.
‘It’s very good,’ Vendula said to Veronika who was still glowering.
Veronika shrugged. ‘It needs more life.’
‘What does?’ asked Marcela, arriving at the table. She plopped down next to Veronika.
‘My life needs more life,’ Veronika replied.
 Marcela laughed.
‘I know just the thing,’ she tapped her nose knowingly but Veronika, thinking she was talking about sex, shook her head.
‘Not that,’ Marcela smiled and spat her bubble gum onto a coaster. The bubble gum, Vendula noticed, was one of those nice-smelling, American bubble gums, you know, the really big ones. This one smelled like an orange. Vendula wondered how come Marcela was able to get it and where. Meanwhile Marcela lit up a smoke.
‘What do you mean, you know just the thing?’ Veronika asked. ‘What is it?’
 Suddenly, Marcela looked serious. She reached into her bag and pulled out an envelope.
‘If I show you,’ she said, ‘you’ve got to promise to keep it a secret.’
The girls swore not to tell anyone.
‘It’s this,’ Marcela took out a stack of photographs and placed them face down onto the table.
The girls were instantly intrigued. The photograph showed Marcela coming out of a shower stall. She was naked. Dripping wet, she smiled happily at the camera. Another picture showed her reaching for a towel, and another showed her brushing her beautiful red hair. The rest of the pictures showed Marcela in all sorts of different poses: putting on make-up, slipping on her panties and a bra, then fastening a pink bow on her ponytail, and finally some shots of her on a rug in somebody’s living room.
‘Why do you do this?’ Veronika asked when all the pictures had been looked at.
Marcela laughed.
‘It’s fun.’
‘And the money is great,’ Marcela said when nobody said anything.
‘You mean you get paid for this?’ Vendula was gobsmacked.
The girls laughed.
‘Oh, Vendula,’ Veronika was shaking her head. ‘Sometimes …’ she trailed off.
‘Of course, I get paid for it.’ Marcela explained. ‘Why else would I do this?’
‘For fun?’
‘Well,’ Marcela sighed, ‘it - is - fun - but - it - is - like - a - job - at - the - same - time - you - see?’
She was now speaking in a slow, deliberate way, using the tone of voice one reserves for those less fortunate than themselves. Vendula felt a flicker of irritation.
‘The thing is,’ Veronika said and Vendula felt her temples beginning to pulse, ‘one has to know how to handle this sort of thing to one’s advantage.’
‘Right on the money,’ Marcela agreed, saying that you never knew where this sort of thing could lead you.
‘Precisely,’ Veronika said and banged her fist on the table for emphasis. The girls were nodding at each other as if their lives depended on it, then Veronika started telling everyone how her brother knew a girl who used to do modelling like this and now she is on stage in Prague.
‘It won’t be long till she lands a movie,’ Veronika said, looking meaningfully at Marcela who nodded vigorously.
Of course, Marcela agreed, it was all valuable acting experience.
‘Well, how much do you get?’ Veronika asked then.
Marcela told them. Veronika pursed her lips to whistle. Nothing came out, of course; she didn’t know how to whistle.
‘What do you do with all that money?’ Vendula asked when they were done digesting.
‘This and that,’ Marcela replied. ‘Clothes, shampoo, stuff like that, you know.’
The girls nodded; they knew. You could spend a pretty penny on clothes. Still, Vendula reckoned Marcela must have a nice sum put aside.
‘Somehow the money just goes,’ Marcela said, shaking her head, ‘but I don’t care. When I run out, I know what to do.’
It turned out she’d done more than one shoot. It was a lucrative business to get into. In fact, there were pots of money to be made if one knew how to go about it.
 ‘How do you go about it?’ asked Veronika but Marcela wouldn’t say straight out.
‘Come and see for yourself,’ she smiled.
Veronika turned to Vendula and raised her eyebrows as if to say: should we? Could we?
To be perfectly honest, I doubted Vendula would have the nerve. It appeared everyone else shared my opinion; the girls accepted the vague gesture Vendula made with a ready nod.
Veronika, on the other hand, took a different view.
‘I’d like to have a look,’ Veronika announced, smiling triumphantly at Vendula who got a feeling that we were in for a new experience. I did too.After all, I pointed out to Vendy, Veronika, having so eloquently yearned for self-expression, would be a fool to pass up this chance.
Meanwhile, Veronika kept smiling at Vendula. She really wanted to know what Vendula thought of the idea. But Vendula could only shrug; she simply couldn’t think of anything to say. Veronika, however, was not discouraged. She promised Marcela she’d seriously think about auditioning.
Marcela was pleased. There was no rush to make a decision, she declared, but now she had to rush because she had an appointment. She stubbed her cigarette on the coaster and left.

Chapter nineteen in which things are about to spiral out of control when Veronika and Alice decide to go to a modelling audition

I know the girls promised but you just can’t keep that sort of thing to yourself.
‘It’s a good career move,’ Veronika told everyone the next day at school. At once we had a split camp. There were some who were all for it, and there were others who cautioned against it.
‘You’ve gotta have a small ass to do this kind of modelling,’ Gouda informed Alice when Alice declared the proposition sound, claiming there was good money to be made.
Alice blushed and for once didn’t know what to say. Simple quickly jumped to her defence, proceeding to tell us about some pretty spicy photographs she’d once seen, which featured large ladies.
‘They were as big as Alice,’ Simple alleged. Alice went as red as beetroot and the room went quiet, with everyone looking at her. The poor girl squirmed under the collective gaze and began to perspire noticeably.
‘I wasn’t talking about you,’ Gouda murmured to Alice, regretting he ever said anything in the first place.
‘Sure, you weren’t!’ Alice shouted shakily, looking as if she were going to cry. ‘You all think I’m fat!’
An awkward pause followed during which Vendula established that she definitely thought Alice was fat and wondered if everyone felt the same. Looking around, we decided it was highly likely. The fun we’ve had joking about the nonexistent out-of-town boyfriend and the cracks about her weight, well, what can I tell you? That she deserved it? Probably not. Did she ask for it? In a way. What goes around, comes around. It’s true. A bit of kindness goes a long way. Alice, however, was not thinking along those lines just then. Giving everyone the finger, she stormed off to the loo.
It panned out just as we thought. Veronika called in the afternoon just as Vendy was putting on her boots to go to the library.
‘I’m gonna do it,’ Veronika announced.
‘Why?’ Vendula asked and took off her coat; this was going to be a long session.
‘It’s a good move,’ Veronika enthused. ‘I need to expand my horizons for my poetry.’
Ahhh, the poetry. We forgot about that.
‘Have you thought this through?’ Vendula’s words hung in the air like wet laundry. It was a useless question and Vendula could not believe she was actually saying this; it was the sort of thing Mother would say.
Veronika sighed. ‘You sound like my mother.’
‘You’ve told her?’ Vendula was flabbergasted.
‘No, stupid, I haven’t told her,’ Veronika replied. ‘She’d die.’
She would. We could just see Mrs A. writhing on the tiles in their kitchen.
‘When are you going to do it?’ Vendula asked.
‘Over the weekend, I thiiiink,’ Veronika didn’t sound too sure.
Vendula took it as an encouraging sign; maybe Veronika had doubts, and there was time to stop her.
‘If you have any doubts,’ Vendula started but Veronika cut her off.
‘No, I don’t,’ she snapped. ‘The thing is Marcela has to find out about the studio. If it’s available this weekend and things like that.’
That was the thing. The conversation continued along this track with Veronika having a lot more to say about the modelling business and her long-term prospects in it. Money, fame, opportunities. Bla, bla, bla. Listening to her tirade, Vendula didn’t know how to respond. Right, of course, and aha, was all she could come up with. Veronika didn’t care. She had more news.
‘Alice is coming along,’ Veronika announced triumphantly. ‘She wants to have a look.’
‘Just a look?’
‘Well, of course, she’s interested,’ Veronika replied, barely able to stifle a laugh. ‘But she is a bit cautious because she’s so fat.
‘Did she say that?’ Vendula asked, not quite believing Alice would ever admit to it. She’d never say a thing like that.
Oddly, for someone of her generous size, Alice would often refer to people only slightly larger than herself as obscene and how could anyone get like that? No, Alice, who was this close to drawstring pants, was not fat, Alice was curvy. One time Alice admitted to being solid but, in all honesty, there was nothing solid about Alice. She was as soft as a pillow.
‘No, of course she didn’t say that,’Veronika snorted impatiently. ‘She said she wanted to help, you know, with the make-up and the clothes and such.
‘Clothes?’ I asked. ‘What clothes?’ I was listening to Veronika’s every word and let me tell you, it was time well spent.
‘Did you talk to Marcela about it?’ Vendula asked, thinking Marcela might have had other ideas about Alice joining in.
‘Yes, we talked about it,’ Veronika replied. ‘She said it was okay. In fact, she was all for it. It seems they’re always looking for new talent, all shapes and sizes.’
 Apparently, Alice was keen to try her luck, Veronika told us and then announced that she was going to Marcela’s to try on some lingerie and shoes.
‘You’ve got to wear high heels,’ Veronika said just before she hung up. ‘That’s a rule.’
A rule? I nearly choked. I’ll bet there are other rules, I nudged Vendy who tried to shush me because she could tell disgusting things were going to be mentioned.
‘Remember the photo we found hidden under Pavel’s mattress?’ I nudged her.
Vendula grimaced; it was hardly a thing one could forget.
‘It was a greeting card of some kind,’ I recalled, ‘a German greeting card. We didn’t know what it said, remember?’
Vendula nodded. She remembered it very well. There wasn’t much to look at on the front page, just a very long German word printed in red ink on thick glossy paper but when you opened it up, well there she was. The biggest and the most naked person you could imagine. We recalled thinking the woman looked like a double cone vanilla ice-cream that had begun to drip. Soft and mushy, her puckered body had collapsed in the space between her knees and her ankles and everything was just folded over down there. The girl had quite a tiny head and huge red lips painted over her real mouth and cheeks, and even though she was smiling, she looked really desperate, like a sad clown.
Careful not to touch it, Vendula had stared at the card as if it were a leper. How could anyone do this? She had asked me and I could only shrug. As gently as I could, I tried to explain that in real life people often did things they never even dreamt of doing. Circumstances, you know, sometimes led you to do something against your better judgment, I told her. This made Vendula feel sad.
‘I don’t want to see anything like that ever again,’ Vendula said now and we ended the conversation.

Chapter twenty in which a lot of brandy is drunk when the idea of factory workers’ noble struggle to achieve the five-year production plan is deemed to be useless proletarian drivel

The very next day Veronika called. She wanted to meet us at the Water Loo.
The pub was quiet; it was that time of the afternoon. The weather was balmy. A clear day of lazy, pale sun and a slight breeze coming through the open windows; really, very pleasant. We ordered a lemonade for Vendy and a beer for Veronika, and salty cheese to go with it.
Veronika plunged right in. ‘I didn’t do it.’
Vendula sighed with relief. She’d had a feeling Veronika wouldn’t go through with it. Maybe the shower pictures, we could see her posing for those but when we pictured her lying on that rug… we knew Veronika couldn’t, wouldn’t do that.
‘I just couldn’t do it, you know,’ Veronika sighed. ‘I’ve realized that my poetry is already in here,’ she tapped her forehead. ‘I don’t need to do that sort of thing to express myself, you know.’
‘No, you don’t,’ Vendula echoed helpfully. ‘You either got it or you don’t. Taking your clothes off won’t help either way.’
Veronika couldn’t agree more.
Definitely, one didn’t have to stoop to that sort of thing to get anywhere and besides, what could it possibly lead to?
‘Whoring maybe,’ she smirked knowingly. ‘That’s about it.’
The girls sat quietly contemplating the whoring Veronika seems to have so narrowly escaped until Vendy asked Veronika about the money she was letting go.
‘Who cares about that?’ Veronika shrugged dismissively, putting on a lofty air. ‘What’s money anyway?’
Pausing meaningfully, Veronika looked to Vendula to finish the thought. When this was not forthcoming, Veronika did it for her.
‘The root of all evil,’ she said after about five minutes of gaping expectantly at Vendula who gaped back with no expectation at all, thinking the question rhetorical.
Veronika was not discouraged by Vendula’s silence. Expanding upon the theme, Veronika announced that in order to achieve any-thing, one had to do without.
‘It is good for the soul to do without,’ Veronika orated, signaling a waiter to order another jug of Pilsner and more salty cheese.
‘What about Alice?’ I wanted to know.
‘Oh, that loser?’ Veronika shrugged. ‘She went for it.’
A feeling best described as nausea swept over Vendula. She asked for more details. It turned out that Veronika didn’t really know if Alice ‘went for it’ because she left before anything happened, straight after her interview which she’d had first while Alice was asked to wait in the kitchen.
‘There was a kitchen?’ Vendula was gobsmacked. The last thing she would have expected a photographic studio to have was a kitchen.
‘Yeah,’ Veronika laughed, ‘the studio is just somebody’s flat.’
The somebody turned out to be Raphael and Klaus, two middle-aged men who had set up the whole thing from their living room. It was a small enterprise, with just the two of them taking care of everything, from talentscouting through to distribution. Apparently, Veronika was told, they were very hands-on in all aspects of the business so it came as no surprise that they were to be the photographers at this audition.
To begin with, Raphael and Klaus showed her some pictures of other girls who, according to Veronika, had no star aura about them and the pictures themselves were of such poor quality, out of focus or too much in focus or just plain ugly, that she began to have doubts whether this was something one ought to get involved with because, you know, it didn’t look like the sort of thing you could show anyone to get into the movies. Barely five minutes into the interview the photographers asked Veronika to take her clothes off so they could take some Polaroids. This request freaked her out straight away, especially as one of the men started to take his shirt off to make her feel comfortable. When she refused, they put their camera away and instead talked long and hard about the realities of showbusiness which, they were at pains to point out, had nothing but trust and friendly relations at its very core.
‘Was Marcela there?’ Vendula wanted to know. We were trying to picture it; the two old clowns pouring wine and Veronika sitting there, getting all stiff.
Veronika nodded. ‘She was mixing drinks in the kitchen.’
Good Lord, we laughed. That’s so Marcela.
‘She didn’t think it odd when the guy took his shirt off?’
‘No, she was very much at ease about it,’ Veronika replied. ‘In fact, she sat down on the arm of his chair and gave him a hug.’
Imagining it, Vendula gagged. According to Veronika, both men were hideous. Raphael was a greasy, weedy-looking, lisping fellow with a lazy eye and only about six teeth, and Klaus, the one who took his shirt off, was fat, balding and smelled like wet weather. ‘He had black hairs all over his back,’ Veronika cringed, pretending to vomit at the memory of it.
‘I’ll bet you just wanted to leave, right?’ Vendula asked, thinking that would have been it for her. We shuddered. You could just see it, couldn’t you? Marcela snuggling up to Mr Gross and Veronika retching at the sight of it.
Of course, Veronika told them she didn’t think it would work out, and she’d better be on her way. It was then that Mr Toothless said what’th the rush? No need to be hathty, and no need to take any pictureth jutht yet.
‘Why don’t we jutht have a couple of drinkth?’ Raphael suggested, winking pleasantly forty-five degrees northwest of Veronika.
‘Surely, you didn’t stay?’ thinking she might have, Vendula asked just to be sure.
Veronika shrugged. ‘I couldn’t just leave. Marcela served brandy.’
‘In a balloon glass?’
‘Of course.’
Vendula nodded. Of course, brandy in a balloon glass. Veronika’s favourite. Not a good time to leave.
After the brandy, things got better.In an avuncular fashion, Raphael insisted that Veronika was under no obligation to accept the job.
‘Let’th not talk buthineth,’ Raphael beamed at the bookcase. ‘We’re jutht going to have a little drink together, no thtringth attached. By the way, Marcela dearetht, where ith that other nithe young lady?’
Marcela went to the kitchen to fetch Alice and when they came back, Mr Gross had his shirt back on.
‘Klaus at your service,’ he purred at Alice, kissing her hand. Raphael then offered them some cigarettes, Marlboros.
‘I couldn’t refuse,’ Veronika owned up. ‘Just out of politeness, you know.’
Of course, Vendula agreed, you gotta show some manners.
The party got under way. Apparently, Alice felt very much at home because she enquired about their record collection, looking for something to play. Klaus was only too happy to show her.
Meanwhile Raphael started up a different sort of conversation.
‘Tho,’ he grinned at the space southeast of the bookcase where he imagined Veronika was sitting at the end of the sofa. ‘Marcela tellth me you write poetry.’
Veronika shrugged, there wasn’t much she’d written and she’d rather not talk about it. Privately she thought the man was a fool; it was inconceivable that she would discuss her work with the likes of him.
‘We’re not tho very different, you know,’ undeterred, Raphael ploughed on. ‘We too are artithtically inclined.’
Veronika stared.
‘We’re exthpanding the buthineth to include film-making, you thee,’ Raphael nodded in the direction of the loo and that’s when Veronika raised her eyebrows.
‘He might have caught that look, you know,’ she smirked, ‘but I didn’t care.’
Vendula nodded in agreement. What a clown! Who did he think he was talking to?
‘So,’ Veronika continued, ‘I go: you’re just making money out of sleazy pictures.’
Vendula was impressed. ‘Did you really say that?’
Flattered, Veronika smiled. ‘Then he goes: oh yeth, I can underthtand how you would think that but there’th more to it.’
‘So I go: like what? And he gets up and walks over to the bureau in the corner by the loo and pulls out the top drawer and there was all this money, stacks of hundred crown notes.’
The look of triumph on Veronika’s face induced Vendula to gasp: ‘No, you’re kidding!’
Veronika was nodding; she was dead serious.
‘So, he shows me the money. I mean, I literally walked over and looked in that fucking drawer and then I go: This is my point exactly. You’re in it for the money.’
 We nodded. Did he really think he could pull the wool over her eyes?
‘So he goes: No, you’ve got it all wrong. Thith ith our thavingth for the movie Klauth and I are going to make. It cothtth a lot of money to make a film, you thee.’
‘So I go: Why don’t you just apply for a grant? And he laughs and says that grants are for imbethileth.
‘You gotta have a real thtory,’ he says, ‘not thome proletarian drivel about factory workerth’ thruggle to achieve the five-year production plan.’
Veronika shrugged. ‘You understand I had to agree with him on this point.’
We nodded; of course, we’d all had a gutful of that sort of thing.
‘So then he goes: I, for one, am not going to compromithe my artithtic integrity. And he’s looking at me as if I would.’
Veronika’s jaw dropped expectantly.
Tapping her forehead, Vendula hung there with her. Imagine!
Eventually the girls grew tired of tapping so Veronika went on: ‘I go: So what’s your story about? And he goes: Well, the general idea ith to give people thomething they would really enjoy, thomething different but at the thame time thomething everyone can relate to.’
Veronika dropped jaw again but Vendula didn’t feel like tapping her head any more so she quickly said so far so good and Veronika laughed, saying that’s what she said.
At this Raphael got all excited and said that of courthe, at this stage he couldn’t reveal much to her because it was ahead of schedule, and really, you had to guard your ideas because people were not above anything these days but the one thing he could tell her for sure was that they were going to start casting soon. In fact, there was a part in it that would suit Veronika to a tee; he had felt her charisma as soon as she had walked in the room, but of course, it was entirely up to her whether she wanted to audition or not. Obviously, they would have to know how photogenic she was because it is important that you present well on camera.
 ‘You’ll be playing the romantic lead, you thee,’ concluding his sales pitch, Raphael had bowed to the bureau. Veronika then said: ‘Aha! There’ll be nudity then,’ to which, Raphael, all casual and unconcerned like, responded with: ‘Of courthe, you gotta give people what they want.’
Thinking about it, I found myself nodding. Of courthe, what elthe ith there?
‘You-gotta-give-people-what-they-want,’ Veronika repeated slowly. ‘That’s when I realized it was all a big con to get me to pose nude.’
Vendula breathed a sigh of relief. Yes. A big con.
‘Sooo,’ Vendula breathed, ‘that’s when you left.’
‘No, I had another brandy.’
We laughed; that’s so Veronika. That and her saying bureau. Everyone else we knew would have said a chest of drawers but not Veronika. She’d have to say bureau.
‘And they didn’t mind you drinking?’ Vendula asked.
‘Fuck no. They wanted to get me plastered so I would ‘audition’.’
Vendula pictured it: everybody getting pissed and the talk turning ‘bawdy’ as deda Anton would say.
‘Did you talk ‘bawdy’? Vendy asked.
 ‘No,’ Veronika laughed. ‘We talked ‘art’ instead.’
Then Klaus turned it on for Alice. Oozing charm like a gypsy at the fairground, Klaus told Alice that there was something special about her, insisting that if you looked at her from a certain angle there was a strong resemblance to Bridget Bardot in her younger days, naturally, (Naturally! we roared) and he was dead certain it would show up on film.
‘She has a big future, this young lady does,’ Klaus oozed, snapping a Polaroid of the flushed Alice who sat there casting glances like an Indian bride.
‘Poor Horse Face,’ Veronika laughed now, ‘she wanted to keep the picture.’
‘So they came to an agreement then,’ Vendula said.
‘I should think so but I left after the third brandy so I’m not really sure.’
We thought about it. Okay, it was up to Alice but Veronika should have talked her out of it. Or at least tried to.
‘Before you say it,’ Veronika raised a finger when Vendula remained thoughtful, ‘I did try to talk her out of it.’
‘She wouldn’t hear of it. Said she was old enough to know what she was doing and just because I had no talent (Vendula gasped: No, she wouldn’t dare! but Veronika nodded to indicate just how low Alice had sunk), I had no right to hinder her career.’
Veronika sighed. ‘I tried to call her this morning but she wasn’t there. Aunt Babsie told me she went to Marcela’s to work on an art’s project for school.’
Hearing this, Vendula had to laugh. There were no art classes at our college.
‘And then you called Marcela,’ Vendula confirmed.
‘There was no one home,’ Veronika replied. ‘So that’s that.’
Right. That’s that.


The short story The Audition is an excerpt from the autobiographical novel Cabbage, Strudel and Trams (Part 1: Czechoslovakia) available to download from Smashwords, Amazon and other online stores.

Reviews posted online will be much appreciated.
Cheers, Ivana

Cabbage, Strudel and Trams (Part 1: Czechoslovakia) © Ivana Hrubá, 2011

Cabbage, Strudel & Trams tells the story of a young girl’s turbulent journey from childhood to adulthood, of adolescence begun behind the Iron Curtain, continued in a West German refugee camp and coming to a glorious end in the land Down Under. Narrated by Franta, an imaginary friend inhabiting the inner world of our young heroine Vendula, this satirical coming-of-age tale depicts the trials and tribulations of an ordinary Czech family living in a small mining town in communist Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s, their escape to West Germany and their resettlement in Australia.
The story begins when the combined household of Zhvuk & Dribbler is thrown into chaos by the untimely defection of Uncle Stan to West Germany. With nothing but their damaged political profile to lose, the family decides to eventually follow in Uncle Stan’s footsteps but not before puberty, free enterprise, unrequited love and things that only happen to other people shred our young heroine’s heart. With charm, poise and a little grace, Franta navigates Vendula through the pitfalls of her teenage years, guiding her to discover her own identity. As shenanigans gather momentum, Franta’s humorous insights into Vendula’s loopy family: the assertive mother, the henpecked father, the enterprising granddad, the blissful grandma, the dissenting uncle and his circle of ‘freedom fighting’ friends build a picture of the life of ordinary folk surviving the oppressive communist regime.
Well, even straw will eventually break the camel’s back. Following a trip to the almighty Soviet “Onion” where rows of empty shop windows reveal the future all too clearly, the family escapes to West Germany. Unexpectedly, the refugee camp, a colourless shapeless blur on the edge of a dark, dark forest where only goblins live, is a “happy” kind of place in which tobacco chewing, nose picking, throat clearing, the occasional riot, and plentiful and uninhibited sexual exploits are the order of the day. Of course, life is not all beer and crackers for our heroes; having carved out some sort of an existence in the camp, new challenges arise when the family arrives in Australia.

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The Audition by Ivana Hruba. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, copied or used in any form or manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in reviews and critical articles.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All events described herein are imaginary, including settings and characters. Any similarity to real persons, entities, or companies is purely coincidental and not intended to represent real living persons. Real brand names, company names, names of public personalities or real people may be employed for credibility because they are part of our culture and everyday lives. Regardless of context, their use is meant neither as endorsement nor criticism: such names are used fictitiously without intent to describe their actual conduct or value. All other names, products or brands are inventions of the author’s imagination. The author and the publisher of this work, its distributors, retailers, wholesalers and assigns disclaims any liability or responsibility for how this work is interpreted by its readers. The author and the publisher assume no responsibility for factual errors, inaccuracies, or omissions.


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