For All Nails #55: Triestine Livers
by Randy McDonald
Adrian Ramet walked smartly down the promenade, holding the dactylograph FN3 in its plastic carrying case tightly against his side. The Mediterranean late afternoon sun was hot, and if Ramet looked up to his right he could see the bleached bare limestone of the Corso shining brightly. They said that the German scientists who studied sunblindness in the Antarctic went to Trst, to see what it was like to have to wear goggles to keep the bright sunlight reflected off the rocks from blinding them. Ramet had found it hard to believe that people used to live there, peasants scraping a living from an infertile soil; certainly none of the Corso's old peasants had protested at the plans to make the Corso over into a vast complex of warehouses for the crowded port below.
"Hey, Marija," he said with a tip of his chapeau as he turned through the iron gate into the Adria. Slovenes didn't like working in the cafés in Trst anymore, not unless they were students and fashionably poor. Marija was hardly a student -- she was an immigrant, a Bosnian Orthodox. Srpski, not hrvatski, FN4 she had corrected him nastily enough when he made the mistake, before she hastily went back to filling the students' coffee cups with the Ethiopian and New Granadan blends.
"Good afternoon, sir," she said politely in her rough peasant accent. "Your friends have not arrived yet."
"Thank you," Ramet said politely, "but I'm not planning to meet them." He gestured, with his left hand, at the speckled plastic. "I'd just like to spend some time typing."
"Ah, you students," Marija said with a faint smile. "Never know when people are good for you. Don't worry, sir, " the Bosnian woman continued, "I've saved your table for you." She pointed, and Ramet followed her gaze. Just a simple round table, a yard in diametre, and a simple metal-backed chair, by the iron gate that was all that separated the café from the promenade in winter.
"My thanks, Marija," Ramet said. He considered giving her a tip but decided not to, since after all the café wasn't that busy. "I'll just have black coffee, and a refill when I finish. Last night was a long night," he grinned wickedly, and he turned away from her to wind through the crowded tables. When Ramet got to his table, his right arm ached a bit from the dactylograph's weight, in his elbow and forearm especially. He had been taking the dactylograph around Trst with him for too long, at the university for his notes. He'd graduated from university just a month ago, but he still took his trusty dactylograph about town with him.
Ramet knotted his fingers together and stretched them, hearing their joints crack gratifyingly. Carefully, he placed the spotless white sheet of cotton paper in the paper feed and began to move the paper through. When the top was visible, Ramet began to dactyle on the Czech's marvellous keyboard. FN5
Ljubljana, Trst, Maribor, not Laibach, Trieste, Marchburg FN6, Ramet began to type. He had seen an old atlas, a Prussian royal atlas from 1900, that hadn't had a single Slavic name for any city anywhere in the Germanic Confederation. It had struck him as odd -- there were, now, at least a few German atlases that had Praha for Prag, if fewer that called Ljubljana by its rightful name. There are our three cities, the three nervous centres of the Slovene nation -- like lofty Triglav FN7 -- holding the mind of the Slovene nation.
We are a nation of Postojna salamanders, FN8 becoming whatever others want -- what our environment determines, who the dukes of the day are and which languages they speak. If Carniola-Gorica had passed to Italy, I do not doubt that we would describe ourselves as the most Latin of the Slavs, never mind the Dalmatians; instead, Carniola-Gorica passed to Germany, and we describe ourselves as the most German of the Slavs, never mind the Czechs.
"Hello, Adrian!" he heard a deep masculine voice call from the street. Ramet turned his head to his right and saw Jorg, good Carinthian Wend FN9 Jorg, come south across the Karawanken from Klagenfurt to see what it was like to be openly unashamedly Slovenian. "Still typing?"
"Of course!" Adrian replied with a thin polite smile, and he self-consciously straightened his cravate. (Informality, in any café on Trst's promenade, would be problematic.) "And you're still walking?"
"Ah, I like the sea air. It's a change from Carinthia, you know." They chatted for a bit, about their friends who had graduated and their fellow students who had left, and about the recent economic cataclysm in Lorraine.
"We can be certain," Ramet concluded, "that Slovenia will never go through that. We're much too disciplined for that, not like the Croatians."
"Don't remember," Jorg cautioned, "that we wouldn't be anything without the German Empire. Anyway," he said as he glanced down at the watch on his wrist, "I have to go. See you later!"
Ramet watched Jorg proceed further down the promenade before he turned back to the dactylograph -- it was beginning to become darker, now -- and placed his fingers on the keys again. Bless Bruning for our prosperity FN10, he began, since we don't bless ourselves. Oh, no, we praise our environment -- yes, the Empire is so kind to let us exist and use our country as a corridor for Imperial trade with the Levant, India, distant Asia. If it was not for the Empire, we Slovenes would only be dirty illiterate peasants living in mountain hovels. Perhaps we would be civilized by a good crusade, like the Polabians and Wends and Prussians. FN11
"Or the French," he muttered as he turned away from the keys to his coffee. Ramet sipped the sweet coffee as he remembered the book that he had just read, translated from French into German and published in Ljubljana despite its recounting of German war atrocities in Paris, during the silly French uprising in the Global War. Carniola-Gorica's press censor had overruled the German imperial authorities, citing the kingdom's privileges. He thought for a moment, and went back to typing.
Our kingdom is home to light-hearted Neapolitans with their Ndrangheta and dark-eyed brooding Croatians, with their knives and blood vendettas. They say that during the Global War, Croatians skinned Turks to death, with the same carving knives that they used to dress meat. You can't help but wonder whether they would turn on us FN12 -- no, this is false and slanderous. The Neapolitans and Croatians are good people, happy to be here, whatever their eccentricities. They speak Slovene, they accept us as equals. But the Germans? They're hardly used to the idea that we shouldn't be müss-Deutschen. We are a small decent people, safe from the excesses of emotion of our Germanic and Italian and Slavic neighbours -- We are meant for better things.
This has to change, and he hit the return key with a satisfying downward jab. The last of the paper edged up through the dactylograph, and the neatly-fingerwritten sheet quietly slipped onto the table. "Not a bad few hours' work," he said to himself. Ramet hadn't intended to write anything political today. It was odd how these things just happened.
Ramet looked up to see that outside the café the sun had descended beyond the Corso. When he looked out towards the Adriatic, he could see the bright yellow beams of the harbour navigation beacons, and the less-intense lights of the passing ships beyond the fog of the streetlights. FN13
Forward to FAN #56A: I, Mercator (Part 1).
Forward to 6 August 1973: Remembrance Day.
Return to For All Nails.