Nina. Her fat bottom, her pink cheeks. She sweats from diligence. A large gold cross swings in her décolletage, letting those around her know that Nina’s life respects Piškulík’s guidance. It seems too blatant to Kora, but for Nina this tactic pays off. Even Belo can’t do without her any more. Where’s Nina? Why isn’t she here? She’s with the parrots? She’s looking after Šarlota's parrots? If she’s not with the parrots, where is she?
She wasn’t with the parrots all that time? Where’s she got to? In the cellar? What can she be doing in the cellar for so long?
This is the first cage. It’s elongated, fairly low. There are four perches in it and four dishes. So far three are empty. The water dish is full. Šarlota first opens the door to the cage. Then she opens the little box she has brought here. She holds it to the little open door and waits. But the budgie doesn’t move, doesn’t come out of the box and doesn’t go inside. Šarlota prods it with her finger to see if it is dead. No, it isn’t. So she grasps it in her hand and puts it inside. The silky-soft olive-green feathers do not shiver, the yellow head does not move, the beak does not open. Šarlota closes the cage door and pokes a dandelion leaf through the bars. The frightened budgie sits on the perch and does not react to the outpouring of Šarlota’s love. It looks sickly and there is no sign it could begin to talk, even though Šarlota keeps saying to it, Dear, darling! The budgerigar continues to sit motionless on the perch even when Šarlota opens the cage door.
Now Nina is standing behind Šarlota. She yawns. Šarlota turns round, sees Nina; she is with her, with Šarlota, she hasn’t deserted her. Nina has a disgusted look on her face; this is for the budgie that doesn’t want to come to life and Šarlota, who is poking it and for the time she has wasted. She must try hard not to waste her opportunity now!
This opportunity is Šarlota and Belo. Šarlota sees her as a parrot lover, Belo as an admirer of successful men. Nina can appreciate success. She weaves imaginary wreaths and decorates a successful man, Belo, with them. The proof of Belo’s success is to be found in the piles of plastic bags full of garbage that Nina sorts out in the cellar after dinner parties according to her own criteria. The amount of garbage produced reflects the standard of living. The more garbage, the higher the standard. It’s time her standard of living was raised, she thinks when she looks at these bags.
Belo’s hand finds itself on Nina’s big bottom, on which half the world relies, or at least Belo’s household. From early morning Nina has been putting beech logs on the fire in the hearth. The wood crackles and a pinkish light slips over the wall. The cross in Nina’s décolletage glistens. Belo’s hand does not push Nina up the stairs to the bedroom; it just grasps that big fat bottom. Belo forgets Kora, who is not here, and also Šarlota, who could be anywhere. But Šarlota has no intention of bursting into the room where Nina and Belo are. She closes the front door and looks round the yard. She will detain Kora under any pretence to stop her going into the house. She will do her best to hold her back.
How easy it is to hold Kora back. She doesn’t really have to try very hard. A naïve, trusting goose, that’s Kora. She has a suspicion and feels guilty for having these unwelcome suspicions. Belo loves her, Nina is devoted to her. Šarlota is like one of the household’s fixtures, always present.
Nina pushes Belo’s hand off her bottom with a disapproving half turn. I’m divorced, but don’t take it amiss! She throws Belo a wishful look. There’s your wife. I would never do that to your wife. I’d be a swine to do that to her. How could I, her companion, do something like that to her?
That’s Nina all over. She wouldn’t take a step off the path approved by her confessor Piškulík.
In her profile on Facebook, in the column for hair colour, she has entered “highlighted”. Highlighted leads people to believe that the person who has it does not save on the hairdresser. The extra expense at the hairdresser’s is an indication of Nina’s “better” lifestyle, which ranks her among “better” people.
In her profile she also mentioned that she only kept sexual contacts with one partner, and if she were to describe the dinner of her dreams, it would be one where she was licking it from her partner’s navel.
This information had clear erotic overtones. Shortly after she posted it on her website she received responses from two lickers. One wanted to lick Hungarian goulash from Nina’s bellybutton, the other was more refined: he would like to lick porridge with wild strawberries from her navel, which with the lapse of time after the publication of Nina’s profile reminded someone of Bergman’s film Wild Strawberries, about which Nina knew nothing.
She noticed a couple more responses, to which she sent provocatively lascivious replies, but she turned down any suggestion for a meeting, which fact she confided to her confessor Piškulík, who did not see anything sinful in her behaviour.
He stared intently at her face. He couldn’t see her rolls of fat through the cloth of the confessional, but he concentrated on the recesses of her soul, ignoring the rampant fat visibly spreading over this woman and did not connect it with the sin of gluttony. He knew that poverty found happiness in sausages and beer; that a full stomach strengthened family ties; satisfying food brought peace of mind, even if for only a short time, and that Nina was one of those who for the most varied reasons had found herself in a shitty situation. He assessed her as one of those who would pull herself out of the shit.
She led him to believe despicable things about her drunkard husband. She confided in him that she couldn’t stand drunkards, even though they too were living creatures and God’s children. She said that she had lost the house, the car and the van, because her husband’s partner had struck some bad deals and she, Nina, had been left to liquidate the firm, pay its debts, look after her son and daughter who were not yet of school age; that her husband had started another family in Germany and didn’t send alimony. She claimed that it was only her love for her children that gave her the strength to work in hotels in Switzerland and Crete, in a vegetable warehouse in Austria and to arrange a repayment plan. At the moment she was employed by a family in Skalník. The family were well-off, as she had noticed from the indications. It was from them she had picked up this word “indications” , a word that Piškulík liked; he remembered that for ten crowns he had once bought a paperback called Indications of the Imagined. He didn’t know now what had made him buy it, but he had and he had stuck it in his bookcase. Now he remembered it. He encouraged Nina to talk about Belo, about the indications and all the circumstances that led to the feeling of guilt she had not yet earned and which only appeared as a tantalizing urge that Nina immediately nipped in the bud. It was a temptation the saintly woman resisted.
At this point Nina fingered the gold cross around her neck. Any other woman would have ended up in bed with him, she said. With me there was no bed. I have confided in Mrs Šarlota about this. She in turn told her daughter-in-law Kora, only Kora remarked that she didn’t know what to think of it, which offended me. I have only stayed with them because of Šarlota. I’d like to know whether they would find anyone as chaste as I am.