Translated by John Minahane

New Money

I had to come to terms with her state: I had to measure up to it.
“Do you really not know what to buy?” she said reproachfully, slamming on the table the make-up she took from the full shopping bag.
Of course I didn’t know.
I walked out of the courtyard of the Andrássy Palace up to the square with the tram stops. It was where I did it the first time.
Unwittingly I settled my gaze on two heavy carrier bags next to the fat old woman in front of me. I looked away immediately but noticed how passers-by had registered my gaze with suspicion. Then once I had passed over this walking lump of fat and seen her accusing, back-turned face, her hand hastily trying to transfer her shopping to the bags in her other hand, I finally realized that my plan merely lacked execution of the deed.
In a fraction of a second I saw myself snatch the bag from the woman, dash between some people and then run for my life away from her screeching voice and some self-interested do-gooders chasing after me. Then turn into a narrow side street and come out on the other side, not breathing hard, before heading in the opposite direction at a slower pace, covered by the noises of onrushing bodies.
It did not always go well and sometimes I had to abandon my quarry. At other times at home my woman berated me for my stupid purchases and extravagance. In the end, though, she always praised me – that was before I realized she knew everything. Then she would appreciate my attempts at devotion by relishing one handful after another.
I had to measure up, little one.  
“Now listen to me, please. I won’t talk for very long.”
Not long meant she would finish talking just before it struck midnight and that she would stop just at the point when I thought my nerves simply couldn’t take it anymore and my death was all but inevitable. God would then change his mind about summoning me at the very last moment.
She spoke about love: “I love you. But if you leave me, I’ll get over it. Someone else will come”; about communication: “There are so many things I’m afraid of telling you about” and about herself, mainly about herself: “I’m expecting” she said one evening.
“I can see,” I said jealously.
She was paralytic.
If I feel like it, I make coffee for her in the morning. And for myself, especially for myself, only for myself. She had long known what I meant when I asked her in passing one day:
“Have you got any black pantaloons, by any chance?”
She’d had them ready for a long time.
“You wanted to say pantyhose” and she handed me an unopened package from her handbag.
“Yeah, pantyhose. What did I say?”
“Pantyhose,” I repeated. “Have you got any older ones?”
“Give me a break!”
And then she poured all that money out onto the table just like that – out of the blue. Long after she had seen me for the first time.
“Let’s see you.”
She spun me round in front of the mirror just before I left the house. I had to give her a twirl or two.
“Let me have a good look at you just in case something happens.”
“I understand,” which I did, though I had no idea that only she understood everything. I couldn’t be afraid of anything if I was to be afraid about her. Afraid of nothing, not even myself. I knew what I was capable of.
Every crown counted.
For some time I had to invent a phantom to explain my occasional nights away, my late arrivals home, my two or three-day disappearances in search of a good quarry. I introduced everyone to Ďusij Varecha, to him and his imaginary abstract essence; to everyone except to her so that they could unanimously confirm his existence and my bulletproof alibi. They all liked him and became friends immediately. She didn’t have to ask me anything.
“I was having a coffee with Ďusij,“ I said.
“Tell me about him,“ she said.
I could think of nothing more agonizing than having to invent evenings spent together. But I had to – for the good of our relationship.
“Quiet. Be quiet everyone, I’m calling my wife!” and I silenced those around me when I phoned her.
“Be quiet, please. My husband is calling!” and she would in turn silence her guests.
“Hi. Have you got anything?”
“Nothing. And you.”
I had only her. And one pair of socks in which, after a raid that morning, I had found a crumpled hundred crown note. It was scratching my heel. Not long before, I had poured from the sock just a few farthings rattling in my shoe like in a piggy-bank. Now I had a note – a small fortune! We could finally eat.
After a midnight slap-up, we were jumping around in front of the lift. “You go in the sink or in the bath!” she commanded. Once inside she quickly threw off her skirt, pulled down her knickers and peed into the bowl while I had to go in the sink.
My mates and I went on sitting by the bar like fruit machines. Insert a coin, pour us a shot, life is fun. Let’s play your song. We were thinking about money, about a magical printing-press which would print out bank notes. About supernatural numbers and values which mathematicians had not even dreamt of.  With no good-willed, fun-loving sponsor to be seen anywhere, my precious time came after midnight, as I walked through the station park. Better to steal than not steal and thus steal from one’s family. Family: me and her. Come on, a family must have at least three members. And how often there are five times that many of us sitting at this bar.
“And where has the good person disappeared to? Where to, I ask nicely?!” I ask aloud nicely at night. “Where is that pure soul, that big heart, that open account, loads of money, generous pockets?! Where is it? Screw it!”
No, I have no family. I don’t want to have a family: that’s why I need money, in this state – my sixth month – I need a lot of money.
It was a shame about the peace being disturbed, a shame about crime being committed just for money. It was a shame about that money. But we enjoyed it when she joined forces with me so that we could stand on our feet together: both of us on our own feet, that is – the third was on his belly on the ground.
“Come to work, Princess! Or you too will be lying down!”
I urged my chosen one to search the victim who we had sought out at the railway station. We both liked the look of him. Her task was simply to run up to him in that part of the park where I was waiting behind a tree so that I could jump out, cock the hammer and send a good-looking man with a suitcase to the ground. I spared her such a fate, the fatso, what with that big belly of hers. I was in a hurry. With those black tights over my head, it was always unbearably bloody hot with the shuddering stink of my breath after a long session in the bar.
She had to frisk his whole body and give me everything, including his documents, so that I could warn the young man nicely not to call the police or my chums would be on to him. I would take my pregnant witch with me as a hostage; with our stolen goods we would then retreat as quickly as possible. It’s true that she looked good – weighed down by the fruit of my love. My love for money.
I played songs to her outside her door: Jingle Bells, SOS, the Wedding March and similar fanfares. She then opened the door and I went on letting the music play:
“Wait – let the piece finish.”
I brought her a flower.
“I wish you had brought me some bread instead. The flower will soon die,” at least that is how she said it.
“I’ll buy you some bread for Christmas.”
Kiss-kiss. But she didn’t touch her coffee, her mouth was dry, coffee in my mug. She had overdone it the day before, she felt bad, my head, my stomach, my dear. A vodka to clear the head, a beer to settle the stomach – soon she was looking better. She could speak: she hadn’t just lost her senses.
I was sitting down. She saw me furtively fingering through the money in my mind but she also saw that I hadn’t even touched it. I would rather have stroked her smooth round belly. Rather a nice round belly than the shapeless pillow where she stored all the pilfered money she had been carrying under her shirt.
She had wanted to make me happy but my fixed smile persuaded her otherwise.
We sat on the sofa, each at the opposite end with the pillow in between us. A pillow like a wardrobe dividing a bedroom, like a bookmark, hatred out of love.
We looked at the blank tv screen. At its blackness like at a dark mirror. It was less painful that way. Our expressions in the screen were defused somehow, reproachful but tame.    
“What did we need that dosh for?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do we still need it?”
“What dosh? What is money for anyway!? What ‘s come over you?”
She had come over me. And I was  running behind her, right behind her.