August 29, 2015 by RJ
The first time Lojzik brought home a stolen apple, his father thrashed him with a belt – then devoured the whole thing, including stem and pips. Lojzik had hoped his father would share. The empty bottle of borovicka meant that come Monday they’d be short of rent money again. His friend Duro said stealing was a piece of cake, but Lojzik had a sweat bead on his eyebrow when he darted in for the snatch and was convinced a burly policeman was about to pounce. A year ago the kitchen counter was heaped with apples, Lojzik helped Mom peel and the smell of cinnamon and cloves in the strudel filled the flat for a week.
The next day Lojzik squeezed through the legs of the lined-up customers, grabbed two apples and ran. A piece of one stuck in his throat, but the tart taste was heaven. He placed the other on the coffee table for his father and from the wedding picture hanging above the sofa, Mom nodded and mouthed, “You’re a good boy, Lojzik.” She’d told him to look after his father, that he’d be the responsible one now. Only four potatoes were left in the storeroom and one was beginning to rot. The box of birdseed was three quarters full and Lojzik figured if parrots survive on it, it wouldn’t kill them either. Father let Rah-rah fly out the window weeks ago and before his father gave away the cage, Lojzik put a single green feather into his treasure box next to the pen-knife.
Father didn’t come home again at night and Lojzik ate the potato he’d boiled and father’s apple as well. He knew he could go to the basement flat and play Black Peter with Duro but Mrs. Sevcik’s baby cried all the time and the five of them crammed in the flat probably didn’t even get a potato.
Lojzik put on his father’s pants with the paint splashes. He rolled up the bottoms, folded the middle around his waist and with the belt looped, they were a perfect fit. Once he got home, father was sure to tell him a good joke he’d heard in the pub. Maybe even a Janosik tale. The flat grew dark but Lojzik didn’t turn on the lights. He burrowed into his father’s bed and cleared his throat. The voice that came out of his mouth was deep and resonant. After Janosik had given the villagers a bag of gold coins plundered from the Baron’s carriage, he called all his friends to the feast table.
Lojzik stared at the door. When it opened and Janosik walked in, arm in arm with his father, he waved.
Andrew Stancek grew up in Bratislava and saw tanks rolling through its streets. He claims direct descent from Janosik, the Slovak Robin Hood. That may be a tall tale. In the world of reality he writes, dreams and entertains Muses in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Tin House online, Every Day Fiction, fwriction, Necessary Fiction, Pure Slush, Prime Number Magazine, r.kv.r.y, Camroc Press Review and Blue Five Notebook, among many other publications. He’s been a winner in the Flash Fiction Chronicles and Gemini Fiction Magazine contests and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The novels and short story collections are nearing completion.