Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 28 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
The man who left the airport of the M.R. Stefanik Airport in Bratislava shifted his small valise to his right hand. Even its relatively little weight was heavy for him. Either his age was catching up to him, or this trip was just not doing him very much good.
But he was the one responsible for the fact that he had come here, so he had no one else to blame.
“Mr. Joe Ludmir?” A taxi driver leaning on his car stood up when he approached. “That’s you, right?”
“Right.” The man nodded at him. “I see that you recognized me, despite the years that have passed.”
“Sure,” the driver, a local, replied. “You’ve hardly changed.”
Sure, only fifteen years had been added to his age since his last visit here, but giving compliments to a tourist who hires you as a driver for his entire trip is surely very profitable. Joe’s lips curved into a half smile, and he let the driver put his valise into the trunk. “Is that all?” the driver asked in surprise. “Like then?”
“You remember well; I don’t like traveling with too many things.” He ran his fingers through his gray-white hair and straightened the little yarmulke. “If I lack for something, I’m sure you’ll be very happy to buy it for me.”
The streets hadn’t changed much in the last fifteen years, and Joe couldn’t decide if he remembered them so well from his wandering around during that visit, or from the many photos he had taken then to capture every single corner of the city of his birth. He leaned back and looked out the window in silence. Every so often, between the buildings, he could see the glistening waterline of the Danube, with the Bratislava Castle rising up behind it.
“Did you visit it last time?” the driver asked when he saw his guest gazing at the castle’s famous turrets.
Joe nodded. He didn’t know what it was, but something about this city enveloped him in a cloak of depression.
“We’re going to Mamaison, right?” the driver confirmed. “You reserved a room in that hotel, yes?”
“Yes, I have a confirmed reservation,” the tourist answered heavily.