In 1991, the thing that mattered in high school was strength. It mattered in the so-called outside world, too. In Gdańsk Wrzeszcz, which now boasts majestic Quattro Towers, in the ‘Sukces’ department store, set up in the factory halls of the former tram depot, they would go to the so-called ‘Martens’. One day, for half of his mother paycheck, he bought SOMETHING that the entire school envied him. Dr Martens shoes smelling of leather. He would polish them more gently than touch his girlfriend at that time, Justyna, not to spoil with the black polish the cult yellow thread, which was one of the key attributes of those arch-shoes.
He scraped up the money and left the shop with, as we would say today, an eco-friendly grey board box with the black and yellow Martens logo. A few days later, his worst fears came true. He went for a beer to a pub in Gdańsk – at that time, nobody would drink this beverage locally, next to a prefab, like today. They got him right away. Two Skins or Punks; he did not even protest when they told him to take off his Martens shoes having knocked out a few of his teeth with a fist armed with a red hydrant plug, which served as a popular knuckleduster at that time.
His family home was cold breeding, and for his mother, the word empathy was from a different world. She immediately got mad that she had borrowed half the money for those stupid shoes and shouted that, first of all, it was a disgrace her son was such a cry-baby and weenie, that his girlfriend would dump him, and so on. It was 25 times worse than when his mother came back from the night shift when he almost managed to do up Justyna’s bra. His father, who sometimes visited their kennel, as he would call their apartment on the 11th floor converted from a public drying room, only bothered to say ‘Son, it happens. You better stay at home.’
He took it to heart although television said something completely different. In ‘The A-Team’ TV show, Colonel Smith with a cigar, seductive and handsome Templeton ‘Face(man)’ Peck, or muscular Mr T dripping with gold pretended to be weak to undergo a metamorphosis and kick the asses of the BAD GUYS. Then, there was MacGyver with his ‘long back short front’ blond hair, who would make bombs from flour, sugar, and water to get free from dungeons, where he was kept by his enemies.
Boring years had passed, the old TV shows had been replaced with new ones. He left their apartment in the drying room after the final disappearance of his father and moved in a room in a staff hotel in the district of Przeróbka. The elevation of the building was made from asbestos sheets. In winter, he kept food outside on the window sill and in summer, in a hole nearby, which was not even a root cellar.
It was November. He was listening to November Rain by Guns N’ Roses for the hundred thousandth time when he heard loud knocking on his door. The door was made from a cardboard‑like material, so the fist almost got through inside. Then, someone entered the room. He soon remembered sneering comments made by his friends, like ‘your old man is painting the fence with his armpits’ or ‘your old man is reading Bravo.’ And here he was. HIS OLD MAN. ‘Pack your things,’ he said. ‘I’m waiting outside.’ It was like a trans. He went out in the November rain and saw – like in a fashionable photoshoot contrasting to the staff hotel, like from boulevards in Rio de Janeiro – the latest Porsche 911. He glanced at the steamed up hotel windows with all the weary, ugly faces. He could almost smell the odour of the rotting teeth of its tenants. His father, more dignified than celebrities, with tears in one of his eyes, because the other one was completely stiff, said, ‘I made a mistake but now, I’ll give you strength with which you’ll come back here one day. We have a flight to Brazil in two hours. I know you’re ready.’
10 years later.
In a summer evening, Doctor Tomasz Zarański was drinking small white double coffee when his phone rang with a news alert. He clicked the link and started to watch the video in HD. It looked as if a sphere camera was fixed to the recording person’s head, just like google street view but with a live broadcast. In the beginning, he thought it was some new Quentin Tarantino’s production or the next part of John Wick.
In some second-rate bar with testosterone hanging in the air, people were watching a game. A man in his forties in an energy company uniform said that the screening was illegal because the bar had not paid the latest energy bill. He went to the huge LED TV and turned it off composedly. Later, it was like a film. One of the football fans wanted to strike him, but something unexpected happened, which could be a material for medicine students. The guy was kicked on both shinbones at the same time, got down on the ground, so that his knees bent in another direction. He looked like a numb puppet set in an unnatural position. The other attacker was highly conservative. He smashed a bottle against the counter and approached the representative of the energy company. A sudden kick threw him up in the air. The energy guy managed to grab the bottle and chock the attacker with his thighs. With a few short moves, he shaved his head, without a drop of blood, like a pre-war barber without a razor.
He ran out and then, his teeth crashed into a shovel, which suddenly exploded in his mouth. The image sharpened. Now, the area in front of the pub was shown from up above. The camera set near the energy guy captured a large drone. Football fans got in their cars and drove towards the lying energy man. Suddenly, a huge Soviet KRAZ truck went out with a bang of its 6×6 drive. The giant ran across the car bonnets like a monster truck careful not to destroy the driver cockpits. The driver went out of the car, helped the energy guy got in, and drove away with the roar of the 14-litre diesel engine.
4 hours later…
Doctor Zarański finished the last surgery when he got a text from a restricted number. Dear Doctor, I have a problem. While digging up the allotment, I thoughtlessly knocked out a few teeth. I’m such a clumsy oaf. Can I make an appointment?
All characters and events depicted in this story are entirely fictitious.
As opposed to Perfect Smile Clinic, which is absolutely real.