Slovenian Toast by Rudy Koshar

Slovenian Toast by Rudy Koshar

Anton felt as if he were waiting for the rye toast to come up. When the coils glowed orange, his memory fallowed, overturning ground but not seeding.

A would-be great uncle’s last boy’s breath gasped from the seething dark waters of the North Atlantic.

Anton saw the image between the “light” and “dark” notches. Was that absent uncle, the drowned one, the key to what came afterwards?

"the gaping maw of the toaster...it burns!" image by Flickr user sharyn morrow

“the gaping maw of the toaster…it burns!” image by Flickr user sharyn morrow

The rest of the family made the crossing before the Great War: steerage dregs and Balkan black dogs pissing on America’s fire hydrants, which were all that was left to them. Years later, discalced and mad, Anton’s father would rage through the farmhouse. At the grave, only the smell of the old despot’s cigars and cheap wine remained, along with the sound of the Studebaker’s shoddy springs.

Anton’s escape took place between the lines of Tears of Rage and The Journey to the East.

A sweet Madeline, his first wife, shared her journal and young body the day Anton met her in the Diagonal between the Library and the future. Ann Arbor, New York, and Rome passed through their lives, then West Berlin, where a wicked son was born.

Finally, after the Wall, a large apartment in Ljubljana; a Pallid Swift’s return to origins, as the heat from the Rowenta’s chrome box warmed Anton’s outstretched hand.

Margarine and four paper-thin slices of Black Forest Schinken waited on the counter like retrievers before the stick is thrown. Books piled upon books as Anton’s library grew and his arteries became stubborn. He won a Pulitzer for his second novel, lost his wife.

Jacqueline followed with a bitter mind and an indifferent body. There she sat, bored and angry, before the window’s leaden mist. The distant son, Harvard-educated but down and out in Paris and London, was as silent as the electric current.

No wonder Austria-Hungary went under, Anton thought, and then Yugoslavia. No one here can make a proper toaster, like the Germans do.

Three heartfelt attempts to write great fiction, really great fiction, had failed. Withdrawal denied due to insufficient funds, and a life in the shadow of early promise.

What lay behind his longing, not for death but simple unbeing? The would-be great-uncle and the last breath?

When the crisped bread resurfaced with a mechanical click, the Empire had still not returned, and there was no epiphany.

_

IMG_0290Rudy Koshar began writing fiction in 2010, for reasons still unclear. An academic historian with seven books and dozens of scholarly articles to his credit, he is aware that some of his critics in the profession may claim he’s been writing fiction all along. His short stories appear in Revolution House, Eclectica, Turk’s Head Review, Gravel, Wisconsin People & Ideas, Forge, and several other literary magazines, and his “Fallen Magi” is the second place winner of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters 2013 Fiction Context. He teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and blogs at rudykoshar.net.