August 4
by Jack Fay

“I am Doctor Natalia Kinsky, head of the clinic. Your name, please.”

“My name is Bako, and I must protest being held here.”

“You are not being held, Mister Bako. You are free to leave whenever you like.”

“I am not Mister Bako. I am Bako. The villagers, kind people I am sure, say I must not leave until you have examined me. Why is this so? I ask you. Cannot people observe that I have two legs, two arms, one head? I see, I hear, I am aware of circumstances.”

“Circumstances, you say? They have been reported to me. But to my judgment the circumstances are outside the boundaries of belief. What have you to say to that?”

“I say the reported circumstances are accurate. At least in the main particulars.”

“Hold still, Mister Bako. Allow me to place this cuff on your arm. Good. Now I will be pleased to hear the particulars as you think them to be.”

“I do not think. I know. The circumstances began a kilometer or two east of the border in Novy Danilo, a lovely village, I must say. I was napping under a fig tree next to the river when three farmers passed by on their way home from the potato fields, for which Novy Danilo is quite famous. Dear Doctor, do you know of Novy Danilo?”

“Hmm. Your blood pressure is quite normal. Novy Danilo, did you say? Yes, of course, it is a village in Russia.”

“Quite so. The farmers thought I was dead, which I can understand because I sleep deeply. The farmers were convinced of my demise and placed me in a coffin with my hands folded on my chest. I must say the coffin was quite comfortable. These kind farmers were readying to nail the coffin closed when I sat up and smiled at them in a most friendly way. The youngest of them ran off. The other two blessed themselves three times, which is reputed quite falsely to be a protection from Satan’s evil doings. Sleep called to me so I lay back down to resume a most agreeable nap. The two remaining farmers, in a panic I presume, lifted the coffin, with me in it, and threw it into the river.”

“Mister Bako, sit still while I shine this light into your eyes. Fine. Now look up, at the ceiling.”

“There is nothing to see on the ceiling.”

“Mister Bako. I cannot make a proper examination without your cooperation.”

“I insist you call me Bako. Are you sure you are a doctor? You seem too young to be a doctor.”

“I am sure I am a doctor. Hold still while I look into your eyes. This story of yours, which I cannot believe, happened in Russia?”

“It began in Russia but ended here, in Hungary. The river was swift. The coffin tipped over and the belt of my trousers caught on a nail. The coffin pulled me along, past the border for quite some distance. A hunter resting on the shore of the river saw the coffin floating toward him. He waded into the river and grabbed the front end. He dragged it to the shore, and that is when he saw my trousers hooked on the nail. It was quite reasonable for the hunter to believe I was dead, but of course, I was sleeping. With his hands under my arms and my face pointing to the heavens above, he pulled me onto the river’s bank and deposited me on a mattress of warm grass, a delightfully commodious spot. I felt no need to rouse myself so I continued to nap. The hunter pushed on my chest over and over but there was no point to it. He gave up and left me, which I greatly appreciated because it is not pleasant to be pushed on the chest while napping. What do you see behind my eyes, Doctor? Is my brain broken apart? I think not. You will find few men my age in such good condition.”

“Lift your shirt. I wish to listen to your heart.”

“As you require Doctor Natalia Kinsky, but I impress upon you the futility of your examination.”

“I will make that judgment, sir. I ask that you lift your shirt, and then you may continue your story.”

“As you wish. The hunter left quickly and returned with your village policeman at his side. The policeman exclaimed that I was a spy, clearly a spy sent from Moscow. ‘It is just as well the man is dead,’ the policeman said of me. Of course I am not a spy, not even a Russian, and I only appeared to be dead. I sat up and protested most vigorously. The policeman became agitated and shot me in the back of the head. This upset me, you see.”

“Sir, have you been in an institution? Escaped perhaps?”

“I am not crazy. Please continue your examination.”

“You will feel a bit of coldness on your chest. A deep breath, please. Hmm. Once more. Hmm. Healthy, healthy as a young bull.”

“Are you not going to look at the back of my head? I told you the policeman shot me in the back of the head. A good doctor would surely look at the back of my head.”

“If you had been shot in the head you assuredly would not be here to tell me of it.”

“I insist, Doctor Natalia Kinsky. I command you to look at the back of my head.”

“Do not command me, sir. I am in charge here. Turn your head into the light. Bend your head forward.”

“How does one bend his head? I ask you. A head is not a pretzel.”

“Lean your head forward then. Chin on your chest. Oh, good Lord. You really must get a haircut. Soap would not hurt as well. I do not see a hole back here.”

“Feel around. At least do me that service.”

“Strange, very strange. I do feel something. A transplant of some type?”

“I will let you decide what it is.”

“Oh, my God. There’s a bullet stuck in your skull!”

“Did I not tell you that the policeman shot me in the back of the head? You must learn to listen. Let this be a lesson to you.”

“Who are you, Mister Bako? Who are you really?”

“My name is Bako, only Bako, and I am a dream.”