George has come to have a beer and something to eat, and to watch Luci-Melena in action behind the bar. She is wearing a red wig and a white apron over a black dress, while talking to Marcus in a nonsense language that sounds vaguely Swedish. Marcus can speak her language. They are laughing.
The Czechs standing on either side at the bar are mystified.
“George, George – I’m so glad you are here. I want you to meet my guests –
they’re out on the front patio – come.”
Luci-Melana took George by the hand, and led him outside to where a man and woman were sitting at a table having a beer and sausages.
“George, this is also George. And his wife, Zuzana – get acquainted – I must get back to work.”
George sat down beside the man and woman, who didn’t particularly look like friends of Luci-Melena.
Very middle, he thought. Middle aged, middle class, middle Czech.
“I’m sorry to seem impolite, but Luci-Melena didn’t tell me anything about you – she just said come meet you, and left it to us to get acquainted.”
The man and woman laughed.
“Well, that’s Luci for you. We don’t know who you are, either.
Let me introduce us – I’m George Janostik, and this is Zuzana Janostikova,
my wife. We are Luci’s parents. We call her Luci, though she was christened Lutka. She added Milena, after Milena Jesenska, the love of Kafka’s life.
It’s typical of her to re-name herself, but we don’t mind.
But she’s still just Luci to our family.”
“Oh, I see,” said George. When I first met her, she was Marcela – but I suppose that’s no surprise to you, either.”
They laughed, and exchanged knowing glances with each other.
George Novak said, “I’m a little surprised – Luci-Milena doesn’t look like either one of you – not even close – I would have never guessed you were related.”
Zuzana smiled, sighed, and said, “It’s always been like that. Even we wonder sometimes ourselves. We have four children – two girls and two boys. If we lined up together, you would see that five of us are clearly related.
Facial features, hair and complexion, size, clothes – the family Janostik.
And then . . . there would be Luci – she’s our oldest – and she doesn’t look like any of us in any way. The tallest member of the family, different hair and complexion and features. Some people even think she’s not our child – an adopted gypsy kid, perhaps. I even wondered if there had been a mix-up at the hospital. But no, Luci is our daughter.”
“Don’t misunderstand,” said her father, “She’s a beloved child – and we’ve always been close as a family. And still are. But Luci has always been as unique inside as she appears to be on the outside. Different from the beginning. Her grandmother said Luci was the reincarnation of an old soul with a deep past.”
As the evening and conversation continued, George learned more about Luci-Milena than she had ever told him.
From an early age she had been independent and self-sufficient – strong-willed – learning to walk and talk and even read early and on her own. Linguistically gifted, she, picked up almost any language she was exposed to.
George, her father, is a mining engineer, and when he went on vacations to explore interests in geological formations and fossils, he took Luci along, beginning when she was six years old. Luci insisted on having her own rock hammer and collected samples that interested her. She took the rocks and fossils home, gave them names, and made up stories about each one – stories that had nothing to do with geology.
Zuzana, her mother, is a school teacher – a superb cook and gardener, with a special interest in herbs and spices. Luci took an interest in cooking when she was six, but liked to concoct her own recipes.
“The result was interesting,” said Zuzana,“but usually inedible by anybody except Luci. I had a big garden, but Luci didn’t want to help me, she wanted her own garden. She raised flowers, not vegetables.”
George learned that, while Luci was different in so many ways, she seem to realize early on that she could be as different as she wanted to be if she more-or-less went along with appearing to be normal. She did well in school, was never in trouble, and never got caught in any mischief she might be up to.
She was glad to go along with the family anywhere, and she was welcome company because she made up stories about people and places that entertained and amazed the family.
She went to Charles University, where she followed her ability with languages, and got her degree and certification as a translator/interpreter.
“And then,” said her father, ”one day . . . one day . . . she suddenly announced she was going to America. And she did. She got jobs as a nanny – au pair – in Santa Fe and Boston, and studied writing and acting. She was gone four years – and when she came home, she announced she was now going to write novels and be an actress. By then we were never surprised at what our Luci might do next, so we thought, well, why not?”
“She’s never asked us for financial support beyond university – always paid her own way as she went her own way. She still comes home from time to time, but it’s always like a visit from someone from another country or planet. We never know if her tales of adventure or true or not, but they’re always great to listen to.”
“When she got a job as a translator in Prague we thought she was finally settling down to a normal life as an adult. But then she announced she was now a member of The Dragon Family Circus, and she couldn’t explain, so we would just have to come and see for ourselves. So – here we are.”
Zuzana reached out and placed her hand gently on George’s arm.
“She also said she had a special relationship with a special man, but we would have to come and meet you. So – we had to come – and here you are.
Tell us about you.”
George blushed, smiled, and laughed.
“I hardly know what to say or where to begin. But first you have to know that your daughter has never shared most of what you’ve told me about her. I’m really lacking facts about her life, but I’ve certainly experienced her unique personality and creativity. I’ll tell you how we met the first two times.”
When George finished telling the train story, Zuzana said, “That’s our Luci,
for sure. But how did you connect again?”
And George laid out the next chapter of their encounter – not everything, but enough to suggest that he, in fact, had become Luci-Milena’s special man.
Luci-Marcela’s father smiled, and said, “Well, as her parents, we are pleased and impressed. She’s never had a boy or man in her life, and we were worried.
But you sound like a perfect fit for her. We wonder what your intentions are.”
“Mr. Janostik, you know your daughter as well as I do – and that means you never know what will happen if you are involved with her. I will confess . . . to be very honest . . . that I have fallen in love with her.
I haven’t even told her that. I don’t know for sure if she reciprocates the feeling. She doesn’t think about things like that in the way most people do.
And I can say is that my intentions are honorable – and that I will continue to be Luci-Milena’s special man, and see what happens.”
Zuzana patted George gently his face.
“Sooner or later I hope she brings you to visit us. We’ve left her room just the way she left it. It’s a museum – one you should see.”
“I’ll come,” said George, with pleasure, but I’ll wait until it’s her idea.”