The Swill and Gorge

1.

He didn’t know much about rivers, but this one surely wasn’t a brown god.  Nope. Not even good old T.S. would have argued with him about that.  Yet his poet king had been right about its sweating oil and tar.[1]  Brown and shiny like a plump snake sprawling across that none-too-impressive Hungarian countryside’s least impressive part—Alföld, Alföld, flat and boring, boring and flat, studded with cornfields, glazed with muddy creeks, soaked with besotting pálinka.[2]  What was there to write home about?  “The horror!  The horror!”[3]

Irreverent and fidgety, Tamás sat in that glorified dixie scanning the listless faces of the other twenty-three fellow-passengers.  All guests of Mr. and Mrs. Dödöle, or more precisely, all guests of the charming wife who had organized a semi-surprise birthday-party for her beloved husband.  The birthday boy had been spared precise details and he had only been notified about the time and place of the venue.  That was inevitable, as it was his parents’ country mansion which was destined to host the event, and his money which was supposed to foot the bill of all the necessary shopping allegedly done for the sake of that celebratory village whoopee.  Part of the two-day program was the pleasure cruise in that “drifting boat with a slow leakage” down the mighty Tisza.  After the swelling, the river was browner and more unattractive than ever, let alone more dangerous, especially in a boat so chock-full of people that it had been a heroic (or villainous) feat on the part of the boat-captain to leave the riverbank behind; the belly of the boat had been comfortably lodged in the mud and only very reluctantly did it venture out on open water.

So there they sat, already run out of conversation after a whole day’s chitchat, with still half an hour to go before they could disembark.  Having drunk a beer or two, Tamás was currently sharing the fate of the two pregnant women in the company whose faces also showed signs of desperation concerning individual leakage.  Bodily discomfort was a small matter, however.  It was way worse that the only alternative to flap his gums was to politely stare ahead; what would they have said if he had flapped a book open on his lap?

Unthinkable, unforgivable, uncivilized, antisocial.  Although he had got used to such epithets a long time ago, in this particular situation even his cheeks would have burned with shame, had he succumbed to the temptation.  No, one was not supposed to bury oneself in a book instead of enjoying the scenery and the company of nice people.  Because they were nice people, he had to admit that.  And they were fellow-sufferers; someone having the time of his life would have been more of a misfit in there.  Except for poor Mr. Dödöle, who was desperately trying to enjoy every bit of his birthday-treat.  The Missus was already busy haggling with the boat-captain about the price and the length of the trip.  She had been promised a whole hour and she would not be fooled into a forty-five minute affair while her guests were having so much fun.

2.

Having safely disembarked, they made their way towards the cars waiting for them at an improvised parking lot shaded by weeping willows.  It was a short drive back to the house, not more than three villages and four cornfields had to be traversed.  Even the most intolerant person could have humored Mrs. Dödöle’s rapturous outbursts concerning the beauty of that adorable countryside for such short stretch of a time.  Wasn’t it simply majestic?  Wasn’t her favorite poet Petőfi right?  Wasn’t it so much more beautiful than mountains or seaside, snow-covered peaks or wave-licked beaches?[4]  She had always thought that her little country had so much more to offer than boring Switzerland or commonplace Italy.  Just look at that poppy-studded immensity.   A sea of wheat. An ocean of corn.  Edible gold.

Before she would have had time to warm to paying an even greater tribute to her homeland while speeding through the villages and almost running over chicken, children, geese and old ladies, they found themselves back at the house, miraculously safe and sound.  As they were getting out of the car, the busybody bells of the village church started their clamorous announcement of the time; it was eight o’clock.  Hurry up please it’s time, hurry up please it’s time.  Finally they would be asked in for dinner to get the beauty of the whole trip, wouldn’t they?[5]  Well, the peal of bells could have saved their breath since everybody’s stomach was hinting at the same thing, anyway.  During the day they had been nibbling on stale pretzels and some seasonal fruit, the latter of which was destined to make one even hungrier with its acidity.  Even the after-effects of the pálinka had vanished by then; the warm glow in the stomach and the dull glaze in the eyes had given way to the cheerful expectation of good solid food.

The two months since the first telephone call concerning details had passed by so fast that one did not even have the time to dust off the well-worn cliché and remark once again how time flew.  Yes, exactly two months in advance the honored guests had started receiving all kinds of confusing but very enthusiastic messages as to the program of the upcoming party.  There would be movie watching al fresco on the first night.  There would be a visit to the local distillery.  There would be a cruise on the Tisza.  And of course there would be a birthday barbeque on the second night followed by dancing until dawn, or even until breakfast before the final departure.  As to accommodation, it was possible to find lodgings in the only guest-house of the area, but only for six or seven couples.  The rest could occupy the beds and the floor of their house.  It had all sounded charming.  It had all sounded rustic.  Lots of local color, a taste of country-living, sun and fun, swill and gorge.

Yet the closer they got to the venue the more confusing the messages became.  Three days prior, it was still not sure who would arrive when, who would sleep where, who would bring what.  As the self-appointed embodiment of elegant nonchalance, Mrs. Dödöle had graciously waved away questions concerning precise ingredients that would be needed for the barbeque.  Just bring something to nibble or to sip, she would invariably say.

3.

As Tamás had had to spend his Friday at work, he could only join the group for the second day.  He didn’t mind because he knew that the climactic events had all been scheduled for Saturday; the cruise in the afternoon and the birthday barbeque in the evening.  Good old Dödöle would not take it amiss if he arrived a day late; good old Dödöle was a fellow journalist, so it was no news to him that news were extremely perishable goods and that deadlines were dead serious.  In fact, Tamás could never understand how the poor chap could synchronize his life of a journalist with that of a henpecked husband.  How was it possible to be at the beck and call of two opposing authorities; one demanding that you are on call even in the oddest hours of the day, while the other strongly advising you not to dare be late for dinner or work at weekends?  Dödöle was a mild little man with an excellent education and an unfortunate tendency to have a sneezing fit when he became agitated.  His choice when it came to his current other half had been something of an enigma to all; there was simply no way on earth that someone would not get at least a bit agitated after a short period of time spent in the company of dame Anett.   In fact, his taste in women was all the more surprising because his first wife was supposed to have been just as overbearing as Anett Dödöle.

Appearances had never been more deceptive than in the case of this lady.  Judging from the outside, she was as nondescript as they come.  A thin brown pony-tail and a pair of eyes as grey and hard as concrete.  A small body with curves in the wrong places.  Boyish hands with nails gnawed to the minimum.  A tolerable sense of fashion resulting in decent outfits without excesses either way.  But.  But.  But.  Although she was not educated, she had very strong views on just about everything under the sun.  Be it politics, cooking, literature, or even cars, she invariably gave a piece of her mind to those present.  As she was a great socialite, the occasions to display her views and wit were numerous.  Thanks to her husband’s profession, receptions, debates, and openings rarely took place without her voice inundating the venue.  In fact, if one managed to shut out the (non)sense of her talk, the beautiful timbre of her voice never failed to impress.  It was slightly husky, surprisingly deep for a woman, and even more surprisingly strong for a woman of her size.  A mini stentor.

Apart from the voice, it would have been hard to find a salient characteristic that could be termed positive.  Yet it would have been equally hard to come up with anything clearly negative.  As far as Tamás could judge based on his previous experiences concerning Mrs. Dödöle, she could not be charged with any greater crime than being overbearing, silly, and rather unsightly.  In all fairness, she might even be considered generous for having invited all those people.  Okay, she would not pay for the accommodation or provide sheets and blankets, but she had alluded to a birthday barbeque, which required shopping and cooking.  Based on her opinions propounded on numerous previous social occasions, she was a tough customer when it came to restaurants or catering companies.  Surely she knew what she was doing down there with the twenty-three hungry guests!

4.

The dutiful church-bells did not fail to notify the guests that it was a quarter to nine.  The darkness that had already set in was alleviated by numerous candles along the side of the flat oblong building, which began with a big kitchen and ended in a smaller kitchen directly opening onto a paved yard destined to host the barbeque.  Indeed, there were two kitchens and a relatively large area for grilling, yet not even nine o’clock witnessed any signs of preparation on the part of the hosts.  It is true that Mrs. Dödöle’s voice could be heard from the direction of the larger cooking unit, but there were no palpable results as to her sojourn in that most useful part of the house.  The guests were scattered in the garden, nursing plastic cups filled with various types of alcoholic beverages, making more or less polite conversation.  Mr. Dödöle was with Tamás, talking shop, so to say, until the latter could not help asking his host whether he had also heard a strange rumbling noise just then.

“Rumbling noise?  What?  What?”

“My dear fellow, I’m just covertly hinting at the fact that I am beastly hungry and I don’t think I’m the only one around here who is just a few steps away from roasting the hosts on a spit soon.  In fact, the only obstacle to such a delectable solution is that I can’t even see a barbeque, not even a bag of coal or a few logs of wood.”  Tamás said with ill-suppressed laughter and irritation in his voice.

“Oh, dear oh dear, you’re right.  I am most terribly sorry, I, I…”  The first sneeze had arrived.  It shook the whole frame of the little man and its sound reverberated in the dark garden around them.  He was subsequently blessed by his friend, for which he thanked him, and then tried to proceed with what he was about to say.  “I really don’t know what is supposed to happen because Anett has been in charge of all the organizing, she didn’t even let me choose whom I would have liked to invite.  Well, not that I am not happy to see this particular set of dear people, you included, of course, but all I’m saying is that she had made sure that I would be in complete ignorance as to the whole thing.  I was told to relax and enjoy myself (another sneeze) but now it is a bit hard if you say, and I’m sure you are right, that our guests are not being looked after properly.

“Well, my friend, it’s no use lamenting and feeling sorry or otherwise.  Let’s just get practical here.  Where’s the barbeque?  It’s your parents’ house, surely you know!”

“Not really.  You see I have never barbequed in my life and my parents adore the good old Hungarian dishes which are mostly prepared in big pots on the stove.  Goulash, stews, and all that.  I, for my part, don’t in the least know how to cook.  At home I eat what is put in front of me and in a restaurant Anett orders for me.”

“But she included ‘birthday barbeque’ in the text of the invitation.  There has to be some kind of equipment.  Or if not that, at least a pot of stew is hiding somewhere!”

“Huh, let’s look around the back yard a bit.  If there are any tools, we are sure to find them there.”

The two journalists duly embarked on a search for barbeque equipment.  They had grabbed some of the candles to have some light on their way, until they reached the back of the house and turned on some switch protruding from the wall.  A naked bulb dangling on a wire was illumined at the touch of the switch.  Magic.

“Real rustic.”  Tamás snorted.

“My parents are very simple people.  They don’t trust any modern invention, electricity included.  They grew up in a country cottage similar to this, which had none of the modern conveniences; no heating, no electricity, and definitely no telephone or TV.”

“Charming.  It is like having traveled back in time.  Well, for grilling we do not need much by way of modern inventions; even the most primitive grilling grid will do, the likes of which, I might add, I have recently come across on one of my field-trips even in the most undeveloped parts of Romania.  And then only some coal or wood, a bottle of oil, and that’s it.  And some meat and veg to throw on.”

“Look!”  Dödöle, who had been rummaging about in the little kitchen at the yard while his friend enumerated the necessaries, triumphantly shouted.  “I’ve found a grid, or something that resembles one.”

The alleged grid was a sad sight to behold.  Red with rust, weaved through with cobwebs, it was difficult to envision such a decrepit piece of metalwork being of any immediate use.  It would have needed hours to scrub it in the least.  And even then…

“This is totally pitiful.  Jesus.  And I guess you do not have pots and pans large enough to cook for the whole horde.  Anyway, it would take hours.  Well, let’s concentrate.  I am a hungry man of action.  I am bent on finding a very fast solution.  What about edibles?”

“Let’s go to the bigger kitchen in the front and check the fridge.”  The sneezing host suggested.

There they went, and found three packages of party wienerwursts, twelve ears of corn (edible gold), two bags of pre-washed iceberg lettuce with shredded carrots, and the girl with a luxuriant mane of curly brown hair who had sat opposite Tamás during the boat cruise.  Mrs. Dödöle was not on the premises anymore, the girl told them upon asking, as she had gone with a few people to the neighboring distillery, the owner of which had told her during the day that it would be impossible to visit the place unless they did it late in the evening.  At that point dame Anett had angrily turned down the offer, but it seemed that some of her guests had found it simply too irresistibly original to visit a distillery in the countryside under cover of a starry summer-night sky.

“They said they would not be more than half an hour or so.  It was such a spontaneous decision that nobody had said a word about the guests and the appetite that were being left behind.”  She added, looking quizzically at Tamás all the while she was speaking.  Looking at poor Dödöle might have been way too pregnant with criticism.

“Oh, well, I hope they’ll enjoy themselves.”  The host stammered.  “By the way, do you guys know each other?  Margó is the new personal assistant of the obituary chap.  You know, he is quite new, too.  Only started three-four months ago so as to replace Colin, rest his soul.”

“Margó Kréta.  I’m very pleased to meet you.”  She said and smiled, which made her face appear even younger.  She was a strikingly pretty girl of twenty-four, whom Mrs. Dödöle had pronounced to be a woman of no importance.  She was too young to have experience or connections to recommend her, especially because she had only recently come up to Budapest from one of the universities in the countryside.  In the capital she was virtually unknown, and Mrs. Dödöle was sure that the only way to have snatched even such a humble little post at that most illustrious paper was to have used her looks.

It was whispered that the hostess had only invited her to this particular venue to serve as a decorative element.  It might appear strangely out of key with dame Anett’s personality to go out of her way and invite a pretty woman who could outshine her.  Surprisingly, however, the opposite was the case.  Because if there was another positive character trait of which Mrs. Dödöle was a happy possessor, it was her lack of envy concerning other women’s accomplishments, be they looks or intelligence or education or wealth.  The more a woman had to commend her, the more useful she was to Anett Dödöle.  In fact, when it came to the original reason for inviting Margó, it had at the outset had more to do with numbers.  So as to have a proper balance between male and female guests, our prudent hostess had needed another woman.  There had been three single men and two single women on the list, whom it was essential to invite, as they were either already influential or potentially so.  Well, maybe Tamás was not exactly what one would have called influential, but he was, after all, occupying a more senior position at the paper than her husband.  And he happened to be one of his oldest friends.  So Mrs. Dödöle had racked her brains to find a third girl, until she came up with the idea to get pretty Margó.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, too.  It’s funny to have the chance to be introduced to a colleague in an ill-lit country kitchen.  No offence, my friend.”  He hastily added and patted sneezing Dödöle on the back.  “I will skip any circumspect chitchat one is supposed to start with upon first meetings.  Margó, are you hungry?”

“I’m starving.”

“Good.  Are you willing to remedy the situation?”

“Absolutely.”

“Do you know anything whatsoever about cooking?”

“I think I can be of some help, especially because the ingredients at our disposal do not require much skill.  I’ve been snooping around the kitchen, you see, and the only edible items I’ve come upon are these things I placed on the counter.  I could not, for the life of me, find any oil, so it will be quite difficult to put them on the barbeque without having them stick.”

“I’m not sure whether it’s good or bad news but no oil is needed, I guarantee you.”

“How’s that?”  She stared in amazement.  “Or maybe you want to wrap things in foil?  But that would take way more time to cook like that.”

“Oh, fancy, fancy girl!”  He mocked.  “Foil!?  In your dreams!  No, no, no.  Way worse.  The reason why we don’t need oil is because we don’t even have a functioning grilling surface.”

“You must be kidding me.  You mean there’s no grid?”

“I mean there’s no grid you would put anything edible on.  You may even be averse to put your muddy shoes on it.  But that’s not to the point.”

“No, it’s not really to the point.  Hmm.  Well.”  She said, momentarily at a loss.  She stood there, leaning against the counter with her hip, scratching her pretty head.

“I don’t suppose there is a restaurant around here.”  Tamás was thinking aloud.

“No.  No such thing.  And even if there was one, it would not be serving food at this time of night, especially not for this many people.”  Said Dödöle in a weak voice.  By then he had become physically exhausted from his sneezing fit.

“Well, gentlemen, I have an alternative in mind.  All we need is to find some wood.  Some to light a nice fire with, and some to sharpen.”  Margó announced triumphantly.

“Are you planning to go hunting?  To attack a herd of oxen?”

“No, not exactly.  First of all, we have our yummy wienerwursts for meat.  Secondly, the sticks are to be used as cooking tools.  You know, putting the wiener on top, just like we used to do it with hunks of lard.”

“Hunks of lard?  Are you joking?!  I have never in my life fried lard stuck on a stick, thank you very much.”  Tamás disgustedly declared.

“Come on, you’re pulling my leg.  You never had that kind of thing with your family?  Big slices of white bread strewn with onions waiting to absorb the fragrant fat dripping from the melted lard?  Gosh, it is the story of my childhood.  Whenever I smell wood-smoke or fried onions, I associate with those lovely summer evenings, sitting around the fire with my folks, with sticks in hand, nibbling on the crunchy rind of bacon…”

“This sounds totally disgusting.  If you go on like that, I may completely lose my appetite.  No.  My answer to your question is no.  No such events took place while I was growing up.  I was born and bred in Budapest, no country-living was involved. I am a pure urban product, and thank God for that.  I don’t need lard, like some twisted Hungarian madeleine, to remind me of my childhood.”  As he said that, he actually thrust out his chest as if in pride.  Margó was laughing.  She kept fixing him with that quizzical look in her eyes, half amused, half pitying, but not at all patronizing or offended.

“Anyway, under such pressing circumstances, and especially because we are dealing with wienerwursts and not chunks of lard, your idea sounds good.”  Tamás graciously added.

“As good as it gets, yes, I know it’s not a gourmet solution, but, hey, isn’t this supposed to be a rustic country gathering?  It really can’t get much more rustic than this.”

Dödöle, in the meantime, had transformed a long wooden bench into a table by covering it with a checkered cloth, placing the perennial plastic plates, cups and cutlery on it.  He had even started looking for small pieces of wood to light a fire with.  Like some third-rate Robinson Crusoe, he was impressed and delighted by his own resourcefulness.  And it had even cured him of his sneezing.  Tamás and Margó were carrying the edibles to the back yard when they came upon him fumbling around in the dark, searching for branches and fragments of old planks.  They placed the bowl filled with that unimpressive salad in the middle of the table and joined their host in his quest.

“Hullo there, I’ve found some larger twigs, they are almost branch-size, they may be used as sticks.”

Dödöle was eagerly holding out four curiously shaped sticks towards Margó, whom he justly took to be more of an expert on the issue after the conversation that had taken place in the kitchen.  She burst out laughing.

“My dear man, I’m sorry, don’t take it amiss, I’m not laughing at you.  It’s just…It’s just…these are probably the most crooked sticks I’ve ever seen.  But they’ll do fine.  Better than all the bludgeon-sized pieces of wood I’ve come across so far.  Well, those will do for lighting the fire.  Now, let’s divide the tasks here.  I’ll sharpen these crooks, you guys light the fire.”

And so they did.  Soon a cheerful fire was burning and the four sticks were sharp and ready to hold the wienerwursts.  The smell of wood-smoke and food quickly attracted the attention of the other famished guests, who tottered over from all points of the compass.  They emerged from the dark like intoxicated ghosts; with bemused faces and not much willingness to help besides consuming whatever was ready.  The poor little edibles had had to be cut up into smaller pieces so as to give the illusion that there was enough for everyone; a wurst each, accompanied by an even smaller piece of one of the ears of corn that could likewise be stuck on the stick.  It was not that lamentable that most of them were less than eager to do the frying personally, as the stick-shortage could not be remedied, and only four people had the chance to stand around the fire properly equipped.  Thus Dödöle, Tamás, Margó, and a quiet little lady who had raised four children and knew much about countryside living, were rooted to the spot, frying away and feeding the group till there was nothing left to fry.  Together with a few shreds of iceberg, a few stale pretzels and some fruit, the improvised dinner could, with a bit of goodwill, be termed sufficient.  It was enough to pacify guests already too drowsy from liquor, who only needed something to stop the rumbling of their stomachs and to let them lie down in the house or reel back to the guest-house down the street and fall into the oblivion of sleep.  The distillery visitors had not yet come back when Tamás announced that he was close to smoke poisoning and he wanted to take a walk to clear his head.  Would Margó join him?  Yes, she would, with pleasure.

5.

They directed their steps towards the riverbank.  It was a different stretch from where they had embarked on the cruise in the afternoon; one could not actually get all the way down to the water due to the thick growth of all kinds of weedy vegetation flourishing around there.  When Tamás was about to light a cigarette, Margó’s laughter bubbled forth.

“Smoke poisoning, huh?”

“There is smoke and then there is smoke, if you know what I mean.”

“There is no arguing about smokes.”  She said in a mock-pedantic voice.

“And it takes all kinds of smokes to make the world go round.  Wow, our conversation really sparkles.  It may give us some light to see by…Jesus, what a hell-hole this place is.”

“You are very hostile towards the countryside, aren’t you?  I mean, you don’t even have to open your mouth and it is clear.  I was watching you in the boat today and I almost laughed out loud; your face gave you away completely.  It’s not that I want to lecture you or that I think you are wrong, mind.  It just amazes me to meet a Hungarian so very disgusted by his country.”

“I like Budapest.”  He added defensively.  “But you’re right.  I wouldn’t give a fig for the rest of the country.  I even forget sometimes that there is else besides the capital and when I am talking about Hungary I catch myself using Budapest as a synonym.

“What about school-trips to Balaton?  Even if your family has never had a country-house and you spent your childhood in Budapest or abroad, surely you participated in some school-events?”

“Well, I went to a couple of summer-camps but they didn’t float my boat.  Of course I have had my share of eating fried fish by the lake and sunbathing on the jetty with classmates and all that bit.  But they did not leave any impression on me that could be termed more decisive than, let’s say, licking ice-cream under the Roman sun while gazing at the Colosseum.  No, I have never pretended to be very patriotic.  I’ve always wanted to live abroad, and at some point I surely will.  Just now I have too good a job to leave it behind.  And, in fact, it is thanks to my job that I can travel a lot.  You know I write the foreign affairs column.”

“No, but I would have guessed.”

“But tell me honestly, do you really find the Hungarian countryside even remotely interesting?”  He asked and looked at her askance.  He was not sure what effect his words were having on her because her voice remained friendly and even.  Not a hint of offence or approval could he detect.  It suddenly struck him that he cared for her opinion.  He had already caught himself being slightly attracted to her earlier in the evening, and the pleasant feeling was steadily increasing as the night wore on.

“I am sure you are, generally speaking, not a guy who minces his words.  But I am not sure whether you’d be so outspoken if you knew that I was born and raised in the countryside.  I’ve just moved up to Budapest when I got this job.”

“Ah, that explains the lard!”  He involuntarily shouted, but he immediately checked himself and realized he was being insulting.  “Jesus, I’m sorry.”  He stammered, and went on quickly to explain himself.  “I mean, sorry for having said that.  But, anyway, as an admittedly outspoken guy, I might as well have meant that I’m sorry for you.  And if we really think about it, growing up in the country does not automatically presuppose a love for it.  On the contrary.  In my books, you might hate it even more, having had firsthand experience of it for so long.”

“I don’t hate it in the least.  But I am not at all blindly in love with it, either.  I’m not overly patriotic or soppy about it.  The ode to the lard and the wood-smoke was a special case; I don’t usually reminisce about that kind of thing with tears in my eyes.”

“Did you have tears in your eyes?  I didn’t notice.”

“Silly.”  She laughed.  “No, I was far from getting all emotional when I was close to starving to death.  Anyhow, I grew up close to the Danube, you see, so coming down to the Tisza was not a thing we generally did.  Not that I consider it a great loss, I have to admit, because I don’t find this particular area of the country very attractive, either.  Of course I prefer the Danube, but it may be only because I am emotionally attached to it and, anyway, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?”  He didn’t answer and so she repeated.  “Right?”  As there was still no sound by way of reaction, she stopped and tried to peer into his face.  He remained strangely silent and he looked away towards the water.  She couldn’t see he was embarrassed.  And she couldn’t know that it was something that did not very often happen to him. With what seemed to him a superhuman effort, he said in a meek voice:

“You would not find me soppy if I remarked that beauty is not always in the eye of the beholder?  That I am just now beholding it?”

It was her turn to remain silent.  She just stood there, with her face directed towards his.  Instead of repeating what he deemed way too sentimental even to have uttered once, he kissed her and then said:

“If I show you my Budapest, I mean the district I grew up in with the dinky little playground and the corner-store and all that, would you show me your part of the Danube one day?  Take me to your village?”

“With pleasure.  I’ll organize a lard on a stick event for you.  Just the two of us.  Two sticks, two hunks of bread, and an onion.”

6.

By the time they got back to the house Mrs. Dödöle and her little squad had returned from the distillery in high good humor.  They had been detained by the ebullient pálinka-maker for dinner; a steaming pot of goulash and no end of fresh white bread, washed down with a generous amount of red wine.  Mrs. Dödöle looked enormously pleased as she sat there, recounting the events of their charming little outing to the abandoned birthday boy.  She was happy to hear in turn that they had found the wienerwursts and that her husband had such a nice time preparing them with his old friend Tamás.  And Margó was of great help, too?  What a good idea of hers it had turned out to be to have invited that girl!  And she’d gone for a walk with Tamás?  Excellent.  The proud hostess was of the opinion that on top of the successful outcome of the party, she might even congratulate herself on having done a good turn to her husband’s friend with finding him a girlfriend at last.  In fact, she was already thinking about inviting them as a couple for dinner to their place.  It would be so much fun cooking together again!


[1] See T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets”

[2] Hungarian hard liquor, a kind of fruit brandy

[3] From Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

[4] See Sándor Petőfi’s poem “Alföld” about the Hungarian plain where this story takes place

[5] From T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”

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