Jan hated to drive. His brothers had convinced him, the only member of his family with sufficient eye sight for operating a vehicle of any kind, to apply for a license. He had passed, and received his documents with ease. The family beamed and gathered to discuss their collective triumph. It was a lovely party, and when the beer went to his mother’s head, she announced that her little Janichek was going to save the family. Jan never had any intention of doing any such thing. He had no intention of working at all. Jan was content to read his texts, and spend the late mornings walking in the fields of eastern Bohemia.
His charge was a dreary little man, a Count. He scowled and refused to speak to him. The little man with his silly hat sat in the back of the car and frowned out the window at the world. It didn’t matter if they were on the Moravian promenades, in the heart of Europe, or by the sea, his passenger was silent, and stiff, fully dressed in his uniform. Once when they were in Pilzen for a week, he had purchased a bouquet of feathers and secured them to his driving hat. He walked the streets of the city, feathers flowing from his head, drunk from the peppery lager which came from barrels and mocked his Count by standing stiffly and scowling at even the most beautiful of women. The hat became a part of his uniform, and though he half expected to be fired for his burlesque, the Count said nothing.
In transit between Rome and the Capital, Jan was surprised to see a young girl walking by the side of the road. There wasn’t anything so surprising about seeing a person by the side of the road so much, as this woman was beautiful, delicately fair, and entirely unaccompanied. They stopped for water shortly after passing her, and the Count stood stiffly, sipping his water from the ladle itself, drinking his fill and staring into the direction they had come from.
Soon the woman appeared in the distance. Jan wanted a drink of water, but the count stood there hoarding the only utensil with which to extract the beverage, and stared at the figure as she slowly approached. Eventually she arrived at the well and stood silently before them. Jan smiled at her. Her cheeks were flushed, as if she were blushing, and she appeared to have a moist glow about her. The Count stood at attention, holding the ladle out to her. Jan laughed because he knew the count would neither speak to the Italian woman, nor remark in any way until his rank was acknowledged, or formal introductions had been exchanged. Jan knew no Italian, and this beautiful girl did not understand the Count’s gesture.
Jan’s feathers danced in the breeze. He rubbed his nose and cleared his throat. both the Count and the Italian girl looked up at him. He presented his hand to the Count, who placed the ladle into his hands. He filled it with water and offered the girl a drink. She nervously stepped past the count, who turned to scrutinize her, and drank from the cup. When she was finished she smiled kindly and her eyes darted between them quickly. Jan laughed and refilled the ladle. The Count stood at attention and waited for something to happen. Jan and the Italian girl laughed softly, and shared the ladle. The Count drank nothing more.
When they were rested and relieved, the Count held the door open for the Italian girl. She stared at him curiously at first, and then with the flash of understanding, bowed slightly and climbed into the car. This woman had no Czech to speak, and between them they had no Italian for her. So they drove in silence. Where they might deposit her, this beautiful and most unlikely creature, was anyone’s guess.