By Glyn Rebl
Bacchus frolics happily in between the verdant vines on the hillside in Havlíčkovy sady. Merry and insouciant, he takes swigs from a plastic bottle of Moravian wine, humming some dithyrambic hymn with gusto.
Markéta smiles as she observes his maladroit movements. She has a love/hate relationship with Bacchus. Last week, he was the most disgusting, lecherous swine that ever lived. Now, he’s merely an innocent child cavorting in the vineyard.
“Look at him,” she says. “He’s so happy and carefree. Like a little dog. Bacchus!” she yells. “Watch out for the vines! You’ll damage them and there’ll be no wine for anyone!”
“Ahh! No wine! Nooo!” He feigns a heart-attack, flopping onto the ground.
“He has to move out,” she says to me. “You know we’ll all be better off when he gets his own place. I don’t want what happened the other night to be repeated.”
She’s referring to the incident with the Russian woman that took place in our kitchen last week, which will henceforth be known as, The Hooping Hoopla.
No, not the pleasant childhood pastime of hula-hooping; I’m referring to the miscreant act of sticking drugs up your ass.
Half-asleep when they came in, we heard the drunken laughter, the canine yelps of pain and pleasure, and assumed they were having sex on the kitchen floor – something Bacchus had dared to do before, despite having his dingy little attic crawlspace to bring his women to.
Had Markéta not gotten up to go to the toilet, we never would’ve known of the repugnant shenanigans that took place in our kitchen. I heard her scream when she opened the door, heard Bacchus’ “it’s no big deal” speech, and I heard Markéta telling them to get the hell out.
Little has been said about it since he returned the next day with flowers and Becherovka for Markéta. At this point, she just wants to let it go – and let him go.
But Bacchus can’t keep his mouth shut. “Hey guys!” he hollers. “Don’t you wanna know what we were sticking up our asses in your kitchen the other night?”
Markéta buries her head in my lap. “I’m going to leave it up to you to break the news to him.”
“Because he’s your disease.”
My Beautiful Disease has held a number of jobs since he arrived in Prague.
The first was as a telemarketer – a position I endured for my first months in Prague as well. It wasn’t long before Bacchus’ natural vivacity made him the most productive salesperson at Avatar Communications. Being in sales is just about keeping your customer entertained, and Bacchus is a born entertainer.
However, when they discovered he was telling outright lies to close sales, they gave him the boot. He left the building not with his dignity, but with the second highest-rated salesman in the office (also a raging drunkard).
The two of them went on a toot that lasted three days, ending up in a small town in South Bohemia, where his newfound friend had a complete mental breakdown and began to cry for his wife. Bacchus, disgusted, left him to his blubbering, and returned to Prague alone.
The next job he held was even more degrading: as a human sign in Wenceslas Square.
It came quite out of the blue: during one of our frequent outings to harass tourists in Old Town, we passed a young chap with a humiliated look on his face and an appalling sign upon his back which read Come To Rocky O’Reilly’s, The Biggest Irish Pub In Prague!
“This looks pretty sweet,” Bacchus said. “You just stand there all day wearing a sign and get paid for it! Why in the fuck aren’t people lining up in droves for this?”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“Hey man!” he shouted. “How do I get your job?”
The guy looked at Bacchus as if he’d just saved him from a burning building. “You can have it. I’m not doing this for another minute.” He took off the sign, placed it on Bacchus’ eager shoulders, and disappeared into the crowd.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s the new Sign Man of Wenceslas Square!”
“Are you actually going to stay here all day? Whatever happened to getting drunk around the astronomical clock and photo-bombing tourists’ cherished memories?”
“We can do that whenever. A lucrative employment opportunity like this only comes along once in a lifetime! You wanna keep me company? Go grab a bottle or something and we’ll just hang out here all day. On me!”
“Do you have any money?”
He grinned. “Of course not! But I’m sure the scraps they give me from this gig will be enough for a good drunk!”
When I returned with a bottle of slivovitz, Bacchus was already working hard at accosting strangers: “Hey you! Sucka sending an SMS! How ‘bout you send an S.O.S., because you’re caught at sea! You think you’re communicating with someone, but you ain’t, son! Go to Rocky O’Reilly’s Irish Pub, just around the corner, and connect with your fellow man face-to-face!”
As the new Sign Man of Wenceslas Square became drunker, he grew more aggressive: “You assholes! Go buy a fuckin’ overpriced Guinness and watch the football! Experience authentic Czech culture at Rocky O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in Prague!”
Eventually, his talk degenerated into nothing but drunken lechery – as it usually does.
“Hey pretty lady! Wanna take a roll on my pole?”
When the manager of the pub came around at the end of the day to see how things went, he was slightly taken aback at the site of this madman. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m the new guy.”
“There was another new guy.”
“He’s gone. I think he opened his own Irish pub. But don’t worry, I’ve been holdin’ it down! Any Sign Man he hires ain’t gonna be better than me!”
Bacchus worked the job for another two days. After he nearly had his legs broken by a bunch of intoxicated Brits on a stag weekend who took offense to his heckling, they fired him.
Bacchus’ most recent scheme is guiding a pub crawl. Six nights a week, from 9:30 PM until at least 1:30 AM, he leads a group of naïve tourists on a depraved jaunt through the bars of Žižkov – the perfect gig for a man of his temperament.
He invites me to come along to see what kind of operation he’s running. I consent, not only because I’m curious of what’ll happen, but because tonight I have to tell him he has to move out.
I head to the designated meeting place in front of the Clown and Bard Hostel on Bořivojova. There are already eight other people there: Brits, Australians, an Italian couple.
It’s 9:50 and there’s still no sign of Bacchus. Just as everyone is about to give up and leave, Bacchus stumbles around the corner, slurping from a carton of undrinkable twenty-crown wine, inhaling amyl nitrite from a vial, laughing savagely.
Everyone falls silent, and stares at him in astonishment.
He’s dressed only in ragged cut-offs and filthy flip-flops. A shabby Christmas wreath rests upon his head. Give Me Liberty Or Suck My Ass is scrawled on his bulging belly in magic marker. He carries a staff topped with a floppy pink dildo, purchased during an ignoble weekend in Budapest.
Wasting no time, Bacchus goes straight into his introduction: “Alright you soulless automatons! You eels! You worms! Welcome to Bacchus’ Prague Pub-Crawl! The rowdiest pub-crawl in Prague!
“Most people in our times go through life as in a fog – spiritually bankrupt, lacking power, humour, desire. You see these sad bastards everywhere you go – there’s no shortage of them! They eat but they’re not hungry, they drink but they’re not thirsty, they fuck but they aren’t aroused!
“Where’s the laughter? That hale and hearty belly-laughter that stops clocks, where is it? Where did love go? Do these bastards even know how to love? Or are they only able to act out what they’ve been told love by TV dramas and pop songs and Dr. Phil?”
The dildo quivers with his impassioned gesticulations. Something boils behind his eyes.
“They’re slaves who can’t feel! Plagued by guilt and shame, they’ve lost the ability to enjoy spontaneously! Well, I’m the Liberator, and I’m here to set you free! You can pay a fortune to some psycho-anal guy to help you overcome what’s interfering with your ability to truly live – or you can follow me!
“I’m not going to lie to you: tonight will be the greatest night of your life. All you have to do is follow my lead, and tip generously. I’m not fucking around here!
“I’m going to guide you through the best dens of sin the city has to offer! These aren’t tourist joints – these are bars where real Czech people go! Not some Hard Rock Café horseshit!
“Alright, you cowards – let’s get back in touch with the fundamental appetites! To the stars!”
He turns around and marches away, not bothering to see who follows. Everyone hesitates for a moment – should they put their money and wellbeing in the hands of this bloody lunatic?
I shrug and march after him – as I always do.
“Rejoice, friends, for there will be no more tears – only tears of joy, of ecstasy! Now, who wants to buy the Liberator a beer?”
We’re at the Boulder Bar – where if you so choose, you can do some rock-climbing after you’ve had a few. The Australians love this concept, and within a matter of seconds are scaling the walls like cockroaches. “Weirdoes,” Bacchus mutters as he gulps a pint the Italians bought him.
“This is the sweetest gig,” he says to me. “Admission is two-hundred crowns a head, and I can squeeze tips out of them sometimes too.
“Not only that, but these damn fools PAY FOR MY DRINKS!” The Italian couple sitting right next to us stare at him in disbelief. “It’s okay – they can’t speak any English at all…”
“Excuse me, Mr. Bacchus,” the male says, in a sonorous voice with perfect enunciation, “When will we be going to the next place? It smells in here.”
“Sorry, Mario Mario, I just farted…”
He continues: “So I put up some posters, advertised on the expat website, and the first night I did a group of fifteen fuckin’ people.”
He finishes his beer in one swift swallow. “Alright, let’s get the hell out of here. Someone tell those dingo-humpers to come back down to earth and buy me a drink at the next joint.”
Out on the street, a concern is voiced: “It says in the flier we get free shots for the first hour.”
“Thanks for reminding me!” Bacchus produces a half-empty bottle of fifth-rate vodka. “Remember, it’s while supplies last, so hit this shit while you can!” and to emphasize this point, he takes a hefty gulp before passing it on. “Don’t worry – this thing on my lip is just a pimple…”
Before someone can say something, Bacchus is distracted by a small dog. “Hey, little buddy! You wanna come drinkin’?” He chases it down the street for a minute before a car approaches. The driver honks the horn. “Hey, kiss my ass!” Bacchus shouts, not budging. He unzips his pants and shows the driver his white, cratered moon. “Can’t let these Czech turds push you around!” he says, giving the driver the finger.
The driver – bilious, bald-headed, nearly twice the size of Bacchus – steps out of the vehicle and walks towards him, screaming in Czech. He smacks Bacchus across the face, boots him in the ass, and pushes him onto the sidewalk, where he lands in a pile of fresh dog-shit.
Now that he’s cleared the garbage off of the road, the man gets back in his car and drives off without further conflict.
“Are you okay, Mr. Bacchus?” asks the Italian girl, genuinely concerned.
“Just the regular misfortunes! Nothing I can’t deal with!” he sighs as I help him up.
“Hey! Gimme some of that!” He snatches the bottle from an Australian’s hand and drains the last of it. “Alright! Let’s get indoors, where we’re safe!” He carelessly tosses the empty bottle behind him – it barely misses the Italian couple, shattering in the street – and marches off again.
There is dog excrement staining the seat of his pants.
Over the next few hours, Bacchus will be 86’d from four different bars.
At the pub we go to after the Boulder Bar, he gets kicked out for pissing in a potted plant.
He’s ejected from Bukowski’s after he sticks his dildo-staff up the bartender’s skirt.
At the Taki Tiki, he coaxes one of the Australians to fund and participate in an absinthe-drinking contest, and when the poor Australian vomits all over the bar and has to be dragged out of there, Bacchus calls him a sissy who can’t hold his liquor.
And finally, at the Palac Akropolis, he gets a little overheated while busting out his obscene dance-moves, and decides to remove his shorts. I should mention Bacchus never wears underwear.
“What?” he yells as he’s hustled out the door, the rest of us trailing behind. “I thought this was a fuckin’ European club! They let me do that in Berlin!”
Bacchus has lost most of his group. The Italians bade him farewell, and despite the abysmal time they had, gave him a handsome tip for his efforts (I think they felt sorry for him).
The Australians are drunken beyond comprehension; we left them to find the way back to the hostel themselves.
And the British girls left after Bacchus so shamefully took his cock out at the Palac Akropolis.
However, there are still the three Manchester lads – three characters that rival even Bacchus in ignorance and loutish behaviour. And they’re hungry.
“Do you know where we can get some women, mate?”
I don’t want to go along with them. I have absolutely no interest in watching four men go one after the other to sleep with the same prostitute. But Bacchus possesses a magnetism I can’t explain. I always followed him until we reached a wall. When we reached that wall, I would turn around and walk home; Bacchus, on the other hand, would try to walk through it until he collapsed from exhaustion – or until the police took him away.
“This girl is absolutely stunning. She isn’t Czech; I think she’s Polish. Twenty-two. You won’t find a better girl in the entire city!” He’s leading us further into Žižkov, where strip joints, brothels, and gambling establishments begin to take precedent. He stops at a doorway on a small side-street. “Alright – this is the place! Who’s gonna go first, eh? I don’t mind being the leader, but I also don’t mind bringing up the rear, heh.”
The shortest of the group takes the initiative, puffing up his chest, swaggering towards the door. He knocks, a dark figure greets him, and he disappears inside.
Bacchus produces a flask. “For emergencies,” he says. It’s dawning on me how intoxicated he is, careening back and forth like a drunken boat. He starts to hiccup – a bloated frog-man croaking in a dung-heap.
And I start to get terribly depressed standing there and waiting for this insecure little man from Manchester to have his way with some Polish prostitute. I should go home to my girlfriend. Fuck this.
I turn to Bacchus; he looks tired, sad. I actually feel sympathy for this miserable creature and the mess he makes of everything.
Before I can take this thought any further, I’m interrupted by the door swinging open and the Brit bounding out, venomous with vexation. “What the fuck, mate? Is this your idea of a joke? D’ye think I’m a poof or something?”
“What you talkin’ about? That’s the most beautiful girl in Prague!”
“That ain’t no bird, mate!”
Bacchus looks genuinely confused. My first thought was he did this on purpose, but now it’s looking as if he made an honest mistake. “Jesus, I thought I had the right door! Are you sure though?”
“That ain’t no bird,” he repeats, rattled to the core.
“Ah, it doesn’t really matter in the end anyway. Love is love! How far did you go?”
The Brit’s knee comes up fast, catching Bacchus right in the stomach. A blow to the head knocks him down, and they go through his pockets. One of them grabs his staff, and breaks it on a streetlamp.
After they’ve walked away, he gets up, clutching his head. “Well, easy come, easy go, eh dude?” He takes the wreath off his head and pulls out a couple crumpled bills hidden in the plastic leaves. “They didn’t take everything!
“Boy, I think I need a little tenderness after that! You can only be beaten so many times in one night before you need some gentle human contact!
“That girl is around here somewhere. I have a deal with her since I bring in business sometimes. I could get her for real cheap! We could both take her!”
“C’mon! We need to release all this tension! Now, where the fuck was it?” he says, scrambling along the sidewalk, banging on doors.
“Bacchus,” I called after him. “I love you dearly, but you can’t live in the attic anymore. I’m going home now. You’re welcome to join me.”
I turn around and begin walking back to Vršovice. “Aw, c’mon man! Don’t leave me here! You always do this!”
“You need to be out by the first.”
“I don’t need you then! Give me liberty or suck my ass!”
I don’t want to look back, but I can’t help it.
The last image I have of Bacchus is him knocking on the door the Brit had run from in fear – and then disappearing into it.