The Defenestration of Prague
(originally published in Snakeskin)
When my father was six, the other children teased him,
calling him a dirty Bohunk. My grandfather promptly
changed the family name. By this he collaborated
with the enemy, he repudiated the family tradition.
Thus you don’t know how resistant we have been.
You have no idea of the damage we can cause.
Sure, we look like anybody else, but those children
sensed something amiss. I myself want to throw
people out the window all the time, even after I know
they don’t deserve it. I come from a long line
of defenestrators. We take our frustrations seriously,
we live for the dark moments of the soul, we are the truly
evil people, we upset the apple cart time and time again.
Our closest neighbors have always hated us. Thanks to
Grandpapa, I can pass for educated, empowered, lucky.
I have respect for the less fortunate because they have
respect for me. However misguided, they know precisely
when to ask for favors, they never ask too much.
Back home in Prague, 17th century, only the priests were
allowed to drink the blood of Christ. The children never knew
why the grownups were so upset. The children didn’t care
about the bread and the wine, they didn’t know how
they were being insulted, they didn’t know they were being
treated like children, all they wanted was to be talked to,
played with, tickled under the chin. They only wanted to eat
bread and chocolate, get nuts and oranges every Christmas.
But my ancestor Greguska Pomikala threw two Habsburg
representatives out a third story window, unwittingly setting
off the Thirty Years’ War. He was frustrated when he threw
them over the wide marble sill — so cold as his fingers
pried their fingers off. He took nothing with a grain of salt.
I am familiar with how he felt at the victims’ moment of takeoff.
Sometimes I wish I’d followed in his footsteps. He felt
as if he’d married the most beautiful woman in the world
only to be told, You can’t touch her. Greguska wanted to drink
the wine, too. He wasn’t happy being given bread alone.
Neither am I. I am taking back the family name, the family
traditions. Don’t ever cross me and expect to stand
alone, with me, in a room with windows.