Cosmo – The All-Embracing: A Novel: Part IV

Cosmo sipped his beer with relish. “Self control,” he reminded himself. He wanted to drink slowly in order to savor the high quality beverage. Besides, it was expensive.

“Cheers!” his neighbor proffered.

Cosmo looked to his right and noticed for the first time that someone was sitting next to him. “Cheers,” he returned automatically and wondered what the man wanted. Where Cosmo came from, no one did anything, especially being friendly, unless they wanted something. Maybe the man wanted Cosmo to buy him a drink or maybe he was gay.

The man had dirty blond hair covering his ears, and was neatly -if casually – dressed. But there was a wild look about him, and Cosmo was not sure if it was his eyes or simply his general aura.

“My friend, do not look so suspiciously. One would think I had asked you to pay for my drink.”

“Me? Suspicious?” Then Cosmo chuckled. “Sorry, I guess I’m just distrustful by nature. Where I come from…”

“Ah, but you are American!”

“The accent kinda gives me away, huh?”

“That is very fine. I am fond of Americans; they never cease to amaze me.”

“Yeah, why’s that?” he responded cynically.

“You see, you’re suspicious again. That is really fantastic. Most Americans I have met have been very trusting if rather naive, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“What the fuck do I care? I ain’t their mother,” Cosmo answered somewhat annoyed.

“Ah yes, that’s right. They are not your problem, not your responsibility. That’s a good idea.”

Cosmo was beginning to suspect that he was conversing with a lunatic.

“But you are skeptical and skeptical is close to critical which I find to be an excellent quality. Do you understand what I’m saying.”

“No idea.”

“That’s great! You are right. I am just – how do you say – running off at the mouth! Ha, ha! That is a wonderful expression you have ‘running off at the mouth’. My friends tell me I should shut up more and think before my mouth starts racing – can you say that in English, ‘my mouth starts racing’?

“You can say anything you want.”

“It is not your problem, right?!” the man shrieked with laughter. “It is the problem of this crazy man.”

“You got it.”

“Yes, yes, what wonderful anarchy! You can say anything you want. There are no rules, no Academie francais, no Party dictates. Here, let me buy you a beer, no strings attached. Ha, ha, isn’t that a marvelous idiom: ‘no strings attached.’ You have such wonderful ways of saying things.”

“But you said it!” Cosmo laughed as he loosened up at the offer to buy him a beer.

“No, you don’t understand. I don’t mean you or me personally. I mean the impersonal ‘you’ in English. Perhaps I should express it with ‘one says’. But it doesn’t matter. Come, let us drink to your health.”

“To you, even if I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t worry about that. Most of the time I do not understand what I am talking about either. But like you say, who gives a fuck! Ha, ha! Was that correct English, ‘who gives a fuck’?”

“Fuckin’ right it was. Hey, ain’t you British?”

“But haven’t you noticed my accent?”

Cosmo shrugged his shoulders. “They all sound the same to me.”

“That is very kind of you to say, although now it is I who am suspicious. I have only come to London to learn to speak English correctly.”

“Well, you did a good job of it buddy. You couldda fooled me, though I’ve only been here a couple of days myself, so I ain’t no expert on the lingo.”

“Ah, I see. Europe in ten days? No, you don’t look the type. Let me see: you are undertaking an extensive trip of Europe. Am I right?”

“Yeah, I suppose you could say something like that. But where are you from?”

“Where do you think? Take a guess.”

“What do I look like? Some kind of fortune teller?”

“No, no, but if you are going to be in Europe, then you must learn to distinguish the people.”

“I gotcha. You mean I should know who I’m dealing with. Okay.” Cosmo scrutinized him a few seconds. “You don’t look like an Italian with your hair. Must be from northern Europe.”

“That was the easy part, but you’ll never guess the country,” he challenged.

“Maybe no. Sweden? Germany? Denmark, Norway, Finland?”

“No, no, no, “he answered gleefully. “I will tell you because you shall never guess.”

“What’s that? You some kind of comedian? First you tell me to guess, and then you tell me I’ll never guess.”

“You’re right. That wasn’t fair of me. You’ll have to excuse me, you see, I’m from Czechoslovakia.”

“Czech, huh. But why do I gotta excuse you for that?”

“No, no, not for that, but you see I am a little crazy. No, not what you’re thinking either. I am just crazy for life.”

Cosmo stared at him dumbly.

“I see I must explain. In my country, I always had to work, but I still had not much money. I almost could never travel.”

“Sounds like my situation,” Cosmo put in.

“And then I did not have permission to go to many places. Our government was afraid we would become corrupted by capitalist degeneracy.”

“We already have.”

“Yes, and I too! I love this degenerate life!”

“So you’re a degenerate,” Cosmo snickered. “I came over here to get away from degenerates. That’s all there was where I lived.”

“That must be wonderful!”

“It was a drag.”

“Perhaps I am expressing myself poorly. In my country, they call people degenerate who do not work.”

“Ah, then I’m all with you buddy. Me and work’s parted company. Sort of a disagreement on principles.”

“Yes, yes, that is a fine way of putting it: a disagreement on principles. Ha, ha! Let me introduce myself: I am Milos, the crazy Czech.”

“Pleased to meet you. And I’m Cosmo, the all-embracing.”

“Cosmo? But it can’t be true.”

“What’s a matter? You don’t like it?”

“That’s a wonderful name. It is just that I have never heard it before. And why do they call you the ‘all-embracing’?” Milos asked cynically. “Are you in some kind of religion?”

“Religion? Yeah, you could put it that way. Ladies.”


“Ladies is my religion. That’s why they call me the ‘all-embracing’, cause I embrace them all. Just put enough liquor in me.”

“Ha, ha, oh yes, you are a crazy American like I am a crazy Czech.”

“And why do they call you the Crazy Czech?”

“No special reason. Perhaps because I don’t settle down and buy an apartment. But half of the Czechs in the West – and there are a lot of them – are called the Crazy Czech. Maybe it just has a certain ring to it, or maybe we are all crazy.”

“Yeah? If you want to see crazy people, you should go to New Jersey. They got all kinds of maniacs running around loose there.”

“They must be artists! The American artists have such wonderful ideas!”

“Yeah, they’re artists all right – con-artists.”

“You don’t like American art?” Milos asked indignantly. “Such genuineness of expression, such integrity and imagination!”

“Look Milos, you and me’s talking ’bout different peoples. I don’t know no artists like you’re discoursing on.”

“Discoursing – that’s a good word Cosmo.”

“The people I knew were just trying to get over.”

“Get over?”

“To get over, you know.”

“No I don’t. To get over what? Were they disappointed?”

“Hey, I thought you learned English here. They weren’t gettin’ over something; they were trying to get over on people.”

“Get over on? No, I never learned that.”

“You don’t wanna learn it either, believe me. It means to rip people off – no, no, let me think of a better way of expressing it: To extract material advantage from others without compensating them for it.”

“To extract material advantage,” Milos repeated slowly chewing the words in his brain. “Ah, I understand!” he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. “To rob and steal!”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s it! You’re gonna be jiving the lingo before you know it.”

“Jiving the lingo?”

“Oh forget it. Bartender, two more beers here.”

“A fine idea. We Czechs like to drink.”

“Nothing special about that; everybody likes to drink.”

“Yes, yes, very good. Everybody likes to drink, only some people don’t.”

“That’s what the psychiatrists call repression of the basic instincts. I oughtta learn how to do it myself once in a while.”

“And become a good bourgeois,” Milos remarked sarcastically. “That is the trouble with you people in the West: you do what you are supposed to without being physically forced. If they did not force people in my country to behave, we would be so wonderfully degenerate!”

“That sounds like the kinda government my country could use.”

Taken aback, Milos eyed him suspiciously. “You are a communist?”

“Ha, ha! Look who’s suspicious now. Maybe they sent me over to put some drugs in your beer to knock you out and then fly you back home to stick you in a re-education camp.”

“You are joking of course,” Milos said soberly. “Although you have a rather strange sense of humor.”

“I thought you were supposed to be crazy.”

“Am I not crazy enough by talking to someone who wants to kidnap me? And how can I be crazy if you slip me back to Czechoslovakia?”

“They don’t go for that crazy shit, huh?”

“You know the great Czech writer, Kundera? No? Well anyway, he once said a free country is one in which you can say you are not free. I say, a free country is one where you can be crazy and still run around loose.”

“Yeah, just as long as there ain’t too many other crazy people on the loose too.”

“You are a strange American. Tell me, why did you come to London?”

“Where else was I supposed to come? It seemed like as good a place as any. Besides, the cheapest flights were to here.”

“Ah, the cheapest flights. So you are a pragmatist in the American tradition.”

“Listen buddy, you don’t have to get insulting. I was just born in America, but I didn’t learn nothing ’bout no traditions. The only traditions we had were having a good time.”

“And are you, are you having a good time?”

“Well, let me put it this way: I ain’t working, and that’s the first prerogative. The rest either happens or it doesn’t.”

“I am afraid you would make a bad communist.”

“I’m afraid I make a bad everything, but who gives a fuck?! I ain’t out to impress no one.”

“That’s right, who gives a fuck! You must forgive me, my friend, for becoming serious. It’s better only to have a good time.”

“I’m with ya. You must know your way around here. “What’s there to do in this town besides drink?”

“What’s there to do anywhere besides drink?”

“You got me there. That and womens.”

“But here my friend, we have one of the cultural centers of the world. Have you visited the British Museum?”

“I ain’t one for the contemplative life.”

“I see. How about the House of Parliament?”

“Politicians make me sick.”

“Westminster Abbey?”

“Religion makes me aggressive.”

“But have you seen the queen?”

“I don’t give a damn what other people do; that’s their business, but I ain’t interest in looking at no gays.”

“No, no, you misunderstand: the queen mother, her majesty.”

“Same thing.”

“I can see we’re going to have some problems with the sightseeing tour. How about speaker’s corner?”

“What’s that?”

“That’s where anyone can get up and say whatever he wants. There are usually all kinds of crazy people giving speeches.”

“That sounds like more up my alley. I love to hear loonies talk.”

“And you can say anything you want and they just go on talking.”

“Yeah? I bet I could make one of them mad enough to throw a punch.”

“Oh no, they’re used to hecklers. They go there to get heckled; it’s part of the fun.”

“If you did that in New Jersey, you’d get shot or stabbed before you could blink. You don’t even look sideways at strangers, never mind hassle them.”

“Ah, but the British people are so civilized. They behave properly.”

“Yeah, except when they play soccer. I bet they’d get rowdy more often given the chance.”

“Oh no. You’ll see.”


At speaker’s corner there was a bedraggled, long-haired, bearded man discoursing on the end of the world.

“Watch this,” Milos said and shouted at the would-be prophet: “God is shit!”

“Oh hark ye heathen! Thou shallst be made to answer for such blasphemy before thy Maker!”

“You are a two bit charlatan, but your God is even less!”

The sidewalk preacher continued to rant, and several on-lookers gave either disapproving frowns or encouraging smiles to Milos according to their inclinations.”

“What kind of nonsense is that?” Cosmo asked. “You want to see some action? I mean, really enough to make the clown mad?”

“I will bet you a dinner that you cannot make him come down and attack you physically, if that’s what you mean.”

“You’re on,” Cosmo cried gleefully. “Only no fish and chips, but the real thing.”

“Ye think ye have mastered the sorrows of this earth!” the preacher bellowed.

“That’s what your mamma told me!” Cosmo yelled.

“Filthy degenerate!” the man scowled.

“But your mamma likes it dirty! She told me that last night in bed!”

The bystanders – Londoners and tourists – who had come to hear a silly argument were shocked by the coarseness of Cosmo’s remarks. An older gentleman looked at him depreciatingly and reprimanded: “Sir, you are quite disgusting.”

“Yeah!” Cosmo shrieked. “It was disgusting! You shouldda seen the fat ole bitch he got for a mamma! And hairy, just like him! And she couldn’t get enough, the horny old bitch!”

“You are depraved, the representative of a diseased society!” the speaker howled.

“Hey buddy,” Cosmo laughed, “If I got diseases, then I got them from your mother. You oughtta go out and get a job instead of bullshitting here all the time and start supporting her. Then she won’t gotta go whoring no more, not that she got me to pay.”

“How dare you make such insinuations!”

“Who’s insinuating? It ain’t my fault if you got an old fart for a mother!”

“My mother is a good British woman!”

“Yeah, good in bed!”

“Come, let’s go somewhere else, ” an upset father said to his family. And then in his American accent to Cosmo, “You make me ashamed to be an American!”

“It’s about time, all the bullshit our country does! You probably work for some chemical company or something, polluting our environment and then acting uprightgeous.”

“You just spoke once too often!” and the man headed menacingly towards Cosmo.

“Look out!” Milos called.

Cosmo just had time to duck as the speaker came up behind him and swung a fist. The bedraggled man, unused to such physical exertion, was carried forward by the unresisted inertia of his ill-executed punch onto Cosmo’s hunched over back. Cosmo instinctively straightened up again, throwing the man forward into the outraged American. As the two of them fell to the ground, Cosmo punched another Englishman who tried to restrain him from jumping on them, and Milos felt obliged to scuffle with others who came to this man’s aid. A couple of English punks who were standing by let out exclamations of joy at this unexpected entertainment, and quickly jumped into what had become a melee. The crowds gathered around the other speakers quickly converged on the free-for-all, and a jostling to see was too often comprehended as an extension of the performance.

Milos slipped out of the center of the action and then was surprised to see Cosmo waving to him from across the street. He looked for a second time to be sure it was Cosmo and then scampered across the street to join him.

“Hey Milos, where we gonna eat?”

“How did you get over here?”

“Just look at them crazy people misbehaving,” Cosmo cried gleefully. “You can tell they ain’t had no proper up-bringing.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Milos said anxiously as the first bobbies arrived blowing whistles and brandishing clubs.

“You don’t wanna watch the show?” Cosmo laughed walking away with him. “This traveling business is more fun than I imagined.”

“You intend to start a brawl in every country you visit?”

“Hey, I didn’t start that fight. I thought we was just having a friendly disagreement.”

“Excuse me, my friend, but to use an American expression, bullshit.”

“At least I won the argument.”


“Let me tell you a story: ya know there’s an old axiom, Japanese one I think, that when two people are arguing, the first one to take a swing loses.”

“Why’s that?”

“Cause he don’t know nothin’ else to say.”

“Your logic is impeccable, only I don’t know whether you are really crazy or are only acting so.”

“Hey, I’m as normal as they come, too normal in fact. Ya see, a normal person for me is someone who doesn’t try to kid himself, just see things as they are without making up no fantasy world.”

“But I love fantasy and imagination!”

“That’s okay, but just don’t get it mixed up with the real thing. And this dinner better not be no fantasy tale. Where we gonna eat?”

“English food lives up – or should I say down – to its reputation, but I know a good Indian restaurant. Do you like spicy foods?”

“You ain’t tasted spicy till you had Mexican, and there was a Chinese take-out where I lived that had a Szechuan special.”

“I take it that means yes. You’ll like this food; it’s the best I’ve found in London. In fact I’ve concluded that it was one of the main reasons for the British empire.”

“The restaurant?”

“No, the food. The British fare is so poor that they were practically forced to travel far and wide to find something eatable. And, of course, once they were in Jamaica and India and everywhere else, they couldn’t help but thinking it would be nicer to be served than have to do the cooking and the dishes themselves.”

“That’s just how I feel. Maybe I oughtta become an empire builder.”

“Although you seem more a disrupter. You could hire yourself out as a saboteur, guaranteed to turn any peaceful meeting into an inchoate state.”

“What kinda state? Speak English.”

“That is English: inchoate.”

“Yeah? Well, it sure sounds like Czech to me.”


After a good meal and a few drinks at the restaurant, they went out to hit a few bars. They headed towards Picadilly Circus.”

“Look at all the adverts!” Milos exclaimed pointing to some neon signs. “Cola and cigarettes, nothing but capitalistic decadence.”

“What kind of ‘verts’? They’d better not try nothin’ funny or I’ll bash those fuckers heads in,” Cosmo said confidently.

“Whose heads?” Milos asked confused.

“How should I know? You said something about verts.”

“I said, ‘Look at the adverts’.”

“What are they? Some kind of punks? How am I supposed to know all the kinds of perverts around here.”

“Adverts!” Milos repeated exasperated. “Advertisements!”

“What the hell are you talking about? They advertising for perverts here?”

“What is this? Some kind of fixation? I never said anything about perverts.”

“Then what’s this adverts you been talking about?”


“Advertisements? Then why didn’t you say it in the first place! ‘Adverts’ means perverts with a kinda sickness about ads.”

“Huh? Where did you learn that? They taught me it means advertisements in language school.”

“Then you’d better ask for a refund. They sure put one over on you! I bet they taught you ‘fuck’ means ‘tie your shoelaces’.”

“Tie my shoelaces? That’s great! Let’s find some women and tie our shoelaces.”

“That’s real poetical Milos. Ya know, with your weird kind of English you even sound like one of them limeys too. I think I’m gonna call you Shakespeare.”

They entered another bar for the purpose of ritual glass emptying.”

“How long have you been in England?” Milos asked.

“Two days, though it seems like much longer. Jesus, two days back home seemed like nothin’, but here I feel they lasted two weeks.”

“Yes, my six weeks here certainly seem longer too. Are you staying in a hotel?”

“Oh, some sleazy bed and breakfast place. What about you?”

“I have a flat.”

“Oh, I see; you got an RV. Well, why don’t you fix the damn thing? Then we can go for a nice ride.”

“Cosmo, once again I am afraid I cannot follow your logic. Why should I fix my flat? There’s nothing wrong with it and I’m not staying here that long anyway.”

“Okay, whatever you say,” Cosmo replied shaking his head. “I used to work for a delivery company, and I’d tell’em I had a flat whenever I could get away with it. So you don’t wanna take me for a ride; who asked ya anyway?”

“What do you imagine? That I have a flat on wheels?” Milos asked perplexed.

“I think you’re just flat out crazy, Milos. But let’s have another beer before you’re flat broke.”

“If we keep drinking, I’m going to get pissed.”

“Hey, what’s the matter? A deal’s a deal. I won the bet and you gotta pay, but then if you don’t want to, fuck ya. I can buy my own beers.”

“Now what is the trouble? Haven’t I been paying like a good loser?”

“Then why are you getting pissed?”

“Because of all the beer, of course.”

“Funny, I usually get pissed when I don’t have any beer.”

“What do you drink then?”

“Oh okay,” Cosmo roared. “I get it Milos; you think I’m some kinda alcoholic. Well,” he paused, “I think you may be right!”


When Milos had asked him what his plans were, Cosmo had not been sure what to answer. Of course, he had the vague intention of getting to Italy and looking for Lisa, but at the same time he feared encountering her. Her remark about not going to Italy to meet Americans haunted him. What if he found her and she told him to get lost? Then what?

He hoped he would meet someone along the way who could give him some inspiration or goal or at least some ideas as to how to pass the time without winding up back in New Jersey. He shuddered at the thought of his life there: an almost unmitigated sequence of factory, drunkenness and sleep. He knew that if he wound up back there in his old routine, he was unlikely to escape again.

And then there was the other possibility, almost as frightening: she would ask him to stay. She had her art, but he doubted it would interest him. She would go off every day to pursue her studies, and he would hang out. There would be booze and sex, but he knew there might soon be more of the former.

Better to take his time heading south.

He was therefore only too happy to accept Milos’ offer to go with him to Paris. He was getting fed up with London and its cheesy bars that closed at ten. And expensive! Milos told him he could get a good bottle of wine in France for less than a dollar; that was more up his alley. He would not be able to understand their parlez-vousing, but anything would be better than that limey talk. Who were they trying to put on anyway? He could not accept the fact that people would talk like that seriously, and every time he opened his mouth he was sure they snickered. No, it was time to hit the road.

They took the morning train to Dover, a little too early to suit Cosmo.

“You’re almost as bad as my old foreman, Milos. Gettin’ me up this early in the morning.”

Only the bottle of wine and good cheese Milos had promised they would have for lunch had convinced Cosmo of the necessity of traveling so early. He snuggled into the corner of the train compartment, pulling his jacket tight about him for warmth. There was a steady drizzle outside, the kind of weather that made him inclined to seek a warm bath. He hoped France would be warmer and sunny. They passed decrepit old factories that reminded Cosmo of his home, and he might have wondered what he was doing there if not for the green countryside shrouded in mist, giving it an eerie, almost magical air. Cosmo could think of no such places in north Jersey where he came from. It was just one ugly city after the next, one boring, unimaginative suburb followed by another. He gazed wistfully, enjoying the sensation of being able to relax with no need to work and no worries about money. If he could only always live so easily! Someday he would have to figure out a scheme to keep from returning to his former life. He had no idea what and did not even know where to start. He shuddered at the thought that his present life might not last forever and quickly turned his attention back to the fleeting countryside.

“Hey Cosmo, cheer up! Looks like you’re homesick,” Milos kidded, mistaking Cosmo’s facial expression. “We’re going to Paris!”

“Yeah,” Cosmo chuckled. “Gay Paree. I’m ready.” And then turning to Milos, “Homesick? You must be outta your mind.”

“But everyone wants to go to America.”

“Yeah, and they do. You should see it where I come from. There are Greeks and Guineas, Ricans, Blacks, Polacks, Krauts, Arabs, Jews, Russians, Chinks, you name it, they’s all there. A regular United Nations.”

“That sounds wonderful, exciting. So many cultures living side by side.”

“Yeah, and one sleazier than the next, though I dunno if I’d call them cultures. The whole thing is more like a circus, and everybody’s got an act.”

“And you were a clown, I supposed.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Cosmo chuckled. “One sorry clown, but at least I knew when to retire.”

“I thought you just took your show on the road.”

“No, I am temporarily outta business. Let’s say I’m on a kinda research tour here, observing what the clowns in Europe are up to. Come to think of it, Shakespeare, you oughtta know what I’m talking about. Used to be ‘All the world’s a stage.’ Now it’s, ‘All the world’s a circus.’ Every thing’s a fuckin’ comedy, only it ain’t funny. Nothing’s worse than a joke that falls flat. It’s embarrassing, only most of the creeps around ain’t even got enough sense to be embarrassed. They just act like everything’s okay, got canned laughter ready to playback at a moment’s notice.”

“Hey Cosmo, that’s pretty good. You’re a real philosopher. Ya know,” he said imitating Cosmo’s voice as best he could, “I think I’m gonna call you Socrates.”

They both laughed.

“That’s all right by me; I got some Greek blood in me somewhere too. Just don’t be giving me none of that hemlock shit in my wine if I speak the truth.”

“Do you often do that? I mean, speak the truth.”

“Yeah, maybe a bit too often, cause I wind up offending people and then they get all uptight and ornery and forget that I was doing them a favor. Instead of taking my words to heart and trying to rectify the situation, I gotta beat their heads in.”

“You sound mean,” Milos grinned.

“You got me there. I didn’t tell you about the ones I run away from.”

“You pick on only the little ones.”

“I don’t pick on anyone, but sometimes you gotta use your cunning and craft.”

“Oh, oh, maybe I should call you after another compatriot of yours, Odysseus. And here you are, wandering throughout the world.”

“Yeah, and I might be searching for home, but I sure hope it ain’t in New Jersey.”

“And Penelope?”

“Forget her. She’s gettin’ it on with what’s his name, and good luck to him.”

“You prefer the Sirens.”

“I sure ain’t turning no deaf ear to ’em.”

“Shouldn’t I try to hold you back?”

“Hey Milos, you’d probably be there quicker than me.”

“Oh yes, let’s drown in their bliss. Prudence to the wind!”

“Yeah, you got it. Who wants to do without delights just to get back to some old maid ten years later?!”

“What about the beauty of sacrifice?”

“I done enough sacrificing for a lifetime, none of it voluntary mind you. You ever notice those people who call for sacrifice and hard work? Usually some lousy politician or businessman who’s got so much he can give something up without even noticing it.”

“Don’t forget the bureaucrats!”

“Same thing.”

“Cosmo, the spirit of self-sacrifice is dead in America. I read that in Time Magazine. All your people want to become millionaires.”

“You had to read that? Everybody knows that, but big deal! Who doesn’t want to have money? But I think you gotta go to one of them fancy schools that cost a lotta money to get one of them good jobs.”

“But I heard about a lot of people who just had good ideas and some business sense.”

“I suppose so. I know a couple of people from my high school that got good jobs, making good money. They ain’t millionaires, but they’re doing all right. Still, most folks is just surviving day to day. Most people I know are happy if they aren’t in jail or strung out.”

“Strung out?”

“You know, junkies.”

“You mean heroin addicts?”

Cosmo nodded.

“You know such people?”

“Hey, they’re just like you and me. Don’t know nobody who didn’t dip and dab a little.”

“Dip and dab?”

“You know, just mess around a bit.”

“What’s this mess around?”

“My god, Milos. I gotta give you some English lessons. Mess around means – let me put it scientifically – inject the narcotic heroin into a vein. At least it means it in this case.”

“Heroin addicts!” Milos cried shocked.

“Nah, they ain’t addicts. They just – like I said – dip and dab.”

“But they’re addicted!”

“You’ve been reading that Time Magazine too much. Ya don’t get addicted for dipping and dabbing.”

“Are you sure?”

“Take my word for it. Of course, most people ain’t too careful and don’t know when to stop. That’s when they get strung out.”

“Strung out?”

“You know,” Cosmo said exasperated, “addicted.”

“But that’s terrible!”

“Yeah, I suppose it is,” Cosmo chuckled. “But it beats watching the tube, sometimes”

Milos shook his head pensively. “This sounds like a strange society you come from. It must be some small sub-culture, just a small segment.”

“Hey, I ain’t no sociologist. I’m just telling you what I know. And by the way, as for the mainstream of American society, I don’t know who they are. Maybe those clowns who watch a lot of TV and mow their lawns every weekend.”

The train pulled into Dover and Cosmo got his first glimpse of the English Channel. “Hey, are those the White Cliffs? You know, the ones in the poem or something. Don’t look so white to me.”

“What did you expect? Snow?”

“I don’t expect nothing, to tell ya the truth, cause nothing is usually what I get.”

“But, my friend, begin expecting. You have heard of the land of milk and honey? Well, we are headed to the land of wine and cheese.”

Just so the wine isn’t cheesy. You can leave that milk and honey shit to the kids. But how about having another couple of these brews before we go.”

“A splendid idea, but we’d better get our tickets first and find out when the next boat is leaving.”

On the boat they received the mandatory immigration forms. Cosmo got a couple of beers and they sat down to fill out the forms. After a while, Milos asked, “Cosmo, can I borrow your rubber?”

“Damn, Milos! We ain’t even in France yet. Don’t tell me you wanna get it on with that fat ole bitch at the counter.”

“Cosmo, I must admit that I have a tremendous amount of difficulty in following your logic. Can I please borrow your rubber?”

“Borrow? You mean you’d give it back to me when you’re finished?!” Cosmo laughed at his own joke.

“Of course I’ll give it back,” the indignant Milos said.

“Of course, of course!” screeched Cosmo. And when he had calmed down a bit, “Really, I’d give you one if I had it. You can get it on with whoever you like; it ain’t none of my business. But I ain’t carried one of them around since high school.” And added thoughtfully, “I guess I should maybe start again with all this aids stuff around.”

Exasperated, Milos grabbed Cosmos’ eraser. “Look, I just want to use this for a second!”

“What, the eraser?” Cosmo asked surprised.

“The rubber!” Milos said pointing to the eraser.

“Ho ho ha ha ha!” Cosmo roared. “They taught you that’s a rubber?!” He almost fell out of his chair laughing.

“Of course it’s a rubber, what else,” Milos replied annoyed.

“And I suppose they told you the pencil is a dick! Ha ha ha! That’s great, Milos! This English teaching business sounds like a lotta laughs. I oughtta get a job doing that.”

“You mean to say this isn’t a rubber?”

“Yeah, maybe it is,” Cosmo grinned, “for elves!”

Milos began to wonder whether the theories of American bourgeois decadence he had so often head and scoffed at in his native land were not in some way true.

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