The water spirit of Old Brno
Yes, things aren’t what they used to be.
Who remembers now, how once through Old Brno flowed a wide mill-race; so wide, in fact, it was as broad as a river. Where on Earth did it go?
And in this race there lived a water spirit, or so they say. Who believes in such tall tales today? Not far away I used to have an old shack, where once I sold eggs. From Monday to Saturday. Come rain or shine. And I knew almost everyone, then. Who, who with, why, and how. Mainly why. And how. Well, twice, maybe three times a week, a little man in a green tailcoat stopped by to pass the time of day. Went back generations, his family did. He also knew everyone, and he had so much to say on every topic that even I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. Which is saying something! Then, he would stick a few eggs in his pocket and stroll on his way.
Well, one Wednesday – or was it a Thursday? Definitely Thursday: that’s when they bring round the new batch from Kuřim; anyway – I’m looking out from my shack when the little man hurries by. So I step out for a word. Good day sir, and where are you off to in such a hurry? Nothing today? Don’t you want to buy anything? No time for a chat, even? And the man waves, and calls back: “Next time, good woman. Next time. In a moment, the baker’s boy will fall into the race, and I have to go and drown him. If I don’t run, I won’t make it in time. God be with you, we’ll talk next time.” I shook my head, what nonsense the poor man spouted. But it takes all kinds.
And I was still scratching my head and staring off the way he’d gone, when the woman Blažková ran up – there’s plenty to say about her, but never mind that now – and she says: “Haven’t you heard what happened?” And with an open mouth I listen as she tells me that a short while ago the baker’s apprentice rode his bike into the Old Brno mill race, leaving behind him only a few buns, bobbing on the surface.
What to make of it all? But from that time on I never saw the little gentleman ever again.