Showdown at Vlašska

I was early for an appointment, standing on the side of the street, watching the city move. Vlašska is a narrow street. It passes in front of the US embassy, so it is more heavily policed than much of the town. A czech army truck was patrolling, its brakes emitting a high-picthed metal-on-metal scream as it eased down the street. Perhaps patrolling in a truck with no brake pads was intended to send a subtle message to the diplomats inside the building they were protecting. The three soldiers in the truck looked bored.

The street is narrow, but it is a two-way street. There is one stretch that is just plain too narrow for two cars to pass. Generally people deal with this by driving very fast, so that if someone considers entering from the other end they will think twice. That’s not how it always works, though. The army truck assumed people would back out of their way. They were usually right.

Up the hill crept a small red Škoda, being carefully piloted by an old nun. She entered the narrows and was on her way up when the army truck approached from the other end. The nun did not falter, she just kept pulling on up the hill. They met at about two-thirds of the way up. The truck beeped officiously. The nun took her hands off the steering wheel and folded them across her breast, her expression stone calm. The truck did not beep again; and after a few more seconds the soldier put his vehicle in reverse with the sound of the sound of gears grinding and backed up.

The nun continued her slow progress while the soldiers waited.

7 thoughts on “Showdown at Vlašska

  1. There are times when the apparently weak is actually the strong.

    Here in Albuquerque, there was a little old lady named Adela in a little old house in Barelas — it had been her grandparents’ house, and she entertained her great-grandkids there. It was her house. She refused to be moved from it.

    The powers-that-be chose her particular little corner of Barelas to build the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Many of the neighboring houses had been condemned and demolished during an ill-conceived and ill-fated “urban renewal” project during the 1960s, and the remaining neighbors agreed to sell their properties. But not Adela. She refused to be moved. When the powers-that-be threatened to use the power of eminent domain to evict Adela, she protested, and there was great public outcry.

    So now, if you go to see the National Hispanic Cultural Center, you will see gleaming modern architecture with echoes of Aztec temples, and wide, scenic plazas, and magnificent museum and gallery space, and performing-arts venues second to none, and tucked into one side of the complex, Adela’s old adobe house.

  2. Hi CA,

    Shouldn’t the first sentence be “There are times when the apparently weak” are “actually the strong”?

  3. I would have preferred “the apparently weak are the actually strong.” Not only to you get parallelism, but since the structure here is a little more awkward than “actually the strong,” you cause the reader to pause and consider just a little more thoughtfully.

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