Kazek Finds Love
Morning rays penetrate yellowed curtains and scatter into Kazek's bedroom, the radio alarm dutifully cracks alive. Kazek on his side, opens his eyes to a whiskered green-eyed face. "Good morning my princess...how did you sleep last night?" he said.

Mishu replied with a long impatient meow and leaped off of the thin mattress. Kazek rolled deftly out of bed and extinguished the repetitive murmur. He slipped on his robe and playfully kicked into his handmade leather slippers. The same slippers as worn by the Polish Highlanders of the Tatry Mountains - he was proud of this heritage, of the craftsmanship and uncanny conformity that develops once they have been properly worn in.

"OK, OK, I know you are hungry, so am I...chwileczke! " Kazek scolded.

I had another weird dream last night Mishu, he began. "I dreamt I was a priest in a church of some kind. I think I was inside a confessional. Children, one by one came to me crying not about sins but about everyday child things. Birthday cakes, broken crayons or playground fights. I knew what I was doing...I said things - they listened. I felt like I was helping them. Before they left, I gave each one a golden lollipop and a kiss on the forehead. After they had all gone, I looked up at the ceiling of my confessional and a strange light appeared, it grew brighter and wider. I heard a helicopter sound overhead and a rope ladder come down, I also heard a man's voice, something about it being that time again."

"I tell you Mishu, I don't understand these dreams. What about dreaming of a fishing trip or a picnic with Agnieszka, something normal you know? Ahhhh, niewiem...maybe I eat too much makowiec before I go to bed."

Kazek set the water for coffee and went to the refrigerator for some Farmer's cheese, butter and a can of Seafood Delight cat food. He spooned the remaining bits into Mishu's bowl as she swam in figure eights around his legs. The fur tickled his ankles - he enjoyed the feeling of her dependence, it made him feel a little more alive, a little more human. Now if only somehow he could be reciprocated voluntarily, if only...the telephone rang.

"Kazek?" a voice questioned.
"A kto?"
"Czesc Bogdan."
Switching back to English - "Of course, who do you think would answer the telephone?" Kazek annoyingly added while pouring hot water into his coffee cup.

"Aaa...ok sorry champ, hey listen, what are you doing today? I want to go to Harlem and Irving Mall, to Radio Shack to fix my cell telephone. It no work - I drop it last night at Stella's - too much piwo. Bogdan laughed at himself, his thick Russian accent feeling more comfortable with that last polish word.

"That's what you get for getting drunk, Bogdan...and when did you get a cellular telephone? How can you afford this? It is too expensive for you, no?"

"No, Radio Shack has special deal...you see for yourself, maybe you buy too."
"No way, I am no doctor or businessman, I don't need a cellular telephone, too expensive for me. I have quarters and use regular phone. Bogdan, you want too much American life!" Kazek refuted as he smeared butter than cheese on a frisbee sized slice of bread.

"Da, da..." Bogdan replied, slipping into Russian.
"Just go and see what they have my friend, sometimes they have plan with free phone. I also want to go to JCPenny, to look for work shoes, a big sale this weekend only." Bogdan subversively added.

"Hmmm, good idea, maybe I buy some new shoes too. I go to church now then to store. I call you when I come back home." Bogdan was an expert in getting Kazek to take him to wherever his needs dictated. Somehow he always convinced Kazek of a mutual need or interest.

"Good, good, hey who won the match yesterday?...Fire?" Bogdan added.
"O man, I don't know, I forgot all about the match, I ask after mass...OK, bye."

Kazek hung up the phone and looked at the clock. It was already ten minutes to 10 o'clock. To make it in time for the 10:30 service he would have to finish breakfast, shower, get dressed and leave the apartment in 10 minutes. The trip from home to the church took about a half hour - sometimes longer if a parking spot wasn't quickly found. After four quick bites, the butter and cheese laden disk of bread was gone. He left the steaming cup of coffee on the counter as he rushed, robe flowing, to shower and get dressed.

"Be good Mishu, catch a mouse or two once you've finished sleeping - I'll see you later!" Kazek called from the door.

Mishu lay in her plush bed under the kitchen table and only purred in reply.

The rising sun slowly approached its apex and glowed in the deep blue cloudless sky. Kazek steadily drove, smoothly shifting gears, his eyes in a happy squint. Dressed in his only suit, Kazek drove east down North Ave., then north on Narragansett for a few blocks, then again east on Fullerton Ave. to St. James Roman Catholic Church.

As luck would have it, Kazek hit several consecutive green traffic lights driving down Fullerton Ave. Additionally he was lucky to find a parking spot right across the street from the church - he even had a few minutes to spare. He closed the door to his Honda Civic with a solid thump. Despite it being 12 years old and logging close to 250K miles - it operated smoothly and reliably. During his seven year relationship with the car, Kazek sunk his elbows into every available crevice and has removed and reinstalled every possible mechanical innard in his pursuit of optimal automotive performance. His ability to diagnose mysterious squeaks, rings, pings and dings with over 99% accuracy was a talent he was very proud of. He crossed the always busy Fullerton Ave. with several long strides. Feeling positive and confident, he opted to enter from the front instead of the usual side entrance.

"Kazek!" he heard his name called just as he was about to enter through the open church doors. He stopped and looked over his shoulder to see it was Stanley, heavily shuffling his weight across the street.

"Stasiu, czesc! How are you doing?" Kazek said and smiled impatiently.

"Dobrze...a good morning to you Kazek, how are you doing these days?" Stanley breathlessly huffed, extending a greeting hand.

"With this weather, how can one not be in a good mood." Kazek replied, shaking Stanley's swollen sweaty palm. Both men moved over to the side of the entrance.

"So Stasiu, where is Halina?" Kazek inquired.

"Aaaaa...she's with Magda, her sister - remember? They're doing some last minute shopping. Magda flies back to Poland this afternoon and of course has to stuff more junk into her suitcases." Stanley said with a consciously controlled breath.

"Magda...ooo-yaahhh...I never got the chance to meet her, how long was she here? Is she married? Kazek questioned innocently.

"I told you Kazek! You only pay attention to the the hair that's growing under your long nose! No, she isn't married, but I would steer clear of her anyway...she's just as stubborn and foolish as her sister!" Stanley laughed, as his huge beer feed gut trigged into motion by it's own inertia.

"I see! In that case keep her far away as possible if she's anything like Halina, God have mercy!" Kazek joked in feigned sarcasm. Inside his heart sank in a flutter. He felt as if he was on a deserted island, undetected by passing rescue ship after ship, undetected by passing plane after plane.

"Ok..well it was good to see you again Kazek."
"And you too...say hello to your wife."
"I will."

As they entered the church, the bounds of their friendship was defined as they went their separate ways - Stanley immediately finding a seat near the rear, while Kazek strategically pushed to the front, finding a narrow sliver of space at the end of the seventh row.

As usual he participated in the celebration with strained effort...he was usually preoccupied with the incessant whirls of thought in his head. What had to be bought at the deli? What size were his shoes again? Did he do a good job fixing the faulty transparency projector for Mrs. Gianakos? Did she even like him? How he fantasized about her in her empty world history classroom - about all the things he could do to her soft, inviting, voluptuous body.

As soon as the gospel readings ended, he refocused and hoped that a moving homily would fasten his attention and induce pious states. He pondered as the priest began his sermon, why did his libido activate to full power in such a diametrically opposed environment? Why did his thoughts race towards pleasure, sensuality and fantasy? He shifted his weight and looked around and wondered if the sacred, solemn, visages all around were aimed at him, condemning him for such carnal thoughts.

As the mass progressed, the church began to simmer and stew from the body oder of sandwiched bodies and the occasional flatulent. Thankfully the chance to air out was at hand as row by row of the pious and pure lined up for communion. This to Kazek was the highlight of the mass and the reason why he sat up front. He didn't like the attention he drew from having to walk all the way up to the front of the church. This temporal discomfort however was worth the vantage point gained. After communion, each female parishioner was observed and analyzed as she walked from the altar, down the isle and back to her seat. He was positioned just far enough into the the row of pews to be able to casually watch them for a few moments, before they passed him and walked progressively further to the back of the church.

Sitting too close he would not have enough time to absorb the vital details, too far back and he would miss out on potential daydream material sitting near the front of the church. After experimenting with several positions, he found that rows 7 through 12 provided the best vantage point.

After a dozen or so of uninspiring contestants, he turned his gaze to his fingers clasped on top of the pew backrest. He lifted his right hand and examined his fat, sausage-like fingers. Although he was fairly tall and slender, his bloated, callused fingers belonged to a man three times his weight and size. These paws have gone through hell and back he thought feeling more pride than distaste. He looked up at that moment and caught the last frame of a passing figure he could have called his wife. He fought the reflex to look back but he couldn't help it. He turned his head to first look up at the choir above, pretending to pay some kind of homage to their singing voices. Then he looked down the isle at the walking figure moving away from him in a soft, easy glide.

"Wait! Turn around! - I promise to smile at you! I am the man every woman would want! I cook and clean. I have a job and do not drink...that much!" he desperately shouted in his head. He moved his eyes down at the hypnotic motion of her high heels, supporting strong, visibly defined calf muscles. Her clinging summer dress revealed full hips and her ample arms folded in prayer were attached tightly to the sides of her back. Her hair from what he could see, was done up, unnaturally elevated, giving him a clue that she was close to his age, not of the younger set that wore their hair in a simpler if not raw style. With this he grew more excited, yet cursed himself for moronically gazing at his hands, letting such an opportunity pass by. He was determined to find her after mass in order to get a proper look at her...but was it necessary he thought? In his mind she was already perfect, already the love of his life.