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AVISHAI

The 1840s

Famous People

Proud Madam

City of Zero

Proud Madam

The first time I heard the name "Proud Madam", I didn't know it was a name of a bar. I didn't know there were any bars in The City of Zero.

It was really hard to find a job in this city. And living on the streets or sleeping in police stations and cheap motels, wasn't so attractive. No, not anymore. After a luxurious apartment in Paris and going to work only from being bored, that was a harsh challenge, but the way back to Paris is lost.

So I got really desperate. That's why when I heard about "Proud Madam". I decided to swallow my pride. Being sure they were talking about a vain Bordel, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a small dark bar, a bit medieval and neglected but welcoming. Heavy Russian accent pierced through my fractured thoughts:
Where do you come from, lady?-
I turned my head and faced the bar. In it was a man who seemed to have been taken straight out of the middle ages. A cross was tied over his neck with some thin rope. He wore heavy sharp boots, an old shirt and a Russian milkman cap. On his finger was a huge ring with a weird looking rubine stone in it. He kissed my hand as a greeting, like an old-fashioned Russian Cossack.
Vladimir Klimov or just Vlad for you.-
He impressed me with his mysterious and charming attitude. With a slightly bitter smile, he patiently listened to my story: France, the violin, singing, papa at maman and my failed attempts at getting jobs since I arrived at The City of Zero.

He listened to me patiently and after a while he said:
- I just fired a worker yesterday, so you may be useful for tonight. Come on, let's go to settle the payment. Help me to write things down - my spelling is terrible.
After the bureaucracy was done, he smoked a cigarette.
- Welcome, Alice. Hope you'll have a great time over here. I'll tell you a bit about the City of Zero. While telling his story, he called me a few times by a weird name - something like Margaret or Magdalene - I can't really recall. It was amusing to hear him cursing in Russian each time.

As the bar's door opened to the customers, the first one to come in was an elegant man with wide open psychotic eyes. His gaze was always curious and he had a bit of a childish face. He wore skinny jeans, a red shirt that looked more like a gown and had white gloves on his hands.
A golden cross hung over his neck, and he was covered with small colourful tattoos.
Without saying a word he sat at the bar and stared at me with his cynical smile, like he was
measuring me. Then he held out his hand and ceremoniously said:
- A real flower of Eden. What on earth brought you here to this Sodom? – He paused - No, no, dear, you don't have to answer – keep me in suspense!
He winked and sent me a kiss through the air. I was shocked from his behaviour but I have to admit that I was enjoying the attention - his presence felt strange but familiar.

Then he warmly greeted Vlad, who called him "Little Jesus". I cleaned a large wine glass and brought a bottle of exclusive Pinot Noir to the table at the corner. The table was now arranged like a ritual: over it was a snow-white napkin, some fancy siverware and giant candles. I didn't quite understand why "Little Jesus" was doing this strange ritual or why Vlad was going along with it.

Later, after a small talk with Vlad, I discovered that "Little Jesus" was really named Louis Bergman. Vlad said that he's a gifted musician, probably the most gifted around - a weird genius. No one actually knows where he lives or what he does. I think that Vlad called him a Hedonist. It made me smile to think that Vlad knew that word considering his reading and writing skills.
It turns out that Louis was an American Christian who came here to see The Great Church but lost his mind somewhere along the trip. Claiming that he carried a "holy spirit", he started preaching about the redemption of mankind and Doomsday. He really drew my attention despite his strange and even outregaous behaviour. La curiosité a tué le chat, maman used to tell me when I was a kid.

Then Vlad suddenly called me and whispered:
-The night has just begun.
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