P IS FOR PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

P

A STORY OF PERESTROIKA IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA (now the CZECH REPUBLIC)

‘My old friend,’ he greeted Phillips with an enthusiastic hug as he had always done. Phillips returned the gesture before resuming his seat. Přemysl took the seat opposite him.

They sat facing out from the small coffee shack, looking at the pond and the green park around them. It was an early spring morning, the promise of fresh beginnings in the air, the green shoots of new life pushing through the ground while the sun tried to warm the chill in the air. It was still cool enough that when they spoke, their breathe formed clouds of mist that drifted away.

‘It is so good to see you,’ Přemysl continued. ‘You are in Prague for a social visit or work?’

‘Tying up a few loose ends,’ Phillips smiled. He sipped on the coffee. He had bought them both a warm drink.

‘Pah,’ Přemysl waved his hand. ‘There are always loose ends. Better to leave them hanging I say. The war is over. Now we are all friends.’ He picked up his coffee and took a long drink of the warm liquid, nodding thanks to Phillips for getting it just the way he liked it.

‘So they say.’

‘You don’t believe in perestroika?’ Přemysl laughed as he spoke in mock surprise. ‘You and I, we have seen too much of the world. We both know it is just the next phase. Soon enough new battle lines will be drawn up.’

‘Which side will you be on this time?’

Přemysl shrugged, ‘That depends on many things. The Soviet Union is dead, Communism is dying, Czechoslovakia will split itself in two. Fortunately, we Czechs are sensible enough to do it without bloodshed. Perhaps things will be quiet for a time, but the Motherland is wounded and on her knees. She will rise again, and when she does, she will want revenge for the humiliation.’

‘The Motherland?’

‘Russia, of course,’ Přemysl looked puzzled.

Phillips turned to look at him for the first time since they had sat down. ‘And is Russia your Motherland too?’

Realisation dawned on Přemysl’s face. ‘So I am one of the loose ends. This was not a catch up between old friends after all.’ He took another gulp of his coffee. The air between them had cooled further.

‘How much of the information you gave me was false?’

Přemysl looked out at the joggers going round the pond, the children playing, the couples walking hand-in-hand. ‘Maybe twenty percent. The rest was good intelligence that they were happy to let you have. They even threw in a couple of genuine revelations to keep you hooked.’

‘Did it bother you that people died thanks to you?’

‘They would have died anyway. It was still a war, cold or otherwise.’

‘Did your bosses at the StB know you were working for the KGB?’

‘I am a businessman, Phillips, I worked for whoever was paying. All this,’ he waved his hands at the scene around them,’it’s just a game we play. To ordinary people it matters not at all. We play our silly games, we think it’s important, we forget that most people just want to live their life in peace, to be happy, have a little money and good health, a job they enjoy that pays enough to feed themselves and their family. Politics is meaningless to them. Communism, Democracy, Glasnost, Perestroika, they’re just words.’ He trailed off.

‘Loyalty. Is that just a word to you, old friend?’

‘You Brits. stuck on your little island, pretending you still rule the world. Perestroika will make you even more insignificant. And what do you have to complain about? Two world wars, a cold war, each time you ended up winning. No one invaded you. And yet you’re still the most depressed people in Europe. You should lighten up, enjoy life while you can.’

‘I really did like you, Přemysl.’

‘We can still be friends, Phillips. I hold no grudges.’

Phillips wearily shook his head and stood up, leaving a few koruna on the table for the coffees. ‘Not this time, Přemysl. This time it’s goodbye for good.’

‘Until the next time our paths cross, perhaps.’

‘They won’t cross again. Like I said, I’m here to tie up loose ends.’ Phillips looked pointedly at the empty coffee cup in Přemysl’s hand, turned and walked away.

Přemysl looked confused, then felt a wave of dizziness pass over him, then realised what was happening as his breathing became laboured and his skin began to burn.

The Prague sunshine shone down on the park as the people of the city enjoyed the first day of spring. It was a marvellous city in the springtime, thought Phillips.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today its the end of the Cold War in Prague, Czechoslovakia – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

The British Spy Phillips features in a series of flash fiction and short stories that can be found here: THE PHILLIPS SPY STORIES.

78 responses to “P IS FOR PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC”

  1. Just miss. I was drafting for Prague, but changed to Pisa last minute.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pisa is worthy too 🙂

      Like

  2. Intrigue, war, spies, an ancient city – whats not to like! Another captivating story Iain. I will be back to read the other stories in this series 🙂

    Would love it if you could check out my post for #BlogchatterA2Z P:
    https://lonelycanopyblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/pink-house-reminiscing-a-100-step-journey/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, I hope you enjoy them 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes. “This is all just a game.” Ain’t that the truth. Excellently told!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is genius, Iain.
    I loved the wonderful descriptions of the park . Also, the cold indifference to a hasty unprepared goodbye in your last line was really impactful. He definitely deserved it , though.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Moon, very kind. It sounds like he did deserve it indeed.

      Like

  5. This was hard-hitting and poignant at the same time. The overlords play their games while we scurry around like mice trying to live our lives. That’s how it’s always been and most likely will be. Nicely done, Iain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately so, and most of us happily never have to get drawn into it, but it is always there lurking in the background.

      Like

  6. brilliant narration. i loved the way you decribed the park. “Until the next time our paths cross, perhaps.’‘They won’t cross again. Like I said, I’m here to tie up loose ends.’ – u hit hard. an emotional story. P is Plethora of emotions. https://syncwithdeep.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/p-plethora-of-emotions-blogchattera2z-atozchallenge-atoz/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dun-dun-dun! Sounds like an excerpt from a great spy story 🙂

    The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phillips has been floating around a few stories for a while now. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  8. Another old-fashioned spy story. This one had great character, just like the city it is based in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, that was the idea when visiting Prague, a ‘spy city’ for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, that one certainly took a turn. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🙂 And not for the better in his case.

      Like

  10. A lovely snapshot of Prague, and a story reminiscent of those most British of spy thrillers.
    🙂

    A-Zing this year at:
    FictionCanBeFun
    Normally found at:
    DebsDespatches

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Phillips is a character in that line 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow. Didn’t see that coming, great story

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah, glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow ! So much back story implicit here. I feel a bit sorry for Phillips, in a way: clearly not something he wanted to do, but the decision had already been made…I wonder how they sussed Přemysl…

    Although a bit near the knuckle under present circumstances, perhaps? Life imitating Art?

    @BreakerOfThings, Calling by from
    Fiction Can be Fun For #AprilA2Z/#AtoZChallenge
    (Sometimes found at A Back of the Envelope Calculation)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a game that never stops being played. Phillips has always been the reluctant messenger from head office.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. At last, somewhere I’ve visited! That really was the ultimate farewell.

    My Friend Rosey – P is for Poetry

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Keith, somewhere I haven’t managed to get to yet, but one day I may sit on a bench in the park there…

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow. Man, Iain! I’m searching here for words. You blow me away. Writing such good very short fiction is a true talent.
    Damn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks Martha, that is a great comment to receive.

      Like

  15. You are a genius!! Captivating story!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it, and thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  16. If I ever make it to Prague, I’ll be sure to skip the coffee offered by my old friend Phillips! Your stories are all so great – I love how much we know in such a short time.

    Emily In Ecuador | Palo Santo Products Made in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So kind, thank you Emily. Do pop round for coffee soon 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you but I’ve brought my own tea. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Are Russians really cold blooded? And Is Prague the famed “spy” city? Recollected the recent mystery behind the ex Russian spy and his daughter being poisoned.
    Chilling story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly has similarities, thanks Anagha

      Like

  18. I thought I remembered Phillips. I knew he was there to tie up loose ends but I didn’t realize it was in the coffee. You kind of just slipped that in there. Clever!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Janet – he is sneaky!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Ooo… really good!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome, Iain.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Read this because I’m fascinated by Prague. But this was wicked and such a twist to the tale. I love your coffee description but then who would have known…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No one would have suspected, which makes it the best way to do the deed 🙂 Thanks Natasha.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I loved this line: “No one invaded you. And yet your still the most depressed people in Europe.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We British seem to always forget how amazingly lucky we have it, always turning everything into a crisis.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Geeeez, what in the world was in that coffee..?
    Such a great story, though. Where do you get your ideas from?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This one, from reading a lot of spy fiction in my life! Thanks for reading.

      Like

  23. I always wanted to visit Prague, having heard so much of it. Captivating tale and a crazy coffee ☕️ idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I would love to visit too!

      Like

  24. I wondered about the coffee as soon as he said that he was tying up loose ends. Good story!

    https://katseaholm.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/p-is-for-plot/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No fooling you, I shall have to think of a more cunning plan!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just don’t trust anyone with my drinks, especially when they are talking about loose ends, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Fancy a sandwich I’ve made up for you instead? 🙂

          Like

  25. Excellent writing, as always, Iain. Prague seems like such an interesting place. It’s on my bucket list (it also enjoys a short feature in my most recent novel). Everyone I know who has gone has said it is a mesmerizing city. Thanks for your creative insights on these wonderful places.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On my bucket list too. Thanks for reading and your kind comment as always 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Marvellous story. Conjures up Graham Greene and John le Carré’s spy stories. I liked the way you put in ‘P’ people and cities in it 😉

    But may I crib about “your still the most depressed people”. Should that not be “you are still the most depressed people” 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, thanks for pointing it out, and the kind comparison.

      Like

  27. Wow. I wasn’t sure, right up until it happened. Nicely done.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. A good game of social poker well-played out. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Spies are fun to watch in the movies but not so wonderful in real life. Everyone always feels they are the hero and never the the villain. I can’t image living that type of life. Weekends In Maine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the trouble with all stories, there are always 2 sides to the story. I imagine that type of life is not as glamorous as it is portrayed in books and films.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. This was a character I’d like to see again. “The Cleaner”. Sort of like the mob fixer, but more world wide.

    Stu
    Tale Spinning
    https://stuartnager.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Stu, he is a character I keep coming back to.

      Like

  31. War and politics can cut into friendship like a sharp knife. There is a political upheaval going on in my country India right now. Religious mania is rearing its ugly head. I have lost quite a few friends in the recent past because of differences of political opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had that here with an independence referendum a few years ago, (fortunately not based around religion) which may come back again. Such a shame when politics takes control like this.

      Like

  32. Another unexpected ending in a good old spy story! This is turning out to be a wonderful e-trip around Europe!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Archana, so pleased you’re enjoying the journey!

      Like

  33. Now that was an ending! Literally, for poor Přemysl, but damn, Phillips, well played!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Phillips is very good at his job.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. An ending that really was an ENDING! Tying up loose ends Mafia-style 😉
    You’re a writer and a half!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, too kind – glad you liked it 🙂

      Like

  35. I really enjoyed Přemysl’s observation, ‘No one invaded you. And yet you’re still the most depressed people in Europe.’ I’m not sure being invaded would have made us any happier.
    Really enjoyed this look at current affairs through the eyes of the albeit relatively recent past. And glad to see Phillips lives to fight and kill another day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. We do manage to find things to moan and worry about, when in comparison to most of the rest of the world, we have got it pretty good. As for Phillips, well, can I ever kill him off – of course not!

      Like

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