My Prima Donna Swamp Princess [ 13 ] : Wager

  • 2005-11-23
The police were inclined to haul Arva into the station and book her, but I could tell they didn't want to. She was just too well dressed; she radiated immunity. Or impunity. But with a crowd of onlookers, the police had little choice. The woman just hurled a stone at the front door of the town's main church, right in front of several onlookers, and the officers couldn't just let it slide.

So they escorted us to their car. Now I, aware of the ankle-high integrity of Lithuanian police, knew that 50 litas would resolve any misunderstanding. The problem was slipping the money into their palms. A simple matter of legerdemain, true enough, but I, clumsy professor of comparative linguistics, had long ceased to be adroit with such sly dealings. So I pulled the bill out of my wallet and held it out.

Talk about a dork.

Both the incorruptible police officers of the fine city of Kalvarija paled as if they had been slapped. Then their faces reddened. I looked around, saw the citizenry's astonished faces and realized that I had made a serious error. One of the officers grabbed me by the elbow and nudged me toward the police vehicle.

That's when Princess Arva came to the rescue.

"Wait!" she cried in flawless Lithuanian. (A minute earlier she had been jumping between Sudovian, Galindian and Nadruvian.) She grabbed the 50 lita bill out of my hand.

"This is for me, you nincompoop," she said. (My translation on the nincompoop, since to this day I don't know what the devil she called those cops.) "We had a wager, and I won."

The cops looked at each other in confusion. Not only did they barely understand Arva 's she had spoken in a mixture of Scalvian and Latgalian 's but her tone of voice surprised them. For me, her performance was stunning.

"Yes! We had a bet!" I cried. "I dared her to toss a rock at a Catholic Church, and she did it. I lost, so I pay!"

"Yes!" said the princess, folding the note and hiding it somewhere deep in her flowing linen gown.

"Why would you dare a woman to do that?" one of the officers asked.

I stammered, stumbled, then standing straight, let him have it. "Are you Lithuanian?" I asked.


"Do you have any idea what the Catholic crusaders did to your ancestors? How can you possibly be so ignorant of history. You know, you Lithuanians are always so willing to talk about the history of your language, but have you stopped to wonder how your predecessors were raped and pillaged by the very hordes that established this here Catholic church?"

"Yes, I was here witness to it," Arva said in fine Lithuanian.

"What?!?" both cops exclaimed in unison.

I had yet to explain it to my medieval friend that perhaps, for the good of her cause, she'd best not advertise the fact that she had just arisen from the dead and that the last time she walked the planet was around 1430. There was a good chance some people might take it the wrong way.

"And I even plotted to kill Jogaila, the Lithuanian grand duke of Poland, for prostituting himself to the Catholic Poles," she added.

"Now, now," said one of the cops, a younger, clean-shaven one. "Jogaila was given a bad rap by nationalist 19th century historians. The alternative was either German Lutheranism or Russian Orthodox, so he chose Polish Catholicism, the lesser of three evils."

"I can't believe my ears," cried Arva.

The second cop added, "I think we'll see a certain degree of revisionism on his role in strengthening Lithuanian statehood. Jogaila loved nature, the forests, and absconded from Krakow every chance he got."

Arva was as baffled as I. She looked at me. "Maybe I should throw the rock at their heads?"

Thankfully, she chose Curonian for her question. "No, let's walk away from this one. We have more important things to do."

A minute later, the two police officers released us with a warning: no more chucking rocks at churches. I consented, but Arva stood there frowning. I fear what she thought.

As we walked away, she said, "Hey, we're a pretty good team."

"Indeed, we are," I said, warming to her rare show of affection. We had performed well together off the cuff.

"That's good, because we need to be on the same wavelength when our forces invade Germany."