My Prima Donna Swamp Princess: 30. HABERDASHERY

  • 2006-07-19
As much as I was growing attached to the princess, she could still madden me like no other person I'd ever met. Even my sworn adversaries in academia failed to rile me like this born-again Balt.

"This car sucks," she said suddenly while examining the dashboard. And she said it in perfect English.
"WHAT??" I nearly veered off the road from horror. We were on our way to Trakai to take in the castle and possibly chat with some Karaites.

"Where are the automatic windows? Where's the cruise control, the CD player? And more importantly, where's the AC?" She looked at me with an accusatorily aristocratic look that, I now know, prods nations to overthrow their kings and queens and parade them toward the guillotine. "A second-rate piece of metal and plastic. Is this the way you Americans treat royalty?"
I turned red in the face. "No, we just shoot 'em at sunrise," I said coldly. "Or toss them out of vehicles moving at high speeds."
This didn't seem to impress the 600-year-old scion of Baltic blue bloods. "I mean 's come on! 's where's the comfort in this little runt of a car? I would like some leg-room, a fully automatic seat that can accommodate my particular chiropractic needs."
I was beyond speechless 's I tried to retort but a spasm of indignation knotted my tongue.

"This is 's what? 's a Golf?" she asked. I nodded, and she continued, "And who makes it?"
I braced myself. Here we go again, I thought. "Volkswagen."
I might as well have slapped the poor soul. "So that's how it works… All you crusaders are interconnected. One gigantic web of conspiracy ready to ensnare what little remains of defenseless Baltdom. You're covertly supporting one another's"
"Quite overtly, to the contrary," I interrupted, gearing myself up for a new round of verbal barrage. "We Americans are happy consumers of German 's excuse me, Teutonic 's automobiles."

Flustered, the princess crossed her arms and folded them over her chest. But after a couple minutes of gathering her thoughts, she was back. "And what's with the jeans?" she asked.
I didn't get it. "You mean my pants?"
"What's wrong with them?"
"They're Levi's," I said confusedly.
"And the shoes?" she said, shaking her head in disgust.

I looked at my loafers helplessly. They were definitely the least impressive part of my outfit, but at least they were comfortable.
"I bet you bought them on sale at Wal-Mart for ten dollars," she said.
I'm glad I didn't have a revolver in the glove compartment. At that point I would've used it. As the song goes, happiness is indeed a warm gun.

The truth is, the shoes weren't from Wal-Mart, but from Payless Shoes. I know, I know 's it's awful. What can I say? I'm an academic: Books came first, travel second, liquor third, the opposite sex fourth, and wardrobe 14th.
But the attack on my clothes was utterly unjustified. Especially after Arva's outburst in Vilnius, when she started chucking rocks at every church she saw. I had been looking forward to some time in the capital, but the chance of another unpredictable outburst forced me to adjust my plans and leave town.

This is what you get, I scolded myself, for helping a stranger. Should've left her in the swamp…
"So what about the shoes, American crusader?" she said, impatiently awaiting my rejoinder.
"I'm not going to let myself get dragged into this," I said, and instead imagined the pleasure of pillorying the princess right in the middle of Trakai castle.
"And what's with these books," she said, reaching around to the back seat and picking up a volume. I glanced at the title: it was Pokorny's "Indogermanisches Etymologisches Worterbuch." My heart leapt to my throat 's this was the single greatest volume of comparative linguistics. A book more sacrosanct that the Bible. Arva flipped through it as if it were a cookbook.
"I knew it 's it's filled with crusader-speak. Code for the next invasion." She chucked it nonchalantly in the back seat. An original 1959 edition! Poor Pokorny!

The princess was moved. "It's an outrage! German car, German books, German jeans's"
"Excuse me, Arva, but the jeans are American."
"Sorry, professor, but Levi Strauss was born in Germany, and then immigrated to America."
How did she know all this? The woman was supposed to have been dead for six centuries for crying out loud! And here she was, lecturing me on 19th century tailors and 20th century retailers.
At high-speed, my head slumped against the wheel. There was just no winning with Princess Arva.
Strangely, she began laughing. "You know," she said, a malicious grin painting her ever beautiful face, "if anything comes of this return-to-life, it'll be that I had the time of my life teasing you."