The Beast of Montenegro

She lived a pauper’s life on Z street among other poor families. Someone was always yelling in the building, that resonated through the walls in a bad echo. The harsh conditions were accompanied by the chronic smell of filth and cloaca seeping in from the outside. The stench came from the steam that wafted through the windows from the sewers below. Nothing staid clean for long. The smells and sights became customary to everyone.

On Z street, wastrels roamed about avoiding trouble unlike the grody individuals who were looking for it. Manners were traded off for their raffish ways. It didn’t matter if women or children were present, they too joined in the foofaraw of the riffraff. Life wasn’t easy anywhere on that side of Montenegro. Many were born there and many died there with no hopes of ever leaving for a better future. Even their burials were a sad affair.

Mina was born in the very same apartment she shared with her mother and father. She didn’t know what happiness meant only that it didn’t exist for her. Their apartment barely had running water and there was no electricity. Tallow candles were often used which left a terrible aroma of burning fat, and when there was none to light up, Mina had to make her way around in complete darkness. There was little money in the Crane house. It never helped that her father spent it all on liquor in the sleazy saloons he frequented. He rarely worked and when he did he was even more pernicious towards Mina and her mother.

“This life is not for me!” he iterated.

Mr. Crane writhe with mental anguish that Mina could not comprehend. He mumbled about the others from Rada and how he should be among them not here tormented in this form.

“The blood of Banat runs through me,” he would moan. “Why can’t I go back?”

Mina became scared of her father’s paroxysm. His moods were exuberated by his drinking. She couldn’t recall a time he never drank. She pitied him, but she was too young and innocent to help him.

Mrs. Crane didn’t mollify the situation. She was as distant as her husband and in contrast she was apathetic and obdurate towards her daughter. She refused to be appended by this life, never conforming to its ways, and that included finding work. It didn’t matter that there was barely enough food to eat or no coal for the fireplace during winters. Cold and hunger was a constant in Mina’s life.