The Street Lamp Cafe

Egon Erwin Kisch

What an amazing drink they sell here, this 80′ rhum and tea which warms your stomach so gently – but after all, this is just breakfast, a categorical ending of a beautiful night that only seemed to start a moment ago. Fame is short-lived…

Ms. Jemelková, can I please have one more of this 80′ miracle, something to dip in it and two ciggies.

Ms. Jemelková places a glass under the mouth of a brass pipe, turns the tap on, pours the essence in the glass and then adds hot water. She passes a poppy-seed cake “to dip in it” and two “Sport” cigarettes to the customer. She knows very well that ordering a “ciggy” – a tender name for cigarettes after a long night – always means this brand and that the total must be the rounded sum of 20 hellers.

Ms. Jemelková puts the twenty heller coin to a can, her safe resistant to fire and burglary. Twelve percent go to the her as she is not the business owner, just an employee of the Klein’s “Red Star” liquor factory in Karlín. Mrs. Jemelková is responsible for riding around with the mobile “café” serving the ready-made mix of tea, rhum and sugar, and she brings the earnings minus her twelve percent back to the owner.

The Street Lamp Café. This is not the real name of the hospitable vehicle, but the official “Hot Drink Ambulance” never caught on – although it is in fact a sort of an ambulance. Around nine o’clock, we get to witness this extraordinary sight: a tiny dog-drawn “locomotive” cruising the streets. Then it moves to its station, the one that has been there for years and years, and neither the vehicle, nor the dog will move until the next morning. (…)

Source: Egon E. Kisch. Pražská dobrodružství. Praha: Tiskárna RP, 1968, p. 193–194.

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