Some days are better than others. Some days you’re king of the world and folks can’t line up fast enough to carry out your orders. Others, you’re one of the folks. This was one of the others. I had been demoted from archduke to errand boy and sent to Sarajevo to babysit a few generals during some routine military exercises. Thing is, I was the wrong man for the job- I’ve never been a fan of calisthenics and I don’t like changing diapers, but the fact that the situation had me unbalanced didn’t enter in to the equation. I was playing second fiddle to the first chair back in Vienna, and the conductor didn’t care whether or not I liked the tune so long as I kept the brass in line. Forced to play a piece I didn’t care for, I did what any musician would do- I spent the entire trip down looking for some inspiration in the bottom of a bottle, but all I found was a hangover in two movements- a major headache and a minor ability to keep my breakfast down. Just my luck.
As if things weren’t grim enough, I had heard it through the grapevine that a couple of bad apples were looking to set down roots of their own. A group of Serbs calling themselves ‘The Black Hand” wanted a piece of the pie all for themselves. Problem was, it was sitting on Austria-Hungary’s windowsill and we weren’t about to let it go without a fight. If it did come to blows, we had Germany in our corner ready to knock out to whatever punch-drunk featherweight was foolish enough to step into the ring. The whole thing was a powder keg waiting to blow and The Black Hand seemed as though they couldn’t wait to strike a match. I figured they figured that a fancy fella like Franz Ferdinand could be a fine fuse, so if it were up to me I’d lay low and let the policy do the talking. But it wasn’t up to me- it was up to Vienna, so they sent me down to Sarajevo. Just my luck.
Sarajevo. I hate this place. Sarajevo was like a undercooked bratwurst. From a distance, it looked like something you might be able to cope with, but the second you dig your teeth in and break the surface you find enough blood to make your stomach turn. If Sarajevo were a person it’d be a ditzy dame with long legs and a cross to bear- pretty to look at, but beauty’s only skin deep. And this day, this other day, Sarajevo wasn’t even looking so pretty. I even did some sightseeing with a pair of beer goggles and still couldn’t figure out for the life of me why the suits in Vienna cared about this place. Good thing I wasn’t the one calling the shots, because I would have put Sarajevo in front of the firing squad long ago. At least the feeling was mutual- The Black Hand made sure to show me every hospitality, all the way from ominously anonymous death threats to a dagger in the door of my hotel suite. I don’t get much of that in Austria, but I guess it’s the little cultural differences that really make traveling worthwhile. A smaller man might have let the extra attention go to his head, but I saw the bigger picture and wasn’t convinced that I was the star of the show. Not that you could tell from the way I was acting- tomorrow I’m going to the Sarajevo town hall for an official reception. Maybe I’ll be lucky. Maybe it’ll be one of the good days. Most likely it’ll be one of the others. Maybe I’ll be really lucky and some nut job will put me out of my misery so I don’t have to spend another day here, but nah… I’m not that lucky.