An amusing new law demanded that everyone boarding a motor bus not only show his or her passport, but also give the conductor a signed and numbered photograph. The process of checking whether the likeness, signature and number corresponded to those of the passport was a lengthy one. It had been further decreed that in case a passenger did not have the exact fare (17 1/3 cents per mile), whatever surplus he paid would be refunded to him at a remote post office, provided he took his place in the queue there not more than thirty-three hours after leaving the bus. The writing and stamping of receipts by a harassed conductor resulted in some more delay; and since, in accordance with the same decree, the bus stopped only at those points at which not fewer than three passengers wished to alight, a good deal of confusion was added to the delay. In spite of these measures buses were singularly crowded these days.
Nevertheless, Krug managed to reach his destination: together with two youths whom he had bribed (ten kruns each) for helping to make up the necessary trio, he landed precisely where he had decided to land. His two companions (who frankly confessed that they were making a living of it) immediately boarded a moving trolley car (where the regulations were still more complicated).
It had grown dark while he had been travelling and the crooked little street lived up to its name. He felt excited, insecure, apprehensive. He saw the possibility of escaping from Padukgrad into a foreign country as a kind of return into his own past because his own country had been a free country in the past. Granted that space and time were one, escape and return became interchangeable. The peculiar character of the past (bliss unvalued at the time, her fiery hair, her voice reading of small humanized animals to her child) looked as if it could be replaced or at least mimicked by the character of a country where his child could be brought up in security, liberty, peace (a long long beach dotted with bodies, a sunny honey and her satin Latin—advertisement of some American stuff somewhere seen, somehow remembered). My God, he thought, que j'ai été veule, this ought to have been done months ago, the poor dear man was right. The street seemed to be full of bookshops and dim little pubs. Here we are. Pictures of birds and flowers, old books, a polka-dotted china cat. He went in.