Volume 8 | Issue 1 | Spring 2007
The vineyards withered in the heat,
like the clouds in the sky. The clouds were wild hammers that killed
but gave no fresh air. Lyuda didn't care about the sky. The vineyards
endless before her, she rode her old horse Matey through the hot
cursing under her
There were only old men in that village.
their new suits and dreamt of naphthalene, killing the moths in air
them. Her husband went to
There was a guy, Stoycho by name, in the neighboring village. He was single. She made up her mind to take her son to doc Petrov there and drop in at Stoycho's place on her way back. There was nothing wrong with her son, nothing really, but she wanted to see that Stoycho guy. She was young and the clouds bothered her. She rode their toothless horse Matey through the scorching vineyards, through the dusty maize fields, then through the pepper garden she had to water in the afternoon, all the time thinking, why are there only old men in that lousy village. They were so many, the old geezers, more than the stones on the road. In the neighboring village, Stoycho lived with his mother. Rumors had it his heart was weak and gave him trouble.
Well, her baby son howled as though there was fire burning in his mouth when Lyuda entered Stoycho's house. Stoycho's mother, the old darling, started treating Lyuda to blackberry jam. I made it for Stoycho, you know, she explained. The old hen could have taken the baby for a while, Lyuda thought then said, "Aunt Dimka, can you mind my little Pavel while I go to the next room. I'd like to ask your son about a problem I have with my raspberries."
Then she turned to Stoycho, "Stoycho, let me see that magazine you have about the worms that eat the roots of raspberries."
When the two of them went to his room and he, scraggly and yellow in the face like the withered maize, bent over a basket full of old issues of Bulgarian Agriculture Magazine, she said, "Stop that," and pressed against him. He was thin and gaunt, like her mother-in-law's dog. Her mother-in-law was as stingy as a vice and she thought the mutt could well live on the rats he chased. Stoycho bent under Lyuda's weight, cold like a bottle of lemonade in a fridge, though it was baking hot in the room. The horizon moaned, warped by the burden of the noon. The sky had a swollen cheek and the bad tooth in it was the sun.
"Don't talk," she said, paying no attention his face went scarlet like a packet of red pepper. He gasped and he choked but she swallowed his hiccups and her blouse took the cold lemonade of his body.
"Pavel is crying, Lyuda!" Stoycho's mother shouted from the other side of the door.
"Crying won't do him any harm," Lyuda said, pressing hard against Stoycho's weak heart.
"Lyuda, come! That child of yours will
He's wailing!" the other side of the door shouted. Pavel, like a
spurted out another howl.
"Come tomorrow at my place... the house under the willows. You know where it is," Lyuda whispered, then jumped, opened the door and took her son from the arms of the old woman. The baby's shirt was wet down to his belly button.
"Doc Petrov said he's got a third tonsil
his throat. He'll spit and spatter like that until we cut it. But Pavel
still a baby, the doc said, and we'll have to wait a year or two,"
explained, suckling her son. She had plenty of milk, "I'm like a cow,"
she said unhappily. Her
Her mother-in-law cured some rash on her
with Lyuda's milk, too. When the old men cut their hands while they
grass for the small chickens, they
Boko had a tractor as well, and last
year, when Lyuda's husband still hadn't
started itching to bury himself in Italy, Boko got drunk like an eel
his tractor through her mother-in-law's barn. It was then that Lyuda
out Boko was as tall as her chin, but now when her
Lyuda had to go and water the pepper garden. In the evening, she had to weed it. That damned pepper! The more she hated it the stronger it grew. Every stalk was covered with big white blooms. The weeds in the pepper garden could hardly wait for her to turn around and suckle Pavel. They quickly threw their seeds behind her back, and on the following day they had already sprouted big and leafy. Does Boko pass by the canal or by the river on his way home with his herd, Lyuda wondered.
At that moment Pavel wailed again. She
forgotten the bottle with his water in the box with Stoycho's
Everybody who could run or drive moved to live in Pernik, but her
wished he'd choked on a rotten olive in
Oh, her smart husband that tiptoed to
"Are you ill, son?" her mother-in-law
Before Plamen, her husband, left for
Who can I look at, Plamen? You don't
Lyuda bent down to weed the pepper. She
on his white sheet and she weeded, and weeded, and weeded until the
sour weeds became taller than Boko. It was good that Pavel started
for she suckled him and relieved her
Come on, Matey, old boy, let's go to
Petko's place to give weak
"Petrana," Lyuda called out. "Bring
Petrana, who had been waiting twelve
years for a
baby, gave Pavel his bath smiling happily. She touched him so lovingly
the boy didn't have his drool all over him. Lyda noticed Petar's eyes
"I'll give you more soup, Lyuda," she said beaming with happiness. "You give the kids your strong milk.
"Yes, it's strong," Lyuda said. For a
split second she looked at Petar. A drop of milk dripped from her on
Plamen held her fifteen minutes in his
he caught the bus to
It was true Petar's back was hunched, but, on the other hand, if it wasn't that hunched, he'd pack and go to Radomir to make twice as much money. Here he planted potatoes, herded cows and mowed for the old women. He was with his wife and probably every morning he held her in his arms.
Lyuda ate three plates of the soup, then
While Petrana went out for the cherries,
looked at Petar once again then started squeezing milk into the bottle
Petrana came back with the cherries, a big, full bag of them, and Petar said, "I'll go and give Matey some barley. Poor soul, he's been under the scorching sun all day."
"I was there, too," Lyuda told him. She
thought she was stronger than Matey, but didn't say so. The two women
about Pavel's tonsils, and about fruit juices they were supposed to
babies. Finally, she wrapped Pavel in his white sheet, propped him with
pillow on the couch and went to check Matey that was blissfully chewing
barley. Petar smoked by his side, the cigarette like an open wound on
He stood up and moved restlessly as
Lyuda approached him, then left his place
to make way for her, but she did not go the way he had made for her.
directly against him, she collided with him, with his old patched
with his shirt she collided, making it all wet with her milk. Stay
said. Yes, it was true he smelled exactly as Matey did, like the
stables at the
end of the village. But if one took a walk through the vineyard or if
weeded the pepper garden, one stopped smelling of Matey. "Wait. Wait,"
she said. He was hot like the stones of the stream that had run dry
heat of the yellow clouds. She thought she had squeezed all her milk
bottle, but Petar's chest was white all over with it. Then his shirt
white cemented shield and her milk was stronger than ever.
"Now go to Petrana. Quick. Hold them in
your arms, both of them, Petrana
"You are so late. Where did you go?" her mother-in-law asked when Lyuda came home and left Pavel on the bed, wet like a fish, drool and milk all over him. His tonsils were evidently at work again, ruining the little guy's peace and quiet.
"I visited Aunt Petrana and Uncle Petar,
Lyuda answered. "I suckled little
"Good. It's good you help her with that
her mother-in-law said. "Petrana's had hard times, those doctors,
hospitals and all. But now that she has her
"I am sorry for him, too," Lyuda heaved a sigh.
"The poor soul," the old woman went on. "He plodded five kilometers in the heat to tell you about that worm. He trudged all that dusty road in vain. I am sorry for him, he is a sick man."
"I wish I came back half an hour earlier," Lyuda said.
Pavel turned around on the bed and gave
out a howl.
It sounded like he had a beehive in his mouth. Lyuda gave him her
Now she wished she had come back home earlier. Stoycho could have told her about the worm that ate the roots of the raspberries.
"Lyuda," her mother-in-law said. "You send a word to Boko...Oh, don't tell me you don't remember who Boko is. A small guy, as short as a keg. He's a shepherd."
"Yes, yes. I know him," Lyuda said and wiped the milk from her son's cheek.
"You told my cousin to go and ask Boko to come and mow our Pop's meadow. Didn't you mow that meadow last year, Yuda? You did, and you were pregnant at that time. Yes, I remember. You had Pavel in your big belly when you mowed it."
"We'll see," Lyuda said. "I have to dig the vineyard, I have to put manure in the bean field and I have to water the maize. I have to pick the raspberries, too, so I said to myself that Boko could help us."
"Well, yes. You know these things better than I do. I forgot to tell you that Boko... the poor guy is no bigger than one of his sheep, you know. And he didn't grow up because he drank from an early age. So Boko came here in the afternoon to ask when you wanted him to mow our pop's meadow. Lyuda, give me a glass of water, will you?"
Lyuda gave her some water and the old woman went on, "Boko said that tomorrow he'd find you in the maize field under the vineyard. You'll go to water the maize tomorrow, won't you? Tell the guy when he's to start mowing. Oh, you are blessed with your milk, you can take my word for that. And Pavel is such a handsome baby, Lyuda. Let me touch wood. Let me touch wood just in case. He sucks your milk as vigorously as a calf, and he's so strong. Lyuda, be tomorrow, about seven p.m. in the maize field. Boko will come there and talk to you about Pop's meadow. Did you hear me. Lyuda?"
She had told Plamen not to go to
"Yes, I heard you, "Lyuda muttered. "I'll be waiting for him there in the maize field, under Pop's meadow."TOP
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