DELICATE THUGS, An excerpt from a new novel, entitled Gently, Lovingly, Farmingly

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This current issue presents a text by the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow Kalin Vasilev

Billy was an old-school hustler. His complexion revealed a few things – a bachelor still living with his 75-year-old mother who provided for him, permanently devoid of work habits, managing the local soccer team on and off in exchange for a puny salary granted by the village mayor as compensation for his active involvement during elections i.e. campaigning, vote selling, gross infringement of voting legislation, breaching confidentiality in voting and the ban on election-day canvassing, as well as introducing extra ballots of the "right" kind into the ballot-boxes and uncalled-for urination in the polling booth, turning it into the "pissing" booth if he, in his capacity as member of the monitoring committee, felt the election day had gone on for too long. All this could be read in his complexion alone. In the evening, a tremor in his hands gave away certain drinking habits which could not be justly defined, but perhaps it would be fair to conclude that he was not the paragon of sobriety. Legend has it that at some point in Billy's canvassing career the following somewhat embarrassing story had taken place. He got an exclusive phone call instructing him on which specific night and in which specific dark corner of the village to expect a special vehicle and receive from it a stack of ballots, all filled out in advance, which he knew what to do with. Billy stood at the right spot waiting. He puffed on a few contraband cigarettes. A car stopped. He headed towards it in a way that told the masterminds of the operation they couldn't have chosen a better person for the job. Otherwise, Billy was a chicken. He got in the car and a woman's piercing shriek rang out. Seconds later it turned out that Billy had burst into the vehicle of the lady from the government shop who was in the middle of counting the daily turnover. What's more, a second car had pulled over in front of hers, hinting to her feminine intuition that she may be caught up in a robbery. In the worst-case scenario, she could lose the revenue from three bottles of beer and two tins of Spam after getting some backseat action with the balding bachelor who had greeted her right off the bat with "Where's the ballots?" Of course, that same night Billy figured out which car had the right ballots, so, when the time came, he managed to pull off the job. The election was saved. Another characteristic of Billy's was that he was fatally enamored with an underage prostitute. In fact, the girl in question was genetically predisposed, as there were relatively valid rumors that her mother and her mother's mother had experience in whoring. Two guys from the village had shared that they had scored a triple whammy, i.e. had done it with the grandmother, the mother and the granddaughter on at least one occasion. The mother and the granddaughter's paternal lineage was unclear, so they had female names transformed as family names. The girl, however, left. Before that she managed to sleep with most of the village boys old enough to handle a venereal disease in between plowing the fields and harvesting the crops, until she finally got tired of that and ended up with Billy. For some time she lived with him and his mother and he took care of her like a daughter he was having sex with – he washed her panties with the rest of the clothes in a washing machine often used for boiling jars of winter preserves once the lid on top was removed. He gave her pocket money and saw himself as her guardian, and had she followed his advice, she might have become a second Mata Hari or the blonde vocalist of the Russian duo T.A.T.U. But no one ever claimed those two were right in the head.

Kalin Vasilev was born in Kyustendil, Bulgaria. He is the author of two short story collections: Trying to Find Love and Happiness (Hermes, 2012) and The Avangard Lazybones (Hermes, 2014). The first won the Hermes Publishers' Sixth Annual Literary Contest (2012), the Svetlostrui Award (2012) and the Southern Spring Award (2013). Recently, a short story from his second collection featured as runner up for the Rashko Sugarev Award (2015). He has also received a number of other Bulgarian literary prizes.
Kalin Vasilev has recently completed his first novel for which he is now seeking a publisher.

ELIZABETH KOSTOVA FOUNDATIONTHE ELIZABETH KOSTOVA FOUNDATION and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.

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