HEARSE, TWO RHINOCEROS, An excerpt from a novel

by Petar Krumov; translated from the Bulgarian by Traci Speed

This current issue presents a text by the 2018 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Petar Krumov

I was there early, so I went up to the second floor restroom. I seized the moment of seclusion, and scraped my own cave painting on the wall. It depicted a group of hunters who had surrounded a rhinoceros. The hunters were wearing suits and ties; it was we, the employees, and the rhino was the Agency. Satisfied with this epistle, I went downstairs.

I stopped by the nearest branch of Crédit Agricole, the bank that manages my modest finances. I withdrew one thousand two hundred leva, leaving my account almost dry. As I was receiving the new banknotes, it occurred to me that this money doesn't belong to me, but that they're giving it to me just so I could take it and give it to some third party. There was no way for me to share my reflections with the girl behind the counter – her stern business attire precluded liberties of this sort. Because of this I just signed and left with the bits of paper. I climbed into the car again and went home. My bags were all in order and waiting for me. I brought them down and set off to get Burya.

I noticed Burya even before she came of out the entryway, so I opened the trunk. Her little rolling suitcase bounced up and down along the holes in the asphalt. She looked sexy in the thin-framed glasses she had been wearing for a while now. We kissed.

"Why are you out of breath?" I asked.

"I was hurrying so you wouldn't have to wait for me.”

I drove on, and in fifteen minutes we had already left town. I stopped to fuel up before getting on the highway. I filled the tank to the top, and Burya bought coffee, sandwiches, and Cosmopolitan. We set out again.

The towns dropped back like grasshoppers with rusted wings, scattered along the black field. We began the ascent onto the concrete bridge that had stepped into the abyss. Miniature houses and factories glimmered hundreds of meters below us. I was thinking about Katerina, so everything about Burya was becoming more and more irritating to me. Starting with the way she was riding in the car so unceremoniously.

"Why are you so wrapped up in that magazine? Look how pretty it is outside."

She didn't say anything, just obediently put the magazine aside and stuck her face to the window. She refused to bicker with me out of tactical maturity, not out of the goodness of her heart. I realized this and flared up.

"Why are we even going to the mountains, so you could read a magazine?"

Burya had firmly made up her mind not to take my bait until I ran out of breath, until I calmed down. She pulled away from the window and returned to the article "How to ask for a raise" from the column "Working Girl." And I, disarmed, leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

Hills rose up on both our sides, overgrown with a yellowing storm-damaged forest. Small raindrops began to beat the windshield and I had to turn on the wipers. Patches of fog bore down on the car until we entered into impenetrable cotton. All sounds faded away, and we became invisible.


Petar Krumov was born in Sofia, in 1988. He graduated from the National High School for Ancient Languages and Cultures in 2007. His short film Shame (2017) was included in the selections of the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the Moscow International Film Festival, was appointed a Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival's nominee for the European Film Awards 2018, and received a Special Mention from the Sofia International Film Festival 2018. His film criticism on works of Jean-Luc Godard, Bruno Dumont, Aleksandr Sokurov, Tsai Ming-liang, Mike Lee, Alejandro González Iñárritu and others, have appeared in Kultura weekly. His first novel, Hearse, Two Rhinoceros (Colibri, 2017), has won The Quill Award for best literary debut in 2017, and has been nominated for the 13 Centuries Bulgaria National Fund's award for Best Novel of the Year.


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