FICTION https://vagabond.bg/ en RAKIYA, a short story https://vagabond.bg/rakiya-short-story-2912 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">RAKIYA, a short story</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Ellis Shuman</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 12/31/2020 - 11:44</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Every spring, a competition is staged in the village to determine the best homemade <em>rakiya</em> in the region.</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Comparisons of <em>rakiya</em> and other spirits are nothing new in Bulgaria – one such competition takes place annually in Sofia – but those contests consider alcoholic drinks mass-produced by established wineries and corporations. The event in the village, on the other hand, is open to residents of the area who make <em>rakiya</em> in their bathrooms, garages, and cellars. This competition attracts little fanfare and winning is solely a matter of local pride.</p> <p>"<em>Nazdrave</em>!"</p> <p>"To your health!" Vasil replies, lifting his shot glass to toast his cousin. He stares into Georgi's dark eyes for several seconds and says to him, "Thank you for driving down from Plovdiv."</p> <p>"You thought I wouldn't come?" Georgi takes down his drink in a single gulp. "I wouldn't miss this for the world. After all, you will be the winner tomorrow. And this is what is going to win," he says, pointing to the clear glass bottle on the table.</p> <p>"Another toast?"</p> <p>"Another! We're just getting started!" Georgi shakes ash off his cigarette and hands his glass to Vasil for a refill.</p> <p>Vasil laughs, knowing they will soon move on to more serious drinking. He holds the bottle aloft to stare with admiration at the homemade spirit. Perfection, he thinks as the alcohol warms him from within.</p> <p>Vasil has been making <em>rakiya</em> ever since he was a teenager, when he learned the craft from his father. Vasil's drink is not only strong enough to make your head spin but it also has a pleasant, but not overbearing fruity aftertaste. Made from the finest mountain grapes, Vasil's <em>rakiya</em> is aromatic; its color is golden and appealing. A powerful <em>rakiya</em>, ten times better than anything you could buy in a supermarket, but is it good enough to win?</p> <p>"You and your drinking!" Vasil's wife complains as she sets down a spread of fresh salads and a loaf of homemade bread. There will be a pork and vegetable <em>gyuvech</em> served in a heavy earthenware pot for the main course. "Georgi, the only reason you come to visit us is to drink with Vasil!"</p> <p>"The real reason I come is to see you, dear Petya!" Georgi replies, winking at her. "You're getting more beautiful by the year!"</p> <p>"You flatterer!"</p> <p>"Sit down and join us," Vasil says to his wife.</p> <p>"I better go see where Tomas is. Your son is no doubt playing his computer games again."</p> <p>"Your father would be pleased of your success," Georgi says after Petya returns to the kitchen. "Look at what you've done in the carpentry shop! You've become a master of woodwork, just like him. Everyone says so!"</p> <p>"Who is everyone?" Vasil asks, but he admits that what his cousin says is not far from the truth. Vasil has made a name for himself and his skills are in high demand. "I have no shortage of work," he says, acknowledging his cousin's compliment.</p> <p>"And your <em>rakiya</em>. Uncle Kalin would be proud of that as well."</p> <p>"You mean, my father's <em>rakiya</em>. It's his recipe after all." Vasil has followed his father's instructions to the letter – a family secret handed down from generation to generation.</p> <p>"Well, whether it's your <em>rakiya</em>, or Uncle Kalin's <em>rakiya</em>, it is worthy of winning. Tell me how you make it." It is not the first time Georgi has made this request.</p> <p>"If I told you, I would have to kill you," Vasil teases. But this is not a joking matter. The competition is a serious event.</p> <p>"Your secret will accompany you to the grave! Unless you teach it to Tomas."</p> <p>"Oh, I will one day. He may know a lot about computers but he's still too young to handle alcohol. Enough about <em>rakiya</em> for the night. Tell me about that girl you've started dating. A real looker, I've heard!"</p> <p>Vasil has been participating in the village competition for several years and although he has never previously won, he believes he has a good chance this time. Vasil will again face strong competition. Thinking about Bogdan, whose family lives just up the hill, makes Vasil sick to his stomach.</p> <p>Bogdan has cheated in the past – of this Vasil is certain. His neighbor has stacked the odds in his favor by presenting industrially produced <em>rakiya</em> as his own. Or possibly he has bribed the judges. He must have done something! Bogdan is not an honest man but this year Vasil will show him. This time his rakiya will win!</p> <p>In Bulgaria, grape and plum <em>rakiyas</em> are the most common varieties but Bulgarians make the stiff drink out of whatever fruit is readily available and cheap. Vasil will be competing against <em>rakiyas</em> based on apples, pears, peaches, apricots, and cherries. But whereas Vasil handpicks grapes in his family's vineyard, many of his competitors buy their fruit in the market. Whereas Vasil mashes his grapes with his feet, the old-fashioned way, many of the others use machines. The process demands patience.</p> <p>It is in the shed behind his house that Vasil works his magic. Within the shed he carefully measures the sugar content and stirs his fermenting grape mash daily. As he works, he swats away swarms of fruit flies. He smiles as he heats up the copper <em>kazan</em> boiler – a family heirloom. He distills the <em>rakiya</em> twice, adding just the right amount of distilled water to give the finished drink a potent 90 proof, before ageing it in oak barrels. He will teach this hands-on traditional method to Tomas one day.</p> <p>Occasionally Petya complains about the strong odors that permeate the house. And that he devotes more attention to his <em>rakiya</em> than to caring for his son. Vasil dismisses her concerns with a shrug. Still, this is much more than a hobby for him.</p> <p>Vasil has tasted Bogdan's rakiya at previous competitions. It is far inferior, he believes. Bogdan has won in the past and the only way that is possible is by cheating.</p> <p>Long ago, Vasil and Bogdan were the best of friends. Their families had lived side by side for generations but more than that, Kalin employed Bogdan's father in the carpentry shop. And, Bogdan's father helped out at harvest time. When Kalin determined that the ripeness of his grapes was just right – as measured by their sugar, acid and tannin levels – Bogdan's father would join him in the vineyard on cool, crisp September mornings. Vasil and Bogdan would help as well, glad to miss school during the harvest season.</p> <p>"Work carefully!" Vasil's father demanded. "This is not a competition!"</p> <p>But for the two boys, it was. They competed to see who would clip the most bunches of grapes, who would fill his crate faster. Which of them would finish the day and still be fit for a race up the mountainside.</p> <p>"I am the fastest!" Vasil cried as he struggled to outpace his friend.</p> <p>"No, I'm faster than you!" Bogdan shouted.</p> <p>"We're both fast!" Vasil admitted as he stopped to catch his breath. "We are equals. We have always been equals."</p> <p>Kalin sat on his tractor and shook his head. There was no stopping them, he thought, convinced their friendship would last a lifetime.</p> <p>Most of the grapes harvested in the family vineyard were delivered to a nearby winery but Kalin kept a small portion for personal use. Homemade wine was frequently on the family's dinner table; he only took out his prized <em>rakiya</em> when guests joined them.</p> <p>And then one day, Vasil awoke to the sound of shouting. Vasil stared out the window to see his father in the midst of a heated argument with Bogdan's father.</p> <p>"You <em>ebi si maykata</em>!" Vasil had never heard his father swear like this before. The only time he had heard this particular curse was when he witnessed a brawl at school.</p> <p>"What was that all about?" he asked when Kalin stormed into the house, his face red and his eyes large.</p> <p>"He stole grapes! He's been stealing all along! That <em>ebi si maykata</em>!"</p> <p>"Calm down!" Vasil's mother pleaded, but her husband had already taken out a bottle of <em>rakiya</em> and poured himself a large glass. Kalin looked mad enough to kill his employee.</p> <p>"What's going on?" Vasil asked.</p> <p>"We've suspected this for some time," his mother told him. "The man's been stashing grapes and selling them on the sly to the collective in Perushtitsa."</p> <p>"He would never steal from us," Vasil protested, but apparently this was indeed the case.</p> <p>"That man is persona non grata, not only in my carpentry shop and our vineyard, but in our home as well" Kalin said, fuming. "He is a cheat, a thief. His boy will end up a thief as well. Mark my words! You are never to see that boy again!"</p> <p>Bogdan had once been his best friend, Vasil recalls as he sits across the table from Georgi, but apparently his father's warning has come true. What other explanation was there for Bogdan's success in the competition, year after year?</p> <p>"One more toast for medicinal purposes?"</p> <p>"One more." Vasil puts aside his memories, pours the drinks, and looks deeply into his cousin's eyes. "<em>Nazdrave</em>!" he says.</p> <p>"<em>Uspeh</em>!" Georgi replies, wishing him 'Success!'</p> <p>Thankful for Georgi's support, Vasil is determined to win. He leans back and swallows.</p> <p>A council of elders serves as the competition's jury. The elders gather in a tavern for an all-night affair. One by one they sample the competing drinks, cleaning their palates with cold meats and cheeses in between. Despite the heavy drinking, their minds remain clear and focused. At the end of the night, three finalists will be announced, one of them to be selected as the overall winner. The best homemade <em>rakiya</em> in the region.</p> <p>Determining which <em>rakiya</em> is the winner is of course a subjective affair. The drink is judged on three main factors – its color, its aroma, and the fruitiness of its taste. The fact that all types of <em>rakiya</em> have a high alcoholic content is a given.</p> <p>"Which one is yours?" Georgi says. He stands with Vasil at the back of the tavern. The room is crowded; the air is thick with tobacco fumes and the smell of spilled beer. The blare of folk songs over the loudspeakers makes conversation difficult. Someone passes a platter of cured sausages and Georgi helps himself to a few before handing the dish to Vasil.</p> <p>"I'm number seven, but I can't tell which is mine from here," Vasil replies.</p> <p>"Why are you so convinced Bogdan has cheated?"</p> <p>Vasil spots his archenemy across the room. Bogdan is sitting calmly at one of the wooden tables, smoking, joking with friends. He doesn't seem to have a care in the world, Vasil thinks, and that's because he probably arranged in advance to win the competition.</p> <p>"He is not an honest man," is the only thing Vasil says to his cousin.</p> <p>Vasil knows the elders judging the competition. How could he not? The village is so small that everyone knows everyone – their family histories, their love lives, and their financial woes. One of the elders is a regular customer at the carpentry shop – recently Vasil refurnished his dining room chairs. The second man has been a recluse ever since his wife died a few years back. The third judge is Ivan, a huge mountain of a man known for his heavy drinking. Said to consume three bottles of vodka by himself at a single meal, Ivan must have a liver made of steel, Vasil thinks. The man certainly knows his liquor and <em>rakiya</em> in particular.</p> <p>According to talk in the village, Ivan could sniff, sip, and slurp a <em>rakiya</em> and tell you in what region of Bulgaria it had been produced. Some claimed that Ivan could also determine the year of the harvest and how long the <em>rakiya</em> had been aged. Yet, Vasil doubts that this so-called connoisseur is nothing more than a charlatan who likes to drink.</p> <p>Still, he believes Ivan and the two other men on the panel to be honest men. Vasil can't imagine any of them taking a bribe. The drinks are presented anonymously for them to sample, with no identifying factors, so Vasil rules out the possibility of a bribe. What has Bogdan done to gain an edge over his competitors?</p> <p>"The elders are ready," the owner of the tavern announces well after midnight. Wooden chairs scrape on the floor until everyone faces the front and the room falls silent. The owner turns to Ivan and the huge man rises slowly from his seat.</p> <p>"We have been presented with the finest <em>rakiya</em> in the region," Ivan begins. "We have tasted the drinks and we will now pass judgment."</p> <p>Standing before the crowd appears to be too much of an effort for the large man and he is helped back to his seat. Once Ivan is settled, another member of the panel continues with the announcement.</p> <p>"All the <em>rakiyas</em> we tasted tonight merit our recognition," the elder says, "but three drinks stand above the rest." He pauses, building up the suspense. "The third best <em>rakiya</em> we sampled is the plum-based submission of contestant number 16!"</p> <p>A lanky man wearing stained work clothes stands to a round of applause. Vasil recognizes him as a resident of a village near Plovdiv. The man steps forth and receives a small certificate from the judges.</p> <p>"As for the best <em>rakiya</em>, this year we faced a unique challenge. The two best drinks, in our humble opinion, both have a perfect balance between taste and fragrance. They are pleasing, their effect lingers in our mouths. These drinks were clearly made with particular attention to every step of the fruit's growth and to distillation techniques. Only a professional is capable of mastering such a process. And in this case, we are talking about two professionals."</p> <p>"This is taking a long time!" Georgi whispers.</p> <p>"Shh!"</p> <p>"This year we made an unusual decision," the elder says, and Ivan shakes his head to confirm this. "The two finalists are equally worthy of the award. Contestants 7 and 23 are joint winners of the competition!"</p> <p>"Congratulations!" Georgi says, punching Vasil's shoulder.</p> <p>Open-mouthed as his success begins to sink in, Vasil steps forward to receive his certificate. To his surprise, he finds Bogdan standing at his side. The judges confirm that Bogdan is the other winning contestant. Bogdan turns to Vasil and smiles.</p> <p>"It's you!" is all that Vasil can say.</p> <p>"Yes, it's me," Bogdan replies. "What's wrong with that?"</p> <p>"<em>I am the fastest</em>!" "<em>No, I'm faster than you!</em>"</p> <p>Vasil is speechless, stunned by having to face Bogdan. They haven't spoken in years. He ignores the growing applause and steps back, not sure whether to strike out or flee from the tavern.</p> <p>"We are both winners," Bogdan says, keeping his voice low so that only Vasil can hear. "We were once the best of friends. Why should we compete against each other, year after year, all our lives?"</p> <p>"But you cheated!"</p> <p>"I have never cheated, Vasil. I may have copied your procedures but I will never know your secrets. I have admired you and your <em>rakiya</em>, and in my opinion, it is far superior to anything I could ever produce. Vasil, I have looked up to you ever since we were boys. You have always served as my role model. You have provided me with inspiration and I only wanted my <em>rakiya</em> to be as good as yours."</p> <p>"You won last year! And the year before!"</p> <p>Bogdan shrugs his shoulders. "Luck, I guess. Who am I to know one <em>rakiya</em> from the next? If you so strongly object to sharing first prize with me, I will forego winning it. You deserve this recognition much more than me."</p> <p>Bogdan's words flood him with memories of a much simpler time, of racing through the vineyard together. Laughing, joking, and competing to see who could pick more grapes.</p> <p>"<em>We are equals. We have always been equals</em>." How could he have held a grudge all these years?</p> <p>"We were once friends," he admits to Bogdan while the elders wait patiently to present the winners with their certificates. "The best of friends."</p> <p>"The best. And your <em>rakiya</em>, Vasil, is definitely the best."</p> <p>"Take your prize!" someone shouts.</p> <p>Vasil looks into the audience and sees Georgi whistling his approval. He turns to find Bogdan clapping to acknowledge Vasil's success. After a moment, Vasil starts clapping as well, bowing his head to Bogdan.</p> <p>"We are truly equals," he says.</p> <p>The judges hand them their certificates and then pour small drinks for themselves and for the winners.</p> <p>Ivan rises slowly to his feet and holds his small glass up high. He makes eye contact with Vasil, and then with Bogdan, and then faces the crowded tavern.</p> <p>"<em>Nazdrave</em>!" </p> <p><strong>Ellis Shuman is an American-born Israeli author, travel writer and book reviewer. His writing has appeared in <em>The Jerusalem Post</em>, <em>The Times of Israel</em>, <em>The Oslo Times</em>, and <em>The Huffington Post</em>. He lived in Sofia for two years (2009-2010) and his Bulgarian experiences and travel have inspired much of his writing. He is the author of <em>The Virtual Kibbutz</em>,<em> Valley of Thracians</em>, and <em>The Burgas Affair</em>. He lives in a small community near Jerusalem.</strong></p> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-171-172" hreflang="en">Issue 171-172</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title">Comments</h2> <article role="article" data-comment-user-id="0" id="comment-255" about="/comment/255" typeof="schema:Comment" class="comment js-comment by-anonymous clearfix"> <span class="hidden new-indicator" data-comment-timestamp="1609870494"></span> <header> <article typeof="schema:Person" about="/user/0" class="profile"> </article> </header> <div class="comment__content-container"> <nav class="comment__links"><drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderLinks" arguments="0=255&amp;1=default&amp;2=en&amp;3=" token="v9MwjBdnelJSM4UBmU8zb_x5F_ntYZadN46-FI2JG98"></drupal-render-placeholder></nav> <div class="comment__meta"> <span>Submitted by <span rel="schema:author"><a rel="nofollow" href="https://bulgariastories.com/" lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">Bruce McDonald (not verified)</a></span> Tue, 01/05/2021 - 20:13 <span property="schema:dateCreated" content="2021-01-05T18:13:13+00:00" class="rdf-meta hidden"></span> </span> </div> <h3 property="schema:name" datatype="" class="title"><a href="/comment/255#comment-255" class="permalink" rel="bookmark" hreflang="en">Strong Feelings</a></h3> <div class="comment__content"> <div property="schema:text" class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-comment-body field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><p>This is a strong story about a strong subject. It brings to mind the intense pride that heads of households take in making their <em>rakiya</em>, as well as the memory of that special taste. Whether visiting <em>na gosti</em> at someone’s home or out in a restaurant or tavern, it’s always “Try mine! His is good but you’ll like mine better!” And at the restaurant it’s served from a mineral water bottle pulled out from a coat pocket when the waiter isn’t looking. I loved your article both for the good memories it brought back and the depiction of a generational family story with universal appeal.</p> </div> </div> </div> </article> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2912&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="26J2EsP33vE57m1-ortDeu7qo22648IrCBCvI8J9-ZE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 31 Dec 2020 09:44:09 +0000 DimanaT 2912 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/rakiya-short-story-2912#comments RED TIDE https://vagabond.bg/red-tide-2842 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">RED TIDE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Josip Novakovich</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 10/30/2020 - 10:57</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. Josip Novakovich (Canada) is a Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow 2009</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>To defrost from a long Arctic Vortex and to draw mangroves in charcoal I flew to an artist colony near Fort Myers, Florida, on an elongated and thin island, a Key. I didn't know there were Keys on the West Coast of Florida, only south of Miami, where I had never been. It seems a Key is a glorified sandbar which has gained solidity through vegetation sinking roots and tides bringing in more sand, mostly white but with specks of black. Some of the black came from thousands of years of shark teeth, and every morning I could see people collecting the teeth. It was an art form. You had to gaze into the sand to discern a little smooth triangle, a shark's tooth. First you just don't see them, but once you see one, you see others; your eyes have been trained. If you collected enough, you could make a necklace. Anyhow, it was all entertaining.</p> <p>As were the living sharks. The first day of my stay there, I swam and saw the dolphin fins, nicely curved backwards. Passers-by said, Isn't it too cold? I said, No, just right. And they said, you must be Russian. I live in Canada. Oh, OK, that's similar, they said. Well, there's another guy swimming, I said. Let's ask him where he's from. And we did. I am from Sweden, he said to the delight of “native” Floridians. The next day I swam some more, and a helicopter flew above me creating wind. I got out and walked along the beach and soon a cop showed up and said, I just saw you swimming from up there, and let me tell you, you weren't alone. You swam among a bunch of sharks. Wow, that's an uncomfortable thought, I said. They come out at dawn and sunset, he said. They won't do anything to you, but it's still good to be aware that they are there. I thanked the guy. The next morning as I swam in deep waters I saw fins gliding and thought, great, more lovely dolphins, but these fins were straight up, triangular, indicating sharks. I was about to panic to get out of the water, but that would do no good as the sharks would be much faster than me. The fins slid gracefully past me at a distance of some fifty paces though of course you can't count in paces in deep waters. Well, I got out of the water and told Robin, an elegant lady who ran the artist colony, about the sharks, and she said, These are nursing sharks. What does that mean? I asked. I don't want them to nurse me. Well, she said, they won't do anything to you. You are more likely to lose a limb riding a bike on Manasota Key road than swimming here. Will you at least wear a helmet when you bike around? The road is so narrow and some of the retired people who live here may be half blind and not see you. You've heard this, that the old people retire on the West Coast of Florida and their parents on the east coast?</p> <p>It was a paradise to have a lot of time in a cottage, look out at the sea, draw sketches or shark teeth which were shaped just  like shark fins on the drawing board,  open the windows and listen to the waves, and then stroll to the Main house to fix a grouper paprikash in the kitchen (my fusion, combining Florida and Hungary), past a resident Turtle, named Toulouse. He was supposedly 50 years old, but nobody knew for sure, not even Toulouse, at least not in our terms. Or maybe he knew it all, and he looked like he did with his bald head, like Churchill. I have no idea who gave him the name. Iguanas ran around, like velociraptor babies, and men in orange uniforms, like garbage collectors with nets, ran after them. What are these guys doing here? I asked Robin, who seemed to know everything. Oh, they are just catching iguanas. They are quite a pest. This is not their natural habitat, and they threaten the sea-turtle population because they eat their eggs. So, what do you do with them? I asked. We catch them and drive them to an area which is their habitat, near the Everglades. OK, that's interesting, it would be like catching the Quebecois who live in an environment which couldn't possibly be their habitat and loading them up on a cargo plane to dump them on Virginia Beach, I said. But isn't that what you do? Robin said. Who dumped you here?</p> <p>During my fourth day of stay, there was a gluey smell and I sneezed and closed my windows and turned on the AC. The next day the smell grew smellier. I wanted to go for a swim but saw on the beach hundreds of fish, belly up. What is that? I asked a leathery-faced walker, who was with his metal detector looking for wedding rings and Spanish gold. A couple of ships with gold had sunk on the eastern side of Florida but that didn't prevent people from hoping that something similar had happened on the western side. And the walker answered, That's the freaky Red Tide. Some bacteria in the water multiply and use up all the oxygen, so the fish can't breathe, and they die. Sharks too? I asked. Well, they don't, they go deeper, but they may starve if too much fish dies and washes up on the shore. The problem with the bacteria is that they consume all the oxygen which could be used by plankton to grow, so there's not enough food for the fish.</p> <p>The next day there were perhaps a thousand fish, shimmering in the rising sun, silver bathed in golden rays. But the air was heavy, like fumes in a tire factory. My eyes watered, I sneezed and coughed. I hoped this would improve in a day or so but the following day there were more dead fish and I coughed more. Nearly everybody around me coughed. Some elderly people developed pneumonia and perhaps a few deaths resulted from this sea-plague. I wondered why this heavy bacterial air didn't bother some and did most of us. After a week, I had a full-blown bronchitis. I wondered how long the sea would be giving up its life, its fish. Black vulture appeared on the island: hundreds of them swooping down onto the dead, filling their beaks and throats. When I drove to town to buy oranges and avocadoes, I saw several trees without leaves, and hunched black birds like old monks, sitting on the branches. It seemed like doomsday trees on which vulture grew. There was a certain deadly beauty to it all—I took a photo of them to use as a base for a charcoal drawing. Charcoal was not good for mangroves, which came in hundreds of shades of brown and green, but it was perfect for the vulture. I wanted to leave the paradise now, coughing and breathing hard, as though afflicted with MERS or something. And maybe I was, I thought. What came first, the bacteria from the air or from the water? And how about viruses? Do viruses and bacteria get along?</p> <p>&amp;&amp;&amp;</p> <p>At night, my cough tortured me, and even gagged me. What is this? TB, like in my childhood? I couldn't sleep and listened to the sea, which grew loud, and each waves sounded different. Winds howled, palm branches flew, a coconut hit the roof; and it was a near hurricane, and some said it was a hurricane, and most of the beach was gone when it was all over. All that sand and the shark teeth that the sea was spitting out for millennia were swallowed back into the sea. All the vultures were gone too and so were the dead fish. Maybe they came back to life in the water, but I doubt it, unless there's submarine Jesus resurrecting the dead fish but not dead people. The iguanas were gone, and I was about to be gone too as my time was up.</p> <p>Now, a couple of nights before my departure, a writer friend of mine, Melvin, and I drank a lot of red wine with an opera composer, a curly-haired Catalan, Sandra. I faced her and the house on the porch and she  faced out to the sea and the sky. My friend Melvin said, I am sleepy, I want to wake up early to finish a chapter, and he went to his cottage. And Sandra said, the sky is so incredible now, you can see the Milky Way and the constellations. I said, yes, if you don't have astigmatism and aren't near-sighted. You know why people imagined that stars have limbs? Because most people are at least slightly astigmatic and the light from the stars breaks into lines. That could be true, she said, but I can see them sharply, beautiful dots, ending many sentences. You don't see the text, lost in the darkness, but only the periods, and you can imagine what the sky could reveal if you could read the darkness. Wow, that's cool, I said. Why don't you sit next to me so you can see the stars? OK, I said, and as we looked up to figure out the constellations with our hands outstretched, our hands touched and we kissed. And I said, let me show the stars on the other side of the globe, and I pulled my I-phone with an app that showed the current position of the planets and the constellations. It was a surprise, maybe a result of the Zinfandel. That's amazing, I said, totally unexpected. Oh, don't tell me that, she said. We walked on the beach now and I suggested that we follow up, and she said, Not so fast, I am married. Let's see how we feel tomorrow when we are sober. What, you aren't sober? Of course not, she answered. Neither are you. Let's sleep on this, and if we like the idea in the morning, we'll walk on the beach for hours together. That's a good idea, I said. Like the Persians, they used to make a decision while drunk and then reexamined it while sober, or the other way around. It had to stand both states of mind. Exactly, Sandra said.</p> <p>I was ecstatic, and so I listened to some Schubert impromptu, I think number two, performed by Alfred Brendl. I heard Sandra through the partition, in the other half of the cottage, talking loudly, arguing about something with her husband, a concert pianist. Lucky man, he could play the same impromptu probably just as well as Brendl and he lived with this beautiful Catalan genius. Then I coughed. Although the air had cleared, my lungs didn't.</p> <p>While I was leaving the following day, she did give me a kiss on the cheek but that all reminded me that we didn't have a real kiss. And the artistic director, Robin, also kissed me on the cheeks. I didn't know that would be the last time like that either. And we all coughed. My cough lasted for two months after that February, and I suspected that I had the coronavirus but didn't want to go near any hospital as long as I didn't deteriorate. Maybe Sandra had brought it back from Spain. Maybe Robin had come back from Italy.</p> <p>A year later, after a million people had died of the disease, and the virus seemed to be gone, with a new vaccine developed by Pfeizer, I crossed the border and visited NYC. There I visited Melvin, who had just finished a huge novel about the Popes. We shook hands, and his wife said, You shouldn't do that, that's a barbaric custom. That's true, he said, but this is an old friend, and the customs die hard. Melvin, you promised you'd never shake hands again. Yes, I know. I promised I wouldn't smoke either, but that hasn't worked so well.</p> <p>But haven't we developed herd resistance to Covid-19? I asked. Or has it mutated into Covid-21, and it will hit us after a few handshakes and shared glasses?</p> <p>I think that's quite possible, Melvin said.</p> <p>I had communicated with Sandra, and she invited me to see the premier of her opera in a dying Catalan dialect. I thought Catalan was a dialect, but no, it's a language, and like any language, it has dialects. Only 500 people in a couple of villages spoke this dialect—the Spanish flu had taken with it many of the speakers of the dialect--but here, Sandra resurrected it in an opera. Now, the Metropolitan looked different from what I was used to. Every second row was taken out and moreover, every second remaining seat was taken out, so that it looked like a first class on British Airways rather than economy class on Delta. I liked that—I could stretch my legs and lean my elbows on the arms of the chair. And the choir was like that too, not standing together. And even in the opera, there were no kisses; the lovers blew kisses to each other from far away.</p> <p>That evening Sandra was too busy with her crew but she met me for a drink in a wine bar with crimson sofas, and she said she still remembered the stars we saw together. I remember more than that. Our first and last kiss.</p> <p>This Covid thing started. Maybe you gave it to me?</p> <p>Or you to me? You traveled in Spain and Italy. But now we are probably immune if we've had it. We could even kiss again.</p> <p>It would be a crime against humanity, she joked, and said, Chin chin, and we drank some Royal Rioja, and I had a big gulp, listening to my Adam's apple pop up.</p> <p>Wow, it's twenty-five bucks a glass, I said. Hard to get carried away at that rate!</p> <p>Don't be a cheap Canadian! Haven't you saved enough money in this long self-isolation? I have. Now we can splurge. Anyway, we aren't going to get carried away. I am not going to kiss—at least not until I know you much better and you provide the results of a test that can't be older than a week. I'd sooner have sex with you than kiss. The technology of sex is safe, you know with all the condoms, gloves, and facemasks and goggles.</p> <p>Oh, that's so depressing, it resembles surgery, like we are getting rid of an appendix.</p> <p>But it's way safer than exchanging liquids mouth to mouth. Anyway, this is all theory. We might look at the stars, however, on your I-phone app.</p> <p>By the way, I missed the meaning of your opera. What is it about?</p> <p>About the Black Plague. In the plague many dialects disappeared, you know that.</p> <p>Kind of the reverse from the Tower of Babel?</p> <p>We knocked our glasses. Sandra's eyes sparkled under sharp eyebrows. The glass rim got a fresh print of her cherry lipstick, just the lower lip, and I looked up to see what the glass missed and I missed, a red wave with a drop off under her nasal septum, a wonderful wave reminding me of the red tide in the stormy sea. I would be sure to paint the upper lip in cherry and crimson.</p> <p><em>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars' faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors' homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020. </em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-169" hreflang="en">Issue 169</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2842&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="Bvbn-sDivSsokXdDlCUu8SgJxQHLDb5IkFB9C-cp9GE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 30 Oct 2020 08:57:23 +0000 DimanaT 2842 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/red-tide-2842#comments ALONE TOGETHER https://vagabond.bg/alone-together-2597 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">ALONE TOGETHER</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Laurie Steed</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 09/02/2020 - 17:41</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>We're in the time of COVID-19, and I'm in the southernmost country in the world, save for New Zealand and Antarctica.</p> <p>Restrictions are in place, although I read that ours are nothing like the lockdowns elsewhere around the world. Most days I feel lucky, although this is not luck that you'd necessarily want. It's fate at its purest; my parents moved from the United Kingdom more than forty years ago and settled us first in New Zealand, and then Australia. There but for the grace of a job offer go I and my family into most people's current reality.</p> <p>The days are long and tiring, but only in the sense that I have two young children who need snuggles, sandwiches, and hour-long marathons of Just Dance. I first walked at night to calm my mind, and then ran until a knee began to ache. I took to riding; it's cold, and some days I ride in squares and circles, pushing, waiting, stop and stand, as though I might wait out these days in my geographical cul-de-sac.</p> <p>My days are filled with screens: with meetings, catch-ups, and email correspondence. It's as though my professional world now suddenly has a volume switch. Unlike my friends on Facebook, I don't need to post a picture of myself when I was twenty-years-old because I feel like I am twenty years old. I'm eating better now – there's something about the slowing of time that encourages one to create waves of colour in one's food. Still, I am otherwise Coked up (of the cola variety), stirred up (of the emotional variety), and longing, always for the days I spent walking around the streets of Sofia.</p> <p>When I think of Sofia, I see Banitsa, and shops whose windows are barely at knee level. I see myself over and over, trying to explain myself. For some reason this never tires any of the people I speak to. I'm trying, and failing, to speak Bulgarian, and they're trying to sound out what on earth it is that I might be saying – and so we talk in stilted, broken, but happy conversation.</p> <p>Wandering out of Sofia towards the coast, in search of words I've not yet found. A day in Sozopol with Zarev, a bearded beast of a man, writer, and deep thinker. We're sat opposite in a restaurant, hands clasped together, speaking slowly but passionately, a translator at our side. Minutes. Hours. Turning into stillness.</p> <p>In time, turning to words on a page, only they come so slowly. Book number two has become book number three and may in time be number four.</p> <p>Still, I miss a city. That city. Its food and people. Because Sofia, like Perth, was open, and it's the openness I miss, more than anything else.</p> <p>There is something about a closed-up city that can break you. But it doesn't have to. It's a choice, like smiling. Like listening. Like taking one's hand when they've begun to cry.</p> <p>When I am older, I will tell my sons about a book called The Bear that began with a shared conversation in Sozopol, translated and interpreted as I went. I will mention that I wrote it because I missed connection and I longed for the slowing of time. I will tell them this, knowing that the slowing of time is a gift akin to the clinking of ice, or the way my palm fits snuggly behind my now toddler's knee-cap.</p> <p>I will tell them this because from there I see links, lines, and dangling threads that drew us together. Because I see them still, even in isolation, when looking out of my office window. A cul-de-sac, it seems. Only there's a pathway, right at the back of the frame.</p> <p>It seems there are always paths back. Ways out of one place and into the other, if you look far enough into the distance.</p> <p><strong>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars’ faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors’ homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-167-168" hreflang="en">Issue 167-168</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2597&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="I91m7_Qt4nxeKRVRCvsgHYujeIDs9hBRaYI1pPmOz_A"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 02 Sep 2020 14:41:29 +0000 DimanaT 2597 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/alone-together-2597#comments THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO https://vagabond.bg/shapes-we-twist-2342 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Karen Outen; edited by Kishani Widyaratna</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Wed, 08/05/2020 - 10:14</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text from the The Alone Together series, an initiative of the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>I've been to Bulgaria twice, separated by a gap of three years, though it feels like I've actually been to two different Bulgarias. This difference is on my mind as I think of how my home country, America, has changed in about the same timeframe. I feel like I've lived in two different Americas lately, and think back to Bulgaria looking for words to pinpoint this sensation.</p> <p>I visited my first Bulgaria as a fellow of the 2009 Sozopol Fiction Seminar, and I instantly loved the country and the wonderfully open people in its literary community. Bulgaria had just joined the European Union in 2007, and people exuded a sense of confident hope when they talked about the future. This confirmed my enthusiasm for the place, which spilled over to my family back in America when I Skyped with them. (Somewhere there's a video of my sons, then four and two, running circles in our living room while the eldest shouts “We're going to Bulgaria!”) When I came home I immediately started plotting ways to get back.</p> <p>I visited my second Bulgaria as a guest of the 2012 Sozopol seminar and found the mood more sombre. The same people I'd met three years earlier didn't talk about their country the same way. The national future didn't sound as rosy, and people's individual futures seemed less rosy too. I learned that the government in place back in May 2009 was ousted two months later, and by my 2012 visit its replacement was on shaky ground—I remember hearing about problems with utilities and oil. The grumblings I heard would turn to protests and this government, too, would eventually collapse in early 2013.</p> <p>Some of the difference I felt between 2009 and 2012 stems from my own impressions, of course. But I can't shake one fact: vastly more Bulgarians I met talked about wanting to leave their home country in 2012 than in 2009, and they talked about it more stridently. I think back to this phenomenon when I compare America today to America before the November 2016 presidential election. Fantasizing about leaving the country has been a pastime of the literary/cultural community for much longer than I've been part of it. But under the previous administration those fantasies didn't feel as urgent. We had awful skeletons in our closet, but we were starting to face them with hope. America felt on the up-and-up.</p> <p>Then came the 2016 election and its massive cultural swing from center-left to hard right. Escape hatch fantasies in the community of writers, artists, and musicians I know and love became urgent and loud. As America's national and personal futures grew less rosy, we looked to other countries for freedom and hope. (My personal favorites: Portugal and Norway.) Covid-19 has severely damaged my fantasies of escape, but I still find myself envying friends who live in countries that aren't tearing themselves apart aggressively like America is. Sometimes when it gets really awful, I excoriate myself for never learning a foreign language well enough to gain employment in it – which means my family and I are stuck here no matter how far down the sinkhole of its own darkness America wants to dive.</p> <p>How far down we go is anybody's guess because America isn't used to such rapid swings in national identity, and American psyches aren't either. The last time we experienced such disaffection and self-questioning was during the run of political assassinations in the 1960s, and our current fracture feels potentially more violent. But Bulgaria is more used to national disaffection, since it has survived Ottoman rule, Communism, a rickety transition to European-style capitalism, and multiple quick regime changes.</p> <p>So I look out my writing room window asking what lessons Bulgaria has for America, because it has to know something to survive almost fifteen hundred years. Doesn't it? But I fear the only lesson America can learn right now is the same one our species keeps learning regardless of nation or era: The powerful will always take more power, and those they take it will from suffer. That story never changes, whether it unfolds in Sofia or New York or Sozopol or South Dakota. All that differs are the details of place, the specificity of loss, and the shapes that people twist themselves into to keep their sense of being intact.</p> <p>This is the flower of the human species –what stubbornly remains when hope for the future gets stripped away by other people's need for control. This is what Bulgaria knows. America, protected from its darkness by its willful self-delusions for so long, is no longer able to maintain our facade, and we're learning hard truths the hard way.</p> <p><em>The Alone Together series presents literary work by Sozopol Seminars' faculty and fellows written in the confines of our authors' homes during the coronavirus outbreak in an attempt to connect each other and to carry on the magic and spirit of the Seminars, which for the first time in thirteen memorable years has had to be canceled. The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation asked writers from five different continents to look through the windows of their studies, literally and metaphorically, and share their literary imagination. The project was launched in March 2020 and culminated in the end of May 2020.</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-166" hreflang="en">Issue 166</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=2342&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="eTFQUQREOkpx6aDDXeUFmEUzERGzvOWWoMkb8VRshu0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 05 Aug 2020 07:14:36 +0000 DimanaT 2342 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/shapes-we-twist-2342#comments DESCENDING EVEREST, An excerpt from a novel https://vagabond.bg/descending-everest-excerpt-novel-1805 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">DESCENDING EVEREST, An excerpt from a novel</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Karen Outen; edited by Kishani Widyaratna</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 07/03/2020 - 10:51</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>This current issue presents a text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Karen Outen</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Mt. Everest, April 2011</p> <p>He knew he could conquer the anguish. His head pounded against dehydration and thin mountain air, as if a tiny demon lodged in his ear canal, pitchfork raised, the same demon who might whisper to him, What are you doing here, heading to the top of the world? Are you who you think you are?</p> <p>He trudged through the Western Cwm, the incongruously hot bowl across the belly of Lhotse, the mountain adjacent to Mt. Everest. The land lay nearly flat after the long, hard climb up through the Khumbu Icefall, a river of ice and crevasses and towering snow cliffs like sculpted meringue glazed with ice. He was headed now to Camp 2, higher than he had ever been. Only two more camps on the mountain before they attempted the push to the summit.</p> <p>It seemed a gift, the gentle slope of the Western Cwm wide and open between the dark ribs of Nuptse to the right and Everest to the left, the plateau of the Cwm like a stage on which they played out their lives: this day they were climbers, Dixon and the eight other members of his team, along with the Sherpas and the three guides who led them in this real and invented life of strife. They were fully of their own making, which was a burden, a privilege, a calling that led them above earth and into sky, seeking her: the sherpas called Everest "Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Earth."</p> <p>The wind calmed its bellow. At night in camp it often roared, a howling thing boring into your tent, scraping at its sides and trying to frighten you off, but here in the Western Cwm, there was relative quiet, there was respite from a steep climb, there was something nearly like welcome, nearly like familiar earth, low-slung and vast. The sun beamed on Dixon, hot and bright, the temperature in late morning already 70 degrees and rising to nearly 80 soon – who would believe this summer-like moment on Everest? Sweating, uncomfortable, Dixon slipped his backpack from his shoulders, removed the jacket of his bright blue snowsuit, and folded the jacket before placing it in his bag, all in languid movements as if he were underwater. He grabbed a handful of snow and piled it under his hat to cool himself, letting it melt and trickle like fingers down his neck.</p> <p>He slogged along in a sinewy dream, sweating, bowing his head to the sun – it wanted you to know its power; even in this foreign world, it was the same hot sun he might recall from back home in Maryland, and he could not decide if that was a comfort or a taunt. The snow glistened, its icy crust melting so that it crunched under Dixon's footsteps. The wind called its warnings, and still, he rose, he willed himself, hunkering into the sweat and chill of sun and wind, the tightness of his parched nasal passages and the roof of his mouth – when was the last time he tasted his own saliva? – he dug one foot, then the next, then the next.</p> <p>"Dixon! It's beach weather on the moon!" his brother Nate yelled back to him. Nate, just in front of him, panted lightly in the altitude but smiled, his black goggles a bit rock-star like, wide and gleaming on his face. Nate's dimpled cheeks wet with sweat, his medium-brown skin tanned a reddish-chestnut in the sun, and Dixon flashed onto childhood days at the Jersey shore, slathering on their mother's concoction of iodine and baby oil as suntan lotion then sliding slick and dark as eels into the water. He might be there just now, near some vast ocean, they might be boys playing if he squinted his eyes just right, the sun whiting out the world in front of him, the glare of it off the brittle snow like the glare off water. He panted hard, sweating, his head swimming and pounding. Nate came toward Dixon. Nate unzipped his one-piece snowsuit, slipped out of the top half, and let it hang behind him, stiff armed and bouncing from his waist – hadn't Dixon warned him to get a two-piece suit for just this reason? Dixon frowned slightly and Nate said, "How you doing, bro?" Nate looked strong, healthy. Hard to recall that just days ago he had been forced to descend to Base Camp, stricken with bronchitis. His hacking cough had been so bad at high camp that they feared he might break a rib. But healed now, he stood happily beside Dixon. Dixon whose temples reverberated with the pounding in his head. He peered at Nate across time and space and ever-thinning air. The suffering. He stood atop it and gave a thumbs up.</p> <p>"Stupid luck, is all," Nate leaned close to him and nearly whispered though he must be shouting to be heard above the wind. "That the altitude would be kicking your butt, that I'd be –" he shrugged, then lowered his head as if ashamed not to suffer as much as Dixon. "Let's just take it slow," Nate said, and he fell in beside Dixon a moment, his arm across his brother's shoulder, then he headed back in front of him, grabbed hold to the safety rope, and peered over his shoulders. "You with me?"</p> <p>Dixon raised his hand, waved towards Nate, towards the glare of sun that sparkled and skided across the icy mountain ridges, Dixon who was never left behind, Dixon who would conquer this.</p> <p>At last, after hours of climbing, Dixon, Nate, and their climbing group arrived at Camp 2 at 21,000 feet, a cluster of tents sprinkled yellow and blue across a snowy mountain ledge. They were perched so high above the world that they looked down not on houses and land but on a village of snow peaks and glacial spikes, the inhabited world obscured. In fact, they were so close to the moon that it didn't fully hide itself during the day, its soft half-globe showing as if through a private stage door half opened; why not? They, too, were of the heavens now.</p> <p><strong>Karen Outen</strong>'s fiction has appeared several times in Glimmer Train Stories, winning both the Family Matters (2010) and the Fiction Open (2000) contests; in The North American Review; in Essence magazine; and in the anthologies Where Love is Found and Mother Knows: 24 Tales of Motherhood. Her nonfiction essay "On Typing and Salvation" appeared in the anthology From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines, which was the Gold Medal winner of the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award for Anthology. Her stories "Family Portraits" and "Watch Between" were performed on stage as part of the Writing Aloud fiction series at InterAct Theater in Philadelphia. She is a 2018 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award. She has been a fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan and with the Pew Fellowships in the Arts. She has received awards from both the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Maryland State Arts Council. In 2004, she received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was awarded Hopwood Awards for graduate short fiction and for the novel. She has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Michigan, St. Mary's College of Maryland, and the University of Maryland University College. Karen was a visiting writer during Writers Week at the University of North Carolina –Wilmington and has given fiction readings throughout the Philadelphia area. She has participated in writing residencies at Hedgebrook writing retreat for women and at The Porches in Virginia. She is at work on a novel, Descending Everest. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-165" hreflang="en">Issue 165</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=1805&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="0aJQqwTfWcbtAnNN6Sp3Sg5_akK_-Ngx7Y7gSKLa8po"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 03 Jul 2020 07:51:24 +0000 DimanaT 1805 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/descending-everest-excerpt-novel-1805#comments BEING HAPPY https://vagabond.bg/being-happy-330 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">BEING HAPPY</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 06/02/2020 - 16:29</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Maria Makedonska</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>The White Gentleman decided that the weather was too beautiful this morning to waste the day in everyday nonsense. Therefore, he put on his happy hat and flung the door open with a flourish. He took a deep breath, then stepped onto the street with his left foot. The town was still asleep.</p> <p>The street was so quiet that he could hear his footsteps. He'd take three steps and then a hop, because walking in an even cadence was boring.</p> <p>The White Gentleman was shod in white shoes with pointy toes, above which he wore white pants with sharp creases, a white suit jacket with long coat-tails and, of course, his happy white hat, which he never went anywhere without. In his right hand he held a white umbrella, which he used to measure his steps. Left foot, right foot, left foot, hop.</p> <p>The street ahead of him began weaving into the yarn of the field, turning into a delicate thread, along which he skillfully balanced. The wind took hold of his coat-tails and blew them open like wings. The clouds in the sky began lining up for their morning walk and slowly set off ahead with their usual gait – from shape to shape. The White Gentleman watched them without upsetting his rhythm for a single second. As the day bloomed, the White Gentleman finally tore his gaze from the clouds to see that an endless field of poppies was stretching out in front of him. Quiet red sighs of spring.</p> <p>And there, in the middle of the red field, stood a young wolf, watching him. His fur was as violet as lavender and shone in the sun with a glycerin gleam. The fanciful beast good-naturedly waved his fluffy tail and then slipped between the man's legs. Before becoming lost among the poppies, the wolf bit his tail, which then remained between his teeth. He dropped it at the feet of the White Gentleman. Then he disappeared.</p> <p>The man slowly bent down and took the tail from the ground. He waved at the clouds with it. Then he tied it around his neck like a scarf. It was very soft and tickled his face. This tickle made him laugh; he became light as a joke, and the wind lifted him up. The White Gentleman began bouncing over the poppies through his laughter. An air current caught hold of him mid-jump, spinning and spinning him in little spirals, higher and higher into the sky. When the current finally quieted down, he saw the whole field below him. The poppies overflowed in the shape of a big puddle of blood amid the green fields. The grass was so young that its color was still electric. Something in it blinded him. A naked girl was sleeping in the grass. Flecks of sunlight danced on her closed eyelids, and her red lips ripened on her face like strawberries. Puffy white poplar seeds were raining down on her. They soaked slowly into her dream, spun in delicate pirouettes from the sighs of the wind, and quietly stole kisses from her lips. The White Gentleman couldn't stop looking at her. Suddenly, he, too, wanted urgently to steal a kiss. The wind played with his patience, though, carrying him sometimes up and sometimes down. Yet the man didn't stop looking at the sleeping girl, and he thought about what he would say to her when she woke up. "You are the dream of spring" – that's what he would say. And she would smile and kiss him. But how slowly he was falling downwards. More slowly than longing, more and more slowly than longing. The wind finally took mercy on him and spun him one last time before dropping him lightly beside the naked shoulder of the sleeping girl.</p> <p>The White Gentleman sighed and sat in the grass. His legs wouldn't hold him up, because what he saw cut him to the quick. In front of him lay not a naked girl, but a plastic doll. A superfluous part of someone's childhood thrown into the grass. She had no clothes on, and her naked flat plastic breasts caused him to burn with shame. Her curls, sheared off in places by a clumsy childish hand, were tangled with the weeds. Her face was dirtied with mud, and her unblinking gaze stared up at the sky.</p> <p>The White Gentleman was starting to leave when he heard a quiet voice: "I'm not sleeping."</p> <p>He turned around and saw that the doll was looking at him. Her look made him tingle. Out of his mouth, like a glass marble, rolled, "You are the dream of spring."</p> <p>A moment of silence nipped the grass like hoarfrost. The doll suddenly burst into tears. From the interior of her belly came frenetic falsetto sobs that grew more and more inconsolable.</p> <p>The White Gentleman took the doll and embraced her with both his arms. She was lost in his embrace, and her cries soaked into his beautiful white jacket like a stain. The White Gentleman tenderly consoled her.</p> <p>"Shhhhh. Quiet! Quiet! Why are you crying now?"</p> <p>The doll swallowed and cried out, "Because they abandoned me."</p> <p>"Who abandoned you?"</p> <p>"The girl with the blue shoes."</p> <p>"Why?"</p> <p>"Because I broke. My voice box got damaged and I can't say ‘mama' or laugh anymore, I can only cry. That's why the girl brought me here and left me. No one loves sad dolls."</p> <p>She choked on her sobs again. The man kissed her on her sad, stained cheek.</p> <p>"I love them."</p> <p>The doll stopped crying out of surprise and asked, "But why?"</p> <p>"Because they're beautiful when they sleep and when they cry."</p> <p>"And do you love me?" asked the doll innocently.</p> <p>"Out of all the sad dolls in the world, I love you the most."</p> <p>"You're lying. You're just the latest liar. Go away! Get out of here!"</p> <p>"I'm not lying! I love you with all my heart."</p> <p>"That's not true. Go! I don't want to see you anymore."</p> <p>"But I came down from the sky because of you."</p> <p>She wasn't listening to him anymore and had started crying again, drowning in her sobs.</p> <p>The man put her on the ground and turned around. The sunset had fallen in front of him all the way up to his chest, and he dove into it. He swam tiredly through the field. A sea of blooming lavender stretched out as far as his eyes could see. The crying of the sad doll could still be heard behind him, and it pulled him downwards like stones tied to his legs. All night long, the White Gentleman struggled against the lavender current. Not until dawn did the violet waves toss him, frozen, onto the night's shore. He could barely stand up, and he stepped trembling onto the road that led to his house. There, just a glance away from his house, a spring torrent began raining down. It soaked the White Gentleman to the bone; he hadn't even opened his umbrella, and he turned back towards the field. It looked unrealistically far away, smudged by the gray watercolor of the rain. Between the drops he seemed to hear the weeping of a broken doll. She had fallen asleep in the grass like a woman.</p> <p>Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the rain stopped. The sky cleared away its clouds and made room for the sunrise. It was early. The city was still sleeping and didn't even suspect that a person with wet white clothes was standing in a puddle of grief and staring into yesterday's day to recover there a memory of flying. The violet tail on his neck hung in matted strands, and it seemed to be strangling him and choking him at the same time.</p> <p>The White Gentleman finally opened his umbrella. Then he removed the violet tail from his neck. It hung in his hand like an ugly and tasteless keepsake of love. He touched it to his lips and whispered into its cold fur, "You are the dream of spring."</p> <p><strong>Maria Makedonska</strong> was born in the city named after the famous Bulgarian author Elin Pelin. She learnt to love reading in the home of another Bulgarian author who had strange ideas of wooden houses in the middle of a main square in Sofia, from which handmade newspapers were sold, photo novels about aliens, theaters in a suitcase, and concerts for only one person. Her father self-published the first poems she wrote in a tiny book named Farewell to Dolls. Fortunately, she never said goodbye to dolls, because years later she started shooting short stop motions. She never said goodbye to writing either, even got more attached to it. She has won some national contests for poetry and short stories such as those named after Veselin Hanchev, Rashko Sugarev and Usin Kerim. As a result of the Veselin Hanchev contest, she has published a poetry book, <em>Tremorio</em>. At present, she is writing a couple of scripts for short movies and finishing a collection of short stories, written as gifts to her friends. </p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-164" hreflang="en">Issue 164</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=330&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="KVZEFEFRXvMYI9dTXYLdxUIlnZkkyPfUJJpT9Ni-1DM"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 02 Jun 2020 13:29:58 +0000 DimanaT 330 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/being-happy-330#comments SAN SALVADOR https://vagabond.bg/san-salvador-114 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">SAN SALVADOR</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Melissa Wan</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/30/2020 - 08:26</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Melissa Wan</h3></div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>If somebody's heart stops due to a trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, CPR cannot save them. I know this, but I don't know if it is the same with cycling. I know you should ask the victim if they're okay and shake their shoulders firmly between two hands. Jerry is on his back, one foot clipped into a pedal, legs across the frame like he's resting. It is hot and sweat drips from the tip of my nose onto his face when I bend over. I shake his shoulders and ask, Are you okay? I repeat it like a mantra, this question in some ways the only question I had ever wanted to ask him but had not.</p> <p>I think back to our First Aid training when we started with the firm. DO NOT PUT YOURSELF IN DANGER was in capital letters on the handout. I remember nothing after that line, can only think about Jerry watching my breasts as I pushed up and down on a plastic dummy.</p> <p>I walk away and crouch in a dip by the side of the road. To keep myself safe. Here you can go hours without seeing another person. There is nothing for miles but coal-black roads curving the hills, warm and sticky with sun. There is a cross at the top of a hill in the distance: the monastery of San Salvador. I wonder if it's the kind of place that has nuns. I imagine bleached cotton briefs, white and shiny with abstinence. That life could suit me, waking up and going to sleep with all those other women, pretending to think about God all the time.</p> <p>We travel a lot for work, me and Jerry. We often travel together. Pulling our cases across a bridge in Paris, the light otherworldly, he stopped to tell me he loved me. The Eiffel Tower grew from the top of his head, from the spot where his hair was thinning, and I said it back. Yes. We're in Paris. I love you too.</p> <p>He moved in. To do that, he had to leave his wife. He arrived with his life neatly folded in cardboard boxes, squeezed it between the walls of my one-bedroomed apartment, cheek-to-cheek with my own. He leaned his road bike against the bookcase and kept a gathering of empty beer bottles by the door, which he called his 'art installation'. I didn't think he was the kind of man who owned tweezers, but he was and that was okay. He was messy and disrespectful of my space but I told myself that too was okay.</p> <p>I look at Jerry on the tarmac with his eyes closed and he seems content, like he's just another part of the landscape. In the hotel room this morning, after he came out of the shower and sat on the edge of the bed, dripping onto the carpet, I warned him about his white jersey but he continued as though I wasn't there. Even I could barely hear my own voice when I tried to explain how hard it would be to get the stains out.</p> <p> </p> <p>I hear a cyclist go by before I see them. Perhaps I'd fallen asleep. They disappear for a moment before turning around and coming back. It is a man. He is panting, pieces of grit collected in the creases of his forehead and he shouts something to me in German, so I stand and say hello.</p> <p>He is okay? he asks in English, then swings himself from his bike with athletic precision. This is the kind of man you hope will turn up when you're at a loose end, his blue jersey so bright you can't look at it directly. Now I am standing, my head feels light, and I try to listen to whether or not I am breathing. I look down at my legs and see I am wearing normal socks, the ones with rabbits on. I hadn't expected anyone to see them up close.</p> <p>He is your husband? the man asks, lifting Jerry's legs off the bike. Jerry looks like he is being difficult to move and a part of me thinks 'typical'. I notice the tape on his left handlebar is torn, revealing slits of silver-white aluminium, and just behind the bike is a gecko, mounted on a rock, his scaled back shimmering blues and greens in the sun. He looks as though he's smiling, so I smile back and I feel relieved I don't have to cycle any further.</p> <p>Hello, the man says. You are together?</p> <p>I look at the stranger's face: the wonky nose, pale circles around his eyes where his sunglasses have been and in that instant I remember my Auntie Carol, circular earrings swinging, telling me there is no such thing as lying. She said, There are things as they are and things as we wish them to be.</p> <p>So I shake my head and I say no. I was cycling behind him when he fell.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Melissa Wan (born 1991) is a writer based in Manchester. Her story <em>The Husband and the Wife Go to the Seaside</em> was published by Bluemoose Books (2018) and reprinted in Salt's Best British Short Stories 2019. She was awarded the inaugural Crowdfunded BAME Writers' Scholarship 2018/19 to study Creative Writing at UEA, and is this year's Northern Word Factory Apprentice, working on her first collection of stories alongside her mentor Carys Davies.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-163" hreflang="en">Issue 163</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=114&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="M_b41FhfcGGV_51pqf4pLN8DiPzm8PwIWBx7oPidUEw"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 30 Apr 2020 05:26:14 +0000 DimanaT 114 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/san-salvador-114#comments THE BOY, BORN FROM AN APPLE https://vagabond.bg/the-boy-born-from-an-apple <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE BOY, BORN FROM AN APPLE</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Anna Buxton</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/1" lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">floyd</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/02/2020 - 13:43</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>Traditional Bulgarian fairy tale from the area of Pirdop </h3></div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Once upon a time, a husband and a wife lived in a town. They were very rich, but had no children. They were very sad about this.</p> <p>One afternoon, the wife sat embroidering by a window in their rich house, near the road and kept an eye on the passers-by. She noticed that an apple-seller, pushing a cart with baskets of lovely looking apples, was walking under her window. She stopped the man and asked what the price of the apples was. He said, “I sell each apple for three gold coins, madam.”</p> <p>The wife was quite surprised. “Goodness, what are those apples - why are they so expensive?! Are they different than the ordinary apples?”</p> <p>The apple-seller replied, “Ah, madam, they give children to couples, who do not have any! However, you need to be warned, that all the money the couple may have, however rich they are, will disappear, until the child grows up!”</p> <p>The wife thought this was all very strange, but took out three gold coins and bought an apple. When her husband came back home, in the evening, she told him about the apple-seller and his goods, showed him the apple and asked him whether he wanted to try it. As they both wanted to have a child, they decided to share it – they cut it in two and had one half each.</p> <p>In some time, the wife realised she was pregnant and nine months later, she gave birth to a healthy little boy. When the child grew up - at the age of eight, he started school. At the same time, however, his father’s riches started to diminish with every year. When he was eighteen years old, and had one more year to finish school, his father lost everything. He had no money to support his family and even to buy textbooks for his son’s education. It was impossible for him to borrow money, either.</p> <p>Seeing, that his father was unable to support him, the boy took his fate in his own hands. He asked his school friends to borrow their books; he begged and worked for food. He also asked for and received help from his teachers in all sorts of different ways. So, he succeeded in completing his education. His classmates and teachers considered him very intelligent and clever.</p> <p>However, his mother and father had been quite ill. They had no money for doctors and medicines and so they both died and he found himself an orphan. He did not have any relatives living in the town, to keep an eye on him or advise him, either.</p> <p>As this town had very sad memories for him, he decided to go to a different city and look for employment there. He packed a bag with some personal belongings and in the morning, locked the house and started to walk towards the next town.</p> <p>He walked for the whole day and by the evening, he reached the town. He was very tired and hungry, when he noticed a pub on the other side of the road. He went in and asked the landlord, if he could sleep in the pub. The man agreed and took him upstairs to the attic. Then, he offered him some soup for supper.</p> <p>During the night, both the landlord and his wife had a strange dream. They saw a woman, who told them “The boy, who spent the night in your pub, could be of great use to you! Hire him to serve you and you won’t regret it!”</p> <p>When they got up, they asked the boy to have a bite of breakfast with them and started asking him questions – where did he come from; was he looking for a job, etc. The boy admitted that he was completely broke and was indeed looking for a job. They were quite pleased to hear this and offered him the chance to stay and work for them. Then they asked him what pay he expected.</p> <p>“As much, or as little you want to give me” - was his reply.</p> <p>So the boy stayed to help out in the pub. Some time passed, and on a hot and sticky summer’s day, he asked the Landlord and his wife if he could go to the near-by river. He wanted to wash his clothes, swim and if lucky, catch some fish. Permission was given, so he filled his bag, took his fishing line and off he went to the river.</p> <p>He enjoyed washing and while his clothes were drying, he swam in the river in the summer sunshine. When he became tired, he thought he would try his luck with the fishing line. He threw it quite a few times, but to no avail “What a wasted effort it was, to carry this fishing line all the way here!” he murmured under his breath.</p> <p>He decided to go back home, picked up his clothes, put on his tunic and started walking. Just before leaving, he thought “May be I should cast the line one last time - you never know!?” He did so and, lo and behold, when he pulled it out, he saw a large silver fish hanging on the hook!</p> <p>Delighted, he unhooked it, took his stuff again and started walking home.</p> <p>Approaching the town, he met an old man, who stopped him.</p> <p>“Hey, boy, how much will you sell me this fish for?”</p> <p>The boy answered “Give me as much as you want, grandpa!”</p> <p>The old man took out a 1,000 silver pieces and exchanged them for the fish.</p> <p>When he went home, the boy told the landlord and his wife about the strange old man and the fish and gave them the money.</p> <p>The summer was passing slowly and the boy thought to himself, “Maybe I should go and have another wash and swim, before the water in the river gets colder? I may try my luck with the fishing rod, as well – I was quite lucky in the end, wasn’t I?”</p> <p>So, a few days later, he picked up his clothes and his fishing line and went to the river. Exactly the same thing happened – in the same order. He caught a fish in the end and met the old man just before he entered the town. He sold the fish to him and was happy to take the money to the landlord and his wife.</p> <p>Autumn was now approaching and the boy had a premonition – “If I don’t go to the river now, it will be too late to go again!” So, he went to the river again and after washing his body and clothes in the cool water, he started casting the line. But, for nearly half a day, nothing happened. When the light started to disappear, he thought he’d had enough and started going home. He walked on gloomily but, just before the road separated from the river, he had an idea. “So far, I have always been lucky at the very last moment - when I least expected to be! Why don’t I cast the line now!?”</p> <p>And indeed, he caught a very large fish! He unhooked it and started walking home. Just outside the town, he met the same old man again, who had bought the previous two fishes.</p> <p>“How much do you want for the fish, lad?”</p> <p>“Well, this time I am not selling it at all!”</p> <p>“I will be prepared to pay not 1,000 silver pieces, but 2,000” offered the old man.</p> <p>“Just let me be! Not 1,000 or 2,000, if you give me all your riches, I will still not sell it to you!”</p> <p>The old man departed disappointed and the lad carried on walking home.</p> <p>When he went home, he told the landlord and his wife that he could have taken a lot of money for this fish, but he did not sell it. He wanted to cook the fish for them. He placed it on the kitchen surface and started to clean it. As he did so, he found a small silver cup in it. “Well, well, well,” he murmured, “What have we got here!?” He took the cup and filled it with water to rinse the sink, but when he poured it out, the water had turned to gold!?! The lad was amazed. So, he carried on taking water in the cup and poured the gold in a little heap. He went to tell the landlord and his wife. They could not believe their eyes, but were very happy about this unexpected source of gold.</p> <p>The landlord and his wife had only one fifteen year’s old daughter. When they were convinced that the lad was very good and honest, they wondered whether they should not marry him to their daughter. On the next day, their daughter had a name day and they thought that might be a good occasion to invite him to be their son-in-law.</p> <p>They cooked and prepared for the whole of the previous day and on the day itself, many friends and relatives visited to congratulate the girl and bring their presents. In the evening, when all the guests had gone, they brought food to the table and sat down to eat. They had already agreed to invite the lad to be their son-in-law. So when they started eating, the mistress turned to her husband and asked him: “Why don’t you invite this lad here to become our son-in-law? We are so used to him, and he is used to us, and we like him, don’t we? Why don’t we marry him to our beloved daughter Sevda? We don’t have other children and I think our girl likes him – aren’t they so suitable for each other?”</p> <p>The master thought for a little time and said. “Yes, I agree with this idea, I like the lad like my own son. Let us ask him what he thinks about this and whether he and our girl love each other and want to get married. Then all our property will be theirs one day.”</p> <p>When it was the boy’s turn to speak, he asked them to let him think it over for a day or two, before answering. He thought the proposition over during the first day, but concluded that he did not want to marry their daughter. On the second day, he asked the landlord and his wife to let him go to his birth place of for a few days and that he would give them an answer on his return. So, he took his silver cup, went to his native town and never came back!</p> <p>In his home town, went to his old house and the first thing he did was to take his cup out, to put water in it and to tuned into gold. He then sold the heap of gold and bought himself some rich clothes. He also purchased a horse, a saddle and some stirrups. He decided to cover the saddle and the stirrups with gold, so that his horse shone like the sun.</p> <p>So, on the next morning, he dressed splendidly and rode out of town on his horse. As he was riding out of town, all people were looking at him and wondering - who might he be?</p> <p>When he left the town, he was met by a magnificent coach. In it rode two ladies, one was elderly and the other was young and very beautiful. The coach slowed, the ladies looked him over from head to toe and then the coach sped away. He turned and followed it. The coach stopped close to the town and the ladies got out. It appeared that they were visiting another old lady, who sat on a large, green chair. The visitors asked the second granny, if she knew who this young man was, who passed by recently, with the all the gold on his saddle and stirrups. The second granny admitted she had no idea.</p> <p>A while later, the young man called on the second granny and asked her who those two women were, who’d got out of the carriage and spoken to her.</p> <p>“Ah, that was the king’s daughter and the elderly lady was her aunt.” She added that they had asked about him. He took out five gold coins and gave them to the granny, then jumped on his horse and rode away.</p> <p>When he reached the capital city, he found a tremendous hustle and bustle in its streets. He realised that they were mustering new recruits for the king’s army. Our lad signed up and soon received his uniform and started his training.</p> <p>In time, our lad decided that he wanted to become an officer. He needed to learn more and he was ready to pay for extra training. As he was very willing and quite intelligent, he soon passed the necessary exams and was promoted.</p> <p>One day, an invitation arrived, asking all officers to dress in their best clothes and attend the king’s name day party in the palace. Our lad decided to have a sword, made of gold and all the decorative elements of his uniform were also made out of gold. On the next day, at the name day party, everyone looked at him in wonder – most of all the king!</p> <p>When the party was over, the king decided he wanted to talk to this officer. They spoke for a long time and king liked the young man so much, that he offered him a post as one of his body-guards. This meant the he would spend a lot of time in the palace and with the king’s family.</p> <p>Soon he and the princess fell in love. He bought her many presents and they went for secret walks. He hinted that he would like her to fulfil his wish…., but she was not willing. Soon, she wanted to know what the origin of his wealth was and he told her about his cup. He even showed it to her, and demonstrated how the water turned into gold. She was surprised and wanted to know where this cup came from. He told her the whole story. Then he added “If you sleep with me, I will let you have it!” The princess hesitated, she walked up and down the palace rooms for quite some time, deliberating this proposal, but finally, she came and gave herself to him. Then she received the cup.</p> <p>However, in several months, she realised that she was pregnant! When the king learned about it, he wanted to kill her, but was stopped by the queen. Finally, he called all his ministers and senior staff, to help him decide what to do with his daughter – how to punish her. Some suggested that she should be hanged; others, that she should be put in prison; a third group wanted to cover her in tar and to burn her.</p> <p>The young body-guard, knowing that he was the cause of her state, suggested the following: “Instead of hanging, killing and burning her, I suggest, that the best thing to do, will be to make a wooden box, and seal it so it’s completely water-tight.. Then we can give her some water and food and a key to lock herself from the inside and float the box in the sea. If she is lucky enough to land on a beach, she can open the box and find a way to survive. If her luck was to sink at the bottom of the sea, then this punishment would be enough for her.”</p> <p>Everyone thought his suggestion was the most suitable and the king ordered the box to be made. They fastened it securely and, tarred it on the outside to make it water-tight. Finally the princess got into it and locked it from the inside. The box was taken to the sea and her father said to her. “With this punishment, I give you the chance to live, if you are lucky! If the water takes you to a seashore, then get out and find a way to survive! I forgive you!” – And he pushed to box further into the water.</p> <p>The terrified princess sat in the box and prayed to God to save her and her baby from sinking. After several days, the waves landed her box onto a beach. When she heard the waves breaking on the beach, she unlocked the box and stepped out onto the hard ground. Then she kneeled to thank God for her salvation.</p> <p>She started walking on the beach, until she reached a small town on the seacoast. She found a hidden place behind a dune and took her silver cup. She started filling it with sea water and it turned into a heap of gold. She took the gold into a bag and then sold it. With the money, she bought a large plot of land, close to the sea shore and then hired a builder, who had a group of people working for him. Soon they managed to build her a romantic palace, surrounded by fountains, lakes and gardens. Not long after that, her child was born - it was a boy!</p> <p>On one sunny day, when she was sitting by a window in her palace, with her baby in her hands, she thought about her lover. She wondered how he was, what he was doing…. She looked at the road again and her eyes concentrated on a horseman, coming up it, who rode like a soldier. Then she thought that he looked very much like her lover. She ordered the servants to invite this man into the palace. He came in and she was still not sure, so she asked him who he was and where he was going.</p> <p>He told her that he worked for the king, in a kingdom for a long time, how he and the king’s daughter fell in love and how he told her, that if she slept with him, he would give her his silver cup, which turned water into gold. And how the princess became pregnant, but when the king learned about this, he placed his daughter in a wooden box, which was floated on the sea. How he was sacked from his position in the palace and how he started to search for her on the sea coast. The princess could barely wait for him to complete his story to tell him: “I am the same woman, thrown into a box and floated on the high seas. With the silver cup you gave me, I built this palace, so everything here belongs to both of us! And here is your son, whom I only gave birth to recently!</p> <p>The young man shed tears of joy for finding his beloved and his son. He looked around the palace and the gardens and wanted to live peacefully with his family in it forever. Soon they became known as the richest couple in the city.</p> <p>This city became quite famous, as many people, attracted by its beautiful position and the trade in it, came to live there. Many attractive buildings were erected and the city became large and prosperous. One day the young couple decided to invite the king and queen to come to the city and visit them.</p> <p>When he received the impressive invitation, the king said: “Well, this city has been praised to me by so many people, may be it is time to go and see it all with my eyes!”</p> <p>Before the king and queen arrived on the royal coach, the young couple covered the whole approach road on which they were going to travel with gold. They waited for the royal couple at the end of the city. When the king and queen reached the golden section of the road, they asked each other “How did this come about and how could anyone have so much gold to cover the road with it?!”</p> <p>Having met them, the young couple took the king and queen to their palace. They invited them to stay there for several days. The king and queen did not seem to recognise their daughter and the young couple decided to trick them.</p> <p>The daughter hid her hair under a hat, put on male attire and stuck on some moustaches, which made her look like her lover. She was sitting in this disguise in a room, when one day the queen walked in. She sat down and they started taking to each other. Eventually, the queen asked: “How come you, young people, are so rich?”</p> <p>Her daughter looked at her, smiled and putting her hand in her pocket took out the silver cup. “It comes from this here cup. Come and see.” She took the queen to the small fountain in the corner of the room and started to fill the cup with water and empty the gold out of it in a pile.</p> <p>The queen had never seen anything like this. She said “Why don’t you give me this cup, I will give you whatever you want for it!”</p> <p>“I will give it to you, if you sleep with me – there is nothing else I want!” was her daughter’s answer.</p> <p>“Let me think about it!” said the queen. She quickly left the room and went to the king. She told him about the cup and also told him that the only way to get it from the “young man” was to sleep with him. The king thought about it for some time.</p> <p>“Well, it’s not a big idea, is it?! Sleep with him, so that we can get the cup – no one else has a cup like this, do they!?”</p> <p>The queen returned to the room, where the young man was still sitting and started to take her clothes off, in order to sleep with him. The “young man” – her daughter, also took her male attire off to remain in female clothes underneath, removed the false moustaches and let her hair down. Then she turned to the queen with a smile. ”Mother, I am your daughter - the same, whom you sent to the high seas in a box, but fate saved me! When I lived with you, I loved this man, who gave me this cup against my honour. He is now talking next door to my father. And there you are - you are much older, with so much experience and you make the same mistake as me, but I was so young and inexperienced at the time!”</p> <p>After those words, the queen fainted from shock. When she came back, she asked forgiveness from her daughter on her knees. Her daughter then opened the door and called her father and her lover. Only then did the king recognise his daughter and also felt unwell. Both parents kneeled in front of the young couple and asked for their forgiveness. They admitted that they were wrong and that they had sinned.</p> <p>After this memorable visit to the town, the two couples returned to the king’s palace and organised a wedding ceremony for the young couple. Shortly after his, the king and queen retired and passed the kingdom into the hands of the young couple. So, at the end, the poor boy, the bodyguard, became the son-in law of the king and inherited his kingdom!</p> </div> <a href="/taxonomy/term/106" hreflang="en">Web Exclusive</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=92&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="g2PgVxDFSIuQKdkmVIeEepo1PoHZNpkHBYObCFNlw-g"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Thu, 02 Apr 2020 10:43:25 +0000 floyd 92 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/the-boy-born-from-an-apple#comments THE CAULDRON https://vagabond.bg/cauldron-141 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">THE CAULDRON</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Stanislava Slavova-Petkova; translated by Traci Speed </div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Tue, 03/31/2020 - 07:39</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Stanislava Slavova-Petkova</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Most of the houses in the village were uninhabitable. The residents of the rest of them were old people and Gypsies. On the whole, peace and love didn't exactly reign, but there was tolerance and an absence of extensive problems. The elderly Bulgarians were situated in the upper mahala, and their dark-skinned younger neighbors – in the lower one. The store on the village square was in the middle of the village and served as a linguistic point of contact.</p> <p>Things changed that summer. The Gypsy kids who went to school in the next village were on vacation, and the calm in the village scattered in their wake. They went from house to house making mischief, and once they even broke a store window. Later, the main culprit got slapped up by his uncle, never mind that he was already 18, because it turned out that the store belonged to the local Gypsy leader, and now they had to fix it.</p> <p>Anger quickly seized him and wouldn't let him go. The noise in his ears from the blows would not quiet down all day, and by evening, he had decided to test himself in the Bulgarian mahala. They never talked about it at home, as if it didn't even exist. He hadn't been there since he was a child; the place was a little secluded and uninviting, but now the adrenaline in his blood had turned into a devil that wanted revenge for the pain and humiliation he'd suffered.</p> <p>His friend, hearing his intentions, tried to keep him from it. The idea of drinking in the yard of the old school was far and away better. But he wouldn't give up; he wanted to rage some place where he wouldn't get beaten for it afterwards.</p> <p>There was light coming from only one house in the upper mahala. House was perhaps a strong word for it, the way most of its walls and the yard were overtaken by weeds, but there was a thin stream of smoke filtering from the crooked chimney. It didn't strike him as unusual that smoke was coming from the chimney in the middle of summer – not everyone here had electricity, and some people cooked the way people used to – over a wood fire.</p> <p>He peered into the window. In spite of the torn curtains and the smudged glass, he managed to see that inside, there was just an old woman. She was standing next to a large hearth and stirring a big cauldron with a wooden spoon. The cauldron attracted him, as if thousands of magnets were becoming electrified within his skin. His gaze traveled hurriedly around the little room in search of other "valuables." There were some strangely beautiful metal cups arranged on a shelf beside the fireplace, each one with a different shape. He saw them with the eyes of a professional. They could even be sold on their own merit, and not just because of the metal they were made of.</p> <p>While he was considering whether to break the window or to go through the high grass in the yard, a light gust of wind blew, and the back door opened with a doleful creaking. He was so startled that, for a moment, he thought there was someone else there in the dark. The old lady didn't even notice him come in. She stood there dumbly in front of her cauldron on the fire, just stirring and stirring. To save time, to not have to ransack the whole house, he shouted at her, asking if she had anything valuable, money from a pension, icons. First the old woman looked at him, then she shook her head. She quietly murmured under her breath, "They don't learn, it's the same thing every year." As she stood there, she pointed with her free hand to the shelf of metal cups. He looked around for something to put the cups in. He spilled them roughly onto the bed cover so he could carry them in it. Then it occurred to him that the old woman might not have any money, but there still might be something else she could offer him, and he turned towards her with a nasty smile. She was standing in front of him, but somehow not quite so hunched over now, and she was pointing the wooden spoon at him. He found it funny – did she really think she stood a chance? She gave the spoon a light flick with her hand, and the sticky green liquid from it burned him. The pain was simultaneously fierce and paralyzing. He noticed that he couldn't stand on his legs anymore, and he dropped to his knees. The old woman looked at him for a moment and then, without any effort, she lifted him up by his t-shirt and put him in the pot.</p> <p>His parents didn't find him at home in the morning and went out looking for him among their neighbors. Afterwards, they started questioning his friends. When they found out he had tried to convince them to go to the upper mahala with them that night, his father grew pale and turned green, while his mother wailed as if at a funeral. From the wailing of the women and the moaning of the men, it was clear that the whole mahala now knew about his disappearance. His friends and the younger ones were bewildered. Around noon, the older people gathered in a large group and set out for the upper mahala. But only his mother got up the courage to knock on the old woman's window.</p> <p>"Auntie, give him back, please. Nobody won't come here no more, everything'll be like before." Her face was covered by her tears and her running nose, and her head kerchief had slipped down onto her shoulders.</p> <p>The Gypsy woman stood there for two days. She wouldn't eat or drink. Her husband gave up and only brought her food or water from time to time, since they remained untouched.</p> <p>It wasn't until sunset of the second day that the window opened, and a bony white arm handed her a beautiful copper cup.</p> <p><strong>Stanislava Slavova-Petkova holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and informatics from Plovdiv University, as well as a master's degree in informatics from Veliko Tarnovo University. She has published works on serious educational games as a method for digital presentation and preservation of cultural and scientific heritage. She works at an international company. As a fiction author, Stanislava writes mainly short stories which have appeared in periodicals and blogs. She has won third prize in the 2018 Irrelevant contest, organized by Bukvite Foundation, Bulgaria, which was given to her for most interesting short story character.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-162" hreflang="en">Issue 162</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=141&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="yeVoi7hyE5wgtqWutKPWCkSUemYGk2jLh1Z182UA2Yg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Tue, 31 Mar 2020 04:39:00 +0000 DimanaT 141 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/cauldron-141#comments OXHEART https://vagabond.bg/oxheart-177 <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">OXHEART</span> <div class="field field--name-field-author-name field--type-string field--label-hidden field__item">by Joanna Elmy; translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel</div> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><a title="View user profile." href="/user/251" lang="" about="/user/251" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="" class="username">DimanaT</a></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Mon, 02/24/2020 - 07:56</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-subtitle field--type-text-long field--label-hidden field__item"><h3>A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Joanna Elmy</h3> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>In the empty apartment, he took a shower and looked for a piece of paper and a pen. He found an orange BIC, yellowed graph paper and sat down to write. He hadn't written for years.</p> <p><em>Clinical Picture of Nostalgia: </em></p> <p><em>Onset period: Since the beginning of eternity.</em></p> <p><em>Vulnerable groups: Homo Sapiens, of various ages and gender.</em></p> <p><em>Present focus: recently prefers Eastern Europe.</em></p> <p><em>Anamnesis vitae:</em></p> <p><em>Complaints begin after what the patient describes as "the final" existential disappointment, after which nothing has any meaning anymore; the disease slips into the crack where the soul has broken. Characterized by a dull, intolerable, inescapable ache. Shooting pains are felt along the whole of the body, especially strong in the region of the heart. Co-morbid with other symptoms: some patients succumb to depression, others become aggressive; the case histories of those suffering from nostalgia is exceptionally varied, thus making it difficult to determine which symptoms are associated with it and which are not. It is an indisputable fact that manifestations of nostalgia have been observed in popular political doctrines, in brutal dictatorial ideologies, and have even incited whole nations to hide shameful pages in their histories. On the other hand, others infected by nostalgia present side effects such as the authorship of powerful literary works, musical compositions or works of visual art. On the social level, the disease presentation is also multivalent: nostalgia functions independent of then patient's housing conditions, material environment or intimate life, although certain indicators suggest a correlation between socio-economic conditions and the morbidity rate of nostalgia. Employment status and work conditions, diet and unhealthy habits have not been shown to correlate with an organism's vulnerability to nostalgia, according to leading experts. The patients do not show any common characteristics, nor do they display problems with the motor system. In summary, the dynamics of the illness are so varied that it cannot be grasped by scientists.</em></p> <p><em>Personal observations:</em></p> <p><em>Nostalgia is an epidemic whose destructive effects can be observed today in the countries of Eastern Europe, and especially among their citizens who are scattered across the world. The latter have no idea what they are looking for, yet they are convinced that they will find it precisely there, where they are not (just ask their poets). In any case, even if they do find it, they remain convinced that someone somewhere has it better; that they are being tricked; or that evil is still around the corner, sharpening its claws, because nothing good ever happens just like that. The instincts listed above are a highly specific and brilliant response of Eastern European evolution, which has adapted its subjects to all manner of tragic conditions of existence.</em></p> <p><em>Treatment: None.</em></p> <p>Before he went to the market (he was sure the woman would be there), he met up with a few friends. The guys from the neighborhood, an old schoolmate, some co-workers – they hadn't been in touch for years. The only common link between them had been missing for years: him.</p> <p>They talked about newborn and grown-up kids, about weddings and divorces, about their parents' funerals, the financial crisis, business trips and vacations, idiotic co-workers, leaking roofs. The petty annoyances of everyday life are the universal language of the human race. His nostalgia writhed uneasily. There was very, very little left of his old friends – a few old stories, a familiar gesture, faded with the years. Nobody and nothing was waiting for him. No one missed him. And he didn't know these people. They met as memories. And parted as total strangers.</p> <p>He was right. The same smiling Gypsy woman, with more wrinkles and fewer teeth than before. The indecently large, shiny pink oxheart tomatoes hadn't changed a bit. The only difference was that now you could buy them in March, too.</p> <p>"They inject 'em with horse piss!" His grandfather used to say. You're just jealous yours don't grow that big, his father would snap back at him. Then they would sit down at the table and his grandfather would pour so much salt on the tomatoes that they tasted bitter. Revenge is best served salty.</p> <p>He bought enough for all the years he had spent without buffalo hearts. He chose them carefully, gently feeling their skin, firm yet soft, fleshly perfection. He ran his finger over the scarred wounds where they had been picked. He caught the scent of grass, moss, a tang of sweetness. The alkaloids in tomatoes are the same as those in nicotine, he'd read that somewhere. That way the plant hoped to ward off enemies. What a fatal evolutionary mistake! He gave the Gypsy woman 20 leva and didn't ask for change. In return, she sent him off with a blessing.</p> <p>His hands were shaking with anticipation as he unlocked the door. He went inside straight to the kitchen, still wearing his shoes. He left the tomatoes on the counter and opened up the highest cupboard. He immediately spotted the box with his mother and father's wedding china, Polish porcelain, used only once – for his high school graduation party. He remembered how his mother had wanted to send them for his wedding, he also remembered how he had snapped at her on the phone: do you have any idea how many million dish sets they have here in America, what would they want with old dishes, use them yourself! He quickly chased the thought from his mind, wiped off one of the biggest plates, involuntarily relishing the complex woven design of blue heart-shaped stamens, their vines, the perfectly identical dots around the curved edge. He set the plate down next to the bag, opened it and began carefully washing the eleven tomatoes one by one. He touched them with exceptional tenderness, as he had not touched anything or anyone in years. When the last tomato had been dried after its cold bath, he cut them into perfect pyramids, carefully performing surgery on the dried wounds on the crowns of their heads, cutting out the cores and tossing them into the trash. With a fork in his hand he finally sat down at the kitchen table, from the window he could watch the retirees toddling down the sidewalk in their black funerary clothes. In these parts after a certain age a person began mourning his unlived life with all the necessary rituals. Without color, without undue joy. A mausoleum of unhappiness, a requiem for timelessness.</p> <p>Something wasn't right. The sweetness of the first bite seemed to be the same that he had remembered from his childhood, but it didn't have that crucial spark of life so needed to quench the nostalgia. At first, he chewed slowly, then he began gobbling down whole pieces in the hope that perhaps the quantity consumed would bring with it that much-needed taste. He expected to feel full of memory and memories, or even to feel on the verge of throwing up. But it was as if he was swallowing air. His grandfather did not appear, nor did his father. That world outside remained just as foreign and familiarly unfamiliar, unchanged and eternally in motion. The hole in his chest was still gaping open, his body was an hourglass, the grains of the years gone by falling freely, one by one, into the cavity of his sick heart.</p> <p> </p> <p><strong>Joanna Elmy was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. At present, she is pursuing a dual degree in the field of humanitarian and social sciences at the New Sorbonne University in Paris, France. She is the creator of and is currently expanding the first student online magazine dedicated to Anglophone culture and literature. As one of the winners of the first national scholarship Per Aspera Ad Astra, she is working on her writing under the guidance of Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov. Joanna is a freelance author for Deutsche Welle and she is part of the editorial of the Bulgarian independent media Toest, where she is also a staff writer; she has also written for citizen journalism website Terminal 3. In her spare time she volunteers at the American Library in Paris, where she helps mainly during evening events – panels and discussions on journalism, culture, and literature. She is fluent in French and English.</strong></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-disclaimers field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-block-content clearfix field__item"> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><div class="uk-panel"><img class="uk-align-left uk-margin-remove-adjacent" alt="EK_Logo.jpg" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="/images/stories/V135-136/EK_Logo.jpg" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION" width="50%" /> THE <a href="http://ekf.bg/" target="_blank" title="ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION">ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION</a> 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.</div> </div> </div> <a href="/archive/issue-161" hreflang="en">Issue 161</a> <a href="/taxonomy/term/107" hreflang="en">Elizabeth Kostova Foundation</a> <div class="field field--name-field-mt-post-category field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden field--entity-reference-target-type-taxonomy-term clearfix field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/culture/fiction" hreflang="en">FICTION</a></div> </div> <section class="field field--name-comment field--type-comment field--label-above comment-wrapper"> <h2 class="title comment-form__title">Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=177&amp;2=comment&amp;3=comment" token="PTQEqErQeUkRAVDafW9aRuz25ARuUyrr5dGbKFPfnqI"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 24 Feb 2020 05:56:11 +0000 DimanaT 177 at https://vagabond.bg https://vagabond.bg/oxheart-177#comments