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Elada Pignyo and the Time

October 22, 2008 by · No comments

Kerana Angelova

Photo: mysza831


She was laden with years like an old quince tree. Though the fruit had already been picked, the tree in its mind continued to carry its load and lacked the strength to straighten its branches. It’s time, old woman Pignyo said to herself. Once, in the evening, something had cheeped pitifully in her breast and she had pictured a callow, newly born birdie fluttering there in the cage of her ribs. It must be an eaglet, a hungry one, and I have to feed it with my flesh.

While contemplating, she saw in a split second the time somersault in the womb of eternity to take a forward position. Forward towards what. And who granted me the eyes to see that. She smiled and waved her arm. Her life was already flowing backwards and the questions needed no answers.

As she was flying headlong backwards, she started suspecting that death would prove something like life. At least as unique and unrepeatable. The eaglet pecked at her ribs, bit a tiny painful piece of her flesh. From pain came enlightenment: her one and only death turned out to be a return. The strangest thing about it was that she managed to see her whole life at once. As if I were traveling by train, cozily snuggled against the suede back of the seat, but in a direction opposite the traveling.

Trees flew gracefully on the other side of the window, clouds, hay-men, fiery horses, their necks stretched to the sunset, bridges, railways, birds, dogs, people. There I was, sitting and watching the future suddenly leap out from behind my back, and in front of my very eyes, turn into the past. The reflection on the window-pane showed a woman younger and younger, with violet eyes, becoming more like a girl, with wild raven hair, then a child.

With this thought, she arrived.

The cottage remained at the top of the steep street, as she vaguely remembered it, but it was whitened by the bitter winds of time. Dull crystals of brownish salt had stuck to the walls, to the beams and to the roof, covered with green mold. A 6-inch span of ash covered the chimney, like a soft nest. A bare-necked birdie was lying in the nest, rolling its only yellow eye and clucking in an unfriendly way: cluck, cluck, cluck!

From the direction of the fields came the smell of freshly baked bread. Up the steep road, a browned maize bread rolled itself past her, and before her amazed eyes, it slipped into the backyard. I see, Pignyo remembered, it had gone round to see its field* and in a minute Granny will break the bread into pieces and thrust a hot chunk into my hands.

She sighed. Where did this all come from. I’ve never had such a childhood, here or elsewhere. Am I not cheating. Am I not trying to re-live my life in a better way. Is it possible not to make mistakes this time. Is it possible that the others would not make a mess of my life. O, Lord, what would I have done without the mistakes in my life, she smiled bitterly.

At the same time, she recognized the long-forgotten feeling from her childhood, those weird butterflies in her stomach. A little blue beetle came off the rose bush, thudded on her palm, crept fluffily. The tingle of the sensation made her lips swell. The sky glowed and she felt as if she owned the world. She had no memories, the memories were still in the future, hadn’t come from there. Squeak, squeak, the gate was squeaking, with Pignyo balancing on one leg and swaying on it. Past happens so fast, she thought, I’ve become so little.

All of a sudden, it darkened. It always darkened all of a sudden. Her joy died away. Jackals howled in the nearby gully, made her blood curdle. It was then that she realized the village was empty, not a sound, not a breath. Mother. My mother. Her mother loomed in the window of the little house, with the gas lamp halo around her head.

She was young and thoughtful. She stretched her hand through the window, laid her palm on the pulsating fontanel of the child’s head. The jackals howled again. Don’t be afraid, her mother smiled, those are the crickets, you’ve forgotten, haven’t you. Look at the night, how big and warm it is, nothing wrong can happen to you.

Her duck-like little feet reeled, Pignyo was trying to reach her mother. She clutched onto her, buried her face in her lap. Cooed. Her mother nestled her head down in her folded arm, gave her to suckle again for the first time. The warm gulps choked Pignyo, she waved her arms and legs about, staring at the golden eye of the bare-necked birdie, which had perched on the window ledge. The eye became bigger and more golden. I’ve never thought that light can spring from the eye of such an ugly, moulting birdie, wondered Pignyo with failing strength .

She made an effort to learn the most important, the only thing that was the reason for her coming backwards along the road of time to its entrance, which was an exit. She couldn’t, though. There was no answer. It turned out that man was fictitious, from beginning to end. Lord, what nonsense man was! A cry of despair was welling up to her lips, when suddenly a mighty voice sounded from every direction,

Pignyo, somewhere in the tangled course of time, in an instant of the past, present or future, the answer will find you itself!

She sighed with relief.

At the same moment, the eye of the ugly birdie turned into a dazzling golden sun.

*In a popular Bulgarian tale by A. Karaliichev, maize bread cannot be eaten before it had gone round its field and made sure that the seeds for the next-year crop were growing.

Translated from Bulgarian by Zhivka Ivanova

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