Ivan D. Hristov

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MANOLE MACRELATA

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VALCHAN’S SWING

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DESTINY

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THE CROSS SIGN

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THE ORDEAL

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THE ORDEAL

MILUSH

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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Milush was lying on the wooden bed in the big room, watching the thin jets of water flowing down the window. A long row of sad and muddy days was passing outside. The wind was constantly twirling, and the rain quietly mumbled, turning the village into a swamp.

Milush looked at the other end of the room, where were the wooden cupboard and the blue-painted cupboards. His gaze slid across the things on the shelves: shepherd’s crook, about ten small and big sheep bells. His face had faded, his eyes sunk and lost their former strength and vitality. He had bitter taste in his mouth from the herbs he had drunk as a cure. His lungs were snoring and choking and hissing. His back was as if rotten. The pain did not give him peace of mind. He could not count which day he had lain down and which one was coming.

The beechwoods cracked in the fireplace, and the shadows were reflecting and chasing on the ceiling. Milush opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling and drifted into the past. The chest pain did not blur his consciousness, and his memories were so clean and good... In his sick mind the image of his old father rose again. Just as he remembered him: tall, always bearded, with blue, very blue eyes.

The sheep are milked and sheltered in the pen. The darkness is falling over Chernatitsa, and its peaks and ridges are lost in bluish twilight. They are sitting by the fire, warming up and talking. Stoyu Sivkov lights his pipe, sucks in the tobacco and starts talking again about the sheep. He speaks his mind. “The shepherd’s job, son, is a fine job”, he says ... “you have to lead the sheep slowly, not to rush or force them when they graze. Let them take their own way or decide when to lie down at noon. If you make a mistake, they hide their milk and you can just see that you have six litres less in the bucket.” The fire is burning out, and the face of Stoyu Sivkov disappears. He, before dying, left the sheep and the small piece of land to his only son Milush.

Shortly after the death of the old man, Milus called Tasho Kisyov, made him a partner, and both of them drove the sheep to Petlyov’s chukal. They made a summer sheep-fold, fenced a pen. On Petlyov chukal there was pasture as much as you wanted, but many wolves lived in that place. Milush had large Karakachan dogs without which he could not step out. But once in the middle of the day, a wolf took a ram away, and the dogs did not bark at all.

Something happened a long time ago and still excited Milush’s heart. It was in a March night. They closed the sheep in the pen, gathered wood and lit fire. They warmed up. Tasho, a dry, but tough and strong man, got ready to go to the village.

“I’m going,” he said, “to change my wife’s shirt in the village, and you keep the bear out of the sheep ...”

“If this is the case, go there in good health”, Milush agreed.

Milush was alone. He was watching the sheep. They were l

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