Ivan D. Hristov

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THE OUTLAW

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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

LIFE

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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Those were odd times – you could take out the eyes of the blind one, you could squeeze blood out of a stone!

After the Germans declared war on the Russians, everything went backwards. The years, which came were of bigger and bigger hunger. I was working in a pub. For such a job, as Nako said, they need cunning people and accurate scales. I liked the trade, I was good at it. As a pub keeper, I also sold the flour. I gave it in the form of rations. At that time there was neither a road nor a motorized transport to the town. We brought the flour on mules.

Once in the winter I sent people to load the flour from Banite. It happened that during the day I had to go down to town with three mules for goods. People brought the flour and shared it equally, and then brought me the money.

It was not easy to travel five hours from the town to our village, to walk in the snow deep to your knee, and to go with loaded mules through Slivov dol. It was terrible there. The path was narrow, icy and outlined by nature itself, winding in the middle of a sheer cliff for over a kilometer. You get dizzy looking down the deep abyss. Just a little slip and the cattle go into the abyss. One by one, I led the mules by the leads while I was walking with them through that damn place. I remember coming back in the dark. The night was like every other night –the moon cusp and stars in the sky and a quiet and dark village.

I unloaded the mules and went home. I had not passed the pub when I met Gego. He greeted me, shook his head, as if wondering whether to tell me anything or not, and pushed into my hand a hundred leva of the old money.

“What is this money for, uncle Gego?” I asked. “You do not have a debt”.

“I brought flour, Dimo, a load from Banite and I left it in my house.”

I got angry and I called to him:

“How did you bring flour? Who ordered you?”

“Well, I did it. I will not die of starvation.”

“If you brought it, you brought it ... But at least one sack you should get back because there’s no flour in the store either.”

And he told me:

“I gave Samura half of it.”

I turned red with rage, told him off properly and we parted.

The next day I just opened the pub and started sorting out the goods when someone opened the door and stopped out of breath on the threshold. I looked at him, it was Nako, goose-fleshed, bearded, wearing torn ox sandals and tied with a rope across his waist;on his back he had a towy shirt with patches of different colour. He pastured Churko’s oxen in the summer and in the winter he worked as a farmhand in one or another place in search for a piece of bread.

Nako came up, banged his fist on the counter, looked at me straight in the eyes and said,

“Dimo, you are my father, you are my salvation! My children”, he said, ”are starving. Give me some flour again if you do not want to send me to my dad in the ceme

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