Ivan D. Hristov

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THE ORDEAL

LIFE

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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tery.”

“You took your ration,” I told him. “I cannot give you any more, the barn is empty. And there is a law for this!”

He jumped up like scalded against me.

“Do you know the hunger law? Do you know”, he said, “this law! You may be a smarter man than me, but I’ve torn two or three shirts more than you.”

“Do you think that this threshing is just on your head…? Look, go to Gegov’s” I told him, “and ask them to give you twenty kilos of flour. Tell them I am sending you.”

I wore a note to him, Nako was pleased and left the pub. After a while he returned as a beaten man.

“They did not give me, Dimo! They did not give me, damn... “, he said ready to cry.

“I will not leave the things this way. We’ll sort it out somehow. Now drink a rakia and calm down.”

I poured him a glass of rakia. He drank half of it at once, wiped his mouth with his hand and you do know what he said to me?

“There is not ease anywhere. Yesterday the mayor called me in the municipality again. There were some strangers with him. I asked him, “Why do you want to see me, Mr. Mayor?”

“You owe money, that’s why,” he told me.

“When I have it, then I will give it to you.”

“Listen, now you can go,” said one of the strangers. “But when we come for the second time, bring the money!”

“When you come, you are welcome!” I told them. “But I cannot give you anything but my torn pants.”

The mayor got up from the table, came to me, adjusted his glasses, and shouted at me:

“You, he said, you got drunk like a Cossack! You smell of wine.”

“Do you want me to smell of milk?” I replied.

Nako was silent, took a sip of rakia and added,

“I have not seen meat for ten years, and they want me a tax on sheep... I will get out of the village”, he said, “I am tired of this harassment.”

“Where are you going to go?” I told him, “It’s like that everywhere. Nobody can escape from these wolf laws.”

Nako put his hands on his head. It grew dark before my eyes. Something hard and heavy like a stone stuck on my throat. I stopped sorting out the goods and told him,

“Those bastards can take off your clothes and leave you naked and rip your skin and still they won’t stop wanting more and more! Well, let’s both go to look for flour.”

I closed the pub and we left. The weather outside was icy. Nako shrank trembling of cold. It happened that we passed his house. Like the owner, like his little house - small, shattered, and there are such screams that make you have goose-flesh all over. I turned to Nako,

“We won’t come back without flour, it doesn’t matter how!"

As soon as we reached the Gegov’s house, I pushed the gate and told Nako to follow me. Without banging, we went straight inside. From a low room, Gegov’s wife popped out, all in flour, and stopped as if frozen to the spot on the threshold when he saw us. She understood what was

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