The Snake

Translated by: Vera Ivanova

4.91   (92 votes)

Spas Gospodov[1] was walking back from Plovdiv to Pazardjik.

Once, a long time ago he had set off to the city across the cornfields. A bare-footed, lanky young man with a sunburnt neck was tramping down the dusty road and thinking about his father’s words: “Sometimes, my son, life is stronger than we are. But only sometimes. Remember this and don’t give up!”

Spas hugged him and was about to cry, he was 18. And his father slapped him on the back, clasped his shoulder with his hard stiff hand and pointed out the road to him.

“The one who doesn’t see his own way will be crushed by it!” he told him, slapped him on the sweaty neck and closed the door of the village house by the Maritsa River.

And the river was flowing muddy that summer, the fish were not nibbling and Spas Gospodov realized that it was high time he had taken his own path.

Just then the snake bit him – a little above the ankle. He didn’t see it but heard it creeping in the bushes. Spas Gospodov took his penknife out of his back pocket and the box of matches out of his front pocket, lit a branch and scorched the blade; then clenched his teeth and cut a piece of flesh around the two red spots. He unripped his shirt sleeve and bandaged his ankle.

And for the first time in his life he asked himself what would happen to a man when he died. He waved his hand dismissively and refused to seek an answer.

This snake bite determined his life. The nurse who injected him with a vaccine two hours later, a young black-eyed girl with short hair and a long thin neck, with a nurse’s hat on her head and a white medical coat with short sleeves, became his wife.


The same evening after Spas had chosen accommodation hastily according to the price, but not conditions, they went out on a walk to one of Plovdiv’s hills - the Bunardjika. Rossitsa asked him what he was going to do. And Spas answered that he had taken the own road in life and would on no account stray from it.

“But he who has decided to go away somewhere alone, surely must go back alone,” Rossitsa said.

“And what if we both set out together?” Spas proposed and took her by the delicate longish hand  with its thin fingers.

“That hasn’t happened to me yet,” she replied.

“Let’s try it!” Spas Gospodov said and after a few weeks they began living together, after several months they got married and the next year their first son was born. 

They had hard times, as well as happy moments. Spas Gospodov was never unfaithful to Rossitsa although as the years passed, the passion faded away. Then he remembered the snake bite, smiled and touched the penknife, which he always carried with h

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