Blesok no. 69, November-December, 2009
Prose


Four stories
translated by Branislav Blagojević

Berislav Blagojević.



A Dilemma


    Nutritionists teach you what and how to eat. I don’t know exactly what they were called in the Middle Ages, when they thought young princes and princesses how to behave at the table, what, how and when to eat. The Trade itself survived to date, successfully piling-up the knowledge over the centuries. At the end of the 20th century they became a part of music, film and fashion world, and they also often advised celebrities of political establishment. Nowadays their wisdom is available to everyone – they have countless columns in magazines (or even special editions), TV series, internet blogs… They are an integral part of life of models, actresses, sportsmen, musicians… Nutritionists know what you should eat when a lunar cycle is half way; they will tell you without hesitation, if it is OK for you to eat avocado if your blood group is AB; they will advise you on vitamins, proteins, and other ‘ins… ’
    Nevertheless, none of these highly qualified, skilled philanthropists (since they do not share their knowledge and opinion for money) was able to solve my dilemma from long ago: Is it OK to eat a can of ‘meat breakfast’
[1] for dinner?
  




Chameleons
(taken from ‘Miniatures’)


    They used to be in forests, hanging from small branches, napping on leaves. They cut through the air with their tongues like arrows, effortlessly and voicelessly. Anything smaller than them was their prey. They were everything: a stone, a tree-bark, a dried leaf. They were patient and voracious, even more than they needed to come to the top of food chain. For hours they would pretend to be something else, turning – like magic – one moment into a grass bush, another moment into an ant-hill. Their heart would beat only as much as it should, their breath was shallow, short and invisible. But the eyes… Those gluttonous drifters, like mill-stones, have no rest. Only the eyes, those traitor round balls on the face, only them could reveal all those fantastic masks.
    Then they came among us. They are now in cities, in houses, in parliaments. They are everywhere. They are our neighbours, army leaders, our Best Men, our lovers… Because of them, no one can tell a friend from an enemy, good from evil, virtues from flaws. Present chameleons have skin for every occasion, and they change it as needed. They learn and adapt very fast. Sometimes they don’t even steak out for their prey, but hunt along as they walk. They gather up, forming flocks and setting perfidious traps on the thin line between a dream and reality. Their appetites grow progressively, while deceptions used to confuse the prey are becoming more and more complex, closing to perfection. However, it is still possible to avoid the trap, tell the deception from reality, and save oneself. In order to discover chameleons in good time, you need to know just one thing: They will never look you in the eyes!




Statistician
(taken from ‘Miniatures’)


    Numbers, averages, formulas… Every day, from seven (a.m.) to three (p.m.), five days a week. At five to three he looks at his watch. He hurries to the Bus No. 10, at 10 past three. During the ride he fills a lottery ticket. He counts coins for bread. One and forty. He presses number 6 in the elevator. He turns the stove heater to two. He switches the TV channels: Nothing on one, nothing on two… nothing on eighteen. He turns on the radio: 93.6 (FM). The Four seasons. He turns off the radio and counts the tooth brush hits. He turns off the light and lies into bed. His mind does not switch off. Childishly naive, he tries to count the sheep. Numbers, averages, formulas… He grunts, fidgets, gets up and lies down again. Under his eyelids just numbers, averages and formulas, on a dark background. He is a part of those numbers, averages. He is aware of that, but there is no escape route. He is one of those who voted at the elections; he is employed, he is one of regular TV subscription payers; he is a number. He is his own job, and he exhausts himself. He hates what he has turned into, but sees no way to change it. He is not a human being, he is a machine in service to others. He is no human, he is a statistician.




The Magic Carpet
(taken from ‘Miniatures’)


    As a little child I used to listen to many stories about the magic carpet. As every obedient child I believed in them. Sometimes in my dreams I would fly on one such wide colourful woven fabric, while the tassels on its ends were jumping up and diving on a warm south. In reality I was afraid of heights, but riding the magic carpet of my dreams I was turning into a fearless hero of unending blue skies. I desired so strongly to dream of myself up there, and down there… Bicycles like mosquitoes, buildings like mushrooms, autumn tree-crowns like birch-tree besoms, no noise, no cries, no sighs. Only the river releases barely noticeable, muddy notes, as if it was suffocating. Warm noodles smell somewhere, the kind that stick to your palate and burns you to tears. Some lectures are not being taught at school… And at school they taught us how to weave our magic carpet: respect the older, look after and respect your female friends, be honest to your friends, never tell a lie and, God forbid, never steal. Mario and Miodrag and Azra and Martina and Alen and Sladjana and Danica and Sanel and Davor.[1] We all inserted our fibres into that magic fabric.

* * *

    Now I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of the bottom. It has been a while since I dreamt of flying on a magic carpet, and why should I: one does not hear a river from grunts and cries of the mob, nobody rides bicycles any more, mushrooms grows in stead of besoms, while the scent of noodles got lost somewhere in our grandmothers' kitchens. Never mind, there were a lot of other noodles I got burned on. Respecting the rules imposed on me in school, from heroes of skies I came down to earthly punk. Tempora mutantur. And what happened to our magic carpet? Well, we all stabbed our knives into that magic shit.

* * *

    But, even though cut to peaces and worn out, that carpet is still magical. It has to be so, how could one put so many lies, deceptions and other dirt that surrounds us under a common rug? It is put mercilessly, using hands and legs, elbows and knees. Buildings, roads, forests… Anything can fit under that magic carpet. Until once. And when it bursts out, I would like to be far, far away, perhaps somewhere high on the skies, on some other Magic Carpet.
  


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1. Word game – “mesni doručak” literary means meat breakfast, and is a popular brand name in some republics of former Yugoslavia.

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1. Names that would, in the local context, typically imply to the cultural, religious and traditional belonging of those who bear them: – Orthodox, Catholic or Moslem – representing major groups living in BiH.



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