Blesok no. 91, July-August, 2013

Small Stories

David Albahari

In the Garden

Every night I have the same dream. And every night I wake up at the same moment, just before the point in the dream when I manage to draw the window curtains to see who’s in the garden. The person is picking flowers and softly calling for me. Not by name, because obviously they don’t know my name, but just softly calling out: Boy, hey boy, he-hey!

The Sense of Smell

The air today is full of excitement, announces the nurse contentedly while making the old man’s bed. It smells like warning to me, answers the old man and tries to slip his hand between her thighs. The nurse slaps his hand away and tells him that his sense of smell is fully intact. She says, not only do people your age not have a sense of smell, a lot of them don’t even have a nose. The old man immediately feels his nose. Mine’s in place, says the old man. You’re a real rascal, the nurse replies, smiles and leaves. Alone in his room, the old man sniffs his fingers for a long time.

Deadly Mathematics

Rista was 27 years old when his mother died. His father died 12 years later, and his twin brother, who never got over his brother’s death, Rista’s father, killed himself two months later. His son perished three years after that, together with the rest of the members of his mountaineering group somewhere in the Austrian Alps. Exactly 35 years before that, Rista’s sister was born. She died 10 years later, that is 5 years after Zvezdana was born, Rista’s first wife. Zvezdana married Rista 22 years later, and they got divorced after 6 years and 6 months of marriage. Two years after that, but no longer in the same city, Rista married for the second time. His second wife had a brother who was 4 years older than her, even though he looked 10 years younger. Only 8 days after their marriage, her brother fell down the stairs and broke his neck. Hearing of this, his fiancé, who was expecting, fainted and collapsed on the couch. Neither she, nor the child – a girl – were hurt then, but 12 years later, during a school trip, the girl fell into an abandoned well and suffocated before help arrived. Rista was almost 55 years old then.

The Voice

At night, as the shadows grow, so does the boy’s fear, rising regardless of the voice coming from under the bed, repeating over and over: don’t be afraid, little boy, you’re not alone, you’re not alone, not at all.

What Now?

Wait, says Nenad and brings his hand to his ear, I can hear something. We pause, cease talking, no one laughing, no one coughing, no one breathing. Then Zoran says: I can’t hear anything. Shhh, Nenad hushes him up, now you can really hear it, listen! And then, a sound reaches us from the darkness, a sick voice, the voice of someone exposed to terrible suffering, or, the voice of someone who, face to face with horror, is trying to call for help. Now the words can be made out clearly: Mother dear, oh mother dear, sweet mother, where are you? Nenad turns towards us and asks: What now? No one answers. Only Nevena slips her hand into her shirt and wipes off the sweat between her breasts. I’m so scared I almost shit my pants, she says.

The Delay

The train that was supposed to arrive at seven o’clock in the evening actually arrived two hours later, which forced Mirko to spend two hours at the station restaurant, emerging so drunk that Slavica, his sister, nearly hysterical due to the prolonged journey, refused to get into his car, causing his wife Vida to burst into tears, because she had juggled the dishes on the stove for more than three hours in the attempt to offer them warm supper, and the sight of her tears caused their younger daughter Julia to also start whining, after which they were accompanied by the older sister, Maja, so that in one way or another, the judge said, it isn’t at all strange that, surrounded by this choral weeping, Mirko went to get his gun and a bit later, when Slavica arrived on foot from the station, fired three bullets into her: two in the head, one in the heart.

Man of the House

Jovan tried several times to explain to his wife who the man of the house is. She listened to him, nodding, but Jovan saw that his words passed by her and got lost somewhere in the distance. When he asked her to repeat what he had said, she couldn’t even open her mouth. She only stared and blinked until he hit her so hard that his hand hurt. Then she remembered some of his sentences, but not all of them.

Translated from the Serbian by Rumena Bužarovska
Edited by Maria Santiago

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