Don't Kill Mother!
Mila, the favorite granddaughter of the old Venneta, sat down on the floor by the armchair, and asked:
‘And have you loved granddaddy all the time, granny?’
‘Certainly, dear, how can it be otherwise?’ the old woman caressed her cheek.
‘And you didn’t get tired?’ said the girl, amazed, ensconcing herself in her granny’s feet.
The old Zlati had drifted into his usual sweet doze on the rocking chair by the window, his face covered with the unfinished newspaper. At his side lied stretched Rudi, the Germen shepherd, whether sleeping, or keeping watch, however, the girl suddenly wasn’t certain.
‘Well, he did make me mad sometimes. We had our quarrels.’ the old Venneta became thoughtful for a moment, giving a peek where her husband snored peacefully, then laughed quietly. ‘Can you ever love one man for good fifty years?’ her eyes screwed up cunningly, ‘I’ve taken some rest. I have given myself a break.’
‘A break!’, the girl felt bewildered and exclaimed, ‘You must be kidding me, granny!’
‘The marriage is a job, my dear’ the old woman shook her head, ‘You need a time off. After the holiday, you work better, isn’t that right . . . ?’ the old Venetta was smiling cunningly, somehow mischievously and playfully, but honestly all the same.
‘And during the break, what?’ the girl gave her a conspiratorial wink.
‘Ah, me . . . should people share all their secrets?’ the old woman shook her head and gave the old man the same mischievous, childish look, ‘Besides, you are still very little, the time hasn’t come yet for you to listen to that sort of things . . . ‘
‘Nonsense! Once women at eighteen already had already children of their own! Tell me, please!’ demanded the girl and pressed her cheek upon her granny’s knees.
‘Well, all right, all right!’ the old woman waved her hand, bowed her head and started her tale, in a very low voice, seemingly in the girl’s ear, but actually her voice was echoing in the room. ‘Once, I had got myself, too, a certain ‘friend’, as you call it now, but at the time we used to call it simply:’ lover’ and this is the truer word, I think. His name was Radko, a colleague of your granddad. I hated the long-drawn unfaithfulness: I wanted to be with the man I liked one, two, three days and … then everyone on his own path! So, I breathe the word to my sister over the phone and a wire comes from her at once and I still can see its preposterous contents: ‘Mother seriously ill. Come immediately.’ Mother lived with my sister so there was nothing suspicious it was exactly her to send me such telegram. So, I leave immediately, the very same night after receiving it. Your granddaddy harps on coming, too, but I said to him: no, no, you shouldn’t leave your work just like that!
, you have just been promoted, you have to prove yourself now! He complied to let me go alone, and all in all, I didn’t want him with me, because you understand I have other things on my mind. There was nothing wrong with my mother, of course, you understand it was just an excuse for him’, she beckoned towards her husband who was snoring on and off under the newspaper. Now the dog was taking part in the snoring, too. The old woman pursed her lips and exclaimed: ‘However, the moment I showed up, mother got ill! What a wonder! I, of course, had fixed it so that my new friend was coming, too, and he stayed at the local hotel. The first day, anyway, - we spent it locked in the hotel room.’
‘A whole day!’ Mila exclaimed, admiringly.
And a whole night, too!’ the old woman smiled mischievously and suddenly sighed. – But my mother goes worse and worse! My sister, frightened out of her senses, runs around, gets the doctor, and he says: She must be taken to hospital, her life is in danger! What’s wrong with her, ask I, but he mumbles, one can’t make anything of his chattering. At the same time, my sister, God forgive her, pulls me aside and tells me right in my face: ‘God’s punishing Mom because of your unfaithfulness! Go away, don’t kill mother!’ What could I do? I left. When I came back, my first job was to phone the doctor – sudden improving, says he! And again, all over me with his Latin gibberish! God sees all and punishes us, mark me, dear child . . . yes, it is true . . . ! Since then I hadn’t taken time off from your granddad! Here, honest to God!’ and the old woman crossed herself, her gaze fixed on the icon of the Virgin Mary, placed in the corner of the living room.
‘Yea-a . . . ‘ the girl agreed, stunned by her grandmother’s story.
‘That’s why one shouldn’t be unfaithful.Until that time, I was easy-going, taking my fancy to one man, then another, I didn’t care a cent that I’ve vowed before God to be faithful to this here man!’ the old woman pointed at her snoring husband and caressed her granddaughter’s hair, ‘However, I understood, you can hide no secret from God! He sees all!’ and the old woman again hastily crossed herself.
‘My God, what a horror you’ve been through!’ Mila exclaimed, taking both her grandmother’s withered hands between her palms, kissing them.
‘Nonsense! How can you fill the child’s head with such drivel?!!’ thundered old Zlati sharply removing the newspaper from his face. ‘I called your mother and she decided to play that little nice trick on you! Even your sister took part! He-he! Aren’t you stupid?’
‘Oh! But he’s been eavesdropping!’ said old Venneta, startled.
‘Granddaddy! Shame on you!’ said Mila resentfully, but the old man gave her a cheerful wink and said:
‘And when you talk behind my back, doesn’t that, by any chance, make you feel ashamed, my dear girls?
Venneta abruptly turned towards the old man, and snapped, but bewilderment showed in her angry voice:
‘ Can this be the truth you speak, Zlati?’
‘What do you think?’ he smiled and slowly folded the newspaper.
‘I don’t think, I ask!’ said sternly the old Venneta.
‘The marriage is a competition between two people, Mila!’ explained the old Slavi to his granddaughter, waving his finger mischievously, ‘ The smarter, the more ingenious, is the one who always wins, as is with life, my dear child!’
‘ Wait – are you serious, or you thought it up while listening in on us?’ asked the old woman suspiciously.
‘Yeah-!’ the old Slavi nodded, ‘I’m quite serious. I had decided never to admit that, but – here – stupid of me! I made a deal with your mother at the time. For a mother-in-law she showed much love for me!’
‘Really?!’ the old woman couldn’t believe her ears.
‘And how!’ giggled the old man.
‘What a villain!’ the old Venneta half-rose from the arm-chair, outraged, then sat down again, grown extremely weak with the overcoming agitation. Her hands began to tremble in her lap, and clumsily, she tried to hide them away, but couldn’t – she didn’t know where to put them.
‘Well, all right’, said the old man ’You tell me, Mila, if I had acted like a villain, hadn’t I been provoked enough by her?’
Mila sighed – the case was too difficult to solve. She only shrugged helplessly.
‘Women, for some reason, always imagine themselves very sly and smart. But I won’t have that.’ Obviously contented, the old man started caressing the dog and the dog growled with pleasure.
‘But, granddaddy!’ exclaimed Mila and broke off. Actually, he was right.
‘So, be a winner in this competition, my child! Don’t believe your granny, nobody supervises us, life is in your own hands but love most of all. Win or somebody will win instead of you. There’s no equality in marriage – there’s a winner, or a loser! Take that from me!’
‘I will’ nodded the girl and suddenly, she saw her granddad in a completely different light: strong, clever, ingenious. . . .
‘Come on, Rudi, my dear friend . . . Time for a walk!’ the old man was laughing while the dog scurried towards the door, then came back with the lead and bent his head.’ No, you don’t need a lead, dear friend, you are a man!’
‘Take care, you hear, old boy!’ called the old Venneta after him, mischievously, as always, though her voice was trembling with agitation.
‘I will. I have learned to take care that half a century I’ve spent with you, sweetheart!’ grinned the old Zlati, ‘Would I manage to keep such a beautiful and loved woman like you, if it were otherwise?’
‘Crazy man!’ the old Venneta started shaking her head. She absently caressed Mila’s neck, after the girl had lain her blond head on her granny’s lap again, ‘Well . . .so goes the world, my girl. So many years have I been with this man and I still don’t know what goes in his mind.’
‘Well, he took you in, what’s so hard to understand?’ Mila smiled.
‘No, you are wrong, you are wrong . . . ‘uttered the old woman thoughtfully and then exclaimed:’ But I must have loved him for that; for this strangeness and mystery of his!’ a quick smile crept upon her lips and again, she shook her head ironically, with disbelief ‘although – who knows?
From outside, came the barking of the dog.
‘Someone must have come!’said the old woman, surprised, and rose with a sudden liveliness; then went up to the window and looked through it.
‘Do you know who’s here?’ she asked excited her granddaughter ‘Radko, the same I told you . . .’
‘That one, from the hotel?’ asked the girl, surprised and quickly joined her granny at the window.
‘The very same!’ nodded the grandmother fervently and her hot breath dimmed the glass in front of her eyes.
‘But how come . . . how come they are still friends? I thought granddaddy knew!’ Mila stared astonished at her grandmother’s face.
‘He knew, of course, and I didn’t have the slightest suspicion! Radko – least of all! But, who knows, they might have settled the things between them . . . who can ever understand these cursed men . . . ‘the old Venetta crossed herself while she kept watching the two old men, who strolled down the wide lawn spread before them. Against the dim light of the sunset, Radko and Zlati merged into one great single figure, while the dog was racing along before them.
Suddenly, the two men parted, withdrew from one another and stood exactly opposite each other.
‘As if they are going to fight a duel for their lady of the heart!’Mila whispered, pressing her forehead on the glass.
The old Venneta only sighed and laid both her hands on the sill.
The two men started throwing the flying disk.
‘Frisbee!’ declared Mila ironically, surprised.’ Look at them, old men, what a game they have decided to play!’
The dog was running across the men, shuttling between them, barking in exaltation, following the disk that was flying over his head. And the men seemed completely absorbed in throwing the plastic disk.
Is it possible that I, like the dog, have been running across the two of them all my life, asked herself the old woman, terrified and weakened and started trembling with agitation again, this time feeling a sudden rage rising inside her, totally confused and helpless.
She made two uncertain steps and slumped in the armchair, sobbing with terror, her face hidden in her arms.
Her granddaughter Mila was watching her as much with pain, as with some unsuspected contempt, felt for that old woman in front of her that suddenly had become a stranger to her. The girl half-closed her eyes and one could read on her lips the vow she took: that in love and marriage she will always be the winner, just like her grandfather Zlati!
BIKINI ON THE CHANDELIER, by Stoyan Valev
A story by Stoyan Valev,
Translated from Bulgarian by: Nevena Pascaleva
Like a whirlwind, Iva rushed into the room and before I had time to even blink she was already without her clothes. We were bringing our job to an end, when the phone arrogantly rang.
‘Don’t pick it up!’Iva suggested, giving my ear a voracious bite.
I managed to tear myself away from her sweet tongs, because I knew this was a call from my wife – she would like a report about the guests’ degree of readiness. While I was explaining everything was going according to plan, Iva, to spite me, was doing with me whatever she wanted. After the phone call I refused to go on and she was quite right to become furious and in a minute, to slam the door behind her back, while in the meantime I was pretending to be mad, when I was simply worn out.
I fooled around the flat and there: time had arrived for the first guests. The sound of the doorbell came through the corridor. On their way here, Maria and Evgeni had visited the hospital, and picked up my wife Jenia.
‘Have you been sleeping, sweetheart?’ Jenia asked, slapping my cheek as a rightful owner should do.
‘Please! You are welcome in hell, pardon, our home! And you!’ said I to Jenia and tried to slap her bottom, but she quickly moved away and my hand, with involuntary strength, planted itself on Evgeni’s soft behind.
‘You have a strange way of saying hello to your friends, Segrei!’, mumbled Evgeni in confusion.
‘Slap me, too!’ proposed Maria, Evgeni’s wife, and shook invitingly her playful ass
‘I’m ready to do it, but not now, not in front of such an envious audience, you naughty girl!’
‘You’ll do so, when I go on a business trip, sweetheart!’ Evgeni uttered sternly behind his shoulder, pulling his wife selfishly closer. The idea flashed through my mind: I knew it’ll happen exactly that way; the question was only when.
I welcomed them most politely and when we entered the living room, I noticed Iva’s bikini on the chandelier. I turned red, horror seized me and I set a secret hope on the possibility that nobody would look up and see them. Only minutes later Iva arrived, together with her husband, Vesso, my childhood friend. The situation became desperate, because it was already getting dark. If not me, my wife would soon switch on the light and everyone would see the damned bikini that was hanging so brazenly on the chandelier!
That moment came soon.
But I already had a plan.
A few seconds, and my wife wouldn’t have got ahead of me.
Alas, I had just stepped on the chair in the corridor and was reaching to get the fuses out; when she switched on the light in the living room. Still, I managed to turn it off, because I pulled out the fuse, my fingers shaking, and then I ran to the kitchen, carrying the chair, to leave the fuse in the kitchen and then to sneak into the living room. There, already a few lighters were flickering.
‘The chandelier! I’ll fix it in a second!’ I cried, rushing forward enthusiastically. I stepped on the small table, but it crushed under me and I ended up on the floor, covered all over with glasses, plates and cream from the sweets.
A volley of laughter and mockery came down on me.
My idea was to snatch the bikini, to thrust it in my pocket and pretend that it had just occurred to me that reason might be the fuses. I was lying and thinking what could I do in this newly-created situation, when absolutely unexpectedly, the chandelier in the living room got light.
My energetic wife had guessed the cause of the misfortune. However, had she understood that it was myself that had taken off the fuse?
The ladies rushed forward to remove all traces of the devastation I had inflicted on our table.
I lowered my head in despair. Any moment, someone would look up and shout:
‘Look there! Bikini on the chandelier!’
I was thinking furiously and could think of nothing.
I threw out the imbecilic idea to light up candles.
‘Nonsense!’ Iva retorted. I felt like smothering her with my bare hands.
‘Rot!’ my wife backed up. May be I should throw her down from the terrace?
I bowed down my head guiltily, waiting for the deserved punishment.
The evening closed as usual: our friends first drank, then sang, at one point did both, and failed at each, until at last they remembered they are at work the next day; and sneaked out, lurching, hiccupping, reeling and singing from time to time.
The moment we saw them off, I snatched my wife and carried her in a lively trot towards the bedroom. I imitated a mad fit of love for her. She, however, was unmoved; she tore away from me, and rushed into the living room.
‘I have a headache!’ the terrifying remark of all family creatures; the phrase that could make the hairs of the whole army of men on the planet stand on end.’It must be that vodka, they foist such poison on us nowadays!’ and she opened wide the door to the terrace.
The wind rushed in, playful and tender like an inpatient lover.
There was my wife, sitting, and above her head my lover’s bikini flaunt like a banner. If that was not drama, it wasn’t comedy either, was it?
At last we trudged for the bedroom. I sprawled on the bed and meanly waited for her to fall asleep so that I could scamper to the living room, grasp the bikini and hurl it down from the terrace.
Was it half an hour, or an hour, or maybe two that I waited for her to fall asleep, but at last she did.
I called her name tenderly, got no answer. I waited a few more seconds and tried again. Only then I got up. Being an experienced conspirator in the marriage affairs, I first made for the bathroom, stood some time on the toilet, waiting to hear any suspicious sound. Nothing came: neither an angry shout, nor villainous steps of sneaking pursuer. Only then, very quietly, I tiptoed in the living room. I decided not to light up the cursed chandelier, only pulled a little stool, perched on it and boldly reached out my hand. I got hold of the damned bikini and at that moment someone switched on the light.
First I shrieked with surprise, then with terror, and then I froze in astonishment.
My wife stood at the door, a nasty grin on her face. The wicked woman!
But I kept a brave silence.
‘Are you hanging another pair of bikini up there?’ my wife asked sternly.
‘Some idiot must have played a joke. . . ‘I mumbled guiltily, still standing on the little stool.
‘Hardly. The moment we came here, they were hanging up there, and you have been trying to put them down the whole evening. Secretly! Clumsily!’ said my wife with tender reproach in her voice. Then she asked: ‘Interesting, if the bikini had ended up on the chandelier, where you must have been?’
I kept a stubborn silence, my head bowed.
But my wife, being an experienced and completely professional inquisitor, went on with her questions:
‘Where Iva must have been?’
I understood I’m completely out.
‘I was thinking . . .’I started fearfully, but then I decided the good offence is the best defense, and bravely asked: ‘How do you know the bikini is Iva’s?’
‘We were friends, intimate, of course!’ my wife uttered ominously.
‘You are lying!’ I cried spitefully.
‘All right, then – I was her husband’s friend and he used to borrow me her bikini always when he happened to tear up mine because of his wild passion. . . . ‘She said dreamily and gave a laugh ‘Which one do you prefer?’
It was stupid to continue standing on the stool holding the bikini. I stepped down, kicked the terrace door open and threw them down, God curse them.
My wife withdrew, smiling ominously.
Desperate, I lit up a cigarette. I hadn’t even gone through the half of it, when the doorbell rang. Dismayed, I looked at the clock – half past three. Enraged, and confused, I went to the door and uncertainly looked through the peephole. It was the house manager. Something must have happened, said I to myself and generously unlocked the door. The first thing I saw was the damned bikini. This terrible woman, against whom I performed constant military operations, thrust the bikini in my face.
‘Get your wife’s panties!’
‘They are not hers!’ I managed to cry in panic and tried to slam the door shut. But the wicked creature had already thrust her powerful leg in the wide opening.
‘They almost hit my head and your window is the only one lit! So you have thrown them!’ her logic was indeed incontestable.
Silently, I reached out, took the damned bikini and immediately slammed the door with the slim secret hope I was going to pinch her damned long nose that she was always poking everywhere. Regretfully, I failed; she was protecting it well.
What came through the door was her ominous chuckle only. Tomorrow, the whole block would be informed that in the dead of night, female panties had been flying over our terrace. . .
I snatched the scissors, shred up Iva’s bikini and burnt them in the ashtray. I heaved a content sigh and was about to set off for the bedroom. I guessed my wife had already fallen in a real sleep.
At that moment the phone brazenly and defiantly rang. I hesitated whether to take the call, but in the end I did it. I heard the cloyingly familiar giggle of Iva and then her question followed:
‘Did you see I left my bikini behind . . .at your place?’
‘Yes. I’ve just burnt them.’ I hissed.
Someone took gently the receiver from my hand and suddenly I heard my wife’s voice. She had sneaked like a cat behind my back.
‘Iva, I’ll buy new ones for you and I’ll get your husband to give them to you.’ And she hang up ‘Let’s hug, sweetheart!’ my wife suggested and laughed.
I understood I was forgiven, but something else flashed through my dizzy mind, too – that I would never again be unfaithful to her. At least not with Iva.
YOU WERE GRAET, DARLING!, by Stoyan Valev
A story by Stoyan Valev,
Translated from Bulgarian by: Mariana Zagorska
‘The world does not go round the money or the politics, but one and for all Her Majesty the Woman’, said Assen. He knew how to flatter the beauties not only because he was a diplomat.
The response was shining necklace of women’s smiles. Assen glanced at Emily – she also smiled, but somehow the irony prevailed.
‘The original Bible started like this: ‘And God created the Woman. And she created the rest of the world in her own shape and likeness”
Women loved him because he had learned to perfection the art of flattering. He was always staking on the winning card that every woman had a high opinion of herself.
Mariana smiled – her husband was always flirting overtly and before her. ‘If a man doesn’t enact his desires he gets ill, darling’, he used to tell her insolently. ‘He either gets crazy or dies.’ She was nodding with a motherly understanding. And then Assen was saying his favorite aphorism: ‘Every real man needs more than one woman’.
For her, Assen would be enough ‘cause he was an amazingly skillful lover.
But if Mariana had been faithful to him, she would have looked like an absolute fool in the others’ eyes. So, their marriage turned into a permanent competition, where she was always the leader, although he thought otherwise.
‘Every woman needs more than one man!’, liked to confess before her lovers Mariana.
The cocktail party was at its height when Emily came closer to the diplomat and smiled unexpectedly heartily.
‘Emily! Would you like to go outside to have some fresh air?’, asked Assen. He has been proposing this for months at every cocktail party, every exhibition, concert, premiere at the theater, wherever he had seen her.
‘Why not?’ She chirped readily for the first time.
‘When is my good friend and your beloved husband coming back?’, asked he while taking her by the hand. Many eyes, most of them mocking and other with jealousy, followed them.
‘Next week’, answered Emily and vaguely sighed. It was not clear whether she was suffering because she missed or because he was coming back.
Leaving the hall like this has always meant only one thing and it was as a public secret – a short sexual date. Assen used to call this through laughter ‘an appetizer’, which will continue on the following day in a more quiet way.
Emily has been like a prickle in his ass for a long time – she has laughed superciliously to all of his proposals. She was slipping away like a snake and he was quite puzzled – it was the first time in his life when a woman had firmly refused him. And now she has finally succumbed, she couldn’t withstand his charm and now she was going to fall humiliated in his hands. ‘It couldn’t have happened some day’, Assen was exulted while he was walking next to his new prey, which this time was Emily.
They went down the white marble stairs and walked on the alley. The sand was unmercifully crisping beneath their feet. The darkness was getting thicker or melting away when illuminated by the colorful spotlights installed among the trees. When they reached the terrace, Emily turned back and kissed him – rapaciously, boldly and provoking. Assen has always liked exactly this kind of women – he hated the overtures, although he would never admit it. He ran his fingers impatiently along the slender and firm body of the woman, who was shuddering with passion.
‘Ah!’, suddenly murmured Emily. ‘Hold on a second!’, she slipped off his arms and disappeared in the darkness.
He was ready to wait even an hour. He understood what was bothering her only when the spotlight’s rays drew away from the place they were staying. She had drawn it away.
In a minute the woman appeared from the darkness and eagerly pressed close against him. She was so much in a rush that he had to act as in case of fire.
He went back to the hall filled with displeasure because of appetite was just inflamed but not satisfied. He smoothed the jacket and fixed his tie while walking.
He walked in the illuminated hall after her and a choir of women’s laughter received him. Several ladies were standing opposite the door and staring at him.
And Emily was also among them!
He turned his look to the woman beside him in astonishment and tingled – it was his wife, Mariana.
So, in the last minute Emily has changed her place with Mariana and he hadn’t noticed! He bent ashamed his head down and hurried to the bar.
He swallowed fiercely the first gulp and heard his wife’s voice behind his back:
‘You were great, darling!’
‘So were you!’Admitted he between his teeth.
He looked up and saw Emily.
Another mistake – he was talking to Emily instead of his wife. She turned to Mariana and shouted perkily:
‘He said you were great!’
Another women’s laughter has followed. Some of them even applauded playfully.
Half an hour later, surrounded as usual by women, he said:
‘The original Bible started like this: ‘and God created the Woman. And she created her husband in her own shape and likeness!’
And dramatically bowed his head, he reached out his hands to Mariana. As he was bending forward, he pressed his lips first to her one and then to the other hand. Someone loudly laughed. Assen looked up and saw in astonishment that he has experienced another treachery – he was holding one of his wife’s hands and the other belonged to Emily.
He sighed and hugged the two women.
Then unexpectedly Emily whispered in his ear:
‘Tomorrow at ten, at my place!
Assen stared at her surprised and she bent forward again to his ear and whispered:
‘Now be sure no one is going to believe that!’, and drew Mariana aside, who said loudly:
‘Thank you, Emily, for helping me to cure my husband!’
‘I thank you too, Emily!’, said the joyous Assen and trilled delighted when he imagined what will happen tomorrow at ten.
Copyright © 2003 Stoyan Valev