БУКВИТЕ - САЙТЪТ ЗА НОВА БЪЛГАРСКА ЛИТЕРАТУРА

Hitchhiking

Явор Емилов Тодоров (явор64)

Раздел: Проза на чужд език  Цикъл:

His luggage was not heavy - a blue-red travel bag, thrown over his shoulder and Yavor slightly jumped on the beaten earth strewn with  white stones and yellow grass blades.
He looked around. Here there were steep cliffs, overlooking the river, which  was gleaming as knife's blade at the turns. The villages were always located in places where the mountain in the past had yielded to the hard work of the water, red roofs, hidden in the foliage can be seen from the other side of the road and he went there. 
The summer was spent in walks around the village of his father, then to the Magura, the cave with drawings of the prehistoric man, sometimes to Dzhuraka or Klenyaka, two springs hidden among the trees of Gladno pole where wheat was sown, according to the legend at Klenyaka was settled Tolo, the first resident of Tolovitsa.
The wasteland  was inspiring him, he was loving, completely alone,  to wander up to the little river, until he reached Umni Dol, where in old time the women dug clay to wash their hair. Lately in the summer the thicket was becoming impassable.  
He was knowing where a quail was nesting  and every time when he was passing it was taking off, it was happening when he was taking to the east when there was in the past the water mill of his great-grandfather, grandfather Vanko. He was loving to watch the place where the little rivers of Svatbitsa and Tolovishka bara were blending and slightly downward were flowing in the Vidbol.
The places around were full of history and he was proud that he is from Vankovtsi clan, so was called their family and though nowadays this does not mean anything, he still was knowing that he is a descendant of bashknez, that his great-grandfather had raised a revolt described in works of history, it was before a century and a half, the years was 1850, the military leader was called captain Nicola Marinov, he had graduated the military school in Belgrade. So he was representative of a noble  family, it meant nothing today, their tribal memory and their tribal pride, sense of superiority.
Yavor was a boy of fourteen, with freckles and green eyes with orange spots. His beard, just sprung, was Rusty, although the color of his hair was brown. When he was not walking in the wilderness around the village or when he was tired swimming in the lake the neighbors were wandered to see him sitting on a folding table in the front yard with a chess book in hand. He defeated all children and grown man who made their vacation in the village and asked him to play a game of chess. 
Of course, all co-villagers of his grand father were asking first from which clan he was and they were nodding when he was answering that he was from Vankovtsi, here everything was known, memories and anecdotes were told late at night in the pub or at the fireplace, all were knowing the story, the house of Tsolo Todorov was a museum. This house before one hundred and fifty year had given shelter to Tsolo Todorov and his family, it was willow wattle, plastered with mud from the little river and then whitewashed, with antique wooden porch, with Turkish tiles, beautiful in its own way. 
Tsolo Todorov was the unifying figure of Vankovtsi and they were proud that they carry his genes in their blood.
The brothers Tsolo and Wolf Todorov were trekkers, as the generic story was telling, they came in Tolovitsa as children from Belimel, Montana where there were persecutions against Bulgarians.
About the childhood of Tsolo little is known, it was like his father's childhood, a little cowman who drink water straight from the river when thirsthy. Yavor was imagining how Tsolo was teaching himself secretly to shoot with bows and arrows, an art still memorable in this distant time. 
Tsolo is to be distinguish not only with physical strength and agility but mostly with awake intellect and courageous initiative. Still too young he became the richest Bulgarian in Vidin Province while engaged in special operations, known as beglikchyistvo. This tax farmer received from the Turkish state the right to collect taxes. Annually to Constantinopole flowed from all parts all the goods produced in the Sultan's lands.  Tsolo was a shepherd and headed a company which was going around the villages gathering herds for the sultan, they received remuneration, but Tsolo didn't rely only on this, he was appropriating lambs and kids entering  into the books that they were eaten by wolves, kidnapped by the river or given as ransom to bandits.
So he and his men gained money but being giaours (unbelievers) they did not display their wealth, they did not ride expensive horses, stealth became their second nature, in those conditions people for very small turned into conspirators, not to mention that they had the confidence of warriors, hardened by the muddy roads of the Ottoman Empire where one daily risked not only property and honor but also health and life.
Tsolo Todorov was the basis for the idea to organize a revolt into the Vidin Province, to secede it and join to Serbia and Yavor wants to know if he had known what would happen, what a slaughter was awaiting them and that the most beautiful women and girls would be kidnapped after the bloody rebellion in the inaccessible aerie of the local beys. Was he counting as Benkovski, twenty-six year later, to shout: "In the heart of the tyrant I opened such a bitter wound that will never healed!" The history said nothing about the latter but the first was reflected in the written testimonies of European observers deployed in neighboring countries.  
After years of faithful service to the Sultan Tsolo had retired, had returned home in Tolovitsa, had built a handsome house, had married and lived in Belogradchik the quiet life of landowner.  From the second life he had not children, the first died in Serbia. 
Vankovtsi were descendants of the other brother, Wolf. 
Once he had won the confidence of the Turks, Tsolo was appointed by them as "bashknez", something as mayor, a position which realized the relationship between them and the conquered population. Astride his horse he outlined the boundaries of Tolovitsa and determining the amount of his property he became the top taxpayer in the area. He went to live in Belogradchik and there he became a leader in the subversive activity performing the revolutionary plan. The adjacent monastery in the village of Rakovitsa, housed at the foot of the mountain,  keeps signed bloody document with the decision to lift the upraising. They hide there guns and gunpowder purchased from Serbia.
The tradition says that once the Turks gathered all bashknezes of the district, about two hundred people and made them in rows. The Turks put Tsolo before the row and he faced two hundred men, with eyebrows knit under the fur caps, they stared at him, everything could be expecting, the Turks might have already learned and then, under the scorching sun, sweating under his shaggy cap, Tsolo was biting  to blood his lower lip, the pressure and the blood might have betrayed him but just then the governor tapped him on the shoulder before the gathered men and began to scold them.They should be as Tsolo, they should take example from him and then it should be easy to live within the boundaries of the all-powerful sultan. "Did you understand, men -  the governor finished - take example from TsoloTodorov according the will of Allah and all will be well! Go now?"
But bravery and courage didn't help this time, the naive heroism of ax and pitchfork collided with the force of heavily armed Turks. Imprisoned in the fortress of Belogradchik and deprived of water the rebels finally gave up and their heads rolled on the block without any tardiness.
Today a modest plate in Belogradchik inform the passengers with its  terse words for this memorable events. 
"The most beautiful women and girls were kidnapped in the eagle nests of the local beys.


Yavor stand on the road and looked up. The sun was dipping. The analysis of the situation showed

that it was hiding some dangers. It would gradually begin to darken, he had even a penny in his pocket, the  only thing his grandmother and grandfather had given to him just before he board the train was a kiss from both. The tickets were still checked around Vratsa but the regulations were requiring the conductor to pass a second time shortly before the end of the journey. Yavor had pushed the ticket somewhere and the conductor of the train throw him overboard under the indifferent eyes of the passengers of the compartment no matter they traveled with him from Vidin.  
The possible solutions were few. In the first place he could try to get on the next train to Sofia that would arrived at the station. But it meant to let to be questioned  by the head station. Yavor had to explain to him he had lost the ticket. Second, although the village was not full with people, yet it was not deserted. Located along the road it was an ideal starting point for hiking in the mountain. Few people were noticed before the shop. He could try to ask them for money explaining the situation in which he fell. But he was ashamed. He had not even the idea to go to the police. The hitchhiking was the only thing that remained.
Once, and this was his best recollection from the mountain, with his best friend from the French School they made a nice long trek. Demetrius, whom everyone called James, had mapped out the route in the most complicated way whose sole purpose was to pass through beautiful scenic places. They were bringing food in bags because in the monastery "Seven Thrones" food was not sold, although one could sleep at  a low price. It had always a few visitors, more often young people with their girlfriends  to spend some days in air. The monastery was not very large but it was really picturesque, it was situated on the final stretch of the asphalt, right beside the river with undeclared name, tributary of the Iskar. However, the seven kilometers from "Spring Station" look to James like "grandmotherly tourism" so he choose the next station, from which they had to go back over the ridge, passing by villages with strange names, the strangest from which was Osenovlak. The explanation of this name Yavor knew from James: the local people were building houses on the ridge, on the hills, steep and bevelled  on the both side of the mighty river, the cattle was there at safe place and there was no danger of snow avalanches, the hay for the sheeps was pulled up with rope, the said "train" and hence the name of the village "Falltrain".
They walked all day, intoxicated by the movement, Yavor remembered how they passed by a place where the plane grew, all natural forms around were so clean that it seemed the place was a scenery of some giant stage, this feeling just fade away when it was displaced by very similar, the stage of theater gave way to a movie one when they entered in a village to which there was no way, neither asphalt nor something else, desolate and empty houses stared at them with dark eyes, they saw two old men with flowing white sleeves of the shirts, they didn't great them or something else, they just stared at them without amazement how they pass along in the haze. The sun was at noon and in the midday heat everything began to seem unreal, even the red fern that came shortly after, gaining vast expanses of the desert mountain meadows.
They reached the monastery at four o'clock in the afternoon, they had walked practically the whole day, at a moment they stepped in the river by mistake, as James in the role of leader thought they short the distance this way. And, oh, miracle, shortly after the monastery appeared behind a bend of the river, they feel like they discover a monastery in Tibet, full of mystery and where they were expected by friendly monks possessing esoteric knowledge, meeting them at the threshold with a cup of tea, without many words. 
In fact, nothing remained but to  pay the hotel fee, their room had two beds on the second floor in one of the wings of the building, ivy had slid along the window and a pot with geraniums was quiet behind the bars. They ate in his room and drank from the fountain whose icy jets were babbling in a corner of the yard, they got up early in the dark morning and without ceremonies and any wasting of time they took the paved highways to Spring Station. 
It was the whole journey during which there was not a lot of talking but only the scathing remarks about the Duda who wanted to dine at ten o'clock and yet that silence Yavor had the feeling that they had told each other everything that they have to say until the end of the eternity.
Then, after that trip, he wrote one of his first stories, he and  James had always dreamed of becoming writers. It was a short form, not longer than one typewritten page and it described the heroism of a monk who climbs a heavy cross on one of the steep cliffs, before the eyes of the silent accomplices and it fastens it at the top of the cliff, in spite of Hagarenes, the existence of the cross, raised alone against the blue sky with  puffy white clouds was not fiction, both had spotted it through the windows of the train when they eagerly absorbed the last of the day memories from the Grand Canyon.
Lost in thoughts, imperceptibly for himself, Yavor went out at the bottom end of the village, walked another half mile and stopped. Here it was the right place to wave his hand hoping to  stop a car, there was cars, thank to God, people here were still living astraddle between the city and the village, every Saturday they traveled and returned with full bags. But the cars were passing and not stopping, there was a hope, Yavor certainly knew  that, if he was patient enough, he knew that when he made a travel to Plovdiv where his grandmother was living, every time he was leaving her she gave some money in his hand. The important thing was just to wait and not to give up, someone would stop.  
After about an hour he was taken by a truck driver, who, however, had to depart for station Bov. The driver was one of those cowboys of the highway that you can hardly afraid of anything. Yavor struggled to jump on the  rung, high for his growth and sat comfortably. They were talking on the road and the driver explained that from the police they were continually warning them: "Don't take hitchhikers!"  
The red, the golden and the green, the lush colors of the mountain, in her sweet autumn fatigue were remaining behind, it was one of those beautiful autumn days in which the invisible spell full of freshness and purity of air imperceptible stir something inside us and make us feel happy and Yavor was not regretting anymore he was thrown out of the train, what happened could be seen as an adventure. 
Only briefly within him the concern came when the driver left him at the fork. While looking at the container that gleamed white in the dropping darkness down at the curve of the road, Yavor thought the container could maybe transport uranium ore because he had heard there is uranium mines somewhere in this area. It was half past nine in the evening and a thrill of anxiety together with the coming chill went through his body and as it was a beautiful adventure, the prospect to spend a night outdoors in this desert mountain, shrouded in darkness and unarmed with anything, even with a knife was not pleasant to him.
Miraculously, just when it got dark, he was taken by the driver of a little blue "Shkoda". The driver didn't question his much, but instead he turned the knob of the radio and in the car was spilled the sounds of  jazz, the most appropriate music for a night trip. 
In euphoria the trumpets were shaking the compartment in which both, driver and passenger were lost in their thoughts, and the headlights illuminated only dark silhouettes of trees and a stretch of the road that the front of a car constantly swallow beneath it. 
At half past ten in the evening the driver left him at "Lion's Bridge". Trams cheerfully split the air with their deafening roar, the windows sparkled, immersed in their electric lights, the city was shining with thousands radiance and Yavor felt cheerful enthusiasm. Sofia was still beautiful in those distant years and, despite the fatigue he hurried up  on  the avenue  where only in ten minutes was their home.


2012-12-17