Translated from Macedonian by Elizabeta Bakovska
Every story can be told in such a way that it will become more beautiful, and when it is more beautiful, everybody believes in it as if it is true; the more they believe in it, the more they should pay. We are entering Karče Dokurčev’s inn and the room is already full, as every room is full, because the people know that the master is the best story-teller. It is just that now we are in his city, and in your own city, in your own area, when they know who you are, if they know who you are, it is always difficult to be good. If they don’t know you, they will appreciate you more, I tell myself. That is why, before we entered, the master prayed that he is not recognised, and then he sat next to the fireplace, he straightened his back and now he is already holding the drawing quickly made in coal, he is looking at it, he is moving his eyebrows and telling the story on his behalf, on my behalf. I am quiet and I am waiting for him to finish; he is telling it and I live for him: “I am a dog,” he says and you must wonder how a dog speaks, while you don’t doubt that the dead speak, that the donkeys can fly and saddles fall from the sky; you believe in stories about heroes who brag with their deeds, and you don’t believe that dogs speak. I am Ali Pasha’s bitch, — he says and everybody in the inn grows quiet looking at me. —More correctly, I used to be Ali Pasha’s bitch. – he added. Now I am but a plain dog that belongs to this blind bastard, who can tell the best stories in the world. So, I was with the Vesir and now I am with this hawker, with this scoundrel who barely knows what love is. The poor think that they love you only when they beat you, the rich beat you to love them. This time, for you only, for you solely, because you look at my tail so nicely, I will still allow him to pat me, so that you know that what he tells is what really happens. Yes, dogs speak, but only the one who can listen understands them, — he says, and the people are already throwing coins in the wooden case with a lock that we always carry with us. As you know, — he says, — one of the main reasons for the decrease of the number of children in the empire is that there is a general sodomy, or, more correctly, fornication of men with bitches. Now it doesn’t really matter if we have taken it from the Romans or the Franks, it is important that men enjoy being with us, especially the small, curly poodles like myself. You slob,– I tell myself, slob, I think waving my tail, as if I am happy. According to Hammer, with two M-s, — he says, — a historian that can still be trusted a bit, Ali Pasha, the Grand Vesir of sultan Bayasit I, was the first who infected our people with this vice, although sodomy used to be very spread as early as the ancient Greeks and Persians, which means that this is not happening only now, in this sinful century, but for centuries already. It is just that sodomy is now so spread that it is no longer a vice but passion of the public servants, scribes and writers, even the scientists, and not it has also entered the plain people and the army, and if somebody does not have a bitch for pleasure, he can not hope to reach a higher position. If you don’t have a bitch that they will hate you for, or at least envy, — says the master, this hawker, this scoundrel who barely knows what love is, — don’t hope that you will be promoted! I know that you are common people, maybe even rayah, but even the rayah can progress if you have something like this, something like me – he says on my behalf, knocking on the back of the drawing with his fingernails.
As Ali Pasha’s bitch, or, more precisely, as Ali Pasha’s ex bitch, I want to tell you, let’s say, how it is being a bitch that pleases the top, the weakness of the Grand Vesir, the second man in the empire. So, as first, I was taken care by who knows how many servants, eunuchs whose duty was to feed me in time, to wash me in time, comb me, fix my hair, to take be for a walk in the yard with many Turkish pigeons. Sometimes, like any bitch, like a common dog, I want to say regardless of sex and religion, I would stop to play with the squirrels climbing up the trees, but considering the fact that I was tied with a gold chain, the servant who took me for a walk would stare at me turning around the squirrel holding the chain higher so it does not get dirty in the grass. Since I would not stop running around it, the eunuch would kneel and lift me with his white gloves, so that he doesn’t make me dirty. As you see, I am white, my hairs are quite white, but the edge of my back sometimes grows dark as the night on the horizon. You can imagine how this line draws my silhouette on the marble that the eunuch carefully put me on, wiping off my paws with a handkerchief soaked in myrrh. After he would comb me, he took me to the Vesir, and he lied on red cushiness smoking his nargile. The master enjoyed smoking his nargile lying on his side, and the light of the moon flowing on the wall of the castle sprinkled his hair lowering down his back. I would sit in front of him blinded as if a mirror was shining against my face. He would pat my head for hours, stick his fingers in the locks on my neck and head, and the fire, just as this one now, melted all the shadows in the room, turning them into a common shivering air. This is not the place to describe all of my shadows in the room so I will only tell you that around midnight I felt my inside squeeze, all of my muscles flex from my front legs to the back ones, my spine twists and some shivers lowered into my paws and I had to scratch in the white bear’s fur so I don’t go mad with beauty. I don’t know, this maybe is not the case with all bitches, but I felt that for a moment, I became something disgusting, something like a woman, maybe, only that I couldn’t bite my master’s chin. And I wanted to bite him so much, and I wanted my nose to touch his, my breath to mix with his, and my eyes are closed so that the light that fills me in like a glass lamp from the small toe on my front left leg and the right back leg does not escape me.
And then, — he says, — then it would suddenly dawn and the morning in which I ran around the trees in the yard and the eunuch with the gold chain in his hand jumps after me as fast as he could so that we do not entangle in different sides of the trees would come again. Thus, running, I pretended to sniff the flowers and actually with my right eye I looked at the girls brought as a pray or bought from the slave markets, that is, I listened to the clinking shoes, hurrying to finish their chores before the Vesir wakes up. Later, when he would go to the sultan, they went out in the yard, touching the flowers with the tips of their little fingers and their ears, and I could count there were more than hundred. The bitches know how to count to hundred; the crows know how to count to three. Peeking through the rose window, I looked at them sowing and embroidering, dancing, singing and playing some music instruments, or making a puppet theatre, and I could barely hold myself from howling, although I felt the hustling of the petals torn to the grass by my tail waved with happiness, — he says and the people are throwing coins in the case as if they are chickpea, staring at me. And so, sometimes, — he says, — the main mistress would choose one of the girls to come to Vesir’s personal chambers. And she would stop in front of the door silently like a cat, and I know what a cat is, I would grow mad with jealousy. Once, I grabbed one for her shalvars, and I almost undressed her in front of the main eunuch in the saray. As I waved my tail, the eunuch grabbed me by the ears, lifted me like a rabbit and lowered me in the basket by the fireplace. Crumbled in the silk, insulted and humiliated, I listened to the woman sighing all night long, and I tried to learn to do that as well, but I could not do anything else by release a whine, some howling at the moon. At dawn I saw her through my paws leaving the room I barely waited to enter; golden stars dripped from her eyes, as if a breath passing through the porches sprinkling them with the crystals of her blond hair. Cradled in the basket, — he says, — I waited for him to appear at the door, looking exactly where his face would be; I want to say, I don’t know if you know it, we, the bitches, remember everything just at the place where it used to be; I knew exactly where the face of the Vesir would shine when the door opened, but the door did not open. I sat on my back legs, as all the bitches on this world sit, and the face would not appear where I remembered it to have appeared, as the moon appears above the big sofa in front of me.
I don’t know how long I sat on my beck legs, but I know that when I stood up I could barely stand as a bitch. Leaning on the basket I heard the roses hustle, the dogs bark behind the walls, but the barking was not common, it was just as the dogs bark in my country when they collect them from everywhere to nowhere. According to the roses, it might have been the middle month of the year, I don’t know exactly, but I know that since the beginning of the seventh century one of the months in the year was called dog. Now it means nothing, and it is of no help, of course. The next moment they also collected me, covering my head with a hemp bag. When they took out the bag, I saw that I was on the deck of some ship of bitches. I say, bitches, plain bitches, because I had not seen dogs in a while, and maybe there were no dogs in the whole empire. As far as I could see, they were all nicely combed, some of them had ribbons on their heads, and others still wore their gold chains around their necks, only that some of them torn and some only had a small part of the collar. And everybody, let’s say, everybody, or at least those around me, smelled like “Turkish Night” perfume of Antoine Pellisier – Bambekjaroff, or baba Pamuk, in our language. For a moment I thought about the Vesir again, but all of a sudden the bitches in front of me started waving their tails and all of a sudden this man, the one that you see next to me appeared, this one with moustaches like a mouse tail. He stopped next to me, kneeled and looked at my chain hanging between my legs, he lifted me and pressed be against his chest. Passing through the bitches that waved their tails, he tore the chain from my thin neck and he pushed it into the hand of the sailor by the bridge. I know that he mumbled something, but the boards cracked and the waves hit the dock, or the ship, which, as the sailor said, if I heard him well, was about to sail to Hanoi, with a load of meat for steaks with fried pineapples. Still, as you see, I was saved by this man, this scoundrel, my master, and that is why I am eternally grateful to him, and, as I promised him, that means that the story about me will always end with me. Be patient for a while, only to get ready, we will be back immediately, — he says, — Only a moment, — he said, and the people in the inn pressed their legs together so that they would look funny when they stood up. – Patience, — he said, — I’ll be back immediately, an immediately, here, in front of you, I will passionately pat her for you only, — he said, — and then you will all try her, — he added, closed the case with the money, and calling with his hand for patience, we left the inn. – I could have told them I was the one they knew, they did not recognise me anyway, — he said and he threw the drawing in the water. The water was clear as a tear; turned with my tail to the front I looked at the sky passing through the willows and then I slowly forgot that I existed.
About the author:
Blaze Minevski (1961, Macedonia) is the author of the novels “Me, Lenin and Mickey Mouse”, “We Should Have Taken a Photo before We Started Hating Each Other”, ”A Story about a Third Party, “The Mark” and ”The Performers”. ”The Mark” won the award “Stale Popov” (2007) for the best book of prose, given by the Macedonian Writers’ Society, the award “Novel of the year” given by the newspaper ‟Utrinski Vesnik” and the award ”13th of November” given by the City of Skopje. He also has to his credit numerous short stories that have won wide acclaim.