Edward Stachura: Prose
Bright Stay on the River
The sunset is beautiful but my will hardening from day to day, my stone-struck will is telling me that it's enough, that I can't stretch the sight too much, that I must turn my eyes away and climb down from the hill. I must look for something for the evening meal. And let it be so. Not far in the east, less than a mile from here, there are settlements. There are potato fields there. I will only put on my pants and jacket.
I'm staying on the river. Somewhere above the middle run of the biggest river in the country I'm staying. I'm hiding here for they are too close on my heels now. They want too much to meet with me, those rats. They have been tracking me for quite some time now. They must be in a fever of excitement at the thought of me. I must be for them a soothing cool balsam. They want to do something bad to me to do something good to themselves or to the one who has hired them, those hounds. Maybe it's not as bad as I'm saying, but it won't hurt to be careful for safety. It will even be good for it. It will be for it like a massage before entering volcanic lands.
I'm staying on the river. I have built myself a shelter using long bundles of dry wicker of which there are whole piles, already arranged and tied up on the shore not far below. The summer is in its splendor. My skin is very brown for I wear only my briefs. Around the hips I have my belt and attached to it is a knife that I bought in a country store, just as I bought a hatchet, and quite a lot of salt, and some matches, preparing for my stay on the river which I don't know yet how long is going to be. The salt, the matches and the hatchet are buried in the shelter, in this wicker palace of mine, which I have lined with lots of leaves to stop the cold from the ground. Around my shelter home I drove into the ground the thickest stakes I could, and I dug a ditch, also as deep as I could, to keep a running herd of boars from trampling me. It cost me a lot of work since I don't have a spade but now I feel safer. I would very much like to have a dog at my side. A dog would make me very happy.
Good. Somewhere at this latitude there should already be that potato field. I walked all the time in the waterside bushes, for why should I come out where I can be seen, why should I show myself to anybody, although I may look quite common, but why should I give anybody reasons for any thoughts. Through the bushes I see in a close distance a house in a slowly falling dusk. The field is here.
Everything's fine. In the pockets of my pants and jacket I have about thirty five potatoes which I picked up skillfully from underneath the potato plants, a few from each plant. As if nothing had happened I did, and I covered my trails. As I was lying down, I noticed that the ground nearby was disturbed, and I noticed the trails of boars. That's even better.
Everything's fine. I'm sitting by the fire. I had prepared the sticks for the fire earlier, before the sunset, before watching that sun setting beautiful. Now I'm sitting by my little campfire. Let it burn a little, let the fire crackle a little. Later I will put the potatoes inside the embers. But the mosquitoes are certainly a plague. They would suck out all my blood, the vermin, if not for the fire. The sky is bright above me and above the land. At the beginning you can't see the stars on it, but after a while I notice these distant little points of light, if I look longer. They appear here and there. How many of them are there? I have read somewhere that there are about a hundred and fifty billion of them, and that scientists could at the most only be in error twofold. That means that maybe there are three hundred billion of them. That's a little funny, that error: at the most only. Besides I think that they should write in that book that scientists could at the most only be in error twofold in one direction, meaning that maybe there are three billion of them. But the way they wrote, I can read it that either there are three hundred billion of them, or that there are none of them at all. That's a little funny. But I will put the potatoes in the embers now. I'm looking there. How far is it to them? And what are the stars? They say that these are suns, distant and luminous, similar to that which set maybe two hours ago. They say that around them there are also orbiting planets. Are there other planets-Earth there? Is there another planet-Earth there? Is there another place on the river like this, another shelter, another falling night, another fire and a boy sitting by the fire and thinking about me at this moment, just as I'm thinking about him, at this moment? Does he look like me? What's his name? What's his hair like? What's he doing now? Is he taking out potatoes with a stick from the embers of his fire? Is he scraping off lightly with his knife some of the blackened surface and putting the potatoes on the broad leaves he has prepared? Is he going to the shelter, stepping over the ditch, putting aside the bundle as if he were opening the shelter door, and digging out the hatchet and the salt, and taking some salt in his hand, and carefully burying again the precious salt, and returning to the campfire, holding the hatchet in the right hand, and a little salt in the left? Is he sitting down on the tree stump he hauled from the river's edge two days ago, and driving the hatchet in the stump underneath him on the right side, and carefully putting down the salt on the leaves next to the baked potatoes? Is he longing? Does he like very much the potatoes, of which he ate maybe sixteen, and the rest are there, inside the embers, and let them stay, for tomorrow, for the early morning meal, since tomorrow he must set out early to get some fowl in different area, for he doesn't want to create confusion in his own, to start a light suspicion that grows, to start a search maybe for this damn fox that snatched the nicest chicken or duck, or turkey, and has certainly devoured it already, that damn fox, let it choke on my nicest chicken, from March it was and already laying, my beautiful? Is he longing? Is he looking into the dying fire, without actually seeing anything, with this persistent look that sees nothing, as if he penetrated the flames, the embers, the whole deep earth, as if nothing could stop his looking, as if he couldn't get hold of anything or the other way around, as if he was falling into the other side, into craters on the other side of the eyes, but in the end it's one and the same, for then he is not here? Has he recovered his senses after a while from this falling? Has he gotten up a little fast and is he covering with the earth the pile of dying embers in which there should still be about twenty potatoes for tomorrow, for the earliest meal, so it's time to lie down? Is he taking out the hatchet from his armchair stump and suddenly, grabbing it a little harder, straightening up slowly and tense, and the knife on the left side is bouncing lightly against his thigh, and he's standing like that for a moment, having closed his eyes and every other motion, so that nothing hinders his listening, for he is now giving his ears to this light murmur, a crack from the water side? Would he like to have a dog? Would a dog make him very happy? Is it good now? Is he standing a moment yet? Is it good now? Is he going to his hotel shelter and closing himself from the inside with two bundles as if he were closing the door to his home? Is he kneeling while taking off his jacket and pulling out a warm sweater from underneath the leaves, and putting it on, and putting on the jacket again, although it is still quite warm, but later it will be cold? Is he putting down the hatchet on the right within the reach of his hand? Is he longing very much? Is he longing terribly?
It's morning probably. I have gotten quite cold. The cold woke me up. I push out the bundles at the entrance and I jump out of the shelter and out of the remnants of the oppressive sleep. It is a sunny morning, dazzling. I squint my eyes, for there is too much brilliance, too much light falling on them. The cold is shaking me from head to toe. I quickly take off my clothes and naked I run to the river down the light slope and jump. The water is terribly cold but that's good. I return to the shore right after the jump for my blood would have congealed, and my heart would have turned into ice in this iciness. I'm waving my arms, running around in a circle and jumping around and to the side. But this is recovery from cold and also, I think, from many mysterious pains possible. I wave my arms a little more and then I put on my briefs, pants and shirt, and I tie around the belt with the knife. I am still cold but soon I will be fine. I go to the shelter and take the hatchet and the blanket. I go out. I wrap in the blanket the hatchet, the sweater and jacket, and I bury the whole lot, my possessions there, eleven steps to the south from the shelter under a bush. I return to the shelter. I dig out a little salt into the pocket in a leaf. I take the sack. I go out, closing the shelter door. I dig out the potatoes. I put them in the sack. I tie it across my back and off I go. Is the sling in my pocket? Good. I'll pick up some pebbles on the way. Off I go.
The birds are singing. My blood is singing. My legs are singing. Before, there was nothing. This is the beginning of the world. The first day of the world. The first morning of the first day. I am the first man, the first immaculate child of this sunny world. And the birds are singing, and my blood is singing, and my feet. And everything is musical, harmonious. Mont-joie!
I'm walking south-east along the river's edge. I am already well past yesterday's potato field. The sun has already dried my hair. It is warming me up slowly, and I love it, I worship it. I feel it chase the last cold waves out of my chest and back. But I will sit down here in this little riverside clearing open to the lazy water. I will sit down here for my morning meal. The place is on my side and it's also time for breakfast, for suddenly I felt taste for potatoes. And so I will sit down here and eat.
I now leave the river and I turn perpendicularly to south-west. In a moment I will climb on the embankment and I will walk on it north and slightly west. A mile and a half from here there is a little river by the embankment. There must be good pebbles for the sling there. I have also noticed there a big settlement, something like a mill. I have noticed a lot of fowl. I passed that place a few days ago, after I left the town, to which I came at random, looking for a safe hiding from those who are after me, and I tried to notice as much as possible, for I felt as I was walking, that there, on the river, where I'm living, I will find something suitable for a long and secret stay and that it would be good to get to know the area well right away, or at least to remember as much as possible.
Great pebbles! Wonderful! Round, polished by the water, smooth. I climbed down from the embankment to the little river, got close to it, and since there were bushes and nettles on both sides, I took off my pants, tied their legs around my neck, and I stepped into the water, which in places reached to my ankles and in others to my waist, and I started moving up the river, wading. And I came upon such a wonderful place, the bottom covered with pebbles, a gold vein. I will remember that place.
Now I'm coming out of the water to the shore and I'm putting on my pants. I take out my sling, unwrap the rubbers from the fork, straighten them out, and I put a nice pebble on the leather. I'm looking for something to aim at, anything. On a little tree across the river I see a bird, a sparrow, but why should I? Let him sing with joy. I'm not hungry right now, and later exactly I'm going to hunt, and I want to get something bigger today, so help me my eye infallible. At this twig on the right. Wow! I cut it off as if with a quick, invisible cut. The sparrow didn't even have the time to startle, and it's sitting motionless, scared and crouching, poor thing. Yesterday I killed two, for really a whole lot of them were jumping around my shelter so close as if they came themselves asking for death, as they say. I shot then and with one stone I killed two at once, and the rest took off. I picked up the two and I felt sorry, but I told myself that I cannot be sorry, and not because that would not help them any more anyway. I cleaned them up, they cooked quickly, and I ate that little bite. Some meat was left between my teeth until today, but I'm not taking it out. Let it stay. If things go well today, I promise to sparrows at least two days of safe flying around me, or even walking over my head and hands.
I'm moving slowly among bushes and little trees, for I see through them some big trees three hundred feet further and I hear a growing sound of water. It must be that big settlement with the mill. On the right, the bank rises into a high slope. I'm walking along the left bank, but I'll cross to the other one, for on mine the thicket is becoming impossible and I don't want to make noise forcing my way through it. I have rolled up my pants even higher and I'm crossing. There should be crayfish here. Water has washed out the shores, and the roots of the trees growing right by the shore form good places for crayfish. I'm moving even more slowly and very carefully, although the sound of the falling water is growing ever so loud, but I thought that the local fowl and also guard dogs and people too - may be so used to the sound of water, that it does not exist for them, it is like normal silence. It is beyond their hearing. In that case, my careless stealing wouldn't be drowned by the sound of water which is not heard by them, not loud at all. In that case they would hear me, the dogs would bark, the fowl would startle. And so I'm moving very slowly, despite the noise, although it's possible that it drowns everything after all.
There is one. Or rather there are two. Both white. I see them there some seventy feet from me more or less. They are right by the waterfall. That loud sound of water must be drowning everything after all I think. What I had thought before must be impossible. Still carefully. I take out my sling and I pick up the nicest pebble from my pocket, and I put it on the leather, and I stick the leather in my mouth to have both hands for pushing aside the branches. I have leaned down and on my knees very slowly. I have gotten closer by some ten feet, fifteen, twenty-five and now I am some thirty feet from them behind a very convenient bush. But further there is open space and so far I don't see a way, for to hit a moving head from thirty feet is going to be very difficult, and I can easily hit one in the wing or the back, and it will not knock it down dead and the bird will raise noise cackling and fluttering, and I will have to cut and run scared. But now one has found something long, maybe a worm, I see through the leaves, and the other chicken saw it as well and is running to the first one, and the first one is running away, running in my direction, it will be close soon.
Everything's fine. Very often recently everything's fine. I don't mean anything by it. It's simply fine. I'm walking on the embankment. Before that, I walked along the little river, and before that still, some one hundred feet in the water in case of the wise dogs tracking. Now I'm walking on the embankment. A man is riding a bicycle the other way. I move the chicken under my shirt from my chest to my back. Why should I give him reasons to think when he sees me hiding something under my shirt. And how should I know that he doesn't live just in that settlement and when he's having supper in the evening, and his wife notices the lack of one chicken and tells him about it, then he will remember that he saw on the embankment before noon one such scoundrel, who had something, who carried something under his shirt that son of a bitch - and he may recognize me some day, not necessarily tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but some time, maybe tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, and I will have to run away or to struggle with him, or to lie, that no way, why, my dad has two thousand chickens on our farm and we have chicken soup for dinner every day. He has just passed me and I move his chicken back to the front, for how am I to know that he won't turn around, that he will not want to look at me from the back and he will see that strange hump, and all will be the same or even worse maybe, how can I know?
But how it all happened unexpectedly and quickly. I didn't even have the time to take the sling out of my mouth. It wasn't necessary after all. I let the first one with the worm go by and I jumped on the other one, for I knew that it had the gaze fixed on the worm in the beak of the first one, which was probably a gift from heaven, but never mind. But it strained a lot. I wrung its neck, and it still struggled for a few minutes between my knees. But I knew that these are nerves, for I saw a few times when a country housewife cut off the chicken's head with a chopper on a block, and then she threw it on the ground, the headless chicken, and it jumped up high and even good forty feet.
The sun has already passed a quarter of the sphere and now it's burning me through the shirt, and I think I'll take it off and I'll wrap my spoil in it, that way it will look less suspicious indeed. I'm still walking on the embankment to south-east. The sky is bright above me and those who are after me won't find me here easily. My back is like copper, like copper metal after these five or six days of my bright stay here. Who's protecting me? Who's taking care of me?
I'll have delicious eating for today and for tomorrow as well. I'm in my settlement. I'm sitting on the stump. On my knees I have the chicken and I'm plucking it cold. I'm putting the feathers separately on one pile. Later I will wrap them in leaves and at night I'll put them under my head, to offer it a little softness, to my poor, suffering head, although for now it's not too bad for it, if not wonderful: it is all basking in the sun and can bathe in the water, in lack of care and in its own love ever growing. I will break some sticks now for the dinner fire wonderful. Who's protecting me? Who's taking care of me?
Noon is approaching slowly. I have dressed the chicken removing the entrails, its guts and that piece of gall, dark-green and poisonous. I have cut a medium-size stick and fixed the chicken on it. The fire is crackling, and the smell of roasting meat is spreading around delicious beyond measure. It's been a long time since I've had such wonderful scent in my nostrils. As I was coming back on the embankment, my nostrils were hit with the smell of tobacco peculiar and foul, a tobacco wave surrounded me for a few seconds. Tobacco must be growing somewhere there. I haven't smoked anything for a while. I quite forgot about it. It would be nice to smoke a cigarette in the evening by the fire, thinking about this and this or now for example turning the chicken over the fire left and right. I'll go there tomorrow to sniff and look around.
Oh, it's incomparable to lie on the warm sand under the sky, when hunger is satisfied and breathing is also incomparable: peaceful and even, and it's not threatened by any rush on this little island sandbar, where I swam right after my dinner meal and now I'm just lying there! Incomparable is the sunny god caressing, when hunger is satisfied and now he's caressing me! Incomparable is the wave quietly splashing, and the feet are resting in it and they don't have to wander anywhere, escape from anybody, they don't have to do anything. I would like to cry a little from joy. My will is telling me that it would let me do that.
I woke up suddenly. I started up suddenly, for indescribable noise, terrible clamor and whistling fell on my sleeping ears and all my quietly sleeping body. Some hundred feet from me, even less, seventy feet from me a river boat was passing, and on it people, children and others were raising noise loud and chaotic, and they pointed at me with their fingers, and I could hear individual yells: a savage, an Indian. I was standing and I didn't know what to do, my heart was beating, pounding hard, I didn't know what to do, my legs paralyzed by these thunders of noise. But they were already passing slowly, for they were going up the river and I too slowly regained my normal breathing rhythm, and the fluttering was passing, and also the fear, for when I started up so unexpectedly, I had a flash of thought that it's them, that they had caught me, that the end of everything had come.
But it is all moving away, farther and farther. I'm still standing and looking after them, and only now do I see that I am naked from head to toe, as they say. I see that that must have urged them to yell the most, their need for yelling, something. I must have slept immensely on my little island not to hear, not to be woken up by the approaching boat. They yelled: a savage, an Indian. But now I remember that it was mostly admiration that showed in the yells that pierced me. But now they're gone. Let them go, let them travel far, let them visit the farthest lands. The sun has about two hours till setting. I see I have slept a few good hours since I lay down not long after its zenith. I'm going to swim now. My will is telling me that I can swim a little. Mont-joie!
I'm sitting by the fire. I'm playing with the bones. No more chicken. I though I would have some for tomorrow still, but I gobbled it all up today. I ate more than half for my noon meal and I was so full that I barely swam the pitiful sixty feet from the shore to the sandbar. I lay down there on the hot sand and I was so blissfully idle, and it seemed to me that in the evening I won't be able to eat, I was so satisfied beyond measure. But the sleep pulled all of it out, and the water later carved out an even greater void, for I swam long and it was wonderful to swim after this sudden stormy wake-up. How my sight made them yell! How my nakedness must have brightened them up. They had all crossed to one side, I could see, they all pushed on one another. It was easy for someone to fall out of the crowd and into the current. I would then have to jump in and swim there, since before the steamship could stop and before they could lower the boat, the one in the water, I don't know, depends on what kind of swimmer, but the clothes can pull you in, the current would pull him, and then he would come across a whirlpool, he would start to toss around, the fear would do him in, he would swallow water once, two, three times, and then he would only be thrown out on the shore as a corpse a mile or a few miles down the river. I'll put in some more wood. The weather during all my time here is on my side. It's been sunny all those days, and the evenings have been warm, and tonight also. Who's taking care of me? The night is black and impenetrable around. The first day I was very scared. I started a fire and I covered it right away, as soon as the flames flared up, so scared I was of the brightness. And then I really felt better in the darkness. I was no longer a bright target easy for anyone. But the next day it all passed and I no longer put out the burning fire. I don't mean to say that I was not afraid or that I am not afraid now. I got used to it, but I am still quite afraid. But it is all worth being afraid of. With each step and each second. Everything is worth being afraid of. The most. I'll put in some more wood. Each movement may be the last. Each single movement may be followed by death. In everything there is death bigger than everything: than the best muscles, than the wisest head, the most famous people and Pompeian cities. I saw one film: "The Seventh Seal." That was a film about death. That was a film about it. Death was shown there as human in two ways: as a man in a long black dress and talking also more in a woman's voice. His or her face was very pale and it was just like that: neither man nor woman. His figure was masculine and a few gestures, but her voice was a woman talking. And so it was shown as human in two ways, I say, or quite non-human, and so in three ways. At first I found that face very ugly, but then I noticed that it is maybe immensely, ironical immensely. But then I noticed that it was all insolence. The greatest insolence in the world that I know was drawn on it, carved in it. Especially in the eyes, but most of it in the lips, narrow and as if corroded by some acids. A knight, who was just returning from a crusade in the Holy Land, played chess with it, because it came for him, to destroy him, change him, or turn him maybe into putrid air. And so they played chess on the seashore. They played at nighttime, during two or three nights. At daytime the knight went to pray in the church, to confession to one priest, who was covered with a hood, and the knight told him that he is just playing chess with death and that he wants to defeat it. The priest asked how. The knight said that it was through a combination of knights and bishops that death does not know and that he had probably learned there, in the Holy Land, I suppose. Then the priest turned around and the knight saw that it wasn't a priest at all but death with its insolent face. And the knight went out, went away. And on the streets and roads there were crowds of people walking, and they hit themselves, flogged themselves, and the ones in the back whipped the ones in front of them, and they carried big huge crosses, and the scent of incense was spreading everywhere, for in the country there was a plague and people were falling from it like flies, as they say, and they believed that by flogging themselves, by subjecting themselves to suffering, they will appease it, the plague, they will lull it, placate it. And the knight looked at all that. His face didn't show fear but great intensity, great penetration of things. Then the night came and death came to finish the game of chess. And the knight now only played to postpone, to delay. He held back every move of his pieces. Once he even laughed out loud and said to death that he's preparing a tricky trap for it. But that was improbable, and it was obvious that the knight himself doesn't believe in it, and actually I don't know why he had done that. Did he want to cheer himself up to calm his fear, for he was already afraid, or did he in turn want to jeer at death before the end of this final game? Did he in turn want to be insolent? The film ended with death, the knight, and a few others destined for it holding hands and dancing on a hill, death dancing in front of everybody. It was a very probable film. Yes. I can't say that I'm not afraid. I look left and right from time to time, as if I was waiting for it to appear, to invite me to a final game of chess. But just as I never lie, with death I would think terribly over that game. Because I may not make my greatest effort playing with mister Szwacz or for example with mister Pytlakowski even when I come to that biggest city, but with death, I would dig in the furthest recesses of my marvelous head and I would work hard to find, to discover those gates of immortality, searching for the lost gates. I will put in some more sticks, for I was lost so much that the fire started to die. When I was fifteen, guys used to say: "If you think you're such a Tarzan, go to the Russian cemetery at midnight." Somewhere around eleven thirty four of us went. They stayed by the gate close to each other, and I jumped over the wall and I walked slowly down a lane lined with huge terrifying trees. I had gone about fifty feet maybe when I heard on the left muffled whispers from the tombs. I turned around and I ran back, I jumped over the wall without touching it with my hands or legs, and I swept away the three of them like the wind three sails, like a gale. Only after a few months there came an explanation of those whispering voices when the police and the military surrounded the Russian cemetery because two criminals were hiding there and they had weapons and they assaulted people and they had even killed one priest. My heart sank then but it's good that my legs didn't sink. Some time after that I went alone to the Russian cemetery. During daytime. I tied to jump over that wall without touching it with my hands, without leaning on it, but there was no way. Then a great fear must have pushed me up high, like the body of a kangaroo on its long back spring legs. I will not put any more wood in the fire. Let it burn out. I will think a little more about death and I will go to sleep.
The cold woke me up. I pushed away one bundle. The sun wasn't up yet. It was night still but growing smaller. I wrapped myself in the blanket again, pulled my knees to my chest and I fell asleep again. The sun was already above the bushes when I woke up for the second time and for good, and I ran quickly to the water to wake up even better. Now I'm on the hill. The sun is drying my hair and all my skin, and it's chasing from under it those cold night currents that are left. And they leave, shaking me from top to bottom as if I was made from straw brittle and limp, and not from muscle and bones of steel. They are playing with me like that ironically. But let them go, let them travel far, let them visit the farthest lands.
I just think that today I will take a trip to that little town which is some ten miles from here, and half the way is through pine woods. Right after the woods there is a big plane, and behind it, on the upland, there are orchards. On the slope I noticed hazelnut bushes, so I'll be able to fill my sack with this and that on the way back from town in which I would like to walk around a little bit. I want to have a look at it, and also to buy some wire, for two good thoughts about it entered my inventive head. I will also have a drink of clean water from a clean water pump.
I buried the blanket, the hatchet, the sweater under the special bush and I masked the trail carefully backing up. I may also buy some nails in town, for I would like to fix something like a table in the shade of the bushes. The knife I'd better put in the sack. Why should I give anybody reasons for any thoughts, although I may look quite common, but certainly not like a boy scout, who is quite common with a bowie knife in its sheath, although that knife of his is mostly for display, for show.
I'm walking on the embankment, but soon I will climb down to its base on the left, for I am getting close to that mill, the place of yesterday's hunt, and it's best not to show myself to them. And so I'm climbing down from the crown of the embankment. I see here sorrel in abundance, the whole slope is covered with the sorrel grass. I will chew some of that good sour grass, and especially the little stems with the most of the good sourish juice. I will pick some sorrel and put it in my sack. I will walk chewing.
I am now crossing the highway to which the embankment comes and stops here, some two miles from the river. Across the highway there are meadows. I see there a mower stooping. What if I asked him if he wouldn't like to hire me to do some mowing? I could make some money. I don't have much money left. Only he himself may be hired. I'll ask him:
"God bless. Good morning!"
"You too. Good morning!"
"How's the mowing?"
"Oh, it's going slowly. If I only had your years!"
"The grass pretty high!"
"Oh, it grew this year. It grew real high!"
"Can I try?"
"Sure, sure, you can try. Only don't break my scythe! Gee, I see you have a knack!"
"The scythe is good!"
"No, no, I see that you're an old mower!"
"Do you have a hone?"
"It's right here. Here you go. In the past I would have it all mowed in no time, but now. With the years it's not the same. Pain in the back. Oh, well."
"The scythe beaten today, I see?"
"Yeah, I got up real early and I beat it long, 'cause the grass the hardest to mow, you know. Oh, well. And you live somewhere close?"
"I live by the river. Not that far."
"I see. And do you have much work at home?"
I'm mowing. The old man is already gone. He'll call me for lunch at noon. We agreed to a hundred and fifty per [ ] including food. He liked me. He was pleased and so was I, and I am. I am very glad. I will make some money and I will eat well. I took off my shirt, my pants and sneakers. The sun has no more than two hours to its zenith. During these two hours my hunger will grow, but it will also be a growing joy for lunch which is awaiting me. Mont-joie!
I'm mowing. I ate lunch, I lay for an hour and a half of siesta, and now I'm mowing again. The farmer will call me for dinner. For lunch there were potatoes with sour milk. I liked that very much. Tomorrow there will be blood soup.
I'm mowing. Today there will be blood soup for lunch. I slept well. I slept better. My bones and muscles hurt, and mostly the skin on my hands. I said yesterday that I hid the scythe in the grass to not waste the time walking back and forth. For dinner yesterday there was hot tea and bread with butter and cheese. I liked that very much. When I left I said goodnight.
I'm mowing. Today for lunch there will be blood soup again, that was left from yesterday's lunch, and there is a lot of meat left too. Yesterday I didn't feel like starting a fire. I lay down right away and I fell asleep. I didn't think anything. Not even about death. I got up early. The sun was only getting up. We got up almost together. I got cold unspeakably. I jumped into the ice-cold bath reviving, I dressed up quickly, and I ran half the way before I felt warmer. But now it's good.
Four days passed. I worked hard during those four days. I worked hard looking for, searching for those gates of immortality, searching for those lost gates. The worst were the blisters which appeared on my hands. From some of them the white skin peeled off and those were the worst. I couldn't hold the hone to sharpen the scythe, it burned so much. But now it's good. Now it's the best. I'm willing to bet with anyone about it. It's the morning of the fifth day and everything is musical and harmonious.
And so it's the morning of the fifth day, I say. I have made a lot of money, six hundred zloty, to be precise. I'm just going to that little town, I say. Yesterday I had the last dinner at the farmer's. It was festive. There were a lot of good things and vodka for good work. The farmer was pleased and so was I. And I am. I am all delighted. I am quite overjoyed. We drank and ate, and the farmer said that for next year he may hire me again, because he likes me, and if he had another daughter, he would give her to me because I'm a good fellow and I'm not afraid of work. He said that in his youth he too was not afraid of any work, and now the work is not afraid of him, for what can he do to it with his old bones. I said that it's not so bad, that he is still quite lively for his years, and that in the city people of his age are good for nothing and decadent. He said yes, yes, there's nothing like the country. The work in the field the healthiest, and the air clean, and not industrial, full of dust and "bateria." Then he said that he will play for me on the violin, and he did, and I sang Schubert's "Ave Maria" and he started to cry, and he said that I should sing in the church with the choir as a soloist, and that my voice is like an angel's, sweet Jesus, in those speakers they only yell and they scream like there is no god. Then I still sang him "The Call of the Pigeons," and he said that I am a great artist and that he loves me like a son. And then we went to sleep. I didn't go back for the night to my wicker settlement on the river, but I slept in the barn. The farmer's wife prepared for me there a wonderful place to sleep under a feather bed. In the morning I didn't want to eat breakfast. I only drank a lot of cold milk and I left thanking them and saying good-bye, and thanking them.
And so it's the morning of the fifth day, I say. I'm walking through the forest, in its coolness and on the pine needles. I'm going to town. I want to have a look at it, and also to buy a few small things and some reserve food: bread, pork fat and so on. It's good that I took the sack yesterday from my shelter home. I suspected that I might sleep in their barn and in the morning set out for the town. I would like to buy myself a little pot for boiling water and in general. A little pot like that would come in very handy. I will buy bread, pork fat, some four pounds of sugar, I'll see what else. I'm still walking through the forest. I may also buy some pepper, lots of onions, some tea, some instant soups - well, I'll see what else.
I walked out of the forest, crossed the valley, and now walking on the upland to the town I can already see. The sky is bright above me and above the land. It is a little incomprehensible and mysterious, that sunny weather for almost two weeks, for the sky is so clear and bright that something must be hiding there: some terrible storm with thunder and hail maybe, large as nuts. I don't want to say anything by it, nor to conjure up the evil spirit, but it is a little incomprehensible still. This air must explode, I think. I will fortify my shelter home when I come back from town. I will put more leaves yet and branches in the gaps between the bundles, and especially on the top. I must buy another blanket, even if I had to pay a lot. Unless they don't have any.
I'm walking on the pavement, on the cobbled street of this town. My hands are in my pockets, and I'm looking at all that with my scattered looking: buildings, windows, roofs, which always form varying arrangements, and I'm looking at the other people. They also form varying arrangements, although not so simple, not as rectilinear as the roofs. I mean something by it, although the sky is equally bright above the roofs and above the heads of the others, and above my head which again means something by it.
But I quite forgot that my beard has grown considerably during my stay on the river. Two little girls had just passed me and one said: "Look at his beard." And so I will go to have a shave to begin my visit to this little town, for it is undoubtedly a little town: it's quiet here, there's very little traffic, I have noticed one car and one horse-drawn cart rumbling, it's quiet: soon it will be noon time, everything's half asleep.
I'm walking into the barber's and he tells me that he was just about to close the business. I sit in the only chair and he's already putting a towel on my back, and I tell him that no, only a shave. Then he hardly conceals his surprise, resentment maybe, and puts on the towel in the front. He picks up his razor and I tell him again that only a shave, that I cut my own hair. Then he says that how can he with a razor when my beard is like his hair. That he must first with the razor and only then lather. I say I'm very sorry, and he says nothing, moving the razor back and forth on my chin with peculiar force, pulling out my hair until it hurts, but I say nothing either.
Finally I had left the barber-shop. I was to pay him six zloty but I gave him ten, although I don't like doing that. Let him have it. He changed right away. I was combing my hair with my fingers in front of the mirror and he was gently brushing off my back. As I was leaving, I said: "Good bye," and he replied: "Good bye, sir. Thank you very much, sir."
But someone is coming up to me as if he knew me:
"Can you lend me two zloty?"
"Hey, come on. Don't be a jerk!"
"OK, so you're not a friend?"
"You won't get me a beer?"
Where do they come from? Why isn't he ashamed to come up to a stranger, just like that. But that's enough. He won't be the one to disturb my delight, my joyful feeling, my great rejoicing deserved and rapture, and enchantment with this accursed life, but so beautiful, so beautiful, oh, yes! Nobody has said that before. Oh, yes! I will live! I will be joyful!
I spent some two hours walking around town, I stopped in a pub to eat something: a hamburger stake, and then I sat on a shady bench until three, waiting for the stores to open after the lunch break. I sat on the bench and smoked a cigarette, of which I bought ten. I smoked carefully, because I hadn't smoked for a while. I didn't want to inhale too deeply, not to get a headache, not to get dizzy in my joyful head. I smoked half a cigarette and I put it out for the evening. I will smoke the other half or maybe a whole one in the evening by the fire. That may be very pleasant. I can look forward to it.
I am now sitting in my settlement on the river. The sun has already set. I watched that sunset. My will was telling me that I can watch it now, because earlier I had fortified my shelter home: I drove in pegs inside the shelter, so that the bundles are held from both sides and I don't think the wind will carry my house away, blow it up in the air, level it to the ground, as they say. I cleaned up the inside and I put up the provisions I bought in town. I also brought a supply of bundles for the fire. For now I put them upright around the shelter. I suppose that it has been nice for too long. Then I swam for a long time, and then I watched the sunset for a long time, that round sign fiery disquieting. Then I started a fire, fried some onions with pork fat, and ate that with bread. Now I'm sitting by the fire and smoking a cigarette. For three days there has been the moon, a quarter of the moon. It's not here yet but it should come out soon. Fish are splashing in the water. They're jumping out to the surface. It is very humid. The water today was so warm, as if from a pond hidden in a valley in the reeds, and not from a river running and open to all sides. I know that it has been good for too long. It must all explode. This bright sky must burst with a great bang. When I passed by the mill, the roosters crowed loudly, although it was afternoon and not early morning or dawn. I can only suspect a lot. But I know that it has been good for too long. I know from myself that it is very strange. I know this very well from myself. Nobody will tell me. I'm sitting and smoking a cigarette. And thinking. I'm thinking as if I was shooting arrows from a bow: if I was dying, then this one would not howl from grief, curse himself that he's alive, or be silent terribly and gloomily, nor this one, nor that, nor this one - a great poet. The moon is rising across from me, a quarter of this disk. I'm looking up searching for the stars. And I'm searching for him. Are you there, little boy? What are you doing there right now? What are you thinking about, little boy, who can you be longing for right now? They are bad, little boy, and their words are many-colored! Their deeds are deceitful, my dear! Their hearts are selfish!