One day of a long year, or when the father came back
ExtractNOON Faya was born in 1938, shortly before the war, but she doesn’t remember the start of the war at all. Just occasionally, when she hears that adults are talking about something and mention the word “war”, she understands that this is something ominous, rising straight out of the ground, black and somber, just as the face of aunt Lusya when she looks at the postman approaching the house. Her mother also received father’s letters from the front; she could picture him very well: he was big and kind. Faya thought about her father very often: it will be great when he comes back, it will be fun! After the breakfast that consisted of boiled potatoes and milk she sat down on a wide couch in the yard and laid her rag dolls, doll dishes and colorful patches around her. Guldjakhan should come soon and they will play together. Cat Fly joined her lazily and stretched himself out on a motley carpet. Guldjakhan, a cheerful friend of Faya with dark skin, was not long in coming. She brought two apples with her and the girls, devouring the fruits and dangling their feet, started their leisurely conversation. They were fond of talking about something unusual, for example, about what would happen if the rag doll Aisoltan came to life and started to talk. Or when a person dies where does he or she get then? And another interesting topic: how and why does a person grow? Faya liked mysterious topics, it seemed to her that there were so many mysteries in the world, that she would not have time to learn so much in her lifetime. This thought distressed her very much. Closing her eyes, she even imagined that she was lying dead and could hear how people around her were saying: “Poor thing, she hadn’t found out what she wanted, she didn’t have enough time!” To speed somehow the process of discovering all mysteries, Faya began to investigate impatiently the most acute issues. For example, Guldjakhan and she sometimes joined funeral processions which moved from the village to the local cemetery. Faya followed the crowd of mourners and strained her ears: maybe someone would tell where a person gets after death. Or she often asked her mother. Why does a person live? How does it happen that the heart is constantly beating, who winds it up? Where do we get when we sleep? Why does she often have a dream that she is falling down? Why does she often have a feeling that everything that happens around her has already happened in her life? And another million questions. As a rule, her mother excused herself that she was very busy, and it was fair enough: if she answered all the questions, who would keep the house then? So Faya had either to think over the answers to all her questions by herself, or just to wait in the wings to ask the person, who, in her opinion, should know about it. But the questions didn’t become less numerous. And now she was discussing with Guldjakhan an awfully important issue: why hair of sheep or dogs grows to a certain level and then stops, but hair of girls grows and grows and if it is not cut, it can grow down to knees, as in Faya’s case. How it would be great if girls’ hair stopped to grow when it reached the back of the neck: then people would only have to comb it and wouldn’t have to plait braids in the morning and let the hair down in the night! Guldjakhn said that everything is differently with animals and Faya argued that it can’t be so as they understand everything like people, just can’t talk. Let’s take Fly: he is lazy but smart. If Faya is going to do something, he doesn’t even raise the head, but if she is going to Guljakhan, the cat is running alongside. Because he knows that there’s a cow in the yard and aunt Bibi, Guldjakhan’s mother, always pours him a bowl of milk. And how does the cat know it? Because he is as smart as humans. The large and reddish sun was rising above the village. Looking at the sky, Faya was thinking about her question that hadn’t been answered since the last summer and she remembered her last year’s adventure; although it was an exceptional event for her, it didn’t give an answer to the burning question: where does the sun spend the night? Following the sun Last year, on a hot September afternoon Faya was sitting near a small rivulet that runs behind the village and was arguing with the local children that if you go straight to the mountains and don’t turn off, you can reach the sun. “Look, it is so close”, she was screaming eagerly, pointing at the huge orange disk of the sun which was going to roll over the nearest mountain. “You just need to get to the mountain, climb it and then you can stroke the sun with your hand!” Older children shook their heads in doubt and tiny tots looked at Faya with a marked respect. Feeling that she had already earned respect among children, Faya suddenly suggested: “I’m going to get to the sun, who’s with me?” As if measuring the distance, everyone fell silent and was looking at the straight dusty road that led to the mountain. The huge sun seemed to be really very close: just reach the mountain that dominated the pasture and seemed to be near, too. The mountain shined brightly in the sunlight, and the children thought that they could even see small trails on the mountain. “No, it’s not so close”, discreetly said Tanya, a girl from the neighborhood. “It just seems to be close but in fact it is far away”. But Faya was already daydreaming how she would be stroking the sun with her hand, and the others would envy her and regret that they hadn’t come with her. The picture in Faya’s dreams was very attractive, that’s why she determinately swung her braids behind her: “I’m going! Well, who’s with me?” She looked defiantly at the children. Another reason why she said so was because she didn’t want to yield precedency to Tanya: although Tanya is two years older, Faya will prove that her words also mean something! The older children kept silent, and the little ones hurried home. “I’ll go with you”, said faithful Guldjukhan, and they started their way to the mountain. Of course, Faya had completely forgotten that there were vineyards before the mountains, and then the river made a loop, and then there was the pasture, and then probably there was the mountain. Anyway, the girls were already walking about half an hour, but the vineyards hadn’t appeared yet. The huge sphere of the sun approached the top of the mountain. Guldjukhan was quiet and was walking silent, Faya was immersed in her thoughts too. “If we still haven’t approached the vineyards, when will we come to the pasture?” she was thinking, and her heart became so heavy because she couldn’t imagine how much time the way back would take. Thoughts worse and worse popped into her head, especially when she imagined how they would catch hell when their mothers find out about their journey. And Guldjukhan’s mother would scold her, Faya, that she had taken her daughter so far away.