Дуйшон СУЛТАНКУЛОВ | Проза



I was at the bus station. I came to the village on unsettled matters. Times had changed. There was no help from the ‘father-government’ as before. It was the time when everyone set a goal and reached it, being all out for it. Thus, wearing the family yoke on the neck, everybody was dragging their own cart. And everybody had their own (road) purpose and responsibility. However, we had only begun to understand that independence was above all the rest. I was also among these people running here and there in the worries of life. The head was in the wrong place. It was full of thoughts of how to provide children with education, how to finish the house until autumn, which I had begun to build in Bishkek this year. Now was the time of many troubles.

In the hope to find a cheaper taxi from Bishkek, I was going back and forth in anticipation. Suddenly, I noticed the teenager, who was standing not far away from me. He was looking in my direction from time to time, digging into the ground with the tip of his feet.

I was talking to each driver of the newly arrived taxi, asking when they would go back and their fare. Less than two hours later, the same boy, having closed his eyes, began to run straight in my direction. I stepped aside, having freed the way for him, and he, the tomboy, having run past, turned back and hugged me before people’s eyes. He was crying and saying something. I could not understand what he was saying: if I heard one word, then I could not hear the second one. And he was like he did not care whether I heard him or not. Poor child, talking and crying at the same time, was expressing everything that was tormenting his soul. Having stooped down, I saw my pupil Janibek, whom I was teaching in the seventh grade.

– Oh, Janibek, what is wrong with you? – I asked.

Janibek could not answer. Not being able to come to his senses, he, sobbing, continued crying. I felt so uncomfortable in front of the people. I began to comfort him, stroking his hair. And as if sensing my guilt, my hands began to shake. He, having grasped me firmly, like the one who caught the thief, was not going to let me go. After some time, he said:

– Agay, you should have left, after we had finished the eleventh grade.

I felt as if a stone fell on my back with a bang. I could not utter a word. For some time, my whole body, from head to toe, was trembling. I was speechless and confused. In the moments of loneliness, I also remembered them. Having gathered my thoughts together, I asked:

– What grade are you in now, Janibek?

– In the ninth grade.

– I see that you have grown up, matured. Since then it has only been two years, but you have wised up.

Though I wanted to hide the excitement from the people around us, but the hoarse voice was giving me out.

– This is life, son. Do not be offended. Time will get things straightened out. You will understand everything when you grow up, – I was doing my best to soothe him.

At this point, I was overcome by the sense of hidden anguish, and a silent cry burst out from the chest. Things, which I had been keeping for all these years, came out, and I could not hide my tears. It seemed that the people around pricked up their ears. They were looking at us as if they had never seen anything like that.

– How are Sayra, Bolot, Mars, Kerim studying? – I asked.

– No, agay. Kerim, Sayra, Almagul, and Meerim moved. I heard that they went to Russia and Kazakhstan. Only eighteen pupils out of the thirty-two are still here. Others left for other towns, villages, and schools. They say that some do not study at all. I do not know everything about everybody. Those, who miss school, come here sometimes. But they have changed. We do not have those friendly relationships as before. In time, we fell off from each other and became only acquaintances. Some ask about you when you will come. Many are now scattered in all directions. And the school is not the way you remember it. It is like a stray house: sad and dark. It looks terrible. It has lost its form, has become quite different. Do you get a good salary in Bishkek? We heard that you worked in the store together with the Turks. How could you leave without telling us? Others said you were a bad person. Then, when you left secretly, we were coming to your house many times, thinking that you were sick. We did not believe. Once, some tall woman chased us away. She said: ‘Your agay is not here. He went to Bishkek. Do not come here! If something gets lost in the house, then you will be to blame!’ After that, we stopped coming to your house. During the holidays, when we were collecting money to congratulate the teachers, we wrote postcards for you too, saying that we would give you everything at the meeting. It seems that Aynura still has these postcards. Maybe (like the one who caught the thief), I should bring them now to you, agay, – Janibek said.

– Not today, but another day, – I objected.

– I want others to see you too.

– Son, the road is long. I need to go. Do you think I feel good? My life is also filled with problems, Janibek. Soon, it will be winter. And the house is not built yet. You understand the rest yourself.

– Then, move back over here!

– I thought about this too. But in the meantime, it is better for me to stay there. I have many other goals to reach. Maybe, I will tell you about this when I come here next time.

– Janibek, let’s go sit down on that bench, as my leg is numb, – I offered, taking him away from the prying eyes of people. The passers-by and the taxi drivers were staring at us as if with reproach. They might think that I had abandoned my family.

We both were in bliss from the memories of those days at school. We forgot about the grievances, and it really brought us back to those sweet days on the lessons that were captured in our souls.

His mother once told me that Janibek early lost his father. His father died in a car accident. After all, a boy needs a father. He wants a man’s support. What a bliss for a boy to tell a father about the inmost, to unburden his soul for we all were once children. I understood him. Besides, Janibek himself was a very sensitive, loving a sincere conversation, boy. He quickly took up with people. He was like that by his nature.

It was five o’clock. It was late autumn. It was getting dark quickly. I could not stay there longer. At this time, once the sky was covered with clouds, it would be snowing on Suusamyr2. It was such time that one day determined the fate of the whole year. If one missed this day, all the efforts would be in vain. How could I tell him? And there was no end to the words of Janibek. I began to worry, looking at the watch. Luckily, the guy in the black cap told me that he had found a cheap taxi. We did not have time to talk about everything. Janibek did not stop talking, not leaving me a chance to say something. A lot was left unsaid. We hugged each other goodbye. I could tell from the sad look of Janibek that melancholy had not left him yet. I wanted to give him some money, but I myself had barely enough. – Okay, – I told him, – I will come again. Give my best to others. Janibek silently turned and ran away from me. He could not wish me a good trip, maybe, because he could not forgive me or because I did not meet his expectations.

Janibek blamed me for everything. I just stood there, rooted to the ground, thinking. How would I look him in the eye at the next meeting? According to my pupils, they were right.

And I am right too, as I am arranging my life. And who of us is right? Who knows? I did not want to make excuses. Deep down, I felt guilty that I had left without saying goodbye to them, without explaining my situation. Yes, that’s true. My inner voice said: ‘You are a man of age, and a teacher, but despite that, you have sold human relations.’ This verdict of conscience was haunting me for a long time.

I agreed. There was no other choice but to agree. The guilt and remorse tortured did not give peace to my soul. As they say in Russia: ‘Time, as the judge, will tell’. Resentment will pass away, but the scars will remain.

– Oh bayke[2], I am waiting for you. Are you going to leave today? – I heard the taxi driver saying with hostility.

– Yes, right now, – I answered. While I was recollecting myself, time passed. And the taxi driver did not understand this.

– You will sit in the front. Eje[3] and sisters will sit in the back. For a conversation on the way, it is better when a man is sitting next. What do you think? – the taxi driver said, having turned to eje and sisters.

The young one among them said something sharp:

– The car is yours, so it is your will to decide what to do.

She looked at me and said:

– If not for his age, his place would be just in the back.

I was trying to be polite:

– Oh sister, for God’s sake, sit in the front, please.

– No-o, bayke, sit. The taxi driver does not want me to sit next to him. What can I do? Now, I will not sit there, – she said as if being offended. – It is not your fault, bayke. We only need to get to our destination alive and healthy. Sit and do not worry.

And she pointed to the front seat.

– Sister, I am sorry. I just wanted a man to entertain you on the way, telling you jokes, – the taxi driver was justifying himself.

I sat in the front.

– Now, bayke, tell your story. The path is long, so let’s while away the time telling stories about life, – he said.

I understood him. After a while, he asked:

– And who was that boy? You spent nearly two hours talking non-stop. Bayke, fate is a complicated thing. Tell us, please, as the story of some person is interesting. It may be a fairy tale for someone, which has an educational meaning. It may be a lesson for someone like we.

This way he sort of began the conversation.

– Okay, I will tell you. This is no secret. Take on fuel, and while you refuel the car, I will get acquainted with eje and sisters. And then, when we get to the mouth of the gorge, I will begin telling the story. What do you think about that? – Everybody agreed and supported this idea with nodding.

Do you think that it is interesting to listen to the innermost secrets of a stranger for everybody, especially for women?

The road was excellent. Meanwhile, we entered the gorge, and the taxi driver said impatiently:

– Come on, bayke, begin your story.

Obviously, he liked to listen to stories. Maybe, the circumstances were such. He either got hooked on a conversation while listening to interesting stories of the passengers or really got used to while away a long distance with an interesting story.

– That boy is my former pupil. I was teaching him till the seventh grade, – I began.

The taxi driver, having interrupted me, said:

– Come on, bayke, I believe that he is your son by your first wife.

– Oh, no. Not at all. You are wrong. I am not kidding you.

– Once the boy, having hugged you, was crying, we certainly thought that there was some secret… Oh my God, that is so interesting. So, bayke, continue.

– I was teaching them for two years. Only they and God knew how I was teaching them. The secret was that I was teaching them from the heart. We became one family. Through the power of influence of my subject, we, having been united, were reaching our goal, were looking for the root philosophy of education and upbringing. The lesson began with the review of the title of the topic for the upcoming lesson. Gradually deepening in the topic and understanding the philosophy of the lesson, taking into account their age peculiarities and the pursuit of knowledge, we tried to determine its place within the society and existence. We argued to what extent this topic was necessary in human life, and reached the arguments about its necessity in society, about the physical image of the world, forming the outlook on the change in public consciousness and development of the scientific and technical revolution. The more we delved, the deeper we got into the peculiar world of knowledge. Now, I understand that through the power of the lesson, through the goals, we began to cooperate and became like the father and his children. I realized that I had really deprived them of their future. To put it crudely, I was like a miser, who showed where the rosy apple was but did not give it to them and did not allow tasting it. Poor children, having followed me, went out into the open space. After my escape, they lost their goals in that open space and got lost halfway. I did not even know that I had brought them a very heavy misfortune. That’s the whole story, girls.

It was a speechless moment. We all stopped talking. Looking through the glass at the firs in the gorge, each of us was analyzing this story. You should also try to think about it. What should have I done? I myself still cannot find the answer, and I do not know how to explain my actions. I am sorry for being such an irresponsible agay, who have become the slave of existence. You are my wise ones with pure souls, with sweet dreams, and with no bad thoughts! I wish you to achieve your goals…


My grandmother was an affectionate, kind, and serious woman. Her name was Sherbet (Nectar). The name matched her temper as a Mother! I remember her sunny face — she disseminated the cheerfulness among us thanks to her appearance and her essence. I heard that she was from Bakair of Talas region, from ‘kitai’ tribe.

It was early spring. Grandmother took Rakhman and me to Tamdy. This was a narrow place at the entrance to Chichkan, so to speak, the mouth of the gorge. Probably, the name ‘Mouth of the house’ was left from it. The gorge could be seen as the house, and its entrance – as the entrance to the house.

The distance between the village of Aral, where we lived, and the area of Tamdy was about five to six kilometres. Grandmother often was showing to me and to Rakhman and was saying:

– Do you see there, at the foot of the mountain, the tops of the poplars? There, in the bend of the ravine, my brother and your uncle Sydyk lives with his family, – she pointed with her hand, every time we climbed the high bank. Always, when she was coming to us, she emphatically fixed her eyes there for our house was on the top. The whole neighbourhood could be seen from there: in the West – to Kairak, in the South – to the old city centre, and in the East – to Min-Dobe.

Once I heard my grandmother gently telling Rakhman:

– If the spring comes early, and we safely survive the winter, I will take you to my relatives.

We left closer to the noon. The day was warm. Our legs were soaked to the bone: the water from melted snow was loudly rippling through ravines and hollows, like enjoying the spring morning. Everything around was turning green, and the small yellow flowers that had only recently opened their buds were scattered there. When we were in sight of the grandmother, we were jumping over bumps, and when she turned away, we were walking right on the water.

By noon, we reached the hill of Gudur. Some called it Koduran-Dobe.

– Let me tell you briefly about this person. Sit down, – the grandmother commanded. – The old name of this hill is Gudur, and the old Koduran, when passing by it, always sat down here to relax. Sometimes, he held the meetings with the villagers there. That’s why this hill has two names. Koduran was one of the first lawyers who freely spoke the Russian language. They say, he was working in the Supreme Court. He was one of the first who built a two-storey house with whitewash. Its struts and pillars were covered with tar for them not to rot. He gave this building on his own initiative to the elementary school before 1940-s. Such caring people are usually referred to as people’s, my children.

– I also first learned to write in this school, – the teacher, now and the honorary retired Asyrankulov Asanbek often said. – I was a witness. The walls of the first floor were filled with books. That’s why Koduran could be honoured as one of the first educators in the Ketmen-Tyube valley. I also remember when this elementary school in 1950-s moved to Bala-Chichkan, the house was left unattended, and we were playing hide-and-seek there.

So, we stopped to rest on the hill of Gudur. We sat down on the rocks, which the grandmother chose. The grandmother also sat down on one of the rocks and drank some of jarma[4] from the wineskin. When she handed me the mug, Rakhman suddenly snatched it from my hand, spilling the drink on his chest, drank some of it, and threw the mug to the side. The dishes were covered in dirt. Rakhman, being the son of the eminent worker of the collective farm, got used to being stroked on the head and being paid compliments. And the grandmother initially nurtured him, as if she knew his temper. He got used to do everything what he wanted.

Finally, when I also drank jarma, the grandmother got us out of the place, dusted us down, and began to comfort:

– In that building, you will drink tea, eat eggs… You will be well fed. Those, who live there, are no strangers to us: the grandfather of Rakhman and uncle Kuitike. Wait a little bit. Well, who of you knows how to march as the soldiers do? We will rest there, and then, we will get to uncle Sydyk by the evening…

The grandmother praised us that we were glad to walk quickly. After hearing about uncle Kuitike, Rakhman rejoiced. The grandmother and I stopped at his place each time, when we were going to the destination of our summer or winter stay. I heard a lot of horror stories about my uncle, but he never showed me his strict temper. I myself did not see anything, but after the situation with Rakhman, I was also seized with some sort of fear, and I became thoughtful. The fact was that when the rumour spread around the ail of Aral that uncle Kuitike was coming, everybody was terrified: youngsters, like us, ceased to cry; the older ones ran across the street through the cornfield or hid on the roof of the house. My uncle looked stern, with strict eyes, overly bushy eyebrows, which were drooping down and were covering the eyes. To be honest, in my opinion, one of his eyes was even artificial.

The eyes of his wife were blue. If not for the freckles, she was a beautiful, hospitable, and helpful woman. Although, she was Tatar by nationality, she was fluent in Kyrgyz[5]. The grandmother immediately noticed how we fearfully retreated back.

– God, do not be afraid! One of you is the son, another one is the nephew. He will like you. He is formidable only for disobedient and ill-mannered children. Do not worry, my children, – she assured us.

We fell silent and, being scared, walked in silence. Finally, we came to the uncle’s house. The yard was full of hens. When the dogs began to bark, uncle Kuitike came out, saw my grandmother, and from sheer joy began to ask about her health, fellow villagers, and relatives.

– Oh, my children! My nephews are here! – he exclaimed and kissed me on the cheek. His moustache was stiff and scratchy. His mouth smelled tobacco. I tried to dodge, and he smiled in response:

– Look at him! – He said. – Do not worry. I do not touch educated children, like you. If you were like Toktor, Tilesh or Kudaibergen, the son of Sata, then, it would be another thing…

The uncle grinned disappointedly, having hitched his moustache up.

– So, get the children in the house, – aunt Kamila hurried. – Look, they are frozen. I will add fuel to the fire…

He began to fuss with joy. As my grandmother had told us, we drank tea with sugar, ate the freshly prepared bawyrsaks3 and omelette. Their sugar was like a big rock. They put some in our pockets too. Aunt Kamila somehow fawned upon grandmother, tried to please her, and felt uneasy, like something was wrong.

Many said that aunt Kamila was a good woman, but God deprived her of motherhood. I heard how my mother once complained to my father that uncle Kuitike would be left without descendants in his old age. As they say, a sword made of alloy is acute. And if this Tatar wife, I thought, had given birth to uncle’s son, he might have been very developed.

I already noticed how much they loved each other and what tender feelings they had. When the grandmother left the room, uncle Kuitike began to flirt with aunt right in front of us, holding out her a bowl and again removing his hand. Probably, they thought that we were innocent children.

However, they lived together with no children. Maybe, there was some unknown force between them that gave them strength. Later, when the tribesmen from Aral did not give uncle peace, persuading him to divorce with Kamila, they went to work in the old regional centre. In the summer, uncle Kuitike travelled a lot in the mountains, valleys, working as the groom for geologists. Sometimes, my granny went there to meet with him.

It began to grow dark, and uncle handed all three of us canes and sent us until it got dark. Canes, probably, were necessary to ward off the dogs. I kept looking back. Uncle and aunt somehow stood confused and silently watched us until we disappeared from their sight.

Along the way, the grandmother told us how, in the years of her youth, during the day, one could see foxes and hares running around here. Her narration of how they had been hiding in the coastal thickets, when the dogs had been unleashed to chase them, was interesting and vivid. After the first newly fallen snow, a few riders gathered, shouting and making noise, drove foxes out of the bushes and, thus, spent their free time. Sometimes, they managed to catch foxes alive. Sometimes, they did not. The grandmother continued telling the stories to while away time.

– Why did you catch foxes? – Rakhman asked.

– What do you mean ‘why’? To have fun for there was nothing to do in the winter. Some sewed a hat or a coat out of fox skins.

– And what happened to their fox-cubs?

– Oh, my children! Those heartless people did not think that the fox-cubs would be orphaned. They only got used to think about today’s food, – the grandmother sighed. – If they were like you, they would think about them. Now, we would see many young hares and fox-cubs. My children, hurry up. It is getting dark.

Poor grandmother kept urging and encouraging us. Usually, the grandmother was silent, but today, she somehow became talkative. Frozen and tired, we stopped again and again, feeling ache in our feet.

– Your uncle Sydyk brought the first sewing machine from Talas to Ketmen-Tyube. He sews clothes with that machine for his family. When we get there, I will show it to you, – the grandmother said. – I will ask his daughters to sew you shirts. Hurry up. I can already see the house, – and she pointed ahead, where the light was burning. – I am tired, and you are tired as well. Besides, I cannot lift you both. I have a backache since the last year. Someday, you will grow old too, my children, and then you will understand me, – the grandmother was justifying herself.

It smelled the smoke, and the barking of the dogs was heard. Thank God, we somehow made it alive and well.

Apart from the fact that we were chilled and a little tired, we did not notice how we got into the village. However, we could not move a muscle, and our legs were all wet.

– Maybe, on the way back, your uncle will lend us his horse, – feeling sorry for us, the grandmother comforted us. – One of you will be seated in the front and the other one – in the back, and that’s how we will get back home. She looked at me, as if accusing that my father did not give us a horse. I still feel ashamed for my father, when I remember that day.

Standing not far from uncle’s house the grandmother opened her small pouch, and there she had a piece of melted butter, three lumps of sugar of the size of a fist, and a few quruts[6]. It turns out that uncle Kuitike and his wife wrapped our share of sugar in the handkerchief. Stacking them in the pouch, the grandmother briefly glanced at us.

– Children of your uncle are also waiting for goodies, – the grandmother said, letting us know that we needed to share with others.

And here we were. Knowing about our arrival, or simply coming out to the barking of the dogs, all the girls immediately rushed towards us with a joyful exclamation: ‘Aunt came!’. Poor grandmother could hardly keep up to hug and to kiss the girls one after the other. Our uncle, and other men and women, also rushed to greet us. Three young men, who welcomed us, were the sons of our uncle: Nurgazak, Isak, and Iskhak. All of them, as there was not a rotten apple in the bunch, were slim and tall, like their father.

– Ur, they are so mature! They have canes in their hands! – Uncle Sydyk exclaimed. – If you had come across animals and birds along the way, you would have killed them. Yeah, they were very lucky that you did not catch them. Perhaps, God had mercy and saved them from inevitable death.

I do not know whether they were joking or were serious about that, because others were laughing.

– Why did you go with children and so late? You should have let me know. I would have sent someone with horses to you, – the uncle lamented.

And his daughters were taking us in their arms, were kissing, and were asking about our trip here.

– Oh, look, their feet are so wet! – The eldest daughter sadly exclaimed.

– The ground is moist, that’s why we got wet. And what did you think? – The uncle answered her. – They both are rascals and got their feet wet. Why don’t you come, when everything turns green and it gets warm? – He told the grandmother in undertones. The grandmother said nothing. The uncle addressed his daughters:

– Take the children home fast. Take off their shoes and seat them by the stove. Clean and dry their clothes, — uncle ordered. I will never forget those enjoyment, when we were in a warm room after long exacting campaign.

Everybody surrounded the grandmother, asked her about everything, about relatives, acquaintances, and talked for a long time, and they hastened to tell different news. It was so good! With the onset of twilight, I remember that I cried and wanted to go back to Aral. And Rakhman was glancing at me, though, his eyes were also full of tears…


During the day, children usually collected bistort and wild garlic, and during the twilight, they were frolicking together with the adults, playing hide-and-seek and ak-cholmok[7]. In the game of hide-and-seek, in the moonlit night, young men and women always found a safe shelter. When the moon hid behind clouds, we were not able to find them. Sometimes, not knowing where to look, the children gave up and waited for the appearance of the moon. But it did not appear. The moon disappeared, the cheerful chirping along with the echo dissolved deep in the mountain hollows, and everything around was immersed in the silence. Then, disappearing for a short period of time among the clouds, and then twinkling in the black sky once again, the moon seemed to play with us hide-and-seek.

In the midst of the game, if you dared to come close to adults in the darkness, they would pop up from under the bushes with a loud scream and scare all the children. So, it was better to stay the hell out of those places in order not to be scared. I do not know why, but the adults were hiding more, and the children were almost always looking for them.

From time to time, by the middle or the end of the game, summer rain doused us with short-term but large drops. And when the children scattered around their homes in different directions, adults, one after the other, shouted after us: ‘Where are you going? Wait. Take your time. It is just a passing rain, and it will stop soon!’ Those, who were catching us up, tried to persuade us to play longer.

Only in the middle of the night, when we got very tired, we begged to go home to, like the baby birds, quickly find our shelter. If you left without permission, the next day, you would not get to play.

While playing ak-cholmok, adults also rushed far away from us. Though, we also were struggling trying to catch up with them in the hope to win, but we had no chance. There were many of them: Musa, the son of Kalybai, Beishen, the son of Isa, Ulugbek, Sagyn, Alimzhan, the son of Chirkei, and many more guys.

But most importantly, I would like to tell you about one memorable event that occurred in those years in the valley of Chaar.

Lately, for some reason, I did not see my father for three or four days in a row. I kind of heard that our brown cow Yzamat disappeared in the pasture. Rumour had it that someone stole it. After hearing this sad news, I kept quiet too, not knowing exactly what happened.

Two days before that, Yzamat-Brown did not return from the pasture. I remember that my mother was still angry and kept muttering: ‘Your father went to look among the cows that were about to give birth, but it was not there, as if it had vanished’.

He always lamented – whether a human was behind this, and who was this scoundrel, who had committed such a dirty trick. He could not find peace for himself, trying somehow to detect poor cow. He swore that he would find it, if only somebody did not cut it with a knife, and if he found the perpetrators, they would not escape their punishment. He would teach them a lesson. He saddled the horse Chabdar and rode off somewhere. Poor mother was pouring out her soul, not knowing how to handle this loss and watching the calf of Yzamat-Brown that mooed and looked for its mother all the time.

– So, son, I do not know whether your father was right, or he suspected someone, or, maybe, he was just angry, or he did not want to upset you, but he hastily packed up and rushed off somewhere. It looked as if he was going to fight. He was so confident, as if he was ready to kill the offender.

The calf lately did not eat anything and its belly fell in; its eyes festered, and it, having stretched out its neck, fell asleep in the shade of the bushes of meadowsweet all the time. And it lamentably mooed from morning till night and forced to shudder the whole neighbourhood!

– He should be back today or tomorrow, – mother seemed to tell me or the calf or, maybe, just muttered to herself.

Perhaps, she was telling me this or was trying to comfort herself – I do not know. I woke up early in the morning and noticed that the father’s lash, which hung at the entrance, disappeared. Then, from various scattered thoughts, I could not sleep and got out of bed.

I poured milk in the bucket and headed for the calf. It turned out that none of the calves got up. The calf of Yzamat-Brown seemed to get up long ago: as if complaining, it started its usual moo, raising its face to the sun. Hoping that being fed it would cease to moo, I put a bucket of milk in front of it. It only tried a little bit and, looking around, began to moo again. It already became hoarse from mooing.

Somehow, I remembered that Yzamat-Brown was big, half a meter above the rest of the cows, and it could be seen from afar. It looked good. Its eyes were calm. It seemed it was to bring satiety and well-being into our home. It always walked, swaying. At the sight of a person, it immediately stopped, sniffed, and kept walking. It was, so to speak, sort of its greeting.

Its udder was for the whole span. Mother told me that the cow gave the whole bucket of milk. She also said that all the shepherds admired its appearance. This could be the reason for this terrible event.

The cow was pastured by the old man Yzamat, who had been nursing the pregnant cattle, and after it gave birth, he gave it to my father as the milking cow.

And a week later, the old man Yzamat came to tell about the habits of the cow.

– Hey, Itike, I give you this cow, – the weird man warned. – Guard it carefully from all sorts of predators. It is skittish. Be especially careful when you will meet jealous and big-eyed people…

– He anticipated this, – mother sobbed, glancing at the hillside all the time, from where my father was to return.

As usual, early in the morning, we heard the voices of women fighting for the turn to the separator. My mother also went in that direction. I always woke up from the screams of women or from the buzz of the separator, and then I went back to sleep. And today I could not sleep.

The gorge, where we stayed in the summer, was called Chaar. People say, once, there were tigers. On the one hand, these rumours seemed plausible for there was a lot of reed at the bottom of the gorge. Chaar was located directly at the exit of the gorge Chichkan in Ketmen-Tyube, from the opposite side of the road Bishkek-Osh. There was a weather station now, and it was clearly visible from afar. This narrow canyon, spanning three-four houses in the middle of the branching trees from two sides, was called Chaar. Those, who went along the road Bishkek-Osh, could see it from the right side. Those, who sent from Osh to Bishkek, would pay attention to it on the left at the entrance to the gorge Chichkan. We always spent summer in the middle of the gorge Chaar, in the area of Abysh. Our events took place there. That year, we spent summer there. The area of Abysh also seemed to have its own history of its name, but I do not remember it. But I still remember one event. The youngest son of the bookkeeper (accounting clerk) of the farm of Chirkei was born there, and he was named Abysh. May he rest in peace. He is not among us anymore. He left this world too early.

If I look back in my past, I can clearly see the gorge as it was in the fifties of the last century. In comparison with previous years, the mouth in the lower part of the slope was covered with sparse bushes of goldenrod, which thickly belted the place, not allowing the rest of the herbs to proliferate. What could it be? I do not know. And the view of the mountains was all the same.

The gorge itself seemed to stretch out its arms and froze, not believing its own eyes, and not knowing what to say from the joy; its whole appearance said: ‘My dear, is it you? Did you come to admire and to remember your past years? Are you safe and sound?’ The gorge was sad, as if hiding many secrets, happy, as if it lost its children once and found them after many years of separation. Maybe, it remembered its lonely days. In general, it proudly appraised everything around. Its heart was full of expectation and longing…

It seemed to be about to water the whole valley and the village, as the muddy river still threw its waters. Grain of sand in the water, like the yellow metal, glittered with small pieces. We considered them gold and amused ourselves by collecting them…

Anything could pop up in memory. But all this was remembered due to Yzamat-Brown, having awakened in my memory the fragments of my youth. In a moment, the pictures of my past life ran as footage of the movie and forced me to think hard about them. Certainly, it is regrettable when the memories are in your heart, and the young years fled somewhere forever… Some phenomena of nature recur, but the childhood does not come back. It was impossible to hide the fact that I was full of scattered thoughts, peering at our gorge. Still, time was running too fast. Okay, I would like to continue my story about Yzamat-Brown.

One day, leaning on a stick and slowly moving down the slope, my father appeared at the distance. He was completely exhausted and, as they say in fairy tales, he seemed healthy, but his horse was skinny as a chip. I was the first to run to him.

He looked gloomy. His face was pale. His cheeks were drawn. For somebody, who saw my father before, he looked too thin. There was no former rosy-cheeked old man, whom my father was. He looked even disgusting.

He hugged, but he apparently was not strong enough to lift me, so he leaned in, pressed me against his chest, and took me home hand in hand. Women crowded, and the bookkeeper of the farm of Chirkei happily ran to my father. Father hugged him tightly, as if he had just returned from the war. Chirkei was my cousin. He was the son of the eldest sister of my mother. My father and Chirkei were long silent. Finally, after a while, he said:

– Well, how are you? Do you have good news?

– No.

– I came to Kara-Kungey, to Besh-Tash, went around Jeti-Suu, asked everyone, but nobody saw anything. When the horse got exhausted, fearing that it would die so needlessly, I slaughtered it and distributed the meat to the residents of Mazar-Suu with the condition that the next time I visit they would give me the money. So, I return from Kushchu-Suu through the foothills.

– Do not worry, – Chirkei reassured him. – As soon as you left, all members of the farm decided that we would pay together.

– No, no. Chike, thank you for support, but I will find Yzamat-Brown. Nobody will slaughter it. Probably, somebody hankered for its appearance, milk supply, and stole it, – the father told him:

– Okay, you should rest for the week. Maybe, you will think about this.

– Okay.

Although, my father did not like it, women and men came to see him, as if he returned from Hissar[8] troubled years.

As soon as people had gone to their homes, the father drank a large cup of varenets, diluted with oatmeal, and as soon as his head touched the pillow, he began to snore.

After a few days father, begging, borrowed a horse from Chirkei, filled one side of the saddlebag with small wineskin of the separated sour milk and oat flour, the other one – with bread and a small amount of dried meat, butter, got the blessing of the neighbours and set off in search of the cow with the ineradicable hope. Before he let go of the reins of the horse, he turned to me:

– Son, take care of your mother. Do not sleep until noon. This time, I will be back faster. I will look among the living creatures of Kara-Jygach, Sortovoy, Shevchenko, and Marks. If I find it – good, and if I do not find it – let it be. In the end, I will come back. Yes, and the horse is not mine. God forbid, it will be dead, – he added at the end.

I listened to him, like an adult. Maybe, because he, poor man, explained everything in detail, down to the smallest part of the story. Finally, he pulled on the reins:

– Well, now, you are certainly not a little boy, – he said.

– A man matures in difficulties, begins to think soberly. I have to go. Look after the farm…

This time, he pinched my nose, did not kiss on the cheek, did not even say goodbye, and left. I thought he would burst into tears, if he came up close to me and hugged me. My father was always compassionate. I was left standing like a statue. Mother and father, discussing something, went together to the hillside. Suddenly, father leaned over to mother and, having hugged her around the neck, either kissed her or whispered something in her ear. Then, he abruptly let mother, drove the horse hard on the side of the mountain, and disappeared from the sight. Not only I, but all of the milkmaids stared glumly into the distance and saw him off. The sun was high, the milk was strained. Car engine was long silent. One would not hear any mooing of cows or any bleating of sheep. All the cattle went away to pasture. There were peace and grace in the gorge.

Freckles, not very noticeable usually, stood out clearly on the pale forehead of my mother and made her ugly. Having entered the house, my mother laid down on the side, looking in the direction of the kitchen, and, having closed her eyelids, pretended to be asleep. I understood that she did not want to talk to anyone. I did not ask her anything and sat silently. Having heard the rustling and whispering behind the door, I looked out and saw three women on their way to us. Shyly looking at the ground, I quietly whispered to them that my mother was asleep and halfway sent them home. Women also did not dare to enter, turned back, and silently went home. Their faces also were dark and gloomy, like the autumn sky. Obviously, this event also made a painful impression on them.

I was given the responsibility, and I felt myself important. And I behaved myself accordingly, like the adults did, i.e., talked less, did any work, not waiting for anyone’s orders. My mother sometimes looked at me in surprise, apparently, believing that I matured too early. I woke up together with my mother. After she milked cows, I drove them to the upper pasture and left the calves below, at the entrance to the gorge Chaar. Then, like the adults did, I laid on the side and looked long in the direction, in which my father left. After that, I collected a bunch of spiraea and goldenrod, growing under the bushes, to boil the milk. In the evening, I helped to milk the cows and, thus, completed all my work. This repeated from day to day. These were all my responsibilities.

A few days after noon, when the head of Yzamat-Brown appeared at the end of the slope, the ravine resounded with the joyful cry of happy villagers. In recent days, probably, all people’s thoughts were occupied only with Yzamat-Brown. It seemed that the whole village lived only with cares about a miserable cow.

In addition, Yzamat-Brown stopped three times and loudly mooed, causing the entire valley to be awaken with the joyful cry. The calf of the poor cow tried to run up straight – it got stuck in the bushes of creeping shrub, growing on the slope, it fell down on the ground, having stumbled on the high pea tree[9], and then, it slowed down again and rested its gaze on its mother. Having seen all this, Yzamat-Brown immediately ran down. I saw the crowd of women and children frozen in the excitement, having bated their breath, looked intensely at the unfortunate beast and its calf, worrying for them not to fall down the steep slope. The calf could not resist and slightly mooed, began to wag its tail, then, dug into the udder of its mother and stood for a long time, being unable to move. Yzamat-Brown lifted the tail of its calf with its face and began to sniff it. My father jumped off his horse and froze for a long time, silently admiring the happy meeting of mother and child. Yzamat-Brown looked like before: it lost weight, and its hips were sticking out of the Ilium. Looking at the cow, people seemed to be cursing the cattle-stealer.

Although, I was not close to my father, but I felt that he, and the calf, and Yzamat-Brown were on top of happiness. No one was to stop Yzamat-Brown. Probably, no one dared to disturb the joy of their meeting, this great peace, filled with tenderness… The calf of Yzamat Brown was circling around its mother all the time, bouncing forward, and jumping off to the side. Watching from afar it seemed that Yzamat-Brown stopped abruptly all the time and began to sniff its own calf from all the sides…

It happened just at the time when Yzamat-Brown got just lost: once, the collector of butter was driving by the hillside to the plant, having loaded a bald bull and four flasks of melted butter to Kashka-Buka11. Or it was here that he was fated to die, or something else, but after heavy rain, the cliff collapsed and the bull, having fallen down, broke its legs. I heard adults talking to each other that the animal was not going to live long, and it should be killed. Besides, I still remember the news that made my whole body shudder. Back then, we all stood in the mournful silence, with downcast eyes, as if it was the end of the world.

People were carrying not only melted butter on Kashka-Buka, but household goods, firewood, and water. It was called a bull, and served as an ox. When there was a shortage of transport, five or six of us sat on top of it. As I remember, this bull never frolicked in the wild and did not know the joy of life. Everybody enjoyed its obedience. Maybe, it was of age, and it always walked sedately, was docile and calm. It did not even have the habit of running for any feisty cow. Poor thing, it spent all

the time with Yzamat-Brown and did not depart from it. Perhaps, everybody become this way with age. They were inseparable, like good old friends. Both were high-spirited and cheerful, and they did not have the negative traits. Both were similar to polite and courteous people. By the way, even the bald spot on the forehead of the calf of Yzamat-Brown was like the bold spot of Kashka-Buka[10]. Certainly, those, who needed, untied the bull and took it with them. So, going down the slope, where Kashka-Buka was killed, Yzamat-Brown sniffed everything around with the lowered long muzzle and began to beat hooves on the ground with a loud roar. A few days before this, the herd of cows did the same. How did they know? Who told them? Then, what is it? I cannot understand this till today. How can one understand the cause of all this? So far, I cannot figure this out.

And the calf, pushing the udder of its mother with the muzzle, serenely suck on it. Yzamat-Brown, tired of crying, calmed down slightly and, lazily swaying from side to side, went away from the people in the direction of the mountains. It forgot to feed the calf, and it ceased to sniff it. It entirely forgot about everything. It was like the whole world collapsed. We all stood silently and watched compassionately Yzamat-Brown with the calf, remembering dead Kashka-Buka. In a narrow gorge, all the events, whether small or large, immediately became known to the people. This is a story I tell in the footsteps of those events that I witnessed.

Everyone in the district gossiped about where and how Yzamat-Brown was found, and what villain stole it. Maybe, the investigators eventually found out, who did this. This disturbing event left the imprint in the memory of people. Perhaps, people, who knew something, pretended to be unaware, and for the rest, it remained a mystery.

Recently, one of the shepherds began to shun others, avoiding everyone, finally, handed over all the cattle and left… Once, when I asked my father, who stole the cow, he balked at first, but later said:

– All right, son, so be it. I will tell you. Just keep it in secret. He paid for our horse Chabdar and returned the cow. What else do we need? Certainly, I miss Chabdar, and I got completely exhausted and thin. I wish us to be safe and sound. Everything else will work out. We only lost Chabdar. That’s it. I do not know how he lives now. So, I think there is no need to talk much about it. He is disgraced, and now, people in his village know about this. He disgraced himself. In general, thieves do not go far. Do you understand? – The father said. – Wait, son, and you will grow up. The time will come when you will understand this. The court of conscience does not forgive this dirty game. It will always push his head down. God forbid to be in this position. Time itself will teach you…

But I wanted to know how all this would end, wanted the thief to be severely punished.


Our red rooster, as usual, again flew onto the stairs, leaning against the wall next to my window, and loudly heralded the arrival of a new day: ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo, it is dawn! Cock-a-doodle-doo, lazy-bones!’. I opened one eye. Dawn hardly glimmered through the open window. I turned over on the other side, trying to find a sweet sleep even for a few minutes. But there it was, a loud cry from my mother was heard in the yard: ‘Damn you! Our father stayed up all night and just began to fall asleep, and your rooster is screaming at full throat early dawn!’ Mother looked at me through the open window and raced, screaming, around the house after the rooster.

The last words of my mother, of course, were addressed to me. In our ail, there was muezzin Kamchyke, who, early in the morning, from a sloping roof of his old barn, announced to the faithful about the time of morning prayer. Despite his advanced age, his voice was loud and clear, therefore, came to the farthest outskirts of our village. The elderly ones often joked that his azan was heard in all Ketmen-Tube valley.

I sleepily muttered loud enough:

– Mom, be quiet, You woke up the whole neighborhood!

She realized that she would not catch the rooster, stopped at the window, wiped the sweat from her forehead with the right hand:

– Only you remained to make my comment!

– You are interesting. You yourself made all the fuss and woke me up, – after a pause, I added, – together with the rooster.

Mother took a moment to decline at least part of the blame:

– You see, it annoyed you too. We need to get rid of this villain! It is good that you are awake. Take care of the weeding of the onion. It is all overgrown with weeds. And you need to collect red apricot. We will dry it. I will cook you the fruit compotes all winter, son.

– I will sleep for another hour, mother, and then I will do everything, – I tried to break into her monologue, knowing that the number of tasks will increase with every minute.

– Hurry up, otherwise, the weed will destroy all of your and your father’s work. Did you understand me? And do not forget about apricots.

– Mother, enough… Did the red rooster tell You that weed needed to be removed today? – I said sarcastically.

– Do not have an altercation with adults, rascal! Look at yourself, you are just like your uncles Chonko[11]. Do not mock at your mother, learn to do everything on time. And feed your rooster early in the morning for it will not bawl with all its might!

– Ok, if it ceases to cry in the morning, – I tried to close both ears with a pillow.

– Look, you are just like our co-father-in-law Momush. You are too young to put a double meaning in every word… Yes, rooster’s nature is to wake people up in the morning, but your rooster, damn it, always voices before all the rest. It is so arrogant, asks to be fed…

I realized that now I cannot sleep, and mother cannot be stopped…

– You could have just said that it was hungry. So, it is right that it asks to be fed, – I stood up for the rooster.

– Look, how you protect the villain! – My mother’s voice sharped a tone.

– And what should it, poor fellow, do? Hunger breaks stone walls…

– Yeah, your poor fellow has a very drawn look… Stop bickering. You should have stopped lone age. Didn’t you get this?!

– No, I got this. I was just saying. – I did not want to concede immediately.

– That your ‘saying’ is the altercation! No wonder they say that ‘silence is golden’.

– Now I got this, mommy. I am silent, – I chickened out.

– Do you want me to tell you something else about your rooster, damn it, – my mother’s voice mellowed. Realizing that now long stories can not be avoided, I made another attempt to wriggle out of it.

– Just briefly, mother, my eyes are closing…

– Your naughty rooster is not satisfied with its hen, it brings to our yard hens of neighbor Bekmat and husband Kara-Kalpak of your Kanym eje (A few years ago a man came to us. He was said to be Kara-Kalpak. I did not know that there was such a nation. I knew the Russians, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and Tatars. And, by the way, I never saw him wearing a black kalpak…). It is okay if it only brings them here, but they peck the feed of our hens!

– But their eggs are ours, mother…

– You have ready excuses for everything. Do not shout about it loud, people will hear… And [12]the neighbors are complaining that their hens stopped laying eggs, – mother lowered her voice. – The day before yesterday, I saw how your rooster was fighting with their long-legged roosters.

The year before, my Kara-Kalpak zhezde brought from Uzbekistan a young rooster of the fighting breed. It really grew very large, long-legged rooster, but was afraid of our little red rooster. After a short fight, it always shamefully fled from the battlefield. Obviously, my dare-devil intimidated it in its chicken youth.

– What can’t they share? – I pretended that I did not understand.

– What do you mean ‘what’? Your rooster takes its hens straight from the yard. That is all the fuss.

I can see this myself. I also see our rooster trampling down those other hens all the time.

– Okay, you saw that. So, why should one cry about it? The most interesting is that their hens lay eggs in our hen-coop. There, your Kanym eje complains that they are not eating eggs for two years already. Moreover, she tries to get chicken, and they – copy of our rooster. She does not know what to do…

– Mother, you are so interesting. What is my fault? I cannot whisper in the ear of the rooster every day not to match for their hens and not to bring them here!

– I am just telling you that your eje complains, say, her poor husband has specially brought from Uzbekistan the rooster to breed a broiler strain, and then our villain ruins everything, son.

– Let them build a fortress and keep them behind the walls…

– This fighting giant has no pride of a rooster. It does not court its own hens, but stands all day on one leg, like a soldier on duty at the flag! I do not know what to do. You are a big boy, son. Talk to Kanym eje.

– I will not talk to her. If only she was my age. But what can I tell her? You should tell her to define borders, to build walls, so a mouse will not slip… – I got hot under the collar.

– Okay, calm down, son, – mother receded from a position. – Here is neighbor Bekmat, your teacher, true intellectual. And his hens and the rooster are the same educated. No wonder the Kyrgyz people say that animals always resemble the owner. During the day, they come quietly, in the evening, they leave quietly…

Yes, I saw them. Every evening, agay feeds them. The whole day they graze in our garden. When I see them, I chase them away. And what are they doing while I am gone? You have to tell Kanym eje and agay about it.

Yes, today, it is a small problem between neighbors, and what can happen tomorrow, son? A good neighbor is better than a bad brother, we say.

Probably, that is why agay often locks up his hens in the barn…

Sometimes, I do not see his hens, but do not fence off your rooster. I see how you take care of it. Although, in fairness, it should be noted that when it sees a cow dung on the road, it breaks it with its spurs and cackles, calling all to feast. It does not peck, spins around them, scratching the ground with a wing. Of course, all hens are grateful to it… And this fighting rooster from Uzbekistan stands, like a soldier on duty, even though, there is no submachine gun on a long neck…

It is the one to blame, if it cannot take care of hens…

It was breeding stallions. When I tied their reins firmly in the saddles, they were standing like that for days without movement. So, this rooster is the same. Talk to your classmates, son, maybe you will exchange roosters with them, most importantly, not so naughty as ours.

In my mind, I knew that mother offered a good solution, but all of my friends and classmates knew my rooster and heard about the problems that it was making for all of us…

As I expected, everyone, whom I offered to exchange the roosters, only laughed in response. I realized that the only way was to sell it at the bazaar in the district center. Mother was happy about my decision, and Kanym eje was even happier.

My classmate Kudaibergen volunteered to go with me, saying:

– Since last year, when I was in the hospital with shingles on my head, I did not go to bazaar. For the good work on the mowing of the clover, father gave me five rubles, I asked my mother to hide, and now that came in handy. I will buy a diary and textbooks.

The next morning, having chilly shivered in the cold wind, I was standing just to the side of the bus stop. Old, tightly knotted, bag with my rooster was leaning against the pole. But in the bag, from time to time, the rooster made itself heard and rolled over. In a few minutes, Kuke came and loudly asked: ‘Where is the rooster?’ ‘Be quiet, people will hear’, – I croaked, pointed with my eyes at the bag.

The bus was late, and the number of the passengers at the bus stop was bigger. I looked around, afraid to meet my acquaintances inadvertently. As ill luck would have it, our sleepy classmate Nurgazy came out the gate, opposite the bus stop.

– Oh, where are you going so early? – he rejoiced.

– Kuke decided to buy textbooks, – I began to fuss. – The school year is soon.

At this time, my Kuke, who could not stand still for a single minute, accidentally stepped on the foot of the rooster in the bag. The rooster shouted for the whole bus stop.

– Whose is this bag? – people got worried at the bus stop.

– Our, – I quietly squeezed out of myself, hoping that Nurgazy would not hear.

– Get it away. When the bus arrives, people will trample down the rooster, – the veteran of the war in the jacket, hung with orders and medals, reasonably advised.

– Ah, friends-speculators. You are taking the rooster to the bazzar, – Nurgazy hooked immediately.

– Are you crazy or something, Nuke? If I sell, it will only be the cow or the bull. I, the only son of the very respectable calf breeder of the collective farm, would never be selling some rooster! – I proudly raised my head, flaring nostrils. But seeing that my answer did not impress Nurgazy properly, I added: – Look, last week, my father sold the two-year-old bull and bought me books, clothes, and shoes for the new school year.

At this time, Kudaibergen, seeing that the situation took the unwanted turn for him, passionately said, even though, nobody had asked him: ‘This is not my rooster!’ Apparently, he was frightened that Nurgazy would tell their classmates or worse, his older brother, who had recently began to work as a teacher in our school. He was even sweating with excitement; his eyes ran like the thief’s, caught at the crime scene. In those years, the Kyrgyz people considered it dishonorable to sell something small at the bazaar.

– Hey, Nuke, I would never tell this to someone else, but I admit, you are a true dzhigit. Do not tell anyone. This is my rooster, I take it to the bazaar to exchange it for another one, as all the neighbors quarrel because of it. And for your silence, I will owe you ten chuko bones with the red bat, filled with lead, which, you remember, I traded from Dilde last year…

At this time, in the distance, the bus appeared. A lot of people already gathered at the bus stop, they, like good pupils, began to make a queue. I said softly: ‘Nuke, help us to break into the bus, and you, Kuke, climb on my shoulders and climb into the window’.

When the ‘Pazik’ bus came closer, someone shouted: ‘This is our Jumagazy’. Strict queue instantly crumbled, people, pushing each other, climbed into the open door. The indignant cry of the chauffeur: ‘Do not push. Everyone will go!’ drowned in the human din.

Kudaibergen was among the first people on the steps of the bus. I tried to give him the bag with the wailing rooster, but some big guy in the military panama shouted: ‘Where are you sticking this?! People here cannot go!’ One of the women, shouting: ‘This is the bus for people and not for roosters!’ grabbed the bag.

– Why do you blame them? They are good guys as they help their parents. Tomorrow, they will go to the army, they will defend you, – the veteran came to the defense of us. His words somehow calmed down everybody, and people stopped pushing.

The cabin was not so cramped. And why did everybody push and fight? I began to push the bag with the wailing rooster under the front seat. Someone of the adults in the back, who, probably, was stealing hens at night from the neighboring hen-coops, advised: ‘Put your hand tight over its throat, it will stop…’. I groped, through the bag cloth, the neck of the rooster and squeezed it in my palm, it immediately stopped wailing.

The driver Jumagazy walked through the front door, coughed, attracting the attention of the passengers:

– Good morning, relatives! I want to warn you, though, when the manager puts me on a different route, all the passengers at my word from a line, like the cubs of the marten, and take their seats in a civilized manner. If someone violates the order, I take him/her off the bus. And you, my countrymen, both old and young, climb over the heads, insult each other… Well, you see, everybody sat down, except for two or three young guys. And why did you make a fuss? Read what it says – the driver pointed to the sign. – Yes, ‘No smoking! No littering!’ If I see that someone secretly through seeds, you will sweep and wash the bus! Capisce?

– Son, what is ‘capisce’? – the fat woman in the front, who was screaming that the bus was not for roosters, asked.

– It is in German and means ‘Clear,’ – the old soldier explained.

– And most importantly, – the chauffeur continued. – If you see the traffic police, those, who are standing in the middle of the bus, will get down. Otherwise, they will take away my driver’s license, and I still have to feed my children… That’s the order here, my dear. Do not blame me, – he finished his speech.

Several people approvingly said: ‘He is right’ and the silence was established in the bus.

I looked out the dusty window, I had never heard such short and understandable lesson in school. ‘I wish Jumagazy ake was our teacher. Everybody would be good at learning’, – I thought.

The bus was dusty. It seemed that the salon, like a good vacuum cleaner, was sucking all the dust from the wheels inside. Women, and especially girls with eyebrows and lashes covered with dust, seemed very beautiful. I looked around, trying to guess what everyone was thinking about. Someone was dozing, opening the eyes when the bus was shaking on potholes, someone was dreamily smiling at his/her thoughts, someone’s forehead was showing concern and confusion. There were those, on whose faces one could clearly read the pain of everything that surrounded them…

After climbing a small hill, the ‘Pazik’ bus stopped. – We came to Teke-Tash, prepare fares, – Jumagazy ake announced, climbing over to the salon. Having taken a roll of tickets out the leather bag, he handed them to me. – I appoint you a conductor. There are 23 passengers in the ‘Pazik’ bus, besides me. Tickets are twenty kopeks each. Begin to collect the fare from the back row. You should get 4 rubles 60 kopecks.

– Jumagazy ake, leave the tickets yourself. Why do we need them? – a beautiful young woman playfully said.

– Good suggestion. Thank you, sister, – the chauffeur smiled her. – But authorities are watching us, and the national control with badges does not sleep. It is more expensive to break the order. But the last ride home may be without a ticket. My boss and I had enough of this. So, sister, do not push me to commit crime…

When I went by Kudaibergen, he softly whispered: ‘What happened to your rooster? It has long been since we heard it. What if it is dead?’ ‘Go ahead and slowly touch it with your feet, – I replied. – I am a conductor right now’.

A minute later, a loud cry of the rooster startled the entire bus. ‘Shoot, shoot their commander!’ – The veteran shouted from sleep, jumping up from the seat.

– Well, grandfather, you are something! – The chauffeur began to laugh. The whole bus began to laugh.

– I dream all the time of the war, God damn it. I got scared that the rooster would wake up the fascists… – the veteran felt embarrassed, which made the passengers laugh again, and added, – I am going to the recruitment office to receive a medal for the twentieth anniversary of the victory at Stalingrad.

– If I had known this I would not have charged you for the trip, –Jumagazy said, ready to start the engine.

– Take him back for free, – a playful young woman said.

Obviously, the chauffeur did not like these words and he sharply pressed gas. The ‘Pazik’ bus got off with a jerk that the standing passengers almost fell in the aisle. So, with these conversations, we did not notice how we came to the regional center.

– Well, conductor, I wish you successfully sell your rooster at the bazaar, do not be late for the return trip, – Jumagazy admonished me.

– Thank you, baike, – I said, and together with Kudaibergen, who was already impatiently shifting from foot to foot, like a horse at the start of the horse racing, quickly went to the bird market. There were a lot of hens, but the situation with roosters was more complicated: our rooster was only third. When I just pulled my rooster out of the bag, was about to ask another trader, judging by appearance, of the same age, how much the roosters cost today, I noticed Antonina Vasilevna – teacher of the Russian language and literature, who came three times a week from the center to our school, and now, apparently, was going straight for my rooster. I fell backwards in the dust behind the boy, having covered my head with hands. Antonina Vasilevna long, as I thought, asked the boy how much my rooster costs, but did not get a clear answer. When the Russian language was not heard anymore, I got up and, shaking off, looked around. My Kuke was gone.

– Is your rooster stolen? – The boy from the bazaar asked in a nasty voice.

– No! – I was offended. – I got it from my home.

– And why did your friend rush faster than a hound dog into the crowd and you fall in the dust?

– This is Antonina Vasilevna, our teacher of the Russian language. Tomorrow, she will tell everyone that we are speculators. How then will we live in the village!? I will tell you straight – this rooster is not for sale. I came to exchange it for another one, it caused to quarrel us with all the neighbors.

– Then, why are you sitting here? Go have a word with the people over there…

I approached a woman, selling a white rooster, with the offer to exchange roosters. She just grinned.

– Do you see that girl at a distance, in a red handkerchief, who pretends that has nothing to do with me?

– Yes, I see.

– Well, if you can see her, then I have to buy her, by September, school uniform, books, and notebooks. Therefore, son, I need money. I did not come here for exchange…

Having look at another market woman with the rooster, I realized that it was useless to start a conversation: her face did not bode a pleasant, and most importantly, productive conversation. In this time, Kuke came up with a mesh with three textbooks and notebooks. In one hand, he held hot samosas. I was delighted:

– That’s good, as I am hungry. I did not eat in the morning.

– I bought you too. You will sell the rooster and return the money, friend…

The boy next to us, who sold his three hens and was gathering his belongings, grinned:

– Your friend does not sell the rooster. Buyers come, ask, and he does not sell, saying ‘exchange only’. He was offered a good price – 2 rubles 20 kopecks. Well, as they say, you are the boss. It is your animal, and you are the one to make the decision. Good luck, – he said mockingly, like an adult, and walked away.

After some time, Kuke brought ice cream. I gladly ate, although, a simple calculation said that I owed my friend for about a whole ruble.

It was getting hotter and hotter. Next to us, there was neither shade nor buyers. Moreover, five or six meters away from us, people were selling horses. The smell of apples we could tolerate, but when this herd began, almost at once, to urinate, and this liquid, foaming and mixing with fine dust, was almost reaching our feet, it retained its pungent smell for a long time. In a moment, wincing from the smell of regular foam stream, Kuke said:

– Can we just go? There are no buyers anymore…

– Okay, – I was delighted.

‘And they went under the burning sun…’, as once the poet said. The only thing that oppressed me was the thought how I would explain this to my mother. Obviously, Kuke felt my condition.

– Do not worry so much. You can bring my motley rooster and give me this one, – he said compassionately, touching my shoulder.

– Thank you, you are a real friend, – I was deeply moved. – I will give you today’s debt within the week. We, as men, shook hands, cementing the agreement.

– You really didn’t sell the rooster for 2 rubles 20 kopecks for your mother told you to exchange it, did you? – Kuke asked after a pause.

– Yeah, what?

– Well, you are silly! You could sell it and then buy a cheaper white cock of eje next to us! – Kuke began to gaggle.

– And why did you, so smart, come to such a simple solution after lunch? – I was outraged and expressed the true reason in a fit of anger. – If you want to know, then, I did not sell because it would be killed for soup…

– Why did you bring me here? I wasted the whole day because of you!

– You was not beside me even for a minute, you were busy!

– I was busy!? I was feeding you with samosas and ice cream the whole day!

So, word for word, we almost came to blows. I put the bag on the ground and grabbed the lapels of Kudaibergen, but at this moment I saw my rooster getting out of the bag and scurrying in the direction of the bazaar. Kuke and I ran after it. I do not know what my rooster had in its mind, but, as one old Uyghur baker of flat cakes in our village said: ‘It is amazing what comes in difficult times in the head of poor Tashakhin’, many thoughts rushed through my head. We did not catch up the rooster, it was like vanished among the many traders, but we continued to look for it. Suddenly, a woman began to nod and to point to the place under her table. My friend Kuke, like a bird, leaped under the table and emerged with a red rooster in his right hand.

Having arrived at the place where the chase began, we did not find the abandoned bag. Probably, someone thrifty privatized it, leaving only a piece of twine that I used to tie the legs of the fugitive in the early morning. Only then, I remembered that, going from the bazaar, I did not tie the legs of my rooster. Thank God, that everything worked well. Otherwise, what would I tell my mother? In a whisper, I began to thank God for the help.

– What do you whisper? – Kuke asked.

– I thank God for help.

– You should thank me for catching your rooster, – my friend got offended.

– That’s true, but without God’s help and you would not have caught it, – I balked.

– You are so ungrateful! – Kuke bristled up. – Tomorrow, I will tell Kochkorbay agay that you believe in God. And you call yourself a pioneer! I ran, like a madman, caught your rooster, and you thank God that does not exist.

– In such moments, people always say that God helped, – I back-pedaled. – Thank you for the help…

– You could have just said so, – my friend smiled.

Arguing along the way, we did not notice how we approached the bus station. We realized it, hearing the loud laughter of Jumagazy ake.

– In the morning, I already understood that you were terrible traders, when I saw how you hid your rooster in the bag. You probably tied your rooster and stood in silence a mile away, right? Okay, you will learn, experience will come with time. Well, at least you sold the bag, – he laughed again. – Do not be sulky, give me your rooster. – He pulled an old sack from the trunk, slipped our rooster there, having pulled its head out into one of the many holes. He tied its legs, and then the sack, with the remaining twine. – Learn, rookies. In a closed sack, it can suffocate. Just do not forget to pick up your rooster, when you get home. In the meantime, let’s move to some shade. There is water. You can wash your face and freshen up. And I will smoke away from people. Sometimes, in a way, I want to smoke so much, but it is not allowed, as then all men start to smoke. Even those, who have never smoked, try to ask for a cigarette. In general, the Ketmen-Tube residents do not hesitate to ask to smoke… Well, okay, now you tell me how you were selling your rooster.

Kudaibergen and I, interrupting each other, began to tell about our adventures at the bazaar. Jumagazy ake laughed to tears, patting his legs. The passersby glanced in wonder at us.

– Did you hear about Kyopek, Shapak, Kempai and Shumpai*? – Jumagazy ake asked.

– Yes, we read in newspapers and magazines, – Kuke answered.

– You are just the same, – the chauffeur began to laugh. – But you are luckier than they are, because your rooster is not lost. Do not tell anyone about this in the bus, people will laugh at you. Well, let’s go wash up, – Jumagazy ake went down to the river. We also went behind him and, having took off the shirts, washed to the waists.

– Actually, today, a lot of interesting things happened. I will tell you while you dry. Do you remember the veteran, who was with us in the morning? So, he came tipsy with a medal, told how he was handed over the medal and poured a hundred grams of vodka. Then, while the passengers were gathering, he began to remember his first love – the nurse Nastya. The ‘Aqsaqal’ was deeply moved, began to cry and to sing songs in the Russian. Older people were singing to him with tears in their eyes. And the elderly lady from the front seat began to scold the soldier: ‘Nastya gave birth to your son and left you! Why do you cry?’- ‘No! If you love what is the reason to die?’ ‘Look, good people, the war did not kill him, and now he is going to die! Who will take care of your children?! Ah, you, scoundrel! I will come and tell your wife about Nastya. Maybe, she sent you this medal!’ The crowd roared for a long time, but whether the veteran got scared or tired, soon, he fell asleep. Such history happened in the last trip, while you were exchanging your rooster, – and Jumagazy began to laugh again.

Kudaibergen and I were silent. I thought: ‘Maybe, we should not have told him our story. He may casually tell someone. It will be such a shame at ail’. It was hot in the bus, but there were available seats.

– Why were you laughing so much? – Someone of the passengers asked the chauffeur.

I just stood there, thinking: ‘Well, now Kuke and I will be embarrassed’.

– We were telling jokes with the guys, – Jumagazy-ake winked us in the rear-view mirror. We breathed a sigh of relief. In gratitude, I volunteered to become a conductor again.

Whether because the day was coming to its end, whether everyone was tired, but people began to fall asleep. My Kuke began to snort next to me. I looked at him and thought: ‘That’s a real friend. He spent his time and money on me. We even almost got into a fight, but he was not offended… We both had some snack, and my rooster was hungry from the dawn. Apparently, it also got tired, and was silent…’.

I woke up from the loud cry of the old woman from the front seat:

– Stop! Turn back, chauffer!

– What happened, mother?

– At the bus station, I left a knot with a toy car for my grandson and a silver bracelet – a gift of my old man. May he rest in peace. I became very old. I’ve almost lost memory. Turn back, I said! Otherwise, I will walk over your back with my cane, damned! – She began to threaten Jumagazy-ake with her crooked, homemade cane.

– Granny, have a heart! We already passed half of the way. I cannot change the route. I will lose my job.

– I will go to your Director and ask for a new car for you…

– Mother, what are You doing!? Your pack with the toy for your grandson is in my basket, – the awakened daughter of the grandmother suddenly raised her voice.

– And the bracelet?

– In the morning, You told me to put the bracelet on the windowsill… I am sorry, Jumagazy-ake, but my mother cherishes the gift of my father. Sometimes, she is looking for it, even when it is on her wrist…

The passengers were silent again. I did not want to sleep and looked around. Kuke continued to snore peacefully, not paying attention to the voices and shaking. Sweat trickled down his dusty face, leaving traces.

When we began to leave the village named after Kirov, I saw the grey donkey chasing the young mule. The first one ran along the road and then turned sharply a few meters from the bus. Jumake braked sharply, and someone in the cabin cried out frightenedly.

– Ah, chauffer-ake, be careful. You are not carrying the wood! – Some young woman with a child outraged.

– What the hell are you talking about, sister! The loving couple runs here in front of the bus. Obviously, at such moments, they do not value their lives…

At the turn to Jangi-Jol, several people went off the bus.

And here was our ail. I barely shook Kudaibergen and offered to go off before our stop not to meet Nurgazy.

– And will we go to your place? – He asked sleepily.

– You do not want to exchange roosters! – I was indignant.

– I was joking. You know me. The word of dzhigit is stronger than granite! – Kuke reassured me.

Jumake, giving us a bag full of holes with the rooster, wished us good luck and patted us on the backs. We thanked him and left.

While I was drinking a bowl of tea, Kuke and his brother caught their rooster. I kissed my red rooster’s beak, patted its dishevelled feathers. A treacherous tear slid down the cheek. Not to completely burst into tears, I turned and walked away.

– Did you take my rooster and that’s it!? Where are your ‘Thank you!’ and ‘Goodbye’, ungrateful? – Kudaibergen indignantly called after me.

– Thank you very much! Thank you! You are a real friend, – I stopped half-turned, so he would not notice my tears.

– Don’t you have regrets about the exchange? Are you satisfied?

– No, no. Thank you, Kuke. Though, it is rooster, but it is like a brother to me. We live in the same yard for a long time. Keep an eye on it. I have to go. My mother must be worried.

– Do not worry. Everything will be fine…

Mother was happy to see a speckled rooster. We tied his leg to the ladder and sprinkled feed beside it for hens to get used to it. Our layers busily devoured the corn and, not paying any attention to their new owner, proudly marched into the hencoop.

– Tomorrow, they will adjust. Do not worry, – my mother reassured me.

Having refused dinner, I went to my room and lay there with my eyes open. Certainly, I loved my red rooster very much. It was fearless. It did not allow cats or dogs to its territory. Having spurred feathers on the neck, it went at the uninvited strangers. But at the same time, it was, as a true gentleman, helpful and caring for the hens, and not only for its own. It took care of the chickens, which, from time to time, hens hatched, protected them, and then carefully and originally raised them…

I woke up early, till all hours. Mother fed hens and, with some surprise, observed how lonely and silently the speckled rooster stood, having lifted one leg, how our hens quite indifferently ran around it, as if they did not notice the poor guy. It seemed to me that my mother, at some point, became sad, propping her cheek with her hand in an absolutely woman-like manner. Whether she remembered our rooster or felt sorry for the new one – I do not know…

Working in the garden, I kept thinking about my rooster. I decided to take the rouble from my mother and pay the debt to Kuke to look at my rooster once again.

But it was too late. The next day, Kuke appeared in the yard, tightly clutching the red rooster.

– My mother swears. She says that your red rooster pays absolutely no attention to our hens, does not eat and drink. It stands alone on one leg, like a pillar…

I joyfully ran home and explained the situation to my mother. She pretended that we had no choice but to get it back. I stepped into the yard and gleefully yelled: ‘Let go!’, then, I paid my debt to Kuke.

Red rooster flew up on the middle rung of the ladder, loudly crowed, and then thriftily walked around the yard twice. Having spurred feathers and its wings, it menacingly approached the speckled opponent, but, having seen that it was not in the mood to fight, victoriously drew a line with its wing around its hens. Hens of my son-in-law Kara-Kalpak came to our yard. Apparently, they heard its shrill crow.

Together, we caught the speckled rooster, and Kuke took it home.

I saw that my family was happy with the ending of the story with the red rooster. Certainly, we will find common language with Kanym-eje for there are no problems that cannot be solved when there is a mutual desire…


We annually moved for the summer to jailoo[13] and only in late autumn came back to the village. But this year, we somehow returned from there earlier than usual, in the early autumn. Usually, at this time, the shepherds came down from the mountains to the foothills, and the rest already harvested there.

We lived in the shepherd’s house, half-built next to the barn of the collective farm Aral, at the mouth of Small and Large Chichkan. We lived alone, there was nobody next door. At a little distance, a builder Chuvash lived with his wife. From morning to evening, they were busy building the barn. They were obedient, silent, and simple people. In their free time, they called me, told me stuff, and indulged in different games. Probably, they got tired of the monotonous life.

These people were good-natured and hardworking. I was pleased to watch good people, when they were working. And one could hear the sound of their axe from afar. Besides them, nobody else lived in that side. When I told my mother that I did not understand the speech of uncle Iskhak, she explained to me that their language was different, they were not the Kyrgyz, they were the Chuvash, they had their own language, but their language was slightly similar to ours. I still remember how my mother said that if I listened to their speech, I would be able to understand something.

Our house was near the road. Local people were not like those, who returned from the summer stay: they rarely visited each other. They only greeted and then passed by. People from jailoo came into any house, asked about each other’s well-being, drank koumiss, and only then left. I was always amazed at such a difference. I still do not know the reason. I always sat down on the stone and looked at all the passers-by, who went on a donkey, on a horse, and on foot.

Usually, they returned home gloomy, slowly walked, having lined up in the row, like the cranes in the autumn. In the morning, they were excited, talked about something, and, sometimes, laughed, but always went in a hurry. It was interesting to watch them.

Thinking about the barnyard, I understand that it was built and equipped with the latest equipment and technology in Ketmen-Tyube. Perhaps, there was some concern of the government about cattle farms. In those days, nobody solely owned such spacious homes and barns.

From the window of our house, one could clearly see the beauty and majesty of the village of Kuibyshev, covered with thick foliage. There were poplars that rushed to the sky, bent by abundant fruit of the apple orchards, and large whitewashed houses, always pleasing to the eye. The village seemed to me like the city and each time beckoned with its splendour. I could not know then that all my future fate would be tied to this village.

Many years later, my father built a house in Kuibyshev, and our whole family began to live there.

Certainly, it was too far for me to go there. Secondly, we did not have any relatives there, so we had to forget about our previous relationships. And I could not even go there alone. In the village, I had no friends, no buddies. But for me, that village was something of a hotbed of the spiritual world. I looked with envy in that direction, I was attracted there with some invisible thread, and some pleasant and gentle warmth enveloped everything and filled my soul with an extraordinary light. Or this village had some force of attraction, unknown to me. It was not clear. In general, I was drawn to it, like there were a lot of my friends and relatives in that village, who looked forward to meet with me. There were no such houses in the streets, lined up like geese, neither in the summer nor in the winter place of stay. Maybe, I was just drawn to civilization, or it was the children’s thirst for the unknown. To this day, I cannot answer these questions.

Our relatives lived in the village of Aral. There were few of them there. Only two families. Grandparents said that our family was cursed to never unite more than three families. I know that there are many other relatives in many different parts of Ala-Тоо[14]. Aral is above us. I always miss my native village, I dream to get there: I always think that even after a short time there have been profound changes in my country. My peers seem to get older and more mature with every year. Really, if I do not see them for one summer, they get older and their actions resemble the actions of the adults. And it all happened in the course of one summer. And I missed my friends. When I was meeting them, I wanted to play with them. After the greeting, we stood like that for a while, and then proceeded to the games. There were Kochkonbai, the son of my grandfather Jeentai, Rakhman, the son of my uncle Toktobek, my friends Jankoroz, Raiymkul, the son of Nurak Raiymkul, the son of Abdi, Kaltar, the son of Mergenbai, Alimjan, the son of Chirkei, with whom our mothers made us friends. Due to us, our parents began to communicate more often, so that they could not do without each other. Well, now each of us lives on his own, has a family, lives in different cities and villages, so we seldom meet. And some are already dead…

My father and mother were busy with housework. I and our white dog were sitting on the rock until we were called to get home, and were looking at the passers-by. If there were those, who knew my father, they would loudly say this:

– Why don’t you greet? Look, he is sitting there quietly, snuffling his huge nose. Obviously, he is the son of Itibai…

I still wanted to play as in the jailoo. But with whom? Well, I had a dog. Wagging its tail like grumbling about something, it did not let me get bored. It did not depart from me. We always walked together. The dog never walked anywhere, never barked for nothing.

day I looked with envy how far away, where two rivers merged, a bunch of redheaded boys, a bit older than me, were playing. I did not dare to come closer for I was not familiar with them. In my opinion, due to frequent journeys in the summer and in the winter, I was left alone, without friends, became alienated from others, and this alienation possessed me for a long time. Why couldn’t I join the boys?

… I once heard my father consulting my mother.

– Maybe, you should take our son to the children of Bolotke, this lover of bozo, – mother offered.

Only when I grew up, I realized that he was not Bolotke but Volodka. He was not Kyrgyz but the representative of the unfamiliar nation.

My father took me to them and left to play with his children. They were blue-eyed. Although, their eyes were of a different colour, and their skin was light, they were good-natured. They were even lighter than Rakhman. Their eyes were not brown, and their faces were oblong. And, maybe, their characters were similar to the character of Rakhman. I still knew nothing. They were chirping about something, and I did not understand. In general, I could not distinguish words. I thought they mispronounced them in our language. It was clear, so they did not have the same language as ours. Anyway, I played with them with great pleasure.

My father, uncle Bolotke and his wife were sitting, talking loudly. My father once lost six sheep and was exiled to the Russian city of Syzran on the construction of hydroelectric power station for two and a half years, but after six months, he was pardoned and returned home again. He learnt the Russian language there.

The boys tore cabbage, dug potatoes. I saw pigs and rabbits with litters there. I had never seen any pigs or rabbits. I remember that day especially. I returned home and told my mother about everything. We ate there potato patties, fried in oil.

– Mother, they were so delicious, with onions, – I told.

– Tomorrow, I will bake you kattama[15]. You will treat your blue-eyed friends, – my mother said.

Surprisingly, they were Russian, but I still do not remember what language I spoke with them. We all played together. Uncle Bolotke was a miller.

– Mommy, I do not understand when they talk, – I said.

– My God! But I already said last time that their language was quite different from ours. It was not like the Kyrgyz and the Chuvash languages, – my mother began to laugh.

The word ‘Russian’ made my whole body shudder, because when we disobeyed or fought, our parents always pointed somewhere and said: ‘The Russian is coming! He will take you. And if he does not want to take you, we will give you up to him’. So, that’s how parents scared their children in our village. When I remembered this, I did not want to go over to the Russian people. I thought they were chasing me with guns, and my entire body went cold. But later, I remembered that they had no such evil intentions. I believed and could not believe to my eyes. I reassured myself all the time. Sometimes, I mustered courage and told myself that they would not harm me, so, tomorrow I would definitely go back to them.

In this regard, I remember one case in the jailoo. When there was intermittent rain, we sang:

Rain, rain, go away,

Our house you spare,

Go to Kalmyk home…

Basically, Sabituly, the son of Kushubak, Temirbek, the son of Toton, Tashi, the son of Abdrazak, sang so. We did not know then, who the Kalmyks were, where they were hiding. We just thought that the Kalmyks and the Russians – our enemies. But as far as I know, Sabituly, the son of Kushubak, Temirbek, the son of Toton, Tashi, the son of Abdrazak, turned out to be the Kalmyks. We often played Alshee4 with them. No, they were not enemies, but great guys. Simply, adults still remembered those painful memories of the times of tsarist colonization. So, they taught us the songs. And those events had nothing to do with us. We were really good friends with them. I do not know whether those songs were the weeping of the sad times or were simply mechanically borrowed from the present generation. I think it was just a borrowed thing. Certainly, this echoes of the past, but in any case, not of the revenge.

I remember that song, and once again remember the days, when I played with the sons of uncle Bolotke, and other similar stories. In those years, I heard enough of such threats as: ‘I will call the Russians and they will take you!’ But I liked Russian children as much as the Kalmyk children. They were also like all the ordinary people.

And they even looked quite good-natured, except they had blue eyes and red hair. Before that, I imagined them quite terrible. Moreover, such historical events often occurred between the different peoples. I would like to say, that we need to learn how to correctly perceive history, the memory of the people, not to be indifferent to various events, but to scientifically analyse and understand them.

The sons of uncle Bolotke showed me the millstone, up to the crane, where oat flour drizzled. I saw the mill as the living creature, and when I looked at the continually revolving large millstone, my head was spinning around. I remember how I was looking at the stone from all sides for a long time, trying to see who was turning it. I even thought that someone invisible was hiding underneath. How could I then know what was inside?

Sometimes, I could not go to them, because every year, when we came back from the mountains, aunt Kumarkan and one of my mother’s friends Bazarbu came to check on us. My mother was also waiting for them to visit: she prepared dried meat and two small kutyr5 with melted butter for them in advance in the summer place of stay. When our parents were waiting for them, we did not show up in the house of my uncle Bolotke.

This time, my father and I, as usual, came to the house of uncle Bolotke. After some time, the voices of the adults became louder and louder, their laughter funnier. Only now, I understand that they were drinking something entertaining. We, children, also had fun. My father was gone.

In the morning, the weather was unusually cloudy. In the afternoon, it was probably going to rain. Black clouds were approaching from Ak-Baytal. We were happily playing in the yard. Suddenly, a terrible crash was heard in the bushes of rue. After a few seconds, there was a cry of uncle Bolotke and his wife. Their sons, having left me, rushed into the house. I was looking around, not knowing what had happened. My mother probably saw my confusion, ran up to me, took me on her back, and took me home. The other day, I found out that uncle Bolotke, seeing how my white dog ate their rabbit, shot it. When I heard about it from my father, I threw myself prone on the ground and bitterly wept. ‘It was all my fault, – I blamed myself. – The dog followed me, otherwise, why would it go there?’ The dog always accompanied me. I could not forget those days, when we shared a piece of bread. So, I was left alone. I left the house and wept bitterly, remembering my dog. I did not even see it dead. After that, no one mentioned the white dog in our house. When I think about it, I cannot find place. I try not to show parents my suffering. I often see the dog in my dreams. I dream that we walk together. It was my only friend, with whom I could share joy and grief. It also had no friends among dogs.

Over time, everything was forgotten. My mother once brought me another dog. It was already grown, so it did not tie to me much. It walked by itself. It did not care about others. For a long time, we remained strangers to each other, but then we got used to. But it still was not like my white dog. However, the dog’s playfulness always reminded me of my friend. When I was left alone, I often played Alshee, having built them in the row.

After the incident, we stopped to talk with uncle Bolotke. A few months later, they left somewhere.

One day, my father and I went to the old regional centre to the cattle market. On the road, at the big bridge of Chichkan, we bought a loaf of bread in the bakery. We were walking and eating bread, and then we met the sons of uncle Bolotke. They greeted my father as a family man, and heartily rejoiced. They did not dare to approach me. At the time, I was in school, and grew up. After a while, I looked back and saw them looking back at me too. I thought they abused their father, uncle Bolotke. And they left. I have never seen them again.


It was the beginning of February. As the harbinger of spring, black clouds appeared in the sky by noon, and, from time to time, wagtails flew. But winter still did not give up its positions. This was the climate in the mountain village.

Akylbek-agay was a deputy principal of the school. He was young and tall. He always wore a tie on the neck, and finely ironed pants. He had some liquid, but always neatly trimmed hair. Before entering the classroom, he always combed his hair, straightened his trousers, shook off every speck of dust from the shoulders of the suit. In those days, he was a genuine intellectual. It turned out that he was naturally neat and firmly held the mark of the real educator this way. His education and his teaching skills were immediately noticed by those, who knew something about this, and the ignorant ones simply missed everything. The results of his education gave the bouncers the reason to praise and to brag.

The school had the iron order. It was possible that the deputy principal did all of the work in the order and in accordance with time. He dedicated his mind and knowledge to serve the ideas of the government and the Communist party and lived up with the progress. He served the community this way, was revered by his contemporaries.

Once he told me:

– As soon as the lessons are over, you and Dilde will wait for me. We will go to the village council together, – he said and walked into the school.

I told Dilde about this. He was my classmate and a cousin. I did not know, what had happened, feared that once again there would be a fuss about the letter of the girl-classmate, and could not find peace. At that time, Komsomol activists, pupils-informants reported teachers, who were friends with whom, who wrote whom letters. And every time, when there was such a case, a terrible tumult immediately began. Within a month, one was called to the teacher’s office every day. People began to interrogate the girl and the boy separately. The investigation was carried out continuously. Daily, they are forced to write explanatory letters. And again, there were interrogations. If during the interrogation, God forbid, one would hear new words or new facts, everything would be rescheduled for another day. The next day, the process would begin all over again. Apparently, the meanings, facts, differences and similarities in explanatory letters were compared. Just like the NKVD, about which we read today. And there was one meeting after another. In short, it was a strict and ruthless real trial and one was only left to reach a verdict. And then, Lord, terrible things happened! Or that was the demand of time, or that was the achievement of discipline in the field of education…

One day, I got in such a mess. In the morning, from the moment I walked into the school and before the end of the lessons, we were not allowed to go to the bathroom. We had to endure – there was no other way. I went out to the corridor, and everyone was looking at me. For pupils, this act was similar to the actions of enemies of the people. One girl wrote me a letter and it got into the hands of the teacher. News spread like lightning. Each pupil was pointing his/her finger at me, and, having gone a little distance away, turned back, and looked at me again. I remember now: it turned out that I became some enemy of the people. I felt embarrassed, noticing, as the gazes of others were rushed in my direction. When I think about it, I still shudder from fear. It was hard for me to forget everything.

… So, the lessons were over. Shouting: ‘What are you doing? Come quickly!’ – all the classmates ran nearby. We were waiting for the teacher at the kerb of the road, leading to the school.

All the others ran home. Near the school, there were just we alone.

The weather was cold enough, and the kirza boots were so wet that the foot clothes made of fustian were frozen, and my feet began to tingle for I stood in one place for a long time. This was because, in the afternoon, it would be freezing again. We had to wait for a long time. If we had come out early, I would not have been frozen, I tossed. I began to tap my feet silently, tried to warm up, treading on my toes, and then lifting my forefeet. Although I was silent, the feeling of confusion, which did not give my soul peace, burned me on the inside.

The frost, somehow, did not fall today from the tops of the trees. After a while, the sun would go down, and it would be freezing. There was only one thought in my head: I wish I went home soon. After this, there was another thought about the fate of that letter. I was hungry too. This, of course, was my third thought. But it was not such an intractable and important problem. When I got home, I would eat.

Next to us, there were three or four crows, dividing among themselves today’s share, right in the middle of the road, they were pecking the fresh horse manure, then, looking back or looking forward again. They did not feel cold. I was surprised looking at their bare legs and marvelled at the fact that they did not freeze. Or the corn in the manure was delicious, or they just were too hungry, but the crows pecked, looking around all the time. Did they completely forget about fear in this case? They were not afraid of anyone.

I was standing behind my cousin. I looked at him, and he put his hands in the sleeve, pulled his hat over his ears and, staring around, and looked toward the school. On his feet, there were valenki with overshoes, on the body – jersey with woollen stitches. He did not even move, did not feel cold as if he was twice stronger than I was. I was trying to warm my feet, then, was looking at Dilde and crows, trying to do anything to distract myself, to calm down. The crows bounced off me two or three times but then again got down to their business to satisfy their hunger.

Suddenly, a black fur hat of the teacher appeared before the teacher himself. I poked Dilde with an elbow, showing that there was the teacher. Saying nothing, we stood at attention, pretending not to notice him.

– Are you waiting? Aren’t you tired of waiting? I came here a little late. Okay, let’s go. I asked you to go with me to have some fun along the road…

I sighed to myself in relief and the trembling of the body slightly subsided. And the teacher continued:

– You will graduate from school this year. Wonderful student years are waiting for you. If only you knew how sad it was for me to recall the events of those student years. I would like to go along with you. But when I remember that it is impossible to return those friends, those days, my soul shrinks from depression. I give up. I am not telling you guys about today. Probably, with every year, I am more and more drawn to the past, and this farewell to the youth. Memories often remind me of my youth. Nostalgia for my youth is growing. I am longing, and it always seems that something is missing. Oh, unfortunately, we begin to understand all the delights of youth years later! – Akylbek-agay sighed.

He seemed a little relieved from the memories. Having spoken out in front of us, he was silent again. I knew that the teacher at school had no peers, with whom he could share thoughts and secrets.

We all fell silent, listening to the creak of snow when so many feet walked at the same time. We were going quickly, like soldiers, to warm up and to overcome long distance faster. After a pause, the teacher told me:

– Where are you going to apply? Yesterday, I looked at your list on the choice of profession…

– Agay, I am going to be a driver, – I replied.

Then the teacher said quietly:

– You can always become a driver, but guys like you have to graduate some institution of higher education. I say this for I hope that you should succeed in life. I have been thinking about your future. Now, the village really needs doctors, teachers, zootechnicians, and veterinarians. If you become a zootechnician, in time, you will become chief zootechnician, chairperson of the collective farm, and then – I will not even say.

The teacher looked at Dilde and grinned, looked at me and winked. This was all because Dilde had just begun singing the daughter of the chairperson of the collective farm love serenades. Later, they got married and became one of the happiest families…

– Of course, you are to choose. But if you have the skill to run the household, it will lead you to prosperity and well-being. The whole point of life is to live comfortably. The Kyrgyz people are saying: ‘If life is fed, then troubles go away’. And that’s true. The rest is nonsense. This thought crossed my mind not today. It is the fruit of my long-term observations. When you pass the exams and go on collecting the hay, I am going to invite some of you to come and visit me at home. There will be only you in the house. As you know, my wife is long gone. But do not worry, if it is necessary, I can handle all this. You will also help me if you can. I had already decided this. Now, I openly share my plans with you.

It was only a year since his wife died. However, although, his soul was filled with pain, he did not lose composure, did not give up, but rather tried to keep up as if nothing had happened. Only the relatives knew what he had in his soul, and other people didn’t notice that. And now he reveals his innermost thoughts in front of us. We all briefly stopped talking.

The wife of Akylbek-agay had long black hair. Her skin was dark, but she was beautiful. She was from our village.

Slender, kind, and gentle, any person was drawn to her at first sight. Her appearance and gait appeared before my eyes and accompanied in the way for a long time. She was modest, sociable, harmless, and, at the same time, mysterious and beautiful woman.

Teacher’s house was located in the schoolyard. He was of the Seyit family, from the old collective farm named after Lenin. After graduation, probably, by the assignment, he came to us and remained to work in our school.

I remember one episode. One day, when we were leaving the school, the teacher’s wife, who was friendly to us, treated all with hot bread right from tandyr[16]. Our village was seven or eight kilometres from the school. These were the memories of the wife of our teacher that alternately surfaced in my mind as we were walking down the road. Teacher and Dilde also walked in silence. Suddenly, the teacher began to encourage me:

– Tell me the truth for every person should have a high goal. Do not be shy, speak directly.

I did not immediately open up, because the next day in the class, the teacher, as if playing, could half-jokingly, half-seriously tell the guys everything. I faced a dilemma and was silent.

The teacher continued speaking:

– Today, I would like to give you some piece of advice. After a year or two, for various reasons and under the pressure of life circumstances, you will not feel like studying at all. Who knows when you will want to study again? And you will remain then without higher education, as they say, ‘I wish, I may’. Think about it, hero, – he put a question point-blank. – You are not children. Tomorrow, you will get to take care of the farm in our village. It is not easy to choose the right path in life, but only you have the right to choose it in accordance with your education, abilities, and capabilities. This will be your future. Everyone builds his/her own future. That is why you went to school, received our pieces of advice and guidance, and prepared yourself. Now, you have to take responsibility and to decide by yourself. It is the duty of every man. There is not much time left. Soon, you will be scattered in different directions. One does not have to be smart to turn the steering wheel. When you get a good education, find a good job, then, you will buy your own car. And after work, at any time, you will go wherever you will feel like. Our doctors Kudash and Kasym, teachers Asanbek and Jeenbai also drive their cars. And you do this too.

We had no answer. Everything was convincing. I hesitated to answer or not. The teacher waited for an answer.

Honestly, I also knew that Akylbek-agay could categorically and unequivocally indicate what you needed to do. I wanted to ask him: ‘Won’t you tell anyone about this, agay?’  but I did not dare.

– Agay, I would like to become a geologist. – I ventured to say and then got confused.

– Are you sure? You are from the village, and you do not know the Russian language very well. You will not be able to study there, – he said, as I had expected.

I felt as if the ground beneath me opened as if the bird of happiness flew out of my hands. My head was spinning, and I almost fell unconscious. Meanwhile, I poorly heard him saying that only Russians and those, who knew Russian well, were studying there, that it was difficult to learn for there were such subjects as strength of materials, technical drawing, and descriptive geometry.

– Our alumni were almost crying, – he kept repeating. – Better stop thinking about this; otherwise, you will only waste all your parents’ money…

He was telling us about many other things, but I was afraid to rebuke the teacher. Well, I will continue this later. As they say, everything has its time and place. Now, let me tell you about my experiences. It is time to talk about the unexpected meeting.

I just finished the Pedagogical Institute. Once, when I was running around the admissions office, I was approached by a young man:

– Sir, – he said. – Do you recognize me? It is me, Toktoraly, the son of Doloy.

– Yes, I recognize you, – I answered.

And then he, without giving me time to recover, not having even asked about health, quickly began to mumble, as if someone was chasing him:

– My uncle, a doctor from Jalal-Abad, brought me here, to Osh. He forces me to go to the biology department. He says he has got a friend there.

– Well, now many people cannot find friends, who will help them to get to the institute. Agree, and stop bickering, – I advised him.

– But, sir, I do not want to study there.

– And where do you want to study? – I asked.

He answered:

– At the philology department, the faculty of the Kyrgyz literature.

– And what if you will not get there?

– I will, – he says. – I will get there on my own.

That’s when I was satisfied with the knowledge that our teacher of the Kyrgyz language and literature Kalyke-agay had given us. After the words of Toktoraly, I thanked my teacher again in my mind. At the same time, I was proud of the fact that I, like others, was able to evaluate the teacher adequately, and I felt myself wise. As long ago, agay was teaching me too. Moreover, I remembered how Akylbek-agay was giving me pieces of advice.

– In this case, Toktoraly, – I said. – It turns out that you have your own goal. Probably, you should like this subject from the years at the school, shouldn’t you? If so, then do not give up on your goals. Study wherever you want.

I was pleased with his determination and, as the sign of support, patted him on the shoulder. At this age, not everyone is destined to choose his/her own path. It turns out that he was an adult. I felt that he was capable of reaching his path.

Meanwhile, Toktoraly blurted out:

– That man over there, who is looking at the Bulletin Board, is my uncle. Can you convince him? Tell him that you have checked my knowledge and that I am able to get to the institute myself. Support me, please.

And he began to plead and implore me to intercede for him.

I went to the uncle of the young man, greeted him, asked him about this and that, told him about the extraordinary abilities of his nephew, and seemed to convince him. But he said the following in my presence:

– Listen, nephew, nobody cares about you but me. And if you do not get into the institute, it will be your own fault for a lifetime.

Later, Toktoraly graduated the faculty, which he had chosen himself, and became a good specialist. Now, every time I meet him, this story pops up in my memory. Back then, I was sure that this young man would make a good writer or a scientist. Years passed, and Toktoraly first worked as a schoolteacher, then – a head of the methodological office in the regional centre, and more recently – a chief of staff at the regional state administration. Such was his way of life. The death of his father, taking care of his mother, brothers and sisters, and family problems, obviously, tied him to the countryside forever. Otherwise, he would become, and I am absolutely positive about this, a famous scientist or a literary critic. It is true that man proposes and life disposes. But I still admire the fact that back then he chose his future profession by himself. Here I admire the potential opportunity of fundamental education, its ability to instil an unshakable faith in every person. It turns out that contains the secret of possessing the fundamentals of faith, infinite power, and internal energy. Certainly, there is a teacher in the beginning of this process. With his/her help, people get on board of identity formation and are rapidly carried away in search of their own truth, to achieve their own goals…

Having noticed that I was in another place in my mind, the teacher got to Dilde.

Meanwhile, I will continue my story. I was even glad that they were fond of their interesting conversation. I myself remembered about profession that I loved since childhood, and plunged into the wave of my dreams. With the help of uncle Kuitike, I began to communicate with geologists in the Maral-Kechuu village since the sixth grade. I led their horses, brought them various tools. I was preparing to apply for the geological department. Uncle Kuitike was their groom. He introduced me to them. The next day, I was bringing them milk and sour milk. And they, in turn, gave me a stew, a loaf of bread, and on Sundays, we went fishing together. I liked similar personalities of geologists: were not talkative; were fond of solitude; instead of talking, chose reading a lot; each sat alone and wrote something, considering the rocks that they managed to find this afternoon. They were closed. Their faces were pensive, and a little sad. It gave the feeling like their souls were always filled with unbearable anguish. Maybe, they yearned from the fact that, from early spring until autumn, they went to the mountains, outside their homes, or they were like that by nature. I always felt sorry for them. I had never seen them laughing. But they were different from the villagers by their high culture and unique politeness. They talked softly, never argued loudly. They were helpful and sedate.

It was interesting that when they went down from the mountains to their dormitory, they led the horses by the bridle not to torment them. I had never seen two geologists sitting on one horse. I heard that back then there was only one path through Suusamyr from the Ketmen-Tyube to Frunze. Many of those, who wanted to get to Frunze, went there through the town of Talas. And Il-14, An-2 planes flew through Talas.

There were ten geologists: seven or eight – Russians, and other nationalities, and only one or two – Kyrgyz. Almost all of them were bearded. In the evenings, they sat around the campfire and sang songs with a guitar. And their songs were not funny, but sad, mysteriously depressing. While singing, they did not look at people, and fixed their gaze into the distance, to the peaks of the mountains. I did not see that they sang with a smile. I compare them, for example, with our singers, especially with the people’s artist of the Kyrgyz Republic Sh. Talipova, who always sang with a smile. Although, I did not know the Russian language but I seemed to understand their songs according to melody and rhythm. Each geologist had his own tent. As soon as they finished singing, everyone went to their tents. Others were busy with something in the corner and spoke quietly about something until the last ember in the campfire.

After some time, father took me home. He once told me:

– They have to go to the mountains. You see, they were just waiting for you to leave: they immediately jumped to their feet, as soon as I came in. So, do not hold them. They collect rocks, climb cliffs, cross the passes till the evening and, of course, get very tired, so they want to lie down and rest. Every person should be able to understand the other. What if one day you will bore them and they will say: ‘We are tired. Please, go home’? You will be ashamed and hurt. So, do not wait for this moment. Ask their forgiveness, say goodbye, and get out in time yourself. The next time, come home yourself, as you are an adult now…

Having heard these words, I was not myself, my whole body got shivers, and I swore I would not take away time from geologists. On the one hand, I scolded and reproached myself. On the other hand, I immediately got changed and immediately felt like an adult…

And again I will continue my story. After the words of Akylbek-agay, I began to hesitate. I was standing at a crossroads, having lost hope. My fondest dream, to become a geologist, was my find, which I had been keeping in the chest and about which I had never told anyone. And now, there was not a trace from it. It was my cherished dream, which I harboured since childhood. And now, it became my biggest loss early in my adult life.

As it happens, I was fighting with myself. I did not hear what the teacher and Dilde were talking about. The teacher came to the village council to hand over the list of voters. Here, we all said goodbye to each other. Before leaving, the teacher approached me and asked if he had offended me.

– This is the bitter truth of life, – he said in confirmation of his words.

– Why are you silent? – Dilde asked, having turned to me.

– What should I say? I have nothing to say. I am only hungry and that’s it, mate, – I tried to wriggle out and pointed to the shop at the village council. – You have the money, right? Then buy ‘Zolotoy Klyuchik’ candies. The teacher is gone, let’s eat to satiety.

I was hoping he would buy it by himself. I thought about this immediately after he said that we should go through the village council.

– Well, you are a glutton.

– And if you are not a glutton, then give your portion to me. Let’s be like the adults – first we will buy it, and then we will see.

– And what if it’s not there?

– It is no use crying for the moon. But we can buy round and flat candies. We just need something to chew along the way home. If we do not eat, we will freeze even more. We should think about this, brother, – I turned it into a joke.

– Enough, enough, – and he ran into the shop.

I remained outside. My cousin walked out of the shop with a look of the possessor of production. And we went home, eating ‘Zolotoy Klyuchik’ candies.

Suddenly, Dilde asked me:

– Where will you go now to study?

– I will think about it. I have not decided yet.

– Do not worry. Father still wants to take us both to medical institute, – my cousin said.

– Do you know the nephew of my father – Professor U. Baizakov? He is your cousin too. My father told me that he would take us both to medical institute. On the one hand, the teacher is also right. Even if you went to study for a geologist, you would not be able to graduate. You are lucky that agay pointed this out in time, – Dilde, apparently, did not want me to leave. He began to cling to the opinion of the teacher, so he supported his words as if putting the stamp on them.

We respected the teacher a lot. The words of agay sounded like a judge’s sentence. My cold-blooded, indifferent, confused, and controversial thoughts fought inside of me.

It was spring. It got warmer. We began to wear shirts with short sleeves and to iron pants every day. The school was in the village of Kyzyl-Tuu. There was a flat spur Kara-Kash with dense foliage between our village and Kyzyl-Tuu. After the lessons, most of us spent time playing different games. Sometimes, we talked about plans for the future and argued. Only girls were always reading books. We only heard from them who learnt a certain topic and what was left unclear. We were asking each other about things and, sometimes, were discussing them. I, with an absent look, like a stranger and not the insider, dully looked at them. We usually sat under the shade of Karagach alley on the west side of the Kara-Kash. As before, Sultangazy always raised to speak. Despite the fact that he was sweating, he enthusiastically and loudly talked about the lessons of the teacher of the Russian language Oksana Ignatievna and did not leave anyone a chance to speak.

I sat on the edge and watch the people working on the field in Kara-Suu and Jany-Jol. The roar of tractors, working the land, was heard slightly. A few people ran around drills at the tractor. Red scarves of young women, working along the ditches, were barely visible, and their gay voices were not heard. But I felt like I could hear their laughter, as if, I worked with them. The outlines of those, who were chasing each other, slightly loomed. Probably, our Sabyrbek worked among those tractor drivers or girls in red scarves. I looked narrowly, trying to see him it in the distance. Our classmate Sabyrbek began to work as a tractor driver right after the ninth grade. He got good marks at all subjects. Maybe, due to family circumstances, or other reasons, he suddenly left school. Every time we met him on the way, he pretended to be looking somewhere into the distance and quickly disappeared from the sight.

There was always a horse herder, who was bringing hot food, around the girls near the ditches and rural workers. The horse grazed without raising its head. The coming of spring painted everything around in bright colours. It was the middle of spring.

If we went to universities this year, it was likely that we would spend the next spring in another place. For us, this spring was the last one before our leave-taking with the village. And these pictures would also remain somewhere in the distance. Every time I sat in Kara-Kash, these thoughts always entangled my mind.

It was the end of June. Some girls, thinking and looking at things differently, separated from us, moving forward or legging a little behind. Sometimes, we saw them sitting in the shade of the mulberry tree.

These were the disobedient, like wild fillies, girls of the 10th ‘B’. They did not understand our jokes and got angry, looked at life haughtily and lived deep inside it. They believed that natural law of life was only in the book, and did not perceive reality and fiction.

They were like older sisters, looked at their classmates and treated them arrogantly. Perhaps, it only seemed to me this way. Maybe, it was my understanding of this at that time. However, I myself dreamed that one day they would meet such guys, who would make them cluck, like wild partridges.

The closer it was getting to our graduation, the more settled we became, and we felt our responsibility, like adults. Wearing white shirts and ties, we never allowed ourselves to say anything unnecessary around pupils of other grades, behaved ourselves adult, as if we were all grown men. We spared nothing for each other and tried to help with everything, abandoned the useless jokes and tried not to hurt other people’s dignity. We were always polite to each other. We completely changed. That’s how one could become a person, I thought, but, fearing the evil eye, I never told this anyone. If you look from the perspective of the present day, then politeness, modesty, solidarity, mutual assistance, and spiritual kinship turn out to look much prettier and more beautiful. I was sure about this, and I like it. Sometimes, I wondered why everything was happening so fast. Probably, everyone needed to decide that for himself/herself.

Each of us longed to get home, to relax, and then to do homework. And time kept jogging on. It was the period of time, when we were anxious to graduate school and to go to study in Frunze.

There was chaos in my head. I could not decide for a long time where to apply. At the school, I got the best marks in physics. I went to the Pedagogical Institute and, when I graduated it, I became a teacher. And I could not even imagine this back in school years…


It was late autumn. Frosted yellow grass announced the coming of frosts and winter. At dawn, in the fields, ploughed during the harvest, the flock of rooks was looming: they constantly took off, landed nearby, and fed on something. Their squeaky cries were heard. Pigeons and crows, not being inferior to them, also collected grains, left over after the gracious autumn. After the fever of the autumn harvest, we did not even notice how incredibly fast the days passed. The cotton campaign was over, and school lessons began. Cotton pick, fraught with small difficulties, serene childhood, moments of mischief, confusion and anxiety about the future, probably, were whether remembered or disappeared from the memory under the pressure of unbridled time. In short, a piece of childhood, regardless of our intention and desire to embrace what awaited us ahead, passed like electrical storm rain. Bottomless thoughts, misunderstood and inconclusive answers overcame me.

My mother, knowing about the coming of winter, was taking care of everything ahead of time. She brought me a jersey, made by her skilled sister Toktokan. The warm lining was made of wool. My father also made his contribution. He bought kirza boots and stashed them long ago. The next day, I got up early. I put on a jersey and boots, wrapped my feet with a new piece of puttee. Well!… My parents bought me a lot of stuff! I went to school early, and began to mince with frequent, small steps. My feet barely touched the ground, and I was almost flying, like the truck of Nogoy. Longing for school doubly quickened my steps. I would get to school somehow, and there… I imagined how the guys would surround me in a tight circle, would look at new jersey and boots. They could say anything: fancy pants, the dandy cut it spicy before us in his new clothes. Let them, parasites, be jealous. Envy appeared before the Flood. Khe! Well-well… And what about girls? They, in turn, would be staring at me at the distance with curiosity. In short, the new clothes unprecedentedly inspired me: my clear mind rushed somewhere, my eyes were dazzled, and my body trembled as if I got goose bumps. And I was rushing to school. Somewhere in the mid-way, I heard the tramp of the horse. Having raised my head, I turned back. Borubay-ake rode on his red-speckled horse and got off of it.

– I missed you, Dyuke! – He began. And he bluntly said, – Here is the letter. I have no reason to hide it from you. Please, give it to my sweetheart Anarkyul with crane neck. I trust you. Ask her to answer soon. Act carefully. Otherwise, unnecessary rumours will spread throughout the school. I am scared for her. After some time, and you will grow up a big, slender dzhigit. And then, you will understand this. I will be waiting. He quickly put his foot in the stirrup and got on his horse. Having whipped it with a whip in the chest, he rode back with a breakneck pace. The roar of the engine was heard behind. The car was approaching, and I saw the billowing dust behind it. I wanted to show myself as a deft and brisk boy. The car could spread the splashes and dirty my new jersey, boots. I stepped aside, but the driver, seeing a bump in the middle of the road, drove to my side, pressing me to the ditch. It was gone fast. I jumped over the ditch, in which big water was running. The jump was unsuccessful for there was no run-up. One foot touched the edge of the opposite side, and the other one, having reached it, went into the water. Having lost my balance, I flopped into it. I had to save the bag. There was everything in it: books, ink, and unfortunate letter of Borubay-ake. I threw it up with all my strength, but I myself sprawled flat on my back. And water foamed, filling the void formed by my body. I was looking at the sky for a couple of seconds. Water entirely covered me; I managed to pick it up in my nostrils and mouth; I began to choke. I was frantically blowing it with my mouth. Trying to pretend to be ‘the man’, I didn’t panic: I was playing brave and, therefore, did not call for help.

That was a disaster! God forbid! Instantly soaked jersey and boots became heavy and did not give me a chance to get to my feet. I began to stir. I made quick, jerky movements with my hands. Having moved back, being exhausted, I turned over and finally came to a standing position. All clothes were swollen. They became soggy, like the wineskin. Water was running off them with generous drops. I could not walk. I began to tremble from the cold, and my jaw began to click. The black velvet bag was lying at the edge, in the overgrown mint. God alone saved it. But the letter of Borubay-ake was destroyed: it softened from the water. It was the unlucky morning. I agreed to simply hand it to her, to deliver to the recipient, to give it, etc. There was so much bragging and bravado in me, neglecting the responsibility. Where did I get it? ‘This is the unfortunate letter’, – I thought. I began to grieve. What was my ‘face’ now? What about the letter? It was double annoyance. How would I explain this to him? But a bright idea dawned on me: he must have preserved the draft of the letter. Was it possible to rewrite it completely? ‘The number will give the quality’, – Bekmat-agay said. The thought of the letter, God forbid, would find harmony, clarity, and the excessive caution and awe in front would disappear. I gasped with relief, as if I was freed from hell. I immediately took possession of the mind, and the soul became much relieved. Why should I mourn and bust my guts? Borubay-ake would write the new ‘masterpiece’. My current appearance looked much more pathetic and miserable than the letter. Yes! But! But there was the promise to deliver the letter to her. Again, something stung in my side. He, poor Borubay-ake, having climbed on the barn, like a boy, waiting for his mother from the bazaar, could not wait for the answer. I began to cry… Would he understand my situation?

– Where was your mind? Were you blind or something? Where were you going? What were you doing, fancy pants? – He would say angrily. Why couldn’t he talk to her thoroughly face to face? Disaster! From now on, I would never take someone’s valuable thing. Should I make a vow or something? Enough! He was playing some game. Why shouldn’t he pause for her to considered all the pros and cons, to focus on the important things, to widen the wings to fly, to soar with him in the air? There was enough time. The school year had only just begun. And he came with his: ‘Come on, Dyuke, tell her to answer soon. I am waiting!’ And what about Anarkyul – the owner of the crane neck? And she needed to widen the wings to fly in order to withstand the ‘burden’ of the clouds. Without preparation for the flight, you would crash on the ground, would remain on your wet spot. Or, I thought: maybe, ‘bashibuzuk’ planned to take her away. Look, Borubay-ake, kidnapping girls, who had not yet graduated high school, was punishable by law.

Again, sitting at the edge of the ditch, I began to sob bitterly, complained about destiny for I remembered the beautiful girls, my peers, admiring my jersey and boots. I would like, having looked in all directions, to get up and to leave this place, but heavy drops still flowed from my jersey. The street was empty, and there were no people yet. That’s happiness! The main thing for the people did not notice my shabby appearance. ‘I should leave this place at any cost’, – I thought. And my pants without belt kept falling down by the gravity of water, and I had to hold them with my hands. Jersey, boots, and the letter of Borubay- ake appeared to be very heavy for me. What a misfortune! Oh, life! The accident, which had happened with me, could be understood only by the one, who had experienced this. I did not know that all this was nothing compared with the fact that fate, with its imaginary joys, concerns and contradictions, could easily and subtly mock at the people by sending them alternately troubles and misfortunes, increasingly complicating their short life.

Today, my dreams and hopes crashed ‘about something’. I wanted, during the big break, as if pretending, to walk in the corridor and the courtyard of the school for the beautiful girl to admire my new clothes and be jealous of me. Upon returning from school, they might tell each other: ‘See, Dyushen has become so handsome. It is no wonder people say that ‘the grace of a person – clothes’. It is amazing how beautiful he is! Cannot take my eyes of him! And his flat nose is much straighter. Look, he has got good taste!’ One of the friends would say to another:

– Another thing, Ainash! When he stood at the blackboard and talked about the antics of Aldar-Kose, he looked at me and kept looking all the time. I shuddered, and my soul sunk.

– Stop it, liar! On the contrary! He, when he was telling about the miser, whom he had deceived for his niggling, looked at me with those languid eyes that something skipped a beat in my chest, and my soul felt the warmth, like I was drinking hot milk. I was so embarrassed that I began to pull at hair.

– You are a fool. You were pulling at hair, and when were you able to look him boldly in the eyes and they somehow met? Liar! If something skipped a beat in your chest, then it was your genitals. Therefore, when you will be ready, your breasts will be of a kettle size. And Dyushen was looking only at me. He can prove it himself.

– Eh, he was looking at me! And when he suddenly smiles – his teeth are like pearls! You, Ainagul, do not hurt me with the breasts.

– Well, and you call yourself a friend! I am stunned. Who is going to wear it? I found a comparison with the kettle! I know how hard it will be…

– Well, I will have to deal with it, if this is God’s will…

– Ainagul, look! Is this some sign, or you make up stuff? – Ainash anxiously asked.

– I do not know, but they say that if the girl’s heart trembled…

– I said ‘skipped a beat’.

– Whatever. If it skipped a beat or flinched when she looked at ‘the man’, in the future, her breasts would be very big. Moreover, God, for example, has planned to share this big breast between two women, but it turns out that God also can make mistakes in the hustle and bustle of life, and only one woman gets it. In this case, it is you. And Dyushen has a good taste, as we have noticed today. And I do not think he will like you with your breast?…

– Recommend me something good, my friend. I do feel tingling irritation and, sometimes, itching in it.

– It is a serious thing and you need to talk to your mother.

– I do not feel comfortable to talk to her.

– Then, talk to Anarkyul-eje. You can trust her. She braided my hair so many times when I was a little girl… and she might have experienced what you are now experiencing!

– You can go to hell with her! And you say I can trust her! In the beginning of the school year, she visited the pioneer office so frequently that we jumped out of the room. And he stood in front of her, stretched out like…

– Who are you talking about, Ainash?

– About one pioneer leader, with evil, boring eyes… Did you get it? You are a fool. I wish you never had milk in your breasts! I wish to feed your children with my abundant milk! You can go to… breast less!…

Since the evening, I was thinking about two inseparable friends, who, over the summer, quietly stretched taller than I did.

There was no limit to my chagrin. Now, whether I like it or not, I had to go back home. How far should I go? I quietly moaned, groaned in annoyance, and was distressed, because I was not allowed to miss lessons. Tomorrow, there would be accusations, attacks from all sides, and prosecutorial interrogations such as: ‘why?’, ‘what for?’, ‘what was the reason?’, ‘how?’, etc. There might be offensive words: parasite, idiot, useless, stupid, liar, etc. In short, they would treat me accordingly. Certainly, I would not lie. I would show them my temper! And there was a place for parents’ notes in the diary. All praise and complaints are filled by the class teacher. I almost had no praise. Pretentious activists checked the nails, filling in diaries, and bags. Sometimes, they turned pockets inside out. What were they looking for? They could, for example, ‘clean’ the letters and Alshee, which might be in the bag by accident and could cause a scandal. It would be such a shame! Now, thinking about the letter, my heart sank for it could get into the hands of malicious people, and they could send it to the Secretary of the Komsomol Committee. Then, the rumour would spread all around with the speed of a strong wind. What would happen with Anarkyul?…Tomorrow, I would have a difficult day: the beginning of the trite, banal story, like ‘the black goat is sad about life, and the butcher – about the meat’. Tomorrow, I would tell the story. But would they believe it? What kind of goat gored me? If I had stood at the edge of the ditch, the car, kicking up dust, would have only filled the street with it. Wouldn’t be Dyushen covered with dust then? It was possible to shake jersey off, and to clean the boots. ‘Why should I treat everything meticulously?’ – I reproached myself. It was a pity that I did not show my new clothes to Kudaibergen yesterday. He was a sincere guy. At worst, he would have told my peers about my new clothes, that tomorrow Dyushen would come to school like some dandy. Ohho! Fancy pants! He would have a swell appearance. What could I do? Maybe, not everything was lost. Jersey and boots could be dried. Wouldn’t it be faded? It would definitely freeze, and then even iron would not help it. That’s what I feared most. My irritation had some reasons. Firstly, the new jersey almost became useless because it looked like some spring slush: it was all covered with mud; in some places, on the sides, some unknown whitish bloom appeared. Maybe, it was from the salty water and soil. Who the hell knew? And it spoilt the whole impression. Secondly, I became a quitter: I would not get away with this; wait, Dyushen, for consequences! Thirdly, it was the letter. Maybe, there was some invisible silk string, tuning two hearts. I was so negligent. I did not value the trust of Borubay-ake. I tapped myself twice, three times on the head, which did not work well, but not to hurt it much. I cheered myself up. And who could help me in such a difficult moment?

Still, there were no people. Perhaps, this was for my own best. And if people saw me like this, they would say: ‘Dyushen – the son of a lowborn, commoner. It makes us sick looking at him. The son of the shepherd, dressed in new clothes, wanted to show off. Here are the results. Did he ever try to wear new clothes? Never! And the new clothes left him with excessive zeal and, consequently, he stumbled and fell for his eyes were immediately covered with a veil. See, he has just got arrogant. This is because of the poverty. He did not see anything good in his life. In this misfortune, he was guilty himself for he was wandering on the mud-locked road and came across the trouble’. Such a rumour would spread, like a whirlwind, at least on three streets. Thank God, there was not a soul on the street. Now, I developed clear thinking, enlightenment, and determination. Today, God, on the one hand, subjected me to a bad humiliation and shame but gave me a blessing: I could escape the rumours. And one more thing: in a fit of joy, I could lose alertness and the letter could get into the hands of bad people. At this thought, my heart began to ache. Enough! So, I showed him, God, satisfaction by placing my right hand on my heart.

Near the house of Sanat-ake, between the middle and the extreme streets, there was the stubble of alfalfa and corn. Good that there were no fences. I quickly turned back and walked with extraordinary speed. Another interesting fact was that when I added speed to my movement, the drops quickly subsided. New kirza boots made crying, suction sounds. The friction of puttees made the sound of metal creaking. Once again, I looked around in all directions: no one was around. I sat on the boulder. Having taken off the boots, I wrung out puttees. The new puttees acquired a black and blue hue. They moved, changed their shape, and my toes were very red. I picked up a small bough without branches on the road. Now I found a good solution: I hung jersey and the velvet bag on it. I kept them on the distance for the drops not to fall in the back. I walked between two streets, lamented, cried from time to time, sobbed, smearing tears all over my face. Fortunately, I did not stumble on anyone. If anyone saw me, he/she would think: only a moron would go through the field, when there was the beaten road. There was no road in the field.

Today, my classmates were studying. And if any of them saw my unusual misconduct, then the bad reputation about me would be scattered all over the school. I was sure that they would laugh aloud at me. This would be funny for them but not for me… What was the reason to lie? Oh, my sorrow! Why could I not show my new clothes to pretty girls and those, who did not like me?

– I will think of something, – I said evasively, but clearly calmed myself.

Even if I smashed myself against the ground, this would not change anything. When I, walking through the gardens, came to the end of the street, I completely calmed down myself and was comforted. But when I remembered what had happened to me, I wanted to sob again. I began to count to one hundred to make myself busy. I wanted to leave everything behind, not to mention the painful and gruesome episode. I even began to educate myself:

– You are a gentleman and, therefore, must conform to this image.

But when I got off the street, gave way to tears, and shouted so loudly that the scared crows flapped heavy wings. I began to calm down myself and to reassure. I struggled hard to overcome myself and to get out of this terrible hell – deep state of frustration.

Before reaching the depot, to the right of the road leading to the regional centre, I went down to the destroyed house, near which there was a spring. It was necessary to unburden myself. Beside the spring, Kudaibergen was setting snares. Usually, two, three doves got there every day. He kept the ‘captives’ at home, in the cage. Today, he did not catch even a sparrow. Kudaibergen was two years older than me. But he was so discreet and sedate, which was not typical of his peers. I think he was business-like. Sometimes, I had the good fortune to get doves off the snares, coming earlier than Kudaibergen. Then, I began to caress them, talked to them. I asked them questions, stuck in my memory from fairy tales:

– You are the dove of peace. You, like the mailperson, bring the girls secret letters and retain them! Will you help me to get only good grades and happily take the second letter of Borubay-ake to Anarkyul for him to turn her into a woman?

Then, I kissed it on the mouth and released into the wild. Seniors did not entrust secret letters to youngsters for some of them were not able to keep the mouth shut and, when there was a ‘good opportunity’, the mystery was shared with others.

It was cool, sad, and uncomfortable there. It was not filled with the summer joy. I could not hear the chirping of the birds. All this seriously crammed a bitter sense of longing in my little heart. There was a rare birch forest, which hastily dropped the leaves in anticipation of heavy frost. Sea buckthorns were sticking on the bank of the Bala Chichkan River. They grew and ripened around the wintertime. In the summer, the nature by the river went wild: there were huge blackberry bushes, hanging in the water. Somewhere in the distance, there was a bush of raspberries. How did it get here? We called it the ‘stranger’. It ripened somewhere in July and was flaming like fire. It was growing on the entire floodplain of the large Chichkan River and all slopes, forests, and pastures of the valley.

Sitting on a warm log, I got inspired. I began to think about school. For some reason, I remembered the Secretary of the Komsomol Committee. He worked as a pioneer leader and once was performing the duties of the Komsomol organization on a voluntary basis. He was an outsider, like that raspberry. He studied somewhere part-time. This Secretary, I thought, ‘snorted’ at guys, grimaced, and threw malicious accusations at the pupils of the tenth grade, with whom Anarkyul-eje studied. It was at the beginning of the school year, in the line-up for high school pupils, before going to cotton pick. Other teachers were also there. We stood a little bit farther, and did not see and hear everything. He talked a lot:

– The Party requires, and the Komsomol is lagging behind. They say, it cannot catch up with the Party, – and then he addressed Anarkyul, made a pause, and continued his speech. – We have no culture! It is worse than a bunch of hillbillies! There is mess everywhere! Komsomol members cannot initiate anything. The school does not need their giggles. In the evening, they are making out. This applies to all. The punishment will be tough. The school year has just begun, and they have already longed for love. They write poems. Can you imagine this? Yes, this is something that is typical of a few people, living somewhere in the clouds! They suffer! And do you think that those machine operators after work and those slackers, demobilized from the army, play volleyball? And in fact, they only think of having fun and staring at you. They walk around the school like a pack… Sorry! We have very ‘sensible’ Komsomol members! They only think about the correspondence, but the correspondence with… Before the cotton campaign, I want you to prepare a wall newspaper in the school for the youth, joining Komsomol, knew the Statute by heart. And you will print your poems there too to let the whole school have access to it.

Back then, of course, I did not know what function Anarkyul-eje was performing in school. I knew the most important thing: she had a great authority. People said she was a good pupil. I was looking will all my eyes at her large, clear eyes and a straight nose. Her image: the face, the posture, and the gait – all proved her superiority. Everything exuded health and beauty. I did not pay attention to her neck, which Borubay-ake mentioned this morning. I only noticed how her cheeks flushed when the Secretary was speaking of some correspondence and incomprehensible letters. I disliked this pioneer leader and Secretary in one person. I did not know why? Maybe, it was because of his boring eyes that were sat deep under the eyebrows. He was like that fat guy in that famous movie, who spread fear among the population. And that character also had boring eyes. Why did he, the Secretary, then underline only her name? I ought to report this to Borubay-ake for him to teach that brave Secretary a good lesson. I thought he was a helpless bastard. That’s it! It seemed to me that Anarkyul-eje was hard to get, but Borubay-ake was a slim, smart guy. I liked one thing about him: when some holidays came, such as ‘Nooruz’ or ‘Ait’, he was able to gather 30-40 children of different ages, with whom he played until he was completely exhausted. I was surprised that he showed no reaction to the dirty rumours of the people of our ail. Playing with us, he considered his leisure. And back then, all the national holidays, ‘Nooruz’ and ‘Ait’, and ‘Ordo’ game were under the repression. And the Secretary said there was ‘no initiatives’. Here was my first initiative for you, wimp, – the punch from Borubay-ake and from me, a worthy successor of Komsomol! He puts his own emphasis on everything. If he only knew in what terrible condition his pioneer was now. Everybody was served with what they had deserved! You, the Secretary, were an empty space and you had no right to talk about the letter of Borubay-ake!

Thinking about this and that, I’ve got chilled. I was running, and then walking slowly, until I reached home. No one was there. I changed my clothes. The pain still filled my soul: I did not justify the work and efforts of Toktokan-tayaje, and the money of my father were just wasted. And he, my poor father, was somewhere in the autumn pasture, looking after the herd day and night for the cattle not to emaciate, to graze, and if possible, to gain fat to survive serious winter cold. In addition, this miserable Secretary only cared about some newspaper and the Statute, when cotton campaign was about to begin. Then, my thoughts got back to ordinary things: I was regretting again about the loss of my new clothes. I was shouting that it was probably my fate not to possess them. In the attic of the barn, I stretched the rope and hung my clothes for my mother not to notice immediately the dirt. I felt bad and laid down.

There was no news from Borubay-ake. He did not wait until I came, climbed into the attic of our house, and fell asleep fast. The next morning, my mother looked suspiciously at me and said:

– What is going on with Borubay-ake? Do you owe him something? – She was clearly angry. – He asks me where is Dyuke. I am sick of him already. He came home last night, when you slept. He asked to call you. And I told him that you caught a cold. It was already late, and he kept asking for Dyushen, Dyuke! And I kicked him out. You are still young and do not be carried away with wrong things. Do not follow him. Be careful. He served in the army. Especially, he is a bachelor, – my mother finished.

I listened to her with awe because… And then I mumbled:

– I asked him to give the iron.

–Why do you need the iron? You were wearing the new clothes, – she said.

– I need it, – I said and went out into the yard.

I was so negligent! Ohh, what a pity! Oh! This ‘prosecution of a lawsuit’ would drive me… I did not promise my mother to stop any communication with him. Borubay-ake is a sincere guy. Was I worse than doves? Anarkyul-eje would rejoice, when she would get his second secret letter… I would never refuse to help Borubay-ake. I did not care about those secretaries and all sorts of spies!…

[1] address to the teacher

[2] respectful address to a man

[3] respectful address to a woman

[4] national thirst-quenching drink

[5] language

[6] national dairy product

[7] movable, double-sided team national game

[8] a village, situated far from the centre of Tadzhikistan

[9] thorn-bush

[10] the name of the bull

[11] Chonko – family, living in Toktogul district. They put mockery, the second meaning in every word. Figuratively speaking, they can be called the Kyrgyz Gabrovo residents.

[13] jailoo – summer pasture

[14] Ala-Too – snowy mountains

[15] kattama – national bread product

[16] tandyr – oven for baking tortillas (bread) made of clay and bricks

About the author:

Sultankulov Duishon is a writer. At the moment he is teaching at Kyrgyz Academy of Education. He pursues science. Mainly he writes short stories basing on personally seen or heard from someone. In 2014 for the first time he has published a storybook in Kyrgyz language. Now he lives in city Bishkek

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