“Don’t waste time. Come to my place quickly! I’ll treat you to a piece of Gosho as soon as you arrive,” my friend Dara called me on my mobile. I listened, hesitating. Yesterday, my husband bought a big knife and said he’d use it to slash my throat. I wasn’t too impressed to be honest with you. Let me first explain the way the whole picture looked.
Gosho was a 21-year-old donkey whose proud proprietor was Dara’s father, Uncle Pesho. The man prepared his cart, then took Gosho and went to steal tiles, scrap iron, sawdust, plus everything else one could lay his hands on in these parts. I was one of the few who knew the truth about the old donkey and I didn’t take pride in that knowledge. To cut a long story short, it was Uncle Pesho himself who turned Gosho into minced meat and subsequently into sausages. I was well informed about the substantial role these sausages played in our small town.
Uncle Pesho was stealing scrap iron when Gosho fell on his belly and started hiccuping and sighing. Then suddenly the animal’s back stopped twitching.
“Why are you doing that to me, man?” Uncle Pesho said to his beast. “Who shall I steal with now? My wife is an old rail like the rusty ones at the railway station. My daughter (he meant Dara, of course), will never get married because no one wants her. The two geese are both so lazy they’d rather kick the bucket than do a stroke of work. I am old and worn out like your horseshoes, Gosho, but I go filching. Can’t I get a drink like an honest man instead? And what can I steal, my friend? Everything worth stealing has already been stolen. I go out thieving and who do you think I meet? I meet my competitors. They’ve gone out to pilfer something or other, too. So what happens when I see them eye to eye, I ask you? Do we steal the way we should? Not at all! We all sit down and get drunk together. Tell me, Gosho, didn’t I give you a chunk of my bread all the time? I did! So don’t die, man. Are you leaving me with the slothful female pair, with the old one and the young one? Are you? You can’t die now!”
But Gosho kicked weakly and stuck out his tongue at his master. Uncle Pesho was in a quandary. A donkey that weighed more than two hundred pounds should not meet his maker like that! Imagine more than two hundred pounds of edible meat dying under your nose while the refrigerator in your house was as empty as your pocket. No way.
I didn’t know if Gosho died first and then Uncle Pesho slit his throat with his penknife, or Gosho was slaughtered first and then passed away. As far as I knew, he’d rather cut Dara’s throat. (That hen doesn’t get married anyway. She just gapes at the TV all day long. And why you think she does that: to learn something useful like making money? No, sir, not at all. She watches the stupid series and cries her eyes out. When her classmates come back from Italy or from Spain, all of them visit her and don’t go out of her room for a week. At the end of the day none of them marries her. And her classmates are damned right if you ask me.) In my opinion, Gosho must have died most respectably before he and his master stole the scrap iron, then Uncle Pesho cut his dead throat with his penknife. What I saw with my own eyes at long last were forty-two sausages, hanging under the eaves of Uncle Pesho’s house. The man himself sat in a shabby armchair, a bottle of beer in his hand, unable to steal any more, tears in his eyes. He chewed at a piece of sausage, swilled down beer and wept for Gosho.
“Come quickly, you sleeping saucepan!” Dara, my best friend, called me on my mobile once again. “Hurry up. There’s almost nothing left of Gosho.”
I believed her. There was hardly anything left of Gosho and I knew the reason why: Dara had tried one of the sausages.
“It felt as if I gnawed on a paving stone,” she told me later and I was sure that was true. Gosho was a very old donkey, may he rest in peace. Dara told me Uncle Pesho buried his ears not far from the Struma River. Whenever Aunt Dena, his wife, picked a quarrel with him, he went to Gosho’s buried ears, drank beer and mourned. Even his competitors, the other thieves with carts, went and cried for the buried ears. They all remembered the way they had gotten drunk with Uncle Pesho.
When Dara tried Gosho’s sausage for the first time, something quite unbelievable occurred. She met a guy by the name of Dancho. He was not one of her classmates, those who went to Italy and Spain and stayed in Bulgaria for no more than a week. He was a Bulgarian, every inch of him, and had never traveled far from his native village of Kralev. On account of that he didn’t know anything about Dara’s classmates and her inordinate love for the TV series.
“You are magnificent. I am happy,” he told her after they met in one of the numerous cafés in our town. An hour later he said he wanted to introduce Dara to his mother. Dancho was 31 and Dara was 31, too, so they’d make a good couple, he said. Dara got scared and winked her eyes uncontrollably, unbelieving. She had got accustomed to being assured she was magnificent for no more than a week. Then the guys vanished. She dubbed them “classmates” for the sake of convenience although most of them were either ten years older or ten years younger than her. Generally speaking, plus or minus ten years didn’t make a difference to Dara. The guy remained her classmate, and that meant that at the end of the week he collected all his shirts and socks and beat it for Italy or Spain.
Dancho, however, did something different. He paid a visit to Uncle Pesho and told him, “Dara is absolutely magnificent, you know. I can’t find a more magnificent woman than her not only in my native village, but also in the capital of Bulgaria. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll marry her.”
That statement rendered Dara speechless. Her classmates had said before, “We’ll get married some day,” but how could that festive event become reality when the bride was in Pernik, Bulgaria, while the bridegroom dillydallied in Madrid, Spain? Hardly possible at all.
Another friend of mine, Maria, tried Gosho’s sausages, too, although she felt a loathing for donkeys. You wouldn’t believe what happened. On the following day she met a guy, Genady by name, on the train to Sofia. She was 34 and he was 32. Maria worked for the National Steel Industry Trust in an old workshop, so she could never trim her nails the way she’d liked. She, too, had a few classmates, but they were considerably less in number than Dara’s, maybe because Dara was slim and tall while Maria rolled in her own lard. No matter what, that Genady guy from the train told her, “You are absolutely magnificent! I am thinner than my own shirt, but you are just what I’ve imagined a woman should be! I’d like to introduce you to my mother. I want to marry you.”
And that was not all to the story about Gosho.
Unfortunately Aunt Dena, Uncle Pesho’s wife, a quiet and perfectly normal fat woman, tried Gosho’s sausages as well. Not that her teeth were that good, but as ill luck would have it, she got herself into trouble. She had a nibble at Gosho’s sausages, and, of course, on the following day she was accosted by a funny sort of bloke as she sold stockings and T-shirts from her stall in the marketplace in Pernik. The guy had a shaggy disheveled beard and looked as strong as Uncle Pesho’s bull. He told Aunt Dena, “You look magnificent to me,” bought her a vanilla ice-cream, and in the afternoon he went to visit her in her house.
It was at that time when Uncle Pesho grabbed the same penknife with which he allegedly slaughtered Gosho and rushed to slit the bearded guy’s throat. Unfortunately, the intruder was stronger than that bull in Pesho’s pen. The newcomer bandied words with Uncle Pesho and the two men got into a fight. Aunt Dena watched them, grinning radiantly over the pot of vegetable soup that simmered on her kitchen stove.
Then still another friend of mine, Mira by name, tried Gosho’s sausages, and on the following day, again on the morning train to Sofia, a fellow told her, “You are…”
You should guess what Dara did. She started selling Gosho’s sausages at the price of 50 Euro a slice. If somebody expected that the price would frighten the ladies from Pernik, I’d tell him he’d never met a lady from Pernik in his life. Dara’s house thronged with women. And they were not only 30-year-old beauties. There were 17-year-old girls. I saw 50-year-old ladies, 60-year-old matrons, and grandmothers with walking sticks. I noticed a girl from the elementary school with a 50 Euro bill in her hand.
That was the reason why Dara called me on my mobile for a third time. “Hey, sleeping saucer!” she said. “You’ve got to get moving. Soon there will be nothing left of Gosho and you’ll rot like an apple in a pantry.”
Dara was my next-door neighbor and she could very well listen every time my husband Tosho and I had quarrels over money. Apart from being in total disagreement about the way I should spend our income, I got into arguments with Tosho on a number of other issues. He had warned me he liked the waitress in the local eatery, so I’d better watch out for him. He said also he was sick and tired of me. He implied he could at any minute beat it for Spain, but at the same time he underlined that he’d bought a knife to do me in if I tried a piece of Gosho’s sausages.
The men who owned old donkeys, all of them from the group of Uncle Pesho’s competitors, took their beasts to the same locale near the Struma River and cut the animal’s throats. They even borrowed Uncle Pesho’s penknife, paying him 8 Euro an hour. None of these guys had a beast of burden any more, so the scrap iron and the tiles remained unattended. The sausages from their donkeys failed to bring anyone saying to a girl, “You are magnificent.”
“You silly saucepan,” Dara scolded me on my mobile. “I keep one piece of Gosho especially for you. Your husband is as lazy as Gosho’s buried ears, and he’s got a roving eye. He doesn’t have two pennies to rub together, does he? Don’t waste time. Come quick and eat that piece of Gosho’s sausage. You have one child, and you’ll bring her up this way or other. Take my word, Tosho doesn’t care for you. Why should you put up with him, you fool? You get fatter and he knows it.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m coming.”
Before I set out for Dara’s place, I threw the biggest knife in our house in the Struma River. It was the same weapon my husband had bought from the marketplace, the one with which he intended to do me in. I had hardly taken a couple of steps when I saw my husband Tosho. It was obvious he hadn’t found the big knife that rusted in the mud of the Struma River. He’d grabbed an axe instead.
“If you go and eat that sausage, I’ll cut your head off here and now!”
“Oh, will you?” I said. “I’m curious how you’ll do that. Even if I remained headless, I’d go and eat that sausage. You’d better remember that very well.”
Then Tosho hurled the axe on the ground and shouted, “You are magnificent. You are the only magnificent woman among all women I know. I tell you the honest truth and you don’t have to go and eat that damned sausage. Let me be cold and dead like Gosho if I’m lying to you!”
Dara’s father and the rest of his competitors, who didn’t have donkeys any more, drank brandy together in the café across from our house.
“Hey, Tosho,” they yelled. “Why are you telling her she’s magnificent? Don’t you have eyes in your head, man?”