by Lazër Stani
In the village narrating old histories, (or the sale of rubbish as the cunning and ironic old man Tata used to say) while going spree, or wandering in the afternoons under the lime trees of the village, or in old cafes-like bars full of autumnal tobacco smoke and insinuations, steams of drinks and stench of stale diseased breaths, or precisely narrating histories, long passed histories, lost in themselves and forgotten as much as we can not recognise them any more, has become like a vice or a pain in the joints which occurs with the changing of the weather. But no one mentions the name of Murrika, except when being persistent or knowing something, which cannot be avoided. In the village, where everything is being slandered, it is not allowed to talk about lamentations or infatuation, or shamelessness. It is not only forbidden to talk but also to ask. If anyone recalls Murrika, as some spiteful old women do from time to time, the farmers frown or pucker up their ferocious brows, open their eyes wide and remind you not to bring her back into their memories and make you flee with their stares and menacing words.
The years of shamelessness or infatuation could easily be called the years of Murrika (we shall call her Murrika as the whole village named her and as she is lately remembered by Angja B. “the messenger of the Satan”); who drove the whole village out of its mind and like an epidemics her insanity attacked the neighbouring villages. One day it was said that nine villages had gone mad and that was believed to be the beginning and the end of the world. The nine villages, which nowadays after nearly half a century nestle in the gloomy quiet of the tarred afforested land, still remember how the village men went crazy and how the confusion of those years with dismal weather and torrential rains made people believe that was the premature death of the entire world. And that was nothing else but the inhuman infatuation, shamelessness, for which once upon a time people said that a kidnapped woman from “ Beyond-the-Pass” cursed and cast her spell when they married her without her consent, forcibly to the lame of the Gjosha family. “Oh! Damned, a curse on you all!” She groaned and her ominous howl dispersed like a crowd of ravens under the black sky.
Ndre S. who at that time had just become thirty years old, remembers the story well, swears that he had known Murrika but cursorily, superficially. According to him she was a lamb with no one to take care of her. He used to avoid the story of Murrika tactfully, adding that he was the only remaining man in the nine shameless villages and even if anything noble could have been saved that was but he and no one else. “Man does not become a hostage of this”, he says, supporting his big hand in between his large thighs and goes on regretfully: “Perhaps God tested our villages and avenged for the open sins and for the fact that the people no more abided by the Lord’s commandments.
“It was a well deserved punishment”, said Ndre S., who drawing in his long-shank pipe reminds as in a dream, the successive sins and augurs, which had foretold the disaster that Murrika brought about years later, when the cup overflowed and the forbearance of the Almighty came to an end. “You can not imagine what happened”, Ndre S. explains, telling odds and ends, but not the real story. Women who died in mountain paths from storms with their own kids in that terrible stampede, men who were slaughtered like pigs fighting aggressively against one another, treachery ambushes behind backs; it happened what had never happened before, hays and huts with livestock inside burnt to the ground…after all what could we expect from this village, which pissed after a dark complexion that had begot in the barn of the white, generation after generation since the seed of man was conceived? He is convinced that Murrika was not of our sort. She was conceived after an encounter of her mother with the shabby Ali, the old gypsy, who gathered woollen rags from village to village and then sold them in the town. No man on earth could make Ndre S. narrate her history. He beats about the bush, talks about the trek, the scratched scars on the sole of the event but never ever slips to say something, which will shake at least the dust of years and will uncover even a single bone from the skeleton of the whole story.
“And do not believe what Zade Ndoia says”, he continues angrily. Zade Ndokia let the hairs between her thighs grow as long as to her knees, then she shore and span it black. Afterwards she used it to embroider vests and bloomers. Her spinner never aged. It is inexplicable but he hates no one in the village but Zade Ndoia. He is ready to vent his anger against her using the jargon of his obscene words, which in the village are everlasting. He says that she never wore panties. She even lured lads ramming their heads into the terrible hank, flake of her black hairs, which stretched down her knees. He does not tell that Murrika was the daughter of Cara, Bala’s widow, whose husband was swallowed by the river waves while angling trout one cold dawn in February a little earlier than the appearance of the first signs in the sky.
On the contrary, Zade Ndoia told only one story throughout her deep old age. “A story, which was worth telling” she said. “ I don’t remember anything else from this village except that its noble men had all gone mad, dying to crumble in bed with Murrika for just one night. At that time there was the famous saying about the tender delicious meat of the jackdaws and another one, which advises: ‘never sleep in a home without males’. “Do not cherish hopes for these men whose vests and bloomers I have embroidered.” She finished poking with tongs the blinking embers under two blackened stubs of the ephemeral fire.
Zade Ndoia recalls that the news, that Cara, Bala’s quiet and feeble wife gave birth to a girl as black as a coal spread all over and there were evil tongues, who gossiped she was the daughter of the shabby Ali, the man, who gathered woollen rags. The kind-hearted said that Cara had an affair with Ali without her own consent because the gypsy had enchanted the unfortunate girl and had made her appear naked before him and then as if in a dream he had lain with her unaware of what was going on. The fact is that after Cara became pregnant (she had been married for eleven years without any children) the shabby Ali never appeared in the village and when someone remembered to ask for him many years later, it was said that he had died of fever at the beginning of April of the same year when Murrika was born. It was the time when those consumed by disease could not endure the change of blood. The words of those evil tongues made poor Bala’s life like hell. He got drowned into the river at dusk one February, when Murrika was one year old. Again there were evil tongues that said that Bala had not been a man in the physical sense. The fact that his wife begot a daughter with the gypsy and not with one of the most prominent men in the village was a pain in his back. It is said that he threw himself into the wild river waves to get drowned. That he slipped on the slanting bank of the river while angling trout was but a supposition of the kind-hearted that felt pity for Bala.
The history of the black freckle (Sophia of Gjura family, a slack who tattled all day long, called Cara’s daughter ‘The Black Freckle’) got lost for several years because there happened other less important events in the village which were transformed into greater ones. A lot of people died and others were born. Doç of the Qepuraj family declared in the churchyard on the Sunday of Easter that “ This life is nothing. Die and leave, buy and sell.” But because of this he deserved the curse of the rigid priest of the village, who never forgave his sin towards the Heaven and prohibited his burial as a punishment in the blessed land by the church, where the dead of the village rested in peace generation after generation.
Murrika must have been sixteen years old, when she was once more revived thanks to the story told by the prodigal son of Gjosha. His name was Zef, but the village called him Zgupan because his body was tall like a fife and he was grown up as the old saying goes like ‘an elderberry bush in shit’.
His narration was dirty but amazing. According to Zgupan, he managed to get into Murrika’s bed one evening (perhaps he was the first to call her ‘Murrika’ after the black sheep of the village) when Cara had gone to her akin and there the tragedy occurred. “There are no females in the nine villages that can match Murrika in lovemaking”, Zgupan uttered with his watering mouth, where even words seemed slobbery. When Zgupan realised that the men, who had sat crossed legged all around the room opened their eyes and ears wide, he continued telling the story proudly that he had tasted something no one had ever tasted in the nine villages. “I happened to pass by at dusk and said to myself not to go away like a thief without calling to Cara. Suddenly Murrika appeared at the threshold. She had unbuttoned her nightgown and let her hair loose to her hips. I could see her dark breasts, which resembled two pecks through the open nightdress. I cannot refrain myself from telling you that I went crazy at that moment. Murrika looking at me devouringly like a beast told me that her mother had gone to spend the night at her uncle’s and that was why she was not there. She invited me to come in saying that she was God’s human being like others and did not eat people. I could not wait for her to make me coffee, so I fell on top of her…here Zgupan pauses and inhales deeply, gasping for air. Murrika was so strong that no men could conquer her. She hurled me easily against the corner of the wall and I crashed my head so heavily that it went spinning around. ‘Oh! Dear me! She cried. Then she held me in her arms and I was all pretence as if on the verge of death. She rubbed my back and my head and then finally turned me facing her and pressed her black lips into mine like leeches. So hard was her kiss that for a moment I thought she swallowed my lungs, my heart, and my inner self. When she dropped me on the floor I felt I was short of breath. She tore my trousers apart and fell on me. She had nothing on but a blouse and a skirt, nothing of those things a woman usually wears. I pressed my body on hers but who could be her match? She crushed me so hard between her thighs that I thought she cut me round my waist. She groaned and howled like a beast making the floor planks tremble. From between the thighs there flowed billows of slaver so hot that it burnt the skin like boiling water when touched. I tried hard and surrendered finally. She made me so exhausted that when I got out of her house leaving her still lying on the floor, I thought I had escaped for life.
Zgupan threw his glances here and there around those stupefied men saying: “Who’s never lain with Murrika, he does not know the real pleasure of such a life”, thus putting an end to this history.
When Ndre S. is reminded of Zgupan and his intercourse with Murrika, he speaks disdainfully as for a filthy animal. “Shit! Zgupan has only words. Even nowadays he is as usual. But I tell you he has rolled down only his wife’s briefs not anyone else’s.”
“No one is as dirty as Zgupan”, Zade Ndoia used to say distorting her face as gulping down a rotten fruit. “He tried to touch me in between my thighs. He could touch only my thick flake and I sent him away like a dog.” She is sure when she says that Zgupan never touched Murrika but the history he invented spread like wild fire. It was heard in the nine villages within a day. Not only the males but also the females were told of that story. A young bride had overheard the story told by Zgupan while washing up in her courtyard and alas! That was enough for the women to pass it. They had been beside themselves with anger because having been tired out daily from hard work, which never ended; they could never feel the pleasures of such a deed. They could have an intercourse with their husbands only when asked fervently to do so. In this way they freed themselves of one more burden. The hatred for Murrika was turned into a tempest when Mara, who was as tender as a sheep overheard her husband whispering the name ‘Murrika’ in his sleep. Poor Mara! The next day she and her three children left home after having put her husband wise that she would never come back. The weather was bad that winter. She and her three innocent children were hit by an avalanche, which crossed their way. Thus they passed away in that big white icy grave of snow. Mara’s misfortune was spread in the village. All believed that her husband had had an affair with Murrika. He had never thought of his wife any more and she broken-hearted perished on her run together with her children. Poor Cara! Broken-hearted of what she heard, she shut Murrika in and nobody saw her until one day. They found her hanged with a rope round her neck.
Zade Ndoia says that the village men had all gone mad after Murrika. Each of them wanted to pass a night with her. She appeared much more distorted in everybody’s dreams than in Zgupan’s stories. They forgot their own wives who seemed contemptuous, tasteless and unbearable. They wandered in the village all night and took to drinking heavily. On the morrow they gathered and told invented stories to one another. Stories about that time a month before or a week before when they had entered sneakily into Murrika’s house and had felt the pleasures of this life. “I would make her beg to me to stop doing that to her because she said I was tormenting her”, a thin wasted man told rubbing with pleasure his thighs and having a musing glow in his slanting lascivious eyes. Another made a wild guess that he still felt pain in his chest because of the weight of her breasts. Another one with a misshapen and flat nose allegedly confessed that she had bit and bruised him at places and he dared not take off his clothes at the presence of his wife. “I”, said a bald headed man about forty years of age, called The Bald Patch of Marleta family, “ whacked her standing, making her lean against the wall behind the house. The billows of her hot slaver dripped down her thighs and filled her shoes, which plashed whenever I thrust myself into her. When I ejaculated my sperm into her I thought I had drained my balls forever because when sensation comes she sucks with her slender throat and she trembles and fumes like a spastic.When I finished and freed myself from her I was astonished to see that my trousers had whitened on the front as if I had wiped a newly born calf with them.”
“What quarrelsome men we have!’ Zade Ndoia exclaimed. “They fancy the impossible when the hint is on such affairs. But you must know that all these are nonsense.” Zade rubs her time- withered forehead clearing it from her thick black hair, which hung over her right eyebrow. She keeps her thighs wide open in her ancient mode perhaps to show that she does not grow her pubic hairs any more as in old times. Then she adds wistfully and scornfully: “I have tried them out, all of them, and they slackened at my feet. Only one knew how to find my heart and made me go crazy.” She shrivelled and her face frowned. Her wrinkled lips shrank like a tied neck of a sack and she breathed heavily like a sick animal. “What a shit Ndre S. is! Even these days he does not open his mouth as if the fairies shut it up forever. Why on earth did they put fire on the hut and the livestock inside?”
The first large row in the village happened as a result of the deep burn of the Ndre S.’s hut with all his livestock inside. The arson occurred right after midnight in August and the flames reached the sky. “Never before was our village so enlightened by the fire!” Zade Ndoia recalls. The hut resembled a shed of 40 metres long by 6 metres wide built with pine timber. Livestock were kept on the ground floor whereas the first floor was full of hay mowed in the meadows. Ndre S. accepted that he had been the arsonist. That was due to his carelessness and the fire was so quick that he could not manage to save the livestock. But no one trusted him in the village. Everybody expressed the idea that it was the revenge of the village men against him. They suspected him of having an intercourse with Murrika. He was the very one in the village who never mentioned her name and whenever he heard of her he sulked and said that it was not proper for men to gossip about a girl who was living her ill luck. This protection kindled their doubts even more badly. It became from bad to worse because everybody knew that the women of the nine villages had a fancy for Ndre S. but none dared tell him the truth. He was inflexible and stubborn and there was no one to match him.
In the autumn of that year the hay stacks of Bala’s widow Cara were burnt. Cara said before her death years ago that her house had been hit with stones, which shattered the wooden planks of the roof. Other unforgettable events happened in the village that year. Those events made the village notorious for as long as life itself. A strange traveller who passed overnight at Cara’s house because darkness fell and the weather got worse than ever was found murdered in the chestnut forest in the outskirts of the village. He was buried at the expense of the village hall and no one ever knew, who he was, what he wanted, why he happened to pass by that night and why he chose to pass the night in Cara’s house, where not a single male lived, which was his bad luck to ruin himself. The ancient used to say: “Never sleep in a home without males.”
Zade Ndoia recalls that that year there happened two other ominous murders in the village. The murders remained mysterious and they were never discovered. The first to have the bad luck to be killed was The Bald Patch of Marletas. His head was cut into two pieces by an axe. He was found at the edge of the stream, thrown away like rubbish. Nobody took over the responsibility of this barbarous murder but deep down into the their hearts people accepted that it must have been related to Murrika because unless it was for this reason he could not have been murdered behind his back. It was a well-known fact that no one could be killed behind his back in the village. “They bereaved one another”, Zade Ndoia says and adds: “even those two behind their backs were killed, an act of disgrace it was. Have you seen the like of this?” Women went berserk and abandoned their husbands and went back to where they had come from, beyond the mountain passes, thus orphaning their children and intensifying the old wives’ curses, which came down on Murrika, who drove the whole village crazy, like lightening bolts. Sophia of Gjura family linked all the misfortunes that befell with the black freckle, with Murrika, her foreign blood, which made men wreak havoc and was a pain in the women’s backs. “As long as Murrika lives”, she said one afternoon with the coffee cup in her shaking hand, “there would be no better days for the village.” Women confessed to one another that Murrika was a monster that never plied with men. She could bear all village men one after the other. They went to her stealthily for fear of being discovered by their wives and each other. Sophia, who seldom meddled in conversation with others, swore that there was not a single man in the village, who had not shacked up Murrika. Whoever approached her stank afterwards, a fowl odour like that of stale cheese or a male goat in autumn, no matter what but the stench was so intolerable that it forced the broken-hearted women to abandon their children without knowing how it all happened, why their husbands were hungry for such a dark mare. If she was of some fine stuff, all right, let’s be blind of one eye and endure!
“We had to burn her alive when she was born and after we saw that she was not of our sort.” An old woman, who had just one tooth in her mouth, said. From time to time she would let out a grunt as a result of a palsied nerve in her throat. She crouched like a fist, expelled her sequential grunt and added that only God could save us from the bad sort, otherwise we would perish eternally.
“When the news that Murrika was found hanged in her hut spread”, Zade Ndoia recalls, “the villagers went beside themselves with joy. It was a winter day. The blizzard had continued for three days. She stopped and brooded over for a while and then said: “Or they pretended to be overjoyed because no one dared mourn for her.” Nobody went to help poor Cara to bury her. Men lacked courage for fear of cutting a sorry figure in front of the village, whereas women never tired saying that it would be better to burn her body or to bury it deep down into the ground to prevent the plague, she brought about, from raising again. Cara asked her neighbours to help her. She asked her husband’s old godfather but all shut their doors to her. You gave birth to her, you should send her to the other world. So they said to her. Only Ndre S. helped bury her. It is said that he made her a coffin with great care. He and Cara dug her grave in the small clearing among the plum trees that awful day. She was buried there. People talked a lot about her suicide. It was said that she hanged herself because her mother had been a pain in her back, but Ndre S. explains that she killed herself because of the village villain men, who had made her life like hell. There were people who said that the young brides of the Gjosha family hanged Murrika when her stench could be smelt in their house.
“The history does not end here”, said Zade Ndoia. “Ndre S. is such a sly without a match.” Zade goes on telling that seven years later Daç saw Murrika in the town carrying a child as white as snow by his hand. She was coming out of an expensive shop. Daç’s news exploded like a bomb in the village. The next day Murrika’s grave was found open. There was not anything inside. Then Ndre S. was asked to tell the truth of Murrika’s death, which had been accepted some seven years before.
“I buried her somewhere else”; he answered shortly. “I did not want those who could not have an intercourse with her when alive to ravish, violate her grave.” That was it and he turned his back leaving behind puzzled men and frightened women of the idea that one day Murrika might come back into the village.
“What a sly that Ndre S. is!” Zade Ndoia exclaimed dropping her aged hands along her thighs. “Perhaps he took her to town. He knows a trick worth two for such things. But he has got a good heart.” Then pausing a little she added thoughtfully: “If there was anyone in the village who had a love’s affair with Murrika, that man was only Ndre S. The others told just lies.”
Even now that Ndre S. is living his old age; he is more then eighty years old, when reminded of Murrika he answers quite another thing: “This village has got a knack of insanity which can not be uprooted.” ©L. Stani
Translated by Shpresa Qatipi