Excerpt from the novel Teacher of Love

/, Literature, Blesok no. 138 - 139/Excerpt from the novel Teacher of Love

Excerpt from the novel Teacher of Love

The mothers, when he walked down the street, on foot or on a bicycle, which he rode, by his own admission, when he was so drunk that he couldn’t stand on his feet, ran out of the houses and picked up the little children rolling in the dust, for someone, accidentally, carried away by who knows what, not to step on them or ride over them. Otherwise, even though he had no children of his own, he loved children, just as we children loved him. We followed him, but not like the other local weirdos, wanderers and beggars, after whom, sometimes, we shouted the ugliest words, and even threw stones. We did this quietly, not wanting to disturb him in his thoughts and self-talk. And when he looked down and saw us, we ran to him and surrounded him cheerfully.

He made us laugh, too. Some felt that it didn’t suit a man his age, although it was difficult to guess how old he was. Because his face was both childish and old. Like the walk. At times fast and bouncy, other times slow and sluggish. On the bike, with wooden clothes-pin attached to the trouser pants, he was simply an acrobat. The bicycle under him was curving, dangerously tilting and bouncing, but he remained in the seat, as the best rodeo rider in the saddle of the wildest horse. Our neighbour, Aunt Ruza, watching his exhibitions, would say: “It’s better to be happy than smart.” And my mum defended him, because he was the only drunkard she had any sympathy for, saying, “Loize is smarter than all of us together.” And no one knew if he rode like that because he couldn’t do otherwise or, with that ride, as with many other things, entertained the children and the adults.

He would start playing with a group of children he came across so much that he forgot where he was going before he met them and was returning to where he came from. Most often to the tavern, where he knew how to start and lead expert discussions on what others at the table had no idea about. With his finger and the spilled wine, he drew unusual sketches on the sheet and wrote secret formulas, until he was left alone and continued, until drinking-up time, to talk to himself.

And Uncle Loize’s petite-flowered bow-tie was no ordinary. When we gathered around him, he would press a button on his coat and it would spin like a windmill. And that was a trifle in his rich repertoire of strangeness, because he knew more magic and other tricks than my mother, whom I was convinced had worked in a circus once. And that with the circus, an Italian one, bigger than “Adria”, she went to many countries, the entire 1949, which I spent alone, with my grandmother, and I was told that she was in the hospital. That she suffered from such an illness that they can’t take me even when they visit her. And when, from everything I heard and sensed that she was, not in a hospital, but in prison, I believed that my father divorced her because of the circus, and not for political reasons, as then, mostly women, mostly for the sake of the children, divorced men convicted due to the Informbiro.

My mother made vampire teeth from potato, for me and the other children in the neighbourhood. With them, wrapped in white sheets, carrying in our hands heads made of gold-coloured yellow pumpkins in which candles were burning, at night we frightened the rare passers-by and the lovers clinging to the plane trees trunks whose bark, under their backs, was peeling. She showed us how, by itself, the hat on her head raised, and then she revealed to us that she moved it with a rolling pin, on which it was attached, pulled under the jacket and moved with her hand hidden behind her back. How two people look carrying a third one. A dead one. The first one, standing, will stretch out his arms, on which shoes are put, and will bow his head, and the second one, standing behind him, will put his hands on his shoulders, over which a sheet is placed, and will throw his head, with his eyes closed, backwards. How a cigarette, and she smoked so much that she only lit the first one with a match, and then, all day long, she lit one cigarette from the other, glued to her lip, turned it and held it in her mouth, and let the smoke through her nose, making, not circles, but chain of circles. How the coin she held in her palm, when she closes her palm and opens it again, disappears. How half of the index finger of one hand disappears, which, with the other hand, she threw in the air, and then grabbed it again and put it back in its place. How the hemp, repeatedly cut with scissors, remains whole. How… She just never showed us how she takes a string of razor blades out of her mouth, which she swallowed one by one previously with a glass of water, after each one opening her mouth and showing us that her mouth was empty.

Uncle Loize didn’t reveal how he did things, but out of his sleeve he pulled a multitude of colourful silk scarves tied tightly together and he untied them without touching them with his hand. He took banknotes out of his wallet and tore them into four pieces, then crumpled them, and when he unwrapped the paper crumples they were whole. Coins fell out of his eyes as he wiped his glasses and filled his palms. He shook them in his pockets with clanking sound, and when we put our hands inside, there was no trace of them. He blew large goose eggs from his nose into a handkerchief, and they disappeared from his hands. And from the small pocket of his coat, from which a handkerchief with the same pattern as the bow-tie peeked out, he took out a small yellow duck, and when one of us wanted to stroke it, it turned into a large bouquet of roses made of decorative paper… And he gave something to everyone. Someone got a matchbox, from which, when opened, a May bug would fly out. Someone else got a sugar cube that was salty. A third got a bottle of ink that, after making a seemingly irremovable stain, evaporated and turned the despair of the one whose clothes were soiled into joy. A fourth one…

AuthorJosip Osti
Translated byZorica Teofilova
2021-08-17T21:00:19+00:00 August 15th, 2021|Categories: Prose, Literature, Blesok no. 138 - 139|0 Comments