Spring Thing ( Zoran Krušvar )

Posted by Barabal on Wednesday, April 22. 2020 in Holiday Adventures



We have this thing we do each spring. It bonds our family together; it would be wrong to neglect it.

Every year, on first day of spring, mother wakes us early, before dawn. We drink hot brew, made with herbs from the forest. My two older sisters, Diana, and Luna, know herbs very well. Our mother taught them while she was healthier, in better mood and less shaky. Now she is in no condition to pass the knowledge to me, so Diana promised she will do it. Mother doesn't do much these days, but every year, on first day of Spring, she wakes up, gets dressed, boils the drink and wakes her three little girls to a home filled with scents and anticipation.

We eat sweet bread and hardboiled eggs. There is an old, handmade basket full of them, they are coloured with onion skins, beets, and cabbage. We like things to be natural here, the balance with nature is important to us. While we are munching in silence, mother takes out her big, sharp, carving knife. She is not going to use it right now, but on the first day of spring she likes to keep it by her side.

When we are all packed and ready, I put my backpack on, grab the basket and wait for the rest of them in the car. I never go to the basement with them, because ever since I was very little girl, I was afraid of the monster living in the darkness and I never outgrew this unease. My family respects it, so they let me stay in the car while they climb down into the bowels of our old little house and emerge back, like Orpheus from the Hades, dragging the monster with them. Although mother is getting old and ailing, sisters are stronger each year and it is a simple fact that the monster gets smaller and lighter with time. At some point, I know, it will disappear entirely. I can hardly wait, because that's one thing that freaks me out. That, and those awful shoeboxes under the backyard lawn, but they seem to be freaking everyone out, so I guess that's normal.

Our car was made a long time ago, it was designed for rugged men, construction workers or maybe farmers. It doesn't go very fast, but it is very spacious. It has a huge trunk and a lot of room for all the passengers. The inside is rough but sturdy, the seats smell funny and the machine makes noises like a bear that ate something very bad. Maybe we are the rotten substance that makes our car sick? Or maybe it's the monster riding with us, tightly packed in the trunk with other luggage.

Our car is scratched, bent, burnt, most of the original functions are not working. Honestly, it looks like it has died, and it shouldn't be moving at all. But it moves. It's like a zombie, really. Undead pile of machinery from hell. It moves slow with strong chances of losing couple of parts along the way. We are bumping through early morning, our heads bobbing, our backbones trembling with excitement. The road leads to the forest, and the forest is a beautiful, sacred place.

But to reach the forest, we need to leave our town. And on the exit, on the very spot where the tattered asphalt crosses the town limit, there is a police car blocking our way. Two men in blue uniforms, with surgical masks and gloves, are standing next to their car. The guns on their hips look like nasty, black swellings filled with deadly plague, and their wielders smell like sanitizer. One of them is approaching our driver's window, as we are slowly stopping in front of their blockade.

"Good day", he speaks through his mask. We don't wear masks. We fear men, not viruses. We rarely get sick, and when we do, we use herbs. Well, except mother… her health might be beyond any help now, though 20th of March always seems to be one of the better days.

"Good day", Diana replies. She is our driver. We all repeat "Good day" after her, all except our mother.  

Her fingers are clutching her purse, knuckles turned white. We all know there is a big, hungry knife inside, far too big to be allowed.

But the officer doesn't know, he wants to see our ID's. That's fine, there is nothing wrong about us in their computer, there are no shoeboxes there. Even if the police were to run a full investigation on them, what could they possibly find? That the mother was raped on this very day, 20th of March, 22 years ago? That Diana was born on 11th of December? That, strangely, Luna was born four years later, on 10th of December, while I was born two years after Luna, on 5th of December. Does this look like a strange coincidence?

Maybe the policemen might ask our mother has she ever met her rapist again? It's very unlikely they would get any reply from her, but maybe, if they are really good, maybe they could link Diana's DNA to a man who vanished without a trace on this very date, 20th of March, 18 years ago, when his daughter Diana was only four. Now, if they were to check Luna's and my DNA, they might find that all three of us share both same parents.

Would they find this weird, or would it slip past their attention?

The policeman speaks:

"Ok… do you have permits?"

"What… no, but we are only going to the…" Diana stutters, and the policemen shakes his head.

"No one can leave town without a permit! We are in quarantine, lady! Don't you know it?"

"But we are not ill…"

His eyes are rolling, he had this conversation too many times. We are not ill is probably the stupidest excuse ever. You can't even know if you are infected or not, and even if you could, by some miracle, know for a fact that you weren't ill, the police still couldn't let you pass without the permit. Diana is talking nonsense to him, swarming him with empty words. Her left hand is on the steering wheel, but her right is crawling towards the passenger seat. Towards the mother's lap. Towards the mother's purse, now unzipped. Diana always was the most violent of us, but the idea of slaughtering policeman through the car window with a carving knife seems to me a bit too radical even for our fucked-up family, so I lower my window and smile as wide as I can:

"Please, officers. We are going to visit our granny; she lives just outside the town. Look, we are carrying some eggs and bread…" and I show him the basket. The scene is, in fact, hilarious. I am for all practical purposes impersonating Red Riding Hood, with basket and everything. But while the policeman is staring at me, I am reading his name from the badge on his chest.

"Easter eggs?" he asks, and I try very hard to charm him with my smile and keep the eye contact, while my fingers grab the cheap clip from my hair. "Oestra", Luna corrects him, but he doesn't seem to notice. With my other hand I pick an egg from the basket and I hope I picked one of the reds.

"Yes sir", I smile like an idiot. My white teeth gleam in the morning sun and I even wink, pretending it's because of the sunlight. "You see, I painted it myself", I hand him the egg, delighted to see it's pink like young girl's flesh. My mother, the one that says nothing, the one that sits and stares most of her days, turns her disapproving face towards me. Yes, we might get arrested or who knows what, but goddess forbid if I take her credit for painting the eggs. "You see", I keep lying to the policeman as he carefully takes the egg, "there are some very interesting shades, that appeared completely naturally… you see? Oh, wait, give that back to me, I'll show you the blue one…" he returns the egg, clearly annoyed by our conversation:

"It's very nice, but it's not Easter yet…"

"It's not, but our granny is very old, and she can't tell the dates anymore. As soon as she sees the flowers blooming through her window, she thinks it's Easter and she wants her eggs. She gets very sad and disappointed if we don't bring them. And she is so alone now, during the quarantine…" I babble, I bat my eyelashes, I puke sugar and rainbows, but at the same time, without looking, I use the clip to scratch his name into the coloured eggshell.

"It's very nice, but please now… turn around, go home, and come back with permits. If you need to take care after your grandmother outside the town, there shouldn't be a problem with getting one. You can't just go around like this… and there is absolutely no need for all of you to go! Coronavirus is especially dangerous for elders!" he is very agitated. This is a very demanding time for him, too. I understand, but we need to be on our way, and we also need to get away from the police because we don't want them to start poking around our car. So, I say:

"But these eggs are very good, we MUST get them to granny", and I tap the shell against the window, the pieces are falling in my lap, making a mess, but our car is already a mess so why should I care?

"Look, I can't let you go…" he is firm. But the pink shell that he held in his hand, the one with his name on it, is already broken. I smile, this time sincerely. Then I softly press the egg against my lips and I kiss it before I push it inside and take a big bite. He blinks at me while I chew the egg, trying to do it as cute as I can. He says nothing while I swallow. My sisters look at me, I can feel the smiles starting to blossom on their faces. Even our mother smiles proudly.

"Please officer", I whisper with the kindest of voices "would you be so kind to let us through? Just this time?"

He nods, and steps away. His shell is broken. He is swallowed. We are free to go.

We are a rolling avalanche of laughter as we drive out of the town and into the forest. Diana nearly screams:

"WOW! I mean, WOW, Libera! You clever little… have you seen this Luna? Mom?"

Mother nods and smiles. I think there might be a teardrop in her eye. Luna hugs me with all her strength:

"My little sister bewitched a policeman! With a coloured egg!"

"You, girl" Diana says to me, lifting her index finger in the air as if she was giving some sort of prophecy, "You, Libera, you are going to be quite something! Mark my words!"

Mother turns around and holds my knee with her trembling hand, and I feel great, just as everybody should feel, celebrating spring with my whole family.

Soon we reach the forest. It's especially nice now, when there are no people. We stop our car and get out. Mother, Diana and Luna pull the monster from the trunk, they unfold his wheelchair and they secure him in it. Mother will push the wheelchair alone, as she always does. Diana walks by her side, holding the knife. This is the only moment when someone else holds the knife, though it's not really important because nobody is going to use it now. We walk to our special meadow, we set the stones. We clean them with water and bless them. We arrange the eggs and the bread, the flowers and the berries, the symbols of spring.

Then we say the words, drink the brew, take our clothes off and dance. We are naked, skyclad, we move to the rhythm of tectonic plates clashing, our hands wave to the solar flares. We can see distant stars, peek through all the black holes. Nothing stands between us and the nature.

Nothing, except for the knife in mother's hand.

The monster sits still in his wheelchair, looking at us. There isn't much else he could do, really. He is tied and drugged, and even if he weren't, most of his muscles are severely damaged now. His legs are practically gone.

Later today we will have our very special lunch, because this is the only day in the year when our family eats meat. We will wait for the drugs to wear off, because mother wants everyone to be very present. Then she will use the knife and cut three nice pieces of meat from the monster's still living body. Monster will try to scream, but his vocal cords were cut some 18 years ago, when mother finally found him. He didn't recognize her, even when she lured him to bed, this time voluntarily. She used him, and then drugged him with herbs and locked him in the basement. She cut him carefully, and then tended his wounds with greatest care. She made sure he couldn't scream or run, but she also made sure he feels every cut.

On 20th of March every year, she made a meal of his flesh, for her and their daughters. On the same day, she uses a very special mixture of herbs, making him erected against his will. She rapes him, just the same as he once raped her.

Occasionally, the act results with conception. Mother never visits any doctors, she handles everything alone, with the help of her daughters. How the hell did four years old Diana help her when she gave birth to Luna, I will never understand. But three of us survived. Not everyone had such luck. Mother wanted only girls; boys ended in shoeboxes under the backyard lawn.

Luckily, mother is getting older, so all of us hope there will be no more shoeboxes to bury. And the monster's meat is getting scarce, so any new cut could be his last. If you ask me, that's also good. Damn thing still freaks me out.

We have this thing we do each spring. It bonds our family together; it would be wrong to neglect it.

You should join us sometime.

. . . .

By Zoran Krušvar

22th of April 2020.





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