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Her cousin the priest
severely scolds the indiscreet ones,
who wish -no matter what- to know
the reason why she is marked.
«The things decided by the Lord», he tells them,
«are not apt for the man to control,
but only to suffer them. Silence!»
Today she is sixty years old Lelouda and,
as soon as we move our lips,
she reads everything we want to say,
even those things that we have not said.
She sees gestures in our hand,
in our eyebrows, in our backs, as soon as we move them
and by the minimal contraction of our face
she knows what happened in our soul,
whether it was a shadow, a sun,
a gentle rain or a storm.
The deaf people and the mute know these things.
We however how can we know
if she is sad or if she is glad our Lelouda,
since her face is always the same?
Her eyes are staring and they are round and wide open,
and her big smile,
that begins from one ear and finishes to the other,
is fixed in her face since that time,
when for the first and for the last time she smiled
-who knows when.
What great damage would it be allegedly,
if Lelouda also could listen the voices of the people,
and in what way would shatter the order of the world,
if she could talk?
«But, asking to know it», says the priest,
«is like asking explanations from the Creator
and becoming judges of His actions.
While He is the Judge and it's us being judged.»
And, on one occasion,
that woman said to another:
could it be that they grabbed upside down the girl during the childbirth
and thus they brought her out marked?», the priest resented and shouted at her:
- «But the Lord, you thoughtless woman, could He not see
and could He not save the child,
if his wish was to be saved? Silence!»
Her sisters, all of them poor, in the village,
they couldn't support her, so expensive
that it is lately the bread
and the food scarce.
And since Lelouda is working
and people see her often on the street,
nobody asks anymore
why is she such as she is;
they got used to it. People can get used to everything!
drop their leaves and make others,
the winters follow the summers,
the summers follow the winters,
and Lelouda goes up and down
the wide wooden stairs of the priest,
almost in the same hours,
in order to do the same tasks so regularly
in a way that a neighbor can confirm
from far away:
«There, now Lelouda will take the basin!
she will throw the food leftovers to the chickens!
Now she will drive away the dog!
Now she will take the big key
in order to open the cellar,
now the same as yesterday and the same as last year...»
To sit down and give herself rest too for a minute, like the others,
and look at the golden and the purple flowers,
the marigolds and the blue periwinkles
that grow next to the zucchini and the corn in the garden?
Nevertheless, all of a sudden, without warning,
something unbelievable happened
in the life of Lelouda.
She is making a new dress!
They saw one day her older sister, the madam Katigko,
sitting on the loom. She was very serious
the moment she began to prepare it.
Then came near her little granddaughter and asked her:
-Madam, is aunt Lelouda going to die? -Who told you that, girl?
- So they say, when an old woman prepares her new dress.
- You do not mess with these things!
Your aunt Lelouda is alive, girl,
don't you see her coming?
She came to help with the loom.
She sat near her beloved sister,
on the ground, submerged in her old inflated dress.
And her sister
out of the love that she has for the mute,
without having confessed it ever,
she scolds her -allegedly- while she is helping her:
-Lelouda, the skein, look at it!
-Lelouda, the thread, is cut!
-Lelouda, the thread, grab it!
Promptly she executes the orders of Katigko the mute.
She cuts, binds, corrects.
They are preparing the cloth.
How is the world!
She had barely managed madam Katigko to throw the first lines,
and the news were spread
that is being prepared a new dress for Lelouda.
By the afternoon the neighborhood knew it.
By night the village knew it.
And the day after the news were flying
over the fields and the valleys.
It ever kept walking!
It reached up to the top up to the lentils,
as far as the chickpeas, as far as the sheep!
«Poor Lelouda! Her last one!»
the villagers were saying shaking their heads.
And as long as people walked by and they saw madam Katigko,
serious and concise,
while weaving in her yard,
more rumours went around and traveled.
Village women when met each other on the street,
loaded with tree branches and spinning the rocket,
they would find the time,
hunched as they were under the load,
to ask one another.
- Eh, listen! Is Lelouda ready?
- It's not painted yet the dress of the poor!
Now it will enter in the color.
- And will death wait, you think, for old Lelouda to get ready?
- Don't say that! She is sixty years old woman, what the demon!
Could he be in such a harry?
I say that he will let her dress herself.
It is an old custom.
Every woman, no matter who she is,
she must have her dress prepared
for the time of death.
Even the poorest one.
She is not deterred of course
from putting it on sometime
on a wedding or a baptism or a great celebration.
It's a must for the last hour to find herself sharply dressed,
so that, as she presents herself to human celebrations,
to present herself also to the glory of God.
- Since you've finished it, they told her,
won't you put it on tomorrow, the holy day,
to go to worship?
Lelouda shows her wide smile,
from one ear to the other, and she doesn't reply anything,
but looks at the priest,
in order to receive his advice.
She turns the eyes to the neighbors,
she looks again at the priest.
And the priest, who understood,
he beckoned to her from afar,
waving encouragingly his head
with the black cap
and trembling the gray beard of his.
-Yes, yes, yes, Lelouda... You should put it on.
Lelouda thinks that it is a great sin
to put on a totally new dress,
a thing that she has never done before,
except one time, during the last fifty years,
when they both entered in the church
she with her sister Katigko and they sat together.
And now what will they say the villagers,
when they see her suddenly dressed with the new clothes
as if it was happening to her some great fortune?
As if she was getting married or as if she had spoken?
- Ba! Ba! Ba! she said with her strange way of talking.
And she looked around her,
lest they would show up these things that he thought.
Her sister nevertheless Katigko,
a learned and wise woman, has it for bad luck for the dress to be ready
and not to be worn even for a while,
from here to there.
They say that this is no good.
They say that, before it is put in the chest,
the dress that is created for the glory of God
it must be worn
and walked for a moment. Katigko knows what she is saying.
For this reason, after she prepared everything,
the blue dress, the cloak with the red edges,
the snow-white shirt and the headscarf,
after she dressed her up in order to try them on,
she told her, always serious, being careful
not to reveal anything from the love
and anything of her grief:
- It's bad luck, hey you, I tell you,
to take them directly to the chest.
Walk till there, nobody is looking at you.
The neighbourhood was desolate.
The house of the priest was a few steps away.
The mute obeyed to her older sister...
She walked heavily and hastily.
She almost tripped.
She walked and was always looking right and left,
lest they would watch her, as if she had stolen something.
There are some poplar trees near there,
tall, thin, straight,
- some poplar trees totally green
and they drink from the thunderous water,
that flows for the corn.
Maybe it was the wind to blame, maybe
the trees are acquainted with the humans,
the poplar trees began a quaver
and a whisper that had no end,
as soon as Lelouda appeared.
About her they must have been talking!
On the desolate road it could not be heard anything else,
but the knocking sound of the new shoes of the mute
on the pebbles.
The village, silent as it was,
with some cockcrow
or jingle of mule here and there,
in one of its usual dead hours, with its big porches empty,
its doors like holes,
with its fences that were blooming
and its walls that were falling,
it was submerged in the labor and the destiny,
with no complaints for what has come
and always ready for what is about to come.
Up there at the church, the priest,
having finished the evening mass,
he was sitting, as his habit was,
under the dense and high yew tree in the round yard
and at this hour he was talking with a cloud in the color of fire,
parked under the hawk-mountain.
For years now,
from the time that he lost
two children of his and his woman,
he sits at this hour
and waits for the last clouds to light up,
the ones that receive the greetings
of the setting sun from the abyss,
the golden, the red, the purple clouds,
- books that in the eyes of the priest
keep written the will of God
and they hide the great angelic hymns of His glory.
By listening heavy footsteps on the road,
he turned and saw his cousin
walking all dressed up. He didn't wonder,
he didn't move in despair his head.
He turned back to the flaming clouds!
who doesn't know how to read so high,
Katingo had been hidden behind the small window
and looked in secret at her sister, as she was walking.
- Are you crying? her sister in law told her.
Shame on you, Katingo! What is this thing?
- I am not crying at all... Katingo said.
And she covered with her apron her eyes.
She got undressed,
she folded carefully the new clothes,
she put them in the chest
with two apples and one quince and she closed it.
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