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March 31, 2009

By Edward Rodosek
Translated from Slovenian.

Simon switched off the circular saw and took an armful of firewood to carry it into the hut. When he stepped out from the under the jutting roof, he noticed a well-dressed man nearing the farm, carefully stepping around the mud puddles. Seeing the stranger on his property, Simon stopped and stared at him.

“Is this the home of the Milners?” The stranger’s accent was so distant Simon barely recognized his own family name.

“Maybe – but maybe not,” he said cautiously. “Who wants to know?”

“My name is Albert Vaskas. I’m a reporter with the holovision station KWYS.” The stranger took a black box from his pocket, fumbled around in it and then held something up to Simon’s face. “I’d like to ask someone in your family whether they’ve recently seen anything unusual in the area.”

Simon shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno ‘nothing about that sort of stuff.”

“What gives, Simon?” His mother, a slender woman with a gentle, wrinkled face, emerged from the door of the hut.

Simon dropped the firewood onto the dusty ground. “Mum, this fellow says he’s some sort of news hound, from the radio or somethin’. He wants to know if we’ve seen anything funny ‘round here.”

“Anything funny?” Her face betrayed her amazement. “Why would we have cause to see somethin’ funny? Ain’t nothing strange happens ‘round here.”

“Well, mum,” Simon added, “the only thing could be that big storm at the waxing moon. But didn’t do no damage or nothing, mercy be and thank the Lord.”

“Oh, right. That was just about the time Ezekiel….”

“Listen here,” interrupted the reporter, “I’m not here to ask you about the weather. Someone from the village called our station and said he’d seen some strange lights darting about in the sky before they landed somewhere around here. He said it was near Milner’s hut. Perhaps you know something about it?”

“Lights?” Simon stretched out his hands. “Did you see any sort of lights, Mum? Nope? You know, sir, we’d really like to help you, but ain’t nothing like that ever cropped up ‘round here.”

The reporter mumbled something between his clenched teeth and returned his contraption to his pocket. A forced smile emerged on his face as he apparently decided to set up a rapport with them, of whatever sort. He gazed on a wooden trough that was similar to those he’d likely seen at houses down in the village. However, the roof spout that should’ve been used to fill it with rainwater was lying idly on the ground.

“I see it must be somewhat difficult to earn a living here,” he said. “Down in the pub they told me you folks depend on the rain because you don’t even have access to a well, never mind running water. But I guess it rains plenty, no?”

“Yep… off and on,” murmured Simon hesitantly, “but sometimes it don’t. All depends on the mood God’s in, you know.”

“Well, you’ll have to fix up that pipe before the next rainfall.”

Simon sniffed and spat on the ground without answering. He didn’t like the man, though he couldn’t say why.

Simon’s mother said, “Would you want to come in, sir? We don’t hardly get any visitors, you know.”

The reporter hesitated but Simon ushered him towards the open door of the hut. “C’mon in, man. Mind the dog dirt. And watch yer head.”

The reporter bent under the low door frame, but stumbled over the raised threshold. He surveyed the inside of the hut, taking in the single large room with a two-level bunk next to the wall. In the corner was an old-fashioned stove, a hewn table with two stools in the centre, and some cups, pots and frying pans hanging on the walls. There were two old kerosene lamps on the shelves along the wall. His forehead creased when his gaze fell on the gleaming new chromium pipe leading to a tap. He shook his head, then turned to Simon.

“They told me in the village you had no electricity at all,” he said. “But I heard earlier the sound of a saw. How was it possible?”

Simon wiped his forehead with his sleeve without looking at the visitor. “I dunno ‘nothing what are you talking about.”

“Make yourself at home, sir,” said Simon’s mum, “I’m just going to get us some cider. The Lord granted us a good apple crop this year.”

The reporter extracted a handkerchief from a pocket and covered a perfectly clean stool with it before sitting down. He swirled the contents of his glass without trying the thick fluid at all.

“Are the two of you alone out here?” he asked.

“Of course not,” laughed the woman. “All told, there’s six of us in the family.”

“Ah,” said the guest, becoming animated. “Might I be able to talk with the other four, then?”

Simon looked at him with a smirk. “Try your luck, man. See if you can get a word out of ‘em.”

“You just leave that to me, lad,” replied the stranger and once again pulled out the black box from his pocket. “You just show me where they are.”

“Well, over there’s Isaac.” Simon pointed a dirty finger at the tabby that was basking in the sun on the window sill. “Melisa I’ve got tied up out there in the field. I put her post down in another spot each mornin’. I don’t see Melchior. Mum, do you know where he’s roamin’ today?”

The woman smiled happily. “Oh, you know him, Simon. He’s probably out chasin’ moles again. Yesterday he dug out a real big one. And Ezekiel’s down there, like always….”

The reporter’s jaw dropped. “Do you mean to say – if I understood correctly – that you’re going on about animals?”

The woman was visibly offended. She covered her mouth with her hand.

“Look here, man,” objected Simon decisively. “It ain’t like that. My dad had an accident in the wood but my mum and I ain’t alone since–no way.”

“You’re right, Simon,” agreed the woman. “You know, sir, these here are real members of our family, you can be sure of that. We get so much good things from them: Melisa gives us milk, Isaac chases the mice away, and you won’t find a better watchdog than Melchior come nightfall. And that’s not even to mention Ezekiel! He’s not so long with us and he’s already done so much good. I could tell you…”

“There’s no need to,” cut in the reporter dryly, and moved his fingers over the box, making it click. “I won’t detain you any longer.”

“But,” said the woman, “you haven’t even tried your cider!”

“And you ain’t spoken’ to Ezekiel yet, man,” added Simon. “I tell yuh, he’s the cleverest one of all. Take a walk with me down to the basement, if yer up to it. Ezekiel… well… you know, he never wants to come up here.”

“No, I’d rather not, thank you,” said the reporter sharply and removed himself from his stool. “I’ll have to be going now. My photographer’s waiting in the car and it’s getting damn late.”

As the reporter was leaving he seemed to recollect his earlier experience and carefully stepped over the high threshold–but he hit his head against the low frame. He swore quietly, wiped the sweat from his brow and walked across the yard. Simon trailed after him and overheard him speak to the man in the driver’s seat of the car.

“Such a long way to come,” he said, “and all for nothing. From now on I’m not going to be taken in by any asinine talk of UFO landings.”

“I agree,” said the driver. “Just send one of the junior guys out on these useless expeditions. Those guys are naïve enough to believe such stories.”


“Well, he’s gone,” said Simon’s mum gloomily. “And he didn’t want to try my cider.”

Simon wiped his nose with his sleeve. “City folk are so highfalutin, but they’re none too bright. You heard him, Mum: first he said he wanted to know all sorts of things, then he didn’t even want to see Ezekiel.”

“Well, he wouldn’t know how to talk to him anyways, Simon. You didn’t get it either for the longest time. It took you a while to figure out you don’t need to talk out loud to him.”

“Yeah, guess you’re right. In any case, now that I think of it, I don’t think Ezekiel would’ve wanted us to bring outside folk to him.”

“You’re darn right. You remember how he didn’t want you to show nobody that circular saw that he made for you, and how he wanted you just to run it at night?”

“I know, I know–my goof. But you also forgot to cover up the new tap Ezekiel done for us. But ain’t it better now that we’ve got this real well instead of that old trough? No more bein’ sparin’ with the water.”

Simon’s mum sat down beside him on the block of wood. They were peaceful for a while in their wordless understanding; only the distant sound of crickets interrupted the utter silence around them.

“Whaddya think, Simon,” she asked at last, “will Ezekiel be with us for long?”

Simon shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t think so, mum. This mornin’ I was down there again and he told me somethin’ – you know what I mean by that. He let me know his firepod is almost good and ready.”

“That storm must have been some ugly to him, eh?”

“Must have been, but our Wise Lord took mercy on him and steered him to our fields.”

“Yeah. But the Lord Almighty done took some mercy on us too when he sent Ezekiel here. He knew we’d shelter him right. Remember all the weird things he used to fix up that firepod of his, all that stuff he had you draggin’ out from town?”

“I sure do. But at least he always made me some money for payment after we explained to him that’s the only way around here. And there’ll be plenty of it left for when he’s gone.”

His mum’s voice was quiet, reflective. “It’s gonna be some boring without Ezekiel around, don’t you think? We’ve gotten used to there bein’ six of us in the family.”

Simon gazed silently ahead. After a while he started to shift anxiously.

“What’s eatin’ at ya, Simon?”

“Do you think we committed a sin by not tellin’ that reporter the truth about where Ezekiel’s from?”

His mother shook her head with conviction. “Why? The Lord done sent him to us, and this is a thing between Him and we.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 2, 2009 10:15 PM

    A story with built-in smiles. Thanks! 🙂

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