With the half-forgotten taste of the mountain apple in my mouth and its mysterious scent in my nostrils I sat entranced by the fire, staring at the resinous, burning wood.
Besides us the docile water buffalo were chewing their cud. Wheels and chains around us, stars sitting at the tips of the flames and all around, the comforting sounds of the hens and chicks, as yet unsold by the woodcutters. Küçük Osman’s hands smelling of chicks and alıç apples. No wind in the still trees, and Şerif Ali telling this story:
‘We had lit fires, like we have tonight. I was Osman’s age. A tiny little thing. While I was giving the chaff to the water buffalo I lit a sneaky cigarette, one of my father’s and was puffing away on it.
I was far away from the fire and so was not afraid. My father wouldn’t be able to see me. But even so I didn’t neglect to take a glance,now and then, in my father’s direction.
All of a sudden there was a commotion in the circle around the fire. Everyone stood up. ‘Welcome, please sit down,’ they were saying.
I took three more quick draws on my cigarette and put it out.
When I reached the edge of the circle what did I see? A black-eyed, raven-haired woman. I swear to god my heart flew into my mouth. She was wearing culotte trousers and her hair was cut into a style. Her breasts were almost visible through the gap in her blouse and a light, a sort of luxuriant light appeared to be radiating from her body. Beside her sat an old man with wise and gentle eyes.
I looked at our lot. They were looking on in amazement. Some were standing, some were on their knees as if at the mosque and all were looking at one another.
Finally, the old man spoke, ‘My Aghas,‘ he said, ‘please excuse us. We come from Iraq. We will be staying in the town for a few days. As we were passing we saw your fires and like the look of them. We have come to sit with you.’
A few of our folk were able to say ‘Welcome, we are blessed by your coming.’
I crept slowly to sit by the woman. She smelled deliciously gorgeous. Her voice was like a tinkling stream. Her body was like the frothing waters of Tokuran mountain. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a few minutes of conversation they got up to leave.
Two nights later they returned. That night the girl told us about an enormous town. We had all heard the name of Istanbul but who from our town would have the fortune to go there?
The way she described it, I don’t know if it were truth or lie, Istanbul was a vast area, perhaps a thousand times bigger than, not just our village, but the local town.
There were people living there who earned one thousand lira per day. And others who could spend a thousand lira in a day. But there were the hungry too. There were even those who couldn’t find as much as dry bread. Then there were its mosques. One thousand times bigger than our village mosque.
The girl spoke in a voice like the ringing of a crystal glass. On and on like the chiming of a jingling bell around a sheep’s neck. And what other things she spoke of….’
Excerpt from short story, ‘The Woodcutters’, by Sait Faik
Translated by C.Stockford, 2016