Concerto (with subtitles)

Zsófia Bán
Translated by Erika Mihálycsa


Wind's serene whisper, insects' hum, rustle of leaves.

We press our tender flesh against the summer vibration. The wind licks our navel round and round, windlick, moths tickle the fluff on our arms, mothkiss-swish, ladybirds nest in our ginger and black hair, wingwhirr. Besides, moles sniff our scented toes, curious quick snuff. Fawns watch our unfettered romping from close by, hoofs' slender whisk. Our thin city-bred bodies are aquiver with this unusual freedom. My beautiful black-maned sister is prancing in the field like an untethered colt, whooping. We have all the summer before us. I can barely keep up with her romping, I flounce around on my spindly crane legs, panting, grassleaves' crackle. My sister proudly shows the blackbirds and hares how beautifully her breasts are already arching under her dress. Within one year she turned thirteen. I am only nine, and time is not passing any quicker for my sake. It flows in its own riverbed slowly, saunteringly.

Our kingdom for the summer, the village on the border and its environs, is at the height of its splendor. The valley is abuzz, buzzing, the rippling creek purls, rippling purl, the hot, dense air is aquiver and in the glaring light a trembling mirage can be half-glimpsed on the old country road's broken asphalt. Our first destination is Uncle Pirka, the bee-keeper. Armed with gloves and helmets like medieval knights, we are allowed to let the bees settle on us. The experience is of fear and bliss, attraction and repulsion. I know of nothing that could match this sensation. Loud humming, quick heart-thumps, puffing. Uncle Pirka watches us and smiles; we stand in front of the bee-hives like small statues with mobile surfaces. Two honeyed and hived children. That's the way, my little darlings, greet the small friends, this year too they are awfully thrifty, there'll be plenty of goodies to trickle on the bread-and-butter. Bring your mother some to sweeten her life! Uncle Pirka winks with his friendly eyes, his mouth is moving. Gradually intensifying humming. We call at Aunt Teri's for Vulkán. Vulkán will be our dog until the autumn. The big, shaggy white sheepdog greets us enthusiastically, barking, yapping, puffing. He can't get enough of us, keeps jumping up on us and licking, smack, our faces. No, Vulkán, no! My sister tries to disengage herself from the dog's embrace, laughing. When I am excited, huge, telling crimson blossoms of fever appear on my cheeks—this is sometimes embarrassing because I can barely hide my feelings. My face must be almost as red now as my hair. I keep patting Vulkán's neck, scratching his ear, I bury my face in his shaggy fur. My sister is talking to him. Come, Vulkán, let's go to the river. We go on yet another first visit.

At the river we perform a secret rite that recurs every year: while Vulkán is running hither and thither on the bottom of the steep slope, yelp yelp, flurrying of wet sand, we slowly wade into the water with our shoes on, water splashing, then dare ever deeper, letting the water cover our clothes and our whole body, riversounds. First our socks and shoes get soaked, then the bottoms of our skirts, their hems, then the short sleeves of our shirts and only when both of us are standing up to our necks in water—I lagging behind a bit, as I am a bit shorter—do we turn back. The immersion is top secret and strictly forbidden: Mother wouldn't let us go this deep into the river. Even if it is not some big river, and its currents are slow and sleepy. The fact that it is forbidden only makes it appear more valuable to us, it demands even greater secretiveness, even greater togetherness. Two summers passed since our blood contract: Under no circumstances would we reveal our secret to anyone, two blood-striped palms clap together. Our witness had been Vulkán, the dog. Once out of the water, there is the closing ritual to be performed: We carefully take off our shoes and check what we have caught. We call it fortune telling from shoes, from it we try to read what the summer will bring us. My sandals have only fished a bit of weed and the burnt end of a small twig. My sister has a more interesting catch, the shell of a broken bird's egg. And a bit of mud. We discuss this at length, but can't reach a final resolution. We set out for our next stop, the hunting blind on the edge of the field: our own two-storey bungalow with magnificent view. Our wet clothes stick to our bodies as we walk, the hot sun is drying them with every step, shoes shuffling. The hunting blind is very close to the southern border, snail-gatherers often stray over from the other side. I don't like snails. Slugs make me positively shudder.

Vulkán bolts ahead, stops and looks back to check if we are following. Then sprints back as if inviting us to run with him hither and thither, inviting bark. My sister doesn't let herself be shepherded. She is striding at ease, eyeing our kingdom that we haven't seen for a whole year. She tastes the sweet, ripe blackberries that melt in the mouth, squelch, listens to the shrill call of pheasants nesting nearby, pheasants' call, shading her eyes with her palm she inspects from afar how much the firtrees planted along the edge of the field to block the wind have grown in a year and remarks with apparent satisfaction that this summer is going to surpass even the last one in unforeseen delights. But I can't resist Vulkán's urging and enthusiastically lope with him towards the hunting blind, my red hair fluttering freely, aveil like a flag. Happy sounds come up from my throat, throaty sounds, I revel in the silky summer.

Having reached the field's edge, Vulkán dashes into the patch of wood, twigs' cracks, where we usually go round on our way to the hunting blind. It would be enough to continue along the field's edge, the blind is on the edge guarding, as it were, the small border between the field and the wood. But running there directly would be much too purposeful and not adventurous enough. I know all too well where Vulkán is going: to the small creek that flows not far from the beechwood's end. I run after the big dog galloping like a racehorse to the finish line, puff pant. Reaching the narrow creek, Vulkán easily jumps it and while he is waiting for me he laps the water thirstily, loud laplap. I get there, make a dash for the other side as I used to, but slip on a wet stone and sprain my ankle, inarticulate cry. I collapse on the creekside and massage my aching ankle. Vulkán rushes back to me, good doggie, and starts barking loud, loud barks, he signals to my sister something is wrong, she should hurry up. She shows up from her sauntering reverie some ten minutes later: She heard nothing. She inspects my rapidly swelling ankle and because we are not far from the hunting blind now, proposes that we stumble there so I can rest while she goes for help, to find somebody who can take me back into the village. I lock my arm around her waist and, with the face of a martyr, make painstaking progress hopping on one foot. My cheeks are burning with the effort. At a snail's pace we finally reach the hunting blind. I drag myself up and lie down exhausted on the rough planks. Vulkán, stay here to watch over her until I'm back, do you understand? With this she leaves.

My wet socks feel like a poultice on my sore ankle. Low sigh. But before long not only my socks but all my clothes get dry, my shoes that I have taken off are ready for the road. When my sister left the sun was still high up in the sky, every leaf was vibrating by itself, distinctly in the glaring light, sounds of past vibration. But now the sun has nearly set. I decide to not wait any more but go to find her. Carefully I climb down the humped steps and together with Vulkán, who has been patiently waiting all this time, start in the direction where I have last seen the glistening black mane from the blind. One blackberry bush, one slight bend of the path, and it was gone. I make slow progress along the path on the field's edge, as if treading on eggs, sound of slogging steps. A warm evening breeze caresses the sweat drops from my forehead. Murmur of sunsetting field. The trees cast an oblique shadow, soon dark will fall. At once Vulkán, off like a shot, dashes ahead and disappears behind the distant bend with shrub growth, whizz. Puzzled, I look after him, has he gone mad? I stagger slowly, diligently, perseveringly on the rugged, dusty path. Barking from afar. The shades are getting more elongated, more splintered, the horizon turns magenta. Typical sounds of turning magenta. At last I reach the curve with the shrubs. Intensifying barking. One shoe under a blackberry bush. Catching for breath. I know this shoe very well, it was promised to me for next summer when I'll grow into it. A beautiful, blue sandal with a strap. I part the branches and go into the thick undergrowth. Boughs' crack, whisking of leaves, frantic barking. I look around, unsure, and start left where the thicket seems to thin out a bit. My decision proves correct, on a bough I spot my sister's torn blue worsted shirt hanging. It goes well with the blue sandals. Going on, I find the other shoe and a soiled white rag. I come up to a bulky, leafy bough, pull it aside. Sounds of moaning mixed with barking. On the ground covered in thick undergrowth, bare from the waist up, my sister is lying. Her skirt is ripped, blood trickles down her smeary thigh, bloodstrip's painstaking swosh. Vulkán is rapidly barking at her head and licking her face, smack smack. I sit down on the ground by her side and pull her head into my lap. Now I am the one who looks after her.

'Look, the little redhead! Next year we'll get this one, no use now, no tits on her yet.'

'Sssst, she'll hear us.'

'You eejit. How could she hear when she's dumb.'

'So much the better, at least she won't yammer like the big sister. Enough snails there?'

'Sure, we've not come in vain today. If this big whore of a dog gets closer, I'll give him a kick that'll put him out of his misery. Let's go.'

Dark falls. My face is aflame. Sound of cicadas, crickets, insects. Music.




WHAT IS a dominant and a subdominant?

WHAT IS the meaning of allegro, ma non troppo?

And HOW DO WE KNOW if the allegro is already troppo?



*All images by Ágnes Eperjesi.