Levon KhechoyanIt rained two days ago; the morning sun erupted with a blinding flash of light. The intolerable light quickly dried the damp soil. Our neighbor Nersik was passed out drunk. No matter how much they called him, he didn’t get up. So we took his tractor out of his yard and left without him to cut the grass on the meadow by the lake.
One of the lakes was red, another was yellow, and the other one was blue.
We made four turns, and the cut grass stretched behind us. Samvel, sitting next to me, was blowing bubbles with his gum; again and again he twisted the gum under his front teeth, blew a bubble with his lips, and popped it. Then suddenly he fell out of the tractor’s cab and the rear wheel went over him. My father was on the mower. I saw my father’s swollen face first and stopped the car. We sat for one or two hours without speaking. Mice were scurrying near us. A nearby lark called out. Then my father said, “Go to the village and tell your mother to come.”
A bee had stung him under his eye, and the swelling on his face, which had turned blue, was so bad that it forced his eye closed. His nose and mouth made him look like someone had beaten him. He said, “In cases like this, police should not interfere. They would toss our neighbor Nersik, you, and me into prison. This is our business. Tell your mother to bring lunch and ask the neighbors if they have seen Samvel. Tell them, if they see Samvel, they should send him to the meadow by the lake.”
One of the lakes was red, another was yellow, and the other one was blue.
I stood up, started walking very quickly, and did not look back. A little light bird, smaller than my fist, escorted me to the village. It was attacking my legs in a rapid fashion, diving between my legs, hitting me, and then flying away quickly.
I opened the gate on the fence, and even though it creaked, my grandfather didn’t wake up. He was sitting on the stone next to the beehives. He was fixated on the steady buzzing of bees and the toxic aroma of their newly-made honey. So he didn’t notice me.
While my mother was making our lunch, I went to the village and ran from one street to the next, asking seven- and eight-year-olds and old people, “Have you seen Samvel?”
When I returned home, I saw that my mother had stacked some bread in a bundle. We took the bundle and left.
My grandfather was sitting on the stone next to the beehives. I approached him and touched his shoulder. His eyeball moved in its socket to look at me. I spoke to him louder than usual. “We cut the grass, so when Samvel comes home, send him to the meadow of the three lakes to help us.”
He listened to what I said and absent-mindedly stared at me.
I walked in front of my mother without stopping. As soon as we left the village and entered the meadow, that bird came by again, fluttered its wings, and attacked our legs. It would fly ahead of us, then come back, and disappear again. My mother said, “Don’t be afraid.”
I said, “Let’s sit a little. We’ll let it go, then continue.”
As I was sitting, she put her palm on my head. “Maybe when you were coming home, it escorted you; that is why you are scared. There is nothing to be afraid of. Ignore its ear-piercing screams; it is a common bird. It is hot now, and the ladybugs and midges are hiding under the leaves of the grass. When we walk, we touch the stems of the grass with our feet and make them fly. And the Turdus philomelos is making happy sounds, trying to hunt them to its fill. There is nothing symbolic to it; it is just a bird, and you don’t have to be afraid of it. It never leaves the meadow. It’s just doing what it typically does.”
I began walking quickly again, and the Turdus philomelos escorted us. From far away I noticed the three lakes, then my father. He was sitting in the same position.
One of the lakes was red, another was yellow, and the other one was blue.
My mother was talking in a monotone, saying that Yeprem’s son Sashik bought a house in Yerevan and that Yeva had taken a pitcher of yogurt at night to Mooghuch. Then we stopped and stood right on top of our two heavy, dark shadows, which were spread on the ground. My mother dropped the bundle; she did not cry. She tried to collect the bread into the bundle again, but it fell onto the ground and rolled away from her. As she gathered it, it slipped between her fingers and spread all over. Her eyes weren’t wet; she was not crying. Only her hair was turning wet. My father said, “Cry as much as you want, pull your hair out, scream, mourn, but don’t you make a sound at home. No one should know.”
My mother’s cry helped, so we cried, too. From the bee sting, my father’s injured eye was swollen closed, and when he cried, he looked like a beaten man. His cry sounded like a child’s. The blinding eruptions in the sky became even brighter. The shining blades of fire were burning us. From our tears we neither lost consciousness nor became sweated. We dug. It was already evening. My father and I separated the piles of grass into squares and ploughed. Later, we lined up the piles of grass in such a way that the meadow became flat and nothing looked suspicious.
As the sun was setting, my father climbed into the cab. He was way ahead of us. The mower was roaring terribly every time it touched the ground. Amid the sound of metal, the tractor returned to the village.
We walked on the path through the meadow. Upon hearing the noise from our feet, the bird that was hunting ladybugs and midges from the grass stems started to escort us again. From right and left, it was flapping its wings, approaching us, and flying away. Even when we were out of the meadow and approaching the village and my feet were on dry ground, it was still flying around us.
My mother came close and touched me with her shoulder. I noticed before, when we were on the way home, that one of her earrings was missing, but I didn’t want to tell her. When the bird flew by us very closely, my mother put her arm in mine. I felt a shiver in her arm. She was following the bird’s circles with her eyes. After working in the field at night, she always used to breathe heavily while she slept; tonight, when her shiver passed into me, my teeth started to chatter.
When we approached the village, it was not yet completely dark. There were reflections in the horse’s eyes. The bees were in the hives. My grandfather had woken up from his toxic stupor. He had tied the horse to the fence and was cleaning it. Each time he cleaned the horse’s hair with his brush, his hand shook; his whole body quivered. The three of us were able to see our faces in the horse’s big, black eyes; my mother’s earrings were missing.
She said, “Samvel isn’t back yet; your father went to find him.”
My mother and I went to look for my brother on the streets of the village, screaming, “Samvel, Samvel.”
None of the villagers knew his whereabouts. My burly uncles’ eyes were bloodshot, but with their masculine, deep voices and sweaty foreheads, they questioned everyone and barked out orders. Many people joined us and, until early morning, we searched for him with our lanterns in all manner of places, both likely ones and unlikely ones.
One of the shepherds, Avo, said, “I think I saw him.”
My mother asked, “Was he wearing a white button-down shirt? If he was wearing white, that means that’s Samvel.”
“He was fishing in the yellow river. And I thought, ‘Why did they live this thumbkin alone at the sea?’ Yes, I saw him from far away, but for sure he was wearing a white shirt.”
My uncles led us, their eyes completely red from the pressure. Using our lanterns to light our way, we approached the lake and divided into groups to look for my brother. With the crowd in the dark, we were yelling his name toward the lake.
At first, the water was up to my father’s knees, then up to his chest, then up to his throat. He was moving forward and yelling, moving forward and yelling. My mother was yelling from the back of the crowd. Her voice was different than the others. It sounded distinct, and maybe that was the reason why my father turned around and came back.
A button that covered my mother’s breasts was lost. I noticed it when we had started walking, but I didn’t want to say anything.
In the morning, Makar called in investigators from the region. The investigators turned the local club into an office and questioned many people. My two burly uncles stood guard at the door. They asked my father, “Do you have an enemy in the village?”
My uncles laughed, their eyes still bloodshot from the night before. The investigators asked, “Then why is your eye closed and all blue?”
With his eye, nose, and mouth all blue, my father looked like he had been beaten up. The expert who came with the investigators studied my father’s face and said, “Right, it is a bee sting.”
In their findings, they wrote that the boy drowned while fishing in the lake. They made my father sign the findings and left. The neighbor ladies came by to console my mother and said, “You never know, Samvel might suddenly appear from somewhere. He is a kid; he is probably lost somewhere. He might be sleeping under a leaf, or fell from a rock and was knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, he’ll come back.”
One of the lakes was red, another was yellow, and the other one was blue.

Translated by Dr. Lusine Mueller

Edited by Dr. Alfred Mueller

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