David MuradyanThe short-size girl was standing on a small chair and she was taking the toys off the Christmas tree, trying not to drop them. The tree needles were falling down. The old woman was picking the faded cotton pieces up and putting them into a bucket.

“Is your Christmas tree standing yet?” asked Parandzem.

“Yes, it is,” said Karo.

Parandzem weighed the bag full of sugar and stretched the bag to Karo. The girl got off the small chair, patted the needles off from her sleeves, stepped back for a few paces and said:

“We have to take the nails out yet.”

“Haven’t you broken a toy?” asked Parandzem.

“No,” said the girl.

“What a pity! You’d better broke one at least.”

“Why?” said Karo.

“It would’ve been a good omen if she did,” said Parandzem.

Karo smiled. Years ago, when he was still young, he would go into the shop on his way home from school and buy a bun with raisins. The sales woman was the same old woman, Parandzem.

Father would give him a twenty kopek coin a day to have breakfast at the school buffet, but Karo preferred to go to the shop after the lessons. That was more serious; that was a thing a grownup would do. He would eat it until he got home, poking the bun with his inky fingers and taking the rare raisins out of it.

Karo went to the other part of the shop for he had to buy a packet of cigarettes. The old woman passed Karo with the bucket in her hand, and the buyers crowded before the cash desk were patiently waiting for the girl. It seemed the girl was a new cashier, for when he was there a week ago an aged and thin woman with a pockmarked face had been sitting there at the cash desk.

“Oh, I’m coming, just a moment,” said the girl to them.

Karo bought the cigarettes and, when he was about to go out, he turned round and had a look at the Christmas tree. The poor tree was standing in a corner of the shop, like an old beggar musician in the street who was shivering with cold recalling his glorious past and finding no comfort.

He smiled again. His head ached.

“I should go and have a sleep,” he said to himself, “I’m too tired.”
The girl came back to her place and the cash machine began to sing cheerfully. She thought that there would be a break in ten minutes or so and Parandzem would tell her fortune by coffee grounds. It had been only a week she was working there and they all in the shop told that Parandzem was a very good fortune teller, just a wizard who sold sugar and marmalade.

The newspaper stall was there on the front pavement. Karo crossed the empty street and went up the stall. It was cold and there was no snow there. No winter had been so stingy. He would wake up every morning with a hope he would see the roof of the boiler house and the dwarf apple trees and the old asphalt street covered with snow, but the mornings would come and go and nothing would change.

“Oh, it’s you,” murmured the newspaper seller, opening his eyes, “you want your Weekly, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Karo. “How’re you doing?”

“Eh, shivering with cold,” complained Enoch. “It was a bad Christmas for me this year.”
His head disappeared for a moment – it seemed the paper was hidden somewhere in a far corner there, then he appeared again.

“It’s the last one. I kept it for you.”

“Thanks,” smiled Karo. “Sorry, I woke you up.”

“Oh, no, I wasn’t asleep; just dozing,” said Enoch waving his hand. “Once you go, I’ll doze off again.”

“Then, see you later,” said Karo putting the paper into his pocket, and added, not knowing why, “do you have colourful dreams?”

“Colourful?” Enoch was surprised

The Girl served the last customer and delightedly yawned. Then she turned round and looked through the glass wall.

The wall glass was sweated and she stretched her hand and wiped the vapour off and saw the empty unpleasant winter street, the trees with their blackened branches, the newspaper stall on the opposite pavement and the young man that had bought sugar a little while before who was probably talking to the paper seller over there.

“A nice boy,” thought she, “though very gloomy. Probably he sits up late to study for his doctorate courses.”

A new customer came up.

“Mother Parandzem, shall we shut the door,” called the girl.

“Be patient, can’t you? There’re still eight minutes left there,” said Parandzem.

“Yes, colourful,” repeated Karo.

“No,” said Enoch nodding his head negatively and smiling. “Can there be such dreams?”

“They say there can be,” shrugged his shoulders Karo.

“So you haven’t had any yourself?”

“No. I don’t remember, anyhow.”

“That’s a lie, for sure.”

“Who knows?” smiled Karo.

“Oh, yes, that is,” said Enoch.

They said nothing for a while, and then Karo said: “Well, see you later.”

“See you later,” said Enoch.


When he got to their yard, he saw the children were piling some broken wooden boxes in the middle of the yard. Artac’s cap with fringes was seen now and then among the children. Karo called to his brother, but Artac didn’t hear him. Karo called him more loudly, and when the boy ran up to him, Karo said:

“What’re you doing?”

“Making a fire,” said Artac. His lips were blue with cold and the cap had slipped to his neck and it was just a wonder it wasn’t falling off.

“Now you bright boy, who’s given you matches?”

“I haven’t got any,” said Artac timidly.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Karo. “Children mustn’t play with fire!”

Artac got very upset.

“He’s like a girl,” thought Karo with passion. “He is just about to cry when you say something touchy.” He straightened Artac’s cap and then put his scarf under the coat for it had come out.

“Aren’t you coming, Artac,” called his friends.

“No, he isn’t,” answered Karo, then he took his brother’s hand and led him. Artac was silent. They climbed up the third floor silently and Karo began to look for the key, and the girl shut the heavy doors of the shop and locked them.

“That’s it,” said she. “We’ve got an hour to take breath.” She went to wash her face. The water was cold. The girl quickly rubbed her hands with soap, washed and dried them, and suddenly the bright green sea appeared before her eyes again, as large as despair and as endless as hope, and she saw the beach where there was nobody except her and the flock of snow-white seagulls, she was running along the coast, waving her arms and crying something after the seagulls, or was she vainly trying to catch up with them?

She smiled, but then got sad, for since morning it had been seeming to her that she must have had the same dream once more, the same green-white-green dream, the same waves that would rush up and then cunningly retreat away, the same hundreds of seagulls, and she; again she, who was vainly crying for them or trying to fly and catch up with them.

“Can’t the same dream repeat itself once more?” she thought. May be dreams can recur. It’s the things in life that take place only once?”

She went away from the basin and decided to ask Parandzem about it. She might tell dreams also, mightn’t she?
Karo had made coffee and was having it, sitting on the sofa. The headache seemed to weaken. Artac was sitting on the window sill. He had pressed his forehead to the window and was looking out of it.

“Have you done your lessons?” asked Karo.

“Yeah,” said Artac.

“Did you do your math problem on your own?”

“There wasn’t any this time.”

“Shall we take the Christmas tree away?” offered Karo.

“No. Let it stay there a bit more,” said Artac without turning his head.

“I wonder who still has a Christmas tree left there at his home,” thought Karo. “It’s almost half of January. And he recalled that he used to love the Christmas tree stay there when he was as young as Artac, and the tree would stay there up to thirteenth of January, the Christmas according to the old calendar, until its branches got dried up and hang down and the toys slided down.

“Did you break any?”


“What a pity!”


“You’d better did. It would’ve been a good omen if you did.”

He drank his coffee up, and then got up, and it seemed to him that he was Artac, or rather Artac was Karo, sitting there on the window sill and taking his knees into his arms and watching the mountains. It seemed to him that the many-store building hadn’t been built yet, and the mountains in front of them that were arranged side by side like amethyst beads far away in the horizon would change their colour and lines all the time, becoming transparent like smoke curls now, and then violet coloured, then grey coloured, all the time having another colour and never repeating.

“Hand your cup to me,” said Parandzem.

The girl gave the cup. Parandzem straightened her eye-glasses and turned to the light. The girl was waiting. It didn’t interest her already, what Parandzem would read in the dried ornaments of the coffee grounds in her cup there. Parandzem didn’t hurry. She, the woman who sold sugar and marmalade, was also a wizard that could see all the secrets of the human soul and for whom fate had got no puzzles.
Karo was at the window now. The many-store building hid the horizon. There was no snow on the boiler-house roof and the branches of the medium size apple trees. And he suddenly gathered that Artac had never seen the changing colours and he didn’t know that the humped clouds had been always coming and running into mountain tops and stopping there before night. He had seen only the bed sheets hung over there from the front balconies.

“You’ve got some troubles,” foretold Parandzem, “but you’ll get news from two or three time sections and your troubles will disappear.

“When are you going away on your business?” asked Artac.

“Next month, may be.”

“Can’t you stay home?”

“No, I can’t,” said Karo. When he was back home yesterday, Artac was asleep already. And when he woke up today, Artac had already gone to school.

“Mother said you’re going to get into a trouble, some day.”

“It always seems to mothers we’re in danger.”

“Is it true that people die when the gas explodes?”

“Very rarely, once in thousand times.” Karo was surprised. Artac had never been so talkative. Not to him. “We usually can prevent accident situations.”

“Then how and why does it explode?”

“There can be a channel choking or a gas leak,” explained Karo.

“Mother said you never take care of yourself. She said they burden all heavy tasks upon your shoulders, and they keep the sanatorium vouchers for themselves.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter.”

“Is travelling nice?” asked Artac.

“There’s nothing better,” said Karo.

The girl was deep in her thoughts. Parandzem was talking for a long while, but she was not listening, only nodding as if she were listening carefully.

“Oh, no, I won’t tell Parandzem my dream,” thought she. “She’ll begin the same long fairy tales. And my dream is my secret, my other life.” And she thought of the sea though she had never seen a real sea; and of the seagulls and she believed that her dream had been telling good things. “Let it be,” thought she, “let life be like good dreams.” And she was surprised at herself, at her strange thoughts, at her naïve desires and she again felt the old and well known fear:

“I don’t feel getting a grown up. Aren’t I going always to stay a child within myself, or are they all children within themselves? Once and forever!”

“I’m going to be a traveller,” said Artac

Karo was about to say that there isn’t such profession but he didn’t. And he was delighted that he didn’t. Artac got off the window sill and went to the kitchen. Karo lit a cigarette. Then he remembered he wanted to go to bed. “Well, I won’t go to bed.” The smoke curls were running into the glass and then going up. Karo was home. The work was accepted. That was the third gas accident on the channel. They hadn’t managed to repair the damages in time for three times but now they had done with them at last. They weren’t guilty anyhow, the damages were bad, and there had been a terrible frost there, and a stormy wind. And the suppliers wouldn’t do their job properly, neither.
The girl was washing the cups. A few people were already waiting at the shop door. She would sit at her place before the cash machine with her back to the half transparent glass wall. The winter street was there behind the wall, and the newspaper stall on the front pavement. The girl suddenly remembered the young man that had bought sugar and was talking to the stall seller. She remembered his grave or may be tired face.

“Doesn’t he have any good dreams at all?” thought she smiling, “good and colourful dreams?”

Translated by Meruzhan Harutyunyan

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