The bus jerked and jolted along the road, covered with holes and deep ruts, with no clear purpose. This produced vibrations, which made even the most sanguine passengers knit their brows in discontent. What one could see through the windows was just the mawkish greenish mud – the same type of mud distinctive for its impudence, permanency, and stubbornness in its relations with bus windows.
She was sitting at the fourth row on the bus, clutching her favourite Setter, wondering how much it had hurt when they had cut that vagabond’s ear.
They sat in a smoky restaurant. She was playing with the food in the plate, not because she wasn’t hungry – just the other way round, she was starving – but because she felt sick with what she was looking at. The young man was talking away, agitated, sawing the air to give greater authenticity to his story. But when he noticed her revulsion, he started and fell silent. A trickle of sticky mucus oozed from his ear. It had been cut in two and then the amputated half was botched to the other part, impatient to get its half back.
Did it hurt him?! Well, yeah, and terribly so, beyond description, beyond compare, beyond measure; a white pain – brandy and passion, rapture and nirvana for the sadist. Acute, maddening, deranging, hopeless… birth pains: his ear gave birth to a part of itself, cell division, plasma, mitochondria, membrane, leucocytes… a half of his ear was born and like every birth the process was painful. His ear cloned itself.
They say mothers are happy, no, but it was not before the two halves finally got together and were linked with a cord, that the receiving half quieted and stopped kicking and wailing robbed of its kidnapped mate.
She watched him with revulsion, but also with some mercy, even sorrow, which soon gained such extreme power that her brain produced a scene of soft all-penetrating sexual passion. There was something agitating in this dry lymph, which had stopped short half way down the lobe of his left ear; the stink of camphor and flavine was flowing into a cocktail of cigarette smoke and corporeal evaporations.
She had come here looking for her dog – at least that’s what she’d said. Some kind of Setter, black-and-white, English, with a brown leash with its name written on a medallion – the prize from a dog exhibition, Sofia 2002, she said. One of its ears had been cut away two years ago by some cruel, cold-blooded roaches, as she had called them, and one could still see the rim of her amateur intervention on it. Just like his ear. She herself had stitched it in a botched way. She had taken it home, wailing, trembling and embittered with the world, a Setter, branded with the scar of one-ear brutality and ferocity.
He was doing his best to assure her that the dog was going to turn up somehow, and when she least expects it. What had made her come to this town…
The night before they had phoned:
“Sista, your dog is in Harmanly, sista! Get da bus and we’ll bring it in hotel. Hasan’s gonna bring it to ya, but if ya just dare to come with no cash, we’ll bump it off, I promise ya! 20 levs, sista, and it’s yours. And sista, get a room in Hrebet hotel, 6th floor.”
She woke up startled. The voice of the boy in her dream was a lame fake of gypsy talk. Even so, she got on the bus to Harmanly and when just a few metres into the town she noticed the branded youth, she felt a lump in her throat. A glimpse was enough to know that her dog had been dead for a long time and now she faced its human reincarnation. She invited him to the restaurant by instinct. She was convinced that he knew something.
Alas, he didn’t make out a word of this mixed-up, a bit nutty girl. He had just kicked off the story of his ear with agitated gestures, for greater authenticity, when he noticed that she silently turned pale and her silence bore a feeling of passion… and this was what appealed to him. It was her, not him, who suggested they took a room in the Hrebet Hotel. How come she knew of that hotel, when she had never been here?
The morning rained down into the room on the 6th floor and lit up his face. His left ear had planted three beautiful drops of fresh blood on the pillow. And in his head a dream was taking place, a dream of a door, a knock, a running dog and a fair lady going away, which hurt in his slit ear – the price for her happiness.
She started when someone knocked at the door. She opened cautiously, there was no one; her nose sensed the familiar smell of dog hair. Down the corridor she could hear running steps, Setter’s steps, paw’s run, running paws, runner along the blade of dog freedom. Paws, hugs, the familiar tongue on her cheeks, a setter charm, loyalty and sad eyes, which only a dog is able to watch with.
The bus jerked and jolted along the road, covered with holes and deep ruts, with no clear purpose. This produced vibrations, which made even the most sanguine passengers knit their brows in discontent. What one could see through the windows was just the mawkish greenish mud – the same type of mud distinctive for its impudence, permanency, and stubbornness in its relations with bus windows. And at the back of the seat next to her one could see three drops of freshly dried blood.