Leloudas dress, by Zacharias Papantoniou
Leloudas dress, by Zacharias Papantoniou
Leloudas dress by Zacharias Papantoniou Nobody knows for what reason Lelouda was born deaf and mute. They cant be asked these things. Her cousin the priest scolds severely the indiscreet ones, that wish no matter what to know the reason why she is marked. The written of the Lord, he tells them, they are not for the humans to control, but only to suffer them. Silence! Today she is sixty years Lelouda and, as soon as they move our lips, she reads everything we want to say, even those we have not said. She sees gestures in our hand, in our eyebrows, on our backs, as soon as we move them and by the minimal contraction of our face she knows what happened in our soul, whether it was a shadow, sun, gentle rain or storm. The deaf people and the mute know these things. We however how can we know if she is sad or if she is glad Lelouda, since her face is always the same; Her eyes stare round and wide open, and her big smile, that begins from one ear and finish to the other, is fixed in her face since one time, that for the first and for the last time she smiled -who knows when. What great damage would be allegedly, if Lelouda could listen the voices of the people, and in what way would shatter the world order, if she could talk? But to ask to know it, says the priest, is like asking explanations from the Creator and like becoming in judges of his actions. Although he is the judge and we are being judged. Therefore nobody knows how Lelouda was born marked. And, once, that some woman said to another: Listen, could it be that they grabbed up side down the girl during the childbirth and they brought it marked? the priest resented and shouted at her: -But the Lord, you thoughtless woman, wouldnt he see and werent he be able to save the child if his wish was to be saved? Hush!
For five years already Lelouda serves the priest and his daughter. Her sisters, poor all together, in the village, they couldnt feed her, so expensive that it is lately the bread and the animals few. He did it therefore the priest the kindness to take his mute cousin as a servant. And since the moment that Lelouda works and people see her often on the street, nobody asks anymore why is she such as she is? they got used to it. Everything becomes accustomed! The trees throw their leaves and make other, the winters, follow the summers, the summers, (follow) the winters, and Lelouda goes up and down the wide wooden stair of the priest, almost the same hours, to perform the same tasks so regularly that a neighbor can asure from far away: There, now Lelouda will take the basin! Now will throw leftovers to the chickens! Now will drive off the dog! Now will take the large key to open the cellar, now the same as yesterday and the same as last year... One thing only Lelouda will never do - to rest. It is no fit to a mute the luxuries. What? To sit down and relex herself too for a minute, like the others, in order to look at the golden (flowers) and the purple flowers, the marigolds and the blue periwinkles that grow next to the zucchini and the corn in the garden? Such joys do not go with a mute.
In the villages nothing changes, except if it comes earthquake or cataclysm. Nevertheless, all of a sudden, without warning, something unbelievable happened in the life of Lelouda. She is making a new dress! They saw one day her older sister, the Mrs. Katigko, sitting on the loom. She was very serious the moment which she began to prepare it. Then she came near her little granddaughter and asked her: -Madam, is aunt Lelouda going to die? -Who told you that, girl? -Thats what they say when an old woman prepares her new dress. -You do not mess with these! Your aunt Lelouda is alive, girl, dont you see her coming? Lelouda arrived. She came to help with the loom. She sat near her beloved sister, on the soil, submerged in her old inflated dress. And her sister from the love that she feels for the mute, without having confessed it ever, she scolds her -allegedly- there, during the helping session: -Lelouda, the skein, look at it! -Lelouda, the thread, was cut! -Lelouda, the thread, grab it! -Lelouda, this! -Lelouda, that! Fast as the lightning she perceives the orders by Katigko the mute. She cuts, binds, corrects. They are preparing the cloth.
What the world is! She had barely manage Mrs. Katigko to throw the first lines, and the news were spread that it is being prepared new dress for Lelouda. By afternoon the neighborhood knew it. By night the village knew it. And the day after the news were riding above the fields and the dense vegetation. It kept walking! It reached up to the top up to the lentils, as far as the chickpeas, as far as the sheep! The sheepfolds, the mountain tops and the desolations talk about the dress of the mute. Poor Lelouda! Her last one! the villagers said shaking their heads. And as long as people walked by and saw Mrs. Katigko, serious and hard to talk, weaving at her yard, the rumours went around as well and traveled. Village women that met each other down the street, loaded with tree branches and spinning the rocket, found the time, hunched there under the load, to ask one another. -Listen, friend! Is Lelouda ready? -Its not painted yet (the dress) of the poor woman! Now it will enter the color. -And shall death wait, my friend, for old Lelouda to tog up; -Dont say that! She is sixty years old woman, what the demon! Could he be in such a harry? I say that he will let her dress herself. Its an old habit. Every woman, whoever she is, must have her dress prepared for the time of death. Even the poorest one. She is not deterred of course from putting it on sometime on a wedding or christening or great celebration. Its a must the last hour to find herself sharply dressed, so that, as she presents herself to the celebrations, to present herself also to the glory of god.
It was the eve of August fifteen, when it finished the dress. The old one had been holed. -Once youve made it, they told her, wont you put it on tomorrow, the official day, to go to worship? Lelouda shows her wide smile, from one ear to the other, and doesnt reply anything, but looks at the priest, to receive his advice. She rolls the eyes to the neighbors, she looks again at the priest. And the priest, that he realised, he beckoned to her from afar, waving encouragingly his head with the black cap and trembling the gray beard of his. -Yes, yes, yes, Lelouda... Put it on. However Lelouda thinks that is great sin to put on an all new dress, a thing she has never done, but one time, the last fifty years, when they both entered in the church with her sister Katigko and they sat together. And now what will they say the fellow villagers, when they see her suddenly dressed with the new cloths as if it happened to her some great fortune? As if she got married or as if she spoke? It seems that Lelouda smiles for real today that she thinks about it. What? She made the dress in order to wear it on? And then what does she have for the chest? -Ba! Ba! Ba! she said with her strange talking. And she looked around her, should they appear these things that he thought. Her sister nevertheless Katigko, a polymath and wise woman, has it for bad luck for the dress to be ready and it will not be dressed for a while, from here, to there. They say that this is no good. They have to say that, before it enters in the chest, the dress that its created for the glory of god must be put on and be walked for a moment. Katigko must be right. Thereupon, after she prepared everything, the blue dress, the cloak with the red edges, the snow-white shirt and the headscarf, after she dressed her up to try them on, she told her, always serious, being careful not to show anything from the love and nothing of her grief: - Listen, walk a couple steps outside, dressed up as you are! - Ba! Ba! made Lelouda frightened. - Till the house of the priest, hey you, no further! - Ba! Ba! - Its a bad luck, hey you, I tell you, to take them directly to the chest. Walk up to there, nobody is looking at you. The neighbourhood was desolate. The house of the priest was a few steps away. The mute obeyed to her older sister. What could she do? If reverence is obedient, love is even more. Dressed up like this she started. She walked heavily and hastily. She almost tripped. She walked and always looked right and left, to see if they watch her, as if she had stolen something.
There are some poplars near there, tall, thin, straight, - some poplars totally green and drink in the thundering water, that flows for the corn. Maybe it was the wind to blame, maybe the trees are acquainted with humans, the poplar trees began a quaver and a whisper with no end, as soon as Lelouda appeared. Abour her they must have been talking! On the desolate road was not heard nothing else, but the knocking sound of the new shoes of the mute on the pebbles. The village, mute, with some cockcrow or jingle of mule here and there, in one of its usual dead hours, with its big porches, empty, its doors like holes, with its fences that were blooming and its walls that were falling, it was submerged in labor and destiny, with no complaints for what has come and always ready for what has to come. Up there at the church the priest, having finished the evening mass, was sitting, as was his habit, under the thick and high yew of the round yard and at this hour he was talking with a cloud on fire, stopped under the hawk-mountain. For years, already, from the time that he lost two children of his and his woman, he sits at this hour and waits for the last clouds to light up, the ones that receive the greetings the set sun from the abyss, the golden, the red, the purple clouds, - Books that in the eyes of the priest they have written the will of God and hide the great angelic hymns of His glory. By listening heavy footsteps on the road, he turned and saw his cousin walking dressed up. He didnt wonder, he didnt move in dispair his head. He went back to the flaming clouds! But Katingo, that doesnt know how to read so high, Katingo had hidden behind the small window and looked in secret at her sister, as she walked. - Are you crying, hey you? her sister in law told her. Shame on you, Katingo! What are those things? - I am not crying at all. Katingo said. And covered with her apron her eyes.
Lelouda arrived at home, happy that nobody saw her. She undressed, she folded carefully the new ones, she put them in the chect with two apples and one quince and she closed it. They will not came out again from in there - but only one time. END