The Garden

by Janis Einfelds

The golden time held sway in the garden, the brightest, the most elegant, the most fruitful. All living things and animals had their noses thrust straight up into the air, and price and obstinacy formed waves and stratums among societies, whose differences and colors couldn’t even be told. Too bad that they didn’t have a recorder of chronology. They hadn’t even learned to write, and had to exist with oral tradition. The tasting of pleasure had taken over each stomach, heart, soul, that dwelt within them like a brown, small, slippery seed or kernel, full of prussic acid. In all they could have several souls, and could busy themselves with these like ladies with fashionable hats.

You’ve already heard of root beds and vegetables, and they have taken up the place of the cream of the crop, recently being altogether pampered by Mother Earth, as well as having become wholly choosy.

Let’s look at a Sunday in the Golden Time. A country was found in the world, that we called a garden. It wasn’t a large piece of earth, completely autonomous from the city, as well as from deep forest. Every Sunday began with worship. No churches with crosses, but mole burrows and near them, fruit and vegetables boxes. The listeners sat upon these, carefully weighing every word of the preacher. The molehill is the chancel, from which the story is scattered eastward by a red, sweating pomegranate.

“And it was said that the huge nut, the brown coconut, was traded by one of the walnuts for a pair of seats in the palm tree boxes, where one could live as if in a theatre and watch the fleeing gazelles. Then, see, the walnut had handed over the big one. Of course, the walnut lost its mind, it hung itself from the palm like a villain and arrived in eternal hell. There was a place for it. The coconut was denounced as being in a conspiracy against the country, the proconsul was an apple and the king of the land — a fig. The coconut was rolled to the palm by stately but merciless bananas, behind them with curses on their lips followed mangoes, kiwi, grapes, peaches, apricots. They created an immense sand cloud. They came to the place where the sun gripped its zenith and three solitary, three damned palms grew. On the tallest a coco was nailed, on the smallest a banana, the middle one — a date. And then it grew dark. The sun didn’t have to look upon the misfortune of the chosen ones, and the coconut fell and burst, sweet milk poured out, sweeter than sleep. That milk, that sweetness belongs to you, my children, and the shards of the coconut also. Milk is blood, the shards — flesh. That was their doing!” The pomegranate interrupted the patter with a pointed jest.

The fruit in the boxes empathized, some wept. All of this history, the gloomy, terrible past and self-sacrifice, overreaching the force of nine bolts of lightning, were incomprehensible. The fruit tried to separate out the reason. The more thought given to it, the thinner faith became, fluttering.

“Take blood! You need it!” And the preacher slit his belly with a blade: out burst sour, red and juicy stones. “The east works anywhere, take the juice, it will make you strong!”

Usually this ended the Sunday morning worship, when the polished, just washed fruit sat in boxes. The edge of the box broke free, and the fruit scattered over the grass and hurried about its business, each to its own.

The stroll of the burghers followed. They were called by the Sunday sun. Then the garden market in the city park, and plants that called each other bourgeois. At the left side by a currant bush a wind orchestra of summer squashes had established itself, playing celebratory marches. Under the old apple tree stood a decorative sun umbrella, where a glass of blood was sold or a slice of humus cake. The burghers kept to themselves and walked with ladies of the same family. The apples were like nobility or like very noteworthy persons with ruddy cheeks and stems, over which were drawn cylinders or a straw hat. These they lifted constantly, upon meeting the other aristocrats of the garden.

The apples divided into species: Antonovka, Roseapple, Limpid, Pepini, Papple, of which the latter had a distinct relationship to pears. The promenade lasted from 11 o’clock to 12 noon. The pears had royal blood, because they had great self-esteem. The plums went in chattering flocks with their downy skins, if a plum turned out to be male, it shaved every morning, grazing its chin along thistle leaves. Currants followed in a line. There was a whole pension for them, at which four meals were served daily. The currants viewed works of art, like tree bark, like the fringes of flowers. Overall any newcomer to the currants’ pension became a snob, that’s why they were so sour.

Black currants occupied themselves with sports, they had a talent for this. They ran, jumped, boxed and played games with great absorption. Only the pumpkin was unmarried, it wiped off sweat with a beet leaf napkin and noisily gulped coffee. Many of the cherries formed pairs, the red lovers appeared only tightly holding hands, love was sacred to them, and they didn’t know divorce. The strawberries quarreled for political reasons, but there was no cause for quarrel, because there were no politics.

Thus it happened every Sunday. The fruit had forgotten its fathers’ blossoms, which, struggling with cold and frost, had created a garden. The fruit had forgotten its roots, which had labored for their sake, digging deep into earth and no longer able to see daylight. This couldn’t go on much longer, because prosperity sometimes spills away and rot is a natural state. Do you think that the blossoms took the scent of the fruit and the roots its strength? No, you’re wrong. The heirloom civilization was put an end to by a couple of starved mouths. Trees broke, blossoms were trampled, roots pulled out. Mouths ate hungrily, so that the cozy fruit shed tears, because the good days would never return. Pairs of cherries hid. But not for long, when the garden was completely plundered, some mouth found the cherries.

Mouth. Um!

Ciao golden time.

Mouth. Tfoo!

And the stone of a cherry escaped — small, sunny heart of the tree.

(translated by Inara Cedrins)

 


Janis Einfelds was born in Latvia in 1967, and is known for his unique, experimental prose. His novels include Moon Child, 1967; The Pig Book, 1996; and The Old Geezers, 1999. A collection of short stories, The Seller of Pornographic Images, was published in 2001, and Non-people, prose sketches, was published in 2005. A novel, The Prankster, was published in 2007. “The Garden” is an excerpt from his seventh book of prose, The Feast of Liars.

Inara Cedrins is an American artist, writer and translator who has lived in China, Nepal, and Latvia. Her translations have appeared in Source, Metamorphoses, Rhino, The Colorado Review, Absinthe, The Hamilton Stone Review, and online at Ars Interpres, Poetry Daily, Pedestal Magazine and The Kenyon Review, as well as in the anthologies The Baltic Quintet (Wolsak & Wynn, Canada, 2008), Eastern European Poetry (Greywolf Press, St. Paul, MN, 2008), and Against Agamemnon: War Poetry Anthology (WaterWood Press, 2009).