Fourth thread: My father drooled in the ash
Sitting on the threshold in the midday sun, they threw lentils in a bowl. The mother, alerted by their melody, picked out the pebbles, while she entertained her daughter with her tales:
His drool fell in the ash and drew mysterious patterns. Sometimes they were in the shape of a star, or smoke curls, or a bird’s entrails. I tried to read them, because he did not speak. He sat on a low stool, all day. My mother gave him simple tasks. Shelling beans, combing wool. He usually preferred to stay idle which caused his belly to be plump as a pumpkin. He did not recognize us. She told us that, young, he had been like the other fathers. Tsk tsk. My brothers and sisters believed her, but I didn’t blame her.
I did not mind that people made fun of our father. I liked staying home to watch him while Mama took care of the animals. I looked for the incense she bought from peddlers. It was hidden with her silver coins. You know, these fragrances we use to purify the house on holidays. I imitated the priestess when she officiates, inviting the divine spirits to descend on our house. The smell of the incense was so lovely, drifting through the room! My father got excited, he looked up, as if waiting for a goddess to appear. Are you hot, sweet girl? You should have told me, see how I interlace the fig leaves to fan you? I started to lift my arms to the skies, singing verses at the same time, and he imitated me, but without using words. I had to hold back from giggling. When Mama came home, she shouted:
– What are you doing? Do not be cruel to your father.
I burst out laughing. My mother calmed down, because he looked pleased. For once, he had risen from his seat, a glimmer had lit his eyes. Then he would give up, fall back on his stool, stare into the embers, and I would play with the kid goat instead.
At least my father didn’t beat his wife like the villagers. He didn’t forbid me anything. The old men on their bench said to me, a girl has to obey, a girl is silent, a girl looks down, do not behave as a wild beast. They probably quarrel with you too, they are worse than crows. Caw caw caw. When they had particularly exasperated me, I hid olive pits in their sandals and thistles in their clothes while they bathed. Then I waited behind a bush for them to come out of the water. They fumed as they put on their sandals and clothing, because they knew I had done it. They shouted:
– Damn child, accursed child, wait until we catch you!
But I was already far.
The mother had stopped working, her eyes lost on the hills behind the village, but the little girl kept at her task, bent over the bowl, lentils after lentils, pebbles after pebbles.