Little Muriom and the kind sea | Stavros Koutrakis

I translate a short story by the Samian γεωργός (home-scale grower of plants and animals), painter, sculptor, musician and author Stavros Koutrakis (who ‘d rather I don’t list all these qualifications, so please add “amateur” before them). The original was published in 2004 and I posted it here a few days ago, with the author’s permission, moved by the flee of refugees from the Middle East, the deaths of so many innocent in the Aegean sea. Then, earlier today, Paris was rattled in the name of Allah, allegedly to revenge the imperialist crimes in Syria. The military-political-economic aggression of the West and the regressive organizations in the Middle East and elsewhere that murder to “terrorize” are two sides of the same coin. Humanity should trash this coin decisively. 

Little Muriom and the kind sea | Stavros Koutrakis

Little Muriom fiercely scratched her elbow. Whatever bit her was very nasty! Yet after some considerable time had gone by she liked it. Her mother with some intuition covered the hand with a rag. They were rattled suddenly and she nestled up. “Don’t you worry”, she heard, “the sea is kind”.

Cuddled in the wide bosom, with the smell that calmed her down more vivid than before, she was holding steadily upon her own child, of plastic. “Don’t be afraid”, she whispered. “Can’t you hear mother? The sea is kind, my little one.” Nevertheless, she was trembling. Another abrupt swing. Then another one even stronger. She inserted her nails in the dress. Some very cold water drops wetted her forehead. She looked up and saw many stars that were moving like crazy. She felt a little dizzy.

At her neighbourhood there were also so many when it got dark. “When I learn how to count more than ten, one night, we will count them together” had promised Tarek-Asiz, her friend. “I know how many they are!” she had replied and he laughed and laughed. “What do you say! Next you will say you know the sea as well!”

Around their home, even around their village, sea was nowhere to be seen. Only dust and stones. Every time the large dark-green cars with the soldiers and their foul language passed by, all the surroundings would fill up from this dust and everything died. When they burried her father down inside the earth, this bothered her even more than the screaming of her mother; “Alas, disaster befell me! Allah is one!” She knew well what it meant to enter into your nose and stopping you from being able to breathe.

The only water around, a large well in the outskirts of the village. It also had a tree with a gigantic trunk but few branches. It was hard to find its shadow. Grandma said that once everyone would fit beneath it, but now…

Still, she knew the sea. For a long time her mother would talk to her about it. “You ‘ll see, the sea is kind. She is sooo big and we will make a nice trip together to find uncle ‘Hamed.  You will have from all the goods my flower. What they stole away from us and many more. The sea sings, did you know?” She knew. This and many more, real or not. She knew that it sips all the rivers and that’s why it’s big. That various Sevahs stroll on her, whom she swallows and then spits them out more handsome and wise. Full of bottles with messages. And the sun, every morning, with the sea takes the dust away from its eyes.

Her stomach squeezed suddenly. Now she was constantly moving and she didn’t like it at all. She felt terrible but didn’t speak. She held on her little doll and sang a brand new song to it. It was about the large feast they would organise for her friends when they returned. She sang and trembled like a fish and she was swallowing her seasickness from her empty stomach.

She recalled when they brought her two elder brothers. She only had time for a glance before they grabbed her away, but it was enough to fill with dry blood, pasted with dust. She vomited and Tarek-Asiz holded her hand and was saying in a singing tone “damn it, damn them” with other words, mixed. On the first opportunity she would write to him in a little piece of paper, small, beautiful, wavy letters. The ones she knew. How nice would it have been if he had come along on the trip to keep her company! It was very long and boring.

Night by night, sometimes on animals, other times on wrecked trucks and most of the time on foot, endless hours. She was bored and was wining, but her mother never disciplined her. In the end she despaired and stopped wining. She was following as she could, speechless, holding her doll hanging from the leg and only at times she would shed a tear without crying. During the day they were hiding in storerooms, darker than the night. Lucky she was that the dirty old man, at the beginning of the journey, gave her the doll. She had to care for it and this way time went by easier. “At home, you should know, I have a much better one than you. She stayed their to wait for me. I will call you…, Tamina! Do you like your name?” They didn’t let her to take with her nothing. Not even her beloved doll, not to take space. Anyways, she didn’t have other toys.

The children in the neighbourhood played with bullets and iron bars that the soldiers left behind. There was nothing else left any more. She wouldn’t go near those things. Some children had bleeded and one had been killed. Tarek-Asiz suffered a big wound in his hand and he was running like a beaten chicken, so funny, that little Muriom couldn’t stop laughing. A lot of time went by before he would speak to her again, and she waited another long period before replying back. Then, one day he went to her house with a bottle of a refreshing drink, to make up again their friendship.

“I am thirsty, Tarek-Asiz! My mouth has dried, my good friend!”. Her mouth, truly, was totally dehydrated. Perhaps by the fear. Her mother gave a wet cloth and caressed her cheek with a frozen hand. “Soon I will give you water, my dear one. Now it would disturb you. We ‘re almost there my flower. The lights can be seen at a distance. There, can you see them?” She left her briefly, as if to see them, she tried, but her condition worsened and she caddled up. She sucked on the cloth until it dried and she remained with it in the mouth.

Something hit the boat and shouts were heard. She went back to her doll. “Don’t be afraid,  dummy”, but it was her heart that was jumping. Her mother tightened up her grip on her. Now she could hear the grown ups shouting different things and in the end, always “Allah is one!”. She started sobbing. She tried not to, but she couldn’t avoid it. She couldn’t cry, like some women who did so loudly. The mother, in the trepidation, gave her a biscuit. “For your stomach, my flower, eat it, it will do you good. We ‘re almost there.” Biscuits like this one, they were giving her many in this trip. In the beginning she liked them and she ate many, but in the end she got tired of them. At home, she hadn’t had biscuits for a long time. And the foods had been few lately. Always the same ones, but they were thankful there was food. Her mother would chew on whatever left-overs, poor one. She had become very thin and old. But now, when they would arrive, they would eat until they were satisfied.

She put a piece in her mouth, but it was rubbed and stuck and it wouldn’t go down her throat. It was also salty. She tried to give it to her doll, but just then something happened. Pandemonium, the boat was tilted greatly, even more and lots of water came. She splashed in the dark without understanding what happened. “Muriooom, my flower!!!”, she hear her mother, like from far away and then nothing. “Mummyyy, don’t leave me!!!” she screamed once, paralysed from fear, but then she felt a knock and a strong pain in her head. “My good sea! Save me, my good sea! Mother! Tamina!” she cried and started to turn off.

She turned to the side, cuddled up, as if she was asleep in the torment. She brought closer her hands and feet and even the fingers of her feet and was drown, slowly – slowy, and then…!

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A milky light wounded her up and held her smoothly and a light blue ribbon touched her belly button. Her face turned more sweet, as if it was smiling and she put her thumb in her stome. Some iridescent bubbles came out of her lips and wondered in the reddish cloud in the direction they wished. Ploto and Kymodoke promptly arrived, on their dolphins, to pamper her with a song that doesn’t reach our ears. Wondering meteorites decorated bouquets of photons. Fed, polite seahorses protected her from predators and their Gods, as she was traveling for the dream that would revive the, lost in lies, truths. Then Nemesis would do her job rightly and little Muriom, embraced with the kind sea and her mother, would prepare the feast for her friends and for the other children on Earth, the deprived…

Lies!!! You hear me: Miserable lies! Nothing of all this, but just death, unworthy as life itself. Responsibilities, shadowy, supposedly inextricable and an ocean of sick foolishness. Oh, my unlucky little flower, you need not be unrooted as before, because you crawled alone your roots until you reached nowhere. Wrath and grief, but how can I mourn you as you deserve, that tomorrow’s little one comes and takes your place. Purposelessly the pen moves on the soul paper. Little Muriom was drown, gone!

Nikolas pulled up his boat the longline fishing. He looked at the fish in the basket and was pleased. Who would have thought that there would be such peace, after such a wild night! “Anyone who drowned, repented”, he spoke to himself and then, “Ah, the sea is kind.” He set to the port and didn’t even notice the platic doll, which was bathing nearby, on its back, naked, alone.

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