Māra Cielēna // Fairy Tales About Twosomes. Translated by Margita Gailitis.
-Fairy Tales About Twosomes. Translated by Margita Gailitis. Riga: ALI S (2003)
Applekin and Berry
At an air balloon festival, a balloon boy by the name of Applekin met a balloon girl who, in all her documents, was called Berry.
Both of them were about the same age and about the same height. Applekin was green. Berry was rosy.
Applekin was a local boy, while Berry’s country of birth was on the other side of the sea.
Applekin liked Berry from the first glance and, thank God, Berry also found Applekin very, very appealing. They spent the total festival week together, both on earth and in the sky.
But everything did not go absolutely smoothly.
During the trial de-mon-stra-tion Applekin de-mon-stra-ti-ve-ly sneaked by a self confident windbag around whose belly glittered a string of medals. This bloated belly was flying directly behind Berry and, as it seemed to Applekin, did not observe proper distance and, what’s more, was brazenly burbling something in Berry’s ear. It seemed to Applekin that such idiotic behaviour could ruin the whole performance! Applekin wanted to save what was still saveable, but – you guessed it – he got into trouble. The jury found that he, Applekin, and not the potbelly had been the disorderly one and gave the balloon boy a very low score.
But the jury evaluation could not darken Applekin’s bright state of mind. The feeling of injustice did not weigh heavy on Applekin, who, at the moment, was virtually in seventh heaven.
Of course, like every other decent balloon, Applekin carefully saved and analysed all the jury scores. He tried to learn not only from his experience but also the experience of others and anything else that would help him to get into the Guinness Book of Records.
But during this balloon festival week, Applekin decided that the Guinness Book could wait – there was something more important than making the record list. Namely – flying beside Berry was much more important.
Because then Applekin could show the lovely visitor his beautiful country.
Gliding beside Berry over woods, fields and cities, Applekin forgot to constantly think about the altitude, the wind velocity and the temperature. Flying with Berry he saw the red castle towers, the yellow haystacks and the dark green treetops of forests, it seemed, as if for the first time.
“Look, just look!” every now and then exclaiming in delight, the balloon boy pointed out something new to his friend after seeing something seemingly new himself.
Of course, at such moments, he couldn’t keep his distance. Obviously he needed to lean close to the balloon girl, Berry.
And once more Applekin lost points from the jury.
But who cared about points!
“Look, look!” Applekin called out in excitement. “These are our white storks! Look, look! And those – our green frogs! Look over there – there, do you see?!”
There was pride in his voice and his eyes shone with love.
His country was so green, so fresh, so full of life! Almost the same as a large, healthy air balloon! In all the gardens green little apples and rosy berries could be seen. All very much like healthy small air balloons!
Applekin sensed that Berry liked his country.
And for this reason alone he was ready to hug the balloon girl and propel her higher into the sky!
Throughout the festival days Applekin was as if intoxicated with joy. But the days came and went and the last night of the festival arrived.
After the closing ceremonies and the fireworks, all the balloons, the jury and onlookers had gone to bed and now were sound asleep.
Applekin and Berry, having sneaked away from their beds, once more rose into the air.
“How beautiful your country is!” Berry said to Applekin. And then she invited all those who, in the moonlight, silently and shyly stood stock still on the ground: “Come on! You, too, should rise up. Come and see from above how beautiful your country is!”
What a night it turned out to be! Many, so very many responded to Berry’s invitation. Soon over the clusters of sleeping houses and the treetops floated fluffy haystacks, chubby linden trees and apple trees full of fruit. Even small ponds, carried by whiffs of wind, climbed up into the sky like so many silver bubbles.
“How very lovely our country is!” they all had to admit, happily surprised. And they, too, invited those who still hesitated: “Come on, rise up! Join us up here!”
In the meantime, Applekin and Berry had landed in a small field and, leaning against each other, they sat in the midst of wild flowers.
“Tomorrow you’ll be taken away across the sea to your beautiful country,” Applekin said sadly. “Do you think we’ll ever meet again?”
“Surely there’ll be another festival somewhere,” Berry reassured him. “If we keep training hard, each on our own side of the sea, we’ll be able to take part in these competitions and, for sure, we’ll meet again.”
“I’ll train from morning till night,” Applekin promised. “I’ll save point after point and I won’t go near any other strange balloon girl so none of the coaches or juries can accuse me of anything. I promise I’ll always keep my distance.”
Berry pressed her rosy cheek against his and promised exactly the same.
The Rally Driver and Victoria
“Dad, tomorrow some men will come to get the car at around ten a.m.,” the man said one early evening to his father, the Rally Driver. “It finally has to be done.”
Yes, it had already been decided long ago. Finally their house had been renovated, the construction debris cleared away and the garden landscaped. The only thing that remained to be done was to tow away Victoria, the old rally car, that year after year had stood in a corner of the yard – without wheels, rusted and settled into the ground, grown into the grass.
The Driver had made an agreement with his son that, after everything had been renovated in the house and the garden, Victoria would be towed away to the car graveyard. The Driver was allowed to keep photographs of Victoria, the medals won in races and some spare parts for the car. (The son was absolutely certain that these would never be needed for another car; the father was convinced that the parts wouldn’t fit any other car.) It was a firm agreement.
Even though it was more than ten years since the Driver had not taken part in any races with Victoria and now didn’t even drive to the store with her, he still went to say good morning to her on waking and each night wished her good night, as he had done in the old days.
But the Driver did understand – Victoria did not in any way enhance the landscaped garden. The neighbourhood boys who, running by, often screamed out: “Dream machine! Dream machine!” did not mean it seriously. There was mockery in their screams, and the Driver’s grandson, hearing these screams, usually blushed and became angry. The times were past when the boy used to sit for days on end at the wheel of Victoria. Gone the days when his buddies begged and begged to allow them to drive a head–spinning turn around the track.
Now the grandson sat all day long at the computer and drove in much newer models of cars.
Late in the evening the Driver went out into the garden and stood beside Victoria. What a pity that the grandson had not opened the car doors for such a long time. They must be settled into the earth by now, the Driver thought. The man touched them gently – and, miracle of miracles – the door opened, almost by itself, as if warmly welcoming a visitor. Whether he wished it or not, he had to sit down at the wheel even though he hadn’t done this for more than ten years.
Unused for such a long time, the wheel and the pedals surely must be stuck, he thought to himself. But just after a brief moment, Victoria was racing along the street at a remarkable speed! At first, the man could only marvel and wonder how this could happen, but he didn’t have either the time or the inclination to do so. Given that he was sitting at the wheel, there were many things to be done instead. The Driver had always liked all these manoeuvres and he liked them now!
With delight, he drove, slowed down, speeded up, turned to the right, turned to the left, noted that the asphalt changed to gravel, saw the hill ahead, and wondered, God knows, what lay beyond it?...
Suddenly the Driver noticed that Victoria’s wheels were heroically struggling in yellow sand.
He lifted his head and looked around. Sand and more sand. A strange plant. An empty mineral water bottle. And again just sand. In the distance something that looked like a camel... No other cars... No, look! To the right there was a car! Not moving – probably abandoned. Then the Driver noticed a person standing in its shadow. Victoria stopped, it seemed, on her own. The Driver stepped out and hurried up to the stranger whose car had been vanquished by the tough desert racetrack.
This was no stranger! It was the Driver’s grandson!
“Give me something to drink, granddad!” the boy begged and the Driver, distraught, wanted to say that he hadn’t taken anything along because he had not planned to take part in a rally. He threw a despairing look back at Victoria, walked back, and without much hope, looked into the car – and immediately returned to his grandson with a cool, sparkling bottle of mineral water in his hand.
In one thirsty gulp the boy emptied almost half the bottle. He shook his head, blinked and exclaimed: “Let’s drive!” as he stepped into the Driver’s car.
The Driver sat down at the wheel. It was hard to start up the car in the yellow, deep sand, but he was an experienced driver and Victoria, showing great courage, didn’t let him down. Soon she again was racing at high speed.
Even though the car was clever, agile and resourceful, the Driver still had much to do. So many changes in road surfaces and scenery! So many totally unfamiliar racetracks en route! Moreover, all this did not happen with his grandson beside him! One moment, his grandson was sitting beside him, helping him to steer superbly when suddenly a new car appeared, run off the road and balancing precariously above a ravine on two wheels! The Driver just managed to stop Victoria at the very last moment! He ran up to the unfortunate car and – with great surprise and consternation – hanging onto one arm, pulled his grandson to safety!
Afterward, for some time, they both roared ahead in Victoria, until the Driver noticed that his grandson had again moved over to another car. The car had crashed again but the boy, thank God, was fine. There he was standing on a lonely safari road with a large lion running toward him.
In the morning, the neighbourhood boys, running by the Driver’s fence on their way to school, as usual, shouted: “Dream machine! Dream machine!” But then they instantly fell silent. The Driver’s son, who had come out in the yard, also fell silent.
Without saying a word, he turned, went back into the house and asked:
“Dad, where have you put it?”
The Driver and his son’s son were sitting in the kitchen eating a hearty breakfast.
“In a safe place,” he replied briefly and winked at his grandson.
“What safe place?” The son didn’t understand. Totally incredible! In the yard there were no traces of a car being lifted into a transport van, being towed away or dismantled...or burned...or buried underground...
In the place where it had stood stretched a neat green lawn.
“Dad where have you put it?” the son persisted.
“For a dream machine there will always be a place in dreams,” the father said smiling.
“Don’t play the fool!” the son exclaimed, but he didn’t have any more time to question his father because the men who were to have taken Victoria to the car graveyard had arrived.
The Driver and his grandson, eating fat sandwiches, looked out of the window gleefully, as the son, shrugging his shoulders, was pointing to the place where the car had sat for ten years and the men, smirking and shrugging their shoulders, were looking at the owner of the house.
In a bad temper, the son returned to the kitchen and only had a cup of lukewarm tea for breakfast. All day long he paced back and forth in the yard and the house – many times going into the garage and the shed, as well as climbing down into the basement and searching for God knows what in the attic. More often than usual, he knocked on the door of his father’s room, seemingly to ask something. But never again did he ask where his father had put the car. When his father was not present, then, however, he did ask the question –”Where has he put it?” – absolutely to everyone. And all the people gave some answer except his son, whose head usually was full of all sorts of spectacular ideas but who now behaved very strangely indeed, as if he had not heard the question. And when the neighbourhood boys, running past the fence, screamed out: “Dream machine!” and immediately stopped short, the boy no longer blushed nor did he get angry, but smiled mysteriously. But, of course, that really wasn’t an answer.
After a week had passed, the Driver’s son calmed down somewhat. It seemed to him that in the place where Victoria had stood, there now were more daisies than elsewhere and that they appeared brighter. And surprisingly, they seemed to grow in the shape of a car. Therefore, his dad must have buried the car there, the son decided.
However, for some strange and bewildering reason he stopped short of taking a shovel to make certain that this was really so.
Buzzella’s and Growler’s Holiday
One morning, Buzzella was in an extraordinarily good mood. She preened prettily, pinned white and yellow feathers wherever she could reach and headed for the store to buy some wafers.
Opening the door to the store, Buzzella happily greeted everyone:
“Good–morning one and all! It looks like a lovely day! Could I please have four packs of your tasty wafers?”
Behind the counter stood Curdlepot pouring cream into a glass jar. The ladle froze in his hand. Having said good morning in an almost inaudible voice, he handed the wafers to Buzzella. Buzzella paid and, wishing everyone a good day, turned to leave. But Curdlepot could not bear to let her go without comment. Leaning close to his customer, he excitedly asked:
“Ms. Buzzella! What’s happened? You’re in such a good mood today! Is there some trouble at home? Are you feeling sick?”
“Everything’s fine!” Buzzella replied happily. “I feel wonderful! I haven’t felt as good for a long time! I finally decided to stop this tiring ill temper and take a holiday. The last time I was in a good mood was eleven years ago, when I had just arrived in this world. All these years I couldn’t afford a good mood. This morning I understood that I couldn’t delay it any longer and had to take a holiday. I’ll be in a good mood all day. If anyone wants to join me – please do!”
Curdlepot only shook his head.
“What foolishness! Join her, my eye!” he said under his breath to Surly and Peeve, who were drinking bitter lukewarm coffee. “Let’s hope it all ends well... Haven’t we all heard where a good mood can lead!” Also in Mrs. Sourchurn’s small store, where Buzzella had turned in to buy lemonade, her invitation to spend the day in a good mood didn’t find any takers.
“She’ll struggle for an hour or so and then give up,” Mrs. Sourchurn predicted. And the regular customers of the store, Mrs. Fury–Owl and Mrs. Bawler eagerly agreed with her.
Buzzella did not listen to all this gossip. Having got the wafers and the lemonade, she left to meet her dearest friend Growler.
“Good morning, Growler! Listen to what I’ve got to say!” Buzzella spoke so brightly and clearly that Growler didn’t recognise his friend. “Let’s take a holiday today – let’s feel good!”
Growler was not at all ready to be in a good mood. Dear God, that was terribly unusual! Unexpected, exciting and worrisome! But Buzzella was his friend, so precious a friend that for her Growler was ready to exchange his life–long lousy mood for one day of a good mood!
And, for the sake of friendship, Growler did indeed do so.
They both headed out to the country.
While they still were walking through the city, Crybaby, Whiner, Burbler and Squeeler stood at their windows looking on. It was clearly written on their faces that they thought nothing good would come of Buzzella’s and Growler’s holiday.
While Whimperella, Grumbletta and Howlette sat at their telephones talking each other’s ears off approximately like this: “Nothing like this is possible here with us, dear. You’ll see – it’s not possible. Mark my words...”
In the meantime the two friends had reached the city limits in their good mood.
“Well, how do you feel?” Buzzella worriedly asked Growler: “Can you still stand it? Listen, if necessary –we’ll stop and rest! Let’s argue and sulk – and afterward we can again resume our happy mood and march on!”
But Growler persisted like a man – he was ashamed to admit that he had grown tired very quickly while he was in a good mood.
“Let’s go! Let’s go! I could be happy for two days more without having a break!” he bragged.
But Buzzella decided that they both needed to get some refreshments. She suggested to Growler that they should stop in the first field they would come to after leaving the city and have something to eat.
Wafers and lemonade in open and fresh air tasted fantastic, wonderful, even divine! It was a super, super snack! It did not even enter the friends’ minds to be grumpy and complain that the wafer filling tasted like strawberry soap and the lemonade, like lemon shampoo.
At the end of the meal not a crumb was left of the wafers and not a drop of lemonade remained.
It was an absolute miracle!
But Buzzella silently started to worry about what would happen later – their store of refreshments now having been exhausted...
“What will be, will be,” she decided. “Life itself will show us...”
Life itself showed them that refreshment equally as good as wafers and lemonade – if not better! –was the green of birches and the white of daisies, as well as the large stones.
Both the hikers no longer worried whether they had the usual lousy or the unusual good mood. They no longer thought that one of them was Buzzella, the other – Growler.
They simply walked and sang. They sang for the first time in their lives. And – thanks to the dear, dear green world! – they didn’t wonder at all how they knew how to warble and twitter so sweetly!
And now the most interesting part of this story.
Curdlepot and Mrs. Sourchurn, Surly and Peeve, Mrs. Fury–Owl and Mrs Bawler, Crybaby, Whiner, Burbler and Whimper and all the other city folk, who from curiosity had in silence followed Buzzella and Growler to see how far they would get in their good mood, they, too, forgot who they themselves where!
The green of the birch and the white of the daisies were so marvellous and filling a refreshment – that they even made those creatures feel good who had not decided to interrupt their long series of lousy days by having one lovely little holiday.
And all of them started to march and sing along with Buzzella and Growler.
Oh, lovely green world! Even though none of them had ever sung one note in their life, they all twittered like birds! The treetops bent and swung along in rhythm. The previously surly, peeved and pining voices echoed far and persuaded all the sobbers, complainers, pooh-poohers and gloom-sayers, one and all, who could be found on such a beautiful day to try having a good mood.
Translated by Margita Gailitis
© Māra Cielēna
© Margita Gailitis
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