Dedicated to the twenty-fifth anniversary
of Kazakh SSR
The sun has just risen from the “tent of the red day-dawns” , and the sky was clear and transparent like tea. Little black point was seen close to the faraway passage. It was little caravan of Oljabek. Although the caravan was moving not very fast, it appeared to be rushing forward swiftly in the shroud of haze.
Oljabek with his wife and child have started a journey, when it scarcely began to dawn, and now they’ve already crossed Sary-Adyr. The lake Kuraily laid in front of them shining in the sun like a mirror.
“Should we have a look, what is here? Or is it better to pass it by?” Oljabek muttered in a thoughtful mood, looking towards the lake.
Although Kuraily was located on the territory of a strange district, and the distance of 40 kilometers separated them from the kolkhoz “Yklas”, Oljabek was careful and cautious. But his wife Jamal didn’t like it.
“So? Are we going to continue hiding from people?” she said.
“What if somebody would find fault with us?..”
“Who knows us here?”
Oljabek was close to leave the big road, leading from Sary-Adyr to the lake, and has almost turned to the small path, but then rode to the road again, convinced by his wife.
“There we go!” she though gladly. “Maybe we will find an appropriate place to stop here…”
Oljabek hasn’t looked back and hasn’t replied. Maybe he has nodded with acceptance, or it just seemed like that, but Jamal has seen clearly, how the tail of his tymak has stirred lightly.
Almost ten years they have spent together, but they couldn’t say though, that they know all the secrets of their souls. Other’s soul is deep! No matter how deep are you diving, you won’t see all the hidden nooks of it. Even flushed with love newly wedded couples hide somewhere deep in their souls uncovered secrets, though it doesn’t hinder sincerity of their love.
If you will try to explore the soul chambers of Jamal, you will see that the image of her beloved husband Oljabek is there on the first place, shining like a diamond. Yet Jamal still has some secrets of secrets, hidden far and deep from the sight of her adored husband. There are though only old and innocent maiden secrets, so it’s needless to say about them! Oljabek has his own thoughts and secrets as well, hidden deep in his soul, but it doesn’t prevent them walk the life path together, hand in hand…
Oljabek didn’t reply Jamal. The movements of the tail of his tymak suggested Jamal some guesses, but she hasn’t expressed them, and the couple continued its way in silence.
The plowmen on the banks of the Kuraily Lake have been waiting until the soil will fade after yesterday’s rain, thus they’ve arrived later than usually. They have been moving slowly. Some of them were riding oxen, other ones with horses or with camels, and some of them have yoked the ox together with the horse or the camel together with the cow. Oljabek and Jamal have been following and observing them sidewise, listening to the noise of the waking aul .
“Hey, don’t forget the sharpener!”
“Whoa! Stop! Jerk the girth!”
“Our neighbors are furrowing already, and we are still girthing!”
“Maulekey! Hey, wake up, Maulekey!..”
“They are plowing during so many days already, and still screaming and bustling about it,” Oljabek thought, observing the plowing people continuously and gloomily.
“It’s no go by them”, muttered he. “There’s neither rhyme nor reason in their work!”
The plowmen spanned the horse with the camel and the ox with the cow, have just got down the plowshares of their ploughs and have been carried on making the first furrows. As Oljabek has pulled level with them, he’s stopped suddenly and started to view and examine the strange rigs.
“Well, pray tell, how could this cow calve now? What a sin! They’ll just ruin the cattle!” he thought sorrowful.
“Hey, dzhigit ! Farewell!” the plowman with the tiny and small beard shouted.
Oljabek suddenly recollected that he hasn’t greeted first the elder man.
“Hello!” Oljabek called out willing to correct his mistake.
Jamal snorted decently, sitting on a camel, and faced away. The plowman smiled.
“That’s what it is! It seems you are younger than me, my dear,” he said, craning his long neck and referred to Jamal: “Hello, daughter! Where are you from? I cannot recall your face,” he said, addressing Oljabek again.
Oljabek said no word about him, but managed to find out everything about the old man. His companion appeared to be a grinder from the neighboring village. He willingly and gladly told everything about the local affairs. He inquired insistently:
“So, you are working for kolkhoz, aren’t you, old man?”
“Yes, my dear, we took it up all together, God help us!”
“That means that everybody joined kolkhoz here”.
“How could it be without kolkhoz nowadays? Or maybe not everybody has decided about it over in your place?”
“No, not even close. They say, folks far and wide agreed to join the kolkhoz,” Oljabek fell silent for a moment. “Anyway, old man, it might have been a nail bitter to give your cattle with your own hands to the kolkhoz. You earned it indeed by sweat of your brow! One takes care of himself and his own family. Charity begins at home, people said in times of old”.
“Oh no! How can you compare the old times with the present day! You should not be behindhand with the world”.
Oljabek didn’t chat for a long while with the gabby old man. Two horsemen have been approaching the companions.
When Oljabek saw the horsemen, he barely answered the question of an old man. He flipped his horse with the whip, trying to have a calm appearance, but reluctantly looked anxious over his shoulder on the horsemen.
But the horsemen didn’t pay attention to Oljabek and the old man and rode away. Oljabek sighed deeply, put up the tale of his tymak and went ahead. Wanderers continued their way along the shores of the lake, avoiding the auls. Well ahead of them laid wide and deserted steppe, but here, a stone’s cast from each other, stood the auls. Plowmen and horsemen scurried around, countless cattle attired around.
The wander have left little by little the noise of life behind their backs.
Jamal couldn’t endure it and said:
“Oljeke ! I cannot see the auls anymore! There are none of them on our way!”
“All right then!” he replied indifferent and apathetic.
“You are going the way, like there is a place, ready and prepared for you! We should have been moving through the auls, asking people about everything, where and how they live”.
“I can see it everything myself. Everything is like everywhere and as of us: kolkhoz”.
Jamal saw, that there were the same collective farms and kolkhozes, like of them. So what is Oljabek looking for? And where is he supposed to look for this something new? Oljabek didn’t know himself where could this kolkhoz-free land lay.
“Better to ask the way than go astray,” old people say. If there is kolkhoz-free land somewhere, it’s possible to find it.
“It can’t be true, that there is no kolkhoz-free land anymore! Folks are not the same in the world, and the clouds never cover the entire sky,” Oljabek thought.
Oljabek was filled with the growing anxiety, and Jamal started to worry more and more.
“Oljeke, what are we looking for, leaving our native places?” she asked again impatiently.
Oljabek turned to her and looked at her menacing, but didn’t reply anything.
“Fancy that! He didn’t like it!” she thought.
But the hostile glance of her husband didn’t anger her. She started to laugh silent and tried to entertain him:
“If only you would tell me something! You kept mum since yesterday! Or haven’t you still sobered down after our quarrel?”
It was true, he still didn’t forget the yesterday’s quarrel.
Oljabek seemed to be more amiable and kind-hearted then a sheep, but when he got angry, he couldn’t calm down long. He was a stubborn dzhigit. His departure from the native land and known places, leaving all of his earned welfare behind and travelling to the unknown and far lands were also caused by his stubbornness which just got on the high legs, like fractious horse, and didn’t let the family and household mind to catch him.
Only Jamal knew how to make it up with such a stubborn and restive person, like Oljabek. Oljabek believed her and loved her. During all the time they’ve spent together he has never hit her with the whip or slated her in public. This unkind and hostile glance was the strongest expression of his anger and wrath.
“I’m looking for the peace,” he replied after a long pause and sighed deeply.
“And where is this peace?”
“The world is big and wide, we will find it somewhere”.
“I hope we won’t find “peace” in this empty steppe!”
“It doesn’t matter where. I want to owe at least three-four heads of cattle at my leisure. And it should be my cattle! My cattle! And let the other people grow rich in kolkhoz!” Oljabek concluded angrily.
As recently as at the day before yesterday his cousin Kemesh visited him, escorted by four neighbors, and was trying hard and long to convince Oljabek to finally join kolkhoz. When Kemesh understood, that all his attempts are effortless, he burst out crossly:
“We are not kin with you anymore! But mind you don’t forget: the one who is greedy and niggardly in the little things will never achieve something big!”
“Go in peace! What is it for me in the kin with you? Even despite the fact that you are a head of the kolkhoz!? Near is my shirt, but nearer is my skin!” Oljabek replied turning his back.
Even his eyes got red out of spite. Jamal didn’t dare to calm her husband this time and just repeated delirious referring to Kemesh: “Moldajan , what are you? How could you do something like this, moldajan?”
But Kemesh and his friends have left, irritated and angry. After this conversation, in the night, when everybody became quiet and came to the rest, Oljabek has gathered his belongings fast and hit the road. Long and unknown road laid ahead.
According to the latest words of Oljabek one could understand, that his yesterday’s rage still hasn’t passed. But Jamal didn’t stop to express her ideas and thoughts carefully:
“Oljeke, tell me anyhow, please, where did you hear about the kolkhoz-free lands? Who told you that?”
“How come, they shouldn’t exist? The clouds are mottled, and the lands are different!”
“Yes, but where they are?”
“If I knew that, I’d tell it long ago. Who knows, where they could be! We will ask the p[eople and find them one day”.
“But even if we’ll find these lands and arrive there, we are going to be strangers there for everybody! What a life could it be in the strange lands, among the strange people?”
Oljabek didn’t reply. The image of the joules and hard roaming far from the native and home aul appeared in his imagination in front of his eyes. The kilted tail of his tymak, sticking up on the back, has overhung now, but Oljabek didn’t even think of setting it straight.
Oljabek knew very well, what did the newcomers experienced from the bais at the old auls. “Give the kumiss from the single one mare of yours! The single one camel is the common property. If you won’t blandish and coax them all, they’ll take everything you have, to the skin, and will throw out your neck and crop… Is it a peace? And there could be even worse in kolkhoz. Oh my God! Even the children of the one father cannot live together in one family under the common roof and try to separate with time, and here they want to gather the children of forty fathers and bring them from the far ends of the land together, forcing them to live in one house and having the common property and household!” Oljabek pondered.
“It’s better to be a newcomer than to wait until they will take everything you have,” he finally replied to his wife. “It’s true, there will be difficult to live in a strange land. But once we’ll make a match for our son, we’ll find at once relatives and friends”.
“What are you?! Who’s making match for the little children nowadays?! What a thought!” Jamal flared.
Oljabek didn’t argue with her. Flipping his horse with the whip he started to peer into the distance, far away in the steppe.
Sary-Adyr fell behind long ago. Kuraily Lake was nowhere to be seen. Nectarous and scent-laden steppe overspread around them. It seemed that nothing disturbed its peace, only the butterflies fluttered from flower to flower, the hawk hovered high in the sky and lark’s song was heard.
Cadency of the camel lulled Jamal, and the lark’s song caressed her ear, so she started to sing herself silently:
There’s a sharp ravine beyond the river, beyond Irtysh,
A little black colt is grassing there.
The lark started to sing at the crack of dawn
In the sky, above the green grass.
I’m so tired and lazy to even move,
And it is singing all day long.
Silken steppe, jellied in sweet lassitude, song, joyful peace seemed to calm down Oljabek as well. He sighed deeply. Tender voice of Jamal interrupted the flow of his thoughts:
“Oljeke, what happened to you? Are you feeling unwell?”
“No. I’m just still thinking about this cursed person...”
Are you still angry with moldajan? But he is a communist. How can you expect him to think in a different way?”
“He has attacked me just like a mad dog bites its master. Let him plant the onion on my place then!”
“Oljeke, Oljeke, I wish his words won’t come true!..”
“What does he know? What could he know? “Kolkhoz, kolkhoz…” He is just so troublesome and annoying! People used to live without all these kolkhozes before”.
Bickering and quarrelling mildly husband and wife have reached a high hill. They saw many plowmen on the further side, and many auls were seen in the steppe.
Jamal was tired to travel aimless and purposeless, like the babies’-breathe, and thought inwardly: “I wish it would be kolkhoz-free land at last!”
She was looking sharp-sighted and observant around, but she couldn’t distinguish anything special. Oljabek’s caravan continued to move right along. Husband and wife both had their eyes glued at the plowmen. It looked as though the breaking ground deliberately laid on their way.
A man was approaching them slowly, walking with the straddled legs and throwing the wheat grains, scattering them handful. Ploughs, drawn by six oxen, have been cut the soil like with the knives and leaving the tatters of the thick black soil. A little boy was jumping and hopping, goading the oxen. A man with a huge beard was following the plough. Oljabek was all eyes on the turned out thick layers of soil. Clenching his teeth he exchanged the looks with Jamal.
“You come around that side of field, and I will stay here for a while,” he said.
Black-bearded ploughman was walking silently behind the moving plough, flourishing the whip over the oxen sometimes and shouting:
He just nodded to Oljabek, returning his bow, as if he was angry with him, so he even didn’t lift his eyes. He was watching after his plough. One of the oxen from the middle rig misstep and moved his legs. The whip whistled over his head in the spot, and the ox took up and pitched at once in the yoke.
“Father, are you working for kolkhoz?” Oljabek asked, walking beside an old man.
Bearded man didn’t reply.
“He may be dull of hearing a little bit,” Oljabek thought.
“I am my own boss and working for myself,” the bearded man responded unexpectedly loud and deep.
Oljabek looked surprised at the ploughman and at his oxen.
“Oh, were you!”.. That’s so much land!.. How did it happen, that you haven’t joined kolkhoz?”
Ojabek had to wait for the answer long again. He had scruples to bother the old man with his questions. The old man in his turn looked at Oljabek with his eyes, red from the dust, and it seemed that he was probing Oljabek. Then, with the appearance of a very busy man, who has no time to chat with idle people, he turned his plough around and shook off the soil from the plowshares. The oxen, walking in file, have reached the stony place and stopped.
“Hait! Hait!” the bearded man shouted at them raising his voice, and the whip whistled over them. The old man thrilled with his affair, that he even grinded his teeth.
Oljabek was finally fed up to follow the ploughman. Without waiting an answer on his question he replied himself:
“Father, you might have been joking! It looks like the kolkhoz field!” he shouted and turned his horse around, but the old man turned to him suddenly and stared at him straightforward.
“Isn’t the kolkhoz’s field not mine? I will plow, and I will eat the bread later, not you! What do you think?”
“I am not going to eat your bread. Did I tell you something like that?”
Oljabek became confused. The old man noticed it and became softer:
“Don’t you understand it? Once we’ll drive out all the bais and idle people, we’ll all eat the bread from our field”.
Oljabek pretended that he has got what the man said, then nodded, took a leave and went his way.
“I just fell into a snare of an old activist!” he thought.
Jamal has already passed the fields. Almost next to the aul people have been plowing as well. Oljabek just heard a sudden quarrel:
“Why are you beating an ox?”
“But you see it yourself, it’s almost not drawing!”
Oljabek just drew level with Jamal.
“Wait, let’s see what’s happening here,” he said holding his horse.
“We are not going to entertain ourselves with strangers’ quarrels, I suppose!” Jamal responded angrily, but Oljabek halted listening to the disputers.
It seemed to be no serious reason for the quarrel: there were two oxen, yoked in plough, and these oxen belonged to two different owners. That was actually the origin of this quarrel.
“Why are you beating the cattle which don’t belong to you? I wish you’d never see and owe cattle anymore!”
“But that’s your damned ox, who doesn’t want to even move! What is it? Should my ox to be a devil for work?”
“They used to belong to you before, but now they are the property of the kolkhoz, so there’s no purpose on your quarrel!” other people tried to calm the quarrelers down and to stop them arguing.
The heated quarrelers though refused to yield to persuasion, and the dispute was ongoing.
“Yes, indeed! I gave my cattle to the kolkhoz, yet I will watch and see after my cattle myself!”
“So why are you putting it all then under the general umbrella?..”
“Fancy that, what a kolkhoz protectors! I know you all! Each one of you has a couple of cattle tucked away, I bet! First and foremost it’s you!”
“What? Why are you lying? Where? Where do I have the cattle hidden and tucked away?” a little red-haired man screeched. It seemed that this pointed remark has reached the right target and hit home.
Oljabek understood it, clapped spurs on horse and got under his way…
Way ahead Oljabek noticed one lonely foot-passenger, walking down the road. Oljabek felt the wish to catch up to him and to inquire further details about these places. The recent meeting with the quarrelers has gladdened him. He felt himself like a lost horse, who finally found his herd. He was assured again in his right.
“That’s it!” he thought evil-minded. “There will be no deal with these kolkhozes! They just bother in vain, and all is for nothing!”
However, black, thick, greasy soil arose in his mind again and again.
“Hey!” Oljabek shouted after long silence and pressure of his thoughts.
“Halloo!” Jamal responded from the camel she was riding.
“Have you seen, how clean and good this old man has ploughed the field?” Oljabek asked.
“It seems not bad. Well, it’s all from the zeal and eagerness, I suppose…”
“Yes, everything is cause of eagerness”, Oljabek agreed, sighed deeply and said after pause: “If all the people worked that eager and diligent, like this black bearded old man, kolkhoz would grow rich very fast! But what can a man do? Not all the people are the same, not all of them are like this! Think, for instance, of those, who have been quarrelling…”
They came up with the lonely foot-passenger. Oljabek didn’t finish his thought and went silent.
“Hello!” a foot-passenger said, looking back and breathing heavily. He was walking slowly, hardly striking out.
“Hello!” Oljabek responded, giving a look to a foot-passenger. “So how is the seeding time? Are you finishing it soon?”
A foot-passenger was moving silently, stepping wearily, and then he finally grumbled: “They should finish it sometime…”
Silent and voiceless understanding appeared after such an answer between Ojabek and the old man. They exchanged their looks. Oljabek drew nearer to the foot-passenger and rode now, almost pressing him up.
“Well, how’s this? Did everybody here join the kolkhoz?” Oljabek asked.
The foot-passenger apparently roused himself and casting away his weariness started to speck faster and with more interest:
“How do you say?.. Almost everybody did”.
“Was the cattle made a common property as well?”
“Yes, it was, of course. But after all something was left for them too”.
“Did you hear something about kolkhoz-free lands? Do they exist somewhere here?”
The foot-passenger looked mutely somewhere up, above the auls showing slowly far in front of him and waved with his stick.
“Over there,” he said. “There were kolkhozes there as well some time ago, like here, but nothing came out of it. It didn’t work, so it was dissolved”.
“Where is it?” Oljabek asked, respiring excitedly and with agitation.
“Over there, by kişi-juz . Their leaders have managed to weasel out of it”.
“Is this true?”
“Even grass wouldn’t move without the wind, as the story goes. Who heard before about those kolkhozes?! There’s plan and plan everywhere! They’ve even measured this vast steppe, they measure daily labor, and they measure even a piece of bread!.. What’s to be done here?!.. Work isn’t the same every day, sometimes the work goes with a swing, and sometimes nothing works. They refuse to look to it and they don’t reckon with it at all! Whatever you do, you must fulfill your norm!.. That’s why I pretend to be sick,” confessed the talker in a low voice.
He mistook Oljabek first for one of the local members of kolkhoz and that’s why played a sick person in front of him, but now he left his pretence.
Jamal, riding silently her camel beside them, laughed merrily, as she heard confession of the sick man.
“Yapyrai ! That was really good, how you pretended! You cannot be distinguished from the real sick man! It seems that your soul holds on the tip of your nose and could leave you at any moment!”
“How you suppose them to believe me without this play? One should look for the ways to save himself, until all this kolkhoz humdrum will end…”
“So, they have believed in your sickness and let you go home?”
“How is it possible to hold a sick man?”
“If everyone will start to pretend to be sick, who will remain to work in this case?” Jamal said.
“It’s not that easy to contrive this way, not everyone could do that,” the old man responded. “Besides that there are many people as well, who got used already with the kolkhoz life and rules. Take my son-in-law, for example! He isn’t even a Komsomol member! Once he’s got a boil, and I was trying to convince him not to go to work, but he never listened to me! He went to work”.
“What can I say about it? It’s difficult to be at loose end for the healthy man,” Jamal replied silently.
She saw suddenly a rider approaching them. The foot-passenger noticed him as well. He started groaning and toddling again, as the rider came closer.
“I wonder should we continue our trip or stay here for some time, waiting, until the kolkhozes will decay?” Oljabek thought distressful.
The fellow-traveler though interrupted his thoughts: “Look, there is the chairman of our kolkhoz. See, he is in hurry. He seems to be bringing some mew plans again, I think”.
“Is it the chairman?! Well, pardon me, good bye!” Oljabek suddenly started to hurry. “And how can we get to that place of kişi-juz?”
“Go right towards that little dark point,” the foot-passenger said nodding in the direction of the mountains.
The mountains laid over a distance of at least half a day journey.
“You’ll see the big and wide road; it will lead you to your destination. Farewell! Have a safe journey!” the foot-passenger wished the travelers before his leaving and wandered away lamely.
Oljabek and Jamal went their way in the direction of the distant black point and rode silent, but their hearts were high. The hope looming up on the top of the mountain seemed to be so close and easy-to-reach. Oljabek’s offence on his cousin Kemesh and Soviet government started to give a way to the some kind of compassion and condolence.
“Of course, their rules aren’t that bad,” he said spitting through his teeth.
Spitting through his teeth meant for Oljabek his good mood. This time he spitted with the special delight, so Jamal, who has already discovered the habits of her husband good enough, understood, that Oljabek finally felt relieved.
“They hate bais and criminals and plead for the poor people. Why should we get the boot on the wrong foot? They are ready to meet the burdens and sufferings of all these poor people… If only it would be possible without the kolkhoz!..It seems that they still didn’t think it over properly. It would be good, if they’d change it all. How is it possible that everybody will be eating out of the same dish? Well, it doesn’t matter. That all may be changed soon probably… Well, I had a quarrel with this imp Kemesh…”
“Does it mean that we are going back?” Jamal asked him with the hope in her voice.
“Wait, we should check it first”.
“But you talk, like you already know everything”.
“No, they should really cancel it one day soon! I live long enough in this world already, but I’ve never heard of Kazakhs living in an artel … Everybody was always working for himself…”
“What if it’s all is a pack of lies?”
“We will try to live with pour own little household”.
“And do we suppose to do, when everybody will finally join the kolkhoz?
“I’m sure, we’ll find the place in the sun!..”
Jamal clenched her lips and leaned to her child.
The future of a baby sleeping calmly on her lap appeared in front of her hazy and gloomy…
It’s midday. The sun hugs the soft and coddled soil. Thick and overgrown grass wakes and comes to life again, soaking up the sunburst. Two horses and a camel are feeding, keeping their heads down to the lush and fragrant grass.
In a hastily built little tent sleeps Oljabek, spreading his arms and snoring. Muffled and wrapped, little Sagintaj sleeps here, beside him, his tiny nose is covered with the drops of sweat, and his little face blushed, like a juicy ripe apple.
Jamal didn’t have time to lie down and take a nap. She sits on the banks of a little river, putting her white breast to the sun, and brushes her blue-black thick hair. Transparent water replaces a mirror for her. She can see clearly the reflection of her clean body on the water face… Her face embrowned a little bit because of the sun and wind. Her big and clear eyes are like of the colt and reflect her soul. They are shining with the quite of her mind and soul comfort. Thick black hair, falling in cascades on her black, protects her from the strong sun.
Jamal was just braiding her hair, when she heard suddenly a desperate and loud screaming: “Yikes! Jamal! Jamal!”
With a starting she made a dash for the tent. Oljabek was groaning, holding with the both hands his bare foot.
“What happened?” Jamal asked with agitation.
“Oh my God! Don’t you want us to die here alone, in the vast desert?!”
Jamal tied wailing a string from her dress, sat on her hunkers beside her husband and fastened tightly the bitten foot. The snake bit Oljabek’s foot. Jamal pressed her lips quick to his foot in order to soak out the poison from his wound.
“Leave it! You’ll get poisoned!” Oljabek cried to her, trying to pull his leg from her.
Despite the fact, that it was the only one chance for his rescue, he felt pity for his beloved Jamal. But she just pressed his foot stronger to her lips and continued to soak the poison out again and again.
“My life isn’t more expensive than yours,” she said, spitting out the sucked poison and continued.
Little Sagintay, awake with the loud scream of his father, was crying desperately. Oljabek sat white and wiped the big and cold drops of sweat appeared on his brow. He leaned to the child and took him, hugging.
“You scented the trouble, my little boy!” he said with the trembling and weak voice.
“Don’t cry, Sagintay, calm down,” Jamal said trying to console her son, but she herself couldn’t calm down. Her pupils were enlarged, and she hardly kept herself from bursting into tears.
Jamal sucked Oljabek’s foot until she felt, her lips started to ache. After she finished it, she took the saddle-cloth from under Oljabek and threw it into the big kettle on fire.
“If only the snake would be not lost… I wish we could find it,” she said, heading for the steppe.
“Don’t go in vain, Jamal!” Oljabek shouted. “She knows magic and will divert your attention, you’ll see!”
Jamal looked at Oljabek joyful. This time his voice sounded cheerful and vigorous as usually.
“How do you feel now? Better? Lie down and have rest for some time,” she said.
“Thanks God, I feel better”.
“If only we could find this snake, strangle and hang her! People say, her poison loses its power very fast in this case… Did you sleep at this moment, or what? How did it happen?”
“I fell asleep, unluckily. Then suddenly I felt something cold crawling at my foot. I even didn’t make it to open my eyes, as she bit me”.
“You had to catch her immediately”.
“Catch her! It’s easier to say! I was close to faint here!”
Jamal took the saddle-cloth out of the boiling kettle and bound with it Oljabek’s foot tightly.
“Old people say that the saddle-cloth, soaked up the horse’s sweat, is the best remedy. Lie down, I’ll cover you. If you’ll sweat, it will be even better. Wait a second; I’ll bring you the pillow”.
“Give me better something to drink at first!”
Jamal entered the tent and poured shaking the full cup of brisk and fresh kumiss. Oljabek drank it at a draught. Jamal noticed the sweat appearing on his brow and asked him: “Do you want to drink more?”
Taking the second cup from Jamal’s hands, Oljabek looked at the little oil drops swimming around and declared festive and triumphant: “It’s just like a meat brew! What could be better and healthier than kumiss! And you are still not happy, that we left! In kolkhoz our mare would have been working all the time. How do you think, could she milk in that case? And now you can drink at your leisure!”
“No, it’s anyhow better at home,” Jamal responded.
She brought wadded robe and throw it on her husband’s shoulders. While Jamal was milking the mare, relieved Oljaber has drowned himself in sleep.
High and massive mountain appeared nearby to be made from the huge clods and blocks of red granite. There was almost no greenery on it. Here and there some half-destroyed stone crypts and grave stones showed. Weather-bitten, washed by the heavy rains and dried human bones occurred underfoot. But even on this deserted and inhabited mountain some traces of people’s stay could be observed: there was a wooden platform, standing on the cliff. Part of the cliff was upturned and gaped like a cave entrance. Shatters of the glass bottles and empty cans were scattered around. Oljabek noticed everything. The mountains seemed wonderful to him. He was born and grew up in the steppe, where there were only some small and flat hills and barrows.
“Hey!” he shouted suddenly, turning around in his saddle.
His voice sounded louder than usually. Before Jamal responded to him, he heard an echo answering his shout.
“So what?” Jamal asked alienated.
The more they’ve moved deep into the mountainous area, the more restless and uneasy her heart throbbed. She didn’t know what she was scared of and looked anxious around.
“I wonder, who could build that platform there, that high, and who could dig out this cliff as well?”
“Russians, for sure”.
“Oh my God! It seems they’ve got even deeper than us! And where is finally that land, the old man was talking about?”
Oljabek felt uncomfortable exonerate himself in front of his wife and to make excuses, trying to calm her down for the nth time with the same words. He kept silent. One moth and seventeen days have already passed since they’ve left their native aul and were roaming ceaseless the roads of the steppe. They’ve passed many rivers, many passages, but they haven’t found their dreamland till now. Even nature and air became different: now they’ve entered the field of the mountains.
“It’s not that easy for the kolkhoz to get to these mountainous and high places. Maybe this is our dreamed kolkhoz-free land?” Oljabek thought.
Without knowing the direction and the final destination, depending only upon his luck and chance, Oljabek and his family started in pursuit of their personal happiness. Jamal though was fed up with this pursuit.
“We’ve got into kind of a beast lair!” she said trying to scare Oljabek. “I think some robbers and outlaws live here.”
“Robbers and outlaws! How could it be possible? They all are destroyed long ago. And if there is still some kolkhoz-free land somewhere in this world, it should be here!”
“Enough! I’m really fed up with it all! I wish we could reach some settlements as soon as possible, until we didn’t get lost in this wilderness!” – Jamal responded.
Oljabek kept silent. The mountains became steeper, sharper and higher. Only a little piece of a blue sky was seen overhead. High mountains, contesting with the sky, have been hiding uncertainty and unknown.
Tiny caravan of Oljabek was making its way between the deep ravines and narrow rifts and cloves. The day seemed to be a whole year for Jamal. What about the child? What’s with him? He is so tired! Oljabek himself was extremely tired and completely exhausted and worn-out, but their search had no results till now.
“Now then, what’s waiting for us at the curve of the road?” he said, turning to the ravine.
But then, faster than a flash in the pan, five horsemen with the shout “Bas kozindi !” bumped up against him and tilted him out of the saddle. Oljabek didn’t even have some time to hold his stick, protecting himself and his family, or scream…
Oljabek recovered himself and woke up in the night. He was alone. Silhouettes of the mountains showed black around him. His body was heavy like a stone, his blood concealed on his brow.
Oljabek laid whacked out and weak till the dawn. The dawn finally broke, and he lifted his head constrainedly. There was a mist before his eyes. Oljabek tried to get up, but fell down again immediately. The outlaws broke his knee-cap and sheen. He sat down. He wanted to drink, but there was no water.
“That’s where the sinister fate was waiting for us! Now I’ll become a prey for the beasts and birds,” he thought.
He saw only death ahead of him.
Suddenly he heard the sound if a horse stamp coming out from the ravine. Oljabek turned around and saw a black-bearded man with a gun. Oljabek grabbed rapidly the first stone he found and raised it in his hand threateningly. The horseman shouldered his riffle. Both of them were waiting, looking hostile and with animosity at each other.
“Shot!” Oljabek said.
“Cast a stone!” the horseman responded knitting his brows, heavy like the clouds.
None of them was determined to start.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” the stranger asked.
“You should know it better.”
“Are you raving? Hey, brother, you’re all covered with blood!”
“That’s what it is! Covered with blood! You’ve captured my wife and child and now – “you’re all covered with blood”!..”
“Oh my God! Poor man!” – the horseman exclaimed ruefully and getting down from his horse.
Oljabek sat up a little bit, holding the stone ready to throw it.
“Leave it! If I’d want you to be dead, I’d shot you long ago!”
Oljabek threw the stone away and started to weep.
“Oh my God! Aren’t you Saint Khyzyr coming to save me?”
“No, I’m not Khyzyr, but I can help you”.
They hugged each other and started to talk friendly and warm.
“What is your name, father?” Oljabek asked, unburdening himself in front of his new friend.
“Shiganak. My name is Shiganak. I also traveled a lot looking for my happiness, just like you. But you are looking for your happiness in the kolkhoz-free land, and I’m looking for it in the kolkhoz”.
People’s attention is fixed on the pit the size of a little tilt cart.
Long-necked ginger aruana works hard and restlessly from the early morning till late into the night. Two tegershiks crashed into the ground with every movement they made, and it seemed that they went deeper and deeper into the earth. One end of the thick log fixed to them pulls aruana frontwards, while another end of this log pulls her back, so the strong animal stretches like a chord with an effort. Her curly wool became covered with the little drops of sweat. Huge wheel lined with the buckets goes slowly around, and then dumps each bucket of water into the main aryk in exchange for the aruana’s sweat, falling heavily down from the wool of the she-camel. Yellow sand licks off instantly the water, flowing slowly, like a tear drop. And as if nothing had happened, the steppe opens her dried up chap again, with the bigger greed. The soil suffers, not getting enough water, the animal suffers as well, weak and powerless to load and fill it.
Oljabek stands stone-still, holding a long whip in his hands. It’s backing hot, and the sun scorches Oljabek’s head. Overheated and red-hot soil burns the feet, but he keeps silent and doesn’t move, staring at the tegershik. Scrapped wooden claws creak furious and harped gloomily and endlessly on the same string. Blindfolded ginger aruana goes on to go round in circles, being drenched in sweat.
“It’s drying up! Give some water!” can be heard all around.
Oljabek switches the whip. Aruana exerts all her strength, and its seems, that she can burst at the moment.
“It’s drying up! Give some water!” scream the people up relentless.
Oljabek grabs the end of the log and stretches out to help the she-camel. Amantay and Janbota jump into the pit immediately and help Oljabek.
“You are a young girl, though you have no quickness and swiftness! What will happen to you, when you’ll get old?” Amantay joked.
“And you, dzhigit, are also not faster than a turtle! No good for anything!”
“Not at all!” replied Amantay cheerfully, bumped Janbota, jumped up from the pit and disappeared.
Janbota started to chase him. Oljabek halted exhausted.
“Water! Water!” was heard from above; the voices of the screaming people filled the wide steppe.
Oljabek suddenly got angry and stroke with the whip. Aruana roared with pain and laid down.
“Stop beating the cattle!” somebody shouted in a compelling voice.
The whip, raised again, fell this time, without touching the she-camel. A head of the sun burnt, black bearded man appeared over the brink edge of the pit. He had a big nose, a narrow black beard, heavy brows, looking like the clouds, ready to flow with the rain. Out of the tail of his eyes he looked at the camel and Oljabek and sat on the mound.
“Take the camel out!” he said.
He said it silent and unwillingly, but his words fell like a stone. Black-bearded man glanced again at the exhausted she-camel, and his eyes looked sadly around the snuff, yellowed and hollow steppe.
The river Uil runs and streams like a snake through the steppe, plain, like a tablecloth, with no hills and mountains. The steppe lays on the height. Uil streams in the hollow. The river cannot jump out of its bed.
The steppe, withered by sun, hardened.
“I’ll be your earner and sup“It’s drying up! Give some water!” porter, I’ll be the source of your life!” whispered Uil, cherishing and nuzzling up, but the steppe didn’t allow the river to touch its high chest. Uil couldn’t find his place in the steppe and turned into the thickets. Many years passed since that time. The bed of the river was changed several times, folks have come and gone, but nobody managed to unite these two stubborn beggars.
This sun burst, black-bearded and long-haired old man Shiganak tried hard and put a lot of work in order to unite them together. For many years he tried to turn Uil into another direction, furrowed and plowed the steppe with the wooden plough together with his camel, but nothing helped. Today he yoked the strong aruana into the water wheel, but when he saw her coming out of the pit with the warm and wet eyes and trembling legs, hardly moving after the exhausting work, sweating heavily, Shiganak started to talk discontentedly:
“My silk-tailed aruana with soft fur! Your legs didn’t know weariness and fatigue, your swiftness was like the wind. When I was yoking you, I though, that the dry soil will become salted with the water and give back the excessive water, and that eyes will hardly follow the swift movements of the water wheels. But you hardly dragged them. My lovely and dear aruana, who knew no fatigue among the flowing sands! You never complained and never shortened your steps, but now you decayed and fainted… Though I’m happy with you and with your work! If the living aruana, from flesh and soul, appeared to be powerless against the dry steppe, Shiganak will try to yoke another aruana, made from steel! Let us yoke the machine!..”
Following the exhausted she-camel with a glad eye, Shiganak sat for a while, wrapped up deep in his thoughts, so he didn’t even noticed Oljabek, who drew the animal aside and stood next to him now. Oljabek couldn’t endure it anymore and gave a light cough. Shiganak turned his head lightly:
“Why do you beat the cattle? It gives everything it can give, even without the whip”.
“So what? Did she tell you, that she wants to get out of the pit?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t talk to her”.
“You better say, that you didn’t get and understand her. She said that your tegershik has plagued and tormented her, and she said also that you should get from her”.
“So, I took it out and got out from her”.
“What about the crops? Are they happy, that you took the camel out?”
“How do I suppose to know it!”
“It’s time to know something at last!” Shiganak grumbled.
“If you know it, tell it yourself,” Oljabek objected and sat beside Shiganak.
“I’ll tell you. Uil says: “I won’t come after you, until you won’t conquer me with the machine”. And the steppe complains: “You are like a swallow with the tiny wings, giving my just little drops of water, falling from the tegershiks, but it’s not enough for me, it’s too little! I’m withering!”
Shiganak was glancing harsh, telling it. Oljabek shook his head, avoiding Shiganak’s glance, but Shiganak was looking on him searchingly.
“But the folk used to live in the steppe, like in the old times, without any machines! And the water wheel was watering the entire steppe!” Oljabek said.
If he would respond as usually with his “How could I know it!” and left, Shiganak would be just laughing. But now he even didn’t smile. His face darkened. It looked for him, as if all his good intentions and ideas are being overridden with the feet of the people like Oljabek, people who refuse to understand and see the purpose.
“Heh, Oljabek!” he said after being silent. “It’s true, our grandfathers and ancestors used to water the steppe with the water wheels, being moved by the poor camel. But one water-wheel served only three-four households at that time, but now everybody started to plow, there are no nomads, and nobody wander and roam anymore. Did you think about it? Do the water wheels meet the requirements and satisfy all the demands of the kolkhozes?”
“But there are not only water wheels… Sometimes God sends us rain…”
“Sometimes God sends us rain! We wore our eyes out, looking in the sky and waiting for the rain. I wish there would be at least one little drop falling down from the sky! But there’s nothing! And here is Uil, right in front of us, full of water!”
Oljabek himself never expected a lot from the sky. He glanced at the huge and sullen steppe from under the flaps of his wide white hat and, dropping his eyes, started to draw something with his finger on the heated sand.
“How could I know, what is it, this iron beast! This machine of yours! We managed though to live without it for so long time!..”
“It’s not a beast,” Shiganak objected. “It’s not a beast; it’s a machine, a mechanism! If you speaks and understands its language, chatter with it is sweeter than honey! Its power could destroy all the plots and spells, as this steppe looks like it is charmed and bewitched! It just lays and keeps silent, without showing any mercy of its own free will. Appease it with the fresh water, and maybe it will have some pity on you. Look at it, dried up it is, how strong it aches for water!”
“If God won’t give us some mercy, how are the people able to water it?!”
“If you won’t water it, it won’t feed you”.
“That’s just empty words! Is that so, that we are sparing our powers and efforts?!”
“If we don’t spare our powers and efforts, why should we run away from the machine?”
“Why are you haggling with no reason?” Oljabek growled.
Shiganak glanced at him squint and burst into laugh.
“I see, you are willing to run away the kolkhoz again! But where are then our friendship and agreement, you, escapee?”
Oljabek turned back on. His friend just spelled an insulting and offending word “escapee”. He couldn’t understand, why Shiganak always finds fault with him. Sitting a little while with the offended face, Oljabek said finally:
“Is the machine in my hands?”
“Of course, it is”.
Oljabek was near to jump in surprise.
“Why won’t you talk about the machine during the meeting?” he asked.
“But you are a kolkkoz member as well. If I cannot convince you, my friend, how could I convince then the others! Who is going to listen to me?”
“You know it yourself; I don’t understand anything in the things like this. Tell me what is needed to be done, and I will try to grant it done. I’m your devoted friend though, with my soul and my heart!”
“Why do I need a soul fearing to say a word?” Shiganak responded, turning back.
Oljabek couldn’t understand, how it happened, that he offended somehow his old good friend, and he sat perplexed and puzzled. He supporter Shiganak’s idea in his mind, but he didn’t dare to support this idea publicly, in front of everybody. “The words are designed for other people, my business is to work. Each has his own place!” he thought.
Long time ago, as he was Jamal’s fiancée, curious sisters-in-law, daughters-in-law and other women were close to even beat him in order to make him more talkative and communicative.
Shiganak understood the worries of his good friend, but it was impossible without it. Shiganak knew that if his offers will be supported by others, his words will be more solid. That’s why he tried to convince one by one everybody and succeeded a little bit. But almost all of his supporters were among the shy timid people, who tried to avoid public appearances and speeches.
“I don’t know how to talk and how to deliver speeches,” Oljabek said. “All the members of our family used to be silent and incommunicative”.
“You should only say in the decisive moment: “We need a machine!” And that’s all you need to do! Do you understand it?” Shiganak taught him persistent. “I need no more from you!”
“I can forget even this in front of the strange people. What will happen in this case? The word comes after word, and what if I will be drawn into the talking?! What should I do then?”
“I will help you. I will prove everything myself and convince them, you’ll need only to nod”.
“Yes, that’s the best for me! I will nod, and you will talk,” said Oljabek happily.
“No, first off you should say at least: “We need a machine”, nothing will work without this phrase”.
“You know thou, that I am not a talker, why are you bothering me with it now?” Oljabek got angry suddenly.
They were sitting, looking awry at each other, with the secret voiceless question: “Did he take offense with me?..”
It was midday. Kolkhoz workers left the field for their dinner. Only Janbota and Amantay stood beside the aryk, unable to cut their conversation and heated debates. Shiganak glanced attentively over it all and turned again to his friend.
“Hey,” he called softly out, “tell me the truth: do you believe in kolkhoz?”
“I will not believe in anything until I’ll see it with my own eyes and touch it with my own hands,” Oljabek responded.
Shiganak stood up and started to move silently, without even looking at his friend.
“Hey, where are you going? Stop!”
Oljabek has been thinking a lot, as he was left alone.
“Oh my God! I really thought that I won’t ever offend him! And here what we have! God, bless my heart! “Why do I need a soul fearing to say a word?” But he said it right! He is clever!” Oljabek thought aloud.
He didn’t see Amantay, who sneaked up on him and stood now here, listening to his thoughts and reasoning.
Oljabek has already seen in his mind a big gathering of people, a serious meeting, and he has also seen himself, standing in front of them and delivering a speech…
Oljabek, who has never in his life delivered a speech and talked publicly, didn’t want to offend his friend now and was grimly determined to pronounce during the meeting this only phrase. It reminded him of how he came for the first time to his fiancé Jamal and stood for a while embarrassed and puzzled, being unable to find the necessary words. Jamal stood silent as well, without even helping him…
Oljabek was sitting, muttering to himself. Sometimes some distinct words and phrases escaped his lips, such as: “We need a machine”. He sat quite a long time like that, then pulled off his hat, adjusted the collar of his robe, stroked his beard, stood up, tried even give a cough, like before the public speech.
“We need a machine!” he said. But he said it very silent; it was unlikely that people would hear him speaking. It should be said louder. Just like this: “We need a machine! Yes! Now it’s just how it should be! And how should I behave and carry myself? Meeting is not a joke. For example, there are the ordinary people sitting around me here, but there it will be bruzum . Probably there will be authorities and some superiors, and I’ll stand like this… All the gathering is looking at me and waiting… Oh, my heart is trembling even now! But I will tell them all from the beginning: “We need a machine!” Whew! I’m even sweating!”
Amantay, listening to him and following him noteless and invisible, couldn’t stand it anymore and burst into laughing. Oljabek was ready to sink into the earth and mumbled embarrassed:
“Is it you, Amantay? I’m here just… You know… I’m just sitting here and… just…”
“You can sit here as you like, but I will tell everybody about it now!”
“Why did you go mad, troubled man?”
“You can think whatever you want about it, but the people will know it now”.
“Listen, why do you need it? Who could be interested in it?! Leave it, really!”
“If I would find a piece of solid gold, I’d leave it probably. But I won’t leave this thing!” Amantay joked and teased, grinning joyfully.
“Stupid jokes! You better try some of my nasybay !”
Amantay never had his own shaksha with him, as he always used someone else’s nasybay. Oljabek though always had his own nasybay, but he didn’t like to share it. Nearly a month ago Amantay stole a pinch of tobacco from Oljabek, so Oljabek was at a quarrel with him over this issue. Now he offered tobacco himself. Amantay has received shaksha from Oljabek’s hands right at the moment, without showing his satisfaction, then picket it at his hands and pressed his lips together as much as to say: “You won’t buy me only with this one thing!” Oljabek understood it immediately.
“Pour a little bit for you!” he said with readiness in his voice.
Amantay unfolded an old newspaper and started to empty Oljabek’s shaksha. His face though didn’t express any satisfaction or joy, as if he was pouring simple sand. The more the poured for himself, the more grunted Oljabek, but he hadn’t enough nerve to say “enough”. Amantay felt it, but he pretended not to notice it.
“Here is your shaksha. You might have something to fill it with at home,” Amantay said, getting ready to take a leave.
“Wait, why all this hurry?!”
“How is it – why? Because I want to tell about this case as soon as possible…”
“Phew! That’s what you are! You took all my nasybay and mock me now! Why, it’s easy to offend and hurt a stranger,” Oljabek started to get angry.
Anamtay turned towards him.
“We don’t hurt the strangers. Let it be so. I respect you as an elder man, that’s why I won’t depress you. But what a pity! I could live and feed on this case and this story for the rest of life!..”
“Okay then. Since this day your nasybay will be always in my shaksha,” Oljabek said.
In the middle of a big and crowded aul located ashore the river stands a gray tilt cart, which door didn’t know peace, as it would be just in the middle of kolkhoz. People scurried hither and thither. But it’s not an office, what was obvious looking at the smoky fireplace, standing not far off, and at the little camel, tied beside the cart. Swarthy baibishe with a scarf on her head was busy either with heating the samovar, or shaking the thick and rich shubat , so nobody from those entering the cart was leaving without a cup of tea or shubat. This hospitality of the innkeepers is the main reason for the plenty of visitors, although there is no special wealth could be noticed at the tilt art and around it. One of the walls of the cart at the threshold was even covered with the wicker due to lack of felt or blanket.
Baibishe has already feasted and said goodbye to the two parties of guests and just laid down to have some rest. She laid down, but as she heard approaching voices, she raised herself, lifting her head from the pillow. That was Yeleusin and her friends coming back from work. Baibishe sttod up and wanted to take on the samovar again, but Yeleusin stopped her:
“No, don’t, go and have some rest, you’re very tired,” she said.
“That’s okay, I’m at home though,” baibishe responded, but Yeleusin hindered her humbly again.
Yeleusin is a widow of Shiganak’s younger brother. She and Zaru live under the same roof together for many years and are friendly and united, like the full sisters. All the six children brought to life by baibishe are the same allied to Yeleusin, like to the birthmother, and the only one child of Yeleusin is a favorite and darling of baibishe. There were no quarrels and argues in this big and numerous family.
“Joy of life is in respecting each other. All of you are the guests for each other. One should love and respect the guests!” the master of the house Shiganak usually says. Everybody here believes his words. Respecting each other, they used to be generous and polite with the strangers as well.
Yeleusin glanced at her friends and noticed that Janbota licked her dry lips, and smiled.
“Do you want to drink something, Bota ?”
“Don’t you know that thirsty lips are always restless and uneasy, while the full ones swell?”
All the friends started to smack their lips. Yeleusin approached a little barrel with water and shook it. Janbota hurried up to help.
“Give it to me; I will pour the water out”.
“I’d give it to you, but there’s nothing left here”.
“Amantay was here. He might have been finished the entire barrel,” baibishe said, raising her head.
“Where Amantay steps, the grass stops to grow!” Janbota noted.
“My dear, no sensible man would mix into your affairs with Amantay!” the old Kabysh, counterpart and old friend of Shiganak, said.
Janbota blushed. Her relations with Amantay consisted of telling many evil and angry words to each other, so that everybody could see it, but the people also noticed that they cannot live apart from each other as well.
Janbota always tried to hide her confusion and embarrassment during the talks about Amantay behind the joke or a song.
Between the two Uils my aul is spread,
Nobody reproached me for my maiden laughter!
Oh, there are so many of those,
Who flew above me like a hawk!
I spread the silken net around,
I said: Go, tangle yourself, my friend!
I wish I could meet my handsome prince,
I’m waiting for him, filled with hear torments.
Janbota composed this tender and soft song herself, though she always felt shy, when other people sang it.
She has changed a lot lately, and it seemed she started to hate all the men and cheeked to them all. An evil, angry and offending word was ready to escape her lips even now, in order to respond to the old man, but several men flocked into the tilt cart noisily together with its master Shiganak. They were: chairman of the district executive committee Yerzhan, chairman of kolkhoz Shangirey, hydraulic engineer Token, Amantay and Oljabek.
Chairman of the district executive committee Yerzhan was chary of words. He greeted everybody shortly and puffed out, like a plump bag. He didn’t take an offered seat and stepped, crossing the little cart and throwing the short and abrupt words and phrases:
“What a disgrace! They still live in the felt carts, roaming, eating like besbarmaks ! They have no spoons, forks and plates, though they want to get a machine!..”
He saw in the young and still immature and weak kolkhoz only disorders, weaknesses defaults. His clean and decorated smart office, plain paved street, symmetrical lines of the same nice houses along the street – that was his ideal. There was nothing even close to this here. But Yerzhan himself couldn’t teach anybody, how to make the life civilized and prosperous. He rebuked and abused everybody, grumbled and growled all the time, refused to believe not only in people, but even in himself, and trusted only the papers with the clear governmental stamps. He noted and wrote down everything, even the “distinguishing marks” of his own horse. The mockers said, that once his groom has sparkled clean his bay, brushed its mane and trimmer its foretop. Yerzhan was nearly terrified and, getting his notebook out of the pocket, started to compare and match the marks of this horse with his records…
Yerzhan always got angry that culture, prosperity, described in the newspapers, doesn’t come to their lands just with a wave of a wand, and the kolkhozes don’t turn into an earthly paradises he always saw in his mind… Yerzhan was angry and irritated.
Local hydraulic engineer Token, who always looked as a friendly man, was gloomy and short-spoken this time. The rest of the company kept silent as well, suppressed by their gloomy mood.
Baibish first broke the depressing silence. She greeted everybody friendly, grabbed the samovar and rushed towards the door.
“We are not going to wait for tea,” Yerzhan told her sharply.
“There are our kolkhoz workers, you can ask them everything you are interested in,” Shiganak said, referring to the “authorities” and continuing the broken conversation.
Token interrupted him with no patience: “Why should we ask them questions? The machine is not a joke! One should know the soil first”.
“We know the soil. Our soil begs for water, and the water says: “Give me the machine!””.
“And the folk says: “Give us bread!” Can your soil bring bread?”
“One should know how to take, as the soil can give a lot”.
“Yet it hasn’t given anything yet. Why to indulge a vain hope!” Token said and gave a wave of his hand. “Even if it would be possible to install the machine, we will need mechanic for its service, oil, workshop, repair room… Do you have something like that? What can the machine do in the plain and vast steppe? There are only the sands around; they can serve only for grassing the cattle”.
Token just thread to pieces all the hopes of Shiganak. The rest of the company seemed to agree with the arguments of hydraulic engineer.
It was really difficult to contradict, looking at the Uil steppe. But Shiganak didn’t want to give up that easily. He started to talk stubbornly and sharp:
“If the snow could be burnt, if desired, and the sands could be forced to bring the wheat and bread, if to know, how to make it. Our Kazakhs know only the surface of the soil, but they don’t know its depths. Now the time came to look into its entrails. Token, you shouldn’t be that proud and making a display of your knowledge. You better listen to us, ordinary people, from time to time. Aruana comes to the world only on the sixth generation of the camel. Old people are happy looking at the crawling child and seeing in him a future man. Is that so, that we need that much time in order to master the machine? I think our happiness isn’t that far. All these people could learn how to control and operate any of the machines, and if you are worried about the oil, you could only knock the ground with your heel at the place you stand, and the oil will play as a fountain. The most important is to be decisive and determined. If you lack hardness and determination, so Oljabek and I have it enough. Haven’t we, my dear friend Oljabek?”
Oljabek, faithful to his promise, nodded energetic. The faces of the kolkhoz workers, sitting dark and gloomy, brightened a little bit. Hefting their shoulders, they seated themselves more comfortable. Token ruffled his brow and muttered:
“What could come to hand from the determination with no ground under it?”
“So, do you think, that even determination and decisiveness demands watering?” Amantay asked playful.
Token turned red.
“Why are you laughing? Among the men only empty and stupid people could be the mockers, and among the women – only the most dissolute ones…”
The laughter faded away.
Token wanted to affect and wound Amantay, but offended everybody. Janbota jumped from her sit.
“Aqsaqal got sick,” she said and started to shake off her dress, as some nasty thing really fell on it.
“That’s okay, if it will be bad again, we’ll put a tub,” Amantay tried to calm her down.
“No, it’s better to shut his mouth,” she returned.
Shiganak saw that Token just got into hot water with Janbota and Amantay and that he is in for it, so he interfered in their conversation:
“That’s enough! Look at him, the poor fellow swelled himself that strong, that he could easily blow out at any moment!”
The jokes stopped. Yerzhan, who was expected to support Token, was not going to stop talking. In order to bring him on his side, Token noted:
“No work can be seen here, only chatter and mockery! Isn’t it so, comrade Yerzhan?”
“The joke is the joke!” Yerzhan said, willing to demonstrate his neutrality. Keeping a look of importance on his face, he glanced steady at the chairman of kolkhoz Shangirey. “Shangirey, what would you say? Look, how your old fellows took alarm! But ultimately you will answer for them all!”
“Do I know more than Token? If we will start to spend the kolkhoz money without making sense of it all properly, I will be primarily held responsible for it… Let it be, as you’ll decide it with Token,” Shangirey said.
“And what is your own opinion?”
“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.
Chuckle of Kabysh was heard among the common silence. “What can he say?” though the rest of the company, turning to him in bewilderment.
“Shangirey said the worthy words,” Kabysh started. “How can we be that unreasonable with the governmental money?! But Shiganak is right as well. He said for the sake of the people. Token though is long-sighted, he thinks about the possible consequences. The one who doesn’t look into the future, will always stumble and fall…”
Amantay burst into laughter.
“Kabeke is foxier than a cat! He solved the situation crafty and praised everybody!”
“You are less quick-witted, than a camel!” Janbota exclaimed. “Apparently he said: “Let you all fight, and I will see, whose side will win!””.
Shiganak took up at Kabysh himself.
“Janbote guessed it right. “Both of them are right. I will be with the one, who’ll win”, Kabysh says. His words are clear, but he himself is crooked, we got him at once. Kabysh is no stranger to such situations. I just don’t know, if he is joking or tripping the kolkhoz up with intention. Let him tell it openly!”
Kabysh felt offended. He raised his head slowly.
“You are wrong, if you wish to know. You embarrass and confuse people with the candy floss and impossible dreams, like duana !”
“If kolkhoz will take such a decision, I will back down myself, without your order. It’s not that time now, when it was possible to exchange a human for the horse of a piece of thick and fat lamb. Let the people decide,” Shiganak concluded.
“So, what will you say?” Yerzhan addressed to the rest of the kolkhoz workers.
The kolkhoz workers have been exchanging the looks and bumping and pushing each other, encouraging talking first.
Amantay stared into Oljabek’s eyes and declared:
“Let us allow Oljabek to speak!”
Oljabek felt this trick coming, and his heart was trembling. Now it seemed to him that his heart just jumped to his throat and restrained his breathe, but it was already too late to escape. The eyes fixed on him from all the directions of the room transfixed Oljabek, and he bluched.
Amantay threw Oljabek over, but he also saved him:
“He is very shy, so give him some time to come to his senses”.
Long time passed, but Oljabek kept silent, his heart couldn’t calm down. Yerzhan hurried him up:
“Come, come! Don’t make the people wait and waste their time!”
Oljabek took off his hat. Once an official, who came from the district center, has passed a remark upon a man, gave a speech in public without taking off his hat. Oljabek remembered it. He pumped air into his lungs and shrinking like a bird before the flight came out loud and distinct:
“I don’t know how to speak a lot and good. But we really need a machine!” he said and, turning red more and without turning back, he ran out of the cart…
Oljabek disappeared behind the door, and his shaved head still stood in front of Yerzhan’s eyes, and he still heard his loud voice.
“Oljabek said it right: there’s no need to talk a lot, but we cannot do it without the machine!” Amantay shouted suddenly.
“Of course! The machine will be working, while you’ll be having rest and relaxing,” Shangirey said sharply.
“Hey, Shangirey! If we want to saw, let us saw, like the orderly and descent kolkhozes do it!” Shiganak exclaimed. “I’m asking because sixteen farms pick at six hectares of land! Even if there will be a good harvest, we won’t be able to feed many!”
“Should Shangirey then sign the checks and bills according to your and Oljabek’s orders?” asked Yerzhan spitefully.
“What if the people will demand it?”
“If the people will demand it, we will see”.
“Let it be, how it should be. Appoint the common gathering. Let the comrades from the governorate’s authority will be present!” Shiganak concluded.
Token gave a shrug with his shoulders scornfully.
“Is it your “determination” again?”
Shiganak got angry.
“Yes, it is this determination!” he said raising his voice. “”I let my boot to sail the river of the challenges…” Token always tries to bite the weakest spot,” Shiganak went on with vexed. “We met with him many times before, in Kokzhar fortress. Now not only the fortress itself, but even its name is almost forgotten, but he seems to remember those days till now…”
Yerzhan interrupted Shiganak meaningfully:
“Don’t you dive deep, maybe you won’t rise the surface again!”
Shiganak fell silent, but he couldn’t help himself to get rid of the memories, as he anyhow did “dive deep”.
Many Kazakh families and clans have been roaming the Uil steppe in those times. The majority of the twelve biggest clans, Bayuly , including Aday , arrived in these places yearly and swam in the transparent blueness of Uil River, which used to feed many generations of Kazakhs. Imperial government didn’t leave this river without its attention. The city of Uil was built on its high banks. It was initially a fortress, serving the monarchy for the making of colonial policy in the Kazakh steppe. Before the revolution this city turned into a local trade center.
Greedy traders stuck to the guest dark skinned steppe Aday, visiting the city during the fair. Their bellies and capitals got swollen because of it very fast. Token was originally from this little trade city, while poor Shiganak lived on the outskirts of the town. Token could be unfamiliar with Shiganak, one of the ordinary people, before, but Shiganak knew Token very well. He used to see him one day as well-fed bon vivant, living with his father’s money, another day as a kulak exploiting the local Russian and Kazakh poor people. Today Token was putting a mask of a technical specialist and hydraulic engineer and wanted to rule again. Thus, Shiganak couldn’t endure it. He just remembered the words of his dead friend, commissary Slamgali:
“Fighting against durzhiguls and zhusupalys , you should also fight the tokens . Some of them are the forest wolves, the others are the mountainous wolves. There is no difference between them, all of them will howl at the beginning, and then they will be in on it together!”
Durzhigul and Zhusupay were the rich relatives of Shiganak. During the “state elections”, as they’ve called the elections of the Bauermeisters, they arrived to the zhatak and forced the peasants with the whip to vote for them. Only the old Berse, Shiganak’s father, and three of his children maintained resistance to them. Elder Shiganak used to participate in the street stand-up fights, and his feast was heavy.
“Watch yourself! Beat, but not till the death!” his father toughed him before the battle.
He was the same during his work.
“Hey you, weasel-faced! Do you want me to hit the sky with my head?!” Berse shouted, standing on the cartful of hay, as his son was throwing up the big shocks.
Shiganak rode the horse for the first time, when he was only ten years old. He made his first furrow with the wooden plough at the same age. The furrow was straight like an arrow.
“You’ll make it good, as I see, son,” his fathered said.
The child, showing promise, makes its parents happy first of all, then all the members of its family and then the neighbors and the rest of the people, according to the saying. Though, till he was sixty years old, Shiganak was known only in about six kilometers around. Slamgali saw in him determination and insistence and wanted to promote him for the work in the local government, but then he got sick and died. Shiganak remained as he was. Kolkhoz, which Shiganak has joined, is being called “Kurman”, in an honor of Slamgali Kurmanov. Here is the grave of Slamgali as well. He was a fervent Bolshevik commissar, who banished and exiled the members and representatives of the Alash Horde Dosmuhamedov of Uil, considered being a stronghold of nationalism. Slamgali has organized the revolutionary committee and controlled it, though it didn’t last long. He died of phthisis in 1927.
Shiganak remembered Slamgali now. He wasn’t afraid of the cruel warning of Yerzhan: “Don’t’ dive deep”, but these words forced him to fall silent… “Isn’t he a mountainous wolf?” he thought about Yerzhan, but, driving this idea away, came back to the conversation.
“So, Shangirey, let us hold a meeting?”
“Let us hold the meeting. Nobody resolves issues like this in hasty”.
“We are wasting our time in the empty conversations!” Shaganak objected and glanced at Yerzhan. “You should judge us finally with this issue; otherwise we’ll go on arguing!”
“You should understand everything yourself at the beginning,” Yerzhan said.
Yerzhan felt that his legs and feet became tired after the aimless trampling in the cart. He sat on the blanket and clapped with his whip on his boot. A setter dog stretched on the floor at his feet. The dog opened its eyes a little bit at every lash, and then narrowed its eyes again.
Although baibishe didn’t like the stubborn guest, but when he leaned, she took the pillow and out it under his elbow, according to the old custom. The guest didn’t even move.
Shiganak scowled and sighed heavily.
“I don’t understand anything,” he said.
Some changes were noticeable in his facial expression and voice. Amantay and Janbota understood and could feel the stand of their elder friend and exchanged the looks.
“If you don’t understand, what can we do then?” Yerzhan objected rough and defiantly. “There’s a fat lot of use even if you’ll understand something. You have the fields you still haven’t water. All the planned schedules of watering have passed and weren’t met, and you are still walking around doing magic”.
“I’m looking not at the schedule, but at the wheat and millet,” Shiganak responded.
“Wheat and millet demand water!” Yerzhan caught up.
“Do you want to say, that agronomist knows nothing and set the terms of watering wrong?” Token asked spitefully.
“It would be better for the agronomist to learn the situation better,” Shiganak said. “Instead of setting the terms and creating the schedules, you better give us water!”
“What? Is it a rebellion?” Yerzhan shouted, standing up harsh.
His whip touched the dog accidently. The dog jumped up and attacked Yerzhan, barking loudly, caught his sleeve and then stopped dead waiting.
“Leave it! Leave it!” Amantay shouted to the dog. “Leave him, or he’ll be offended! What an impolite dog!”
The dog left its victim and ran out of the cart, growling. Yerzhan, caught by the impotent rage, waggled his finger at Janbota and Amantay.
“Wait, I’ll show you both!” he said and turned to Shiganak. “Don’t exploit the idea that the good offer is being put under the table. We will see your art later. In the meantime though carry out instructions”.
Yerzhan moved to the exit. Amantay and Janbota crossed his way.
“What do you both want from me?”
“You wanted to show us something. We want to watch…”
“Phew! Happy-go-lucky!” Yerzhan exclaimed with the unwilled smile.
“If you don’t want to show it now, we can wait,” they said and went to say goodbye to the guests with laughter and jokes, as if nothing happened.
Shiganak kept silent dark and dismal. His dark face darkened more after this conversation.
“If Oljabek and I will get sick or maybe even die, whom will you put in our place, Shangirey?” Shiganak asked.
“Of course, Amantay and Janbota! Whom else?”
That was all they said after long silent sitting.
Since Shangirey left, Shiganak still didn’t clear his gloomy face. He became silent after his recent clash with Yerzhan, Shangirey and others. He even didn’t notice how Shangirey left. Hanging with his brow upon his hand, he sat bow-backed, looking to the ground and curling with another hand a peak of his beard. He put it into his mouth from time to time and bit it thoughtfully. Finally he raised his head and saw that he was alone. He stretched himself, took a dombra and started to play silent.
Home-folks and neighbors, coming back from work, entered as usually one by one. Kicking each other joyfully, Janbota and Amantay also appeared. Oljabek and Karibay came as well. Shiganak put his dombra aside and smiled at his guests friendly and happily. Oljabek looked like a child. Shiganak was like a father for him. But Oljabek wasn’t the same stubborn hunter for the kolkhoz-free life, like he was before. He didn’t know anything about his beloved Jamal. He was trying to escape one kolkhoz and got into another one, healed his wounds here and became a member of kolkhoz. Either due to the beating of the outlaws or due to his grief for Jamal and his son, but he became more gloomy and silent. But his native honesty and firmness strengthened in him.
“Oljabek, we met with you under the heave circumstances. New hardship is laying ahead again,” Shiganak said.
“Come on, leave it! That’s enough for me!” Oljabek interrupted him, waving with his hands.
“This time it will be easier. You should only sign one paper, and that’s all,” Shiganak consoled him with laughter.
“Oh my God! I don’t have a wish to get into touch with some papers!” Oljabek exclaimed in alarm.
Shiganak addressed the teacher Karibay, who was a party organizer and the best advisor in all the difficult affairs. Shiganak saw in him not only the teacher of his children, but was learning from him as well, learning to live under the new circumstances. Shiganak saw the insistence of Yerzhan and started to have some doubts in his rightness. That’s why he decided to come to the teaching for the advice.
“You know when I started my troubles,” he said to Karibay. “But my attempt remained an empty dream till now. Nobody supports me. Maybe it’s my fault. You are an educated and honest man, tell me the truth”.
“Why are you having doubts? How could the wish to make our kolkhoz prosperous and civilized be bad?”
“If it’s really true, Shiganak will cast away all his sixty years! It’s impossible to endure it any longer. I have five sons and three daughters. If I will perish, my family will remain. Death of the body is a God’s business, but I won’t allow burying my idea. If they don’t want to do it in the district, then I will go to the governorate! What do you think?”
“Why not, if kolkhoz’ authorities will give you the permission?”
“But you should write a special paper for me, so that all the members of our kolkhoz could sign it”.
Shiganak’s counterpart Kabysh started to grunt, as usually. Although he was a friend of Shiganak, but he was reluctant in the serious affairs and issues and liked to look at the other people and their opinions, especially at the “authorities”.
He saw unfriendly attitudes of Taken and Shangirey towards the idea of Shiganak, and that’s why he anticipated signing the paper with Shoganak’s demands. He couldn’t oppose and contradict in the cases like that and took a back seat, taking the side getting the majority of votes.
“It’s not that difficult to sign a paper. Settle it down with Shangirey, reach an agreement with him, and then…”
“Nonsense, Kabeke, don’t ne coward,” Amantay interfered.
Shiganak interrupted him:
“Karibay, write the paper,” he said. “Everybody knows that the dogs are being driven with the whips while pursuing the foxes. Those who are afraid can sit together with Kabysh. The brave ones will go with us”.
Everybody surrounded Karibay, and only Kabysh and Oljabek stood aside. Oljabek though couldn’t endure it anymore and approached the table first. Kabysh had nothing to do as well and did the same.
“Write it stronger! Write everything about the district authorities! Let them worry!” the people roared and rustled around the table.
Shiganak and Oljabek placed themselves on the backseat of the two-wheeled cart and drove up along the shores of Uil. The sandy road, running along the river, divaricated. The left road went in the direction of the Kokzhar , another one led to the sand drifts and barchans.
Shiganak turned to the right. Oljabek, dozing silently, was close to fall down at the sharp turning.
“You’ve turned to the wrong direction! You wanted though to go to the district!”
“I don’t want it. Yerzhan knows everything himself. We are heading further”.
Glimmering dawn looked above the barchans and moved the rests of the night further to the West. A sudden gust of wind refreshed the faces of the travelers and faded away. There was silence around. Everything was still sleeping, only the restless and uneasy thoughts of Shiganak, who looked calm, responded to the creak of wheels of the cart. When the sun rose, Shiganak started to sing suddenly in a loud and high voice. Oljabek shuddered at first, woke by an unexpected sound, but then closed his eyes again. He sat silent for a while, remembering the details of his dream.
“You know, Shiganak, I just dreamt of Jamal and saw her like in the real, talked to her, held Sagintay in my arms…”
“It means that you will reunite happily. Morning dreams always come true,” Shiganak commented. “And I dreamed in waking life about the machine delivered on the shores of Uil. This machine started to draw the water, and the land was flowering, like a beautiful garden”.
“How did you know about this machine?”
“I traveled a lot in this world,” Shiganak said. “I saw the mountains’ scouts in those mountains, where I met you. These scouts had such a machine. It’s not that big and scary, but it’s so fast!.. This idea appeared in my mind that day. We should get the machine like this and make it water our soil”.
“You were talking during all the way then about this machine”.
“Yes, if we’ll manage to install it in our kolkhoz household, we’ll be able just to realax!” concluded Shiganak with inspiration.
“If I had my family back! The rest is not so important,” Oljabek responded to him, still busy with his sad thoughts.
He sighed deeply and heavily and glanced at Shiganak.
“Tell me something,” he asked.
“What do you want me to tell you about? About the vagrancy and misfortune?”
“It doesn’t matter. Tell me whatever you want. Maybe, it will relieve my soul”.
Shiganak started his story from afar:
“Since I started to remember myself, there were seven members of our family: father, mother, grandfather and grandmother, I and brothers. We were very poor. My father didn’t have brothers. We were small, and our father couldn’t leave us and go to earn some money. I was ten years old, as once my father asked my mother to prepare everything for the trip. Mother fried for us a feedbag of millet, and then she cleaned it on the next day before midday and powdered it. Next morning we departed. My father was riding a horse, and I was sitting on the back of the indorsed camel. The trip made me excited. I was waiting for it so much; I even hardly slept the night before. But the road appeared to be hard. Waggling of the camel made one sleepy, but the cold head wind pierced the whole body. It was difficult not only to fall asleep, but even to stay awake.
“I’m cold,” said I to my father.
He took off his robe and covered me with it. Through the wholes of the old and ragged under tunic his naked thin shoulders were seen.”
“What could he have done?! You were his son! Of course he felt pity for you!” Oljabek said with sighingly.
Shiganak continued his story:
“We’ve approached the field at the evening. Everyone coming for the field works had his or her own place to stay. Somebody had hut or tent, somebody stayed in the tilt cart. Only we didn’t have a roof. We asked the neighbor to shelter us. There was the height of the sawing season, and everybody was busy with work. My father started to make something with his little hatchet as well.
“What is it?” I asked him.
“It’s a plough,” he responded.
He placed then something like a pike on the top of the staff and fixed it with the nails.
“The plough is ready, my son,” he said.
We got started to plow with this plough. I didn’t know and understand anything in the sawing and plowing work and in the working of plough, and father’s intentions were also unknown for me. No matter how hard it was that was always interesting for me to learn something new. My father was rough and soft with me at the same time, though either his rudeness or his care expressed always unexpected. When we yoked our old nag into the plough, my father held me up and placed me on the back of the horse, telling me:
“Lead towards that hill!”
One-toughed wooden plough and gray nag were changing for me my whole world. I wanted to enjoy this picture and turned back, but my father shouted at me:
I was forced to look forward and to lead the horse, despite the fact that everything interesting was right behind me.
“Now turn back!” father screamed.
Turning back I’ve noticed a soft and lovely glance of my father. His smile and my first furrow made me really happy.
“Can I hold the plough?” I asked.
“You will, you will hold it!” father supported me, though he didn’t allow me to hold it this time.
I should admit without boasting that my first furrow was really straight like an arrow.
“You’ve started good, my son!” father praised me and kissed.
His voice was happy and joyful, but there were pity and sorrow in his face, and his lips were trembling, as if he was going to cry.
Thus, I became a grain farmer. But it doesn’t matter, how good you work on your field, if there is no rain, all your work will go in vain. People didn’t know about irrigation in those times. The sky was drier than the soil itself in our lands, that’s why I was forced to roam around the world, looking for my daily bread…”
The cart yawped suddenly on the bump of the road, and the horse halted. Shiganak and Oljabek jumped down on the ground and started to examine the cart and its wheels. There was no damage, only the coffer of the cart slid aside and started to brush against the wheel.
“What a horrible road! Tortures!” Oljabek said.
Shiganak started to laugh as he glanced at Oljabek’s worried face.
“All the lands except of Arca and all the women except of Jamal are bad for you,” he joked.
“That’s truth. Even the women here are unfriendly,” Oljabek responded.
“What can you say about Janbota? It’s not a girl, it’s a fire!”
“That’s true,” Oljabek said shyly.
“Would you marry her, if he’d agreed to?”
“Not likely! She’s rogue like a horse!”
The coffer of the cart was placed back and fixed with the hide rope, and the travelers continued their way.
When Oljabek and Shiganak arrived in several days to the regional center, their horse was same vigorous as it was at the beginning of their trip. They both loved the horses and agreed after coming to the city that Oljabek will grass and feed the horse during the day, while Shiganak will visit the offices of the authorities.
The shores of Ilek River, where Oljabek was grassing the horse, were green with the gardens, vegetable patches and melon fields. Grain fields started on the outskirts of the city. Many people swarmed and messed around at the vegetable patches and gardens all day long.
Oljabek laid down and stretched his body on the bank of the river, far from the people, and talked with himself:
“Even the color of the soil is totally different in these lands, comparing to Uil lands. It looks like the soil of our native lands. There is just less bushes and scrubs here…”
For the first time in his life he saw the field-engine pulling and drawing the ploughs.
“One… two… three… five…” Oljabek counted the ploughs in astonishment. “I lay here during an hour, I suppose, and it has plowed already that much, that the entire aul cannot plow during the day!”
Oljabek stood up and headed with and unusual determination towards the tractor. He looked upon it and examined it long in astonishment and bewilderment, walked around and clicked his tongue. Tractor driver rolled leisurely a cigarette and looked at Oljabek with a smile.
“Hey, tamyr , why is it shaking?”
“The motor is working”.
“What is it?”
“The heart,” tractor driver responded, trying to explain it easier.
“The heart?.. Here it is…” Oljabek stated with a sigh. “Can you show it?.. If it’s permitted,” he asked, throwing off reverse.
The tractor driver opened the motor and tried to explain easier and clearer the principles of its work. Oljabek listened to the driver carefully and attentively and nodded from time to time, as if he understood everything was said.
“Can I buy the things like that at the market?”
“No, only at the factory,” the tractor driver responded.
He threw the cigarette stub, stepped on it with his foot and sat himself back at the wheel. But Oljabek didn’t want to let him go that fast.
“Hey, tamyr! Could you sell it to us?”
“How much would you pay?” the driver asked.
“That’s your good, you should tell its price”.
“Buy it for ten thousand!” the tractor driver exclaimed, moving the tractor.
Oljabek didn’t get whether the tractor driver was joking or really meant what he said. He wanted to run for the tractor first, but then changed his mind and came back t his horse.
“What have I found, trying to save my cattle from the kolkhoz?.. Now it’s taken by the outlaws,” Oljabek thought.
He remembered recent past. His hear was tearing apart from the memories. He became mushy, unwelcomed tears appeared on his eyes, and he nuzzled his face into the green grass.
“My beloved dove, Jamal! Will I hear your voice again? What have they done to you, heartless outlaws?! Sagintay, light of my eyes! Will I be able to see you again? Oh Lord! Do the people living with their families and working honest know the sorrow? I was afraid of kolkhoz, and now I was received as a relative there… And I can even argue with so strong and powerful people. Like Yerzhan and Token… Where else could an ordinary poor man like me rise that high?”
Thoughts about the kolkhoz and its power drew Oljabek away from his heavy memories. The things that seemed gloomy to him started to look positive. Collective work, which he never understood before, appeared to him now the only one possible way to happiness. He had almost no doubts anymore, that here the just and fair, bright life starts.
“If only Jamal is alive, if only I will see her again one day… Times are becoming better. If everything will go like this, we’ll rise and live rich and happily very soon. Now I have more than three hundred workday units and honor and esteem from everybody… We are going to live the way, that we’ll receive the guests with joy and pride!..”
Coming back to Jamal in his thoughts, Oljabek didn’t surrender himself to despair anymore, but just smiled in his dreams to the silent and peaceful family life.
The light was switched on in the house of Sagyndyk, where Shiganak stopped. Shiganak reclined silently on the sofa, fixing his eyes on one point and stroking his beard from time to time. The noise of the running cars came from outside over and over again, it was also heard how the house was preparing for dinner. A beetle, breaking inside through the small window, was circling buzzing in the room, hitting the pane of glass from time to time. But it all didn’t disturb the thread of Shiganak’s thoughts. He raised his head suddenly.
“Where is my friend Oljabek?” he thought.
Just like answering this question, the door went open, and Oljabek entered the room.
He answered the question of Shiganak about his absence with the smile on his face:
“I was just roaming in the city”.
Shiganak didn’t ask him more questions. Taking his head in his hands, he sat, looking thoughtfully down, on the ground. Oljabek got used already, that every day at this time Shiganak was teasing somebody and made his jokes, gladdening and amusing everybody, but today he sat gloomy. Oljabek felt alarmed:
“Aren’t you sick, Shiganak?”
“No, I’m okay,” Shiganak said after pause.
“What are your successes?”
“NO changes till now. I hope that Yerzhan and Token are here as well”.
Oljabek started in his seat.
“That’s okay. Who knows? Maybe they came here in their own business. Although their coming isn’t for our good, of course,” Shiganak said.
Both of them thought back. Sagyndyk’s son, little Yerik, run out of the kitchen at this time and complained crying and sobbing to Shiganak about his mother:
“Grandfather, my mother is beating me!..”
Shiganak didn’t respond and started to get dressed, as the crying child and Oljabek, sad cause of the bad news, looked at him uncomprehendingly. Zibagul, Yerik’s mother, showed up from the kitchen.
“Where are you going, father? We’ll drink tea now”.
“I won’t drink tea”.
“Drink at least one little cup. Where are you going?”
“I’m going to look for another apartment”.
Zibagul became confused and stared at him in mute amusement. She loved this old man like her father and respected him more, than all others home-folks, who used to stop at their place arriving in Aktubinsk. This silent and modest old man suddenly rebelled. Zibagul took care of him like she was his daughter, and now, without knowing her fault, she just whispered:
“What should I do now? Life in the city doesn’t allow us anymore…”
Shiganak interrupted her:
“Don’t talk about it, my darling. I’m satisfied with everything in all sincerity. But why do you always make your child cry?! I asked you though for the sake of God…”
Zibagul laughed joyfully, rushed towards Shiganak and started to help him taking off his coat.
“Stay here, father! If I’ll neat him one more time, punish me for that!”
Shiganak allowed to take off his coat and started to talk about raising the children, caressing little Yerik, who jumped immediately into his lap.
“How could you lift a hand on such a little creature?” he said. “What is his fault? He’ll do what you’ll show him. You teach him bad and you beat him. But when the child cries, you run to comfort him. Both of you are unhappy”.
Yerik understood, that the guests and his mother talk about him, and listened carefully, knitting his brow. Zibagul drew him to herself and kissed strong, pressing the child to her breast.
“You shouldn’t spoil the child with the excessive caress as well,” Shiganak went on to say. “He’ll grow up a tender creature, not ready to the life challenges. The child is complicated creature, and it’s raising and education is a real art”.
Although Zibagul had some education, she understood, that she can learn a lot from the uneducated Shiganak, that’s why she listened carefully to his advices and tried to memorize them all.
“If only this man was educated and younger a little bit!” she thought.
Noticing her silence and thinking, that she maybe got offended for his words, Shiganak tried to call her off and change the subject.
“Zibagul, sing for us something, gladden our souls!” he asked.
“What should I sing?”
“As a first step, you should sing us “Zauresh ”, of course. Sorrow and melancholy are close to my heart”.
Zibagul sat a shild in her lap and started to sing a famous song “Zauresh” with her silent and soulful voice. Shiganak loved this song very much.
“It seems, it became sadder on my mind after the song,” he said. “Sing us now “Aset”!
While Zibagul was singing the “Aset”, Shiganak was weaving in tune with the song and sentenced:
“Hey, hey! Up to the skies, and then down, like a stone!... Oh my God! How nice!.. Splendid!..”
“Father, “Aset” is song of the young people, and you love it as well”, Zibagul joked, after she finished singing.
“Do you think that I never was young? Every person has the joy of his life at his right time, but appreciates it much later. I appreciated it now”.
Sagyndyk entered the room. Shiganak came back to his thoughts about the machine, glancing at him. Zibagul served the tea, though Shiganak engrossed in thought during the tea time as well. It seemed to him, that the machine escapes him and slides from his hands like a fox.
“I don’t believe I won’t catch it!” Shiganak said with a deep sigh.
Oljabek didn’t get, what Shiganak was talking about, but following his glance he saw a big beetle, which flew into the room.
“It has no choice!” Oljabek exclaimed, swatting the beetle prompt and swift.
“I wish it would be that easy with the machine as well!” Shiganak sneered.
“Oh, you are talking about the machine again!” Oljabek responded.
“See, we need an official pleading of the local organizations, but is it possible, that Yerzhan and Token will give us such a paper?”
Oljabek took a thought.
“Do we have enough money?” he asked.
“No, we have not enough money as well”.
“Find the money, and I will get you the machine!” Oljabek promised.
“Where from?” the old man said in astonishment, and everybody stared at Oljabek surprised.
“We can find it here, on the banks of the river”.
“Really? And how much does it cost?”
“I was asked to give ten thousand for the tractor. I don’t think, that your machine could cost more,” Oljabek said.
Shiganak looked at Sagyndyk with the doubt. Sagyndyk smiled/
“I think somebody made a joke with our dear Oljeke. Do the machines like this exist in the private property?”
“What should we do now?We won’t be able to get a machine without the paper. Yerzhan and Token will refuse us for sure”.
“What the people! Instead of supporting such a good deed, they just restrain everything!” Zibagul got involved in the conversation, mixing the tea.
“Why do you think that they restrain it?” Sagyndyk retorted clear and slowly, as if he was untying the knot. “Our industry has no time to produce so big amount of the machines and mechanisms like this. Hundreds of hands are trying to approach every machine. Foreigners though buy everything, paying with gold. Wait a little, we will learn to produce that much machines, that there will be lack of them! But until this time the machines are being given only to those, who need them desperately, and to those, who can use them at full blast. These are giant kolkhozes with the huge fields and farms. To be open with you, I have some doubts, that the machine could prove its value on Uil River”.
Shiganak thought about Sagyndyk’s support at the authorities’ offices even before he started his trip, leaving the kolkhoz. Sagyndyk was a head of one of those offices. But here in Aktubinsk, being respected by everybody and first of all by his relatives and his family, Sagyndyk started to have some doubts. As for the lack of the machines, he night have been right, but how is it possible that he doesn’t see the people seeking desperately to use this machine for the sake of the kolkhoz? Shiganak asked him directly:
“Don’t you believe me or my soil?” Why won’t you give us our share, at least, one machine?”
“Don’t get offended, but, telling you the truth, your soil is not very good and proper,” Sagyndyk said with a smile.
Shiganak flashed at instance:
“I would stand it, if you’d say that I am not good enough, but I won’t allow anybody to insult and offend my land. Only the winds are blowing in the bad land, but the good land is inhabited by people. The ancestors of my ancestors used to roam in these lands, and the entire families ad clans live here till now. If it’s not enough, the people say, that the scientists found the best and strongest grain in our lands. The seeds of American white wheat were exported from our lands as well, according to what I’ve heard. So how do you dare to humiliate us?!”
“Where is now the famous quality of your soil?” Sagyndyk asked ironically.
“In Uil! Here!” an old stubborn man exclaimed, clapping his pocket.
“Shot it to us!”
“You should pay for the demonstration first. Give us the machine, and then you will see. Either I will come back to my kolkhoz with the machine or I’ll fall foul with all of you and renounce you all…”
“Ring off! Shika puts the question squarely!” Sagyndyk said laughing.
Although Sagyndyk didn’t show it, the words of Shiganak stroke him home. He loved and respected an old man, however, in order to prove something to other people, one should get self-confidence as well. He supported Shiganak’s idea in his mind, but he could hardly rely on Uil River. Won’t an expensive, difficult-to-obtain machine simply suffocate during the first sand storm in the steppe? Will it be able to attract the blue Uil, to bend it and to satisfy the thirsty soil? Shiganak declares confidently, that he knows how to succeed. But do the skills and crafts of him correspond with his determination?
“There could be no revolution without the sacrifices,” Sagyndyk thought to himself. “And there is a revolution in aul now! What can I do? Let us sacrifice one machine for it!”
Sagyndyk came to conclusion, that the good idea should be supported. Without saying Shiganak a word, he left for the next room and came back again after the short phone conversation.
“We will go tomorrow to the regional committee together and will discuss it all there,” he said.
Little hill, looking like a button, appeared far away on the bank of Ilek River. The hill’s name was Atube , and the city, built around it, was called Aktubinsk. The river Ilek flows on the eastern outskirts of the city, on the western side there is a railway Orenburg-Tashkent. To the one side of the city lay beautiful green meadows, pleasing the eyes. Silence reigns here. To the other side of the city is rumble of the trains, running fast, and yellow dry sands. Hawks are hovering in the endless sky, above the wide fields, covered with mat grass, and above the unending hilly steppe.
Aktubinsk was a nest of the tradesmen and jobbers during dozens of years, yet now it ceased being their center. New people threw away the old masters. The city started to grow rapidly. Till now it looks not that pleasant and attractive. The sun grills from above; the heated sand parches the feet. Breathlessly from heat, whipped-up, one is looking for shade and coolness, seeking for the light wind. But once the wind will blow, you’ll start to ask the sky for mercy: dust, mixed with the sand, covers and clouds the eyes, chokes the throat.
But the people fight these troubles: they build many-storied houses, preventing the sandstorms from coming; the water pipe was erected, and the water is flowing through the aryks and aqueducts. Young bushes are planted into the naked sandy soil, poplars are also seen. The city runs and bustles about, it looks like a big nomadic camp, where the people just arrived and build their houses with the noise.
Shabby little house stands on the stones, crooked and nodded. It’s the first house built in the city. Local hydraulic engineer Token talks in one of the rooms of the office building to the young agronomist arrived recently from center. Token complains about the new, broadly incomprehensible for him rules. He grumbles and growls, but the agronomist doesn’t look scared or depressed. He has his own prospection.
“Our epoch is an epoch of the great changes and transformations. It’s difficult now, but everything will work out I course of time. Only now should we say our word! It all will end up with everybody joining the kolkhozes. But we should have an individual approach to the conditions of each district and region in this issue”.
“Once you start to talk about these “conditions”, you risk to be ascribed with the things, you never imagined!” Token said.
“Don’t worry and don’t be scared,” the agronomist objected. “We are people of science, and science must always tell the truth”.
Token didn’t respond.
“He is a greenhorn, who hasn’t known the sorrows yet,” he thought in his mind. “You will know everything, once you’ll be crocked!”
“The man got too old; he doesn’t want to feel the life anymore. Even a hot summer is cold like winter for him!” the agronomist reflected in his turn, looking searchingly at Token.
They really spoke different languages: one of them was scared to cross the limits of the age-old traditions and customs, while another one, fostered by the new authorities and new time, sought the progressive thinking.
“There is kolkhoz on the papers, but there is still no kolkhoz on the ground,” Token spoke, leaning himself back and gawking his old-aged eyes. “The distance between the houses is still more than a kilometer! The soil is heated like a fire. Everything except of wormwood is burnt. People and cattle survive only because of the waters of Uil. If we’ll spatter its waters all over the steppe, there will be nothing to drink even for a sparrow anymore! It’s impossible to get to this poky hole of a place even by the airplane! Not but that to recover the road there. What’s the purpose of the machine there?”
“Yes, it’s right. Conditions of this land are really special,” the agronomist said thoughtfully.
Token caught him on concession and started to press him with bigger effort.
“I grew up in these lands. Except of the little group of zhatacks , the rest of Kazakhs are still roaming all over the steppe. If you won’t approach them carefully, you could frighten them away!” an old man said grinning.
“I think, it’s a bit exaggerated!” an agronomist interrupted him sharply.
“Don’t say that! Even the zhatacks themselves still haven’t unlearnt how to roam. They just scatter the plate of millet in the field, leave the sparrows to guard and go roaming to the steppe…”
“And what about those people, who are by the water wheels?”
“That’s true, something still remains there by the water wheels,” hydraulic engineer mumbled unwillingly.
“Thus, we can install the machine there”.
“Okay then let it be as you wish. You’ll bring the machine there on the camels’ backs, out it in the sands, but what could it give us?”
“That’s a question. We should see it on the ground. I want to go there now. And what is your opinion? What can the machine give?”
“I have some objections against the machine,” Token said. “One machine won’t be enough there, but there will be no water for many machines as well. Uil soil consists of salt marches and sandstones. Even if you’ll pour milk on it, it won’t give more than it can give. We have no mechanics in our kolkhoz at all. Who is going to manage and rule the machine? If one tiny and insignificant small screw will be suddenly lost, we will be forced to wait, until it will be transported here by the camels. What about oil? Where is the oil? And here is the last objection. Uil steppe isn’t discovered properly. Shouldn’t we discover it better first, and then to define, what kind of a household could be created there?”
Token looked victorious at the young agronomist.
The agronomist sat thoughtfully, doubling up his legs, and tumbled quizzically his hair.
Uneducated Shiganak and “book wise” Token are pulling the cart into the different directions.”Our soil is poor and miser, but with the right approach it can be unbelievably fruitful”, Shiganak says. His arguments are based on the long0standing life experience. Token judges from afar like an official.
The young agronomist rose from his seat without saying a word.
“I am a hydraulic engineer, and you are an agronomist, but nevertheless I hope we found the common ground,” Token said, smiling with satisfaction.
“There is one old man arrived from those places. Do you know him?” an agronomist asked a question suddenly. “His name is Shiganak”.
“I know him,” Token responded unwillingly. Trouble and anxiety gripped him. “What is he doing here?”
“He came here to apply for the water-engine pump, and he says completely different things about the soil in his lands.”
“He is a stubborn and restive man,” Token said after short period of silence.
He said it in icy tones. He was anxious to learn more, but he didn’t want to expose himself.
“It seems that he is very skilled and experienced,” an agronomist said.
It forced Token to reveal himself.
“Why didn’t he demonstrate his experience and skills in Uil, but decided to bring it here?” Token grinned, glinting with his golden teeth. “I haven’t heard anything useful about him until now. He is of the same age with me. Maybe, he is still growing, isn’t he? Give him the machine, and you will see everything yourself”.
“Lest it will be covered by sand,” and agronomist expressed his doubts.
Token burst into laughter.
“They think,” he said raising his head, “that the machine will do everything instead of them, and they will just relax, doing nothing! April weather!..”
“We will see it on the ground,” the agronomist concluded, looking at his watches.
Shiganak plods slowly along the heated street of the city. His eyes look down to the ground, and his thoughts linger somewhere in the steppes of Uil. He is worried and doesn’t talk to his friends and companions – Sagyndyk and Oljabek. The zero hour came, and this hour will finally abolish and finish the long battle. Shiganak enters the doors of the regional committee for the first time in his life. There is a military man standing at the doors of the building.
Turning around, the friends saw Token and Yerzhan, entering the building of the regional office as well. It had an unpleasant effect on them. But it seemed that the soldier on duty was told before about the visitors. He asked Sagyndyk something and let them pass. Shiganak’s heart was beating restless and uneasy. What will the regional committee say? The faith of their sacred dreams is in its hands. How should they behave in front of the strict and rightful judge and how should they tell about their needs? If to start from the very beginning, will the people listen to them? Won’t they consider him being an ordinary babbler? If to say it short, could he be able to express everything he needs to express?
They went along the corridor, and it seemed to Shiganak that an important and big mystery is hidden behind the closed door. He wished to uncover this mystery, that’s why he listened and watched attentively.
Several visitors, sitting in the waiting hall, have been chatting in whispers. Yerzhan and Token, who looked like the elephants in their aul, looked like little sparrows. Here, right behind these doors, sits a person, who calls the visitors one by one.
The secretary allowed the visitors strictly according to the line, one by one.
Shiganak followed everything eagerly and made a conclusion in his mind: “Yes, these are the strict rules!”
But if there is that strict order here, how could it be inside of the cabinet of the “big man”? This thought made him uneasy. Every time Oljabek, who wasn’t accustomed to the long waiting, tried to make some small movements, Shiganak pinched him lightly insensible for the others, and counted the minutes patiently.
“Who is from Uil? Come in,” the secretary called.
Shiganak and Oljabek entered the last, when everybody took their seats. They remained standing, without finding the place for themselves. They looked silently at the man sitting at the big table. It was Secretary of the regional committee, Vasiliy Antonovich Shubin. But here he rose friendly, greeted everybody and sat Shiganak and Oljabek next to him. He emphasized them immediately among the others and started the conversation like an old friend.
“Have a seat, please. I cannot forget the Uil issue! Comrade Oljabek, if you have a jent with you, put it on the table! We’ll make a feast of it!” he joked.
Oljabek opened his eyes wide in bewilderment: this “big man” knew their names even without asking them! Pouring himself some water from the flagon, he joked again:
“I know that Shiganak likes the strong tea.”
Shiganak suddenly felt that he really wanted some tea, but he remained silent. Vasiliy Antonovich called the secretary.
“Fetch us some strong tea, please!”
When the tea and pastry appeared, he joked again:
“Excuse us, but we don’t have any wheat”.
Fragrant strong tea, friendly conversation and jokes relieved Shiganak, and he came to the high spirits. Now he knew how to speak.
“We might have been visiting him long ago!” he thought.
It seemed that Vasiliy Antonovich was waiting for that.
“So, what kind of argues is it between you?” he asked and glanced at Yerzhan.
Yerzhan jumped from his sear.
Being the first speaker, judge and critic in his district, proud and masterful, Yerzhan stood here uneasy, worrying and breathing heavily.
The “big man” noted only the one phrase from the whole speech of Yerzhan: “The idea is good, though the soil is unfit”.
“What if we will create the conditions for this soil?” Vasiliy Antonovich asked searchingly.
“Hydraulic engineer might know it better than me,” Yerzhan responded.
“Let the comrade Token speaks!”
Token put on his glasses, opened his brief case and started to speak, looking through his notes from time to time. It was impossible to remove even one single phrase from his speech without losing the sense of it. Each argument he presented was solid as a stone. He was speaking long and could have been going speaking endlessly, but the secretary finally stopped him:
“Everything is clear”.
Token took off his glasses, sliding down to the tip of his sweating nose. No matter how invulnerable Token constituted himself, Vasiliy Antonovich has caught him.
“What is the average speed of the current of Uil?”
“It could be discovered and studied”.
“Does it mean that you still didn’t discover it? How can you know then that there will be not enough water?”
Token kept silent shyly.
“Good. Discover it first and then tell the results. You told also a lot about psychology of the Kazakh people, about their abilities, skills and so on and so forth. How could it be changed? Or maybe they are unchangeable, aren’t they?”
“Why? Socialism can change everything,” Token responded.
“And what is Socialism from your point of view?”
Token became confused again.
“Are there any means or measures to be taken in order to make generous this miser and poor land and to reap heavy harvests?”
Token made a helpless gesture with his hands.
“Does it mean that it’s impossible?”
“No, why, comrade? There are some means!” Shiganak exclaimed impatiently, jumping from his seat.
“Come on, tell us!”
“There are many means… The grain grower and farmer know the soil well. Token isn’t a farmer, so how could he know the soil?! Father of my grandfather was working in the field with the ketmen . My father Berse plowed with the wooden plough, and I added to the iron plough the water wheel. All of it was done in order to get more millet. Tillage with the wooded plough gave us more than tillage with the ketmen, while plowing with the iron plough gave more as well. Isn’t it funny to have doubts, that irrigation with the machine will give us more, than watering with the water wheels?” Shiganak said and turned around.
Many of the people presented in the hall smiled supportive.
Shiganak saw his success and went on speaking:
“When the river Uil appeared, when it will disappear, nobody knows it! Maybe Token knows it, I don’t know, I’m not the one digging its bed. However Uil brings water for many generations of people. And will bring more and more water as well. But neither Uil, nor the machine itself will be able to do something. Uil soil requires special care, and it also needs a special seed. The one who could find the right approach to these lands, could have mountains of millet and wheat and could turn the steppes into the fields and gardens…”
“Who could find this approach? Who could create these mountains?” Vasiliy Antonovich interrupted.
“I will say without boasting: I could do that with the God’s help,” Shiganak said. “This idea captured me long ago. I am sixty years old and I am not looking for entertainment. If I would think only of myself, I could water my own piece of land and feed myself and my family. But I cannot wait any longer for the sake of the people. That’s why I came to you, “big man”! I saw your bright and friendly face, and half of my wish came true. It seems to me that I’m standing at the grandfather’s chimney and taking an oath here. My grandfather Mahambet kept his word, so you can trust me as well!” Shiganak concluded and sat back.
The words of Shiganak made even Yerzhan and Token to set up and to take a notice. Everybody sat silent, looking expectant at each other.
“Who else wants to speak?” Vasiliy Antonovich asked, as if meeting the formal requirements.
Sagyndyk came suddenly forward:
“Let comrade Oljabek says something as well…”
“Yes, yes, let him speak!”
“No, no, Shiganak has said everything, I have nothing to add!” Oljabek replied in hurry.
“I was speaking on my behalf,” Shiganak said.
Oljabek glanced at him pleadingly.
Secretary was already informed about the character of Oljabek, that’s why he posed serious and continued in serious and business-like tone:
“Considering that the majority wishes to hear the point of view of comrade Oljabek, we give him a word”.
Oljabek got angry. He now turned red, now white. Shiganak pinched him plain, hastening him.
“What can I say?” he whispered referring to Shiganak.
“Did you forget? Tell them that we need a machine”.
Oljabek turned redder.
“Comrades, we need a machine… We came here to get it… That’s all we ask for. Nothing works without it. It would be good, if you’d give it to us. That’s all I wanted to say,” he said and cleaned his brow from the drops of sweat, as he finally sat down.
Everybody laughed. Some of them laughed merrily, the others with the hidden rage and spite.
“The words of Shiganak are the gold nugget, while Oljabe’s words are copper. Shiganak has a ripe idea, while Oljabek’s idea is still like a little child, learning how to walk”, the secretary thought, looking at Oljabek, who brought himself for the first time in his life to deliver public speech.
But the decision had to be taken.
“The old traditions and customs, rooted in our lives, hardly and unwillingly give a way to something new and progressive,” Vasiliy Antonovich said.”The new and modern things and views fight for its place under the sun in a fierce battle with the old things. Two ideas clashes in front of us now. The new one and the old one. Not everything old looks bad though. Not everything new is good and beautiful. One should know how to distinguish them from each other. One should use not only his mind, but to feel with his soul and heart. Let our hearts beat stronger, seeking the heights of a human’s dream. Even if you won’t achieve this height in your life, you should still keep moving forth. The power of this aspiration contains this New, which should win at last. I see this aspiration in Shiganak and Oljabek,” Vasiliy Antonovich concluded.
Then he stopped on the issues and affairs of the kolkhoz, asking about more details, and all the presented people were wondered, how good the secretary is informed about state of affairs in the kolkhoz “Kurman”.
“No need to talk any longer!” he said at the end. “We will give you the machine!”
Shiganak rose with a spring and shook the secretary’s hand.
“I was riding here the lazy nag, and you gave me tulpar ! Shame on me, is I won’t achieve my goal now!”
Ginger camel atan rushed in trot, weaving to the sides. The whip lashed the camel frantic and furious at its fleshy thighs. Hairy rope tore ruthless the nostrils. The pursuit was close to overtake him. He rushed without looking back and fixing his eyes forth. Long legs stammered at the roadside stone, and clumsy and awkward humpbacked body crashed weighty on the ground. Jamal and Sagintay flew every which way. Little Sagintay hit his tiny head on the sharp cliff, shouted and fell silent. Only the lonely ravine responded his woeful cry. Jamal laid motionless. Moans burst through her tightened lips. The pieces and wreckage of the broken tilt cart and belonging were scattered all around…
Five outlaws halted, as they saw it.
“What to do now?” one of them said.
Nobody responded. Then a man in his fifties started to talk angrily and with exasperation:
“Why should we wait here long? These are the people! If we could live together with the people, we would have nothing to do in the mountains! A beast should act like a beast. Throw the boy under the stone somewhere. The world will survive without him! Gather the things. Bend the woman to the camel. And let’s go!”
The outlaws obeyed the order of their chieftain and hit the road. They drew through the ravines and cliffs, on the narrow roads, over hedge and ditch, coiling like a snake.
When Jamal opened her eyes, she saw that she is on the top of the cliff, where only the eagles can reach. There was a bottomless abyss under the cliff. Jamal heard the light voice of a stream and turned around. A huge cave gaped there. Five outlaws were talking actively, sitting next to this cave. Jamal sighed silently.
“Who is she? Ask her for some details, if she recovered consciousness,” the chieftain said.
The outlaws approached her one by one, looked into her face and listened attentively. Jamal kept silent. When they were leaving, her eye-lashes opened a little bit again.
Jamal laid like this during more than a day. Next day she finally regained her consciousness. Her first words were about little Sagintay:
“Where is my child?”
The outlaws exchanged the looks, being unable to find an answer for her. The chieftain thought to himself for a moment and then found a way out:
“He stayed with his father”.
“Is it true?”
“Here is Aybas, he gave him the little child”.
Jamal didn’t know whether to believe them or not and gazed avidly into the face of Aybas.
“Thanks God he is alive. I was afraid that he is maimed…”
“He is frisky like a goatling! You just recover faster and stand up yourself. We’ll celebrate all the weddings at the same time,” Aybas said to her.
Jamal understood, what wedding did he mean, but she acted like she didn’t heard it, and asked again:
“What happened to his father?”
“He is safe and sound. He said to us: “The boy is dearer to me, so you take the rest for yourself””.
“Yes, he loves the child more than his own soul,” Jamal said, and tears burst out of her eyes.
“Where they could head to?” Jamal thought. “I hope they won’t be caught by the beasts’ claws… I wish I could only die beside them!..”
Woman’s tears seemed to soften the outlaws. They stared downcast to the ground. Only in the deep-set eyes of a chieftain flashed little sparkles of evil fire. The chieftain raised his head and said:
“How old are you, girl?”
“I’m twenty nine”.
“If it’s really like that, it means that another baby might be in your womb, and your husband is on his way. Don’t cry! I lost everything too, but I’m still alive”.
“Otagasy , I cannot believe that there is a great sorrow for you as well!” Jamal said turning her head to him. She felt a little bit warmer.
People say, your own sorrow could be relieved by the someone else’s grief, but the sorrows of “otagasy” were of a different kind. Jamal grew numb aghast, listening to his tale.
“They took my land first. Then cattle. Then my property, my house, everything I had. My wife and my children left as well. Now I found myself in the mountains. I turned into the wolf, hunting the sheep…”
“Does it mean that you were very rich long ago?” Jamal asked him quietly.
“Nobody dared to call me just Ahmet in the entire neighborhood. They called me only “aga ””.
“Who are those people? Are you all from the same places?” Jamal asked, thrown off reverse.
“No, not at all,” Ahmet responded. “That one, Aybas, is a famous thief. He is known in the entire neighborhood. When they still used to call me “aga”, I always turned my face away with disgust, as he passed by our aul. Now he is among my friends! And this one is Zhakyp. He can easily stomach even someone’s blood and murder. He is an escapee. I am also escapee now, together with him, so we have similar fates now. That one, with the cat-like mustache, is Yelemes. He used to suck kolkhoz like leech. When he was exposed, he run away and hid with us. And that one, with the red eyes, I don’t know exactly who he is! But when we take him with us, we are always lucky. That’s why we call him Lucky Beggar”.
“I wish at least one of them would be a real human being! The whole pick of the bunch is the outlaws!” Jamal thought, but nevertheless she pitied these people.
She didn’t experience the burden of detachment from the people, that’s why nothing looked more unhappy and desolate in her eyes, than fates of these people.
“If only I could manage to get back to my aul! I would visit everybody there, telling them about terrible ordeals!” she thought.
She didn’t notice how the words fell suddenly from her lips:
“There was no purpose in leaving your native lands though! One’s own home is a golden cradle of a man!”
“Shut up! Bugger the people and the cradle!” shouted Ahmet angrily. “I renounced all the people, relatives and strangers as well! My soul turned away once, and it won’t be able to come back again. The fallen tree doesn’t grow again. Are there any places now, where there are no these accursed kolkhozes? They robbed me, so do I! I robbed them now!”
“Oh, were we the kolkhoz members?! Why did you decide to attack us?!” Jamal exclaimed, raising her head.
“You are foxy! We caught you now, and you want to say that you were a rich lady, from a kulak’s family?”
“We were neither kulaks nor the members of kolkhoz! Oh my God! We got into a mess by mistake!”
“If you were the medium peasants, it’s even worse. I suffered a lot from them.”
“We were also searching for the kolkhoz-free lands and got in trouble!” Jamal sighed.
“Tell it to some other fools!” one of the outlaws laughed.
The bandits burst into a loud laughter.
“Is your husband a fool?” the chieftain asked. “You couldn’t travel searching for this. Even children know today that there is no kolkhoz-free land anymore… Just admit it, why are you hiding it?”
Jamal swore and assured them, but the outlaws refused to believe her. It was difficult to believe though. Most of the people, except of the rare individualists, joined the kolkhozes. If the outlaws, hiding in the mountains, knew about it, how could Jamal and her husband to be unaware of it, after so long way they’ve made! Stepping on this path of sorrows, Jamal didn’t believe in the rightness of her husband from the beginning. Now, after all the torments and mockery of the outlaws she suffered, she was even close to get angry with her Oljabek. But she imagined him laying somewhere wounded or roaming in the mountains, with little Sagintay sitting of his back, and she threw these feelings away.
“If you don’t want to believe me, that’s your right. What can I do! But I am a woman. Why are you that cruel with me, aga? I am offended and unhappy already, why do you want me to suffer more?”
“When the woman laughs, she lies. When she cries, she dodges. Same thing with you, my dear. I was hurt by people three times, and two of them – by woman. You won’t touch a sting in my heart! I will attack you, like a hawk attacks a red fox”.
“We will see, old dog!” Jamal shouted. “If all these men with you aren’t the real men, but the wenches, I could understand your power over them! You won’t catch me!”
“Go away from here! All of you!” shouted a chieftain, jumping from his place, as he was bitten by a bee. His eyes filled with blood and darkened, like of a mad dog.
Everybody jumped up from their seats, only Aybas didn’t move and remained sitting, as nothing happened.
“You shouldn’t mess around with the sick and mad wench,” he said.
Ahmed rushed to Aybas, but either cause of fear or due to some other reason halted and sat back.
The mountain hung over the cave and pressed everybody. The black stone was silent. The outlaws kept silent as well. Something was only bubbling in the smoky bucket on fire. Jerked beef was hung on the long beams. Old and cobwebby torsuk was tied to the huge boor. The most honorary and valuable thing in the whole decoration of this cave was a rifle with a creaked club and a pistol without saddlebag, hanging on the wall over-head of Ahmet. Some of the Oljabek’s belongings were laid under the seat of the chieftain. Lying at the threshold, Jamal noticed everything. Her eyes caught suddenly little pillow of Sagintay. It touched her. She dashed away the tears and peeped out of the cave. Oljabek’s unsaddled horse stood tied at the entrance. She seemed so dear to Jamal, so the woman referred to her in her thoughts:
“You were a friend of my friend. I would unbosom my soul in front of you, but you are speechless. How often did I hang the sack with the oats for you, needled a saddlebag, though you act as you don’t even know me…Why are you looking at me that sad and pitiful? I am tied as well, just like you. Oljabek and Sagintay are wandering somewhere alone, without any weapons, without bread. How will they survive? My soul is burning, and my heart is broken… Oh Lord, send me death!”
Heavy burden and sorrow oppressed Jamal. She laid motionless, soundless. Suddenly a light of hope gleamed in front of her. She suddenly saw a light-brown horse, covered with horsecloth and standing a little bit afar from the chestnut horse of Oljabek. Jamal’s eyes fixed on the star on the horse’s brow. Starting from this star Jamal examined attentively and searchingly the whole horse. Her father loved good horses. That’s why she looked into the matter of horse and thought immediately about the light-brown horse: “He is of a good race and might be very fast!”
Jamal though that if she’ll manage to ride this horse, she’ll fly away like a bird.
“And what about the gun? And how do you know that they don’t have another horse as well? Maybe there is a horse better than this one!” she asked herself with hidden fear.
She could have nothing to hope for, except of the light-brown horse. She decided to look attentively, make a plan and be ready to escape. She touched herself, probing. Her bones were not broken. She just got light injuries. It made her glad. She’ll pretend to be sick, until the good opportunity will come. Her head went dizzy cause of the sudden thoughts. Where should she run to?
“I will head towards the North, maybe I’ll meet some people there!” she thought.
The outlaws left in the morning to “live on” and now, after coming back, they were putting down their prey and trophies.
Aybas tapped the stone with his sword made from the caw’s horn, took some nasybay and threw the snuff-mull to Ahmet. Ahmet turned sulky. Before their quarrel he noticed that Jamal gave something to Aybas. It has emerged that it was a snuff-mull! His guess was right: Oljabek always had two snuff-mulls, and one of them was suddenly found in the pocket of Jamal.
“What are we going to do in winter?” Aybas said thoughtfully.
Everybody fell silent. Ahmet said unwillingly:
“So what? We’ll keep on living here”.
Saying it, he turned over his side.
“It will be difficult here,” Aybas spoke again.
“You won’t get cold in the cave like this one. We just need to cover the entrance better,” Yelemes marked.
“Where are we going to keep our cattle, horses, water, and wood?”
“The cattle will wander; the wood will be prepared in advance”.
Lucky Beggar interfered:
“I will not go for the wood anymore. Do whatever you want, guys! I wore threadbare after it!”
“If we won’t break up for the winter and go each on his own way, it will be hard to survive the winter,” Zhakyp said.
Ahmet turned around. There was rather anger than a sadness to be heard in his voice:
“Packed grains of sand will never become a stone! The slaves will never become the masters!”
Ahmet’s eyes, fast like a quicksilver, glanced at the faces of the outlaws. “I see they’ve out on thinking cap!” he thought mischievous. But he wasn’t confident in his power anymore. There was no previous determination and persistent anger in their facial expressions, only perplexity. Ahmet couldn’t face it up.
“It’s your business, guys. This cave is my house and my grave. I wish I could only live through! I can see from afar: the menacing clouds are coming. Our time will come!..” he said and turned over on his side again.
Everybody sat silent and motionless, gloomy and impenetrable.
Giants and masses of cliffs seemed to press them.
Sunset and sunrise. Sunrise and sunset. Here are all the changes to happen in these vast and deserted mountains.
Jamal still laid, as the sun still rose and set.
The outlaws are cautious at the daylight and careless in the nights. They search for the prey during the day and beware of becoming a prey for others, and have rest in the night.
Moans and groans of Jamal shattered the calm of the outlaws. Willing to get rid of him, they’ve replaced the bed of a sick woman to the very entrance of the cave. In the nights they guarded the light-brown horse in turns. It was an excuse for each of them to come out in the night checking the horse and to approach thievish the bed of Jamal and to “ask about her health”.
“Not only my body, my bones hurt me,” Jamal responded with a moan.
Was it due to fatigue, or any other reason, though nobody approached to her this night. Snore and sniffing were heard in the depths of the cave. Aybas, laying close to the exit for guarding the light-brown horse, was snoring as well. He used to guard the horse more often than the others and always asked about the state of health of Jamal. Jamal removed the veil from her head and listened attentively.
“Yes, it’s him,” she concluded in her mind, but didn’t find strength to get up from the bed.”Don’t they pretend?” she reflected uneasy and worrying, straining her ears.
It seemed to her that everybody was sleeping, but she still couldn’t manage to get up. Her soul aimed to freedom, but her heart was trembling: “What if they will wake up?” Fear transfixed her at her place. She laid for a while, fighting her fears, but the short night didn’t want to wait. The first morning star started to gleam.
Jamal didn’t remember how she got on the back of the light-brown horse. Aybas woke up cause of the patter of his hoofs. A bullet from his rifle whistled near the Jamal’s ear…
It seemed that the mountains moaned and the stones set ablaze. Rush of the pursuit approached her from the back. The light-brown horse, rushing like wind, couldn’t satisfy Jamal with his swiftness, so she whipped him over and over again.
One of the pursuers outran the others. He held his gun at the ready, perked it sometimes taking aim at Jamal and was ready to shot at the first chance.
Jamal leaned to the horse’s mane and kept on rushing. Horse jumped like a hare over the stones, flying over the streams and ditches. It was unlikely that the enemies could overhaul her, but it was difficult find salvation from the bullet. If to hide the head, the hips and sides will remain unprotected, if to cover the hips and sides, the head will be under the hail of lead.
The dawn blazed up, and Jamal wanted to look at the pursuer, who was scaring her in the darkness. She turned back, but there was no one behind her. The mountains made a way, and it became wider and broader around. “Phew!” she sighed and held her horse a little bit. She looked around calm and attentively. Jamal noticed that she strayed a little bit from her original path, taking to the East. She turned her horse to the North and rode more slowly. Her light-brown horse gnawed the bit and rushed forth from time to time, so she hardly restrained him, caressing his sweating neck. Onwards, right of the top of the hill, did she notice two people: one of them was big, and another one was small... Oljabek and little Sagintay!
Her hand touched the waist belt. She hid several pieces of boiled meat between its gathers, just in case. When she thought that she saw Oljabek and Sagintay in front of her, she suddenly felt hungry. It seemed to her that she could feed with this meat husband and son, starving during several days…
But the people on the hill didn’t move at all.
“They might be tired and over worn, poor fellows! Did they notice me? Lord, save us!” she thought and touched up her horse impatiently.
She reached that place immediately. But it appeared to be just stones, not the people. She halted, confused, bewildered and saddened, and, sighing, hit the road again, moving through the vast and hilly steppe, looking wearily around.
Woke by the patter of hoofs, Aybas sent a bullet in a pursuit of the escapee first. He shot several times, not daring to waste the last bullet, and rushed after the escapee. All the outlaws, sleeping in the cave before, joined him in the pursuit. Gasping of fatigue, they hardly reached the shepherd, looking after their horses in the hollow. It appeared that he took a nap as well. While they tried to untangle and saddle their horses, the saving time for Jamal was passing, so she managed to melt into thin air…
“Leave it!” Ahmet said to the dzigits, ready to jump on their horses. “Only the bullet can reach our light-brown horse. The escapee ran away”.
Everybody abandoned the pursuit after Ahmet’s words, and Jamal, being sure that she was pursued, kept on rushing fast, whipping her horse. Patter of hoofs, coming from behind her, turned out to be a loud beating of her heart.
The outlaws argued loudly, waving their hands and making the guesses. Ahmet remembered about Jamal first.
“Where is the sick wench?” he asked.
“She might be sleeping, I guess,” Aybas replied with patience.
“Did you see her?”
Who among them could see her? Embraced with the doubts, they came back to the cave and guessed the truth only now.
Ahmet didn’t say a word. He gritted his teeth in anger. His small, sharp, deep-set eyes burnished. He sat, backing himself away from the rest of the company, his nostrils trembled and his face paled. He didn’t move, like a snake, waiting for its prey. He didn’t listen to the quarrels and arguing of his fellows.
“Of course, the better horse could be found, but I’m worried over the consequences,” Aybas said.
After long arguments and wrangles everybody accused him, as the most reliable and firmest weapon was in his hands. He was entrusted to guard the best horse and fell asleep in a night like this, and even his hand, never knowing the failures, overshoot. Of course, nobody dared to express that all in to his face, but the suspicions tormented their souls. They remembered the shaksha, given to him by Jamal, and his involvement during the quarrel with Ahmet, and his often night visits to Jamal in order to allegedly “ask about the health of a sick woman”.
Aybas felt these suspicions. Willing to change the direction of the conversation, he started to talk about the possible danger:
“Guys, I think we should better go away and leave this place. She will report us!”
“Where can we go to? Even if she will report us, they will be searching everywhere!”
This mountain seemed to be the only one safe shelter for them in the entire world. Now it could also abandon them. Fear of the cruel winter implanted alarm and anxiety in their hearts and loosened their unity.
Finally the outlaws decided that it will be the best decision, if they will get lost among the people, like in the thick forest.
“We cannot manage to keep us safe without breaking up,” Aybas repeated again. “Winter is coming. People could come searching for us. How will we meet them? It’s better to hide ourselves in the thicket of folks and become invisible”.
They exchanged the looks and glanced expectative in the direction of their chieftain. Ahmet stood still and silent gloomily.
An eagle, ready to attack his prey, was circling above them in the sky, looking like a little almost invisible point. The cliff hung behind their backs, as if it threatened to come crashing down over their heads. The abyss opened up under their feet. Ahmet kept on standing as if he had hardened into stone.
“Why,” he uttered finally and stood up, without saying any word.
“Does it mean we should get ready?” Aybas referred to him with a question.
“Yes,” Ahmed responded and left.
Putting his hands behind his back and looking down, he climbed slowly on the top of the cliff and appeared soon right above the cave.
Those, who remained standing down, didn’t hesitate and started to move as well. Each of them grabbed a sack with his belongings and took a horse, getting ready for the escape. Ginger camel and chestnut horse of poor Oljabek fell to Ahmet. Piebald stallion of Aymas was also given to the chieftain of the outlaws as well. But it seemed that Ahmet was not going to get down from the cliff.
There was no hope to meet each other again in the future. The fate and future of each of them was hidden in the unknown. But they didn’t want to break up without saying each other good bye. They all climbed to the top of the cliff to Ahmet, expecting to hear his parting words. But the chieftain didn’t soften himself. He even didn’t move his lips and confined himself at stretching the tips of his fingers to each of them at parting.
When everybody mounted on their horse and started to depart in the different directions, Aybas remained to stand beside Ahmet. Lonely among the massive stone clods and blocks, they sat for a while silent, without exchanging a word.
“Aha,” Aybas said finally, raising his head.
Ahmet didn’t respond.
“Maybe you are angry at me? Let us talk. We had a quarrel over Jamal. You will never believe, but I really have nothing to do with it! Your saddle is on my stallion. Here is your rifle. Let’s move fast!..”
Ahmed didn’t move.
“Maybe you think that I am the reason of our gang’s break up?” Aybas started speaking again. “But it was ready to break up without my help as well! If you need me, I can stay with you. I am ready for any hardships and deprivations. What will you say?”
“All the conversations are over. Everything is settled down. You can go,” Ahmet responded abrupt.
“Don’t you believe me?”
“My trust is over as well”.
Aybas turned red. He sat a little longer and then jumped from his place and went down, without saying good bye. When he appeared on the curve below, Ahmet grabbed the rifle, laying beside him. Opening the bolt he looked on the single bullet remaining there.
“You are lonely, and I am lonely as well. What could be worse than solitude? Find a place till now…” he said and pointed a gun at Aybas.
The rifle cracked. Aybas reeled and crashed into the abyss.
Ahmet stood motionless on the top of the cliff with the rifle in his hands.
“Oh, accursed beasts! Wolves!..”
“Mad dog sticks at nothing!”
“So, you say, that they have a ginger mare as well?”
“There will be no calm, until we won’t catch them all!”
Some people ran, breathing heavily, staring at Jamal, who had a miraculous escape. Other people pitied her and wailed. Eyes of Jamal, depressed by her grief and captured by the sudden gladness as well, became swollen of the tears.
“Now everything is all right, thanks God,” Jamal said with a sigh. “But I want to ask you all not to forget about my plea. Ask everywhere you can. If he is alive, he should be somewhere in these lands”.
“He’ll be found for sure. And you will forget your grief!” people tried to console her.
“I hope that everything will be as you say,” Jamal responded in a sad voice, thanking people for their sympathy and help.
Shainbay, short spoken and long bearded old man, who met Jamal first, took her to his house. He tied her light-brown horse good and examined him searchingly.
“You’ve chosen a good horse for yourself, daughter!” he said.
An old man waved with his bag venous hand and invited her to his house.
His hands seemed to be so huge for Jamal. Striking out slowly, he went ahead of her. An old man looked like a bear – big and clumsy. He even walked like a bear, waddling.
Stopping short of the entry hall, Jamal felt a strong smell of leather. Right in front of the doors, on the tora , koshma was spread. Two big and soft pillows laid on the trunk in the corner, right at the window. Most of the things were placed along the one side of the house. One of the wands was totally lined with the collars and yokes, leather pieces and strips and bridle leather. Half of the cow skin was widespread on the wooden machine-tool.
An old man shook a black gloatling’s skin, threw it atop of the koshma and stretched out for one of the pillows.
“It seems that he lives alone, like a solitary man,” Jamal thought viewing and examining the room.
Swarthy girl of about twelve years old came in from the yard. She glanced at the guest with attention and interest.
“Are you from this house” Jamal asked.
The girl nodded shyly.
“Where is your mother?”
“Who is busy about the house then?”
“I can do everything myself”.
Heavy burden, equal only to the one of the grown up woman, fell on the shoulders of the slender young girl. Jamal imagined joyless days, being a usual fate of the orphans. It led her to the memories about Sagintay again.
“Come to me, my dear,” Jamal called, offering her hands to the girl.
The girl wanted just to sit beside, but Jamal pulled her to herself, pressed her strong to her breast and kissed tender.
“My little son Sagintay hast lost his parents earlier than you,” she said in tears.
An old man came in holding a paper in his hands.
“Mayrajan, read it, please!” he said giving the paper to his daughter.
“Shainbay Zhalumbekov gave to the stores five…”
“That might be bridles,” an old man explained. “Go on!”
“If it’s nine, it might be the breechings”.
“And two yokes”.
“That’s right. There are really two yokes”.
Doubling a piece of paper and hiding it into his pocket, an old man sat down and went on to braid the half-done whip.
“Child, fetch something to drink for the lady,” he said to Majra. “Put the samovar as soon as possible!”
Majra gave Jamal a cup of kumiss and left the room again. Jamal looked how Shaibay worked. Seeming clumsy, his huge and thick fingers appeared to be crafty and quick. They moved fast, gleaming between the thin strips of the rawhide, like a needle of embroideress.
“You are a saddler!” Jamal said in a glad voice. Oljabek also tried to do it a little bit, although the old man was significantly more talented in it.
“I didn’t consider it being a craft at the beginning. But I earn my daily bread with it now,” an old man responded, watering the straps and belts. “I earn one and half or even two workday units together with the main work”.
“How much do you earn for the workday unit?”
“It can be different. Last year our neighbors had some troubles with it, but we’ve earned enough. I bought a mare and colt. Thanks God, everybody is sated. Everything depends on the harvest. If the cattle will an offspring, it will be good as well. We will earn more. If there will be a good harvest for wheat – we earn again”.
“Did you join the kolkhoz from the very beginning?”
“No, not at all. I was worried and uneasy at the beginning, didn’t understand a lot of things. I’ve joined it only last year”.
A guy entered the house, holding a tore yoke in his hands, and interfered in the conversation:
“Fix it for me this thing, please!” he said in haste.
An old man didn’t hurry up. He examined the yoke without taking it from the hands of the guy.
“Look at him! He ruined it again!”
“I didn’t mean it!”
“You should be more careful”.
“How can I be more careful? I don’t put it on my own neck though!”
“You are useless, boy. Give it to me, please!”
“You shouldn’t care about it at all! They will write down and count your workday units!”
“What’s the purpose of these workday units, if there are only losses around?”
“There are not our personal losses though,” a young dzhigit responded with a smile.
“He has no wits at all!” an old man turned to Jamal, waving his hand to the guy, and went on, taking a thick awl: “Many people cannot understand till now, that if the property will get damaged, the harvest will be also bad, and there could be no cattle as well. There will be nothing to pay for the workday unit with! Think about it when you’ll have some time”.
“That’s okay! Kolkhoz won’t allow us to die!”
“What if you will be chosen to be a chairman of our kolkhoz? What are you going to do? Where are you planning to get the payments?”
“I’ll head to the district office and bring something from the public purse”.
“And where the public purse will get this money?”
“I don’t know. It’ll find it somewhere, I suppose. Maybe, it’ll borrow it from another kolkhoz”.
“That is bad,” an old man shook his head. “If somebody will try to take something from you by force and give it to me for nothing, I will not work at all. Grab your yoke!” he said, putting the yoke aside.
“Yes, you are right! Fix it faster, please!”
“There it is…” an old man said starting to fix the yoke.
Jamal listened carefully to the conversation between an old man and dzhigit. She knew little about the kolkhoz. Oljabek used to tell about the kolkhoz: “Some people work, the other people don’t work, and at the end everything goes halves”. That was the reason of their attempt to escape kolkhoz. But the things appeared to be different. Human’s labor is being appreciated here, while the profits are being divided fair…However, Jamal has hidden some doubts still on the bottom of her heart.
“How many heads of cattle do you have in your personal household?” she asked.
“Otagasy keeps a mare with a colt and a cow, though I have neither house, nor home!” the young dzhigit responded joyfully.
“One can tell a bird by the way it flies,” Jamal thought.
“Why do you have nothing?” she asked the guy.
“I am a craftsman, I live in public, why do I need the property?” dzhigit responded jokingly. “Yesterday I spent the night in that house, today I would probably spend it here”, he gave her a wink.
“Do you have many like you?”
“If there would be a lot, there would be no houses for all of us…”
“Anyhow, there are people like that,” an old man interfered. “Tajbek, Borankul, Seyjan and him, and all the four never leave the black list! Nobody knows, what will come of them!”
“That’s okay. It’s because we aren’t married,” dzhigit responded again with a smile, glancing at Jamal.
“I thought he only looks asquint, but now I see, that even his brain is messed-up,” Jamal said calling hard names.
Dzhigit turned red and didn’t respond. Old man, busy with the yoke, didn’t heard what Jamal said and turned back.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“No, that’s nothing. I was talking about the teeth of that tool. They are queer”.
“I was in haste and didn’t notice it,” an old man responded. “This tool is old”.
“It’s of the same age with its owner,” dzhigit added mockingly.
“The one who mocks a lot in his youth, will be funny at age, the people say. Think about it!” an old man referred to the young dzhigit, handing him the fixed yoke.
Dzhigit muttered some words of gratitude and left the house shyly.
“Who is he?” Jamal asked after he left.
“This is our Bekbau. I make something, and he loses it. I fix the things, and he damages them. He even has no shame! But I’m trying to control him! But he only responds to me: “That’s okay”, and its’ all”.
Jamal started to laugh.
Mojra entered and spread the tablecloth. Jamal followed every movement of a young housewife. The girl was easy and fast with any kind of work. The cups were clean, samovar was shining, hot cakes laid on the plate and the golden oil was served as well. Serving at the table, she took a jar and a wash-basin and leaned to her father. Washing and drying his hands, an old man sat to the table.
“Isn’t it time to milk our mare?” he asked.
“You can sit. I’ve already asked Bekbau. He milked the mare for us,” the girl responded.
Jamal stood on the top of the hill. The sun set to the yellow steppe. Thick dust rose all around and dispersed slowly in the silent and clear air. The song came from afar. Things were humming in the aul. The herds came back from the steppe. People headed back home after work. The streets were filled with the playing children and poultry.
Jamal followed everything happening around. Her eyes fixed one house, which windows were shining in the gleam of the setting sun. Newly built, bleached-out, it looked joyfully and cozy. A young woman was milking a cow right beside an entrance. Little boy stood nearby and tried to fix a kite. The master of the house walked slowly down the street, coming back from work and examining the trees in his garden. The boy jumped and ran towards his father, chasing with the dog. Both of them jumped right on his chest. Father kissed a boy, caressed a dog, and all three of them went to their home. A woman, milking a cow, stood up. Jamal could hear clearly their loud conversation:
“While I was walking back home, I made up my mind to get a bicycle,” a man said. “What do you think about it?”
His wife still didn’t reply, as a boy started to jump happily and gaily:
“Hooray! I will be riding a bicycle!” he exclaimed.
“If you took a decision together with Serikjan, what can I say then?” the woman responded.”But where do we get money to buy it?”
“Thanks God the harvest wan not bad”.
“But we need to live on something as well”.
“Let us count everything. I have five hundred workday units, and you…”
“Only two hundred and fifty till now…”
“That’s okay, you can make it up till another hundred, I suppose. Let us count! We have eight hundred and fifty workday units together. One kilo will cost eight, at least… We have nearly two hundred poods over!”
“Get me the coat first, and then the bicycle,” the woman said.
The woman seemed to be weak at counting, and her husband made jokes with her.
Jamal smiled listening to their conversation. She counted the earnings and profits of this family in her mind and managed to add to the bicycle and the coat the new silken scarf and shoes. “Why do they need that much wheat?” she thought envious. It seemed to her, that she works in kolkhoz as well and that she is a shock worker. They have with Oljabek the same new brick house, she sits together with Sagintay in front of their home, talking and making jokes… She woke up from her dreams suddenly and felt herself terribly lonely. Tears burst out of her eyes, but nobody heard her sobbing. A young and happy family had a nice and joyful conversation in the garden next to their house.
Putting his hands behind his back, old Shainbay approached her. She dried her tears rapidly. The sun set already and the noise of aul faded. An old man came closer to her and, sitting next to her, took out his kumalaks .
“Let’s try to tell the fortune, daughter, nobody will be harmed with it,” he said.
“It’s dark already, nothing will be seen”.
“It’s possible to see now”.
Jamal spread her chapan on the ground. Old man wanted to divert Jamal’s attention from the sad thoughts and spread the stones.
“The more I try to read your fortune, the more I see fulfilling of your dreams,” an old man said. “Even now, look. Here you can see a “five” in a circle. It means joy and laughter. Here is the “heart”, which means joy and happiness as well. Here is the “crone”, which means success in everything you do and confidence. It means you will meet soon. There’s no purpose of repeating the fortune telling, “ he said, gathering the little stones.
Jamal’s eyes started to shine with happiness.
“If your words will come true, I’ll give you the light-brown horse!”
“Why do I need your horse? God gave me enough happiness”.
“Whom does this house belong?” Jamal asked, pointing at the new brick house occupied her thoughts.
“It’s the house of Kerim. He is always ahead of the game! He is fast and skilled dzhigit. He managed to build a house and to earn a lot of workday units as well. His wife is even more active. She is a great housewife and mother and a good worker in the field. People say, she will be appointed as a gang leader”.
“But she counts very bad”.
“The accountant can count. It’s difficult to be skilled at everything. Each kind of work speaks its own language. Many people don’t understand it. Here is another house, it belongs to Kurzhan. I came to him in the field one day and what did I see? He stood and was shaking his plough. He told me the soil became dry. I touched the soil, but it wasn’t dried. The razors of his plough were as thick as a finger, while the oxen’s necks were grazed with the yoke. How will the work get along with him? Though he always accuses other people and the circumstances, not himself: “Bread didn’t grow up, kolkhoz is bad…””
Always calm, measured and smart, Shainbay became a teacher of the new life for Jamal. Jamal thought that she changed her old place into the new one, and it’s happier and clearer at the new place. Though, thoughts about poor Oljabek and Sagintay didn’t leave her. She saw her husband and son starving and thin in her mind. Tormented by these visions, she saddled her horse sometimes and ode into the steppe, searching in the neighboring auls, but she couldn’t find any traces. Even now, when she was sitting together with an old man, despair captured her suddenly. She referred to Shainbay like to her savior:
“Give me an advice, father,” she pleaded. “Where to should I go now? Where should I stay? What should I do? People are living their lives happy around, and my soul is darkened and depressed with despair. Tell me… Your word is like a talisman for me; your advice is like a remedy.”
It became dark. Only dogs’ barking was heard. An old man made a little movement.
“This changing and floating life is a market of joy and sorrow, daughter. You’ve experienced a lot of sorrow. You need to be patient. Can you be patient? If you can, then I’ll tell you something”.
“I will be patient, and I will stand everything, father! Tell me!”
“Then listen to me. Don’t move from your current place. Where could you go from here? Will you search for your husband and son? But they should be somewhere here, in these lands. It’s a far and long road way to your relatives, and the road is dangerous. The outlaws could attack you again and take captive. You are not a burden for me, feel free to stay and live with us! Be a sister to my little Majra. If God wants, he will grant you a meeting with your Oljabek and Sagintay. I will share your joy! Saddle your horse every day after work and ride, searching for your beloved ones. Get in touch with the people, learn from them, and learn to read the people’s characters and to notice their features. People just started to live a new life, and not everything is good now. Look closer and you will find your place! Even a sparrow makes a nest”.
An old man rose, and both of them went home.
Sun is shining in the clear and beautiful, looking almost transparent, sky; all the living creatures are enjoying life, while far away on the horizon heavy and dark thunderclouds are gathering, as inexorable and deadly storm draws nearer. The menace of fascists attack is looming threateningly over the world.
That the general headquarters of the state of Socialism – Council of People’s Commissars of USSR – has issued a regulation: to ensure getting a sustained yield in the draught-ridden regions with the draughty climate.
These words flew around the country like a lightning. Making the round of, the news have been discussed everywhere, but especially in the South-Eastern regions of the big country…
Shiganak sat of the field floor alone. The grain is threshed and put into the sacks. Piles of drossy and wasty remains and leftover of thresh and grain dust towered around. But Shiganak’s worries and troubles of were not over. Two not threshed sheaves of millet lay next to him; he tears the spikelets, peels them on his palm and smiles, looking at the corn. He peeled a little sack of them already and now he looks them and thumbs through the scattered grains, happily and joyful, just like a playing child. So long time passed though, that even a playful and curious child would get bored with the game, leave it and go home, but Shiganak kept on thumbing the corn through, selecting some separate grains.
Oljabek approached him silently from the back. Holding two cups in each of his hands, he passed them both to Shiganak with a wide and open smile on his face.
“What is it?” Shiganak asked.
“There’s no difference. Try it yourself!” Oljabek replied.
Shiganak took the both cups with the millet, boiled on milk, and laughed joyfully.
“People used to call me duana, but the real duana is you!”
“No, you are duana. You better try it first and then say your word.”
Drinking now from the one cup, and then from another one, Shiganak emptied them both.
“Give me some more! I didn’t manage to grasp the difference!”
“Look at him! He didn’t manage to grasp! No, you better try to grasp better, or just admit that you were wrong!..”
This argument started long ago. When the millet grew up and got ripe, Shiganak, walking through the fields, tore the spikes and out them into his little sack. It continued during several days. Oljabek followed him everywhere and one day asked him, being unable to endure it anymore:
“Why are you tearing the spikes?”
“How is it – why?” To eat, of course!”
“Is the millet not enough for you?”
“You don’t understand anything. Tearing the spikes and scaling and husking them with your own hands make them sweeter than honey!” Shiganak explained, as if he was sharing a great and mysterious secret.
“So that’s it!” Oljabek wondered simple-minded.
He wanted to try the millet, which is sweeter than honey, too, so he started to tear some spikes of millet too, coming back home from work, then scaled them and tried to boil with the milk. But he didn’t notice any special difference between this millet and the ordinary one. Thus, he brought koje in two cups. One of the cups contained koje made from the ordinary millet, and another one had koje made from the hand scaled grains. Oljabek just wanted to prove Shiganak his mistake.
“Sit down, let us talk seriously and openly,” Shiganak said. “To increase the harvest of the millet doesn’t mean to expand the acres in crops, one should also choose the good seeds. Uil white millet isn’t truebred. Look here: there are white, red and even some grayish grains here. When the millet gets ripe, some spikes are thick and thigh like the cores, while the others crumble and slough. The most fertile grain could be found among those thick spikes. It doesn’t slough a lot, when it gets ripe, and it is steady in heat as well. That’s why I gather here the best and strongest, the steadiest spikes!”
“Oh, Shiganak! I wish you never find peace!” Oljabek said. “You’ve found a new trouble for yourself!”
“There’s no special trouble in it. I select and gather the best grains during five years already and I have them enough. But I am planning to saw this grain on the new fields. We will need to transport the machine to the new place, and here we could have more troubles and labor, I suppose!”
“Emm,” Oljabek mumbled, imagining already the beginning of the new colossal and hard work. “You are really a restless and uneasy person, Shiganak! Where should we drag the machine again? Should we dig the new aryks again?! I think, that we should continue our efforts there, where we have already started our work”.
“If you’ll harden, you risk becoming broken!” Shiganak objected.
“So become broken! What’s wrong with it? Why do you need to stretch and sweep yourself?”
“Oljabek, Oljabek!..” Shiganak said sighing. “If it’s needed, you’ll get broken or sweep yourself, it depends on situation. One should know how to be more flexible. I sweep myself for the good of our cause”.
“Why don’t you like it on the old and stable place? Our machine itself does the same amount of work, which three water wheels used to do before!”
“Why is it not the same as it could be done by ten water wheels?”
“How should I know it?!”
“You don’t know it, though I know. The land isn’t plain, and the soil is bad”.
Oljabek paused to think. Shiganak went on to select and sort the grains. Paying no attention at all to Shiganak and Oljabek, sitting at the corn floor, a little flock of sparrows came flying and sat on the pile of the millet. Shiganak left his work, stood up from his place soundless and started to flush them carefully to the middle. The grains were scattered and the nets prepared in the middle of the corn floor. Oljabek didn’t notice it at the beginning.
“What is he going to do?” Oljabek thought, following the movements of his friend. Seeing him fowling, Oljabek grew suspicious: “It seems that he’s really gone mad!..”
The sparrows took the air noisily and disappeared. Only several birds remained on the place, tangled in the net and flattering. Shiganak put them all together with the net in front of Oljabek.
“Are you a little kid torturing the poor creatures for fun?” Oljabek asked.
“These are our biggest enemies,” Shiganak returned.
Oljabek thought about the displacement of the machine and the new aryks.
“And what do you think Token could say about this idea?”
“Token will argue and fight, of course. It was him who placed the machine on its actual place”.
“Does it mean you will resort to blows again?”
“No, I think they became more compliant and concessive now. Maybe they will come to terms even without the fight”.
“If we intend to do it, we should start it as soon as possible, before the cold spell comes,” Oljabek concluded surrendering to his good friend.
“Cold weather and freezing doesn’t matter,” Shiganak objected. “It will be worse, if we would be forced to work during the spring field works. I hope we will clear it all today. Token and Shangirey went to examine the new place”.
“There are three people approaching. Maybe that’s them”.
“That’s them,” Shiganak approved. “Now you should hold on strong. Even one little disagreement between us could spoil all the effort! Token wants only this!”.
Shiganak poured his millet into his little sack again. He was binding his sack, as Token, Shangirey and Sergey Aleksandrovich, new agronomist, finally approached.
“A golden eagle catches mice with age. People say, Shiganak took on the sparrows now!” Token joked.
After they traveled to Aktubinsk and had a meeting with the Secretary there, Token and Shangirey became friendlier with Shiganak. Their current way of talking didn’t threaten to turn into a quarrel and fierce battle of words, as it used to be before, but was expected to pass more peaceful and outwardly calm, although each side knew the hidden disaffection and unfriendliness of its rival.
“I usually don’t distinguish between the big and small pest and saboteurs,” Shiganak said agrin.
“We’ve examined your land,” Token said. “Why, we actually see it every day! I will not say my judgment about the quality of soil; let the agronomist tell us about it. But there is a hillock laying between the river and the targeted place”.
“But we ask for another place!”
The place you ask for was already given to the “Karakol ””.
“It seems you hurried over with it. So, do you think that we should touch the machine and move it from an old place?”
“It’s up to you, I only expressed my opinion,” Token responded.
Shiganak kept silent and thought back.
“So, you gave the “Karakol” the piece of land, which was requested earlier by us?” Shangirey said. “Why do you think that they are able to use this land better than us?” he asked addressing Token.
“The machine was installed on the one place yesterday, and now we should move it again? And then move it always from place to place?! So, you are planning to roam with it all around?” Token objected.
“Think of it yourself! How is it possible to stay there?” Shiganak tried to convince.
“You said that it will be better for the run of the water, that’s why the machine was installed in the salty steppe. What kind of harvest could it be there?” Shangirey interfered.
“I didn’t force you to install it there. You agreed to it yourself. Could the machine develop and improve the bad soil?”
Shangirey didn’t find what to answer.
“That all was discussed and agreed with us, that’s truth,” Shiganak said. “It’s truth also that the soil is bad and useless. Only God knows whose fault is it here! But we need to give more millet. If we will be able to saw the new seeds on the new lands and with the help of our machine, we will be able to wonder you with the better harvests and shine up to the others. I insist after all that you should give us the land we asked for”.
“I told you already that it is given to another kolkhoz”.
“If it’s so, what can be done? We are going have to cut and smooth that hillock in this case,” Shiganak said.
Shangirey started to wave with his hands, protesting.
“What are you saying? Where can we find that much power? We will need to smooth the hillock, then to dig the new aryks and then to break the ground! It’s not a joke!..”
“The millet is more expensive than anything, and expensive things don’t come easily in one’s hands,” Shiganak returned. “You can charge me with this issue! You know that I won’t stop on a half-way!”
“Okay then, have it your way!” Shangirey agreed after the short agitation.
Shiganak glanced at Token.
“Thus, it seems that we will move to the new place together with your machine, after all,” he said. “Do you have anything against it?”
“But don’t tell anybody later, that it was me who ordered you to move and change your location,” Token said. “Sergey Aleksandrovich, write down, please, that I am against this decision, but I allow them to act as they intend to do. Although Shiganak and Shangirey will be personally responsible for all the possible losses and troubles we could face later. Give them an official note mentioning it. I feel, there will be nothing good from it!”
“Yes, it would be better to think more on this issue. If you will decide to start this work, you will be forced to finish it,” a young agronomist joined to conversation.
Shangirey grew weary as he heard about an “official note”.
“What kind of an official note, Token? You give though permission without it!”
“No, it’s a special case here. If you don’t want to sign such a note, go yourself to the district office, discuss your issue there and bring us the paper with the permit from the district executive committee”.
“It won’t work,” Shiganak objected. “ Is it possible that the district authorities will take our responsibilities? If you believe us, give us your permission without any papers. If you don’t trust us though, we will give you this paper you ask for”.
“Don’t blame me after all. Shangirey,” Token said menacingly, noticing his hesitancy. “I warned you! You are an official representative of kolkhoz, so you have your responsibility and will be asked of it”.
The issue was serious and important and demanded to think it over properly. Shiganak was fighting, trying to achieve his dream, and finally he won the machine for the kolkhoz. However, the machine didn’t bring the expected results till now. Now, due to the fact of an upcoming moving and displacement of the machine, more difficult and serious work laid ahead. If they will not manage to finish everything till winter, their kolkhoz will find itself in a very tough situation and under complicated conditions. Token, as if wishing to mess up everything even more, refused to give them the land they demanded and forced them now to flatten the hillock!
“Shangirey,” Shiganak said. “If you pledge, don’t hedge! If you are serious charging me with this business, you will be also held accountable, if there will be any troubles or something will go wrong! Give me your hand! There’s nothing to be scared of. There will be nearly two hundred people of us, together with women and children. We all will work!”
“As well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb,” Shangirey agreed, giving a wave of his hand.
Token pulled silently a sheet of paper and started to write.
The young agronomist half-laid aside and didn’t interfere in the conversation. Other agronomists, visiting this kolkhoz, either rebuked and scorched it, or praised, or gave their advices, and this one used to sit aside, behaving as if he was a stranger and just an observer. He doesn’t say anything himself, but force the others to speak up. He picks his notebook out of his pocket from time to time and notes there something. They met for the second time this day. Shiganak glanced at him constantly, looking asquint at him, and finally asked him:
“And what is your opinion about this, comrade agronomist? You’ve been travelling to that place, examined it”.
“I will not say anything till now,” the agronomist objected. “If it’s possible, give me, please, a handful of your new seeds”.
Shiganak poured him a handful of the millet grains.
Karibay was never ever pressed so hard. Shiganak and Shangirey decided to get down on their own account to the huge and complicated business. Success or failure of the entire kolkhoz’ work was dependent on this business. In the both cases the communists of the kolkhoz, and the party organizer Karibay in the first line, risk to become the culprits of either failure or the victory.
Cming back from the lessons at the school, Karibay has already managed to hold the gathering of the communists; they’ve set up the plan of their work and divided their obligations and responsibilities. Tomorrow in the morning all the kolkhoz’ people should be stirred up for work. Karibay took a decision to talk one more time with Shiganak and Shangirey tonight and invited them to his own home. His shining samovar runs noisy long ago, and Karibay sits waiting for his guests. He sits sunk deep in his thoughts.
The patter of the horse’s hoofs still didn’t hush outside in the street. The kolkhoz cannot calm down and settle after a long working day. The majority of the kolkhoz’ workers are at the pasture or at the hayfield. Shangirey and other ten people set the tents for the summer at the lawn and now live there. Messengers and bringers drove to the scattered far from each other houses, informing the kolkhoz workers about tomorrow’s attendance.
“Good evening!” The voice of Shiganak, entering the door, was heard. This time he took Oljabek together with him again.
Karibay rushed over towards the guests, inviting them to come inside. Shangirey entered later, following Shiganak and Oljabek. All of them set together at the tablecloth, where a strong tea with cream and fried oatmeal with sour cream and eggs were served. Step by step the conversation started up.
“Have you prepared everything good for the new work? Have you considered and thought over everything properly?” Karibay asked.
“Ask Shika ,” Shangirey responded. “I entrusted everything to him”.
“I know the one thing: there should no fear and no laziness! Act together and united and we’ll achieve the good results and succeed!” Shiganak said and moved a little bit his empty cup.
Shangirey poured him more tea.
“On my opinion,” Karibay said, “there is no point of casting all en masse to work. We should better divide the people into several brigades, and each brigade will be given its own piece of land to work on. Kolkhoz’ authorities will run up a transferable Red Banner, which will be always on the lot of the leading and the best brigade. You know the saying: “A thousand praises are not worth a one reward”. I also offer to give the two best stirks for the bonus reward of the best brigades”.
Shangirey hopped over hearing these words:
“Don’t even think about it!”
Shiganak didn’t like this offer as well.
“The idea of dividing the workers into the brigades and giving them the pieces of land to work on looks good, and I do support it,” Shiganak said, stroking his beard. “But the reward?.. I cannot get it…Everybody works for him- or herself. Is that so, that there could be a better reward, than this one?..”
“Not all the people believe in their duty, Shika. It would be better to kindle their interest with something”.
Shiganak’s eyes glanced.
“The one, who doesn’t believe in the idea, cannot be forced to work for the sake of it. What will be left then, if we will distribute the cattle of the public property as the gifts and rewards?” he said irritated.
Their conversation broke off. Everybody pitched on the tea. When the sweat started to gather on their foreheads and fall from them in big drops, Karibay came back to the conversation again:
“It was not my own idea. It was stated in the workmen’s cooperative organization’s statute, and party and the stated pay a significant attention to this issue. It’s being made though to encourage the people. The encouragement brings higher the willingness of people to work, and everything goes smooth and easy”.
“You say it right. One can move the mountains eagerly,” Oljabek, who was silent till this moment, interfered.
“Now you are talking! Cause you just pressured us from the both sides!” Shiganak smiled, softening. “If Shangirey gave authority, I deliver it to Oljabek in this issue”.
Silent and usually mute Oljabek didn’t hesitate this time:
“If you will set the rewards, I will be the first, who will participate in this competition!”
“Why are you silent? Don’t you like this idea? Tell us openly and directly,” Karibay referred to Shangirey.
Shangirey seemed to be at a loss. He provided Shiganak with all the responsibilities and authorities and now was unable to grasp back the control of this business. But it was hard also to refuse it, as two heads of the kolkhoz’s cattle could get away. How to help it out later? Shangirey was lost.
“Oh my God, Shika,” he said, after being quiet. “It seems that you didn’t think it over properly. What do you suppose to do with the cattle breeding plan?”
“Why, I thought about it,” Shiganak objected, “If your cattle breeding plan won’t be fulfilled, you can take two calves from me. I just hope that our deed won’t come to any harm”.
“All right then, I agree!” Shangirey responded, brightened and relieved.
Many ploughs rip open with exasperation the surface of the soil, raising the clouds of dust. People are working, divided in groups.
Two groups labor with a special heat and effort: a female group, headed by Janbota, and a male one, led by Amantay. Both of them make advance, moving towards each other and digging up the hillock. The Red banner is placed on the top of the hillock, at the place of finish for the competing brigades.
Jokes, arguments and persistent rivalry between Janbota and Amantay turned into a labor competition. Each of them would consider a victory of a rival team in this competition being a personal defeat. Rivalry and competition between Janbota and Amantay turned now into a competition between men and women. Shiganak, Shangurey and Karibay stood on the top of the hillock, supporting and encouraging the competing people:
“Look, the women outrun!”
“Men, faster, faster! Be more active!”
The ploughs fell fiercer and faster. The hillock was shaking under their hits.
Aislu, tucking up the skirt of her dress to the pants, ran up on the hillock, and started to sing a loud and ringing voice, addressing the men, messing around on the bottom of the dug-out deep ditch, so, that only their heads were visible:
Here, on the hill,
Stands a heifer, bellowing…
You look that attractive,
That everybody is willing to get you!
Oljabek is running ahead of the game,
He wishes to catch the heifer,
Though he seems to forget,
That he has no quickness and power.
Here Amantay stands, shrieking
Like a puppy to an elephant…
Though the hilltop isn’t dug up,
Whose fault is it?
Anamtay and Oljabek,
Don’t try that hard! Your labor is lost:
One of you is crooked, and another one
Is bald like a coat!
Both of you – ohh dear!..
Amantay took a lump of clay and rushed towards her.
“Go away from here!” he shouted.
Aislu ran away. All the people, standing on the hillock, burst into laughter.
There was a mark left by the boil above an eye of Amantay, while Oljabek had a scar on his head, left by the stroke of the robbers’ knuckleduster. None of them was either crooked or bald, but dumb Aislu brought a scandal upon them both. A part of an Amantay’s brigade was hurt by that.
“Maybe they are crooked and bald, thou you have no chances!” they shouted to her.
“Don’t bustle, guys,” Amantay said. “It was definitely Janbota, who taught her to do so! She-devil! That’s how she is trying to get the best of it! Though it’s not a women’s business…”
Aislu’s song hurt Oljabek as well. He took off his Tartar skullcap and demonstrated everybody the scar on his head:
“Where do I have a bald spot here? This scar was left by the blub stroke! Why does she lie?”
“They are just a little bit ahead of us, and we can beat them easily, that’s why they got into a wax,” Amantay tried to calm him down.
Oljabek grabbed his mattock without saying a word anymore and started to hollow the ground out. Each worker had his own measured working norm, and Oljabek was close to reach it. Aislu was right, when she said, that he goes ahead of everybody.
“Give me one more norm,” Oljabek said to Amantay.
Amantay measured and gave him two norms, and Oljabek didn’t argue with him.
Smiling, Shiganak approached the working men, while Shangirey and Karibay headed towards the female brigade.
“How is it, guys? Women demand the banner!” Shiganak said.
Nobody answered him, as if nobody heard his question. Bending low, the men were lifting and dropping their heavy hooting mattocks. Shiganak came closer to each of them and examined his work carefully and attentively.
“Don’t be in haste,” he suggested to one of the kolkhoz workers. “The one who runs gets tired faster, while the one who walks calmly won’t break a sweat during the whole day. You cast your mattock too far. Give it to me, I’ll show you!”
Easily and plain flew the mattock up in the hands of Shiganak. He didn’t heat and overreact, but he was moving easily and smooth further, reducing with every new step the distance to the final destination point. A strange observer could think, looking at working Shiganak, that there is no easier task in this world, that to dig with the mattock.
Amantay approached them and started to scold the kolkhoz worker.
“You work worse than a woman or an old man! Our banner is escapes because of the kinds like you! You simply disgrace an honor of our brigade!”
“Sap, sap ,” Shiganak stopped him, raising his hand. “A rider leads a horse. A good rider doesn’t lead his horse this way. It’s the easiest thing to give orders! You better show, how to work! Look, the guy is really very strong, though he lacks experience and skills. Look at your five fingers. Are they all the same?” Shiganak showed his spread fingers, opening his palm, to Amantay and then left.
His words didn’t though convince Amantay. He didn’t like calm and smooth reasoning and reflections of Shiganak in such a heated phase of work. Amantay followed an old man. They stopped beside Oljabek.
If you reckon all the people the kids, it would be better to send them to school, I think. Or you should just stop giving your soft and tender advices”.
Shiganak glanced at him searchingly.
“What’s wrong with my advices? Did they do you any harm?”
“People start to calm down and relax after your advices and throw aside all their restraint”.
“And how do you think we should act?”
“We should be stricter and have a whip over the people stronger. The decision is taken, the norm is measured, let them fulfill it as they can”.
“The decision is same for everybody, though the people are individual and different from each other. There should be an individual approach to every one of them”.
“I think the person should know how to handle the situation in the hard times”.
Shiganak didn’t answer, pondering. His brows hung over heavily. He sighed silently and sat down, looking calm at Amantay.
“Ohh, my dear friend,” he said. “You know nothing about the past of a Kazakh. How many burdens there were on his shoulders! How many sufferings did he stand! He was bound hand and foot, robbed, and his entire life journey was paved with the stones! Terrible grief and sorrow! Only now he starts to recover and to gain strength. So you should help him, teach him. Everything you’ll show him will be perceived. Look at them, how are they working! They show ne mercy for themselves working! They need only wit and skills. We should learn to conform to the folk’s character. You will win thousands with the power of your mind and intellect, while with the lash you’ll conquer the only one.”
“Ohh, Shiganak!.. Here is your character!” Oljabek said raising his head. Without finishing his thought, he took out his shaksha and got some nasybay for himself. “You think about everything! If all the people would be like you, our life would be totally different…” he stumbled of a sudden agitation, unable to find the words.
“And what would happen in this case?” Amantay asked scornful.
“In this case the skylarks would be able to weave their nests on the back of a sheep,” Oljabek responded.
“Why do you need the skylarks?” Amantay went on to ask.
“Stop cackling!” Oljabek exclaimed, threatening Amantay with his mattock.
“Okay, okay, let us fight then!” Amantay mocked Oljabek, grasping the grip of his mattock, and yawped suddenly.
Everybody around looked back, as they thought that they could really start the fight. Oljabek haven’t been fighting with somebody as joke yet. He pressed Amantay to the ground.
“Leave him, let him go!” Shiganak shouted. “His yawping is worse than any mockery!”
“No, don’t leave him, jam him!” a female voice was heard.
Everybody saw Janbota, Shangirey and Karibay, approaching from the direction of the female brigade.
“I thought it was a rat yawping, but now I see that it’s you,” Janbota said and, without shaking off her mudded dress, sat down next to Shiganak.
“Yes it was me, so what?” Amantay responded defiantly.
“Even women and old men beat you out!” she said spitefully.
“Women can beat anyone, but you should be careful regarding the old men! He is a real warrior though!”
“There is nothing stronger than a cat for a little mouse, as there is no one stronger than Oljabek for you,” she said. “While you are dawdling and yawping here, I’m taking the Red banner!”
“How is it?!” Amantay cried out, looking distrustful at the people around.
“Janbota, is it true? Did you win the Red banner?” Oljabek jumped all in fluster and rushed toward Janbota.
“Yes, it is true,” Janbota replied.
“We visited the female brigade, Later we visited the brigade of Kabysh as well. Janbota goes ahead of everybody at the moment!” Karibay said.
“And how many norms does the nest of them give?” Oljabek asked, unable to even imagine that some woman could appear to be better than him.
“One and half”.
“And I give two and half!..”
“Yes, its’ true, but your brigade is slowly and tails off. Or should the Red banner be given to you alone?” Karibay objected.
Oljabek stood without understanding.
“Does it mean that they will also take the both heifers together with the Red banner?”
“No, the heifers will be awarded later, when all the works will be over. The banner though will be always in the best and progressive brigade”.
“I don’t understand this trick,” Oljabek said, nodding. “Shiganak, explain it to me, please.”
“My dear friend, the law is on their side,” Shiganak approved. “If you will not beat them in the next competitions, do you think, they will give up the banner?! Karibay, you said, what brigade was the fastest and the best. Now tell us, how this brigade achieved it.”
“The women win not with their numbers and not with their cunning. The work is perfectly organized in their brigade. They have their own little banner, and this banner never stands still. Janbota always sets it nest to the woman, who is faster and better than the others. It encourages the workers!”
“Amantay, see the point!” Shiganak suggested him.
Shangirey, Shiganak and Karibay took Janbota with them together and headed for the middle of the hillock. Right after their departure Amantay ran to Aytjan and tore off the red bandage from his head.
“Don’t fool around!” Aytjan protested. “I’ll get sunstroke!”
“I’m not fooling around. Your bandage will serve us as a banner”.
And, attaching the red scarf to the end of the perch, Amantay placed it beside Oljabek. But the winner was not disposed to be merry; the thoughts of Oljabek were occupied by the big Red banner and two heifers. He even didn’t look back at the little banner, though rushed towards the big one. He left behind the rest of the company and run on the top of the hillock.
“Hey, guys! Let’s beat his record, while he is dawdling there! Let him burst from disappointment!” Amantay shouted.
It was unknown, would Oljabek burst from the disappointment or not, but his leave appeared to be useful for the brigade. If he wouldn’t leave, nobody would even dare to try to beat his record, but now, competing fiercely with each other, everybody got to their work.
Oljabek approached the banner, cut off the rope the heifers were tied with and shepherded them away.
“It seems that Janbota will conquer the banner and the both heifers as well. The banner maybe will come back once, but I have doubts regarding the cattle!” Oljabek considered.
“Where did you shepherd them to?” Shangirey shouted to him, collapsing with laughter.
“One of them will be mine!” Oljabek responded without looking back.
Standing on the top of the hillock and preparing to give the banner to Janbota, Shiganak shed tears of joy, and his voice trembled, and he said lamely:
“My dear child, you are happy that you are taking this banner from my hands now, and I glad to hand it to you! A human being always seeks joy and happiness and can never be sated with it. I’m sated with joy, yet I still hope for more. See, Oljabek got scared of you and escaped, taking the heifers with him. Amantay set the brigade flag to encourage the members of his brigade. I you are glad and happy with the things you see in front of your eyes. I’m happy with the future outcomes of it. I want to say, that any work should be done, when you know its purpose. If you believe in future, you will never get tired doing your job. It gives you power and courage. These mattocks and ploughs heaving above the huge steppe aren’t raising a dust, but they are pouring the kolkhoz’ millet. But one should be skilled enough to see this millet in the dust and to select it! That’s the point!”
Janbota looked into Shiganak’s eyes, listening to him and standing without moving. When he finished his speech, she bowed respectful.
“I have got you, father,” she said and, receiving the Red banner, went to join her brigade.
Amantay stood on the hill, deep in his thoughts, but by the sight of Janbota, leaving with the Red banner, raised high in her hands, he roused himself and swore to himself: “If I will allow you to have this banner, I will be always at the bottom!”
People from the brigade of Kabysh fell all the length of the noose from each other. When each of them dug his norm, the main aryk appeared – aygyrzhap, a beam verst long. Waterworks pump takes the water from the Uil River and sends it into the aygyrzhap, and then the water is being divided and supplied through many little aryks to the fields and bally crops. In the districts with the irrigated fields the workers and peasants don’t leave their mattocks from their hands from the early spring and till the harvesting period.
It seemed that Kabysh started to give up. He leaned himself to the little hill of the soil, thrown out of the aryk, cooling his heated chest with its nice moisture. Although ne was neither kulak nor bay, he didn’t get used to the hard work in his previous times. Even when he joined the kolkhoz, he was never given some especially hard work to do. That’s why, for want of habit, he himself, being appointed as a brigadier, showed his brigade a bad example: the rest of the members of his brigade have been also stretching themselves along the aryks, relaxing. Having the rest they just chatted about nothing special.
Yeleusin, worried about the carelessness and lightness of the workers, relaxing here untimely, approached Kabysh.
“Kabysh, people decided to lie down at inappropriate time, we should get them up!” she said.
“It’s hot, let them have some rest!” Kabysh responded, raising his head. “I’m worried about whether Shiganak decided to ruin all the people…”
“Do the people work for him?”
“No, no, I’m joking, I’m just joking!” Kabysh checked himself. “Of course, everybody works for himself or herself, but anyhow, that was all Shiganak’s idea, he has started that all. There are no strangers here. Though between you, me and the lamppost: I’m afraid that the people won’t be able to get through this!”
“Indeed? Well, what do you know?! They will dig out the whole hillock, while we will go on with digging the aryks! Is that so?” Yeleusin asked again surprised.
Kabysh smiled grimly.
“We dig the second aygyrzhap during this year. Earlier we hardly managed to create the one during several years. We change the lands as well. Roaming with the machine… Formerly there were some five hectares, and you irrigate them and feel yourself close to die from exhaustion… And now we fell to irrigating fifty of them!”
“So, do you think, we cannot get through it?”
“To get through something and to fulfill the task is harder and worse!” Kabysh said whining.
“If we won’t fulfill it, that’s okay, there will be no big troubles. Come as it may! But if we will fulfill it, we risk tying ourselves down. We will saw and then gather also more, I’m not arguing with it, but what’s the purpose of it?”
“Did you go mad?!” Yeleusin exclaimed in a scared voice.
“I am okay till now, unlike Shiganak, who really got mad,” Kabysh replied. “It seems that he wants to feed the entire country with the “Kurmanov’s” millet!” he stood up. “Hey, you took some rest, and now get up and get back to work!”
People, feeling quite dazed by the heat, stood up unwillingly and got back to work. The sun grilled. Everything was burnt out in the sandy steppe since long ago. Every movement cause heavy sweating and the man seemed to be melting. But the will and hot belief in future increased the powers tenfold, and the mattocks, lifted slowly at the beginning, flickered faster and faster with time.
Shiganak walked waddling, looking around and noticing everything. His black eyes examined everything attentively and searchingly from under the heavy brows, judging the field for the future sowing. He halted suddenly next to Kabysh.
“Is it a sunstroke, or what?” Shiganak asked. “You have hollow eyes”.
“I’m not asking you for the shadow though,” Kabysh responded in a dismal voice.
“The steppe is wide, why do you need to ask it from me? Just chose the place in the shadow and sit there!”
“It would be okay, if I alone would sit, but what if everybody would sit? How will we work?”
“You may laugh at it, but you’ve expressed your point of view,” Shiganak said and called out Yeleusin. “Is there anything to drink?”
Yeleusin brought the black torsuk , buried by her in the morning. Pouring the cold and fat shubat with the thick foam, whe gave it to Shiganak.
“Give him first,” Shiganak said pointing at Kabysh. “He starts to grunt, when his stomach gets empty”.
“This time he grunts for some reason,” Yeleusin said, hesitating on whether to tell Shiganak their conversation with Kabysh or not.
Kabysh was drinking shubat silently.
“I see that you became friends here, without someone’s control,” Shiganak joked with Yeleusin.
“We were close to settle everything down, you arrived in time!” Yeleusin joked as well. “You better tell us, what’s the purpose of all these sufferings for the people?”
“What are you talking about? Did your head get scorched, or what?”
“I want to know what we will get for our labor”.
“You’ll get a lot of millet, and then you can buy whatever you want”.
“Maybe there will be really a good millet harvest, but what’s the advantage of it for me?”
Shiganak threw the cup angrily.
Yeleusin, without saying a word, left fast. Shiganak kept silent for a while and then addressed Kabysh:
“What worries you? Tell me openly and sincerely!”
“You talk as if you hear it for the first time! I told you about it before”.
“Yes, it’s true, you told it long time ago,” Shiganak objected. “But I thought that you changed yourself since that time. But that’s not like that. Let’s beat the matter out! First you held yourself aloof the kolkhoz. Then you were begging us and crying to allow you to join. Many people were against accepting you, but we accepted you after all. Then our fight for the machine has started. You consented and echoed with Token. Token failed miserably. When about the new piece of land came out, you just gave a wag of tail and remained to stand aside. Maybe you had some doubts; maybe, you thought that we won’t get through that all. But what can you say now? Now you say that one should give too much power and effort in order to get a good and big harvest. This is correct. Long time ago Durzhygul and Zhusupali used to butcher that many cattle, that the whole tribe didn’t butcher for all of its members. Though they didn’t get poor because of it! They covered their expenses with the extortions taken from the ordinary people. We will cover our expenses with the powers of the soil. So what are you scared of? Why are you still afraid and worried?”
“I’m afraid of work,” Kabysh responded. “There is a hard labor, and you keep on adding more and more. You should give at least a little bit rest to the people! It’s better to stay poor, than to work that hard in order to earn such a wealth as Durzhingul”.
Shiganak remained silent for while, thinking over the words of Kabysh, and then replied:
“There is only one root of your words, though there are too many slips and sprouts. It’s difficult to understand at instance! You say it right: it’s better to be poor, like Kabysh, than to be a bay, like Durzhingul. Durzhingul knew how to earn his wealth, but he didn’t know how to enjoy it in his life. Kabysh though could live and enjoy his life, but he doesn’t know how to become rich. Kolkhoz is not Durzhingul and not Kabysh, it will find the way to earn its wealth and to live. You want to excel in your greediness even Durzhingul! You say that kolkhoz doesn’t give anything to anybody, but I think that the biggest joy in our life is to give something, not to receive. The one who knows, how to give, will know how to receive and will receive. But the one who got used to only take and receive, will never be able to feel the joy of the one who gives. We work for ourselves and give only a little part of the results of this work to the state. But you were unaccustomed to labor and work since your youth times. Do you remember how our fathers brought us to the hayfield for the first time? I came to terms with work as early as the midday came, while you cut the hay under pressure, even after one year! I gave up on you that time already, I remember… But I am still trying to urge you to do something useful… We both will be sixty soon. I had a lot of cases and chances to abandon helping you once and for all, but I held myself. Do what you are able to do. If you cannot work at all, just tell about it. We could appoint you for the hunting, or for working at the shop, to assign you with the wool clip or horsehair, maybe for storage of furs or something else like that. You never know! Chose whatever you want! But I will not tolerate any filth and dirty tricks anymore! Think about it!” Shiganak said and headed with the wide steps to the water pump machine.
Kabysh kept standing without any movement, as he was dejected.
Despite the fact, that both of them spent long life together, Kabysh held himself aloof of Shiganak. “What did he see in his life? He knows only about his field works, and he is happy and satisfied with it! He thinks too much of himself, poor man. But what does he know? What does he understand? And how humiliating is it, to stand here listening to his rebuke and lashing! Should a person, seeing a lot in the life, visiting in a lot of different place and being honored, listen to the kinds like him?”
Token appeared suddenly behind the closest hillock.
“So, how is our work?” he asked, coming closer.
“We work anyhow. Maybe you know how our work is!” Kabysh said, calling Token for an sincere conversation.
“You are working, so you should know it! How can I know it, if I just arrived?”
“I can tell only about the things on the ground. You are educated and intelligent people, so you should judge it and tell how it will be”.
“I am not Shiganak though, to foresee the future!” Token laughed stiffly.
They exchanged the looks, full of understanding.
“Token, you’ve seen a lot during your life. I want to ask you for an advice,” Kabysh said.
“Ask,” Token replied readily. “But not all the advices are good and useful now. Though, if it won’t be worth it, you can always just throw such an advice!”
“What can the machine do? What does Shiganak do? I cannot understand it all”.
“Shiganak says that he is going to take from the earth that, what it cannot give to him and the machine will help him in it”.
“Should we endure all these suffering for this idea?”
“Why are telling it to me?! I said my word: “The Kazakh people know and understand little in agriculture at the moment. Don’t try to reach something which is impossible!” I warned him. But did anybody listen to me? Even one year hasn’t passed yet, and they move the machine to the new place for the second time! They change the seedling plots as well. But they can roam with this machine even ten times, though the soil will remain the same! The same steppe!”
Kabysh listened to Token’s words, bowing his head.
“This machine will eat more than we all will eat during the year!” Token added.
“Ohh my God, there are so many troubles with it! So much work!” Kabysh started to moan and grunt.
“The work is one story! But the sandy steppe doesn’t give us anything in exchange as well! What will we do in this case?”
“No, no, if there will be water, our labor won’t be wasted for nothing,” Kabysh responded, shaking his head.
Token laughed peevish and got red.
“I always wonder about the people,” he said, raising his head. “When the sand used to give the same what the black earth usually gives? What if the hard work won’t be justified, why should we waste it?”
Kabysh became lost. One hour ago he was afraid that their heave harvest could be divided between them and someone else, but now it seemed to him that there will be no harvest at all!
“What an accursed life!..” he thought.
“Hey, Token!” he said after some time of thinking. “I don’t know, will this accurse millet grow or not, but we won’t be able to avoid trouble. I won’t die without millet anyway. Tell me, how is it easier to survive”.
“Now you are talking sense! You are the real Kazakh!” Token laughed. “The Kazakhs used to be always the cattle-farmers, not the peasants. We got used of the great spaces of the steppe and careless life. The cattle give its offspring at the same place, where it grasses, and it grasses itself as well. And our task is to only eat free meat and drink kumiss. We hardly endure the settled life and aren’t accustomed to the crop farming. It’s not worth it to even involve us in this process. It’s not for the real Kazakhs to plow and to saw”.
Cattle breeding though didn’t attract Kabysh as well.
“To shepherd the cattle is also a hard task. Tell me better something else. Tending cattle is even harder than to till the ground. The shepherd doesn’t know rest in rains, storms and frost. I don’t want to get frozen all the time late in life!”
“I even don’t know what to suggest you then… Maybe, try to find a place of a storekeeper or a warehouseman. If they will trust you and charge you with a task like this”.
“No, it’s a restless and uneasy business as well”.
“I found the way!” Token exclaimed. “Try hunting!”
“But I cannot even shot!”
Kabysh didn’t like any of the works suggested to him, and he fell deep in his thoughts.
Meanwhile secretary of district committee Yermagambet, Shangirey and Karibay appeared in the steppe, riding the horses. They rode slowly, examining the work done. As they approached, the mattocks of the workers started to fly faster. The nostrils of the working people started to blow, and the first drops of sweat appeared in their faces. Token and Kabysh stood up and went towards the riders.
“Here is Kabysh, our brigadier,” Shangirey introduced Kabysh to the secretary Yermagambet.
“How is the work?” Yermagambet asked friendly.
“Who is the first in your brigade?”
Kabysh didn’t reply, but the secretary didn’t subside:
“And who is the last one?”
“All of them are almost the same,” Kabysh muttered, not getting the meaning of the question about the first one and the last one in his brigade.
The questions came spilling out, one by one:
“How exactly are they the same? In their success or in their weakness?”
“It’s not known till now, who is ahead of the brigade. Is it possible, that one hoof is more slowly than another one?”
“Do the people work in pairs in your brigade?” Yermagambet smiled. “How is the competition organized and how is it being held? Why don’t you have a brigade banner, like the other brigades?”
Kabysh kept silent, staring at the ground. If there will be someone else in front of him, he could talk to him different, maybe, but he was scared of this person. “Misfortune passes the silent one,” Kabysh thought. But Yermagambet didn’t want to leave him alone:
“What are the troubles and difficulties in your work? How do you cope with them?”
Kabysh was unable to answer these questions as well.
“It seems that the brigadier himself is the key trouble and difficulty of this brigade,” Yermagambet thought, pulling away.
Token and Kabysh followed the riders, chatting silently between each other.
“The secretary of the district committee didn’t like you,” Token said.
“Does he like you?”
Token scratched his head.
The visitors rode a little bit ahead, moving slowly and examining the work. Yermagambet didn’t address Kabysh anymore. Passing aygyrdzhap, the rivers halted, half-rose themselves on the stirrups and rode suddenly further.
“Fire! Fire!” they shouted loud.
Thick dark smoke, rising from the direction of the water pump, outspread slowly in the sky, covering it, like an ominous thundercloud, though the fire itself wasn’t seen.
Shiganak got on foot to the place, where everybody used to ride, long ago and sat at the precipice together with the assistant of mechanic Semby. A big pile stood between them on fire.
“Good time!” Shiganak
Said, looking carefully under the cover of the pile.
Black smoke rose up from the wet stalwart like from the chimney… Suddenly shouts, noises, platter of hoofs were heard, and riders appeared running from behind the water pipe. They nearly baffled the pile and were close to hit accidently Shiganak, as they approached rapidly. Halting their horses, they turned to him.
“What happened?” Shiganak asked anxiously.
“That is what happened!” Yermagabet replied, pointing at the smoke of their fire. “You scared us a lot! What is it here?”
“We’ve got some fish and decided to cook a stew,” Shiganak responded.
Young Semby hardly held his laughter. He turned his face back, shifting around impatiently. It seemed that the only one little wrong move and he will burst into laughter. Shiganak gave a wink to his young friend and started to lay under the pile the big pieces of casings.
“So, we arrived not in vain! We’ll leave after we’ll try some fish stew,” Yermagambet said, dismounting.
Semby became confused suddenly, but Shiganak said as if nothing had happened:
“Well, God willing! You shouldn’t leave hungry!”
While the fish stew was being cooked, everybody went to check the machine. It stood still. Mechanic Fyodor, or Shodyr, like the Kazakhs used to call him, didn’t work this day. Semby, who didn’t dare to even open his mouth in a presence of a mechanic, felt himself the one in charge now and was talking without pause:
“Thus, we make this head white-hot on fire, and then the oil drops down from this little tube. The head gets filled with gas, and gas goes here through the cylinder and pushes the bucket back. And this wheel extrudes it back…”
Semby touched every little whole and detail, fouled himself with the oil, but he didn’t pay attention to it. It was a day of his triumph: there was on one who knew more him here. Joy of the young guy infected Shiganak as well. Everybody looked at the machine. Shiganak though looked at Semby.
“Now he can out a machine into operation himself,” Shiganak said. “I don’t; really know, whether it’s Shodyr teacging him that good, or the guy is that talented himself!”
“What’s so special in it? The machine has an easy mechanism,” Token replied.
“First you say that the machine is difficult, now you say it’s easy,” Shiganak said irritated. “I wish God will take you as soon as possible, until you didn’t lose the rests of your mind!”
“God even doesn’t think about taking me”.
“Yes, that’s truth; God takes only the good people…”
“The old men scrapped again!” Yermagambet interfered. “Which one of you will finally prevail over the other one?”
“Would Token have some wits, he would stop it long ago! He was caught so many times already, and he still hasn’t learned anything!”
“On what was I caught?” hydraulic engineer said, getting angry.
“Nobody has seen the machine before, and you told us about it a horrible story, describing it as it was a real dragon!”
“Well then, the one who doesn’t know the machine is afraid of it”.
“But our Semby saddled it up!”
“All right then! What’s the purpose of it?”
“Have some patience, and you will see yourself”.
“Ohh, were you? We’ll see it!”
I see you want to grow the mountain of millet on the sand!” Token laughed.
Semby, who was away for some time, came back now and whispered something to Shiganak. His face was shining. He hardly breathed from agitation and excitement. Shiganak stood up.
“Let’s go,” he said to Token, calling him to follow him. “I’ll show you everything, and your doubts will fade away”.
Token and the rest of the company followed Shiganak.
The pile was boiling on the fire. Heavy and thick team rose above it. Everybody sat around the fire, expecting the tasty food. Shiganak took off the lid of the pile.
“Our fish is molten into fat, just look at that!” Shiganak said.
“It always happens like this with the fat fish,” somebody noted.
Everybody gathered in a crowd around the pile and staggered back, looking at Shiganak with amazement and bewilderment.
“What the fat is it?”
“What is the oil doing here?”
“Ohh my God, there’s mud on the bottom of the pile!”
“Hey, otagasy , you only got a rise out of us!” Yermagambet shook his head. “Why are you boiling the oil?”
“There, in the steppe, behind that little hut, standing on the top of the ridge,” Shiganak said, showing the direction with his hand, “the vast salt-marshes begin. I thought that God couldn’t create them without any purpose and profit. The mud is viscous and sticky and clings to the hand. The fat swims on the salty water, accumulated in the holes. “That’s for a reason! There might be something special in it!” I thought. You can call me duana now. There is a mud from those places, boiling inside of this pile now. You can just poke it lightly, and the oil will outwell there… And now let’s go to my place. The oil is found, and that’s a big deal! But I don’t want Yermagambet to be sad that he didn’t try the stew, that’s why I’m planning to slaughter a sheep and make a little party!”
Everybody bestrode, and Yermagambet came to Shiganak.
“Shika, I promise you any support you need in this affair! You can always depend upon me!”
Wide and endless steppe, dried up and thirsty under the sun, devoted itself to peace and rest. Blue haze spread close to the ground. The moon was shining. The fish was playing in Uil, and water splashes sounded like the girls’ pendants ringing and soft sound of kisses. The frogs quaked, keeping vigil. All the rest was silent and calm.
The people, struggling all day long with the dried up soil, rested and relaxed. The Red banner waved proudly on the bank of Uil, at the camp of Janbota’s brigade. Janbota didn’t sleep. Undressed, she half-laid under the curtain, and her eyes were shining in the shade of night.
Amantay didn’t sleep as well. He laid on the bare soil under the curtain of his tent and stared in the direction of Janbota’s camp. She didn’t give him up the Red banner! It was a real shame to get off back the woman, while to get off back Janbota was even bigger shame! Both of them were proud, with sharp tongues, and they always competed and rivaled in everything since their childhood. The people say, their heads didn’t find the place in one pile. This old rivalry took a serious turn now: the girl, to whom Amantay made approaches since long time ago, and everybody considered her being his fiancé, has left him for another man at the instigation of Janbota. It was that Aislu, who run on the top of the hillock singing a silly song, teasing and hurting the men with its words. Janbota didn’t limit herself to only taking the Red banner; she also ridiculed him and his entire brigade. Breaking up with his beloved girl seemed to be a less grief and misfortune to Amantay now, than giving up to Janbota and her brigade. An attempt to strip her of the red banner seemed for Amantay now to be the ultimate goal in his life…
Janbota rose and went to the river. Every night at this time she went to swim. It was like a ritual for her.
She came close to water. Silent night and bright and shining moon reminded the girl of the things, forgotten long time ago… She remembered a young dzhigit, whom she kissed here for the first time, hugging him and pressing strong to her breast. It was nearly two years ago, in the same beautiful and moonlight night. This single one moment cost for her more than all the joys of life. His only one word was a real pleasure for her.
“My life is nothing without you!” the young dzhigit used to tell her.
“There is no light without you,” she responded to him.
Dzhigit loved her strong, but not long, and once he just disappeared, without even telling her good bye. Janbota hated all the men since that day. She decided in her mind to never get married and to never give up the men. The bank of the river reminded her of the past days, trimming old wounds, which were about to be healed…
Amantay was far from improper thoughts. He thought only of hiding the Red banner. He noticed that Janbota went to the river, so he stood on the bank waiting for her coming back. Amantay was patient this time. He wanted to slide after Janbota first, but as he was rejected by her so many times, he decided to refuse this idea.
“She doesn’t love me. She has someone on her side. But who is he? Where is he? Why nobody knows him? Or maybe she just has such a character that he can fall in love only after the fight with somebody?” he thought.
Amantay knew a lot of different love tricks and ploys and used them often. But he never tried the tricks sufficient for the character like this. Forgetting about his intention to get and hide the banner, Amantay started to make carefully his way to the river. He crawled to the very edge of the river bank.
Here she is!
Janbota stood very close to him. He saw her clearly. She stood still a little bit and then started to undress herself. Her body glared in the moonlight. She came close to water.
“I wish she could stand here longer!” Amantay thought. Janbota, as if meeting his wishes, bent to the water and looked at her reflection. Amantay was following her with his eyes.
“She is really beautiful!” he said in his mind delighted.
Janbota was really very beautiful. She was slender, with the thin waist and tough legs. She was of a medium height and was straight like a poplar. Her face was comely, but its best treasure was her beautiful eyes: they were neither black like coal, nor azure like the sky, nor blue like the river. They didn’t look alike the dark and shining eyes of a camel colt. It was the ordinary dark-brown eyes, but they were notable for their specific virtues: her angry and wrathful glance grilled like fire and speared into heart. But when she looked with tenderness and affection, her glance warmed the soul with the streams of joy and happiness. Amantay had an opportunity to feel the both of her special glances.
He still couldn’t tell about her, whether she is good or not, and now he just wanted to try till the ned her character. He won’t run out of steam chasing her till the morning and he will achieve what he wants, even if she will try to scratch his eyes out.
Janbota rushed in the water. Amantay grabbed her dress instantly.
“Hey, you are shameless!” she shouted, noticing him.
“You are shameless yourself!” Amantay said and sat down comfortable, putting her clothes under him.
“Why am I shameless?”
“Why are you undressing in my presence?”
“You appeared just now, like a mad man!”
“No, I’m relaxing here for a while already”.
“So, if you saw enough, give me my dress back!”
“I haven’t seen enough yet. Come closer!”
“I’d better be eaten by the fishes!”
“In this case you are free to sit there and soak!” Amantay said, taking her dress with him and leaving.
“Stop! Stop!” the girl shouted.
Amantay came back.
“What will you say?”
“You are acting according to an old custom. Is it worth you?”
“I don’t mix with the other old customs now, though this one I really like”.
“Are you rejecting the culture?”
“There are a lot of unneeded things growing around the culture. I’m hewing it out with an axe!”
“Are you going to hew out love with your axe as well? Love is a delicate thing”.
“Love is a strong and firm thing; you cannot destroy it with an axe. Some people, willing to give it better shape, chip it that much, that it starts to crack and break. And they cry and whimper after it. Maybe my love is rude a little bit, though it’s strong. It won’t be broken, for sure!”
“You are a restless man! But are you telling the truth now?” Janbota asked.
Her eyes gleamed in the moonlight. It seemed to her at this moment that she finally found a man who could become her dear friend and beloved one for her lifetime.
“I don’t have different words to describe the same thing. Let this moon be a witness! Trust my good conscience!” Amantay said.
But Janbota’s shining eyes faded again after these words.
“I don’t believe either moon or your good conscience,” she said grimly.
She remembered her dzhigit again, who swore to her in the same moonlight light with the moon and his conscience and then left and deceived her. Amantay didn’t know about that. He noticed that his swear didn’t reach the girl’s heart and asked her:
“If you don’t believe me swears, how can I assure you?”
“I will believe you only after I will see myself”.
“And how will you see?”
“Find a way!”
“But you will not believe me until I won’t rip open my chest and show you my heart! What should I do?” he asked.
“I wouldn’t believe you even after that,” Janbota responded. “There are a lot of people in this world killing themselves by fever”.
Amantay didn’t reply her and stood up from his place, holding her clothes.
“Where are you going?” Janbote shouted angrily.
“It’s difficult to deal with your stony heart with the words,” Amantay said departing.
He halted only after the third call of Janbota.
“I found you out in a lie! You say that you are honest, and you offer me an ageless friendship, swear love to me, and then you commit violence at the same time! I will believe you only after you’ll give me back my dress! We’ll talk later, only after you’ll give it to me”.
Amantay didn’t respond, but, staying silent and motionless for a few seconds on the river bank, he threw the clothes on the ground.
“Face away now!”
Amantay turned back. Janbota came out of the river and started to get dressed. After she got dressed, she kept on standing like this, without saying a single word, and watched Amantay, smiling warm and friendly.
“Well, how about it? Did you get dressed?” Amantay asked, as he was fed up with standin like this and turning his back to her.
“Not yet, wait a second, please!” she replied hasty and, running away, hid behind the collapsed block.
“How is it? Soon?” he asked and, without waiting her respond, turned back thievishly. “Hey you, little witch! You’ve managed to fool me!” he exclaimed and rushed to the camp, but Janbota stool on his way.
“Wait! A man has power, but a woman has cunning! Let’s talk openly and seriously now”, she said.
“You better tell me first: will this talk have sense?”
“I give you three conditions”.
“Why not thirteen or thirty?”
“You will not forbid me to do the things you allow yourself. This is my first condition.”
“Do you want me to stop hanging out and flirting with other women?”
“You got it.”
“You are jealous! Okay, I agree”.
“The second condition is to not reproach each other with the past”.
“I agree with it as well”.
“And here is the third condition. I will marry only the one who regards me being totally equal to himself”.
“I will not only regard you equal to me, I will place you above my head!” Amantay shouted and swept her up.
He carried her like this to the ravine, took her to the steppe and, coming off the river bank, put her suddenly and harsh on the ground.
Janbota sprang on her feet.
“No, comrade, it won’t work this way! Equality is a serious matter; you should dive deep in it, while you are just swimming around”.
“I called you my beloved, my sun…I accepted all your wishes, swore with my honor, and even if I still haven’t reached your “equality”, so it might be not only very deep, but bottomless!” Amantay said.
He breathed hardly and, saddened and grieved, sat down on the ground. Janbota looked at him silently.
The moon made three quarters of its path.
Stozhary hung above their heads. More than half of the night passed, but none of them thought about sleeping and rest and about the upcoming work tomorrow. Heat of love made them forget everything except of their love. Amantay didn’t think anymore about Janbota’s hard character. She approached him and sat next to him. Even her face and her manners changed. Her words changed as well.
“Amantay,” she said, “we grew up together since our childhood, though our thoughts used to walk separated. If we will be together, but our thought will not, what will come out of it? Let’s think about it calm. Heat of youth set you alight, and me as well. But what is it? Is it heat of the coals or of the dried grass that will cool down once the flames will fade? If we are equal, we will be a couple, supporting each other, and this heat will warm us even after the flame will fade away. I am worse than you in many things, and deep in my soul I hardly believe that you regard be equal to you. But the real friendship and intimacy are in equality. And equality could be achieved with the daily work, I think. I still didn’t achieve all I want. I will consider myself being equal to you only when your workday units will become equal too. In this case I will believe you without any swear”.
Amantay understood her only now.
“Not everybody is worth a friend like Janbota! It doesn’t matter though whether she will be equal to me or less than me… But what if she will excel me?” he thought anxiously.
He could agree with everything, but not with this.
“I love you more than anything in this world, but it’s better to go astray in the prison, than to be less than a woman!” he said finally.
“I think the same. Who wants to be worse?”
“If it will be like that, I agree. Try to catch me up with the workday units!”
They whispered dearly and passionately the words of swears and promises, holding tight each other’s hands, and they even didn’t notice a rider, approaching them from behind. The rider didn’t notice a hidden couple. His horse shrank back scared. Only then all the three of them came round.
“Clear back, Shika!” Janbota shouted running away. She recognized him and got shy.
Shiganak, riding to check again the working place, caught up with Janbota.
“Who is here?”
Shiganak didn’t ask more questions and continued his way. He recognized Amantay in a leaving man and went his way.
“That’s sad, that my spring went away, and my summer is over as well,” he sighed in his mind. “There is an autumn in my heart now…”
The heat subsided, and the nights became chilly. The Red banner passed from one brigade to the other, and when it was set in the camp of Amantay’s brigades, the works were over. But the arguments were not over. Janbota’s brigade won the red banner twice, same as Amantay’s brigade. Who will finally get it? Members of the “Kurman” kolkhoz disputed fervently about this issue.
The huge piles were installed in three places. The thick and heavy smoke poured in from the finished tent. Here, a-smoke, Oljabek gutted the corpse of the newly slaughtered bull-calf. He didn’t participate in the disputes. He made a work of three people, getting over-norms, and had no doubts that he will get the first reward. He thought that among the two ginger heifers the one with a scorch mark was the best for him: it was almost of a size of a grown up cow and could calve in five-six months. “But who will milk it?” Oljabek pondered. “Who will drink its milk?”
“We’ve reached the finish together, so the reward should be divided between two of us!” Olkabek heard the words of Janbota.
“Don’t try to fool me, my dear!” Oljabek grumbled under breath and crouched at the chimney.
But Janbota didn’t give up this idea and kept repeating it again and again.
Oljabek decided not to argue. He got over fast with the corpse of the bull and, without washing away the blood from his hands, went toward the commission.
“What happened?” Shiganak asked him.
Oljabek didn’t respond, grabbed his sleeve and dragged him aside.
“This mad girl intends to start a new dispute again! She says that the reward will be given to the brigade, and they will take the half of it! If it is true, it means that I will get nothing from your reward. Give everything to this wench!..”
“Who hurt your feelings? Us or the girl?”
“I will better lose my head than to stand lie! You hurt me, because I am a stranger among you, I am a newly-comer! Come on, show your real face!”
“I have the only one face for everybody and you see it,” Shiganak responded frowning. “Shame on you! The girl just pinched you lightly, and you turned mad! Take it easy! Between you and me, the first reward will be yours”.
Oljabek, relieved, went back to his work, while Shiganak joined the commission again.
Shangirey, bending his head with the scarf, stood gloomily aside. He never was talk-active, but this time he didn’t even open his mouth. When Karibay approached him, he even turned back.
“How is your head?”
“Drink some strong tea”.
“It won’t help,” Shangirey replied and fell silent again.
“In this case, go home and sleep a little bit. All the members of the board are here, we’ll manage it without you.”
“No way, I won’t go home. Anywaqy, you can give orders here without me”.
Shangirey withdrew. Karibay came closer to him again, smiling.
“Why are you that mad? Tell me sincerely.”
“In am not mad. You can slaughter as many bull-calves more you want!”
“Why were you silent before?”
“Did you allow me to speak? You all conspired and came to terms together. Nobody is averse to eat some tasty meat, but in case the plan will fail, Shangirey will be held accountable!” responded Shangirey.
“You are telling nonsense,” Karibay said peaceful and smooth. “There are a lot of plans in kolkhoz, and they don’t get along without each other, as they all are strongly connected. If we cope with it even with the three heifers, even the water in kolkhoz will turn into milk!”
“I don’t even talk anymore about the two first heifers. But the bull-calf, slaughtered today for food and treating the guests! That’s too much… Nobody was talking about something like that before…You invented it all!”
“People’s respect is more important, than a bull-calf,” Karibay replied, turning away.
“Respect! Respect! They are talking about respect! What a pity!” Shangirey pondered, walking toward the water pump.
When the field works started, Fyodor and Semby got immediately to work with the machine and installed in a new place. Now one of the biggest doubts had to be resolved: canal, dug with the hands of the kolkhoz workers and filled with water up to the brim, turned to itself the flow of Uil River. But it was still difficult to say, whether the water will go up to the ascending steppe or not. Not engineer, but mother-wit of Shiganak controlled the work. Hydraulic engineer Token was against it from the very beginning. If water won’t move up, not only the hard labor of workers will be spared, but it will bring huge troubles for Shiganak and Shangirey. If the machine will be able to move water up and to send it to the canal of aygyrdzhap, joy and peace will spread over the souls of all the people in kolkhoz, as the water will be flowing in the steppe.
Shiganak thought about all of it. He dared to choose against all the odds the difficult way up, which could lead them to the big joy.
I lowered my boot to the River of Determination,
Don’t even think about going to the effort without this boot…
He used to sing sometimes, imagining himself sailing in this boat.
Some people said about Shiganak that he has gone mad, that he is duana. But if Shiganak wouldn’t clear his doubts and thought with his constant and restless work, he could really go mad, probably.
While the mechanics worked with the machine preparing to put it in motion, Shiganak came to Karibay three times, repeating the same thing: “If Shiganak will fail this time, he won’t raise again soon”.
Karibay tried to calm him down, but Shiganak didn’t express either despair or hope.
“Be that as it may be, but all done and dusted!” he thought.
But here the machine started to beat loud. The people scattered on the river bank, rushed toward the machine. All the eyes were fixed on the end of the think tube, connected to the aygyrdzhap. The people waited without any kind of patience. The tube started to shake, then sniffled strongly and gave suddenly that many water, that could be in forty buckets of the water wheel system. People’s hearts became filled with joy and happiness faster than the canal became filled with water. Talk and murmur of celebrative and cheerful people, pushing each other closer to the canal, joined the noise of the streaming water. Excited kolkhoz workers threw each other into the water, according to the old custom. Everybody was joking and talking loud and gladly and laughing. Only Shiganak and Token stood silent and calm, without demonstrating their emotions and feelings. All of the people, including the secretary of the district committee Yermagambet, got wet in the muddy water of the aryk.
“The master of water is still dry!” people shouted and rushed toward Token.
While Token was dabbling in water, Oljabek came close to Shiganak and caught him from the back.
“Should I throw you?” Oljabek asked.
“Okay, throw me!” Shiganak exclaimed, but suddenly grabbed Oljabek at his shoulders and threw him lustily into the canal.
Oljabek just grunted. He had the great power and used to work for the three persons, but he couldn’t even understand how he got in the water. Getting out of water, he kept his eyes open at Shiganak.
“I see you have a good grip!” he said, nodding with his head.
Shiganak had not only “good grip”, but also a great power. Long time ago by choosing the “state” Durzhingul and Zhusupali used to deal with the whole aul, but they couldn’t defeat the three sons of the old Berse. Although Shiganak became older since those times, he still had this huge power…
“Hey you! Did you gulp down enough water?” Shiganak teased Oljabek.
Laughter and clamor of the constant jokes didn’t stop even after everybody sat down at the big tablecloth. As the noise abated a little bit, there was declared that the commission is about to announce the results of the competition very soon.
“The works are over,” head of the commission Shangirey said. He was short and brief again, as always. “I will tell directly: one heifer goes to Oljabek, and another one goes to Janbota.”
Heavy Oljabek sprang suddenly easy, like a little and light boy, rushed toward the heifers, grabbed one of them and tried to choose the better one faster, in order to make it before Janbota will come closer.
“Many thanks to kolkhoz!” he exclaimed with the shining and happy eyes, hugging the neck of the heifer. “Let the competition like this be always!”
Noise and shouts of greetings and congratulations rose as an answer on this short speech of Oljabek. Janbota rose from her seat.
“Hey, stop, stop, stop!” puzzled and wondered exclamation of Amantay was suddenly heard; his mind just took a fast and unexpected decision. “Where do Janbota come in? Why Janbota?” he shouted.
“Hey, leave it, they came at the same time and showed the same results. And she is also a woman, by the way!”
“Janbota doesn’t consider herself being a woman during the work! I disagree”.
The men started to talk noisily, supporting Amantay:
“Amantay says everything right! This girl won’t give up to any man!”
“Let her win first, and then she’ll be able to get a reward!”
Janbota, keeping silent patiently, suddenly started to sing together with Aislu:
My aul lies between the two rivers,
And the blue Uil is under our feet…
What will you say? You are defeated by girl!
You earned this fame!
It seems that you would like
To defeat us, Amantay?
Ask for forgiveness!
We have some bread for charity!
“Amantay, wgere are you? Hey! Where are you now? Are you still alive?!”
Excitement and joy embraced the people again.
Amantay though prepared one of his friends for the song in response, showing it with the signs, while the girls were singing. His friend stepped forth, put his hands on his sides and started to squall:
Hey! Hey! Hey! Janbota!
You are muttering something with no purpose!
If the Red banner is on your side,
Maybe you are ready to give it to us, so give it!
Here what you get! Amantay will not go for it!
Disorderly and silly song made everybody laugh. When the laugher faded a little bit, Janbota started to sing fervent again:
Poor thing, you have no wits,
Although you look like a handsome and strong man!
If somebody will lean on you,
He’ll never get a lot!
“Hey, let me see! I’ll give you all my workday units, but I will find a singer, who will be able to answer you, girl!” Amantay snarled.
“Comrade Amantay anyway owes Janbota one robe ,” Yermagambet interfered. “”We will give him the term till autumn to pay this debt to Janbota!”
“The longer is the term, the easier is it to forget about your debts,” Janbota laughed.
“No, that’s not the question,” Yermagambet objected. “There was not enough time, so you couldn’t place the work on a broad footing. That’s why there is a big talk waiting for everybody, especially for the “Kurman” kolkhoz, next autumn”.
Yermagambet took the letter out of his pocket and handed it to Shiganak.
“Whose letter it is?”
“It’s from a “big man”!”
Shiganak blushed and got embarrassed from his joy. Many people noticed that his hands were shaking easily. Everybody stared silently at the letter.
“Read it finally!”
Although we didn’t have many time to talk with you, I remembered a lot about you from our conversation. I wanted to see you again, but you disappeared and ran rapidly, once you got a machine. Congratulations with the machine! But while I was going to congratulate you, people told me, you’ve managed to change your location together with the machine, and you are at the new place now. Whether you did it due to your nomad’s habit or due to some other reasons, I still didn’t understand. But, nevertheless, one year passed in preparations. When other people used to say about your soil that it doesn’t give harvests, you continued to say that it is fruitful. The upcoming autumn though will not give you any credits. How much can your fruitful land give next year?
See and consult Yermagambet regarding this issue and let me know.
“Who is this Vasiliy Shubin?” Amantay asked, once Yermagambet finished reading the letter.
“He is a secretary of a district committee,” Shiganak replied.
He frowned and scowled, and then brightened again, and now it seemed he emerged from the deepness. His eyes became very young, and it passed his lips:
“I’ll give you about hundred hundredweight of millet from each hectare of a soil on the best pieces of land. And there could be forty hundredweights of millet on the worse pieces. Here is my promise. Nobody will scold us, if we’ll get more”.
Silence fell. Piles of the boiled meat, put on the plates already, but still not served on the tables, stayed standing at the piles. Several minutes passed in silence. Then murmur and grumble started to be heard from the different directions. An ear couldn’t catch the exact words, but Shiganak’s heart perceived the common perplexity.
“Did you think it over before telling it?” Yermagambet asked.
“Yes, I thought it over,” Shiganak replied. “Abdullin from Uralsk will get sixty-eight hundredweights”.
“But the world has never seen the harvest you promise! Won’t we shame ourselves?”
“I know the world not so good, though I know Uil well. If that, what I see now, is not a mystery and sorcery, trust in the folk’s word. Even if you won’t believe, I will continue to scream everywhere that Uil is the best and the most fruitful land!”
The kolkhoz workers, who listened to their conversation silently first, brightened and started with their food in a cheerful mood. Only Shangirey sat angry and gloomy.
“This promise will end up with the slaughter of cattle and destroying of the meat!” he grunted.
Shangirey looked at the eating people the way, like they were swallowing the whole bulls.
“Eat, Shangirey, eat!” Shiganak said loudly, noticing his mood. “Not only will this little gray bull-calf, but even a huge bull, which holds this earth, be slaughtered on a Judgment Day!”
Everybody laughed, and Shangirey started to eat as well.
In the old days spring was always a difficult time in the auls. Even the most sparing and prudent households had at that time only the bones of the horses and some rests of the horse beef and s sack of millet. The land was now thawing and then freezing again. There has been no grass yet, and the cattle grew glean. Children felt chilly in the houses; there was neither firewood, nor food. Adults felt themselves not better than children.
Old-world carelessness started to become forgotten in the “Kurman” kolkhoz already, when people used to stay for the winter almost without any kind of savings and stocks, but the kolkhoz workers of aul had too many unexpected challenges and troubles this spring, so the kolkhoz was forced to ask the state for the aid, and the seed credit was taken this year.
Shiganak spent this winter dipped into his work: he gathered bird’s droppings for the fertilizing, and during the latest several days he was busy with something mysterious, and only he knew what it was.
Two days ago, when everybody fell asleep, he left silently his house. Heavy clouds crawled in the sky, and there was nothing to be seen around. Shiganak dug out a little barrel, buried earlier in the earth, and, taking it out of the pile, rolled it to the outskirts. There he dug it in the little ravine, made it equal with the earth level and hid concealed this place.
In the morning, as if it was suddenly and unplanned, he checked this little ravine again and thought that this place isn’t secure, so he next night he rolled his barrel to another place, hiding it under the haystack. Today this decision seemed to be wrong for him as well. That’s why, waking up before the dawn, Shiganak left his house again and rolled his barrel far into the steppe. Crunching ice and even his own cough forced Shiganak to constantly look back in fear that somebody could see him. He stopped to have some rest only after he reached an old graveyard, nearly three hundred steps far from the aul. Tired and gasping old man didn’t hear the coughing coming from the direction of aul. Digging his barrel in a little ditch in and without stopping for long next to it, Shiganak left. Right after Shiganak departed a man appeared. He dug the barrel out and rolled it to another place.
Sjoganak discovered his loss only closer to evening. Biting his finger to pain and without hesitating he went silently home. Coming back, Shiganak started visiting and passing over all the houses and yards, like he usually did during the holidays, greeting the people. During the two days he passed over the whole kolkhoz under an excuse of preparing to the seeding time. He looked calm from outside, but he suffered terribly inside. He turned dark, tore around confusedly and embarrassedly, he was even going to visit the neighboring auls as well, as he suddenly met a boy, walking down the street, suspecting nothing, and ate innocent and open a handful of white wheat.
“Let me try it too, son!” Shiganak addressed him.
The boy gave him several grains and ran his way.
Shiganak laid the grains on his palm out.
“That’s my millet!” he exclaimed in his mind.
The boy was from the house, which was familiar to Shiganak. So the first thought coming to Shiganak’s mind was to run to this house and to start a terrible noise, startling the whole village, but he contained himself. He climbed the roof of his house and started to observe the house where the boy lives, but he didn’t notice anything suspicious.
After sundown Shiganak started to prowl along the river bank, like a hunter prowling about the game. Hiding in the reed, he got close to back wall of the suspicious house and hid there, sitting silent. He waited until the family started to have dinner and looked carefully through the window. Two persons stood and talked silently. Their voices though were indistinct and hard to be heard. One of the talking persons leaned toward the lamp and lit his cigarette. Shiganak saw his face. His heart started to beat uneasy.
“That’s Token! How did it happen that this dog is here?” he thought. “If he will guess that that’s my millet gathered for the future seeds, he will clearly destroy it all!”
Shiganak stood for a while, watching and following the people in the house.
Token left the house fast. The rest of the company set about their dinner. They ate from the big cup, and thick steam rose up from it. One of the eating people suddenly chocked over.
“The wheat!” Shiganak muttered. “What the dogs they are!”
During many long yeas gathered Shiganak these grains one by one and now, in the decisive year, he wanted to seed it, and these people simply devoured the fruits of his efforts and labours. People sitting at the table looked like the real monsters in Shiganak’s eyes now.
“I am going to talk to all of you soon. But first I need to find my barrel!” he thought.
At this moment the sound of someone’s voice, coming throught the broken window from the room, befigged with the steam, struck upon his ear. A man was sitting in the darkness, and it was hard to distinguish the features of his fase in the light of the weak and gellemy lamp.
“Isn’t it time to go?” he asked.
“Let the neighbors fall asleep,” his wife responded to him.
“Daddy, where are you going?”
“Nowhere. Sleep, my son. Did you eat well?”
The child calmed down. The voices of the parents became more distinct.
“If a thief has stolen it from another thief, that’s okay. But what is it was stolen from the poor man? He might be crying by now…” a man said.
“If he is a poor a man, he stopped his search long ago, I think. It’s just happened like that, that’s all,” a woman replied. “If you suffer that mush because of this barrel, go and give it back to the owner!”
I would bring it back to the owner, with a great pleasure, but tell me, please: who is its owner? We can get into prison because of this accursed stolen millet!” a husband esclaimed, raising from his seat.
He took a shovel and left his house. Shiganak started to follow him furtively.
A houseowner started to dig the piles of ashes in the corner of his yeard. Once Shiganak saw his barrel rolling from the house to the pit, he was close to jump out of his hideout. Th man buried the barrel and cane back to his home, quitened.
It took some time for Shiganak to apply himself to the task. He wanted to call a lot of people to witness it, to draw up a statement of fact, to inform the distrcit’s authorities and to destroy the criminal…
“I’m gathering this corn seed by seed, and he wanted just to cut off my hand, which is sawing these grains! He has stolen not ordinary millet; he has stolen the real pearls! He has stolen all the harvest, all the bread of the entire kolkhoz! It will be not enough to even shoot him!” Shiganak thought wraughtful and blistering.
“Stop, stop, Shiganak, calm down,” he persuaded himself calmly. “It seems that this man has never done something like this before. It is obvious that he feels very uncomfortable now. Shiganak, you better get more millet, and if you are that strong, defeat Token!” pondered he and, digging his little barrel with the millet out, silent and quiet rolled it in the direction of his home down the sleeping street of aul.
Thus, Shiganak didn’t expose and didn’t defame this man till the end of his days and never said his name to anybody.
Session of the district committee bureau over the discussion of the preparation for the spring sowing ran over. Yerzhan spoke during more than an hour, despite the fact that he was usually silent and short-spoken. This time he criticized averybody, one and all, without saying a word about himself only. Only the ring of the secretary forced Yerzhan to remember the time.
“All the defaulter of the state’s seed reserves should be brought to justice!” Yerzhan concluded resolutely.
“Everybody, one and all, should be brought to justice?” Yermagambet asked earnestly.
“Should we indulge the crime?”
Yermagambet shook his head disapproving.
“It is simply impossible that everybody is a persistent and fraudulent defaulter. We should find the real culprit and punish him according to the law”.
Yermagambet turned to the members of the bureau, as the session was attended also by Karibay and Sergey Aleksandrovich.
“I have come to the district after the harvest time. Tell me, how did you end up in such a situation? Whose fault is it? Why are there no seeds in the “Kurman” kolkhoz? I think,” he continued, “that it is fault of not only the heads of the kolkhoz, but of the district heads as well. Despite the personalities and positions we should find out the truth and take the measures”.
Karibay stood up from his seat.
“If it’s like that, we should admit it and say it directly: there is no fault of either government or the people of kolkhoz here. It’s the fault of Yerzhan Bolenbayev. He supplied us with an exaggerated pand unreal plan. We told that it is beyond our forces and abilities. He blamed us for tailing along and getting behind. Seeding plan was fulfilled in its quantity, and its quality came to no harm as well. Being a head of a district commission for determination of productivity and yield survey, Yerzhan acted wrong again: while the harvest was on an average of three hundredweights, he counted it as five. And here we can see the results of his policies!”
“But I didn’t take any grain for myself!”
“It’s even worse to spoil the deeds in the name of authorities!” Yermagambet interrupted him firm.
But even after the sharp remark of the secretary Yerzhan kept on asserting that he acted for the sake of the country.
Sergey Aleksandrovich asked to deliver his speech at the end.
“Our district is considered being a cattle-breeding and stock-raising till now. Instead of giving to the state, we often just received from it. Bolenbayev, without taking into account the specific of this district, wants to align and amount to the agricultural districts in an administrative way. But we cannot align only with administration. We need new, creative ways here for the progress and development of our agriculture. Shiganak is responsible for them and he works on this purpose. Walking these creative paths we could probably succeed. Bolenbayev refuses to recognize the initiatives of Shiganak even after these initiatives were supported and approved by the district committee. The piece of land, requested by the “Kurman” kolkhoz, was given to another one. That’s why we were forced to relocate our water pump system two times during this year and rebuilt the whole irrigation system”.
Yermagambet made a conclusion of this statement:
“We still saw here for ourselves. But Bolenbayev sent a report to the district authorities regarding the issue that in this year our district is able to meet our own requirements and to give the state the excesses…”
“I was not alone signing this report,” Yerzhan interrupted Yermagambet. “The previous secretary of the district committee has signed it before me”.
“I know,” Yermagambet replied. “He’s got his share already. Now we are talking about you. You gave consciously overestimated plan. We must write it all down today in our official statement and make it known by the district committee”.
Uil City located far from the center and got used to calm and silent life, was agitated now.
The gates of a big brick barn were opened wide. People from the “Kurman” kolkhoz stood crowded in front of it. Usually in autumn, when the corn was flocking here all round and filled the barns and stocks, people’s faces were always happy and bright, and every kolkhoz held a big holiday dedicated to the day of gathering and giving the corn. But today the workers of “Kurman” kolkhoz, who just received a seed aid, lost their hearts and stood saddened. There was too little time remaining. A whole host of the spring works laid ahead, so it was hard not to be pained and grieved because of additional troubles, wasting too many times and taking too many working hands!
Shiganak rides to the office of the district committee at an order of its secretary.
Right at the entrance of the city, in a little ravine, Shiganak met Amantay and Oljabek. Both of them were barefooted and in the pants, tucked up to their knees. They tried hard to draw their cart, stuck on the bump. Oljabek shouted loud from time to time and grunted, while Amantay was cursing. Shiganak thought that Amantay rebukes Oljabek and frowned.
“Hello!” Amantay greeted Shiganak, becoming a little bit confused.
Shiganak didn’t respond and ignored his greeting.
“Whom are you scolding now that strong?” he asked.
“Whom can I scold, if not Yerzhan and Token!”
Shiganak laughed dismounting.
“Wait, I will tell everything to Yerzhan!” he threatened jokingly.
“Anyway, we won’t hear you anymore”.
“Why? What happened?”
“Ohh, there is a mess there!..”
Shiganak helped them to free the cart and hurried forth, where he was heading.
Wireless telegraph – uzun-kulak – worked at all powers.
Meeting of the district committee’s officials, gathered early in the morning, was over at midday, but it seemed that this “long ear” was still working and participated in the meeting.
People almost totally predicted the decision of the committee’s meeting and the reason for the visit of a “big man” to the district.
Until Shiganak reached the committee, he knew already who dismissed and who was reprimanded. Shiganak was satisfied with the recent developments, though he couldn’t understand why Token remained on his position.
Entering the secretary’s cabinet, Shiganak saw Token. He sat on the right hand of the secretary of the district committee and was praising Shiganak a lot.
“Welcome!” Vasiliy Antonovich said, shaking the hand of Shiganak. “How did it happen like that? Instead of giving the corn you take it yourself?” he asked.
“The saying says: “Not the one, who gives, is generous, but the one, who takes””, Shiganak joked. “The one, who knows how to take, will find a way to give it back!”
“It seems that there is also another saying: “Even a whip is a burden for the quarter horse”. It’s a year of your races. Don’t blame anybody later for the load”.
“There are big ships, but the see holds them”.
“Even an ocean cannot raise a little piece of iron of a size of a button”.
“It’s true,” Shiganak responded. “You said it right. And it’s good, that this piece of iron is thrown”.
The secretary glanced at him, didn’t say a word and went to the next issue, stating a business talk:
“What kind of help is needed in order to make you fulfill your promises?”
“If we will be alive, we’ll mange to fulfill the promises. Because it doesn’t matter how much could we give, anyway it will be just a little drop in the ocean. If we will become an example for others, there will be prosperity and wealth. I would like to say a couple of words”.
“My machine mow is like a young bride. Everybody comes to see it. But it would be good, if every kolkhoz had its own “bride”, and everybody would be happy with their own joy!”
“We think to send other four machines to you. You are going to be the “aul of five brides””.
“It’s wonderful! I’m getting older, though I don’t refuse the new brides!” Shiganak smiled. “And one more thing. Your Aktubinsk is more farther from us than even Mecca! Could it be possible to draw it nearer?”
“Our government and party have already thought about it. A new railway is being built between Kandagach and Guryev, and a new automobile road is being built between Aktubinsk and Uil. The airplane trip from Aktubinsk till here took only two hours, when I flew here! You can use this way as well. Of course, the most difficult issue is the roads in the district itself, but we have already dismissed the careless and unaccountable leaders and heads. It means this issue will be corrected”.
An old man looked amazingly at a “big man”.
“There is nothing more to wish!”
“Comrade Agronomist,” Secretary addressed Sergey Aleksandrovich, sitting in the same room, “what kind of help the science give to this man?”
“Till now I am totally sure of one thing,” Sergey Aleksandrovich replied. “If we would supply the entire district with the seeds selected by Shiganak, we would receive a key to the huge and unbelievable harvests”.
“Don’t you exaggerate?”
“It’s not only my own opinion. I exchange the letters with one prominent academic, and he thinks the same”.
“That’s true, an academic won’t say something without purpose,” secretary agreed and turned to Shiganak. “How many seeds like this do you have?” he asked him.
“It might be enough for two-three hectares”.
“Only? Is that everything you’ve managed to gather during five years?”
“I was gathering them though not with the rake, but with my own fingers! One grain by one grain,” Shiganak smiled. But then in sight he glanced closely and intently at agronomist. “Several years ago, when I gave a handful of my millet to this young man, I thought that it’s for some reason. I’m very happy with you, my dear, that you made me close to the science!”
“Comrade Token, and how did you help?” the secretary asked.
“Why, Vasiliy Antonovich,” Tokwen started to laugh. “You know that my help is connected to water and irrigation”.
Shiganak didn’t wait till the end of his answer and turned back. The secretary noticed it.
“I give the water from the place Shiganak wants and points to me. He deals with water himself,” Token concluded.
“Yermagambet, and what about you? Do you meet Shiganak often?”
“Of course, I do meet him”.
“How many times did you meet with him after your latest visit here?”
“It will be the third time seeing him, together with today…”
Silence fell in the room. Noise of people’s voices and chatter came from time to time from outside.
Vasiliy Antonovich started to talk clear, distinct and harsh, addressing everybody at the same time:
“It was already said a lot about position and stand of our district. The necessary measures are taken. Now what concerns Shiganak. If there will be further troubles and misunderstandings with water, we will consider the issue being of a political meaning. All the agricultural and agronomical help must be given immediately and on a full scale, at the request of Shiganak himself. If he won’t ask you about anything, don’t intrude. He should be given the full and total freedom of action. Comrade Yermagambet! Being in Aktubinsk, I had three conversations with Shiganak, while you, being side by side with him, honored him with your attention only three times. It’s too little,” the secretary concluded, as if he just cut these words with the knife. He said good bye then and started to get dressed.
Shiganak felt that he still didn’t express all of his thoughts and ideas, that’s why he decided to go together with the secretary of the district committee and to walk him over a little bit.
“Shika, come back home and to your kolkhoz, let the working day won’t be spared for you,” Vasiliy Antonovich said, turning to Shiganak. “Write to me more and often. We need to keep in touch always. And till now – good bye!” the secretary said and offered Shiganak his hand to shake it.
Shiganak though didn’t offer his hand in response.
“I will not let you go, until you will not try the head of my sheep!” Shiganak said.
Vasiliy Antonovich became confused. Does he have time to enjoy eating the sheep’s head? But he was a native of Atbasar, spoke Kazakh language and knew the local customs that well, as if he was true Kazakh himself. If he will refuse the offer and reject hospitality of this old man, he will cause a great offense to him.
“I really have very little time…” he said and checked himself suddenly.
He didn’t think that Shiganak will be that strict in observing the old Kazakh customs.
“Heh, big man! Life will pass without haste! Everybody will accept an invitation when there is a lot of free time. Try to find time and accept this invitation when you are busy! Today will not repeat itself tomorrow. Use what you have now and live today”.
Listening to the old man’s words, Vasiliy Antonovich pondered about him, forgetting about the sheep’s head and the seeding campaign.
“Is it far to your aul?” he asked.
“It’s right behind that hill!”
“Okay then let’s go!”
They turned choosing the direction of Shiganak’s aul, without telling anybody a word and without checking the airfield first. They rode not on the road along the Uil River, but through the steppe. Wormwood’s scent filled the air. The horses run at a short trot.
The words of Shiganak “right behind that hill” meant in the reality a pretty big distance. Two visible marks of these places: small height Sharartau and beautiful quick sand of the sand-drifts – have been left behind the hill long ago, but the riders still rode through the steppe, looking like a limitless sea. They were talking about everything came to their minds.
“The passages can be humpbacked and short, but this one is plain, so you cannot reach your destination,” Vasiliy Antonovich said.
He accustomed to the beautiful and splendid land of Arca and became tired and bored by the monotony and sameness of the vast steppe, deprived of all kinds of greenery. He didn’t like steppe, but he didn’t express it to Shiganak.
“Steppe is hungry and vast, though the grass here is juicy and thick!” Shiganak praised the steppe and his lands.
Far away, in the hollow on the banks of Uil, appeared a little point of aul.
“Here is our aul!”
“And that means “right behind that hill”! There is at least thirty kilometers here!”
“People usually count here thirty-five kilometer, but I said “behind the hill”, and the hill is about to finish already!”
“There is no end of flatlands in my country, and here the hills are endless!”
“Let’s shorten the distance!” Shiganak said and put his horse into gallop.
Without superseding each other, they rode. Onward a wolf appeared suddenly like from nowhere, but hid himself rapidly.
“It’s for your luck!” Shiganak said. “The wolf is rude and cruel, but his walk is soft, unlike the hare, which is soft and light itself, but its walk is heavy. And if you will meet a snake, it’s even better!..”
Vasiliy Antonovich didn’t ride since long ago and he understood only now, how heavy and clumsy his body became. He could say a word riding and even breathed hardly. Approaching the aul he finally said:
“Let’s stop for some time, Shika! It’s seems that even without our sheep meat I had enough”.
The closer to aul they rode, the more confused and uncomfortable Shiganak felt himself: there is a “big man” coming, and nobody in aul knows about it. He was worried and afraid, if Vasiliy Antonovich could suddenly notice some disorders and irregularities.
The guest asked him, as if he guessed his thoughts:
“Does anybody in aul know that I am coming?”
“Nobody knows. I even didn’t tell it at home. I had doubts and didn’t know, whether you will agree to come… That’s why I feel a little bit uncomfortable now”.
“That’s okay, don’t be shy. It’s even better that nobody knows. Don’t tell anybody!”
“How will I hide so “big man”?!”
“Instead of coming as a “big man” and seeing everything shining and perfect and prepared for my visit I prefer to come as a “little man” and to see everything as it is in the reality, in its true colors.”
“I don’t dare to argue with you about it,” Shiganak said.
Entering the aul like the “God’s guests ”, they dismounted.
It darkened, and the day was dying. There was a half-light in the room. Small window let only very little light inside.
Shiganak spread a blanket for the guest, gave him a pillow and left the room.
Weak light of a little lamp didn’t give a chance to distinguish anything clear in the room. There is a Berdan rifle hanging on the wall, next to it unfinished nets. An old dombra props against the wall at the bed-head. Eyes of Vasiliy Antonovich could catch now only these details. He noticed also that the floor was made from brick.
“Wood is more valuable than gold in these places!” Vasiliy Antonovich thought. “An old man lives really modest!”
Shiganak came. He just slaughtered the sheep for the dinner. A householder in these lands doesn’t ask the guest for blessing to slaughter a sheep, fated for that. He just makes it, slaughtering the sheep, and that’s all.
Vasiliy Antonovich thought, looking, how Shiganak just came inside and sat, without telling a word about a little sheep:
“It seems he didn’t find the appropriate sheep and is shy now”.
“Shika, you know, I guess I’m not hungry at all and I really don’t want meat. You shouldn’t cook it and bother yourself about it,” Vasiliy Antonovich said.
“Others will eat for your health! The meet will be ready, while we’ll be drinking tea! It doesn’t take long to cook the meat of a young sheep,” Shiganak responded.
In this moment Amantay and Janbota entered the room suddenly, kicking each other and arguing.
“Shika, how long should I suffer the offenses of this unbearable girl?” Amantay exclaimed entering the room.
“She took all the sharpened ketmens !..”
“Did I ask you to sharpen them?! These are my ketmens!”
“How is it that they are yours? What does it mean that these ketmens are yours? Did you inherit them?”
“Yes, I inherited them. We worked with them last year, and we will work with them this year as well!”
“No, you won’t work with them! Look at her! She thinks she found free sharpeners!”
“Could you please talk calmer? Here is a man sitting here,” Shiganak interrupted them.
Noticing the guest, both of them fell silent for a moment. The guest woke their interest. Vasiliy Antonovich suddenly felt that he wants to tease the arguing youth a little bit.
“Shika, let me judge them,” he asked.
“That’s very good. A stranger is unbiased”.
“Do you agree if I will be your judge?” Vasiliy Antonovich asked addressing Amantay and Janbota.
“We will see it,” Amantay said, but his face demonstrated that if the judgment will be not in his favor, he won’t agree and give up.
“What a stubborn man!” Shiganak said. “Do you think the judge will look to your wishes and consider them?”
“He will prove that he is a strong and tough man,” Janbota said teasing.
“I will prove it! A man is given a gun for a reason!”
“In this case you don’t need ketmen. Go and fight”.
“You liked the ketmen after you were given the heifer as a reward”.
“Yes, I liked it. My heifer became a cow already and will calve soon”.
“Beware yourself!” Amantay said. “What if it will happen to you as well…”
Shiganak felt uncomfortable and embarrassing about Janbota, and he shouted at Amantay:
“Hey you! Talk, but know the limits!”
“Never mind, Shika, he is mad like a black camel of Karibay. Once he sees a human being, he just attacks,” Janbota said. “If he won’t be tied, he can injure the people…”
Everybody laughed. Even Amantay laughed openly and joyfully.
“When the majority agrees, nobody wants to listen to a single person. That’s why I go silent and won’t tell a word about it anymore!” Amantay said. “But you shouldn’t try to defend this girl, dear guest,” he addressed Vasiliy Antonovich. “She is not a girl but a real fox! She will easily fool you, you won’t even notice!”
“I will try to be just and fair,” Vasiliy Antonovich said. “Both of you are of the same age, and you are also equal in your fervor and temper. Let’s put aside your gender, but which of you has more workday units? Kazakh people honor and respect the best one”.
“You say! No, you say!” Amantay and Janbota started to argue again.
It didn’t matter which of them would say something, the quarrel was inevitable.
“You scored a hit. If to grasp it and study everything out, their whole quarrel is just about the primacy and superiority. We don’t know which of them the first and the best is. Janbota was the winner of the autumn competitions and she got a heifer as a reward, which was recently mentioned today. Amantay though has more workday units. Judge them, please, and make one of them the first and the best, because they will continue to fight and argue about it!”
Vasiliy Antonovich forgot his stomach pains, his joint ache caused by the unusual shaking during the riding, he even forgot about all the urgent affairs. He flushed, and his eyes smiled. He was captured by joy and happiness: kolkhoz labor has already started to become an important part of the lives and minds of these people.
“Quarrel about the ketmens! Competition!.. Competition in labor is the same as a competition in honor and prosperity. It doesn’t matter how hard could be the upcoming spring seeding, they will do it easily! I’m sure they will manage it! This black-haired and black-bearded old man, raising Oljabek, Amantay and Janbota, isn’t he Ayaz-biy ?! And these two guys! They are like the two swords from the fairy-tale, hewing the rock! One should be able to hew and hit with them…” Vasiliy Antonovich pondered.
“Let us leave an issue about superiority between you both open,” he said. “We will decide it at the end of this year, when we will discuss the results of the work and make conclusions. And now you should divide the ketmens between each other. It will be the best solution now!”
“I agree,” Amantay said. “But she should sharpen my mattocks.”
“And what would you do? Standing and watching how I’m sharpening your ketmens?” Janbota responded.
“Of course! I would enjoy watching it!”
“Don’t start to argue again!” Shiganak said, noticing that the quarrel could run high again. “It’s your fault that you decided to take the mattocks, which don’t belong to you!”
“Everybody defends the wench!” Amantay said and jumped from his seat. He grabbed Janbota’s sleeve and pulled her, saying: “Let’s go to divide the ketmens!”
“You’ll have enough time! Stay here a little bit with my guest,” Shiganak said.
“No, we have to divide them first! Because if we won’t do it now, she won’t give the mattocks back!”
“He will buzz here like a mosquito and won’t leave us alone,” Janbota sighed. “I will better go with him and give him these ketmens”.
Both of them left the room.
Shiganak told the guest about their strange relationships.
“I don’t understand, are they joking or is it all serious? They are always like this during the day, but once I accidently saw them in the night sitting in the steppe. I can’t believe they were arguing there as well!” Shiganak said.
When they stayed alone, a householder and a guest have been talking about everything, discussing different topics. When the tablecloth was spread, other eight people entered the room. It was really difficult to understand and guess which of them the family members were and which of them were the friends and neighbors of Shiganak.
“You still didn’t introduce your family to me,” the guest addressed Shiganak.
An old man started from Zaru and Yeleusin, then he introduced his daughters: Akjibek, Akpal, Ilgen, and then his sons as well: Ait, Zhakip, Zhusup, Shayhi. He mentioned also the name of an absent family member:
“The eldest son of mine Mahmut is a student. He studies to become an engineer and will graduate this year”.
“And how do these children study?”
“Ait is an animal technician, Zhakip just ended nine classes, Akpal studies in the eight year, but it seems that ketmen is better for her than the science. She works really well. The rest of them study as well… I’m not without successors, a big man! Millet requires care and attention, and it’s the same with the children. It’s a hard task!” Shiganak concluded.
Other guests looked surprised and in amazement at Shiganak and at the guest as well, as they couldn’t understand why Shiganak called the guest a “big man”. He didn’t tell about him even to his family! Now babbled and tried to hide it:
“People from Arca are big, with the wide and strong bones. They are not like us, little and crooked, like our ketmens… That’s why I called you a “big man”.
Vasiliy Antonovich settled down with the oatmeal with the sour cream. Oatmeal and soaked in milk jent were cooked from the millet. All the guests were eating the same millet, soaking it in their tea. There was no bread, but nobody actually felt a special need of it. The millet replaced everything.
“Is your millet that tasty, or is it because of the sour cream?” the guest asked.
“It is tasty itself. If you will put it into the tea, it will replace you bread and milk, and if to put it into the milk, it will replace the butter. If you are going to eat it dry, it will be a great food!” Shiganak praised his millet.
Conversation about the millet was supported by many and lasted very long. By force of habit, the fellow villagers came in one by one and sat at the tablecloth to have some tea and to join the conversation. Somebody just opened the door lightly and remained standing at the threshold, keeping up appearances. Only his nose was seen.
“Come in, Shangiery, come in!” Shiganak called him.
Amantay and Janbota came back as well.
The more people gathered in the room, the more happy and joyful became Shiganak. He started to joke with the people, as always, teasing them and bantering.
“All the people sitting here are the activists of the kolkhoz. And we have here a custom to introduce and represent all the respectable people with the songs! So, introduce them all to our guest!” Shiganak said addressing a teenager, sitting next to him.
The boy took dombra in his hands and started to sing, imitating somebody with his voice and his movements. Finishing the verse, he turned his head on the long thin neck in the direction of the one he was just singing about and pointed on him or on her. All other people laughed.
He has a very long nose!
He won’t let anything pass without his knowing,
Shangirey from our kolkhoz!
He is in hurry, willing to become wealthy…
So what? We could also warm our hands here,
As people become angrier with wealth!
Janbota, all year long
You are busy with your worries and troubles!
Don’t get offended, Amantay!
You look soldierly, that’s true,
Asking: who will be faster than me?
But in the reality you are different.
Here is Kabysh, sitting and stroking his moustache…
He isn’t coward in his talk:
I experienced a lot in my life.
But nothing is dear to him.
That’s why, that’s why
He started to collect the trash!..
If he got mad, he’s like a boar,
If you offend him, he is not a brawler,
He is a modest and silent man,
Who is sad about his beloved Jamal.
He is always helpful for everybody,
Our faithful friend Oljabek!
Some people laughed merrily, but those, whom these verses concerned, just smiled shyly. It felt as if akyn pitched to them these nipping definitions, fitting each of them like a well-tailored dress.
Vasiliy Antonovich looked merrily and happily at Shiganak.
“Who composed this song?” he asked.
“Akyn Nurpesh did. Once he got accidently to Shangirey’s home, and Shiangirey feasted him with the horse’s cheek instead of the meathead. When this dish was served, Nurpesh took his dombra instead of the knife and composed this song”.
“Come along, Shiganak! This is a mere fable of yours!” Shangirey grumbled annoyed in response.
He stood up, as if he wanted to leave.
“Ohh my God! Do I have authority over the tongue of Akyn? He was close to kill even Kabysh, though Kabysh bears it till now, poor man”.
Kabysh who tried several jobs but didn’t cope with any of them decided to settle on wool clip and gathering of row hide. Voluble and talkactive old man made too little workday units and that’s why, feeling shy to talk in front of the guest, sat silent.
Vasiliy Antonovich tried to provoke and encourage new and new conversations and jokes. But it was already late, so Vasiliy Antonovich rose and went out with Shiganak, to breathe some fresh air.
“I will give you a ride,” Shiganak said.
“No, you can stay, it’s okay. Where is Oljabek?”
“He transports the seeds day and night”.
“That means that I might see him in the district. But I am too tired, I’m afraid I can’t ride, so I’d ask you for an offer to get ready the cart for me. Maybe Amantay and Janbota will give me a ride”.
Shiganak hesitated. It was obvious that he wants to say something. Vasiliy Antonpovich noticed it.
“I see you want to say something, Shiganak?”
“I wanted to thank you that you released us from Yerzhan…”
“It had to be done for the public good,” the secretary said.
“It would be good to dismiss one more person, for the public good as well,” Shiganak continued tentatively, but already more confident.
“Who is it? Say it directly and open. We will help you”.
“It is our hydraulic engineer Token”.
“I know him well. Put up with him for a while…”
“If you know him well, I can be calm and at peace!” Shiganak exclaimed merrily and shook strong the hand of the secretary.
Both of them entered the house.
The meat was ready. They ate fast and then three of them hit the road with the cart. There was not enough space for Amantay there. He hardly placed himself on the edge of the cart and took the leading reins. They just left the aul, and he started the new argument:
“We are going to lead in turns”.
This argument wasn’t finished even when they arrived in Uil. When the argument was close to fade, Vasiliy Antonovich fanned this dispute again, teasing the arguers.
Cobbly and rough road, dark night and fervent disoute of youth made the sleep of Vasiliy Antonovich away, so he felt very energetic. He listened to them and smiled.
The guests, left in Shiganak’s house, surrounded Shiganak and wanted to get more information and details about this chance-comer, this mysterious guest, who arrived unexpected and left very fast.
“It was secretary of the district committee,” Shiganak said calmly and confident.
Everybody stood motionless and bewildered, without knowing what to say and how to react.
Here is the spring. Dry earth crust got limp a little bit. Yellow steppe blossoming with flowers lies smiling in the trembling gauze. The sun strikes down, as if saying to the earth: “I will burn and dry you!” – “No, we will wood and green you up!” the kolkhoz workers, with the mattocks in their hands, work hardly.
An agronomist rides along the river bank. He dismounts from time to time and tries the soil with the end of his whip. His chestnut horse is tired. But an agronomist now gets on the horse and then dismounts it again, checking each plowed strip, and writes something down.
Until he arrive in the “Kurman” kolkhoz and met its workers, working in the fields, he got tired and crooked, his head bowed from one side to another one, while his knees almost hugged the neck of the horse.
“Hey, you look like you will break yourself asunder!” Amantay shouted to him.
“You can break your nose!” Janbota said, supporting her friend.
They didn’t have more time to joke with him and to tease him. They looked back at him pitifully, being a little bit sad and disturbed that they miss such a good target for their jokes.
Sergey smiled and straightened in the saddle. He didn’t get hurt or offended by the funny jokes of young friends. “Let them talk and joke, the most important thing is to gain their trust and support and to get closer to them. There will be no real work without knowing the people, their language, customs and land,” he pondered. He halted in front of the plowed field. Oljabek, working here, didn’t even pay attention to him. One sleeve of his robe was on him, while another one was hanging behind him, right on his back, leaving bare his right chest and right hand. He walked slowly, without looking back, along the straigt, like an arrow, furrow. His movements were clear, confident, measured and deliberate. He was sowing, as if he was just spattering the corn. His muscles played.
The white millet seed grains fell into the ploughed up and soft yellow soil.
The agronomist couldn’t believe his own eyes. He saw for the first time in his life that a seeder’s hand throws the seeds so uniformly and in a smooth flowing manner. The hand of Oljabek seemed to be a seeding-machine of an unknown and totally new construction. The agronomist followed the seeders, unable to stop watching at his and at every movement he made.
“How much do you usually seed per day?” he asked.
Oljabek hesitated with his answer. His eyes were looking forth with intensity. He was walking without stopping.
“Shiganak knows,” the answer was.
“How much do you seed per hectare?”
“Or do you seed as it goes? Without any plan?”
Sergey turned his horse away. “That was a nice conversation!” he thought discontentedly.
But Oljabek told him the truth: he seeded a lot one day and a little bit on another day, he also seeded a lot on some specific pieces of land and less on the others. Some lands received very little amount of the seeds. All of it was connected to Shiganak and his ideas. But Shiganak explained almost nothing. “The soil knows, the time knows,” he used to say, and Oljabek, tired from asking him questions without getting the answers, stopped asking and did what Shiganak said.
Sergey rode to Shiganak and started to talk with him about Oljabek:
“He is a perfect seeder! He saws like a real master! But he is terribly impolite!”
“No, he isn’t impolite, he just doesn’t see and hear anything around him when he works,” Shiganak defended his friend with a smile on his face.
The horse was harnessed into the newly made wooden roller. Shiganak set a boy on the back of this horse and led them somewhere, talking to Sergey while walking.
“What are you going to do?” Sergey asked him.
“I will roll and pack the plough land”.
“To roll and pack? How is it possible! The seeds will lay in the soft and tender soil better, than in the packed one!”
“No, that’s not true. If the soil will be too soft and fluffed, it will be cleared by the wind a lot and get dried faster. But if we will roll and pack it a little bit, it will be easier to water it, and the seeds will grow better”.
“It contradicts the science”.
“I don’t know. Maybe. But it’s really good for the seeds”.
Approaching the plowed and ready for seeding piece of land, Shiganak started to work it out with the roller.
“Heh, he will damage all the seeding!” Sergey thought vexedly and almost with pain. He had even the right to forbid doing it, but then he remembered the words of Vasiliy Antonovich, who said that Shiganak should be given “total freedom”. Shiganak remembered these words as well and held tight on them. The agronomist took his notebook out of his pocket and started to write something down.
“Are you making up a report about me?” Shiganak asked.
“I’m not a police”, Sergey responded.
“Okay, let it be as you want it. We will leave a strip of land here unrolled and unpacked. We will see how it will be during the harvest time”.
“Deal,” Sergey replied.
He was sure now that roller damaged the whole affair, and that Shiganak destroyed the seeds and the future harvest. But he decided not to argue. He wanted now to give free rein to this stubborn old man and to only follow and look at this all from outside.
“I examined the fields while I was riding here. You ploughed it deep, twenty-two centimeters, though there are no waste grounds. The harrows are also made well,” he said, praising an old man. “Do you maintain the terms between the plowing and the seeding?” he asked.
“Either way. We usually don’t pay special attention to it,” Shiganak responded.
Shiganak’s latest words jarred upon Sergey.
“So, why don’t you want to regard the science?” he asked.
“Is it not in the care of the soil and the seeds?! You hug your books and sit together with them, but the weather doesn’t listen to the book’s rules. It can be either calm and sunny, or cloudy, or raining, or chilly, or even cold. It’s impossible to seed with the weather like this. The corn will lay lifeless. I usually start to saw when the soil starts to get steamed due to heat. In this case the seeds will grow up fast and well,” Shiganak explained.
The agronomist, who become anxious and worried at the beginning, thinking that they could easily miss the terms of seeding, calmed down a little bit, after he heard an answer of Shiganak.
A big group of people worked in front of them. Men and women divided in little groups and laid out the land. The place looked as a battle field. Party organizer Karibay walking like a judge between the camps and tried to reconcile them. When Shiganak and Sergey approached the working people, women started the noise and surrounded them.
“Shangirey gives them water before he gives it to us!” Akpal, daughter of Shiganak, said with offense.
“If he doesn’t give you water, then you shouldn’t be lead men!” Yeleusin exclaimed.
“Why should we be the latest?”
“Maybe, it’s not truth?” Shiganak teased them.
“Karibay will not lie!”
“Shangirey dodges something!”
“He can’t spare even water already!”
“Once Janbota will come, he will see, what it means not to give us water!” the women exclaimed, rebuking Shangirey,
Women worked on the piece of land plowed by Janbota, while men worked on the Amantay’s piece. The seeds will grow up faster on that piece of land, which will receive water first. Fertility of the seeds depends on the time of plantlet and imbibitions. Shiganak controlled it, and Karibay studied who works and how, measured the daily norm and placed people on the field. Whether there will be the plantlets or no, everybody will be held accountable for that in time. Everyone will stand in front of the community wither with the head raised high and proudly or with the head bowed. Nobody wanted to fail and bring shame on themselves, that’s why everybody attacked Shangirey. But it was not Shangirey’s fault. The “judge” Karibay himself confused the people.
“Deal! Deal! Come to your work!” he shouted from afar, approaching the workers.
Women started the noise again:
“What does he want from us? Why should we be in haste?”
“Did they change the queue?”
“Yes, exactly, they did! Those who will finish their pieces earlier will receive water first!”
“Now you are talking! It’s high time! God helps us! Akpal, let’s work!” Shiganak said.
The mattocks started to raise and fall again actively. Karibay and Shiganak exchanged the glances, smiling, like the conspirators, and divided.
Sergey took his notebook out of his pocket again and wanted to note something. His glance fell suddenly on his note: “Fertilizers for four hectares”.
“I guess you don’t use the fertilizers, do you?” he asked quickly.
Shiganak kept silent, and Karibay replied:
“There so many troubles with it, and Shiganak doesn’t want to use it…”
“But you cannot increase the harvests without using fertilizers! You want get your hundredweights during a century!”
It seemed that Shiganak didn’t pay attention to the words of the young agronomist. He looked at the plowed fields and examined the particular pieces of land. His lips moved. Usually calm and friendly with people and attentive to the others, Shiganak was short-spoken and tough, like a stone rock. He didn’t respond when he was asked something he didn’t like, and he didn’t want to listen to the things and words he didn’t like. He was too busy with his thoughts and guesses. Sergey saw Shiganak in this condition for the first time, and he was sad about it: the “golden old man”, as he used to call Shiganak, appeared in front of him in a new image and a dark, unprofitable light for him. Sergey thought sometimes that Tokes was right and that Shiganak ignores the science and wants to turn into reality his assumptions and estimations, which do not have any ground under them. Sergey decided to be open and sincere with an old man and started to talk to him in another tone:
“I demand that all the agricultural and technical recommendations and measures will be fulfilled. Remove your roller. We need to add the fertilizers as well”.
“What about the orders and recommendations of a “big man”?” Shiganak asked.
“He supported you, but he didn’t support you in opposing science! Agricultural technique is the most important thing in crop farming today!”
“It seems that you are talking without understanding either your agricultural technique or the commands of a “big man”, my friend,” Shiganak responded, looking into Sergey’s face only now.
He liked the young agronomist for his modesty, but now he seemed to Shiganak suddenly a narrow-minded person.
But the new thought prevented Shiganak from thinking over the words of Sergey. He rode at jogtrot to Amantay and looked at the tillage.
“Stop it!” he ordered.
Amantay halted the bull and looked at Shiganak expectantly.
Shiganak dismounted and started to measure the depth of the tillage.
“Plow it again! It’s ploughed here two centimeters less than it should be,” Shiganak said.
“This accursed bull is the reason of all these troubles! I thought it’s not so important, and I could plough deeper later…”
“No, you should plough here again. I cannot waste the valuable seeds just because you don’t want to dig deeper together with your stubborn bulls!” Shiganak said and got up on his horse.
“That’s good! Well done!” Sergey indorsed Shiganak in his mind.
Amantay was close to explode from disappointment. He saw how fast and easily Janbota’s plough was moving, and he didn’t want to give up to her and be more slowly, that’s why he decided to plough the soil not so deep. Now he will definitely give up to her! Amantay kicked the dappled bull angrily, deepened the plowshares and grumbled something.
All the heads and persons responsible for the seeding works gathered on the piece of land, where Amantay worked. Janbota unyoked her oxen and came here too. Oljabek, who has finished his seeding work already, came here as well. Everybody was tired, exhausted and angry. Each blurts and uncontrolled word could lead to the quarrel. Shangirey started to talk first:
“Everybody here knows too much. Everybody considers himself or herself a big mountain, so you cannot even reach the top of it. But the authorities demand that we will carry the irrigable crops fields to fifty hectares. I offered long ago, but nobody agreed. Now the district tells the same. I don’t know how to explain it all and describe. You aren’t though children as well. We must reach this result”.
Shangirey spoke as if he was referring to everybody, but in the reality his words targeted of course only Shiganak.
“What can we do? If we must to reach this result, we will do it. There is nothing to argue about. Send them report, that everything is done and fulfilled,” Shiganak said sharply.
“Yes, try it! But you told that you won’t take more than forty hectares for your responsibility!”
“It’s better to say that you are thin and to be fat, than to boast being fat and to be think and skinny,” Shiganak responded. “Who doesn’t want more millet? But we cannot nurture it with the talks. Even if we will manage to plough fifty hectares, we still won’t be able to guarantee and provide the necessary care. It’s better to seed less, but to receive more at the end, than to seed more and to get less. I don’t want to praise myself and exaggerate. But if we really want to fulfill our promises, we shouldn’t take too much upon ourselves. And those who can handle and cultivate fifty hectares, please, proceed!”
Nobody moved. Sergey started to talk:
“You bound us all with your promise,” he said referring to Shiganak. “Hundred hundredweights from one hectare is a world record! Even if it’s possible, it could be done only under the condition of using the science. Why don’t you listen to my advices? Could the soil like this give something without fertilizers?”
“You always target a painful spot! I can’t believe that the entire science is located in the books only, and there could be nothing new?” Shiganak asked.
Sergey didn’t want to dodge assuring these people that all the mysteries and secrets of nature have been already revealed by the scientists.
“Where did he get these ideas and thoughts from?” the agronomist thought. “His son is an engineer; maybe he heard something from him…”
Shiganak didn’t have a chance to study and to get education, but he tried hard to give education to his children. He loved and respected science, though he had an opinion since long ago that nobody in this world knows the millet and the way of growing it better than Shiganak. He was totally sure that he makes everything right, as it should be done in order to receive unbelievable amount of harvest of this grass. This self-determination and self-belief and inexhaustible energy always helped him out. Now, when he gave a solemn promise and was climbing on the top, he didn’t want to consider the obstacles.
It seemed that Sergey understood the hidden and secret thoughts of Shiganak, but he couldn’t refuse the beliefs and ideas that it’s simply impossible to get good level of harvests without using fertilizers and using the wooden roller, which will only destroy the seeding.
“There are no limits for the science,” Sergey finally said. “But you have not an experiment field, but a planned one, and you must get a harvest from it. You should use experience of other people as well”.
“I had high hopes and believed in you, my friend, but I can clearly see now that even you start to let out!” Shiganak responded, coming closer to him.
He raised his whip above his head and grabbed his beard with another hand.
“You are young, but I will always respect you as an elder man, if you will share with me your estimations: how many seeds do we need for this piece of land and for that one? How much watering does this piece of land need? And what about that one? How many bushes per square meter it will be by the full seedlings? How many stalks are there in each bush? How many spikes are there? And how many grains are there in each spike? Only a mad man will dare to estimate the amount of harvests without knowing these things!..”
“He just killed him now!” Janbota whispered, sniffing short.
Sergey and the others stood silent. Then Token interfered:
“”Heh, Shiganak! You used to be like a camel, which never feared any burdens and troubles, so why are you moaning and groaning now? The works just started. If you will be able to seed, there will be enough time, water and soil. You used to say: “When I will ride my own determination, nothing will stop me, even a big stone cliff”. What if you will try to ride your determination again?”
“Determination isn’t a bull!” Shiganak responded, hitting his horse with the whip, and left.
Karibay rode behind him. Other people parted slowly and gloomy as well.
Token turned to the agronomist, who stood silent and sunken deep in his thoughts.
“It was just as I said,” he said laughing. “Can you see now this whip-cracker?”
His laughter hurt Sergey.
“You didn’t get it. He is a very deep person. One should learn to understand him,” Sergey interrupted him abrupt.
Token glanced at him amazed and spitefully and rode his way.
Sergey dismounted, tied his horse, laid on the grass, spreading relaxed his body, then took his notebook out of his pocket again and started to write something down.
“First I’d like to talk about this restless and uneasy old man…” he started.
He wrote a lot about Shiganak to his prominent and bright teacher, famous academic, before and now he got an answer from him:
“That’s really interesting. Keep on learning him. Write me more about this man”.
This time Sergey was in hurry to report his teacher the new moods and extravagances of this “restless and uneasy old man”…
Meanwhile Shiganak approached his native aul. Karibay glanced at him often and expectative and, noticing that he calmed down a little bit, said silent:
“It seems that Sergey is right at some points…”
Shiganak didn’t even look back at Karibay, as if he didn’t heard him speaking. Shiganak held off for short time, coming up with a lam old man, who stood in front of his house.
“Is it possible to eat millet grown up on the dung? Tell me, old man!” Shiganak asked.
“There are forbidden things contained in the clean things, and the opposite – clean things contained in something forbidden. Though the millet and wheat are always clean,” a lame man replied, closing his eyes.
“There is no getting around it! Even old people support the agronomist and his ideas!” Shiganak said jokingly and smiling and then suddenly looked at Karibay with a bright and open smile on his face: “It is truth, I have been really gathering the corn, but it’s somehow strange and nasty, as I even have no experience in it! Should we try, how do you think? I marked there one piece of land, so I give it to you, let’s try!”
Only wormwoods, thistle and some other hardy and tough weeds and couch grass were left in the steppe, scorched by sun. Feather grass and other tender steppe grasses were burned long ago. Sand, fiery and over-heated by sun, burns the feet. The entire steppe is covered with the endless waves of the sand drifts. There is an everlasting and monotonous landscape here. But the river is the most changeable. If to ride from north to the south, the river crosses always the road, raising higher the banks, once on the left, once on the right. Maybe that’s why people called this river Uil ?
There are two Uils. One of them is bitter-salty; another one is stale and fresh. Little green lawn lays in the gray steppe at the place of their union. Little aryks and water channels stream here. Steel ketmens and mattocks of the workers close one of the channels and open another one for the water supply. Their mattocks are shining in the sun. Thin tube of the water pump machine, towering on the river bank, is trembling, eructing clouds of smoke.
Two little human shapes are hardly seen among the green bushes.
A girl with a book sat herself in the shadow of the high millet stalks. She stares fixedly at the water channel, turning from the pages of her book from time to time. Then she comes back to her book again, and her sunburnt and wind-blown face now smiles, then turns sad and darkens itself.
A young man stands on the other end of the short channel, dividing them. His little aryks and channels are empty, and he has no patience to wait, until his turn will come, and water will fill the channels. He pierced the handgrip into the ground, stepped back several steps and throws little pieces of mud to the shining blade of his mattock.
“If I will target it, she’ll marry me…”
“Let’s try to make it three times at a run!” he whispers, aiming, and laughs, if he targeted the aim and mutters fast, if he failed: “This hit isn’t counted!” and then he started everything from the beginning.
He knocked over the ketmen with a smart and crafty hit of a mud nubble and got married in his dreams long ago, but there was no water in his channels till now. He looked at his aryks, and then at the sky, ran along the aryk and then dove into the bushes of the millet. He appeared suddenly and unexpected in front of the girl, shouted loud and short and turned the water into direction of his channels with the stroke of his mattock. The water streamed to the new corridor, and a young man rushed toward the girl, but she jumped rapidly from her place and ran from him, quick, like an arrow… The guy dove following her into the bushes of millet, but foxy girl threw crafty the thick spikes back, so that they lashed the face of her pursuer. He was close to catch her and tried to grab her with his hand, but the girl stumbled, fell on the ground, and the guy rolled over her…
Two people fell, but four people rose.
“You are trampling the millet! The millet!” Shiganak shouted, rising from his place.
The girl and the guy ran in the opposite directions, leaving a headscarf and a hat on the ground. Shiganak took the headwear and examined them.
“This is Janbota’s headscarf, and this is Amantay’s hat. They behave as if there is no other place for them to run! They were close to kill us!”
“Did they play or fight?” an agronomist asked, dusting his clothes down.
“Their game is almost the same as a fight!” Shiganak responded. “The girl probably took the water from him, and he decided to use some tricks to get it back”.
Shiganak and Sergey came back to their interrupted activities. It looked like a children’s game as well: both of them held the knives in their hands and cut one by one the spikes. Cutting the spikes from the one square meter of land, they came to an open place. Shiganak spread his chekmen , and both of them started to husk the spikes.
“How much is it, how do you think? Can you answer without counting?” Sergey asked.
“I don’t like to say something at a guess,” Shiganak smiled. “But I think there might be more than a hundred”.
“Tell me: what are the marks and characteristics”.
“There are a lot of them,” Shiganak replied friendly and started from afar: “”The seeds came up on the third day after seeding and they came up prompt and smoothly. This is the first mark of a good luck. We started to take care of the crops since that time. The weed and pest are the main enemies of the crops. The grass is a native daughter of the earth, while the crops are adoptees. That’s why she hurts them, like a foster-mother. Care and watch are necessary now. My grains got rid of all the weeds somehow, you can see it yourself: not a single grass-blade!”
“This is known already!” an agronomist said.
“It’s known, it is truth. But anyway many people leave the weeds and hay the grass instead of getting rid of the weeds. Watering is also a known thing, and very important one. Water is a soul of the millet. But do many people know how to water it right?”
“How do you water it?”
“”First of all, I watch carefully, that the water must be supplied smoothly, in the same amount to the different pieces of land. It’s better to water less, but more often, than to water a lot and rarely. Water reaches the roots well and ensures steady growth”.
“What about the schedule?”
“Maybe you will be sad, but I’ve changed your schedule a little bit,” Shiganak said and laughed merrily. “You estimate the time according to the millet growth, but we should pay attention at its germination ability as well. The stalk changes its growth pace and doesn’t want water anymore. I noticed it and I watered the millet crops first time, when only five-six sprouts appeared; the second time I watered it only after the spikes started to grain…”
The agronomist made some short notes in his notebook, putting aside husking the spikes from time to time.
“Isn’t it a time to clear up already? Everything ripened already”.
“No, I think it’s still early. We’ll set about it once it will finally ripen”.
They finished unnoted the husking, having their interesting conversation. The agronomist started to count and estimate on the paper, but Shiganak made his estimations in his mind faster and made conclusions already.
“On the average,” he said, “there are nearly three hundred spikes located on each square meter. Each of them contains about three thousand grains. I will go to weight them now,” he said and went to his horse.
Shiganak, merrily excited, stood up and looked attentively at the waving and thrilling field. The he hid from the sight in the high and thick bushes of millet, walking at an even pace. The spikes, grown up and nurtured by him, made him wonder. He caressed the spike, looking like a goat’s beard, and made jokes:
“Hey you, goat’s beard! Isn’t it time to clear you up?”
His heart was full of joy, happiness and pride.
The spikes started to lean to the ground under their own weight. Shiganak tried to straighten them, but they refused to straighten. But it’s impossible to make the upholders for the million of the spikes!
The spikes on the second piece of land leaned heavily to the ground as well and were close to break and fall.
“This is an “evil” field! What is happening to it?!” Shiganak muttered, bobbing his head.
He wandered on the “evil” field a little bit, tore off one spike, husked it, examined and mixed it with the other, “clean”, corns, without finding anything special or suspicious in it. Shiganak rejoiced.
“The horse needs some forage, and the soil gets tired, it needs fertilizing. Sergey was right. If we could achieve the purpose to prevent the spikes from falling! Our harvests could be just limitless!” he concluded and leaped on his feet, running fast to share his joy with somebody.
He noticed suddenly Oljabek’s hat not far away, in the bushes of millet.
“Hey, Oljabek! Come here!”
Oljabek was approaching Shiganak without haste.
“Oljabek, run here faster! Sower Oljabek, irrigator Oljabek, lucky one, run here faster!”
“Here,” Shiganak said, showing Oljabek the millet grains. “Do you remember, it grew up on the dung! Find out the way to prevent its falling!”
“Oh my God! I thought something terrible happened!”
“Aren’t you happy?”
“If only my family could share with me this joy and happiness! What’s the purpose of my working, for whom do I work, if I have no one by my side in this world!..”
Oljabek stood saddened. He wanted to leave the people and found them again. He lost his property and earned new wealth later. But how could he find a friend and beloved one like Jamal! Ninety poods , received by him for his workday units, laid untouched in the stocks of his neighbor. His ginger heifer became a cow long ago and has calved already, though other people milked it. His manufacture laid in someone else’s box. He saved it all carefully for Jamal and Sagintay. He even didn’t know himself, where to pour this pile of the millet to, which he intends to get for his work now. He worked hard and earnestly, without turning a hair and without rest. His wealth grew, but what for? For whom?
Many people display and parade their love. Oljabek’s love though was hidden in the innermost place of his heart. Even curious and inquisitive Shiganak, his closest friend, had no idea about it.
“Get married. What are you pondering about?” Shiganak said, willing to cheer him up.
“It’s easy to get married, but it’s harder to agree and cohabit,” Oljabek responeded with a deep sigh.
“Was your Jamal beautiful?” Shiganak asked.
“Heh, Shiganak, my friend… It’s not about beauty, it’s about soul! She would tear the piece from her meal in order to give it to me. She had never aggrieved or depressed me. She used to guess all my thought and wishes and fulfill them… She was unbelievable person! I want and try to forget her, but I cannot. It’s impossible. She always stands in front of my eyes. I would walk till the edge of the earth to just hug her grave, if I’d know where it is…”
Old Shiganak was bewildered. Secret of a silent and hard-working Oljabek touched him deeply.
“That’s how the people should love each other!” Shiganak said. “I believed in your hardness, but I was expecting some softness from you as well. Now I found it. God willing, your Jamal will be found. Don’t be so grieved, my friend. If we won’t grieve form woes and smile and laugh from happiness, why should we live in this world?!”
An old man noticed suddenly two heads, glimpsed in the millet bushes. His heart sank. He wanted to avoid thinking about these two heads, but he couldn’t do that. One of them was the head of his beloved daughter Akpal, and another one belonged to the son of Kashkyn, gang leader from the neighboring kolkhoz. Kashkyn wasn’t Shiganak, but we tried hard to be like him. He talked more than he acted and liked to boast a little. That’s why Shiganak disliked him.
Although the youth didn’t consider to it, and son of Kashkyn started to visit them often. Once Shiganak looked forbiddingly at Yeleusin and even asked her, what he was doing here. Yeleusin used to understand Shiganak after his first word and the only one glance, but this time she either didn’t get him, or she didn’t have time to warn Akpal, and here his daughter is, caught by Shiganak together with this guy.
“How is it possible?” Shiganak thought.
It was the first disobedience in his family. His daughter acted for the first time against his will. Why? His thoughts came back to love again. His old heart remembered the old days and prompted: “If she fell in love with him, the words won’t help here!”
“Akpal!” Shiganak called her.
He turned to the direction, opposite to Akpal, and called her again. Akpal jumped out of the millet bushes.
“Are you feasting your eyes with the results of your work, Akpaljan? And this piece of land seems to excel everything!..”
“Let me reap it!”
“”Deal, you can reap it!” Shiganak smiled. “How is it in the neighboring kolkhozes? Have you asked anybody?”
“It seems that everything is okay there,” she said easily and openly.
“How is it by Kashkyn?”
“It seems everything goes better by him, than by the others”.
“That’s good. And what does his son do? Does he work?” Shiganak asked with the simple0minded cunning.
“We have the same amount of the workday units with him”.
“It’s good. I hope he won’t be like his father”.
“No, he isn’t like his father, not even close!” Akpal shot out ardently.
Shiganak understood everything.
“Tell Yeleusin to come back home earlier today,” he said. “I owe Kashkyn a dinner. I should invite him to us, I suppose...”
Akpal nodded merrily and ran to fulfill her father’s wish, disappearing in the millet bushes.
Meanwhile the real races have been held between the aul and the millet fields. Sergey, measuring the gathered millet on the kolkhoz weights got on his horse and rode fast to catch Yermagambet, Karibay and Shangirey, who rode to inspect the other fields. He made them turn back, and everybody rode now to meet Shiganak. They dismounted at the edge of the millet field and continued their way walking. The agronomist walked on the head of the column, while Shangirey was the last.
“Record! Record!” they shouted interrupting each other, approached Shiganak, surrounded him, took him suddenly up and started to toss him.
“Your “unclean” millet makes the real wonders!” Shiganak said, smacking Sergey on his shoulder. “Now I will always listen to you and your advices!”
“No, I will listen to you in everything!” Sergey exclaimed. “This stripe is the worst. I ordered not to pack it with the roller. You were right!”
Yermagambet hugged them both.
“Both of you are right!” he said merrily and joyfully.
“One hundred and twenty-five hundredweights per hectare! It’s a world’s record!” the agronomist declared. “Nobody received the harvest like this before! Nobody and nowhere before!”
Agronomical world was excited and affected with the news: vast and scorched steppe gave a harvest, which even good and most cared experiment fields couldn’t give!
“An ordinary kolkhoz worker achieved what the scientists couldn’t achieve!” everybody said.
The name of Shiganak passed on by word of mouth. The portraits of him were published in the newspapers. Now the airplane, then the train took him away to participate in the new meetings and gatherings.
Token didn’t dare to even open his mouth and just smiled.
“They just disturb us and prevent us from normal working! Why do we need all of this noise?” Shingirey grunted.
Baibishe Zaru supported him:
“They stole our old Shiganak, they don’t even let us have a look on him!”
Since Shiganak got out of the train in Almaty, he knew no patience and peace. Once he sent one correspondent after giving him an interview, another one appeared immediately on the threshold, holding a pencil in his hand and willing to take an interview as well. Shiganak nodded and decided to take a nap for some time, as somebody knocked at the door of his house again, and gaunt and lean old man in glasses and with a huge folder under his arm, entered the room. He glanced with a silent question in his eyes at Oljabek, sleeping in the same room, then looked on Shiganak and introduced himself:
“”I am an artist,” he said, searching for something in his folder. “Excuse me, it seems that I’ve lost it… Who is a millet specialist here?..”
“We both are”.
“No, I need only one. I think I had his surname written somewhere here…” an artist spoke, looking over the contents of his folder.
“Hereto the old ages, everybody loses the things and cannot remember anything by age. How old are you?”
“Sixty. Accursed agility! You try to escape it, and it chases you!”
“We are counterparts, as I see. Where are you going to escape the agility to?”
“No, I cannot find it and cannot remember as well… Who is the leader among you?”
“Here he is!” Shiganak pointed at Oljabek. “I can wake him up, if it’s needed”.
“I want to draw his portrait, if he’ll allow it”.
“Of course! I think he might allow it!” Shiganak said and woke up Oljabek. “This man wants to draw your portrait,” he said to Oljabek and left the room.
Shiganak went upstairs, looking for some peace, and sat on the couch in the hall. A huge and clumsy bearded man, looking just like a bear, sat here as well.
“All of this noise brings us, old people, only troubles and worries,” he said sedately. Although he addressed Shiganak it seemed that he was talking to himself. He even didn’t turn his head and didn’t move.
“It’s difficult to cope with agility. The soul, looking for noise, adventures and entertainment, turns its back to it with time and looks for peace and silence,” Shiganak responded.
A bearded man showed him his hands. His fingers were long and knotty; his palms were covered with callosity and deep clefts.
“These are the marks of the furriery. Salt and hard bridle-leather hurt them… And this sad and poor hand reached happiness today!.. But what is happiness? This is health and creative work, first of all. Everybody talks about this Shiganak now. Not many people became so famous and known beyond the borders of their district. But I heard about him: he became famed in the entire world!”
A bearded man spoke sedately, with no haste. Conversation about work and labor was a strong point of Shiganak and one of the most favorite topics, that’s why he fell into talk willingly.
“You say everything right. Work is a father of happiness. We have a man named Kabysh,” Shiganak remembered now his counterpart, who stayed at Uil. “He tried his powers in all the possible fields, but he didn’t succeed in any of them. Now he gathers waste and garbage. I’ve never heard that somebody found happiness in garbage! Happiness is in a lion’s claws and on the bottom of the abyss. If you won’t be brave and active and won’t look for the right approaches, you will never get it! Another guy arrived here together with me. His name is Oljabek. He experienced a great grieve and sorrow. But today he made nine hundred workday units! Let the grieve and trouble try to get him again!”
“It won’t get him again!” a bearded man exclaimed, interrupting Shiganak. “We also had one woman, crushed down by sorrow and grieve. Now she grew one hundred and seventy lambs from a hundred of sheep! She arrived here as well”.
“And what about you? How many workday units do you have?” Shiganak asked.
“I’m old already, so I couldn’t make more than seven hundred workday units,” a man replied. “But the workday units are being paid well in our kolkhoz. What about yours?”
“We had really great workday units this year. We got hundred and twenty five hundredweights of millet corn per one hectare!”
“It seems you are from the kolkhoz of the famous Shiganak?”
“I am actually Shiganak”.
An old man raised his head fast. His black eyes fixed on his companion. He stood up and opened wide his big hands.
They hugged each other. A woman came to them, smiling, at this moment. She sat on the edge of the same sofa.
“There is nothing more pleasant and nice, than a meeting like this!” a tall old man exclaimed with emotion.
When the word “meeting” was pronounced, two big tears fell from the woman’s eyes, leaving two spots on her light dress. It seems that she herself didn’t notice it. Her face was calm, as if nothing happened; and only when her eyelashes blinked, trying to chase away the unwelcomed tears, and her eyelids closed, little wrinkles in the corners of her eyes became visible. Her dress was bright, while her face was sad. She looked down.
Shiganak noticed this delicate and pleasant woman. He cannot distinguish is she from the city or from the kolkhoz. He noticed tow little wrinkles on her cheeks. “Traces of grieve,” Shiganak thought.
She didn’t move, didn’t speak. Shiganak thought, that her movement or her words could wake him up, while her talk could calm his soul down, like a fresh and tender wind.
A bearded man didn’t look either at Shiganak, or at the woman. He sat deep in his thoughts during long time.
“They say, your land isn’t fertile, and people from our places cannot cope with it and live there. How did it happen that you received so huge harvest?”
“Our soil is miser and scanty for those who knows it bad. But for those, who know it well, there is nothing more gracious and generous! Sometimes people judge without knowing. The scientists found the best seeds on our land. They say, that even the white wheat, so popular in America, was brought there from our lands. How can the land, where twelve clans of Bay-Uly roamed, be bad? But we still haven’t learnt enough how to take everything the best from it and how to conquer everything bad!”
“I can’t believe! Are you still not satisfied?” old man turned to Shiganak with his whole bag and clumsy body and looked at him.
“I think I achieved only a little part of what could be achieved,” Shiganak replied.
“Father, where are you going to have your dinner today?” a woman finally spoke in a tender voice.
Am old man noticed her only now.
“Prepare it in the room, daughter,” he said. “I don’t know how to eat with the fork, that’s why I’m eating alone, as I’m shy. Let’s have a meal, two old men, before the beginning of the meeting…”
A woman left the room silently.
“Is she your daughter?” Shiganak asked.
“She isn’t my native daughter, but I treat her like a daughter,” an old man replied. “I was talking about her, that’s her growing one hundred and seventy lambs from the hundred sheep”.
“Is she married? She is so nice!”
“Now she is not married…”
Shiganak suddenly felt that he wants desperately to marry her and Oljabek, but he had no idea how to start a conversation about such a delicate topic. He didn’t know what to say and sat embarrassed.
“If she would be together with Oljabek, they would be a really great couple!” he said finally.
“No, she is waiting for another man”.
These words cooled Shiganak.
Oljabek entered the room at this moment.
“Are you mad, Shiganak?” he shouted. “Are you totally mad, or what? Why did you tell this man that he can make a portrait of me?!”
“He wanted it himself”.
“But he wanted to make your portrait, not mine!”
“You are younger than me and more handsome, let him draw you!” Shiganak said with laughter.
“He will come to you tomorrow,” Oljabek grunted.
“Let’s go to have a dinner at my place!” a big old man invited them.
The hotel was full of visitors. All the best people of the kolkhoz have gathered here. Oljabek, getting among them and feeling more attention and respect, thought more and more about his family. “Why did I escape? Who wanted it? Who benefited from it?” he thought in despair, following two old men. Bitter feeling of loss didn’t leave him, when he entered the generous and friendly room of an old man. His eyes were cast down.
When the guests entered, a woman, who was busy with the preparation of food and serving on the table, stood at the sideboard, her back turned to the door. She turned around to meet the guests with two plates in her hands and started to shake suddenly, dropping the plates on the floor. Her black eyes opened wide, and she stretched her hands forth.
“Oljeke!” she hardly whispered.
Oljabek stood like thunderstruck as well.
“Jamal!” he shouted suddenly in a loud voice, and his mouth remained open.
“Is it a dream? Or is it in reality?.. No, it must be a dream… I will wake up now,” a woman moaned and stepped to Oljabek, trembling and fearing to make the next step, like a child.
Oljabek rushed rapid to her and hugged her strong.
“Jamal! My beloved Jamal!”
There were no other words. Instead of a stream of words there was a stream of tears of happiness, like these two shaking bodies were melting, like snow in spring.
Putting her head on a chest of Oljabek, who hugged her strong, Jamal looked at him tender and asked silently:
“How is Sagintay? Did he grow up? He might be a real dzhigit now!”
“Sagintay? Are you crazy?!” Oljabek’s mouth got suddenly dry, and he hardly said: “But he remained with you…”
“Oh my God! They fooled me! They fooled me, those bandits, those dogs!” Jamal shouted, wringing her hands. “Where is my Sagintay? Oljeke, Oljeke! Where is our son?!”
Jamal bleached, pushed him away and fell down on the floor, fainted. Oljabek stood like a stone and looked down. Old Shainbay leaned to the woman.
“What happened to you, my dear?” muttered he tender and calm, caressing her head.
Shiganak lowered his eyes and casted a tear away with the sleeve of his robe.
Jamal started to cry and sob silently, as she woke up. Oljabek kept on standing, as if he was made from stone.
“Don’t cry, my dear, don’t cry,” Shainbay spoke. “Your tears melt my old dried bones! Accursed foxy life! It makes us happy and then brings us grief at the same time! When there will be enough people’s tears for it?..”
Jamal put her head on an old man’s chest, and he caressed her hair with his huge and dry hand with a father’s tenderness.
It all looked like the Doomsday has finally come. Angel of Death has blown a blast on his horn. The earth was burning. Human’s blood was spilled enormous and was streaming like rivers; human’s corpses lay in piles. But the enemy wasn’t sated yet. He was walking, destroying everything on his way, like Dajjal . He has already swallowed Paris, Prague, Warsaw and Belgrade and, coming close to Moscow, halted for some time, gasping for air and preparing for the next stroke. The world trembled and shook, closing its eyes tight in horror…
It was hard and horrible time for the Soviet folk, facing the terrible deadly threat.
“Everything is aimed for salvation of Moscow: our lives and our wealth as well!” that was the unified voice of all the folks of the Soviet Union.
Shiganak was sick during these hard days. Two maladies made him suffer. The first one was of a physical nature: he had an esophageal cancer. The second malady was spiritual: heavy burden of an ordeal, which was faced by his Homeland these days. These maladies and burdens have bowed an old man’s shoulders. He lost his weight and became feeble, but he still refused to lie on his bed. He girded himself tight with the belt and, leaning on a stick, continued to visit the fields, examining the working places.
He didn’t come back home during the latest three days. He sat in Uil, at the building of the local post office, and kept vigil over the radio, without leaving it even for a short time and muttering from time to time the same words:
“Why is the radio silent?”
What about Moscow? It seems that the world stands still on the two backbones and pillars: one of them was Kremlin Chime and another one was the strong and confident word of Party “The day of victory will be ours!”. Though the radio set stood silent. Every second, remaining before the chimes, seemed to be longer than hour for Shiganak.
“What happened? What could happen there?!” Shiganak pulls the radio operator and looks into his eyes with hope.
“Wait a little bit. There is a battle on air,” the radio operator explained him.
Shiganak didn’t get it.
“What a battle? Why the clock doesn’t chime?”
“There’s no patience left anymore!..”
“Soon there will be speaking, Shika, be patient, very soon there will be a speech…”
Shiganak went quiet. The radio set sighed and mumbled indistinctively.
Shiganak sighed deep and heavy as well, but the Kremlin chimney rang suddenly from the radio. The face of an old man brightened.
“From the Soviet Information Bureau,” familiar voice of a radio host became heard in the room. “Our troops took the offensive!..”
Tears of joy and happiness gushed out of Shiganak’s eyes.
“It’s not scary to give your life for your Homeland!” Shiganak said, mopping tears from his face with the sleeve of his robe. “What for do we need our lives and wealth, if we cannot sacrifice them for our Homeland?!”
After the radio message was over, Shiganak almost ran to the district committee, stopping the people passing on his way and asking them:
“Did you hear it? We took offensive! Our troops took finally offensive!”
Once Shiganak passed the threshold of the office, he immediately asserted addressing Yermagambet:
“Write it down!.. I’ve given already four thousand kilograms of millet and I’m giving now more one hundred and twenty thousand rubles! Next summer I’m planning to grow two hundred hundredweights per one hectare! Write it down, as I said!” he said, clipping with his fingers upon the sheet of paper.
“Wait a second!” Yermagambet stopped him. “You just said that you are planning to receive nearly two hundred hundredweights per a hectare next summer. What kind of help do you need to receive from the government in this case?”
“Is it an appropriate time to ask the government and the state for help?” Shiganak exclaimed. “We should help our government ourselves!”
Yermagambet made a comment, after Shiganak left:
“Shiganak’s promise makes us to owe a great deal…”
Shiganak rode to his aul. He was in haste, because he wanted to arrive as soon as possible and to bring good news about the offensive of the Soviet troops to his fellow villagers and workers of kolkhoz, oppressed by grief. The road to aul seemed to be unbelievably long and endless. Moscow stood in front of his eyes. The road was full of the carts and wagons, barring the way. They ranged to the kolkhozes. Crooked and bow-backed old men and women and little children sat on the carts and wagons. The kolkhoz workers and villagers were bringing to their villages people evacuated from Ukraine and Belarus, who left their native lands, their homes and everything they had and set their feet on a long path leading into unknown.
“I hope they won’t get frozen in our cold and unfriendly steppe! Muffle them up warmer!” Shiganak spoke to the fellow-villagers he met on his way.
Wrath and rage for enemy seized him. He was burning like in fire. He opened wide the collar of his robe and out his chest under the cold headwind…
A lonely rider rode toward him on the narrow road. His face was white from frost, so he was almost unrecognizable in the darkness of night. Shiganak leaned to the rider and shared his joy with him:
“Did you hear it?.. We took offensive! Our victory is close!” Shiganak said happily and recognized suddenly Token in the rider he met.
“Poor man! What victory?”
“Take that! Take that! “Poor man”!” Shiganak shouted and stroke his foe with the stick.
Token seized his horse’s mane and rode fast away.
“I cannot get rid of this rascal! It’s so sad there was no stronger and tougher stick,” enraged old man grumbled, recovering his breath a little bit, and threw away the half of his broken stick.
Since the war started, Token started to behave scornful and insolent with Shiganak again, just like it was long ago, before Shiganak’s fame. Shiganak didn’t want to pay any attention to it. Indeed, assertive and bold statements of Token regarding impossibility of growing a good harvest on the Uil soil were broken three times with the unbelievable records of Shiganak. Now the time came, when the new generations of the kolkhoz workers, adopting methods and practices of Shiganak, will defeat Token and the likes of him. But Token decided to change his tactic: he started to spread false and mendacious rumors that there is a secret corn stock in Shiganak’s aul, and this stock is hidden from people and the government. Of course, nobody representing the states and local authorities paid any attention to these rumors, but it became known later that there are some people searching for those holes and pits. Shiganak heard about it and felt himself offended.
But Token didn’t stop on it. Lately he started to incite and provoke Shiganak’s followers from aul and from the neighboring kolkhozes as well against him.
“He just had a chance to become famed before you, though you might know the millet even better than him!” he told them, tickling their vanity.
Shiganak knew everything about these tricks and pranks of Token. “He thinks his time has come,” Shiganak muttered to himself.
Shiganak rode to kolkhoz fast and finally arrived there, sweating his trusty horse terrible. The kolkhoz workers and villagers gathered at his home. The time to go to sleep has passed long ago, but, discussing and talking about everything, the neighbors didn’t call it a night and stayed sitting at Shiganak’s home, feeling sad. Many had puffy eyes, lowered shoulders; deep and heavy sights could be heard from time to time.
Shiganak entered, and everybody started noise:
“Is it true, that Moscow was handed over?!”
“It’s false! Who told you that?!”
“There is a rumor here…”
“Shangirey, Karibay and Janbote rode to get some information about it…”
“That’s just idle talk and nonsense! I heard the chimes of the Kremlin Clock myself and the message of the Soviet Information Bureau! Our troops are taking offensive!”
“Ohh God! That’s so good! Thanks God!”
“Only now my heart is at peace!”
“Tell us everything you’ve heard!” people asked, and everybody eyed Shiganak keenly, waiting for his speech.
“Our enemy will be defeated. The government says: give everything to the army! You should give everything you can to our army, in order to help our country. I personally give other sixteen hundred kilograms of millet and twenty thousand rubles”.
“I will give a cow!”
“I will give four hundred and eighty kilograms of millet!”
“I will give five thousand rubles!”
Everybody gave what he or she had.
“I’ll give the only one heifer of the only one cow I have,” an old lame man said.
Once everybody named what they are ready and able to give for the sake of the army, Shiganak handed to Akpal a thick and solid packet of letters.
“Take away these letters, please, we’ll read them later. We are going to send at the front everything needed today. Hey, granny, light a lamp, let’s go to the store”.
While he was pouring the millet into the sacks, Shangirey, Karibay and Janbota rushed in into the store, being in short breath.
“Oh my God, Shika! Is it true?” Shangirey asked.
“All is true,” Shiganak responded.
“Thanks God! I felt before like somebody grabbed my throat and tried to strangle me, but no he loosened his grip and left me!”
“No, he still didn’t leave and didn’t loosen the grip of his hand! Though this hand of him would be cut off very soon! The corn of wheat is equal one bullet. Do you have corn?”
“I will find some, I think. I’ve already sent one cart of corn. How do you think should we open our second garner?” Shangirey asked.
It was hard to know a sparing and niggard Shangirey.
“Of course, it’s good to give it all to the government and army,” Karibay objected, “but we should also think about ourselves. We should live some seeds at least for a living and for our future seeding works! The war could last long. Do we have the orders and recommendations from the district authorities, Shiganak?”
Shiganak flared up suddenly:
“The orders and recommendations from the district authorities? Try to guess it yourself! Who could give an order or a recommendation better than our Party and the government?”
Karibay fell silent.
Janbota, who held her tongue gloomily during this conversation, asked suddenly:
“Have you met Token?”
“Yes, I have”.
“Hasn’t he told you anything?”
“He didn’t have enough time for it. I stroke him with the stick. The stick was broken, and he managed to escape”.
“It serves him right!” Janbota exclaimed with laughter. “I think he spreads bad rumors”.
“It’s so sad that our good and brave Amantay is not here now,” Shiganak responded. “He would drag him fast from his shoe box!”
“He thinks there are no men left in the village now, so he can do whatever he wants! I see he became too brave and started to play mean tricks. I think I could deal with this rascal myself even without Amantay’s help!” Janbota exclaimed.
Shangirey and Karibay left the room hustily in order to organize shipping of the gifts for Moscow. Shiganak tried to hold Janbota.
Having poured several sacks of the millet an odl man felt himself being very tired.
There was stiffingly and almost airless in the storehouse, and the weak light of the petroleum-lamp prevented Janbota from seing his face clearly. Janbota stood still, waiting for what he was going to say, but Shiganak remained silent and hesitated.
“I suppose you can deal with it all yourself, and I will go and lie down for some time, I think,” he said and, charging his family with the preparing and shipping the corns, addressed Janbota: “Come to us!”
Without taking off and changing his clothes, Shiganak laid down on his bed and kept silent for a while, laying with the closed eyes. He grew lean, his cheeks became sunken, and his cheekbones seemed to be wider than usually.
“How meager he grew!” Janbota thought pityingly.
“It seems I haven’t eaten anything today. Hasn’t my old wife left something for me to eat? Please, check it, Botajan !” he said finally, raising a little bit his head.
It appeared that Zaru saw about the food. Janbota found a piece of boiled and fat-laden horse sausage and, cutting it into small cubes, put it on the table in front of Shiganak. Shiganak chewed nibble a little piece, swallowed it and put the plate aside.
“I cannot. What to do?”
Janbota’s heart died within her.
“That’s so sad that you couldn’t make it to Moscow!” she said sadly.
“Ohh, my dear, it deosn’t matter where you will take old Shiganak to, anyway, he won’t live thousand years. You better think about Moscow itself. I gave a promise. We cannot refuse it now. We should recall Oljabek from the horses’ horde till the beginning of sowing. It’s a pity that Amantay is serving in military and my sons are all in military as well. When I think about our situation I understand that there are only us remaining here among women and children”.
“I will join military as well”.
“No, you cannot do it”.
“No, I will do it, Shika! It’s not like in old times now; people don’t fight in the battles with the spears and sticks. People fight with the bullets and cunning”.
“If you all will join the military, who in this case will remain here to feed the people and to support the rear area? Who will provide our army wit the food and supplies? The war is not only up the linesm the war is here in the rear zone as well! Our Party says that the one who has a strong home front and rear zone will win in this war. Where are you going to go, leaveing all these burdens for the old man like me?”
Janbota took a thought. She understood that the rear zone and the lines is actually one thing, but now, as the saying goes, her soul rose to her throat. There were only tow ways: either to kill or to be killed. An old man though, who was dearer than a father to her, was talking, caring about the future.
“What is Moscow will be conquered and captured? Will we continue to saw?” she asked.
“They won’t conquer it, they won’t do it! I heard it myself, with my own ear, I heard on radio a message that our troops are on the march!” Shiganak responded excitedly.
Janbota burst into tears.
“They won’t take it, you say? But they are so cliose already!”
Shiganak’s excitement died out right away. He faced away and started to mutter something indistinctively. However hard he tried to overcome himself and his own emotions, he couldn’t do it. His eyes moistened and his mouth wrung itself. He couldn’t force himself to speak, so that his voice could start to tremble and give his feelings and his agitation away.
“If the only one Aqsaqal , remaining here, the only one pillar of strength for the women and children will show his despair now, what would they do?” this idea gave him suddenly some calmness and supported him.
“I thought you are made from iron, but you appeared to be think and weal like a blade of grass. You bowed too early, Bota!” he said.
“I wasupset,” she replied.
“The tears won’t help here!”
“Though it is just water! I got rid of it, Shika”.
“If it’s really like this, I will try to dry out your moistened soul,” Shiganak said.
He took his dombra to his hands and, playing one of the kyuys of Kurmangazy , went on talking:
“The day of a hard test and furnace came to us, daughter. The country leans on the military, and the military leans of the people. It’s hard for everybody now. I was raising you like a little eagle since your childhood, Janbota. Now I want, having one foot in the grave, to see you finally flying”.
“Go on!” Janbota said fervently.
“I promised the district committee to raise and nurture up to two hundred hundredweights per each hectare. I will entrust the fulfillment of this promise on you!”
Janbota pondered. Joining the military and being off at the front seemed to her now to be an escape form her duty. But what did she manage to learn from old Shiganak? What did she learn of his art of a master of great harvest? Will she yield a lot to her teacher, if such a big task will lay on her shoulders now?
“Okay, I agree,” Janbota responded after some thinkings and doubts. “But you should find something out in order to prevent the spikes from falling and lying down”.
“We will achieve it as well, my dear,” Shiganak said, smiling to her warm and dearly.
There were only friendsin the room. Neither sound nor rustle was to be heard. Everybody sat, frowning their brows and cating their eyes down. Everybody sat like depressed. There was nothing to talk about. It seemed that everybody knew the thoughts and emotions of each other and felt it. The glasses of the window were covered with ice, and weak twilight, coming through this window, weighed even more heavily upon the people presented in the room. Wild and wicked wind was shrilling and whishing outside.
Shiganak opened his eyes slowly, looked over the whole family and closed his eyes again. Nobody even noticed it. A little mouse ran along the wall. Nobody saw it as well. Shiganak opened his eyes again and addressed to hid family, trying to cast away depressed and sad mood of them:
“Hey, old woman, here is a mouse running right under your feet!”
Zaru exclaimed frightenedly, jumped up, as if she was biten by a bee, and started to dust down her dress.
Everybody started to laugh. Shiganak called Shaihi and asked to come closer to him. It was the youngest of his sons. He kissed him and caressed his hiar.
“Why are you that sad, my dear?” he asked a boy. “Did you remember your brothers now? Or are you thinking about me now, maybe? Or are you maybe sad about our hard times? It’s too early for you to have such feelings and thoughts”.
“Ata , what is fascist?”
“He has claws like a wild boar, his chaps are like a huge door, and there is one eye in the middle of his brow, looking like a copper basin. Here what the fascist is,” Shiganak said.
“Is he a human being?”
“Yes, he is. But he is wild”.
“Is it possible to kill him with the bullet?”
“Yes, it is, though not every bullet can kill him. He is driving in an iron box”.
“How does he see in this case?”
“There is a little whole made in the box for this purpose”.
“What if to sneak up on this little whole and poke into it with the bajonette, will he die?”
“He will, son, he will”.
Shaihi became glad and happy over it, opened a cofferet with his father’s instruments and started to craft a little spear.
Yeleusin sighed and kept silent. Zaru was silent, like always, and sat casting her eyes down.
“It seems that our old Zaru is stringer than everybpody here!” Shiganak chuckled and spoke to his daughters: “Akpaljan, Akjibek, sing for me, please, the song of Ait!”
Akpal and Akjibek started to sing:
Oh, my father, I will leave you, because the war came…
I have to be up the line with my battle friends, burning in fire…
I will not leave the Red Banner from my hands!
My life won’t be worth anything without Soviets for me!
You had four nestlings, and I will be the fifth one.
Packs of thugs and murders surrounded us…
Like a hawk in his native nest,
You will be protected by your brave sons!
“Look at him, what a sturdy child!” Shiganak exclaimed happily. “How come, that he’s got a talent of akyn? People say that the boys sometimes look like the relatives of mother. But I hardly believe it! It’s really very hard to hear even a single word from my old Zaru, let alone the song!”
“I think one of my grandfathers was akyn,” Zaru uttered silently.
“Even if he was an akyn, he’s buried his talent too deep, I suppose! I don’t think that Ait dug it up. It’s more likely that he got this talent from one of my relatives”.
“Nobody could know it,” Zaru replied and felt silent again.
“Daughter, let’s set about work!” Shiganak said to Akjibek. “There might be a lot of unread letters here! Let us reead them!” he stood up, girded his robe tighter and sat at the table.
Akjibek opened the envelopes and read the letters:
“”Dear comrade Bersiyev! In order to ensure the popularization of your method and experience in gaining the record hiught harvest of millet Bureau of the All-Soviet Union Agricultural exhibition kindly asks you to send your article regarding this issue””.
“Could you write an article like this?” Shiganak asked his daughter.
“I don’t think so! I’ve never written something like that”.
“A short tongue is worse than short hands, daughter,” Shiganak replied. “Ypu should learn. Till now we should ask Sergey to help us and write this article. Go on reading, please!”
“This letter is from the All-Soviet Union Lenin Agricultural Academy. They ask to urgently send two pictures of yours. Probably, they will publish them in the book”.
“Okay, send them these pictures”.
“Here is another letter:
“Dear mister Shiganak!
We are planning to release next summer our new movie “Stakhanovite agrotechnics”. I’m director of this movie. I earnestly ask you to answer the following questions:
The first question is: What is the mearest railway station to you?
The second question is: What is the distance between this railway station and your kolkhoz?
The third question is: When do you start your spring sawing season? Tell us, please, the terms of sawing, sprouting, watering and harvesting.
Once we will receive your answer our brigade will immediately arrive for the shooting of the movie””.
“The rest of the letters are mostly from the different plant breeding stations, they ask to send them millet for the research and experiments and some instructions”.
“Okay,” Shiganak said. “You can send them the millet now. When the article will be written, we will sned them the copy”,
The whole family set about work. Akjibek and Akpal went to prepare the parcels and packeges with the millet for the plant breeding stations. Baibishe Zaru busied herself about the house and cooking on fire. Yeleusin took the shovel and went out to the yard. Shaihi jumped fast after her.
Staying alone in the house, Shiganak looked around examining everything, as if he saw it for the first time in his life. Then he came slowly to the wall and took his Berdan rifle from it, but then he immediately hung it back on the wall. His glance fell on the unfinished nets. He touched them with the stick.
Only these nets remained in Shiganak’s house from the old things. All the rest of things here were new. Shiganak saved and preserved his Berdan rifle and these nets like a memory about his previous life and was thankful for the present, looking at these things. He touched them again and then entered the neighboring room and sat at the table. There were the pictures of four his sons, who were fighing at the front. An old man touched with his lips tender the faces of each of them on the pictures and then put the pictures back on the table.
Roaming in the house, Shiganak approached the cupboard and found there a plate with karta . He turned sulky then, looked at this plate and sighed, and his sigh sounded like a moan.
He stopped in the middle of the room, falling deep into his sad and depressive thoughts.
“I wish I could laugh with all my heart and eat with a great pleasure at least one more time in my life! Is my disease treatable? Ohh, the wishes, the wishes!.. There are more unfulfilled and unachieved wishes and desires than those which have been fulfilled! Oh this crafty and tempting life, how beautiful you are!..” Shiganak thought.
Suddenly his folks rushed into the room in a crowd.
“From the outskirts of Moscow!..”
“From Panfilov’s Guardsmen!..”
Akjibek read the telegram with the trembling voice. Countrymen, the Panfilov’s Guardsmen, thanked for the help and aid rendered to the Red Army, expressed their confidence of the future victory and wished the kolkhoz new successes.
Shiganak couldn’t read, but he took the telegram, picket at it a little bit and didn’t give it back to Akjibek, as he used to do with the correspondence, but folded it up carefully, hid it in the lapel pocket of his robe, fastened it and touched it several times, as if he was checking is everything okay. He stood still for a while, settling up his worried and restless thoughts, and, saying: “I’m getting on the horse!”, he left the house.
First of all he gladdened Janbota, Karobay and Shangirey, and when his happiness was too big to go in his native kolkhoz only. He went to the neighboring kolkhoz “Kemer-Shi”.
Zaure lived and worked in the kolkhoz of “Kemer-Shi”; in another kolkhoz, located close to “Kemer-Shi”, lived Kulmes; to the right from this kolkhoz was the kolkhoz of his future matchmaker Kashkyn. All of them are the real masters of a great harvest of millert, Shiganak’s followers and students. Now they have their own machines for watering and, turning up their sleeves, wait for spring.
Shiganak rode at a rounf trot to “Kemer-Shi”, to Zaure, and met here Kulmes as well. Both of the women stood, leaning toward the wall of the kolkhoz barn. They stood gloomy, cheerless and mutely. Zaure made adnvance to Shiganak unwillingly and greated him sadly, and when everybody entered her house, she didn’t run to put her samovar on fire, as she usually did, but sat at the threshold and sighed bitterly.
“What are you thinking to do?” she asked.
“What to do?” Shiganak responded to her. “The working cattle is on forage, we sort the seeds, repair our inventory and stock and try to hold over the snow. We’ve replaced the shields two times already”.
“Are you going to feed the Germans?”
“How is it, to feed the Germans?..”
“If they took Moscow, do you think they will be unable to come here and take “Kurman” and “Kemer-Shi”?”
“Where does this rumor come from? There were no messages about it on radio; nothing was reported about it in the newspapers”.
“Yes, it’s true, nothing was reported about it, though the government has already left Moscow… And Leningrad as well… You know it yourself…”
“And what are you going to do now?” Shiganak asked them.
“We will do like all the folk will…”
“I’m a little bit sick, so I sea the people rarely nowadays… What does the folk say about it?”
“When the women gather together, they talk about everything. Now the poor women think about everything and do everything. The kolkhoz is ours, so we cannot abandon our lands. But all the food storages and savings should be hidden. We shouldn’t saw as well. As for the cattle, it would be better to drive it away into the sands. Then we could boil some herbs and prepare poison from them and meet the Germans! That’s what the women are talking about now! Although it’s just idle talk and doesn’t have any ground under it, I started to incline to it too… If the capital fell, what do we have left?”
“If the capital fell… But it didn’t fall and it will never fall!” Shiganak said and, producing the telegram from his pocket, showed it to everybody.
The women didn’t know how to express they joy and happiness and hugged each other.
Shiganak got on his horse again and rode to the other kolkhozes.
Continuous snowstorm, unceasing during several days, finally stopped. Shining and bright snow embellished the ground, shining under the sun.
Lonely skier in gas mask rushes through the vast steppe.
Women walk between the snow banks and piles, fixing and putting back the shields, beaten down by snowstorm.
Jumping over the snow piles and banks, skiers approached the working women. He removed the gas mask from his face and appeared to be Janbota.
Women came running and surrounded her.
“What’s good? What is it in Moscow? Are there any letters?” Janbota was showered with the questions.
“There is a letter from Amantay,” Janbota responded smiling.
“What is he writing about?..”
Janbota wanted to tell them contains of Amantay’s letter with her own words, but the girls and women insisted that she should read it:
“No, it won’t work! Read his letter for us, without hiding anything!..”
“Hello, Janbota, my wench!” Amantay started his letter, and it made everybody laugh.
“Janbota, don’t be angry with me, that I called you “wench”. Now I wouldn’t even throw away your footprint on the real and alive hawra . But if you will think of throwing me away, think twice, because you regret it later!
I want to tell you a little bit about the Germans. There are no more auls between ours and theirs. But their dogs are terribly angry and bark, never ceasing. I’m talking now about their machine guns and rifles. But our soldiers manage to capture at least one prisoner for interrogation every day. You will ask me: what is a prisoner for interrogation? I will tell you what it is. You should capture your enemy alivem right out of his lair. If you’ll manage to do it, you will receive great honor. But if you will be caught by him, there will be your death. I told my battalion commander: “I can easily steal one sheep!” He let me go.
We plunged with my comrades deep into the snow piles in the forest late in the night, like weasels. It’s not the same like to dive in Uil fogether, my dear comrade. Die right where you are, but don’t even dare to raise your head ahead of time. But if you wear the white robe, you can easily andance the enemy in the snow, without making any noise and without being noticed. The only one thing you need is to be fast, crafty, clever and adroit. First time I became confused, when I made it to the river, hid myself and forced you to sit naked in water. The second time I became confused here. I’ve got the wind knocked out of me, when I saw a huge fascist rising right in front of me, while it was smooth and plain around, like the tablecloth. Only rifles’ barking is to be heard. Searchlights and rockets lighten the dark night sky over and over again. There were brattle, booming and nose around. I’m staring at the fascist. If I will shot him dead, I will lose the prisoner for interrogation. But it was really scary to make an attempt to capture him. The one who says that he doesn’t know fear is a big liar. This fascist was also extremely careful. It seemed that he was going to hide in the ambush and he moved right towards me. How is it possible to stand something like that? I sprung from my place and grasped him strongly, like a ferret. He appeared to be very strong and fierce. I felt I have not enough power! Suddenly two other fascists appeared as well. I was forced to call my fellow soldiers and ask for help. Bang! And the shot came. It emerged that our guys were only waiting for those two fascists to come. They were killed immediately, right where they stood. Then we caught my giant, stopped his mouth with a gag, tied his hands and legs and brought him to our camp for the further interrogation.
What else can I tell you about the fascists? They are very cunning. They made huge tanks, just like the houses, in order to take Moscowe with their help. They simply thrust and bear against everything appearing on their path. But we can help ourselves as well.
Janbota, I cannot write you more details about the battle front and lines, but I will tell you openly: it will be too hard for them to take Moscow. We will not allow them to do it. They’ve got too short hands for that!
Thus, all the ketmens and mattocks are in your hands now, so you can freely use them. Don’t forget to water my pieces of land as well. I’ve heard that our dear Shika is sick, but you should be healthy and strong. Maybe, now you will really excel the men! You are capable of it, I know!
Write me, please, and smile to me at least from this far distance. I really moss ypou so much. Farewell!
Women listened to Janbota reading the letter and smiled, and their eyes were wet with tears. Amantay was quick, active, adroit and clever guy, very friendly and talk-active, always positive, so that he infected everybody with with his positiveness, joy and jokes. After he left the aul became boring and empty. Janbota, who was always considered baing a strong girl, weakened as well… “Ohh, silly Amantay…” she used to think about him. However much they argued and quarreled, however much they used to tease each other, and they always appreciated and respect each other. They were a real couple regarding thei passion to argue and joke, and they couldn’t go without each other. Now he was there, on the battle front, and she was here, in the rear zone, and she remembered with despair and sadness fancy and careless days spent together.
“Oh my God, how much I miss Amantay!” Janbota sighed. “I would cast everything away and go to him, but I couldn’t make it, unfortunately…”
She uncovered with her latest phrase the secret known only by them both. Janbota was pregnant, her belly rounded off noticeably. Her body didn’t aim for the fast and active movements, running and jumping, as it was before. It actually forced her to confess why she “couldn’t make it”…
Each woman who stayed here in kolkhoz remembered her husband, her fiancé, brother or her son, listening to the letter of Amantay. They became sad. Janbota stood up and roused herself.
“Why have you all softened like that? We won’t scare the fascists with our tears!” she said to them. “They could be killed only with our hard labor. We should give our fighters more bread, more wweapons and more shells and missiles. We should take care of their old relatives and children here. A woman, loving her husband, parents, children and relatives, should love only work and labor now. We are the masters and owners of the fields now. Let all our sorrows, despair and anger be expressed in our labor! Let our motto be: “Battle for the two hundred hundredweights harvest”! Raise and let’s go to work! In this case our fighters will come back home faster”.
Women started to part, drying their tears, some of them continued to weep and sob. Janbota and Aislu went together. Janbota measured with the ski pole the depth of the snow layer, while they walked. The shields were relocated for the third time. Snow layers became thicker but they laid humpy.
“We have the water pump! Why should we stop and gather here the snow!” Aislu said crustily. “It’s all the idle talk and silly ideas of the lonshanks”.
Women called an agronomist “longshanks”. Once Shiganak assured himself personally of the necessity and usefulness of the fertilizers on the “unclean field”, he started to believe and trust Sergey and treated him with more respect. Retention of the snow was carried out in the kolkhozs for the first time.
Janbota didn’t respond. She wrote donw the numbers of her measurement and calculated.
“Stop it at last! Let’s better sit together for some time and chat!” Aislu said without any kind of patience.
“There is an average amount of the retented snow of about half a meter on twenty hectares…”
“Knock it off!”
“Wait. Shika said we should make it to the one meter level. Only one hectare of soil will need one fifteen hundred cubic meters of water. We should collect more snow, I think…”
“We can die from boredom talking and thinking about collecting the snow! Let’s better talk about something else!”
“Well, what do you want from me?” Janbota aksed, hidinh the paper and her pencil in the pocket.
“I want to have some fun!”
“Make a wall from snow, stop and collect more water from the molten snow, so there will be more millet, and you will be glad and have fun!”
“I see you became like a log, talking and thinking only about business and things to do… And I think of the men…”
“What can I say? There is nothing bad in thinking of them. There is no life without a man. All the life’s burden’s are on their shoulders”.
“I wouldn’t refuse now even courtship and flirting of a lame mullah!” Aislu giggled. “But I don’t know, isn’t he too old?”
“Look at her!” Janbota smiled and then added earnestly: “Don’t dishonor your future husband with the thoughts and words like that. The husband is a father, and a father is a pillar of the family. He is a fighter, defender of our Homeland and your defender as well. I think this way about my beloved Amantay. Your Aijdan is too modest, I think…”
“Why should we talk about them? They are not here now; they are far away, so let us leave them both alone and forget! We can find someone else”.
“Are you kidding me now?... Or…” Janbota looked point blank into Aislu’s eyes.
Aislu said nothing as a response.
Janbota took on her skies and ran again. Thoughts and memories about Amantay didn’t leave her mind.
Ahmet’s eyes, looking with despair and dreary waiting into the vast and desolate mountains during the long years, came back to live and brightened again now. People, about whom he was always scared, who he used to avoid all this time, the kolkhoz workers bowed their heads sadly in front of the imminence and threat. Ahmet busted his horse and decided to attack his enemies openly. He left his shelter. But his old horse couldn’t stand fast galloping. Ahmet left him and went on walking, turning angry and bitter. He knew very little about war and situation at the battled fron and lines and in the country. But the rumors about German offensive reached even the far mountains, where Ahmet was hiding. He reached Uil. Ahmet was not from these places, but long time ago he used to stop by Token, when he came to the Uil fair. That’s why he decided to go to Token this time as well, in order to resolve all of his worries and doubts together with him.
Many time passed since the day of their last meeting, but Ahmet didn’t forget the way and found easily Token’s house even in such a dark and starless night like this one.
Token just came back home and laid in his bed, sick after the stroke received from Shiganak.
Kocking the door st an unusual time alarmed him. Ahmed entered his house, dusted down the snow from his clothes, dried his face and whiskers and took off his hat. Token recognized him only at this moment.
“Ahmet?! I couldn’t even imagine you coming!”
“Did you think I’m already dead?”
Token stood up from his bed, groaning and grunting, and hugged his friend.
“Where have you been? Where did you arrive from? We haven’t seen each other since so many years!”
“As you see… I was hiding all the time, like a beast…”
“But it’s end of your hiding now! Now you are here!”
“Tell me exactly, what is true and what is false. I don’t know anything”.
“There should be no doubts anymore!” Token laughed merrily. “Belarus and Ukraine are already taken by Germans andare in their hands since long time ago. I think they’ve taken Moscow already as well. Leningrad is surrounded. The Germans march and advance from the Black Sea…”
“So, are the authorities still holding power?”
Ahmet looked blinking and steadily at the light of electric lamp.
“I see that this evil light is even in Uil now!”
“Yes, you are right! While these “our people” spent their time doing such nonsense, the Germans consolidated their powers and strengthened their military weapons and technique. That’s why it all happened like this!”
“You are happy about it, Token, though I’ve heard that the fascists don’t consider anybody except of them being a human. That’s true, my folk and my country are hostile towards me, but I think it is better than the fascists. I have almost no life left, why should I spare it! I am ready to fight, but I just dind’t grasp whom exactly and how should I beat and whom should I defend”.
“Your words are right! The day came!” Token spoke with excitement. “The fascists want to rule the whole world, that’s true. The whight tsar, who ruled Russia during more than three hundred years, used to call himself a monarch as well. Kazakhs and other folks never had a good and decent life in Russia, nobody respected and honored them. But we, Ahmet, we are Kazakhs too, and who use to threat you bad in old times? The tsar’s government used the services of the best people representing every nation, and I think that the fascists won’t change this path a lot. They will lean on tokens and ahmets…. And here is this fascist approaching now. We should show him our sympathy and compassion and meet him decent and worthy”.
“Are there some news from the places taken by Germans?”
“I am talking not blindly and at hazard, I know it exactly”.
The words of Token reached Ahmet’s heart, and he decided to take the side of the Germans…
“You always live with the people and you are used to everything,” Ahmet said. “And I wonder at everything. I was hiding during nine years in Orta-Juz and Kişi-Juz, and despite the fact that I was always roaming, my eyes noticed a lot of things: the roads are full with the cars, the fields are filled with the tractors and machines, there are airplanes in the sky, and people even say that there are even the trains moving between Kandagach and Guryev… High tubes and chimneys ateam along the banks of Uil River… The Soviet authorities managed to win the majority of people, and there will be really hard to defeat it. How could we help?”
“There are several ways,” Token said. “Panik, sabotage, spying, murders… Which one do you like most?”
“Anything! Just tell me how”.
“I will undertake Uil, and you can act in the steppe. There is a man named Shiganak, he lives not far from here. This Shiganak has an inexhaustible supply of the millet. He alone is worth a hundred of others!”
“Is it that famous man?”
“He is not only famous, he is priceless!”
“Okay, I will go there,” Ahmet agreed.
An old woman, sister of Token, served the dinner for them. Ahmet sat grim and silent. Token spoke about setting up connections and about the ways Ahmet could reach Shiganak’s kolkhoz and his aul.
“How did you get here?”
“By a car share”.
“In this case take my horse. Several kilometers before the aul dismount and let it run back, it will find the way home”.
A joint meeting of the communists of the local kolkhozes stretched on late. Yermagambet spoke about the actual task of the communists – about vigilance and awareness.
“…Our state must show the best and highest qualities of the Soviet people in this war. Our fate never put such a heavy burden on the shoulders of the communists, ruling the country. The whole country turned into a fist. There are no possible victims and sacrificies able to stop us on our way to victory. But the fascists are not only at the battle front. They sent with the airplanes their spies and diversionists deep into our home front. We cannot leave without attention even the dunes and sand drifts of our steppe! We will win only when our vigilance and awareness will be equal our bravery and our strength. None of the ambiguous and weasel words should be left without attention. Lightness and carelessness are our worst and the most dangerous enemies…”
Special brigades for the fight agains the internal dangers have been formed during the meeting. Every communist was connected to his own district and was responsible for it.
Karibay rode home hastily. Their aul sent its help to Moscow today. Karibay couldn’t participate in it due to the meeting. His imagination worked overtime on his way back home: he fixed with his eyes on every dark point in the steppe. The words said by Yermagambet came to life in his imagination. It seemed to him suddenly, that there are fascists, hiding somewhere here in the vast and outlandish steppe. He took his Browning out of his pocket and hid it in the collar of his boots. But it didn’t give him confidence as well. The enemies are foxy and cunning, they can come in the Red Army uniforms or in the Kaakh clothes, so it will be really difficult to distinguish them… How to guess?..
The noise, coming from aul, interrupted his thoughts. It was the camels, indorsed with the corn and millet and sent to the city. The sheep bleated, the cows bellowed, and the caravan hit the road. The voices and sounds caught and drew upon each other and mixed together, running forth into the darkness of the steppe. The head of the caravan was lost far away in the steppe, on the direction towards Uil, while its tail was still at the aul.
“I wonder did they leave here something?” Karibay thought uneasy and restless and, clapping spurs to his hirse, rushed towards the grain starage.
This time Shangirey opened the doors of the second part of the grain storage, where the untouched savings of the kolkhoz were stored.
“What are you doing?” Karibay asked him, without even dismounting.
“I want to send two or three carts more,” Shangirey responded.
“Leave it, don’t do it”.
“If we cannot do it now, for what time then are we saving it?”
“There was no order to give all the grain till now. So leave it”.
But it was really complicated to persuade Shangirey this time.
Karibay didn’t know how to hold this usually greedy man, who became suddenly that generous. Janbota approached them. Shangirey turned his back to them, feeling, that both of them will try to dissuade him. Karibay and Janbota stood on the both sides, surrounding Shangirey, and he didn’t even know where he should turn his head.
“What do you both want from me?” he asked them gloomily.
“We should make everything together, consulting with each other. We both are the members of the board. Why didn’t you consult with us?”
“So what? Do you grudge the treasury for treasury?”
“There is one treasury and there is another one. One should know how to give and share. The war could last long”.
“Look at them how clever they are! Do you want to distract me with your smooth talk? Okay then try to do it!” Shangirey muttered stubbornly.
“It’s not even worth trying! If you won’t leave it, I will go to the district committee immediately. Yermagambet ordered not to touch this grain storage!”
Shangirey gave up. He turned around, left the grain storage and, closing its doors with the keys, grumbled:
“You just grudge the treasury for the treasury, but if it is needed for us, Shangirey should immediately give it! For the competitions, for the experiments, for the prises and rewards, for their feast! Give them a sack of millet and a sheep!.. Ask me about anything now… Even if my father would come here asking, I would give him nothing!..”
He shut the door noisy, locked them, and hid the keys into his pocket and left, chuntering.
The aul was sleeping. The night was dark and silent. Crunch of carriers, snicker of the horses or screaming of the camel were to be heard sometimes, getting farther.
Karibay and Janbota sat long together, talking about the necessity of awareness and about the violence and horrible abuses committed by the fascists. They dreamed of some supernatural powers or some special and unique trick or cunning for the total destroying of all the fascists. They tried to find out an appropriate execution for Hitler and couldn’t find it.
“What if it would be possible to become invisible?” Janbota dreamed. “I would wriggle my way into Hitler’s lair unnoticed, strangle him with my own hands and finish the war!”
“What about all these destroyed cities, stolen and damaged people’s property?” Karibay sighed.
“We will force the occupants to rebuild it all after war, to fix everything damaged and destroyed and to give back everything what was stolen,” Janbota responded. “And it will be like it was before”.
“Okay, imagine that we took our revenge over the fascists and took back our property. But what to do about those killed and tortured people?...”
Janbota didn’t find an answer…
Careful steps could be suddenly heard in the silence of night. Both of them faded and stopped. Lonely foot-passenger appeared in front of them. He walked slowly, looking around and stopping from time to time.
“Halt! Whon is it coming?!” Karibay shouted to him, rising from his place.
The figure, moving in the darkness, halted.
“It’s me,” a stranger responded.
Karibay and Janbota came closer to him, looked into his face but couldn’t recognize the traveler.
“Where are you going that late?” Karibay aksed.
“I went late out of Uil,” a stranger explained.
“Where are you heading to?”
“I have relatives in these places. I was going to visit them. I’m very tired.Is it possible to have some rest somewhere?”
“It is possible, of course. Come with me!”
Karibay led a stranger to his own home. Entering the house, Karibay looked at this stranger caresully, as if he was examining him. His face woke uneasy and disturbing thoughts. He tried hard to look like a poor, oppressed and downtrodden person, but he caught Karibay’s attention immediately with his strange and suspicious behavior. Karibay, as a housekeepr, offered his guest to take a seat on the bench, according to an old custom. Ahmed stepped steadily and accustomed to the bench and sat there right in the middle, as if he used to sit here during all of his life.
Karibay glanced at him asquint, examining his face and his manners.
“Aqsaqal, let us know each other better! Who are you? Where do you come from?”
“I travel from Aktubinsk. I am a native adai . My name is Suleiman”.
“Where are you heading to?”
“My sister lives in Tasoygan. I want to visit her”.
“Why did you decide to travel in the night?”
“I’ve heard there are some travelers from those places here. I thought they could give me a ride”.
“Did you live in Aktubinsk?”
“Yes, I lived in the city. My son was taken to military. My old wife died. That’s why I am looking for my sister now”.
“What do the people in the city say about war?”
“Everybody is very scared. People say Germans kill everybody”.
Karibay’s wife appeared on the threshold and called him out. Karibay left the room for some time. Ahmet remained alone in the room for some time and looked around the room. His glance fell on the wide Kazakh boots. He suddenly noticed Brawning in one of the boots. Ahmet grasped the gun fast and put it into his pocket.
Karibay forgot to take the weapon out of his boot but now he suddenly remembered about it, came back from the kitchen and caught his boot. His face changed. Where could he lose his gun? It couldn’t simply fall out of the boot’s collar…
Karibay glanced steadily at the guest. The guest though sat calm and acted as if he didn’t notice anything.
“I am very tired, but I still have a hope to overtake my fellow travelers. I warmed myself a little bit and can hit the road again,” the guest said. “Lead me to the exit, please!”
“Won’t you stay for the night?”
“They can leave. I think I will better go now”.
“Aqsaqal, right at this moment I found out that my gun is gone,” Karibay said.
“So what? Do you want to say that I’ve stolen it?”
“Try to guess!”
“I sat myself here on the bench and didn’t even move from this place! Search me, maybe you will find it!”
Karibay stepped towards him and suddenly took his Brawning out of his pocket.
Ahmet smiled to him without even feeling mean.
“Is it normal to leave the weapon just like that? I just wanted to scare you a little bit,” he said.
“Stop talking, you, rascal! You are a spy!” Karibay shouted at him, pointing his gun at the guest. “Stand up, you, spy!”
Ahmet rose slowly and muttered with the feigned surprise:
“A spy? What is it – spy? Where should I go now?”
“You will know where!”
Karibay made Ahmet walk in front of him and left the room. Karibay’s wife, working at the kitchen and putting her samovar on fire, froze in bewilderment, with the shite kettle in her hands, shocked with such a violation of all the rules of generousity and hospitality.
A little guest sleeps in the back roon on the nickel-plated bed. Jamal entered carefully, trying not to creak with the door, leaned towards the child and touched tender with her lips his little smooth forehead. Then she covered the child warmly and, sliding through the room silent and mute like a cat, started the cleaning. Hanging coat, thrown on the back of the chair, into the wardrobe she looked into the mirror and touched little wrinkles on her face with the tips of her fingers.
“The spilled water won’t fill the glass again,” she thought sadly and sighed. “You will never be young again…”
This thought appeared in her head, like a moon apprears among the dark and heavy night clouds before hiding there again. Jamal removed the dust from the trunk, closed the gramophone’s case, picked up the needles, scattered around, and, taking finally the alarm clock in order not to wake up and not to disturb sleeping of a dear gueast beforehead, she slid out of the room.
Hissing and rolling of the boiling water informed her that the samovar was ready. She took the kettle with her, ran to make some tea and then suddenly stopped and congealed right on the threshold of the room.
Oljabek stood on the threshold in his winter fur hat, covered with the heavy snow, and with his canvas chapan which he wore above his fur coat, and with the icicles in his whiskers and beard. He didn’t greet her, according to his old habit, and handed her the lash.
“The disease can be gone, but the habit remains,” Jamal said with a smile and took a lash from his hands.
Oljabek didn’t respond. He started to take off his winter clothes slowly and silent. Jamal hung his lash on the nail on the wall and went to her samovar. Oljabek didn’t notice that she left and, without even looking in her direction, handed to her his belt and his hat. When Jamal entered this room again, she saw him standing like that, motionless and with the hand, holding his hat and his belt and stretched somewhere into the space. She started to laugh, taking his things from him.
“I see, my old wife is in a good mood today,” Oljabek finally said, smiling.
Most of the young and strong men were in military, fighting at the front now. But not everybody can pasture and tend the horses and cattle in winter. Energic, clever, enduring and sturdy man is needed for this task. That is why Shiganak recommended Oljabek for this kind of work.
Oljabek lived together with his friends and companions in the little dugout, covered with snow, right in the middle of the winter pasture-land, several dozens kilometers far from kolkhoz. He came to visit his beloved Jamal only from time to time, riding through the bright and blinding white steppe, smooth and covered with snow. Jaml in her turn was in charge of a sheep-farm of the kolkhoz.
Husband and wife exchanged several questions about health of their cattle. Oljabek opened the door to the back room a little bit without any kind of patience. Their little guest was sleeping in that room.
“Don’t go there right now, after coming from the frost outside, Oljabek,” Jamal said. “He is sleeping now.”
Oljabek, trying to remove the ice from his whiskers and beard, poped his head in at the door and looked with a silent smile on the little bed for a while.
“God willing, everything will be okay and come back to normal soon,” touched and agitated Oljabek whispered to his wife, taking a seat on the blanket.
Then he pulled her lightly at the lap of her skirt.
“Sit down for a minute, please,” he said persistent. “What is the news from the front? What is known about Moscow?”
“There is no disaster or calamity there now,” she said, unwilling to spell “Moscow hasn’t fallen yet”.
“What about Shiganak?”
“Janbota visited me yesterday. We cried with her all the evening long. They say, Shika is hopeless, his case is untreatable…”
Oljabek fell silent and pondered. He saw the path, made by Shiganak, in front of him now. He sat like a stone, still holding the lap of Jamal’s skirt. Jamal felt pity for him and kept silent too.
“Your cheekbone is frostbitten,” Jamal said casting a glance at her husband.
“Yes, it seems,” Oljabek responded absently.
He forgot about his frostbitten face, he even forgot to tell, how three days ago he was close to die together with the whole horses’ horde during the fierce snow storm.
He met a fierce and wicked snow storm alone, standing in the open and vast steppe, without any kind of protection or shelter. Helpless and defenseless horses retreated, pressed by the strong and cold wind with snow. OLjabek alone tried to hold them, without a chance to even be away for some time in order to wake and call for help one of his friends, sleeping in the dugout. The snow wind cut his face like with the dozens of knives. The horses were losing their ability to resist and withstand. It was impossible to hold them either with the whip or with the shout. They broke free and escaped far into the dark steppe, towards their death. Long winter night, extended by the terrible storm, didn’t give Oljabek any rest till the morning, but even this morning didn’t promise anything good for him: he knew that the snow storm chases the horses’ horde right towards the non-freezing salt marsh. In fierce and freezing temperatures and in the grue of ice and salt water wreck and death of all the living creatures was guaranteed. Death laid in wait for the horses together with their herdsman.
The storm moaned and roared even stronger when the dawn came. Oljabek was lost and didn’t know what to do.
“What should I do now?! What should I do?!” he repeated to himself, running among the crazy horses and trying to gather them together in the horde and to push them away from the salt marsh.
“I’ve got it! Here is where our salvation is! I found it!” he suddenly esclaimed loud, but horrible wind forced these words back into his throat…
Pljabek suddenly remembered that there was a little ravine behind his back, farther into the steppe. This ravine was rich on the juicy grass in summer. Several days ago Oljabek wanted to change the place of his camp and to move his horses’ horde there, leaving the vast and lifeless fields. He rose his kuruk up immediately and threw it on the neck of a brisk and lively ginger stallion. Once he caught this stallion, he snaffled it fast instead of his haggard and jaded horse. It was the last measure he could try now. Fresh and strong horse of a good race, used to be preserved in the horses’ horde all the time, be it an attack of the wolves or some case of emergency, when the long and fast riding was necessary, this wanton, lively, fast, strong and tireless stallion was taughed and trained to subdue together with a man wild kashagans , and these kashagans, beaten fiercely by their herdsman for their defiance and disobedience, were trembling when they saw this string and powerful ally of the herdsman. Shiver of powerlessness and feeblesness seized them immediately, once they saw human riding this big and strong ginger stallion. All their stubbornness and obstibacy disappeared. They surrendered themselves for the whistling of the lash and ran rapidly to the horde, in order to hide themselves, missing up with other horses.
Jumping on the back of the ginger stallion, Oljabek rushed fast in front of the horde and, scaring the animals with his loud shouts and whipping of his lash and stick, he managed to turn the running horses towards the srong wind and blinding snow. Leader of the horde, old and black stallion, turned around the first. Big-boned ginger mare, his beloved and faithful companion and friend, followed him. They headed for the ravine, as if they’ve understoof the idea of Oljabek, and the whole horde followed them as well.
Unable to move against the strong storm, the young and scared horses destroyed an order several times, trying to run together with the wind, But Oljabek chased them immediately and whipped them with his lash without any kind of mercy, forcing them to run back. Seized by despair and fear, the horses ran back to the horde.
Neither the storm nor the dark night broke the will and commitment of the brave herdsman. The horde approached the saving ravine. The horses halted immediately. Snorting and spittingm breathing hard, started to dig the snow with their hoofs, looking for the high and juicy grass. Oljabek didn’t dismounted and remained sitting on the back of the ginger stallion and rode aroung the whole horde, examining it and checking everything. The he stopped in front of the horses’ horde and forced his kuruk into the snow. He leaned on it and nodded…
Once he opened his eyes a little bit, he saw a little shaggy colt in front of him, with his fur tousled with the wind and snow. He was funny and clumsy, looked really miserably and, hoofing lightly, put his little nose into the piles on the ground, looking there with amazement. But he couldn’t break throught the depth of the snow to reach the grass and hoofed again and again.
Oljabek felt sorry for him. He dismounted and unlashed his mattock, which he used to always take with him for hunting. He cleaned from the snow a little piece of land with several stokes of his mattock and led a little colt to this place. Thus, he took care of the tired little colt until the end of the strom, preparing for him new cleaned places instead of the cropped ones, and a little colt followed him trustfully, as if Oljabek was his nanny.
The strom descended only closer to the evening. Oljabek looked at the horses’ horde with attention and examined it carefully. It seemed that everything was okay. He uncurbed the stallion, tied the rope to the end of his kuruk, digged for himself a little, but deep, pile and laid down in his self-made shalter, letting the stallion to fead himself. He put the long end of the kuruk under himself. He didn’t feel the increasing frost under the snow and nodded.
Suddenly the end of his kuruk started to move under him. He understood that the stallion started to tear around on the leash. Oljabek leaped out from his shelter with a shout and jumped on the back of his horse. All the horses flocked up, close to each other, and nickered with fear.
“The wolves!” the herdsman understood.
Five wolves attacked the horde, but the big black stallion was shattering their assaults.
The wolves, scared by the rash offensive of Oljabek and his terrible shout, ran away.
The ginger stallion, accustomed to hunting, rushed after them. They chased the woves jumping from the hill on the hill, from the ravine to the ravine. Oljabek then advanced and overcame the pack of wolves and turned the wolf over on the snow with the strict and strong stroke of his kuruk.
A rider appeared suddenly in the steppe with a loud shout:
“Baila, baila !”
Oljabek recognized his friend, who was looking for him since the morning in the steppe in order to change him.
“He appeared at so uncomfortable moment! You haven’t been here in the night, during the strom, I bet!” Oljabek pondered.
“Okay then, you can take it. I see that you are luckier than a dog!” Oljabek said to him.
Thus, Oljabek’s cheekbone was frostbitten during this snow storm.
Jamal brought some sour cream. Leaning towards him, she put caring some of this cream on his cheekbone. Only now Oljabek wake out of his thoughts about the sick Shiganak.
“How is your sheep?” he asked.
“Good. If nothing bad will happen, I could get from each hundred of sheep about one hundred and sixty lambs. By the way, they send the gifts for the front again. But we stayed away…”
“What did Shiganak give?”
“He gave sixteen hundreds kilograms of millet and twenty thousand with money”.
“Hey!” Oljabek said, putting his wide hand on her knee. “Shiganak is cleverer than you and me, but he isn’t richer than us. Let us defeat him at lest one time!”
Jamal laughed tenderly.
“Do I argue with you sometime? I didn’t argue with you even when we were searching for the “broken and torn clouds under the wide blue sky”, Oljabek!”
“If it is really like this,” Oljabek said, waving his hand resolute and firm, “I will give five sheep, a horse and eight hundred kilograms of millet! It will be quarter of everything we have. The rest will be enough for us, I think”.
“You can give even everything we have; just I wish our victory to come as soon as possible!” Jamal exclaimed.
“I never thought about it, you know… How could we defeat all these Soviets and kolkhozes…” Oljabek responded wistfully.
A little guest woke up and, slapping with his little bare feet on the floor, peeped out of the room. Jamal sweeped him up, and in several minutes all the three of the family sat at the table to have some tea. All the tastiest dishes they’ve managed to find were served on the table. A cat sat next to a little guest, puring, and a little rabbit was jumping next to him as well. Jamal messed about this kid for several days, taking care of him, and after all she succeded, and the kid told her his name. Persistent and tender she tried to persuade him, saying:
“My dear, my sweetheart, tell me, please, where are you from?”
The kid suddenly became puffed up and shouted loud:
Jamal and Oljabek looked at him quizzically. They hardly spoke Russian and didn’t understand this word.
“The bomb! Tssss! Boom!” the kid added, and his face expressed fear.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it! The kid is talking about war!” Oljabek exclaimed merrily, brightening and quickening, like little children.
Both of them looked gravely at the boy. But the boy ended his talking with these words, turned his head back from them, grasped a piece of meat, choked it a little bit and left it.
“Why didn’t you cook it properly?” Oljabek asked Jamal reproachfully and pulled to the little guest a plate with butter.
But the boy didn’t pay attention to this kind of food as well. Though Jamal started to understand his character during these several days the boy spent here. She broke off a little piece of bread and pulled a milk can to the boy. Sopping the bread in the milk, the kid started to eat with relish. Grownups looked at him with tenderness and followed every movement of him. The guest moved the milk can aside, stretched his little hands and, splaying his fingers across, and looked meaningly at Jamal and Oljabek. This gesture was that expressive, that Jamal and Oljabek both rushed to the little boy and started to help him cleaning his fingers, hands and lips. When Kamal tried to dry and clean his lips, he turned aside to Oljabek, but when Oljabek wanted to do it, the boy changed his mind and turned to Jamal. All the three of them laughed merrily. But suddenly the kid’s laughter faded, as his glance fell on the kitten and the little rabbit. He stretched both of his hands to catch the kitten and the rabbit at the same time, but his hands were too short for this task.
Oljabek caufgt the both little animals and sat them on his lap.
“On Kazakh language this one is mysyk, and this one is kozhek,” Oljabek explained.
The boy was accustomed to these two words already, as he spent a lot of time with Jamal, and he exclaimed happily:
It seems that Oljabek was happier hearing the boy repeating these two simple words after him, than if he would be given even two good and strong horses.
“Our Kaakh language is easy; you will learn it very soon! God grant you a lot of happiness and long life!”
Jamal and Oljabek, looking at this kid, remembered their lost son, and Oljabek, touched and emotional, listened to Jamal’s tales about some games and tricks of the kid, and smiled happily like a child.
“I’m looking around and suddenly understanding, that he is nowhere to be seen! I rushed rapidly to the kitchen, opened the door and saw him there, sitting on the pot,” Jamal told Oljabek one of these tales.
“There’s a fine fellow!” Oljabek responded with a smile.
“Then I feel that somebody is crawling on the bed. I was scared at the beginning, but then I saw that it was him!..” Jamal said, remembering the previous night.
The kid was messing around the kitten and rabbit. Lamal looked at him several moments, and then suddenly she exclaimed:
“What if he was also the only one son of his poor mother? His mother might have been crying so much, parting with her child, and now she may be even killed by some outlaws…”
“Yes,” Oljabek sighed. “We are living in a really hard time… So much blood is running! Heavy and dark clouds are gathering above the heads of people, and mothers are forces to part with their children… Whose fault is it?.. Accursed fascists, with no conscience and no honor… How can we leave and not pity such a little creature? People won’t be sorry about the one, who will leave this child alone and won’t help him…”
The kid looked at Jamal and Oljabek and, although he didn’t understand the meaning of the words they said, he looked like he understood and felt them. He stopped laughing; approached Oljabek and Jamal, then hugged Jamal on her neck and smiled to both of them, looking now at Jamal then at Oljabek. His bright eyes seem to be saying: “Don’t worry and don’t be sad, I will be happy and safe with you!”
And they both looked at him with love and care and felt themselves really happy at these moments.
The whole aul was sleeping, but Sergey, Akjibek and Janbota still stayed in the room of kolkhoz bureau, working on the article of Shiganak. Shiganak dictated them and then listened to what they’ve written down. Sometimes he thought that his ideas were expressed unclear and inaccurate, and he demanded to redo everything. Now the article was finished, edited and rewritten for the third time. Akjibek stretched herself and gave a yawn. Janbota stood up from her chair and started to examine the new military posters. Sergey sat, surrounded by the smoke of his cigarette.
“Human’s wished and desires are like the passages,” Shiganak said. “You will cross one, and then another one will appear in front of you. Same here with me, I have two new troubles. Right at the beginning of the spring fierce and strong wind blows from the direction of the Caspian Sea. It’s not enough to only know what hectare and when was sawed. We need to know what the weather was. I noticed and I think that the millet, sawed before these winds come, gives worse harvest and grows slowlier, than the millet, sawed after these winds. Let us try to saw later this year”.
Sergey opened his notebook fast and started to write everything down. Shiganak sat with his eyes closed, leaning on his stick with all the weight of his body. He spoke without pause, as if he wanted to be able to express and share all his longstanding experience and his knowledge about the soil and sawing before he himself will go to his grave…
“Another desire of mine,” he continued, “is to make it the way, the millet remains standing and doesn’t lie down. Janbota promised to grow it as much as the spikes will endure. But if we won’t fasten and strengthen them with something, they won’t be able to raise up a weight of two hundred hundredweights of harves and will probably fall”.
“How cam we strengthen and fasten them?” Janbota asked.
“You need to prepare the poles and sticks for each speak, I think,” Shiganak responded earnestly and looked at her crafty and foxy, openening a little bit his tired eyes.
Sergey dropped his pen and covered his ears in pretended fear. Shiganak started to laugh.
“Don’t be afraid, Sergey, don’t be afraid, I’m kidding! One academicial told it, and I liked this idea: when it’s hot, a man drinks desperately and greedy, but when it’s a cool weather, a man drinks slowly and calm. The water, drunk in the coolness, is healthier and more pleasant. I think it’s the same with the sawings. Last year the sawings, watered during the morning and evening coolness, stood strong, while those watered in the midlst of heat fell. Let us try to water our spikes in coolness”.
Hoofing of the approaching horses and creak of the carrier became heard from outside. All the people sitting in the room rushed wondered to the window, while somebody ran to the doorbut didn’t have time to open it. Yermagambet, Token and Vasiliy Antonovich entered the house from the outside frost.
“The fascists are driven away from Moscow!” Vasiliy Antonovich exclaimed outright.
Shiganak sprang hurriedly from his seat and hugged warmly the “big man”.
Vasiliy Antonovich spoke happily about the enemy’s losses, about the war prisoners and trophies and spoils of war, about escape of the enemy from the outskirts of Moscow. The room was filled with the light, it seemed.
Shiganak’s cheeks became rosy, and his face was shining, as if he wasn’t even an old man.
Sergey and Yermagambet kissed each other.
Akjibek and Janbota rushed out of the house, like the fast bullets, to tell everybody in the neighborhood the news.
Token was catching and shaking the hands of the people presented in the room. He stretched his hand to Shiganak, but Shiganak suddenly stepped back and didn’t give his hand to Token.
“Poor man! Why are you happy about it?” an old man exclaimed, jostling his hand away.
“You are so resentful and unforgiving, Shiganak! You still remember about our old quarrel!” Token responded. “Even I am ready to forget it all because of this big joy we experience now! See, I came first to you to make peace with you finally!”
It seemed that the words of hydraulic engineer sounded logic, but the sight of this wolf in the sheep’s skin couldn’t soften old Shiganak.
“I don’t know what else are you planning there, but the words “poor man”, said by you, chilled my heart. I’m naturally not angry and resentful, but what can I do, if there are no warm feelings to you here?” Shiganak asked, showing at his breast. “I don’t know how to pretend”.
Token sighed heavily and sat at the bench.
The conversation halted suddenly after Shiganak’s words.
Vasiliy Antonovich looked at Shiganak, fixing his eyes on him. Only three or four months passed since the day they saw each other last time, but an old man lost so much weight and became really very thin.
Shiganak himself didn’t feel how fast he melts and answered all the questions of the doctor concerning his health with the words: “That’s okay!”. All the time though he about his fields and his millet. If long time ago his biggest dream was to turn his longstanding knowledge and experience into the golden grains, now his dream was bigger and wider. Glory and fame of the fields of “Kurman” kolkhoz was not enough anymore, Shiganak wanted his millet to grow all over the fields and steppes of Kazakhstan.
The same machines and mechanisms like those in “Kurman” kolkhoz were presented already in other farms and kolkhozes of the district as well. Shiganak’s students and followers, Kashkyn, Kulmes and Zaure, have already reached the first record of Shiganak.
“My experiments became a real school, my district becomes a strong and powerful source of the millet,” Shiganak pondered.
Vasiliy Antonovich arrived here not only with the great and happy news about the enemy’s defeat at the outskirts of Moscow and his stepback. He wanted to send an old master Shiganak to the other districts of the region, where his arrival could inspire the peasants for the new achievements and results. Many letters with appeals and requests to send Shiganak to them for experience and knowledge exchange came from all over the region. But once Vasiliy Antonovich looked at Shiganak’s face, heard his weakening voice and saw his uncertain movements, he decided to refuse this idea.
“I came to ask about your health, dear Shiganak,” Vasiliy Antonovich said. “But I can clearly see now, that you almost don’t care about it!”
“If we will cover and coddle our soul like a little child all the time, it will become soft and weak,” he objected.
“But if you won’t take care of it, you will lose it!”
“I disagree! It doesn’t matter whether you take care of it a lot or not, anyway, one day we will be forced to part with it,” Shiganak said. “I’ve seen and heard a lot in my lifetime already!”
“The more you live the more you see”.
“Yes. And the more you see the less you sated and satisfied you are. There are always not enough wonders and miracles for the living man in this world! He will always want more!” Shiganak agreed and smiled.
“It’s true, that an old man doesn’t pay attention at his health at all,” Vasiliy Antonovich thought during this jokingly conversation.
“This time you must go with me to Aktubinsk. We will give you for the care and treatment of doctors for several days again,” he said to Shiganak.
“Leave me alone, Vasiliy Antonovich!” Shiganak responded with tired voice. “I feel myself good enough. Everyday I receive the letters for the front and rear one as well, everybody talk about the millet. I also made a promise. I will not stop until I won’t reach the level of two hundred of hundredweights of millet. There are mountains of work now and so little time!”
Vasiliy Antonovich suddenly understood that Shiganak won’t go anywhere.
“Deal. But in this case we will send a doctor for you. I will ask you to listen to all of his recommendations and advices. And once you will be done with all your business you will go to Moscow for medical treatment. Do you agree?”
“Let it be as you say,” an old man said.
People flocked to bureau from all around. This night’s gathering was really something unusual. People, depressed during the war times and unaccustomed to joy, express their new joy and happiness in different ways. Some of them had shining and bright eyes and happy smiles, some of them had tears of happiness on theur eyes, and some others kicked each other jokingly.
Jamamal and Oljabek entered the room.
“Oljabek works as a herdsman!” Vasiliy Antonovich exclaimed in amazement.
“Yes, they came to vosot me and they will leave this very night already. They are lucky!” Shiganak said.
Oljabek stretched his wide palm to Vasiliy Antonovich to shake it.
“How are you doing, Oljabek? Do the wolves and snow storms annoy you?” Vasiliy Antonovich asked him, responding with the strong hand shaking.
“It’s not the first time for me to see them,” Oljabek responded.
“How many heads are there above the target?”
“And Jamal has fifty heads! Does it mean that you are dropping behind Jamal?”
“Only one of my colts is worth ten lambs!” Oljabek objected.
“I agree. You are right! Shiganak though says that you are still flirting with the girls?”
Oljabek looked staggered at Shiganak.
“God save me from that!” he exclaimed with in ill part and high dudgeon.
Shiganak laughed and addressed Jamal:
“My dear, how did it happen that you have chosen such a clumsy bear?”
Jamal smiled to him.
“Look at him with my eyes,” she said.
“I have no words!” Shiganak responded. “Everybody looks dear and beautiful with the loving eyes”.
The long winter night passed with the noisy and active meeting with the unprepared and unexpected speeches of the attendees. Sometimes an unexperienced and new person, delivering a speech, halted, but the though was caught by another speaker. Everybody finished his speech with the words about what does he or she gives to the defense funds: “I give a calf!..”, “I give two lambs!..”, “I give a hundredweight of millet!..”
Token delivered a specch as well. It was a usual and accustomed speaker.
“I decided to give to the defense funds my monthly salary!” he finished his speech.
Janbota, who sat silent all the time, suddenly sprung from her seat.
“Put your salary back into your pocket! You better repeat again what you said to Aislu yesterday!”
“What? What did I say?” a hydraulic engineer responded in a shoked voice.
“Remind him, Aislu!” Janbota said to Aislu.
“Yesterday Token visited our brigade. He was very happy and glad. He asked us for whom are we gathering snow, for the kolkhoz or for the Germans. I told him: “Why do we need those Germans?” And he told me: “Why do we need them, why do we need them!.. They have already taken Moscow and are heading here!” I rushed to Janbota and told her that the Germans are marching here, to us. She even refused to listen to these words!”
Token suddenly burst into laughter.
“I was joking telling it! I just want to test you and to see what your reaction will be”.
“You will not excuse yourself either with your laughter or with your monthly salary!” Janbota exclaimed. She turned red and then turned pale and had her eyes glued at Token. She wanted to say something else, but suddenly concluded, without adding anything else: “Let Karibay speak!”
“Token, do you know Ahmet?” Karibay asked.
“Escapee and outlaw Ahmet”.
“Ohh, I’ve got whom do you mean! Who doesn’t know him? I met him several times in my life, when I was young”.
“It seems that Token was young not long time ago,” Karibay said. “This clasp-knife from the latest harvesting came to you from me, when we cut the spikes in the field. And now I found it in the pocket of an outlaw Ahmet! Take it back, Aqsaqal, I gave it to you as a gift…” he passed the knife to Token.
Hydraulic engineer looked at the knife, turned pale and hesitated to take it.
Jamal couldn’t remain at her place anymore.
“Oljeke, I can’t believe that this accursed dog is a friend of Ahmet! How did it happen that he sits here, in our kolkhoz, among our people? It’s an enemy of the kolkhoz!”
Oljabek stood up silently and, stepping heavily, started to approach Token slowly, and his huge and strong fist stroke suddenly the hydraulic engineer. Token shouted loud and hid in the crowd. Several people rushed to him. He did a lot of harm to everybody, everybody knew and felt an enemy in him and everybody wanted to give loose to their feelings and wrath.
“Stop it! Stop it! There is a law and authorities for that!” Shiganak said loud.
People came to the sides. Token sat in the niddle of the room.
Vasiliy Antonovich shook Janbota’s hand and kissed her forehead tenderly and warm.
“You have an eagle’s eyes, my dear,” he said. “Though you aren not like you used to be before. Do you miss Amantay?”
“No, I don’t,” she said, but tears burst out of her eyes and betrayed her totally.
“I think there is nothing to do for you here, Token,” Vasiliy Antonovich said, addressing the hydraulic engineer.
“Yes, yes,” Token responded and left the bureau hastily.
Karibay and Sergey exchanged the looks and followed him.
After receiving a strong and devastating stroke near Moscow, the fascists, unable to gether their strength back, started to escape. The spring came, and it was easier to breathe. It seemed that the biggest troubles and burdens were leaving together with the winter. Confidence about the close victory, living in the hearts of everybody in the country, raised the enthusiasm of the workers even more and inspired them for the new achievements.
“Kurman” kolkhoz has finished the spring the ploughing works earlier than it was planned. Before starting the new sawing works everybody waited for the new recommendations and orders of Shiganak. But his sickness aggravated and intensified strong and fierce. He felt worse and worse with every new day, and although he still didn’t fell ill totally and take to his bed, he couldn’t work in the field anymore.
Janbota had a serious and important task to fulfill today: Shiganak wanted to personally examine the sawing fields and to give his own estimate of the work, conducted under Janbota’s authority and leading. Janbota rode along the sawing lands, examined everything carefully and thought disturbing and uneasy of what Shiganak could possibly find here to reproach her and her work. She didn’t find anything. Satisfied with the results of her examination, she sat up in the stirrups, turned her horse and rushed rapidly towards the aul.
Double joy carried her to the aul like the bird’s wings: she will see her child now and hug it strong and tender. It was her first joy. And the second joy was that she will pass the exam prepared for her by Shiganak and will be praised by him. Approaching her home, she heard suddenly a song. Her nother sang a lullaby, composed by herself. Janbota halted, listening carefully and attentively.
My bright and beautiful crescent!
My little boztorgay !
Be happy, be glad, and laugh merrily!
Sleep well, my darling!
The quick and lively colt
Send a letter to her,
And the little camel colt will come…
Sleep well, my darling!
Dandle a child tenderly,
He isn’t among the silent and shy ones…
Sleep well, my darling!
Don’t part me from them too,
Ohh merciful God!
Sleep well, my darling!
Janbota entered the yourt . She understood that her mother sang for child a song about the colt with intention.
“Mother, is there a letter from Amantay?”
“Yes, there is, Jan, there is,” her mother responded and took the letter from her pocket, giving it to Janbota.
“It’s so muggy and stuffy here, mother! Let us let some air inside!” Janbota said, feeling suddenly no air with excitement.
“You will make the child to get chilled!” an old woman objected.
“He will easier and faster get chilled, if you will always try to hide him from the fresh air!”
The mother left the yourt. Janbota even didn’t sit down and started to read the letter, standing in the middle of the yourt:
“Bota, you shouldn’t worry about me so much. I’m writing you this letter right after an attack. Don’t wait for your Amantay until he won’t reach Berlin. You should be patient. I used to spy and gather information before, capturing the prisoners for questioning, and I even was honored with the medal. But I was finally fed up with crawling and spying. I asked the commando to send me to a real and open fight. Now I am a machine gunman now. If I will be alive I will come back home with my chest covered with the medals and orders. I don’t know what you think about it. Because, according to your views, love can exist only among the equal persons, and it seems that I start to excel you! I cannot wait until you will start to be honored with the medals and orders as well! I think it’s time for you, comrade, to review you positions and views! The more I grow and escel, the more my love to you grows and strengthens. Write to me more often. Tease me a little bit, my beloved Botajan. Oh, my dear, I wish I could laugh happily, like a little child…”
Janbota tried to hold her tears and started to write and answer to Amantay:
“Hello, my beloved unruly colt, my Amantay! You still didn’t put it up,” she started her letter. “I understood only now that a man is stronger and braver than a woman. Everything happening to you stands always in front of me, and I never ever forget about it, either awake or sleeping. I’ve never wore the gray great-coat, I’ve never felt this terrible frost and I’ve never experienced the burdens and troubles of the trench life, but I feel it everything with you! But anyway, you are so strong, so fierce and so brave, as if you would be made from steal, anyway you are mine!
I am not just Bota anymore, I am Ingen : I’ve brought to this world a new little human being, the same active and restless like you. I am a mother now and I compare my title of mother to your medals and orders. You are talking about superiority without understanding one little thing: every time, when I hug and kills our little child, I put a medal on my breast. Being a mother doesn’t mena to only deliver a child, a mother has so many duties.
I’ve already promised not to drop you in labor. The time comes to fulfill this promise. We think of growing and gathering a great harvest of two hundred of hundredweights this summer. Shika is unfortunately very sick. The entire burden lays on my shoulders now. If I will endure it all, I am sure that I will be able to tame my stubborn and unruly colt…
I don’t know why, but I cannot tease you and joke with you now, as we used to do it before. Maybe, my teeth dulled…
I was writing you in haste… I will feed now our Amangeldy and will carry out on attack. I don’t know how I will stand it, when I will see the meeting of a soldier father with his son, born without him. Maybe my heart will be breaking! Here are the current thoughts of Bota…”
Finishing hustily writing a letter to Amantay, Janbota started to breastfeed the child, showing contains of the letter to her mother, who just entered the yourt.
“Oh Lord! Accept my soul before all of my three children!” she sighed and then suddenly added on second thoughts: “Jan, there is Shiganak and a big crowd of people, getting on the horses and going to ride somewhere!”
Janbota pressed her little Amangeldy to her breast, kissed him warmly and rushed outside.
Shiganak, surrounded by people, headed to the fields. A movie director together with his crew and equipment has spent several days here already, waiting for the best time to start shoting his movie. The officials and authorities from the district joined them as well. The movie’s crew has been working with the sick and tired Shiganak during several days, but today they’ve moved first to the fields.
“That’s an amazing and unbelievable thing!” a director said to an agronomist. “Uneducated man has achieved a world record!”
“This man,” Sergey noted, “was learning from the life itself. He works a lot, remembers and notices everything and never leaves something without studying and learning it properly. If you will add to this his natural intellect and talent, you will get a great scientist”.
“People say that he started to kink in these latter days…”
“Last year, very late in the night, I was coming back home to the district,” he said. “The night was light, with a lot of stars shining in the sky. Suddenly I saw someone sitting in the middle of the millet field. This figure sat there and muttered something, sounded like some magic and spells. I thought that it was a thief! I came closer and found out that it was our restless old Shiganak! “What are you doing here, Shika?” I asked him. “I’m observing and trying to understand, does the moonlight have some impact on the growing of millet,” he responded to me. He had a bucket with him. He measured carefully one square meter, watered it and sat next to it, observing. It appeared that he made a test, does the millet grows different if to water it in the night. Of course, the one who doesn’t understand the nature and specific of our business could think that it’s something not normal and strange. But if everybody in the world would be that crazy and strange, the entire world would be a world of the scientists!”
Shiganak rode, examining thoughtfully the ploughd field. But suddenly he halted his horse and dismounted. The cameramen started to scuttle around their cameras and equipment. Hey followed Shiganak, going the same way and direction he went.
Shiganak went around all the pieces of field, examined them all, measured the depth of ploughing, tried the softness of the the soil in his hands and then came to Janbota. His puckered brows uncrumpled. He kissed her lightly and patted her friendly on her back.
“The wind is gone, he said. “I think that you can start to saw now. Water it when it will be cool air. Thre was a telegram: we are seding the gifts to Leningrad. I will stay in Moscow for the medical treatment, that’s why I will charge you with the issue of these gifts…”
With the cracks and rattling of the cameras and other movie’s equipment Shiganak gor up on his horse again, without saying a word anymore, crooked and rode away slowly.
The time of harvesting finally came. Wide and huge field located between Uil and a little river, on which banks the kolkhoz laid, was heaving and wavering, like a sea. The millet looks like thickets of reed. Once you will come inside of this millet sea, and the spikes will cover everything around you, leaving only a big blue sky above your head. The wind blows from time to time, rustling and whispering with the spikes.
Shiganak rides in the fields, checking them, and his horse is hard to be seen in the thickets of millet, so it looks like he just sails above the wavering fields. Giving a horse the bridle, Shiganak rides to an open meadow. From this meadow he heads forth, with no haste. A big aul is located in the form of a semicircle. The barn-floor is on its left side. People stack the big bundles of millet on the one side of this barn-floor, whilew the empty tracks approach it from the other side and leave later laden with millet. Threshed perl-white grain lies in the middle of the barn-floor. White dust upraises above the wide road, runninalong Uil River.
Shiganak looked tenderly and softly at the fruits of his labor.
“Ohh life, life! How beautiful and desired you are! Old people and young people, all of them want you so much…” he thought.
Shiganak chaged significantly in recent times: his cheekbones were extremely thin, his cheels were sunken and his eyes were hollow. Approaching his home slowly, he hardly dismounted. Ginger aruana stood next to the little camel colt, tied to the yourt. Aruana looked at Shiganak with her soft and wet eyes.
“My dear friend, my aruana! I wanted to grow the tones of millet on your sweat! Now I’ve destroyed the tegershik and released you from yoke,” Shiganak said, caressed her long neck, staying a little bit silent, and entered finally his yourt.
Baibishe Zaru and doctor Mariam had rest. Once they saw suffering and tired face of Shiganak, both of them rose immediately from their seats, rushed towards him and, supporting him from the both sides, helped him to lie on the bed. Mariam started to measure his pulse.
“Father, let’s make another injection,” Mariam said to him.
“I think it won’t give us anything, my dear. It’s not worth it,” Shiganak responded.
“Do you want to eat something?”
“It doesn’t matter what I want! My stomach is greedier than our Kabysh!”
“That’s okay, you will get better soon! You are just too tired”.
“Of course, my dear, I will get better soon, I will,” Shiganak said with a weak voice.
It seemed that Mariam assured Shiganak, but deep in their hearts both of them didn’t believe in his recovery. Only Zaru truly believed it.
Shiganak came back after visiting Moscow. He spent a lot of time there. Leningrad was still surrounded by Germans and stayed in blockade, so an echelon with the gifts for Leningrad from Kazakhstan was received in Moscow by the Secretary of the Leningrad regional committee.
Shiganak showed himself to the prominent and renowned doctors and medics in Moscow. None of them found the possibility to cure the hard disease. Shiganak’s age didn’t allow carrying out a surgery. But none of the doctors found the courage to tell him about hopelessness of his case.
“You will get better. Just have more rest and keep to a diet,” they told him. “If you will feel yourself worse, you can come anytime”.
Shiganak didn’t believe the words of the doctors, but he managed to assure his slow-witted Zaru and other members of his family as well that he feels better and he is recovering. Sometimes he got up on the horse and rode in the neighborhood, in order to becalm his family and kolkhoz workers too. His appearance in the field was a great event and big joy not only for the “Kurman” kolkhoz, but for the entire Uil district. It seemed that Uil became less and smaller without him, his flow was slowlier, while once Shiganak appeared in the visibility; Uil regained its strength and power. Shiganak felt it and he tried hard to look healthy and merry.
Janbota, who was in charge of threshing, noticed Shiganak’s coming back from the field and his special slouch and, cathing a minute of time, rushed to the aul.
She fed her little child in haste and came to Shigabak’s yourt. She halted at the threshold. Her cap skid aside a little bit, her black hair, spreading on her back, were a little bit tousled. She stood, holding her lash in her hands. Her yellow blouse and wide trousers were trodden. The belt on her waist loosened. Her eyes were shining, looking steadily at Shiganak.
“Botajan, why did you get that thin and pale?” Shiganak aksed her silently, with a soft smile on his lips. “Are these two hundredhundredweights that difficult for you?”
Shiganak poored mouth a little bit: this year 1232 poods of millet were threshed from every hectare of field.
Readjusting her dress, Janbota approached Shiganak’s bed and sat herselt next to him, at the head of his bed.
“Are you in bed again, Siganak?” she asked softly.
“I just lay to have some rest… Anility…” Shiganak responded to her.
“You have achieved a victory over so big and wide steppe, so why cannot you defeat your anility?”
“Ohh, my dear Janbota… Anility has strong pillars…”
Shiganak wanted to give points of God, using the words “string pillars”… He didn’t like when somebody was talking about God with disrespect, that’s why Janbota didn’t object and only thought to herself:
“This “strong pillar” helps somehow the wrong people!”
“Did you send a telegram with Sergey?” Shiganak asked.
“Yes, we did. At the same day,” Janbota said.
“You should start thinking about the next year now!”
“What can we think about? Two hundred hundredweights of millet is our norm already!”
“Don’t you think of increasing this amount?”
“Here we are! Shika refuses to recognize any limits!” Janbota laughed. “People cannot come back to their senses even after this great harvest, and you want even more!”
“There are a lot of the top performers on the Societ kolkhoz lands today,” Shiganak said with a smile. “You should be one among many. The real racer will never give up his superiority. People adopt your experience. Your and my success is that hundreds of the kolkhozes are trying to excel us. There are absolutely no limits for the human’s endeavours and challenges. Somebody can excel you tomorrow! What would you do then? You shouldn’t be like Kabysh, who is so proud that one day he was lucky to sit at the one table with Durzhigula…”
At the moment Kabysh opened the door and entered the room.
“Hello!” he said loud.
Shiganak started to laugh:
“Talk of the devil and he will come! Zaru, fetch us a cup of shubat, please! Whe he is hungry, he always greets the people that loud”.
“Your appetite doesn’t come to you somehow,” Kabysh responded.
“It’s because I never gather some rubbish at the scrap heap, like you!”
“That’s okay. Even sickness cannot defeat you! How can I argue with you then?” Kabysh responded and started to drink shubat, smacking his lips with delight.
He emptied the cup fast and gave it back to Zaru. She poured some shubat again and handed the cup to the guest. He drank this cup slowly, enjoying every draught of it.
“I am sated finally!” Kabysh smiled.
“Drink one more cup, for me,” Shiganak offered him and, when Kabysh started to drink again, Shiganak looked at him with delight, as if he was drinking himself. “Are you coming from the district or from home?” he asked.
“I wasn’t at home till now. I arrived to you right after coming from the district”.
“You have no one to visit anymore, I see! You are more than sixty years old, though you still have no one on your side! Who cares about you, poor old fellow?”
“It’s true; I was unhappy and poor, though I am waiting for my happiness to come!” Kabysh responded.
“I can’t believe that you finally found a big dunghill!”
“Why do I need dung? You will die soon, so I will take your place!”
“Bite your tongue!” Zaru said.
Shiganak and Kabysh started to laugh. Kabysh took the letter out of his pochet and handed it to Shiganak.
“Whose letter it is?” Shiganak asked.
“I don’t know. They gave it to me at the post office,” Kabysh replied.
Janbote opened an envelope and read to herself the letter, signed by a prominent academician. This letter was written in Russian, so Janbota translated it into Kazakh lanhuage:
“Dear comrade Shiganak Bersiyev!
After I’ve received your telegram, I was excited and agitated for a while, as I didn’t know, should I believe it or not. The most prominent scientists have set a limit of yield of crops of millet in two hundred hundredweights, and this definition was set with the purpose. They’ve measured and calculated the length of the sun rays before, that are being perceived by the plants. You excelled and overtopped even this detailed and presice estimation and proved that yield capacity depends on a human being!
I down before you, your authority and your genious talent of the unbelievable records of harvest! I wish you all the best and great success in everything you do! And I wish you strong health in order to achive all your plans!”
Shiganak listened to this letter in reclining posture and breathed heavily. Happy agitation captured Janbota, and she fidgetd in her seat and looked from time to time at Shiganak, as if she was waiting that he will finally call her name. It seemed that Kabysh became clear about the meaning of this letter and glanced by stealth at his famous counterpart too.
“Brtugan , why are you looking like you have ruptured yourself?” Kabysh said, looking straight at Shiganak.
It seemed to him at this moment that he saw a shadow of death on the face of an old man. Tears burste out of Kabysh’s eyes, and he turned his face away.
“Desires! Wishes! Dreams! Beautiful dreams!” Shiganak said silently. “What if our Bota will agree to try to grow two hundred and forty hundredweights of millet? Our millet became a food for the science as well”.
Janbota became happy and glad deep in her heart, but she didn’t respond and feel deep in her thoughts. Shiganak turned on his right side, facing the wall.
Everybody exchanged their looks and left the yourt silently, wishing Shiganak peace and good rest.
Only Zaru sat on her place, like a pile, driven into the ground and protected rest and sleep of her Shiganak, sitting motionless and without saying a word.