By Zoltán Böszörményi
Translated from Hungarian by Paul Sohar
“And when did you notice your little boy Akos was missing?” the plainclothesman detective pushed the button of his small digital voice recorder. He tried to sound patient, but the drive from the city into the Carpathian Mountains had been tiring, and he was anxious to head back well before sundown.
“Say, what day is today?” the woman wearing a babushka and a flowery, country style dress, put the emphasis on the word is as if she had doubts whether such a thing as is existed. Or else it was her odd, rustic dialect of Transylvania.
“Tuesday, February the twenty-sixth.”
“Yes, yes… Tuesday. Tuesday last week, yes, that day he already didn’t come home. I told Gyuri, my older son, go and find out where your little brother got to. And the child took off, he was away for hours roaming the area, and then he came home empty-handed. He couldn’t find him nowhere,” the woman clapped her earth-colored hands together to dramatize her surprise. “Nowhere. And he looked and looked, searched everywhere, left no stone unturned, there was no hole or ditch where he didn’t look. Ain’t that right, my boy,” she poked a finger into ribs the of the boy’s fidgeting next to her. He looked about eight years old.
“I walked into every crummy old warehouse, the doors are gone, they’re full of old stuff in piles, old mattresses, broken TV sets, and even some toys, but I could not find little Akos boy, and I was calling him as loud as I could, so that he should of heard it even under the ground. He didn’t answer me, so that’s it,” the child shrugged, dropping his hands in his lap, but then started picking at the dirt under his fingernails with the nail of his pinky.
“What was the time exactly on Tuesday when you noticed that little Akos was missing?” asked the investigator, looking straight at the woman, demanding an answer from her directly.
“Well, as I was saying, it’s been two years now that the copper mine was shut down. And then, they laid off everybody. My husband, too. In spite of him being a good shaft worker. He’d brought up a lot of good copper ore. So, as I said, they paid him well. Made a good living. You know, we spent twenty years in the mountains. We liked it, really did. Sometimes we made a trip to the city, there they got everything, all you need is money. I was a country gal, and I married here. My man was from my village, too, back then, except older. Much older. But a strong and good man. There was nothing wrong with him for twenty years and then some. And then he just upped and died. Left me here with our kiddies. And yet when he took me for his wife, he promised never to leave me alone. Promised me the world, he wanted me so bad. Yulish, you’re going to have a good life with me, that’s what he said. You don’t need the village. You’re going to like it better in the mountains, as long as the Good Lord keeps me in good health. I make enough money to raise ten kids. Now you see, it’s come to nothing. Only two kids, and them late in life too, almost given up on getting blessed with a child. The first one when it came, I didn’t believe it was happening to me. Even the doctor was just standing there waving his big old hands, wondering how it was going to work out, but there was no problem, the child came to the world, no problem at all. So that’s it, sir, now you know all about my life.”
“Was it Tuesday morning or afternoon that Akoshka disappeared? When did you start looking for him? Please, just answer this question.”
“Gyurika ran inside that afternoon, it was about the big hounds, because they were behind the barn, must of got hold of some part of a dead animal, and they were whining like hell. So I tell the boy go, take a look and see what’s going on, maybe they caught a rabbit or they’re fighting over something else. But the kid didn’t see nothing, it was kind of late, already getting dark out. I got scared suddenly, my little kid, we couldn’t find him nowhere.”
“Rabid dogs they are, they’ve messed up a lot of people around here,” the kid interrupted, but then fell silent, realizing it was not his turn to describe the events surrounding the mysterious disappearance.
“And if them dogs attacked little Akoshka… in that case…”
“In that case I would of seen it, because I keep an eye on those goddamned beasts.”
“How do you do that?”
“With a torch, I get a torch, I light it, and they start whining and growling, and I can see what they’re up to.”
“And what were they ripping apart that afternoon? Did you have a good look at it?” the detective went on.
“They were dragging a plaid piece of clothing back and forth, may they drop dead.”
“Oh, my God,” the woman drew a deep breath. “My little Akoshka had a plaid shirt on when he disappeared.”
“What color was the plaid shirt?”
“Blue, sort of, like the one Akoska had on,” the child was eager to volunteer the information.”
“I can’t go along with that… maybe the bears… Those wretched bears.”
“But you were talking about dogs fighting over the plaid shirt. What have the bears got to do with it?” the man was taken aback.
“Maybe the dogs got the shirt away from the bears.”
“From the bears?”
“Yeah, you know them bears when they eat someone, then the clothes, well they don’t want the clothes. And maybe that’s how the dogs got hold of the shirt, from the bears…”
“This is the first time I’ve heard of it, bears hanging around here.”
“Them bears, yeah, ‘cause they break in for the food, they take what they want from the sacks, nothing you can do about it,” the kid was quick with the answer again and he gave the detective a mischievous look.
The officer of the law clicked off the dictaphone and looked at his watch with a sigh.
“Missis Szabo, you can pick up the police report from a village notary next week,” he was no longer hiding his eagerness to get back in his all-terrain vehicle and hit the road. The last rays of the sun were raking the tips of the pines.
Zoltán Böszörményi, a Romanian-Hungarian writer, has been widely published as a novelist and poet. Most recently he was honored with the Attila József Prize as well as the Gundel Art Award for his novel, ‘The Night is a Soft Body’.
Paul Sohar ended his higher education with a BA in philosophy and took a day job in a research lab while writing in every genre, publishing seven volumes of translations. Latest translation volumes are”Silver Pirouettes” (TheWriteDeal 2012) and “In Contemporary Tense” (Iniquity Press, 2013).