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.”