A missing Person

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Black spider,” suggested the man.

Lactrodectus tridesimugutatus,” the woman added with precision. She walked past the owner as he was an inanimate object and continued her inspection of the cages.

“So all you need is a poisonous spider? the shopkeeper asked with a smile.

“At one time I needed two or three,” the old lady bent down over the items on display, raised her head, lowered her palm, winked with her lensless eye, indicated the figure with her fingers and stooped again.

The shopkeeper shrugged his shoulders, waited for a while but his customer went on staring at the iguana. So he went back to his desk, opened his notepad and started looking for something in it.

“You can’t deceive me!”

The shopkeeper raised his head with a start and with his finger still on the note-pad, looked at the lady with amazement.

“Let me see thirteen red spots on its belly and only then will I give you the money!” continued the old lady, leaned on the display case, straightened up and softened her tone. Ten, of course not, ten will arouse suspicion. It’s too many, ten Lactrodectus tridesimugutatus specimens under one cover! Here it is!” she exclaimed without pausing. “Ha!” and she pointed with her finger at a tiny weak kitten, sleeping hunched at the bottom of a cage. “Here it is! Will you sell it to me at a good price?” she asked.

“Forty,” said the shopkeeper as if awoken from a bad dream, closing the notepad and leaving his desk. “Forty,” she repeated.

“I’ll press it to my breast!” the old lady said with tenderness.

“Once we sell an animal we don’t accept in back,” the shopkeeper searchingly peered in the lenses eye of the broken spectacles.

“Here,” the old lady took out from her pocket all her money.

The man counted the money outloud, showing to the lady every banknotes and give her change.

“I’ll put it for you in a paper bag. Or it will flee,” he left the money in the drawer, locked it and from a shelf to the right of him took a paper bag with handles, holes for air and a clasp. “Do you want pills against parasites?” he asked.

“Anyone can go with their spouse on a holiday in the south of the country and sleep together in a tent. They can even spend the night in the open air in a sleeping bag, during haymaking season. And trim-tram, the little spider bit him...” the old lady was observing with interest the movements of the shopkeeper... “Forensic doctors are lazy, you can count on them. Nice paw!” She touched the kitten’s ear. “How can you prefer to work with dead patients! Ha!” she said with contempt. “They make no effort! Who will take the pains to check whether the black spider is a day or a night animal?! Whether it crawls here and there or lurks in a hole! Ha! Because, if it isn’t a night animal, how will it crawl into the sleeping bag during one’s sleep? And if it waits for its food in a hole why should it waste its time in sleeping bags. It is not a human being to be wasting its time. A spider won’t do the lob. There must be at least two or three,” the old lady bent down and followed with her eyes, closing the one without the lens, the shopkeeper’s movements while he clasped the bag. “After the 1960s forensic doctors have become lazy,” she sighed. “Because of the new refrigerating chambers. Their work piles up in them,” the old lady slapped her thigh. “They wait in the hope of it being forgotten: isn’t one’s most fervent with to forget? And once in two or three years they come to remember it, clean up what’s left, bury those that have remained, and again revert to their customary ways. There are countries with superb poisonous spiders,” she sighed enviously and shook her head.

“I will give you a disinfecting pill free, free of charge,” the shopkeeper slightly pushed the old lady impatiently towards the desk.

“The inspecting official won’t take pains to see whether the little spider is a loner or lives in a family,” she went on. “Where it exactly happened... Lactrodectus tridesimgutatus will cause only reddening and itching along the river Maritsa, now, along the lower reaches of the Struma river the specimens are...” she clicked her tongue, tried to snap her fingers of her free hand, failed, took the book with the other hand, tried to do it with it, too, frowned when she again failed to produce the desired sound, and went on: “I had envisaged everything in my dreams without counting on the laziness of...” her attention was again attracted by the display cases. “The other solution is to carry a viper. In the past they used to sell only parrots...” she again sighed and placed the book on the desk. Psittacoses, ornithoses, viral bronchial pneumonia... When one wants, one can spill half on the stuff into the antibiotics capsule so that for three or four days the patient would be given an unsatisfactory dose. Prior to the passage of three or four days the antibiotic isn’t changed as it has not yet begun to have effect while three are four days are not so few for untreated bronchial pneumonia. They also used to sell decorative fish. But they are no use for anything,” she concluded.

“A disinfecting pill,” the shopkeeper cut out a pill from an aluminum foil. “Here it is,” he shoved it into her hands and gave her en even more surprised look when he perceived the smell of alcohol. She slipped the pill into her pocket, raised her eyes and suddenly broke into sobs.

“Bla-bla,” with tears in her eyes the old lady slipped her fingers through one of the holes in the envelope, gave a cry of pain and withdrew it. On its tip two drops of blood appeared.

“Tiger-migar,” the old lady stopped crying and examined the bitten spot. On her cheek there was a lone tear. The red drops of blood decorated the white tiles on the shop floor and were replaced by others on her finger.

“Let’s wash it,” the shopkeeper was greatly upset.

The old lady did not respond, reached out her hand holding the envelope and made for the exit with the wounded finger pointing downwards. Then she suddenly turned and came back to the desk.

“Cat’s disease. Increased lymph nodes in the armpit, forty degrees temperature, viral etiology, antibiotic therapy,” she said now holding her finger upwards. “It must be disinfected and bandaged.”

The shopkeeper almost ran towards the first-aid box hanging on the wall at the opposite side of the shop.

“Will you have black spiders soon? the old lady asked wile he has dressing her wound.

The shopkeeper trembled, the bandage stuck to his finger and he unstuck it feverishly with disgust.

“My dream to have a cat has finally come true.” The old lady did not wait for an answer. “I have refrained from having one for reasons of hygiene.”

Going out of the shop, she went back in the direction from which she had come but after a turning where the hill become steeper, she stopped, paused thoughtfully and retraced her steps. The kitten miawed and moved within the envelope but the old lady, eased by the slope, sped on with mincing steps, paying no heed to the tribulations in the envelope. The shopkeeper of the pet shop raised his head from the note-pad just when the old lady again passed by his shop. He scratched the back of his head, looked down at the desk, scratched himself again, looked at the watch in his wrist which was slim, crossed the room, looked the door and pulled down the shutters. He returned to the desk, took out a bottle of vodka, poured a little into the glass, and downed it. He stood for a time, string at the display cases, then went to the baby bullterrier in one of the cages, opened the hatch, and strocked his head.

“Lolly little one, jolly little one,” he repeated.
The old lady took the book and the bag with kitten in her left hand, leaned against the wall of an office block, took off one shoe and massaged her ankle. Then she patiently repeated the operation on the other leg. Nearby somebody was playing on the piano a popular song from some thirty years before. The old lady shoved her food back into the shoe and started in the direction of the music.

As soon as she stepped on the alley connecting the street with a fashionable restaurant, one of the two bell-boys with striped trousers moved from the entrance and met her.

“There are no vacant seats,” he said.

“Oh?” the old lady peered behind her back. “What a pity!”

“Everything is occupied!” the bell-boy made a step forwards.

“I know about the two rooms,” the eye behind the frame with the missing lens looked mockingly, while the other, behind the glass invited sympathy for her helplessness.

The bell-boy again stepped forward, moving no more than a foot near to the old lady.

“Make yourself scarce!” he said.

“Anatomical reasons make some prefer ladies of a certain age,” the old lady almost hummed the remark.

The boy withdrew sized the woman up and down, and his eyes fell on the nail showing through the paper bag. He made a further step backwards. Still different, the old lady’s eyes watched him fixedly.

“I have an irresistible need to enter,” she asked calmly with dignity.

“Over there, behind the corner,” the bell-boy slightly stammered and quickly pointed to a place behind the restaurant.

The old lady minced along the indicated direction. The boy looked at her, cast a glance towards the lit entrance and went with her to show her the place.

“Here, along the alley,” she said after a pause.

“You were intrigued bay that detail,” the old lady said, turned to him and regarded him with the eye without the lens.

The kitten moved in the envelope and miawed.

“For a friend’s birthday,” explained the old lady lifting the envelope. “And why such curiosity about something that is brought by Nature to the state of instinct? she added, again looked at the boy searchingly and sighed dramatically.

“Further down,” he said and stepped back. He pointed at a medium-sized platform and went back towards the lit entrance of the restaurant.

“What did she want? asked the other bell-boy, indicating with a movement of his head in the direction of the disappeared old lady.

“Some nutty granny!”


“What does instinct mean?” the voice of the boy become shriller.

The other one shrugged shoulders.

“Something in the field of biology... Something you get from inside.”

“A, I read only newspapers,” he paused. “Occasionally I watch TV.”

The other bell-boy made no answer.

The old lady went along the cement pathway, downwards in the direction of the wide platform witch was lit by a lamp although night had not yet fallen. To the right was the restaurant basement, to the left another pathway connected the platform with the street. The old lady passed by two trash wagons, turned towards the basement and passed the handle of a metalically strengthened door. It did not yield. The old lady tried once or twice more and when she failed, she went back. On the other side, between the trash wagons and a parked lorry there, stood four of five ordinary trash bins. She sat on the pavement beside them and pedantically arranged at her side the paper bag with the kitten end the book. Then she got up and peed behind one of the trash bins. When she went back to her seat a mongrel poodle, much taller that is usual for its breed, was sniffing the bag with guarded curiosity. The kitten, bulging one of its ends, was raging.

“Off with you!” the old lady tried to shoo it off with her hand.

The dog wagged its tai, came nearer and sniffed her shoes. Its fur was matted and untrimmed.

Don’t bother that creature! the old lady bent down and lifted the bag. The cat slipped to the bottom, scratching the paper and miawing terribly.

“You see what you have done?!” the old lady sat down on the pavement, holding the envelope high. The dog came up, sniffed her knees and turned his nose towards one of her pockets.

“You have got lost,” she remarked, caressing him with her free hand and putting her palm on its collar.

The dog set on its haunches, its lower lip slightly sagged and revealed an inverted jaws-set with small even teeth.

“You are past your prime ,” the old lady went on, closing her lens-less eye.

The poodle inclined his head and fixed his eyes on her pocket. The old lady left the bag on the ground and put her hand inside her pocket freeling for the peanuts. The dog struck the ground with its tail, its front paws stomped in one place but it obediently remained in its place.

“We have mint drops for desert. I’m not leaving my dog in the mud.” She placed several peanuts in front of him. “But you are not to touch my kitten.”

The poodle, listening to her voice, again inclined his head.

“It’s our cat,” the old lady indicated the bag, tried to shove one peanut through one of the holes, ouched and with withdrew her finger.

“Our kitten!” she repeated, shaking her hand.

The poodle inclined its head to the other side.

The old lady spilled all the peanuts in front of the dog, tore the package and with the assiduity of a magician, turning it now to one side, then to the other, she showed it was empty; then she got up and threw the package into the trash bin. She sat down, this time on the book, and leaned upon the trash bin. She drew the bag to herself, the kitten raged, the mongrel crawled forward and put his head upon the old lady’s feet.

“Let’s take a rest for a little... I have never hoped I’ll have a kitten.”

The first to dose off was the old lady and after her the poodle dosed off too. The cat huddled in one corner of the bag and hushed down, too.
Two gypsies, a girl of about thirteen or fourteen, and boy of seven or eight with a nylon bag in hand, come up from the street and saw the lady while still moving along the path.

“She has collected everything,” whined the boy running after her.

The attention of the girl was wholly focused on the old lady and she did not respond.

“She has scavenged everything,” the boy complained again.

“She hasn’t,” slowly answered his sister.

The boy looked at her with hope and surprise. His shoe slipped off, he lagged behind while he was putting in on, and then he quickly caught up with his sister.

“There’s a dog with her,” she remarked. “Hush up!”

The boy folded carefully the nylon bag and shoved it into the pocket of his trousers.

“Begin from the other end!” the sister commanded.

Her brother obediently made for the first trash bin.

The poodle, his paws still on the feet of the old lady opened its eyes, raised its head, moved its nozzle towards the newcomers and did not react. The girl put her on the lid of the last but one bin, put the other on her waist and continued to study the Granny en the paper bag bulging beside her.

“There’s nothing,” the boy had rummaged the bin and made towards his sister.

“She has fled,” whispered the girl and withdrew from the lid so as not to be in the boy’s way.

Her brother gaped at her in admiration.

“Don’t hit her!” the sister added. “She hasn’t got a beg. Only a paper bag.”

The boy nodded agreement ant diligently took to examining the dustbin.

“Make no noise!”

The boy froze and only nodded. His sister went in the direction of the old lady, trying to tiptoe. The dog raised its head and with its eyes followed the approaching girl.

“Here! Grab this!” the boy took out a piece of bread from the garbage can and quietly tried to coax the dog.

The dog snarled and the old lady opened her eyes. The girl’s next stop made the poodle bark. The cat was startled, miawing fearfully she started scratching the paper bag. The girl leaned on the garbage can, delved into the pocket of her jacket and without taking her eyes off the old lady, clutched at something in it.

“It’s okay,” she said kindly and cautiously moved away from the garbage can. “We’re looking for something to eat.”

The old lady fixed her eyes on the figure with lean legs and slipshod high-heeled shoes.

“Is the dog yours?” asked the girl and stepped aside so the old lady could see it better.

The poodle sniffed vigorously in the direction of the children.

“You wont have dinner, don’t you?” the old lady asked.

The boy was now behind her back.

“Are you relatives?” she inquired and detached her back from the garbage can.

“Are you looking for something inside? the girl asked her in turn and almost reached the old lady without pulling her hand from her pocket.

The poodle squatted on its haunches.

“What is then cat doing with you?” cautiously and slowly, without taking her eyes off the dog, the girl sat down next to the moving hissing paper bag.

“Are you casting magic spells?” the brother squatted behind, next to the garbage can on which the old lady was learning.

The poodle moved off, sprawled in the center of the empty space, rested its head on its paws and stared at the people.

“You need to see the doctor on duty,” the old lady commanded in a tone brooking no objection.

“Let’s have a chat and get to know each other better,” said the girl. She cautiously got hold of the paper bag with the fingers of her free hand, lifted it, placed it on the other side and sat down next to the old lady. The cat tumbled and snarled ferociously.

“ The hospital attendant should wash you,” the old lady went on.

“Let’s put some lipstick on your lips. You have no idea how pretty you’ll look.” With a gentle movement, as if about to catch a bird, the girl pulled her hand out of her pocket. In her first she held a lipstick with a small mirror on the lid. The boy scratched his chest under his T-shirt, and still squatting, made one or two steps forward to have a better view of the proceedings.

“Do you do street-vendoring for a living?” the old lady inquired, took the lipstick in her hand and examined its colour in the dusk.

“We try to find some food in the cans and do begging for a living,” the boy explained from behind.

“The colour isn’t suitable for me.” The old lady gave back the lipstick and pushed away the girl’s hand.

“Let me put just a little on your lips and you’ll see in the mirror how pretty you will become,” the girl insisted and again pressed the opened lipstick on the old lady.

“Why isn’t the hospital attendant coming?”

“Once you put some on your lips and then you’ll want more of it.”

The old lady inclined her face towards the girl.

“Women of easy virtue lay in on thick...”

“Don’t be afraid. You won’t look like a woman of easy virtue.” The girl began rouging the old lady’ lips. “It’s very expensive. I had a hard time begging a woman to give in to me. When I put on just a bit of it, they immediately find me attractive. Now look at yourself!” and the girl turned the lid with the cracked small mirror towards the old lady.

The old lady covered with one hand her glassless eye and peered into the glittering lipstick.

The boy lifted his T-shirt and scratched himself so noisily that one could hear the rubbing of his nails upon his skin.

“Your son’s got the scabies. My colleagues often fail to localize it around the navel. We shall have to prescribe to him Peruvian balm...”

“Let me put some on your cheeks to make you rosy and pretty.” The girl laid on several red dots upon the old lady’s cheeks with the tip of the lipstick, stepped back to examine her work, then approached her once again and smeared the carmine on the two cheeks with the tip on her middle finger. “What a beauty you have become! Truly!” The girl solicited the opinion of her brother and put back the lipstick into her pocket. “Isn’t she a beauty ah?!”

“Twenty per cent Peruvian balm will do the job,” added the old lady.

The boy followed his sister’s hand with eyes and nodded absent-mindedly.

“Isn’t she a beauty?” the sister repeated her question.

“She is a beauty, okay,” the boy rose, knocking his head against the bent lid of the garbage can.

“What you need now is to pick up a rose and stick it behind your ear to complete your beautification. And I’ll give you hairpin as well.” The girl pulled from her head the hairpin supporting her bang of hair, showed in to the old lady and them stuck it back.

“Lilac become me,” the old lady livened up pulling the book and the paper bag closer to her and tried to get up. The cat miaowed.

“Are you going to steal lilac?” the boy stood close by his sister.

The old lady repeated her attempt to rise and succeeded. The boy touched his sister’s bulging pocket but she pushed away his hand.

“My, what a beauty you are!” said the girl.

“Let’s go.” The boy again tried to feel his sister’s pocket but she pushed away his hand and gave him a severe look.

A warm waft of air come along the pathway along which the children had come, caressed the three of them, passed off and left behind an unexpected cold spell. The boy shivered and sniffled.

Let’s forget all about para-influenza; I’m going to search for lilac.” The old lady beat the dust on the backside of her skirt, bent down and picked up the book and the paper bag. The cat slipped to the bottom without a sound.

“Nobody buys it,” confided the boy. “All day yesterday we’ve been selling lilac.”

“I know were to find it. Next to the girl with the basket...”

The dog rose, stretched a bit and joyfully wagged its tail.

“Going for a flirt, aren’t you?” the girl rather declared than asked.

The boy again gaped at his sister with admiration. The old lady looked down, tucked the book under her arm and stomped her feed in embarrassment.

“Let us take you to the lilac tree.” the girl offered.

The old lady again stomped about first with the one foot and then with the other, eyed the cover of the book with hesitation and again tucked in under her arm.

“”It’s near here, in fact it’s over there,” and the girl pointed downwards to the path, “you can get white, violet and dark-violet...”

“Lilac,” inserted the old lady.

“The white one is next to the water fountain where that woman is standing,” added the brother.

His siter nudged him sharply but he did not give out a groan. The old lady again stamped her feet. The cat in the paper bag stirred and stuck her muzzle into one of the holes for air.

“Only your shoes are ugly, if you are going courting,” added the girl. Shall I give you mine: they’re high-heeled.”

The old lady did not respond.

“Here, at least try them on if you like.” She took off one shoe and with the toe of her bare foot pushed it in the direction of the old lady. “They’re high-heeled,” she repeated. “You’ll be smashing to look at.”
“Ha! Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs!” With a hand the old lady covered her glassless eye and gingerly groped about on the next step. The broken heel of her shoe caved in and she staggered but recovered her balance. “I fell for their trademark: “Salamander’! Salamander’ indeed they are but there’s a nail sticking out...” The poodle rested its muzzle behind her leg.

“Careful! Don’t push me!” The old lady again covered her glassless eye with her hand and descended onto the next step. “Twice the cobbler hammers in the nail sticking out of the heel but it again sticks out. And if you have a nail sticking out in your shoe, you have a scratch, and if you are injured, you’ll surely get an infection, and infection leads to gangrene...”

The dog sniffed the paper bag with the cat inside and contentedly wagged its tail.

“High heels elongate the silhouette,” the old lady went one. “Osteoporosis lowers you silhouette. There are three stages in the prophylaxis of osteoporosis. The first is when the patient is fourteen...” The heel again caused her to stagger and she sighed with relief when she overcame the bottom step.

She was standing on a rather narrow concrete path running parallel to the river along whose banks, in lilac bushes grew. The old lady paused, touched the hair-pin with the rose stuck in it and turned her head first to the left of the alley, then to the right. From the righthand side there came the buzz from a crossroads with heavy traffic and one could already see the lit headlights of some cars. To the left the alley sank in the quiet dusk of the setting sun. The poodle sat down, chewed a flea in its tail and patiently waited for the old lady’s choice of direction. She stretched out a palm towards the sky as if expecting rain.

“We have lost our way” she withdrew her hand. “It’s always us that get lost,” she said and carefully looked around. “Good people, however are as common as blackberries,” she added briskly. “... are as common as blackberries.” Her voice broke a little. “Or aren’t as common as blackberries. How did the proverb go?” The old lady pondered somewhat uneasily. “As for the important things, we begin to... hm,” she added.

Scampering along the alley from the left came an Alsatian dog on a leash, followed by an 18-19 year-old youth.

“But who remembers everything!? When we check, when we ask others, truth will come out,” the old lady went on.

The poodle moved away from the path, stood behind her and leant on her legs. The youth swerved along the alley down which she had come while the poodle leant to her even closer.

“Excuse me,” the old lady stretched out her hand towards the youth, “can you remember the proverb...”

The youth almost stopped and looked about in surprise, annoyance and disgust the broken spectacles, the rose, stuck in the old lady’s hair with an enormous hairpin and the ridiculously painted cheeks. The old lady clicked her tongue, smiled affectedly and broadly, and with even greater surprise he noticed her well kept teeth.

“... folk adage...” In her excitement the old lady inhaled deeply through her nose, froze and seemed to lose the thread of her thought. With her eyes still on the youth, she again inhaled deeply, again through her nose, smacked her lips as if tasting expensive wine, her eyes shone with curiosity and surprise, and as if to make sure of her supposition she inhaled several more times in the same frequent manner and even protruded her face forward as if she was a connoisseur having come upon a rare find.

”Ha!” she exclaimed. “Did you murder him?! There?!” she pointed with a crooked forefinger along the alley, to the left from where the youth had come. “Did you murder someone there?!”

The youth was petrified, pulled unnecessarily at the dog’s leash, turned round and looked to assure himself that there was nobody around.

“I am asking in order to avoid stepping in him if you have left him in the pathway,” added the old lady. “Oh, a thoroughbred Alsatian!” She covered her glasses eye and bend over the youth’s dog politely.

The youth attempted to say something but only a gurgling sound came out of his throat; he pulled at the leash again and moved off. The poodle waited for the two gain some distance, barked curtly, looked at the woman and wagged its tail.

The old lady started moving with the suddenness of a wound mechanical toy, turning left into the darkness of the pathway. As she passed some ten paces she lifted the paper bag and shook it slightly. The cat tried to keep its balance and scratched the paper.

“It’s alive the dear one,” rejoiced the old lady. “Oh, but my husband will scold me for walking in unlit place.” She shook her head in disapproval and speeded up her pace. “I feel guilty,” she added, “even sinful. He doesn’t lake cats. I bought it on purpose, being crossed with him over a trifle and now I feel sinful.”

She become aware of the approaching youth only when the poodle stuck in between her legs and tripped her. She managed to turn round but he was already holding her by the collar. He pulled her back, pushed her aside, the buttons of her jacket were torn off, clattered on the pavement, the book slipped from under her arm, bumped on the ground and opened. The poodle barked and hid in the nearby bush.

Still shaking, the old lady said: “Please, hand me over the textbook.”

The youth let go of her, she lost her balance, swaying, and he had to grab her again under the arm.

“The textbook!” she repeated and though her left hand was immobile she managed to transfer the paper bag to it, thus removing it from the Alsatian.

The cat miaowed barely audibly as if it had gotten reconciled to the changes.

“No need to start picking the buttons now,” the old lady added. “At home we have a whole box full of buttons.”

The youth let go of her arm. The old lady inhaled his smell and seemed to remember something.

“Weren’t you... the killer? she asked.

“Haw do you know?! the youth clutched at her elbow and bent down over her.

“Oh!” she interjected. “About the crime, you mean?” and she helplessly swayed on her high-heeled shoes.

“About the old man!”

“What old man?!” the old lady fingered pensively the rose in her hair.

The youth stepped back and looked confused.

“So your victim is a man,” and she gestured in direction of the alley. “Was he sitting on a bench?”

The youth dryly clicked his mouth.

“Just when I’m most in a hurry!” the old lady made as it to bend down to collect the book but become aware that she would have a difficult job getting up on her new shoes and gave up the effort. ”The textbook, if you please,” she said. “Now I have to provide first aid!”

“Had I been talking outloud?!” again with anger, fear and helplessness the youth shook the old lady.

“I’ll also drop my dentures!” Annoyed, she tried to release herself from the hand fastly clutching her but as she failed in doing so she approached the youth suddenly and smelled him. ”You smell of fear now! First you smelled of crime and now you smell of fear...”

The youth let her go and made a step backwards.

“But one follows after the other, what am I wondering at?! First the crime and then the fear of punishment,” the old lady went on monotonously.

“What follows what?!

“Did you kill him or not actually?” The old lady covered her glassless eye with her hand and peered at the youth as if he were a museum exhibit with minute details. He scented her breath.

“I did not.”

“You are a likable chap!” she swerved rapidly, took his cheek between her fingers and pinched it. “You are a good boy...”

The youth pushed back her hand in disgust.

“You only felt like doing it...” she made a gesture at her throat as if cutting it with a knife and clicked her tongue.

The youth did not reply and stepped back.

“Did you wont to rob him? the old lady went on asking.

The youth bent down, picket up the book, closed it and handed it to her.

“Eh?” her head inclined to one side, she peered at his face and paid no attention to the book.

“No, no,” he again shoved it into her hands.

“Only doing it... this way?!”

He nodded in the affirmative without lifting his eyes.

“Only men? Or women, too? Me, for example?”

“Men,” the youth replied.

“But you haven’t done it so far?” she repeated the gesture with the throat slitting and the clicking of the tongue.

The youth shook his head in the negative and gave her a guilty look.

“Nor in any other way?” the old lady added and took the book.

“Uhu,” the youth denied.

The old lady fingered the thread of the torn buttons and pensively twirled it with the fingers of her free hand. The youth straightened the shoulder of her jacket which had slipped.

“Do you have telepathic ability?” she asked.

“Does the man on the bench have moustaches?” the old lady said shyly as if asking about a special secret.

“Moustaches?!” The youth wound the leash of the dog round his wrist to hold him close. “You seem to have exrtasense powers.” He noted.

“Is your father a drunkard? Or is hi gravely ill?” The old lady now began fingering the thread of the next button.

“He’s drunkard,” the youth grew pale and sat down on the glass.

“He wants to knife your mother?”

“He does,” he repeated like an echo.

“Your complaint is curable,” the old lady said with envy.

“What is curable?”

“Your compulsive obsessions. A few anti-depressants, a little psychotherapy,” the envy warped the old lady’s lips.

“Let me take you to your place and if you are ill, let me carry your luggage,” the boy rose and reached out for the paper bag. The cat inside hissed and he withdrew his hand.

“The cat, too, has smelled fear,” the old lady eyed him with bitterness. “People smell of four things,” she raised her free hand and showed four spread fingers. “Of aggression, of fear, of cleanliness and of dirt. I beg your pardon,” she corrected herself. “They smell of five things: they also smell of love,” and she crooked her thumb.

“Can I do... that?” with a discreet gesture the youth indicated throat cutting.

“Throughout my life I was devoid of smells,” the old lady complained. “Ambitions. It’s true, the gunpowder of love calls up memories. The rope reminds one of fear, the dead body in the poodle evokes dirt, however,” she shook her head, “the shades are lost. Let us move off,” the old lady fingered the rose in her hair and hurried again. “There could have been nuances in the smell of dead flesh, too, but soft on love as I am, I didn’t have the time to study them. To get to know them.”

The youth wheezed.

“Come on, come on,” with annoyance and impatience the old lady urged him to get up from the grass. “Do you think I am a member of the ,Georgi Kirkov, Society?! A cold with obsessions. And and Alsatian - dog-wolf. See what transference of obsession of a criminal nature! Ha! Treating yourself! Ha! Psychiatrists are busy chasing nurses all day long and the taxpayer naturally...”

The quarrelsome tone gave courage to the poodle who got out from under the bush, shook its head, and started barking at the Alsatian.

“Shut up!” the youth pulled at the dog leash. The Alsatian growled and bared his teeth.

“Here, now!” The old lady was about to move off but she stood still and pointed her finger at the snarling Alsatian. “Listening to your obsessions, the psychotherapist only become more confused. However, the Alsatian does not listen to you he smells your obsessions and one fine day he carries them out,” she said.

The boy was about to get up but he again dropped on the grass, pressed the back of the dog, and squatted next to him.

“Tell it not to bark,” he asked of the old lady and indicated the poodle.

“Not to bark?!” In her annoyance the old lady moved the paper bag into her other hand and the cat miaowed inside. “And who then carries the can?” she was at a loss for words.

“Carries the can,” the youth helped her out.

“Yes, the can. Let us assume that was the right word. “Now, I...” she knocked on her chest which was uncovered by the jacket. A hollow sound was heard. “Who will then write lists of missing parts? Me again!” she again knocked on her chest. “It is just as well to sign yourself as a witness to living persons. They themselves tell you what’s missing: a finger, a nose, a ear... People are quite clear as to their missing parts. Usually they are. But what if the dog has fulfilled the command perfectly? Shall I describe then which part of the liver is gone? Which cartilage is medially fractured? And after three months, exhumation! Naturally! The investigating magistrate and the independent experts most naturally come to suspect that the person has not been torn up and eaten but poisoned and drowned instead! What?!”

“I shall be going.” The youth got up.

“Of course, you’ll be going: the criminal is the first to go away.” With surprise she began examining the paper bag as if she was seeing it for the first time. “The exhumation also shows that the hospital attendant has stuffed

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