LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 34, No. 3 - Fall 1988
Editor of this issue: Antanas Dundzila
Copyright © 1988 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
AUTHOR LOOKS FOR A WAY OUT
translated by Rasa S. Avižienis
Editorial introduction: Juozas Aputis (1936- ), a writer of short stories, has been publishing in Lithuania since 1963. His stories portray mostly village life, they combine fantasy and reality, he often tends to spotlight the prevailing mood.
It's like this: on a hill alongside Garspjaunis' marsh, there's a large silage pit. It's, the first part of June, which means that summer has begun. The larks hover in the air a long time because their nests are already empty. At each end of the silage pit there is an incline, made so that small tractors with trailers can easily drive in one end and out the other. It's not a big job, it seems, and there's enough help two tractor drivers, one of whom is very stocky. His knotted neck is very stubby. Perhaps because a year ago, another driver, who's also in the silage pit (a second year college student who has large, somewhat bulging eyeballs) pulled some stunt on a cross beam; the drunk driver wanted to do the same but couldn't. He plunged from the beam head first cracking his neck. The driver let out a thundering bellow. But, as we can see he's recovered; the roughneck just acquired more backbone.
The other driver is such a shortie he's not worth talking about. His eyes are so blue. He appears to be a pansy, but that's not so. His whole head is covered with leathery scars. Not one Sunday goes by that he doesn't get into a fight and someone cracks his head open with an iron bar or a rock.
So that we don't have to repeat it later, we'll say it now: Shortie is the one who'll hold the legs of the tallest one here. The tall one is a timid kid whose neck is very pale and long; he's always gazing off somewhere. He doesn't eat or he needs little. He only chews a thick blade of grass. Smacking his lips, the other one the roughneck gobbles down bacon with bread.
Five men are needed for this incident to take place, so there's also a fifth man: together with the tall milksop and the naive-eyed student. The fifth man helps spread the grass that the tractor drivers bring and then drives two horses back and forth to stomp it down. Those words are alive in the silage pit and no one uses any others. The fifth one is as thin as a stick, but he has iron hands. His big pleasure in life is to squeeze some kid's hand with his iron fist and slowly tighten it so that the kid starts whining. The stick then says, "I'll keep squeezing 'til it runs down your leg ... "
This one here, with his iron nails, will soon be twisting the student's hands.
There are also two broads helping them out. We could also mention their names out of respect for the female sex. The swarthy taller one is Jogasė; she's probably best known for saying to any man looking at her somewhat more intently, "When you looks at me yer eyes lights up ..."
The second one is the older one; her name is Vincė. She has four kids by four different fathers. She's noted for a scheme against an accountant, one of her kids' fathers, when he was fired from work and had to leave the meeting hall. Vincė lined up her assistants along the walls to prevent the accountant from jumping out the windows so that whether he liked it or not he had to go out the door where Vincė stood with a piece of stove wood. It wasn't so bad that he got soundly thrashed. What was worse was that word of this blessing of her's was on the tip of everyone's tongue and followed him far and wide.
Now it's lunch time. Vincė and Jogasė are finished eating and are sitting facing the men. Jogasė is laughing and looking around to see whose eyes are lit up while Vincė is calm and content as a cat.
The roughneck crammed the last bite into his mouth and glanced at Jogasė. Then the tall milksop, who was still sucking that blade of grass and standing off to the side, got on his nerves.
"Why don't you ever eat lunch?" asked the roughneck.
The milksop turned red the man's damned shyness!
"Don't want to ..."
"Why don't you want to?"
The milksop shrugged his shoulders.
"Maybe you don't like women either?" the roughneck blurted as if spitting out a blob of grease.
The fellow turned even redder.
"Oh, maybe you're not a man?" the redneck didn't let up and now stood.
"Don't..." Jogasė tried to intercede.
"Maybe his eyes light up too?", shot back the redneck becoming even more enraged for some reason.
"Hey, maybe you really? ... " he approached the milksop and grabbed him by the arm. He tried to get away, but the roughneck caught by a blind fury threw him down on the silage not far from where the horses stood with their heads hung low. The fellow jumped up but was angrily flattened again.
"So you bastard, we'll see what you've got since you don't eat lunch."
It seems that it was only now that everyone noticed the student who jumped over to the roughneck, grabbed him by his shirt and wanted to pull him away. Both girls turned away even though they were secretly watching.
With one swing, the roughneck flung the student aside. He jumped up again but once more was sent headlong by a strong blow. The roughneck now yelled to the bean pole, "What the hell do you have iron fists for? Hold that idiot and you'll help me," he motioned to the scar faced truck driver. He flew over to help, and the second one with the iron fingers bent the student's arms behind his back and twisted them so hard that tears began streaming from the student's naive eyes.
The driver with the scarred head straddled the milksop's legs, and the roughneck pinned his shoulders to the ground leaving his own hands free. The boy groaned, grunted and squirmed under the two bodies that reeked of gasoline.
The student tried to break loose, but iron fingers were twisting his hands so painfully that the pain made him fall to his knees. He still tried to crawl closer to the roughneck, but now his one arm was twisted so hard that he broke out in a cold sweat and turned pale. With bulging eyes, he looked at the green marshes in the distance and one thought rang in his mind, "What can I do now? What is my place in this silage pit?" With that thought, he tried with all his might to crawl to the smelly roughneck, but the stabbing pain forced him to yelp for the first time, "Now what am I supposed to do? What is my place in that pit?" Cold sweat streamed down his face and now he thought, "I've only one way out to lock up and chain my eternal hate . . . Only that..."
"Everything's okay, just as it should be," said the roughneck panting as he raised himself from the milksop. The second driver also got up. He released the student's hands. The milksop retreated to the side and turned his back to everyone. As he straightened his clothes, he laughed insanely. The three inquisitioners stared dully at each others' faces. Jogasė tried to giggle, but Vincė slapped her face.
The pale student approached the girls and in a voice that somehow sounded like it wasn't his own said, "Take off! ..."
And that's the whole story. The author simply couldn't find another way out: What do you do when you meet iron-fettered villany empty handed? The author supports the student's thinking but doesn't necessarily force it on others. Each is free to make his own decision.