LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 37, No.4 - Winter 1991
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
Copyright © 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Around noon a huge cloud covered the whole sky, and the foreman invited to his house the men who had too far to walk home for lunch.
"I didn't cook anything today; I was doing my wash all morning. And now this rain...", said the foreman's wife, who had just brought in a load of wash from outside.
She lit the fire while her husband was setting the table right there in the kitchen and, a little embarrassed, he motioned for the men to sit down.
"Will it clear up?" asked the old-timer Rimulis reaching for the cheese.
"I wonder," responded Milašius.
"And what do you think?" Rimulis turned to Lukštas.
"Me I just don't think at all," answered Lukštas pulling the cheese toward himself.
"Eat, go ahead eat," the foreman's wife urged them and, after throwing a guilty glance at her husband, tried to justify herself again, "I was doing my wash, I had no time to come up with something better."
"I wish the good Lord would give me such a wife!" said Rimulis twisting his moustache, "Pretty as a rose, hard-working as a bee."
"Shush, you old one!" laughed Milašius. "I wish you were as quick at work as you are with women!"
"What's wrong with me?" the old Rimulis winked to foreman's wife, "There is no end to work, but everyone likes to pick some ripe berry."
The foreman's wife smiled at the ancient Rimulis; then, she cleared the table and walked over to the shelf.
"My wedding ring!" she ventured aloud suddenly and, frightened, she turned to face her husband. "When I was doing the wash, I took off my wedding ring and placed it here."
"Are you sure it's gone?"
"I am not blind, am I?" the woman was getting upset. "My wedding ring was lying right here."
The foreman's glance ran around all the men and suddenly old Rimulis got up to leave.
"Where are you going?"
"I have to."
"O.K., I'll wait as long as I can," Rimulis gave in. "Pranas, what are you going to tell us then?"
"The ring did not just walk off on its own that's what I am telling you," the foreman said down-heartedly. "All right, men, you had your fun, let there be an end to it. Whoever took the ring, put it back, and we shall not mention it again."
"And if ..." Lukštas started.
"We shall have to search each other," the foreman said forcefully.
"You can search me, but, before you do that, you have to go to the county and bring a warrant from the public prosecutor!" broke in Milašius.
"And if...", continued Lukštas, "if nobody took the ring? O.K., we shall search each other, and then the ring will turn up somewhere under the bench or under a cupboard ... Well, what then?"
"Indeed, what then?" Rimulis agreed with him.
The foreman looked under the bench, under the little cup-board, then straightened up. His face looked stubborn and determined.
"The ring did not just walk off on its own," the foreman repeated.
"I will, I will," Rimulis blurted out suddenly and began to turn out his pockets. His voice trembled.
"No!" screamed the foreman's wife. "It's not necessary!" She turned to her husband with tears in her eyes. "Let's just forget that ring! I don't want any search, I don't want anything ..."
They all fell silent. The silence was even heavier than the tears of the good woman. Lukštas had to say,
"Indeed, there is no need for a search."
"Then how?" asked the foreman.
"Here is how: we shall all write down what we each did, until we were asked to the table. Let's write it clearly and briefly. The lie will come out right away."
"Let's do it!" Their faces lit up.
"You're better off, Lukštas, you take correspondence courses from Vilnius. You're smarter than we are," Rimulis said respectfully.
Outside, it kept raining.
The men wrote bending low over the table. The pencils seemed to bend in their large farmers' hands.
After having completed the task they pushed their pieces of paper toward the foreman's wife.
"Start with me, my beauty," asked Rimulis.
"Read them in order," Milašius grumbled grimly.
"O.K., in order ... Lukštas. "I entered the house and sat down on a bench near the door. I hurt my hand on a fork, and I asked the hostess for a clean bandage. She said, " "Look for it on the shelf. "" I approached Rimulis and asked him to tie the bandage. The old geezer said, ""You're crazy: you need some first aid cream."" After my hand was bandaged, we were asked to come and eat.' "
"Now, read mine," Rimulis broke in.
"You can wait!"
"I'll wait as long as I can. But not too long already."
"Milašius. 'I did not take the ring because I didn't go anywhere near the shelf. I was sitting next to Rimulis. I found an old newspaper lying on the windowsill and in it I read about the atomic bomb the Americans had lost in Spain. Then Pranas wanted to pull the bench closer to the kitchen table, and I got up, and so did Rimulis. Lukštas stood up, too; he had come with his dirty bandages and I told him, ""Get out of here with those wounds; I can't stand the sight of blood."" But he told me to get the scissors: Rimulis had not gotten enough bandages for him. I gave him the scissors. Apparently, I was close to the shelf, but I did not take the ring."
"It's my turn now," Rimulis said impatiently.
"In the outer room, I took off my wet jacket, and Lukštas started laughing at me because I was wearing a woman's sweater. I really don't like to dress up for work, therefore I do wear those clothes which my late wife left me. I was sitting next to Milašius, and he smoked my last cigarette. While I was bandaging Lukštas' hand, I searched through the entire shelf for some first aid cream. At that time I even checked the quality of the ring, but we were asked to the table. I want to thank our hostess for the cheese."
The woman finished reading.
"The scissors!" the foreman said then, "Lukštas had asked for scissors and Milašius gave them to him. Who put them back? Did you, Rimulis?"
There was that tense silence in the room again.
"I put the scissors back," Lukštas suddenly blurted out. "I took the ring," he was smiling. "I picked it up and let it fall into this here pocket." There was an apron hanging near the cupboard.
Keeping her eyes on Lukštas's eyes, the foreman's wife stuck her hand into the apron's pocket and took out the ring.
They were all stunned.
"It's because of that rain," said Lukštas still smiling. "I was figuring: this rain won't stop, and we'll all get bored waiting ... I figured it out right, didn't I? You see, we never got bored! That rain ..."
Lukštas was glancing all around, but nobody was looking at him.
"I was just joking!" shouted Lukštas then. "It was raining, it was pouring."
Nobody would look at him, and then Lukštas realized that he was alone, all alone in the house full of people; all alone and not wanted.
Translated by D.S.D.