THE GREEN SONG OF LEAFLESS BRANCHES – Short Story by Vagif Sultanly / Translated from Azerbaijani by Javid Abbasli

Short Story by Vagif Sultanly
The sound of black fifes moved people out of their houses and brought them to the wedding tent attracting them like a miracle. People were hurrying like ants to the place from which this sound was coming.
Granny Sona was staying at the side of the wedding tent. Her face and eyes were full of the suffering of the world. The sound of black fifes was shaking her soul like a black wind. A while ago this sound had attracted her to the wedding tent from her bed despite her disease. But now the granny heard not the sound attracting her here but an alien sound she had never heard before.
Nobody could remember her at a wedding party before; she was staying in an invisible part of the tent, secretly listening and leaving the tent.
Sona lost everything under the impact of this sound. She could hear nothing except it… Where was this sound was coming from? Suddenly her imagination flew to her childhood and lit the far darkness of her memory.
… In a sunny spring day when the trees were blossoming, little Sona was playing hide-and-seek with children; she hid among the dense branches of the mulberry-tree and nobody could find her. Looking for her, children roamed everywhere in vain and returned home. Suddenly Sona cried and jumped off the tree and her flowery frock was stuck on a branch and torn. Sona lost her balance and fell down on her neck.
She remembered this event very well.
After being treated Sona continued playing hide-and-seek. As the years were passing the children grew up but Sona didn’t for she had a growing hump on her back.
Now, remembering those days, she was gingerly observing the tent. The bride was sitting, veiled, in the upper part of the tent. Suddenly granny Sona felt a strange loneliness among these familiar people. She wanted to run back being afraid of the cooling of her death bed which she had left but this fear but this anxiety lasted only for a moment and she repeatedly appeared under the miracle of that sound.
Sona had not heard that voice for a long time. As this voice spread in her soul and spirit, granny Sona was getting younger and beautiful. As if, this wedding party was held not for Latif, Gara Samid’s son, and Gulsum, the herder’s daughter, but for Sona and orphan Ismi.
Orphan Ismi bade farewell to her in a moony August night under the mulberry-tree she had fallen off. Leaving for the war orphan Ismi asked Sona to wait for him and promised to work and collect money, construct a house and marry her. Now, granny Sona forgot that orphan Ismi didn’t return from the war and she became bent while waiting for him.
Nobody of Sona’s generation now survived; only she had avoided death, waiting for orphan Ismi. This separation so long ago hung in her memory and half a year ago Sona said “goodbye” to the world and went to her death bed.
The black fife was playing. Young women and girls were dancing. Granny Sona saw nobody and nobody saw her. This sound penetrated into her bones and they danced by themselves.
People got tired of dancing and sat down.
The dancing square was empty. Fife-player Gara was playing a doleful tune. People listening to this tune forgot about dancing and were sitting around amusing themselves.
The fife-player got tired and stopped.
Granny Sona couldn’t stop, her extremities, heart and eyes were dancing. Suddenly granny Sona found herself in the middle of the square. Humpbacked Sona was dancing without music. The fife-player gave out a gasp; his fife was lying on his knees not knowing whether to laugh, cry or play.
At that moment the fife-player pulled himself together and started to play a tune suitable for Sona’s dancing. However, he couldn’t catch her rhythm because she was dancing under the rhythm of a tune heard only by her. Playing this tune on any instrument was impossible.
Sona was dancing opposite to the bride. As if, she tried to move the bride out of the tent and sit at her place.
The herder’s daughter was bitterly crying. However, her tears were invisible under the veil. Nobody dared catch Sona’s arm and move her out of the tent. Everybody was amusedly waiting for the end of her dancing.
Suddenly, whilst dancing, Sona began to laugh. Gradually the people joined in with her. The tent became full of noise. People looking at Sona fell about laughing. But she continued dancing and laughing without caring about anybody. The fife-player failed to find her rhythm and fifed a strange music. Dancing, Sona left the tent and going out of the yard appeared on the white road passing through the village.
The people started to follow Sona. She was dancing barefoot losing her torn boots. Her old black kerchief had fallen onto her shoulders making her bare-headed.
Gara fifing a strange tune tried to reach Sona but failed. People tried to make Sona return but failed. Sona was dancing and going away.
Suddenly Sona stopped dancing; her hump completely disappeared. Now she was dancing straight; the humpbacked granny turned into a tall woman.
As Sona stood straight, the strange music fifed by Gara stuck on his lips and finger tips. Now this music sounded in Sona’s ears more clearly. Ardently dancing, as if Sona was trying to leave the Earth and disappear like a ghost.
The strangest night of the world would come tomorrow; the autumn rains starting from the evening would continue for a week and wash the houses, trees and roads. But granny Sona wouldn’t know it.
Tomorrow night, orphan Ismi would call her to the mulberry tree and embrace her under it, protecting her from the autumn rain. But granny Sona didn’t know it.
In the night tomorrow the mulberry-tree would lose its last leaves under the cold rain and never have leaves again.
But granny Sona wouldn’t know it.
Translated from Azerbaijani by Javid Abbasli

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