by Andrei Mocuța
Translation from Romanian by Nigel Walker and Cristina Baciu, MTTLC student
pentru versiunea română click aici
Șercan was the last descendant of the Sher Khan tribe located somewhere in Eastern Africa. The following pieces of information are not meant to be strictly biographical and it would give me great pleasure if the readers considered not only the story but their inner selves.
When a child is born in the Sher Khan tribe, the day of birth is not what matters most for the parents, nor is it the day when the baby was conceived, but the moment when the child first materialized as a thought in the mother’s mind. This is believed to be the day when the baby was truly born.
When Tamika became aware that she wanted a child, she went under the tribe totem tree and began to listen and wait for the moment when she would hear the song of the child who wanted to be born out of her heart. When the child sings the song, the mother starts to sing it too. In the evening, she goes back to the village and sings it to her beloved, so when they are to be united in love, they shall sing it to the child together, calling him to be born.
While the baby is developing in her womb, the mother murmurs the song like a mantra to welcome Șercan into the world, when the heavens curve, with the unmistakable sound of his own song.
Șercan is born, and the entire village has learned his song. Every time he runs around and scratches his elbow or knee, someone picks him up and, as soon as they start singing it to him, the tears miraculously disappear.
– It’s what Cumulus clouds look like, Tamika whispered to Șercan while holding him in her arms. Look how quickly they move on the sky! Mmm, they look like tiny cauliflower blossoms.
– Cuuumuuuluuus, Șercan said.
– Do you want to nibble on some Cumulus? Tamika said, laughing as she caressed Șercan’s belly with her hand. My little trophy! she said to the child’s belly.
– Say aaaaaaaah…
Șercan was sucking his left thumb as Tamika reached onto the sky and grabbed a fresh piece of Cumulus. She tempted Șercan by handing him a few blossoms she held between her thumb and her index finger, but the boy kept sucking his thumb, until Tamika smacked it. She only managed to get the child to give the finger up after she smacked it more vigorously. Then, she noticed: the nail had been removed and the tip chewed on until it bled.
– Tongue out!
Șercan smiled stupidly and, frightened, turned his head to one side and showed her his red tongue. Tamika placed the Cumulus blossoms on it.
– Now swallow!
Șercan kept his tongue out.
– If you don’t swallow, it will melt. Don’t you want it?
Tamika took a second serving of Cumulus and made a ball out of it. Șercan looked at the round cloud with wide eyes and started to drool.
– You’ll get one too, when your nail grows back.
– Sssuuuluuuluuusss, Șercan mumbled.
Tamika stuffed the half-melted cloud in his mouth.
– Yeah, we call everything Cumulus around here. We are that kind of people.
The hut in which Șercan lived with his parents had a pleasant look and was covered in green moss. Rather oval than round shaped because of the green fluffy moss, it looked like a giant tennis ball. Just in case the thought crossed your mind, the answer is yes – Șercan did try to eat the hut.
Another thing: the hut came with a frog at the entrance. Who knows if it was real or not – the truth is that it looked very alive. Anyone sticking his neck out with the conviction that the frog was real might well be left without it. The frog went RIBBET, RIBBET. The oddest thing: it didn’t move, as if it had been born and would eventually die there.
Every time someone stepped on it, the frog blinked and uttered RIBBET. The clever Tamika glued a note on the frog’s back, which read “doorbell”. The visitors could step on the frog whenever they pleased. But I’m not saying it was the only doorbell in the Sher Khan tribe.
The frog business had its shortcomings. Whenever Șercan was asleep, someone would step on the frog and the RIBBETS would wake him up. The passers-by couldn’t resist stepping on the frog, as well. Șercan wondered why everybody stepped on the frog.
There was only one person who had a special relationship with the frog, which they used only to call the family to dine in the garden or in case someone accidentally locked themselves out. Otherwise, that person – she – stepped gently on it when her son was asleep. Tamika rarely stepped on the frog.