"The traitor’s bullet" By Ismayil Shixli

When Niftaly kokha changed the horse’s pasture he wanted to take the saddle and wash the sweat of his loin with the water of the ditch as before, but he changed his mind. He put the horse in harness with his saddle on and also pulled the harness nearer –down the ditch. He knew that it was hot , the horse was in blood and sweat, but he had no other way –out. He would tie his horse wherever he liked , would often change his pasture , would not let him perspire ( or sweat ) . He would unsaddle him in order let him sometimes take breath , sometimes graze , sometimes rear up, sometimes rush into the herd pulling out the peg . Being insatiable of looking at ardent eyed horse’s shining skin , quivering back , his soft mane like maiden fringe ( or hair ) Niftaly would mostly mount the horse grasping him, would bathe it riding directly the Kur and would mostly cross the opposite side riding. Then he and his horse had no fear .He was both young ,and … But now , especially, after becoming kokha he lived anxiously…
He walked up the hill slowly . Jumping over the ditch ( or stepping over the narrow aryk ) he stood in the shade of the trees . He gazed at the cornfields stretching to the horizon ( or skyline ). It was breezing softly ( There was a soft breeze in the air ). Black awned spikes were rustling. Also the leaves of paired poplers were rustling in the middle of these hilly grey fields with their grass long withered. Also the water of the ditch running from the feat of the trees ones planted for a good deed by a godly man who passed away was purling . Niftaly kokha looked at the palaz , a little mattress and cushion left in the shade . When visiting reapers he would always rest here ( or lie and relax here ) . And now as usual he wanted to lean his elbow to the cushion lying on the palaz with his gun on . Though the heat was suffocating he wanted neither take off his boots , nor put aside his rifle . But he saw that it was impossible , he was breaking into a sweat . And who would he be afraid of ? Kerem must be in the vicinity of Dilijan at the moment , evidently he is not here in such a hot summer. Though he be here , they will be no fear. He would never shoot at barehanded person. He only apprehended that boy. After having run away from the village he was wandering here,in the shrubby lands.
He leaned his rifle against the tree, took off his boots, loosed the buttons of his shirt with laced collar and leaned his elbow to the cushion lying on the palaz. The sickle of the reapers wearing handkerchiefs knotted in the end on their heads were clanking. These clanks mixed the rustles of the straws. The reapers were in a hurry. They wanted to finish their work quickly and thresh their share just here-in the lowland, in the threshing-floor and took the corn to the summer houses, to their children. Niftaliy kokha was in a hurry too. The people went to the summer houses long ago. But he hadn’t removed yet. To tell the truth, he was afraid of staying in the village alone. There are so many cruel people. New comer-Murshud was one of them.
Nobody new his origin in the village. Only it was known that many years ago there stood a pitiful sad looking boy with patched clothes, as hungry as a hunter at Niftaly’s gate. He was holding a hand-stick, there was a shabby saddle-bag on his shoulder and he had a cap with cast feathers on his head. His fuzz stood on end, his lips got crusted over. His eyes glimmered faintly like the wather in the bottom of the well. Hearing a noise they went out, shouted at the dogs and asked the man standing at the gate: “ Who are you?” Niftaly’s father put on his sheepskincoat , went outdoors, with his son, looked at that lamblike creature who came here losing his way and understood that he wasn’t an indigenous man. One could often see such people on those latter days. Either they would come here after killing their enemies or roum from place to place for a piece of bread. The man gazed at the boy from head to foot attentively and thought: “ No, he doesn’t look like a murder. He must have another problem.” As a matter of fact, the man disliked the boy’s hollow eyes.
As if stranger noticed it and realizing that he would be returned on the eve of winter he said pitifully:
― I ’m a refugee. I have nobody.
The man looked at his son’s face and Niftaly stared at the refugee’s toe being seen from his torn bast shoe. ― Who pointed our house to you? ― Nobody. I ’ve come here by accident(to find a shelter or with the hope of finding a refuge). I have come to you.( I had no other choise)
Father and son looked at each other.
― What is your name?
― Murshid.
God knows, whether he was right or not. He had no paper , no witness, he was a new-comer. And from that day he was called as “ New-comer Murshid “ in the village.
At first he took care of the cattle,then he went to field cropping. They became bosom friends with Niftaly. After his father’s death Niftaly gave him the land, too. They also joined their effort and built a little hut, and he also presented him a horse taking from the cattle. He married him off one of the kindred girls(or one of his relatives) and set up house to him.
New-come Murshid was brisk. After driving a profit he began to go to Tiflis and Ganja. His living got better and he became hale.
One day Niftaly heard that Murshid tormented his wife. He doesn’t come home for weeks, he carouses in town and he doesn’t look after his children. Niftaly felt sorry for them. He called him to his house. He waited for him for several days, but there was no reply from Murshid. One day they came across.
― Where have you been?( haven’t seen you for ages)
―What’s the matter? Is my presence important?
―I may have something to tell you.
―What word can you have to tell me?
―Don’t brag!
―Why must I keep silence?
The horses snorted gnawing the saddle. They whirled on their hind legs standing opposite to each other. The dust of the road rose.
― You seem to become impudent.
You gave yourself airs.
―Hold your jaw, what do you want?
Niftaly suppressed his anger with difficulty.
―If I hear you hit your family again, I shall kill you. Did you get me?
―Stop this nonsense!
―Hound ! Don’t answer back !
No sooner had the whip cracked than Murshid fell down near the horse’s nail. Niftaly kokha beat him just sitting on the horse. The horse also getting angry as his owner stepped on him. Kokha’s anger didn’t cool down. He jumped from the saddle. He collared the new –comer writhing in the dust and dragged him aside from the road. The dagger sparkled in the air.
― I was wrong. Niftaly , don’t kill me, take pity on my children.(have a mercy on my children) Please, for your father’s grave, forgive me , you would do a good deed.
Kokha lowered his hands. He looked scornfully at Murshid’s faintly glimmering eyes like the water in the bottom of the well and removed his hands from his collar.
―Go,I let you go for the sake of your family.
Murshid stood up without a word. He beat out the dust of his clothes and holding saddle mounted the horse silently. He rode towards the village for a while and suddenly turned back pulling the saddle.
―Never mind,kokha, I swear on my honesty ( manhood) that I shall revenge you.( If I don’t revenge you I am not an honest man)
Turning the horse he screamed till Niftaly came to himself. You can come and take the bitch that you made me marry. He disappeared on the dusty road till kokha turned his rifle. And the next day he heard that Murshid had run away. After becoming kokha Niftaly would have to offend the people willy-nilly. Though he tried to be far from the lawcourt and not to be noticed by them he couldn’t achieve it. They would find and scold him for not catching the thieves,for the peoples’ giving bread to outlaws, for allowing Outlaw Kerem cross the Kur and go to the summer house. But saying and doing are two things. It is difficult to deteriorate relations with the people for such things. The post is like a bondage. If you hold a post, they will make you do whatever they want. You must either bear it, or get rid of them!
It was boiling( exceedingly or extremely) hot. The mirage rising from the straws( strubble) was spreading over the village flowing over the grey hills as the fire and then singed the trees of the forest Karayazy crossing over the Kur with shining water. The creaks of the grasshoppers sticking on the trunk of the tree in the shade which Niftaly kokha was lying deafened the ears. The heat ,as well as the noise of the grasshoppers panted ( fed up)Niftaly kokha. He wanted to cool putting his legs into the water and to relax washing his chest and head. He stood up, took off his lace-shirt, sat timidly coming up the ditch (or aryk). He stretched (out) his hand to the water. He didn’t see the riders coming from the dusty way stretching from the side of the Kur going up to the hill near the cemetry. Because of the grasshappers’ noise he didn’t hear the snort of the horses, the tinkling of stirrups and the clatter of the horses’ hooves. He felt only the shooting and his back shrunk with pain. Taking his hand out of the water he straightened his body and looked back. He saw that one of the riders made the horse rear up pulling his bridle and turning back he shouted at somebody, the whip cracked.
― Traiter! Hound !
He didn’t hear anything else. The rustle of the straws , the whisper of the leaves, the purl (or voice) of the ditch (or aryk), the noise of the grasshoppers weakened suddenly, moved away and disappeared. The mirage singeing the weather filled his eyes as an ember and waved in front of his pupil and turned into the mist and everything shrouded in this mist…
Leaping from the horse Kerem rushed towards the tree and he took Niftaly’s head on his knee. The bullet entered his back and got out of his chest. His eyes were closed. It was known only from his quivering lips that he was still alive. Kerem hadn’t seen him so close since they became blood enemies. The man changed (or had changed) very much.A bit double chinned face of kokha turned black( or had turned) , his thick moustache roughened ( or had roughened) and his temples turned white (or had turned white) . Small wrinkles appeared around his eyes. Kerem felt that Niftaly was bleeding profusely. He was at a loss. He unbottoned his shirt and didn’t know how to help the man. As if Niftaly kokha felt it ,too. He moved. His eyelids opened. He looked at Kerem’s face attentively. His misty pupils became stagnant as still water and widened suddenly. Kerem felt kokha’s jerk with shiver as if he felt chilly. His body ached , too. He became sad.
―Niftaly , what can I do now? I can go neither to Ganja ,nor to Tiflis. How can I help you? At first the man was startled hearing the voice and then he revived. Raising his head a bit gazed at the man in front of him with his misty eyes. He scemed to recognize the man holding him. At first he got excited. Kerem felt the glimmer of his eyes quivering. These glimmers of life like the weakened light calmed down suddenly. His lips moved.
―Is it Kerem?
―Yes, you are right.It is me.
―Very good! I’m glad that it is you.
Kerem was shaken with this word. As if the man agonizing on his knees were not his blood enemy but his dearest relative. As if that man were not the person who followed him everywhere, who were out for his blood, who didn’t miss any opportunity to betray him. He was his childhood friend with whom he would ride horse,would go to Karayazy crossing the Kur ,would go to rendezvous with their beloved girls together before their hostility. But now they hardly ever saw each –other. They were armed. They couldn’t approach each other. Kerem ran away to the mountains taking up arms. He would spend all his time on the horse. Sometimes he would go to Tiflis or Ganja with his men,would judge the people fairly in Dilijan valley, would cross the Araz getting over the mountains, he would be seen either in Iravan or in Iran. But Niftaly kokha lived anxiously in his house with his relatives. After being kokha he had changed. Kerem sent him message several times and asked not to trouble the people of the village, but it had no use. Kerem had been looking for him for a long time in order to punish him.
―Is there any new man in your group?
Hearing these words with difficulty Kerem delayed the answer.
―Yes, there is.
―Who is he?
―He is Murshid.
―Is he that groveller?
This word wounded Kerem very much. As if everything darkened before his eyes. He was wounded deeply.
―He came to me for help, what could I do?
―He had come to us, too and you see the end.
The man moaned. It seemed to Kerem the reason of his mouning was not the pain of wound but the waste of his efforts and expectations.
Niftaly kokha’s face was in cool sweat, he grimaced, then a smile like expression appeared on his face instead of these pains and torments.
―Now I can die in peace… Thank God, my expectation withered away. Otherwise I would die languorously.(I would pass away with some dreams in my soul)Thank God, Kerem you didn’t fall into disesteem … Raise my head a bit. Kerem rested him against his knees holding him by the armpits. Bearing the pain the man calmed down. A gentle light like the bird’s breath gleamed on his face. He looked into the distance. Kerem felt that his keen eyes gazed at the other side of the Kur, at the Karayazy coming from the plain Jeyranchol, at the rural houses in the vicinity, at the hayfields, at the straws (stubbles) at the shiefstacks, at the children hailing the cattle. The hayfields had withered up. It was still breezing, the cornfields were still rustling, the water of the ditch was still running, the grasshoppers were still creaking with a treble voice. The mirage was waving in front of Nifatly kokha’s eyes. But he couldn’t differ whether his eyes were misty or it was mirage.
Reviving suddenly he turned to the horsemen around him. He stared at Kerem’s friends one by one. When he saw Murshid he stretched like an arrow . Kerem saw that the man became worse suddenly, his face reddened. It was the last redness of the blood vessels coming from the heart that would stop beating for ever. The man’s weak eyes gazed at Kerem’s face.v ―Kerem, I have an only wish…
―Tell me.
―Take your Nagan revolver, shoot me at the forehead yourself.(you shoot me at the forehead)
―What do you say?
―Let everybody know that Niftaly kokha was killed by Outlaw Kerem… An honourable man should be killed by an honourable man, not by a groveller.
―I can’t .
―If you don’t do it you are a dishonest man.
The man’s chest rose and lowered slowly.
Kerem became sad. He suffocated with rage. Looking around he found Murshid. His hands trembled. He wanted to turn his rifle and kill that miserable traiter just there. But he changed his mind. He thought that Niftaly’s relatives wouldn’t leave him alive in any case. He didn’t want to difile his hands.
―Take his rifle and horse, let him go away ! And you , get off the horses and hang your rifles on the saddle. Don’t move if they even shoot at us. We shall go to the village.
Kerem made up his mind. He would take Niftaly kokha’s corpse to the village himself. He would take him in his hands and his horse would follow them. And his friends would step silently after the corpse throwing the bridles on horses’ neck. He knew that it was a job. They will meet with the peasants , the women will cry over his loss and will damn them. Maybe, they will shoot at them. Maybe, there will be some people who will inform the local forces. But he didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe that there would be such traiters in their village. He was sure that they would take the corpse quietly through the village till Niftaly ’s house. They would meet them according to the traditions though with the silent stillness. Kerem and his friends would take part in his funeral. After three days of his death they would condole with his relatives and would go to the mountains riding their horses.
Kerem felt coolness on his arms and knees. He understood that the man’s body was getting cold. But there was an expectation in the deepness of his wan eyes gazing at his face…
He took his Nagan revolver out off his holster quietly. His fingers pulled the trigger trembling…

Vusale Ismayilova.Qrup-233.