It is July, yet a cold one. Dark clouds gather in the South-East, the sea already has the green tint, as it does before a storm and only near the horizon sparkles silvery narrow line. The beach quickly empties; only some stubborn enthusiasts linger. A boy, no more than five years old, busily digs a hole in the sand, gasping from the effort, then hurls something in it, gets a few steps back, runs and jumps over the hole. Once, twice, then again, then his parents order him to quit because speckles of sand fly into their eyes and hairs. The kid sits down, not facing his parents, sulking. My grandson does the same when offended, in silent protest. Jokingly, I ask the boy if he is training for the Olympics. He answers me seriously, 'No, I am training to jump over the hole.' 'You mean, training for the long jump, yes?', I ask again. 'No, I am training for jumping over the hole1, 'cause Grandpa didn't train enough and couldn't jump over it. A cancer crab got him and dragged him inside. Now the cancer crab is in the hole, but can't catch me 'cause I train well!' I look down and, yes, there are some broken crab shells and pincers at the bottom of the hole. 'When was it?', I ask. 'Oh, the last winter. I waited and waited for Grandpa to climb back from the hole, but he didn't. Mummy said he will never come back. I don't understand why . Is this cancer crab so scary and strong? May be like the Tyrannosaurus Rex I saw on TV. What do you think, is it possible for a cancer crab to be stronger than a T.Rex?' My mind whirls and I suddenly I feel dry , as dry as the sand. 'Could be, I don't know. Did they bring you to the Church?' 'Yes, but there was a mistake. It was not Grandpa, it was somebody else. See, Grandpa was very tall - like this! But in the Church was some tiny, yellowish old man, not Grandpa. They made a mistake.' The boy gets up and looks thoughtfully at me, 'I don't get it - why nobody trains jumping over the hole, so no cancer card or T.Rex could ever catch them? You are old, you should be training! Here, you can use my hole.' A bit self-consciously I glance around, then start running somewhat and jump over the hole.
The rain has just started with its first heavy droplets; everybody hurriedly packs and begins leaving the beach. The parents drag the kid away; he and I wave goodbye to each other. The first time I was told about the coming operation, I felt no fear, but relief - I jumped over the hole!
1. The story plays on difficult for translating Bulgarian folksy expression: 'Jumping over the hole'. Typically, it means one survived a great danger, most often grave sickness. Roughly, it means 'I avoided the grave', just the opposite of the English expression 'Kicked the bucket'. 'To leap from the frying pan' perhaps conveys the same meaning, but cannot be used here, because in Bulgarian one word means both 'cancer' and 'crab', as in the Zodiac. Unfortunately, the astrological word-sign is not immediately understood, let alone moving away from the kid's understanding, which sets the story at the beach. [обратно]
© Marietta Yovcheva