Written for OLWG #26
I have a story to tell you. I’m sorry about my English. I don’t have many opportunities to practice it. I was about six years old when they came and camped in the wood just south of Fără Vaci. I remember that my father came to my room and woke me late one night, “Shhh,” he hushed me, “let’s go see the gypsies. Don’t wake your mother.”
It was exciting. We crept out into the dark and followed the river till we came on their camp. It was alive there with music, dancing, games, food, drink, and laughter. Everything was lit by campfires and as we moved into the thick of things he stopped and bought me sweets. He bought himself a bottle and soon got involved in a card game. It was like a circus; so much to see, so much to do. I came across some boys my age who invited me to go down to the river and skip stones with them. I ran back to ask my father if it was OK but he was still playing cards and drinking. A tall, thin, dark haired girl was perched on his leg and his hand was on her backside. I didn’t want to interrupt so I thought I would go for a short time and come back in a little while to let him know where I would be. It didn’t look as though he was planning to go anywhere soon.
The boys taught me to skip rocks in such a way that I could get at least seven skips each throw. I lost track of time and before I knew it adults were hustling us back up to the camp where everything was being loaded into caravans and the campfires were being doused. I couldn’t find my father but I saw the tall thin girl he had been with. She was laughing and joking with other girls who looked just like her. She was buttoning her blouse. I headed over to her.
“Excuse me. Do you know where my father is?” I asked her.
She raised her skirts and laughed, “Part of him is in here,” she cawed, pointing to a thatch of black hair between her legs, “the rest of him is in the river.” The other girls turned away and I found myself immediately wrapped in the arms of an old crone, an elderly gypsy woman who glared at the girl I had been speaking with and hustled me to a wagon where she changed my clothes. She rubbed coal dust in my hair and instructed me to sit down and stay quiet.
“Don’t speak to anyone, except me,” she admonished, and I complied. The band broke camp and moved on. The next day police came by and talked with some of the men. Questioned them and apparently satisfied with the answers that they received, left us alone. We kept moving. Two or three days later the old woman asked me if I could read. I shook my head, no. She reached in her bag and pulled out a parcel wrapped in gaily coloured cloth. She unfolded the material and showed me a book then, patted the seat next to her. I moved next to her and she read the book to me. She showed me the pictures
“You can learn a lot from books,” she said. “Would you like me to teach you to read?” I nodded my head and the lessons began that very day.
I never saw my father or my mother again. The old crone appointed herself my surrogate mother. She told me her name was Jaelle but that I should call her Bunică, she was kind, filled with love and laughter. I gladly accepted her and never asked questions about my other parents. We moved about constantly, like nomads. We made our money by stealing, gambling and selling the young girls to the local men who would come to our camp late at night. The way my father had done.
On my eighteenth birthday my adopted mother took me and a sack, filled with bundles of blue and red money. We walked to the center of the nearby town where we came to the University. She left me on the grass and entered a building. Bunică was gone a long time and when she came back she told me that I was going to study at the university. I was to keep reading books and continue to learn. She told me to read for the law and that when they needed me again they would find me. She told me that my first year’s tuition was paid but that I would need to pay to finish school. She told me that she was sure I had learned enough from them that I would have no difficulty earning money with card games and the like to pay for my school.
I’m now a lawyer. I have been for a year. I’m waiting for Bunică to come back for me. My people can always use a legal counselor. I’ve learned that now.
This week’s prompts are
- You can learn a lot from books
- The gypsy woman said
- It won’t be available until April 1st