The Picture of Dawn
Writer: Mekhri Abdurakhmonova
Translator: Khafiza Mukhtorova
– Absamat, get up, my son, drive the cattle. If you had a chance, you would sleep until midnight. Soon it will be the time to go to school. If you wake up so late, the cattle won’t even have time to eat once.
Although I open my eyes slowly, I quickly wake up and leave. Because I am afraid of my father so much. To be frank, my father never hit me. He did not even beat. For some reason, his very serious eyes always scared me. There was an invisible barrier between us, father and son. One day I came home from school and was approaching the threshold when I heard my father accursing my mother from inside.
– This child has an evil eye. you always take his side. You should be tougher on him.
– Why do you look at him with your left eye? He will be upset, after all… So, don’t pamper Murodali, or can’t you pamper him too? As he is an excellent at school. despite being little, he looks after the cattle. The youngest son as well.
I heard my mother cry as she said that.
I was frozen in place, not knowing whether to enter or not.
At that moment, the door opened and my father appeared on the threshold. My heart was pulled back.
– Hey, are you eavesdropping on our conversation? Come in.
I was thrown inside by a furious exclamation.
Then the barrier in the middle turned into a ravine. In this world, I have no kind person except my mother…
My mother was busy with some works; she really woke me up later than usual. After having breakfast in a hurry, I tied the ropes to the cattle’s horns and drove them to the field.
In the morning, the time to drive cattle, and in the evening, when the herd returns, the village road will be covered with thick dust. I must have stayed up quite late today since there was no sign of dust. Herds of cattle were grazing everywhere in the steppe. In the field, covered with green grass, the smell of various wild smallpox was blowing in the light wind. The roundish green leaves of the akkurays are pleasing to the eye. Chuchmomas were staring with blue eyes. There is still some time before the tulips open.
I thought that spring must have just visited our pasture.
– Absamat, drive your cattle far away.
My thoughts were divided and I looked in the direction of the voice. Two herds away, my classmate Amirqul, who was feeding only his own cattle, was sitting on his side on a donkey and making a “come” gesture with his hand. I drove the cattle to that direction.
– Why are you so late?
– Fall asleep, my friend.
– Everyone’s cattle were full. I look, I look. There is no sign of you. I was thinking that I could call you at that time. Then I saw you were coming.
The grasses are enough good in the field this year. The cattle were full at once. It would be better if they can graze until school time.
– Earlier we drive, earlier we leave, I mean.
– “Yeah, when the tulips open, the katalok (a scar left by the bite of a worm that gets under the skin of a cattle at the end of May) will start and we can go home early,” I said to make an argument.
– It would be better if you don’t mention this katalok, – said Amirqul twisting his face. – These cattle jump here; those cattle jump there and really kill us by it. The tulip itself is beautiful, but its beetles are so ugly. Especially, the skin of our cow was full of insect eggs, and our poor cow jump and run away.
– Insect eggs can be removed in the evening when the cow is calm. The cow will be much calmer and less aggressive.
– Which of insect eggs will you squeeze out? Nothing can be done until it matures and flies. Let’s talk about other things. When I saw the poor cow, I felt sorry for it.
– Your cow is very greedy. If you are out of sight, the cow will throw itself to the field. So, what can cow eat at home?
– The cow does not waste anything. The best cattle are the cattle which eat more. My father says, “If your cattle love eating, God gave it to you, if your wife loves eating, God really beat you.”
I looked at his cow with a little envy. The cow swallowing the green grass made me covet. I remember our Terminator cow that sifts the grass and scatters the fodder in the pen with its beak, and my mood goes down. Fortunately, in early spring we sold them as soon as they were born. A poor man bought them due to its new birth. I gave it this nickname because its bones are so big and it doesn’t get fat. I am blessed that God saved me in time…
– How are you guys? Why are you taking care of cattle instead of going to school? Is school a circus for you? It seems your father should add his cattle to my herd, even if his money runs out, then you will enjoy your time.
Murad, the herdsman, wearing a tattered hat and a gray waistcoat that did not take off even in the summer, was looking towards us and evil grinned with narrowed eyes. Is he also human? my father used to say with disgust when talking about him. He did not even allow him to take care our cattle. That’s why I used to pass without saying hello when I saw him. I didn’t say anything this time either.
– We study in the second shift. We go in time. In the afternoon, our brothers who study in the morning feed our animals. Amirul began to explain earnestly, among the big herd, it would be difficult to take care the cattle well.
– Do you know your mother is stepmother? Your own mother passed away as soon as she gave birth to you… If your own mother had been alive, she would not have allowed you to take care the cattle.
Amirqul looked at Murad and froze. After standing there for a while, he started crying and drove his donkey towards the village without looking at his cattle.
– You are a bad person. My father also hates you. Anyway, we will not give our cattle to you, – I shouted to the herdsman with pain, barely suppressing the tears that were pouring out of me.
– I don’t care. I just told you. People cannot dare to listen to truth. But what the boy found out was not bad. He doesn’t beat himself up anymore.
Murad herdsman’s words, as if he were talking to himself, suddenly lose my temper. His voice, face and eyes seemed to be taken over by sadness. The herdsman, as if forgetting my presence, muttered something to himself and started walking away. Only the painful exclamation of “Oh, my child” uttered between his sobs reached my mind.
Author of the story
Abdurakhmonova Mehri Qudratovna, poetess, writer, winner of the “Shuhrat” medal, head of the Jizzakh regional branch of the Writers’ Union of Uzbekistan.
Translator of the story
Khafiza Mukhtorzoda, a student of JSPU, laureate of the Ilhom Award. The owner of the state scholarship named after Navoi, Uzbekistan.