About / O:
Excerpt of Wioletta Grzegorzewska’s novel “Guguły” published in Poland by Wydawnictwo Czarne in 2014.
Tłumaczenie fragmentu powieści Wioletty Grzegorzewskiej “Guguły” opublikowanej w Polsce przez Wydawnictwo Czarne w 2014 roku.
Excerpt / Fragment:
That evening I was eager to go see the seamstress, but Mum told me to take the compote into the cool hallway first and latch the house from the inside. ‘Latch’, because we didn’t use a key — it was just going missing all the time. Mum waited for me in the yard while I remained on the porch, stepped to the door and fastened the latch. My fingers smelled of rust. I walked into a curtain heavy with dirt and fly poo, I cracked open the little door and jumped into the shed. The chickens were sleeping on their perch, the cow was licking the stone wall. I climbed up onto the little window plastered with cobwebs and jumped outside, into the freezing air.
Mum took my hand. We went across the fields. It was slowly getting dark. Frosty grass squeaked under our feet. After fifteen minutes’ walk we saw the seamstress’s house in the distance. I knocked several times. There was no answer, though we heard somebody’s footsteps in the hallway. A cat jumped out of the dovecote with a chick in its mouth. Mum went to the window on the kitchen side and knocked a few times.
‘Mrs Stasikowa,’ she whispered. ‘Let us in. It’s only us. The collection for the church renovation … That’s next week. And the meters are being checked tomorrow morning. I know what I’m talking about, ‘cos Janek’s spilled the beans.’
A moment later the door cracked open. We entered the hallway smelling of sour soup and then went into the bright room. There was a broomstick fixed under the ceiling. Hanging from it were two-piece suits, georgette dresses, coats with dated trimmings and tassels. Shrivelled jackets dangled like hanged men. By the window there was a Singer. I spotted a pin box in the dresser next to cut glass pieces. There was a jar full of buttons by the breadbin and a mannequin with a cracked skull in the corner of the room, draped with ribbons and starched napkins, impaled on a stick, as if it were a Marzanna dummy.1 Behind the lamp sat a box overflowing with thimbles, buttons, pins, hook-and-eyes, snaps, applique, velcro fasteners and inlays.
Mother put the fabric on the table and started unfastening the string. Pink stream cascaded onto the dirty counter. The seamstress looked at the fabric with admiration. She stroked it as if it were the body of her deceased husband.
‘Ah, a real beauty. And so evenly hemmed. You didn’t buy it in Koziegłowy, did you?
‘Nah, my sister brought it from Katowice. Spent a day queueing for it — or so she says. And? Will it do?’ Mum asked with a tone of unease in her voice. ‘Will that make a dress for the prom?
The seamstress sized me up, unfolded the fabric, measured it with her elbow and after a while answered: ‘Only knee-length. And even that won’t be easy.’
‘Knee-length? Nooo. What would the head teacher say? It has to be longer for the prom. Dear Mrs Seamstress,’ Mum touched her handbag, ‘perhaps you could lengthen it with something else?’
‘God forbid! Lengthen it with what? You can see right away that it is imported.’
From then on I regularly visited the seamstress for fittings. I got used to the smell of her hallway and house. The seamstress worked on my dress for the prom, she tacked the fabric, wrapped me in it like a mummy. Totally absorbed with whatever she was doing, she calculated something in her head and drew a pattern on brown paper. Afterwards she always tossed all the rags onto the floor, made some tea, treated me to yeast cake, showed me her wedding picture hanging above the dresser and told me about her husband, Stasik. Then she spread her cards and told me my fortunes again and again, saying the same thing every time: that I would have two children, a boy and a girl, that I would travel abroad, that there was fame and money and that I would not be lucky in love — every time when she added that last bit, I found an excuse to leave the table. Then the seamstress watchedReturn to Eden and I played with her cat or flicked through bags full of fabric scraps or looked into every corner of her house, pleated with shadow and light. But there was one room I was not allowed to go in. Of course I tried to break that rule on several occasions, but the room was always locked.
I often thought of Stasikowa’s room at night. I imagined it as a little shrine with a golden budgie cage instead of a holy picture. Another time I thought that the room must look like a theatre dressing room with a dressing table and costumes. In my dreams I entered there and tried on the wigs and colourful outfits.
Once, because there was a very difficult maths test at school, I got the days of the week mixed up and went to see the seamstress on Tuesday instead of the usual Wednesday. To my surprise the door was ajar. I went inside. The cat was sleeping on the cushion. The clock on the dresser was ticking away. And then I had this crazy idea — why not check the forbidden room since the seamstress wasn’t in? I stood in front of the heavy Sesame Door, then I pushed it and peeked inside. The room was dim. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw something that looked like a hunter’s study. There were stuffed birds on the walls, antlers and a hunting rifle. The half-naked seamstress was on the bed, rocking rhythmically on a rag-stuffed dummy dressed in a man’s suit.