By the Waterfall

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Can you forgive him?Because I could not! It was suppose to be a beautiful summer day up at The Girl in the Mist Waterfall,deep in the mountains of Transilvania.

Submitted: March 05, 2010

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Submitted: March 05, 2010

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By the Waterfall

(From Me, Myself and Romania)

When I met ,,Nea Sile" for the first time, in  the fish market, he was displaying some of his captured trout on the stone table. Beside him, a big red bucket was alive and stormy hosting some wild trout who tried to escape from captivity. On the table, beside the trout, the big, long and sharp hunting knife rested ready for work. It captured my attention, because it was three times bigger than my own little fishing knife that my father had given me every time he had taken me fishing. It was flashy and big and it had a name: Virgil! Nobody knew where the name had come from! .

"Come and buy people! Fresh trout for your family!  It’s alive but Virgil will have it skinned and boned for you! He was yelling above the crowd waving his knife

. He was tall and heavy with big hands and dirty fingernails. His hair and his beard were long and tangled, not seeing a comb in a long time. His combat trousers and his hunting jacket had many dark stains on them. He made you aware of his presence. His green eyes were burning every time he looked at you, you could feel waves of rage surrounding you. The other fishermen feared him. He was violent and some of them had some stories to tell about his cruelty:

  ,,I swear to God that it happened that way! It was him! Emil said to the bunch of fishermen gathered around table on a Sunday evening. They were all drinking few shots of ,,tuica” the local drink when Emil ,the oldest fisherman told his stories.

,, The child had a good look at him before he disappeared- He continued his story passionately .,, The whole family was left without the boat on the far side of the lake, 30 miles far from town. No phone, no car. They were at the DevilsLake, on a Monday evening with two kids after them. He made a hole in their wooden boat so they could not use it for fishing anymore. He sunk it near the shore. They had to walk around the lake .It was him, the kid described him.

In the public market, where he sold his fish, he shared his table with nobody, in a place where every table was shared by two or three fishermen. He was brief and rude:

"How much do you ask for a fish?” an elegant, old lady asked him.

,,5 lei each. Take three and I give you a discount. Do you want Virgil to take care of them? Make up your mind! Take it or leave it!

She took it. She had to. He was half savage and half civilized but he was the best fisherman in the county. He was restless and bold and he knew the best places for fishing on the rivers and mountain valleys. His capture had been always the best: rainbow trout, catfish, carp, pike, and barbell. Every third day he went to the fish market with several buckets full of fish. Sometimes he came and displayed a five foot catfish or a few kilograms carp and you could see the pride reflecting on his face. You could almost notice the beginning of something that resembled a smile. Later on, when the market was over, he knitted his brows, packed his gear, picked up the buckets, cleaned the table throwing a full bucket of water on it and without saying good-bye, he took off heading home.

He lived in an old yellow house. You could not see it from the street because of a long yard covered in weeds and bushes. His father had left it to him before the communists took him and jailed him for so called, actions against the mother-land. He died in jail after 11 years due to pneumonia contacted after few nights of sleeping on the concrete floor of the cell. It was common punishments among the communist jails, to wet the floor of the cell, remove the bed and force political inmates to sleep on the concrete in the winter time. He did not die before he had sent him letters, thanks to a guard who was bribed, describing what he had gone through.

That was all I knew about him in that summer morning when my Dad and I were ready to go angling at the Girl in the Mist Waterfall , deep  in the mountains of Transilvania, in the North-West of Romania. I knew enough of him: another troubled soul chained by something or someone.

I paid attention to him because I was mad about fishing and he was sort of a hero for me catching those big fishes. My father and I loved to go fishing but we despised hunting and the hunters: we did not have the heart to shoot a bullet and look in the eyes of a defenceless animal dying.

I remember that day like now!

Sun played on the on the little river surface: its rays hit the water throwing back golden and silver arrows. I do remember that. I also remember that cruel incident that remained embedded in my mind forever. I had only questions that day. I did not have answers; nor the next or the day after. .The answers came later as many years passed over me and time thought me his tricks.

After I woke my dad up, at five o clock in the morning, I started to pack the fishing gear. We both knew that it was about to be a good day. A night before it had rained heavily up in the mountains and the rainbow trout was hungry after each rainfall.

,, Do not forget to pack the bait, the camera and my beers "he said to me in a low tone.

"I already did that! I am going to carry them and the rest of the gear to the car"!

We drove on the national motorway for 10 miles. We left the motorway and we took the turn to the Keys of Rimet,in the ApuseniMountains. The road narrowed and you needed to follow it for 1 hour until you could drive no more. A little valley, crystal clear, came from the mountain, running parallel to the road! As you drove up the vegetation became wilder and wilder, the forest closed above you in a wild and alive archway, embracing the road with its green arms. We left behind an old monastery where so many souls found pace and answers to their questions. It had been there for some time and two hundred nuns worked and prayed from dawn till midnight. It was big and shinny with its cupper roofs and white walls.

The main attraction for me it was the little pond they built. It was small but it was crowded with carp and trout and very heavily guarded day and night by a nun with a bible. I tried once to cast my line in the pond but she materialized out of nowhere, she raised her wooden cross and the Holy Bible in front of her eyes and she spoke to me: behold sinner or you will pay"!

We stopped the car in a brightly lit glade by the morning sun. The stillness of the place was disturbed only but the sound of the water running through the boulders. We were to walk for 3 long miles upstream to get to the best place for angling. Walking the keys was the best part: the landscape was wild but serene and picturesque. The valley was guarded on each side by two mountain chains, high and steep that reached the sky.

It would have taken us two hours to make it.

,, What do you make of the water dad? "
,, Just perfect for what we came here for !he answered.

,, Do many people know about this places?

,, No my son! It is too wild and too remote for the locals to adventure. There is such a long walk to the waterfall. It is just for us!"

 , I shall take some pictures as we are going up .It s beautiful!"

It was a hard walk. We followed the water course upstream, leaping from a rock to another trying to follow a very narrow and sometime invisible trail. You think about a lot of different things that fill your mind when you walk for pleasure. We did not have time for that. The landscape took our breath away.

,,It should not be far from here! My father said. 

The sound of water loosing the battle against gravitation was becoming more and more distinct.

,, We are close now. Can you hear it?"

Suddenly I could see it! The trail ended and a twenty metres waterfall made itself seen. She revealed herself from the mist like a bride, pure and promised. The bright morning sun was waking her up, step by step,  with tender kisses that enhanced its splendour .The little valley that we had seen was a true river now, flowing wildly and noisy like a teen spirit. My father was right: this was the perfect place for angling. As I got near the water I could not believe my eyes the multitude of dark shadows that darted the stream.

,, Let’s unpack the gear, because we have a lot of fish to catch! He told me.

  I used a two metre fishing rod with a hook, line, a reel and as bait we brought cow worms. It was the rainbow trout’s day. They were hungry and we caught ten shinny and lively coloured trout in the first 20 minutes. I went to cut some nettles and I covered the trout with them: it kept the fishes fresh. Later on we had to cut them open and salt them. I made them ready for the best dinner ever: barbequed trout with garlic and roast potatoes.

 A sudden move on the other shore,   fifteen or twenty metres away caught my eye. There was something moving in the bushes and it was big. Bears, wolves   had been known to have populated the area since always.

,, Do not make sudden moves !" my father said to me in whispered voice and his hand reached and pulled the knife out !

But there was no animal: it was a human form that walked out the green net towards the water. It was a man, wearing a ranger hat, a rucksack on one shoulder and a fishing rod in his right hand. He showed up chopping his way out the thick bushes. His feet got tangled in weeds.  When he saw us, he stopped; he dropped his rucksack and took his hat off. Then I could see the face of, Nea Sile". I could feel his surprise and his frustration flowing to us, invisible, but real. We were as surprised as he was.

,, Daddy, this is..."!

,,I know who he is ! Do not worry!

,, How come that  you know him, dad"?

,,I worked with him years ago in the factory. I had to testify against him: he bit up pretty badly one of my men, a very good friend of mine, during the night shift. I was right up the on the furnace scaffold, ten metres high and far from them!

,, Why didn’t you save him? Were you afraid?

,,I was too far. I shouted to them to stop as I climbed down but the noise of the machines was too loud. By the time I got there the fight was finished.

,, What happened after?

,, He got fired .He had  worked as an mechanical engineer, a very good one, but they let him go and he  had to do some time as well. The man who he attacked got to the hospital.

,, Did your friend get better?

,, Yes but few years later he left the country .He moved to Italy.

,, You said he did time?

,, Yes! Jail, I mean. He got few good years for that. Things are tough in a communist Golden Age society.

,, You were so courageous to testify against him!

,,I had to .I saw the whole thing and I knew what they fought for.. He did not say much to me than! O, yes, I almost forgot. He said to me in the court room looking straight into my eyes:, someday Ioane, someday"! 

,, Was he a fisherman then?

,, Not really! We talked few times about fishing and others. He knew that I liked angling but I hated hunting and I despised hunters. I also found out things about him.

,, O my God, Dad he is coming here! I interrupted him excited!

He walked to the water and started to cross it, jumping from a boulder to another in big, elastic leaps. He reminded me of a big and once domesticated gorilla who met humans again. I looked at my father’s face but I could see nothing. He stood still and intrigued, his hand gripping his fishing knife.

He landed on our side of the water, close to us .He shook his feet which got wet from the wild stream; he checked Virgil with his right hand and walked to us lazily. He stopped right in front of my father, measured him up from head to foot, looked at me and grinned. That was all! The rest was silence! No other word was spoken! The silence between us was punctured only by the waterfall! I think now, that we stood there for more than a minute just like in one of Clint Eastwood "s western spaghetti films. Suddenly I heard a voice reaching us:

,, Did you catch any big trout Nea Vasile? I asked him innocently.

He did not look at me but he leaned forward until his face nearly touched my father’s and he said:

,, Do you know where she is now?

,, I think I heard something about that! My father said!

,, I bet you did! She is in Italy. He must be fourteen now! Just like yours.

,, She was not for you Sile, you have to understand!

,, You knew about both of them and you said nothing!

,, What was it to be said?

 ,, It is good that you brought your kid with you!

That was all! He turned his back and walked away, slowly, head down, fists clenched. He crossed the valley back, he cast the bait, put his hat back and stood there twenty metres away, with the line in the stream but without caching anything. We went back angling trying to forget the episode. The joy was gone.

Minutes later some distant barking was heard louder and louder .I could make out the barking of several dogs. They were onto something and they were approaching us fast. They had tracked something down because three minutes later we could hear them closely. We knew that on the other side of the mountain there was a large hunting ground covered with an old and vast forest. It was called the Gypsy “s Forest. Gypsies had been living there in their wagons pulled by dark horses for hundreds of years hunting and putting spells on their enemies. You could see gypsy girls picking mushrooms and wild berries, dressed with long red skirts, wearing golden chains around their necks and singing heart breaking songs about lost and never found lovers. There was no trail to connect the forest with the waterfall .The dogs must have taken the scent and lost the hunters behind.

,, I hope they are not onto a wild boar! My Dad said. They are very dangerous to humans when they are cornered.

A bear would not have run for so long. He would have stayed and fought. The dogs were close and they were coming from Nea Sile "s side of the water. He heard the dogs too but he did not pay attention.

 Suddenly, the dense vegetation split open and a young deer no more than few month old leaped out fragile and tired. She landed on her front feet but she lost her balance and fell, her feet getting tangled in the poison ivy that filled the forest.  Leaves got stuck on her wet body and her big eyes were filled with terror. She was delicate but yet strong and agile.  She looked at Nea Sile who was few metres away and then she ran. She was scared and exhausted and she was heading straight to the waterfall. It was a dead end. Her only fault was her age:too inexperienced and too young for such a game.The valley would have been too deep to and too fast for her to swim it. There was the trail on the boulders Nea Sile used, but she had to run past the dogs for that.  With foam filling their teeth and worn out, the hunting dogs showed up. They were angry: the chase took them too long.  They sensed the victory! The deer got to the water wall, looked up and around and she turned back heading straight for Nea Sile.

,, Stay here! My father yelled at me picking up the thick oak stick he used for walking and then ran to cross the valley.

It was for the first time when I saw a deer and my hands were shaking while I started to take pictures.

She walked to him quickly first and then slowly, head down, ears up, hesitating but driven by that force given by hope. He saw her coming and he did not move. The dogs were closer now barking savagely. She came to him with humbleness, imploring, sniffing the air step by step. He did not move. She looked at him, eyes begging, legs shaking and then, she put her head under his armpit rubbing her head up and down against his thigh.

I was in awe and so was my father who stopped in his track on a rock protruding from the water. The dogs reached and circled them: their prey was too close to be taken away. It drove them mad, so mad they were ready to attack the human .But they were well trained; they barked their frustration and stayed away.

The deer was even smaller now, standing tight around the man s body; her head did not move anymore and her long, beautiful neck was bent down. She was not shaking anymore.  Nea Sile started to stroke her wet body with long and soft moves talking to her. I could see his lips moving from where I stood. Then he looked at my father with those green burning eyes, squeezed the deer’s neck with his arm, lifted her up a little and in one single rapid move, pulled Virgil out its sheath and slit her throat. She did not put up a last fight as all the animals do. She just kneeled, understood, and trembled.  Her little wet black nose sniffed for few last times the morning air. Her big eyes opened and closed so many times until they closed no more. Her struggle was over!

He was still looking at my father as he gave her to the dogs. He looked at me and he grinned once again. He kicked one of the dogs away and he wiped Virgil on her warm, moving body. And then, he took his things and disappeared into the forest.

It was not rain that wet my chest .It was tears, simply tears coming from my heart. I was crying as heavily as that waterfall in front of me. My father buried the deer after he had to put up a good fight with the dogs. We went home right after. When I checked my camera I had taken about twenty pictures, capturing step by step the entire event.

Every year my school organized a photographic competition, where, all the teenagers in town were invited to display their pictures taken during the summer holyday. The winner was awarded with a paid holyday trip to the national Zoo in Bucharest. I won it but I gave the award to the second place. My pictures became famous in the county, so famous that the Police and the Rangers found out, and, as it was against the law to hunt and kill without a licence, they wanted to find out who did it.

My father did not tell them.  I told them but it was too late. His fishing gear was found near the town in a boat on a lake. They found his fishing tools, his hat, his rucksack and his clothes but they did not find Virgil. They dragged the lake. No trace was ever found. Some said that he killed himself: others that a bear tore him to pieces. My father claimed that the spirit of the woods called him and he never left the wild forest again.

I said, but it was just me, that he went to Italy!


© Copyright 2020 drago. All rights reserved.

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