Amidst Hen Houses

excerpts Pandele Vergea's home was severed from the heart of the town only by a mere quarter of an hour's walk. Despite that, it was left without the range of any sound from the side-paths quietly leading towards the profundity of a valley – in whose depths churlish houses would crop up here and there. The path snaking past his house also slanted, somersaulting into the drifts of dusted greenery of ChishmigiuPark. An ancient building, showing a timbered and poled doorway, with a shingled roof under whose eaves hundreds of swallows' nests had sought shelter, the house would crack its doors open before dawn. The yard tenants – a meadow in the midst of a town – would then proceed, as if in a long sought after queue, to cockadoo, hiss and quack in a deafening manner, enlivening the neighborhood with hundreds of voices. Pandele, awakened well early in the morning, would take after them shortly and, from the porch stool he was seated on, he commenced a-piercing the dusk – veiling his yard with his fag's red eye. He would, with his vision and his whole being, absorb the tranquility encircling him, bask in the somberness of the earth, and in the undecided dawn that was spilling off into a tidbit of sky. But, typically, Vergea would not get to drink his coffee handed up by Marghioala, the nanny whose arms had cradled him into his mid thirties, before the barely whitened sky patch would change into a golden swath, and the outstretch of the heavens from sunrise tack into the porphyry and vest itself in all the shades of sun-up.More elated than usual, he was swiftly overpowered by slumber. But, as he advanced into the other realm – the land of reverie – the tricks of the mind induced in him the thought that he was entering the process of life anew. That it was still his person, albeit, upon a thorough inspection, he would prove not to be quite the same. He sensed that something unnatural was occurring to him, beyond his comprehension. All that he knew was that his garments had grown thin on his trunk, that they were now tattered, leaving him bare, and that a kind of drowsiness was starting to taunt him. Lo! Lo! – there he was, at last, getting the hang of it. He suffered the pain, even fancied it as a blessing. It was feathers: feathers which presented the sweetness of velvet, yellow feathers, grey feathers – growing, multiplying on him, covering his feet, making their way up to his chest, ambushing his back, his arms, his neck and, finally, engulfing his cheeks, getting hold of his being from top to toe.Early in his childhood, he had become crazy about nature and all its living manifestations, and to this affection he had given flesh even by age twelve. However, his parents were alive at the time. The father had come to realize that his son was wrong in the upper storey. A hapless headmaster, however, managed to drive him out of his mind telling him that – quite the contrary – the lad had the makings of a great man, that he would come to do credit to his kin and country. Accordingly, the poor man left him a master of his own room where he was to ply himself with his would-be study of nature. Not in the least bit troubled by adversities, Pandele – for the first time ever – was venturing out on the path of deep knowledge – by the art of growing and breeding ants. This kind of life he would contemplate in hindsight for hour upon hour and, sometimes, he nearly conceded to not being a man – not in the true sense of the word. With the learning he had received, could he not, verily, have amounted to something more in life, have a sense of purpose therein? Flecarescu, the loony from secondary, his once classmate – with his threes during semester, and a mark for mercy in his exam – had he not become an M.P.? Was there any talk in the journals beside of him? Did they not say he'd even be requested at the head of a ministry? An M.P.? …a minister, perhaps? …should he cling to such vain a whim? Siding one day with one, the other day with other – the day after both against one and another – then, again: with those which suit oneself better; in favor of the king, against the king – indeed, may Flecarescu thrive on it, but he for one would not fancy such a thing. Jolly well good for him – but: who prevented him from ever getting married? Verily, he knew full well what wedlock, what brats meant. No, ten times no…! He'd then still be better off with his roosters and hens… why should he cast off such holy, wild manner of living? Outside, the day was white. In a cheer, he rose to his feet, and set about presently: he resolved to buy Nastase the innkeeper's plot, to multiply the coops, widen the yard and make it stretch downhill towards the west. It was only the griffin-embossed Emperor's golden coins that took on the habit of dwindling by the day. The upkeep of such breed, that multiplied in number by the hour, could not bring about aught else but this: his residence, an ancestral cradle to his forebears, had to be mortgaged – willy-nilly. But, towards the end of October, this decrepitude would snowball into complete abyss. Thing after thing, chair after chair, Pandele started – for the sake of the feeding of his poultry – selling away everything he possessed within his four walls. Marghioala, who had never to the day been deprived of her daily bread, did, upon observing the new habit of forced eating of sheer baked maize, on one Sunday take her case in the dead of night, hurl it onto the seat of a cart – and away she went. It was on that day that Vergea vainly waited for his coffee. Ensuing investigations in the kitchen, in the rooms, the absence of Marghioala's case, proved to be self-evident. Beat, he then scattered a near-empty bushel with remnants of grain by, stumbled across in front of the porch, and went up the stairs with an empty glare. As the doors behind him had been left wide open, the house took on the appearance of a place where somebody had just expired.However, an unspecified number of geese, drakes, and chickens, as well as half of a battalion's worth of turkeys, a few platoons of guinea fowls and fifty cocks, managed to make their way to the porch and, from there, into the house. First, they claimed possession of the hall, marched through the large room and the dining room, and, finally, unto the bower. Engrossed in thoughts, Vergea was standing with his head in his hands. His world had crumbled to pieces at the very instant he realized that he had been forsaken even by Marghioala. Those lands of his were all lost, his home was placed under mortgage. Thus: chasm all around him. But, in the room gradually filled with creatures, a wondrous thing occurred. Amidst the guinea fowls, the turkeys, and the roosters that flew at his head, geese that pulled at his trousers, and others that clattered up his shoulders, hit him in the face and in the back, by the terrible avian onslaught of creatures enraged by hunger, Pandele, groping through the dark, vainly tried to make his exit. An unusually large Turkish cock, a confounded fellow that had not engaged in the battle, flung itself to his face, and – an agonizing howl pierced the dark.Thus, until his friend Nichiforescu, vested by a court of law as his guardian, was able to locate a client for the house, the property was consentingly governed by the good birds, the geese, the sacred battalion drakes, the guinea fowls, the capons, the hens and, above all, by the red rooster in this story.  A Parnassian and Symbolist obsessed with the Divine Comedy, as unconventional as Byron and as mystical as Blake, named by a famous critic "the first professional metaphorist" of Romanian literature, Alexandru Macedonski (1854-1920), the chesty son of a general and former minister of war, introduced himself as a descendant of Lithuanian princes (in fact, his family was rather a mixture of Balkan and East-European gentry, but more probably descended from adventurers coming from south of the Danube) and the greatest Romanian poet (although he was contemporary to the star of Romanian poetry, Eminescu).

by Alexandru Macedonski (1854-1920)