The bailiff's nose caught the smell of dry beans boiling in water. In front of the fire, three children with wooden spoons in their hands were waiting....

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"Dry Beans"

by Turkish author Samim Kocagöz, born 1916
(translated by Mina Urgan)

The bailiff of the farm galloped furiously all around the bean field on his gray horse. He had mobilized three of his men and had sent them to the wood at the place where the estate was cut off by the river.

"If I could only catch the scoundrels..." he kept on saying, "if I could only get hold of them...I would break every single bone in their bodies."

the beans had been picked. The sheaves lay in rows like lambs ready for the sacrifice. The laborers, who had come in from the lower end of the field, carried the sheaves to the threshing floor. the bailiff stopped at the head of the sheaves, lined like soldiers in neat ranks. Like an officer who is yelling "Attention!" he inspected the ranks once more. It was clear that some of the sheaves were missing. At the sight of this, the bailiff got more and more angry; he was in such a rage that the blood rushed to his face. He got off his horse. He lit a cigarette. he shouted at the three farmhands, who were slowly shuffling toward him: "You rascals! Couldn't you find them?"

"We looked through the whole wood; we searched everywhere. There's nothing."

"The brutes! They must have buried the sheaves somewhere."

"Well," said one of the farmhands, "if they did bury them, we can never get them back."

When he heard that, the bailiff almost burst with rage. More than the burning heat of July, it was the thought of what the landlord would say to him that made him drip with sweat. With a murderous look, his eyed roved around. Then, all of a sudden, there was a gleam in them. A mean smile twitched his lips.

"You're not worth a damn without me," he said to his men.

"Come along now, we've got the thieves."

And he walked off.

"One of the farmhands held the bailiff's horse and waited behind. The two others, like the bailiff, advanced cautiously, trying hard not to make any noise. But, in fact, the place where the bailiff meant to go was at least a kilometer away. Far off, right on the river's band, rose a thin column of smoke. The smoke of this faintly smoldering fire formed circles in the still air. The bailiff, as he came nearer, was in an ecstasy of joy and excitement.

He kept on turning back in order to warn the two others: "Keep quiet, you rascals!"

At last they could see the river. The white foam that now and then appeared on its smooth yellow surface melted rapidly under the burning sun. Protected by the branches, they moved stealthily along the sandy banks toward the place where the fire was burning.

This was a little cave that the water in its rage had carved in the rock. Now that the water had ebbed, it could easily be used as a house. The fire burned in front of the cave. The lower half of a petroleum can, black with soot, stood on the fire. The bailiff's nose caught the smell of dry beans boiling in water. In front of the fire, three children with wooden spoons in their hands were waiting. Two of the children looked like a pair of daisies spattered with mud after a rainstorm. The third one was a very dark little boy of four or five. His huge eyes were fixed on the boiling beans. Just then the mother came out of the cave and was petrified when she saw the men coming. Her hands dropped to her sides. Big tears rose in her eyes. The bailiff pushed her aside and walked into the cave. A young man, unshaved and with tousled hair, sat on the ground. The bean sheaves were piled next to him, and he was threshing them with a thick stick. When he saw those who stood in front of him, he left his work. He was neither startled, like his children, nor upset, like his wife. But a burning hare, strong enough to destroy everything around him, flashed in his eyes. For a while the young man and the bailiff stared at each other as if they meant to knock each other down. The young man began to grip the stick with which he had been threshing the beans. The bailiff was aware of that. For a moment he hesitated, trying to decide what to do. Now that he was faced by this man who sat on the ground like a piece of rock, ready to shoot up, all his rage died down. But he still wanted to behave like a bully. He pulled himself together and yelled: "So it was you!"

The man's voice was calm and clear. "So it was. What about it?"

"You just wait and see.... Don't get me into trouble now."

The bailiff, after saying that, thought again, trying to decide what to do. Then he gave an order to his men: "Come on, take these sheaves away...."

They took the sheaves. The man who was sitting next to them did not even stir. The bailiff turned away and walked out of the cave. The children still sat in front of the boiling beans, holding their wooden spoons in their hands. For a moment they could not help looking at the bailiff. The bailiff stalked toward them. The puzzled children did not move. The bailiff did not touch them. He vented all his fury, all his rage, on the can where the beans were boiling. With a single kick he knocked it down. He stamped on the fire.... Then he walked off with his men, who were carrying the sheaves.

After getting some distance away, he turned and looked back. The mother and the children were trying to pick up the beans scattered on the sand. The man stood motionless before the cave, gripping the stick and looking after them, his eyes burning with hatred.