THE BOAR

   We were siffing cross-legged on the ground eating melon with a kerchief spread out on the ground in front of us. Our flock was browsing contentedly nearby. A light autumn drizzle, something rare for our parts, had just stopped falling. The earth was turning green once again and the air smelled of spring. Yazli and I were conversing unhurriedly, hoosing our words carefully, like the grown-ups, and we talked, like them, of life's problems. From somewhere in the thickets came the sound of a shot.
    "It's probably your father!" Yazli said.
   "Might be."
   "You're lucky to have such a good hunter in your family."
   "That's right!" I agreed. "We don't have to buy any meat. Instead of slaughtering a sheep, we can save it for breeding."
   "They say that your father can hit a bird right in the eye and that he can bring down two or three pheasants with just one shot. Is that true?"
   "I don't know. Father doesn't talk much about hunting, but I heard him tell your father once that a man is no hunter unless he can kill two pheasants with one shot."
   "How many cartridges does his rifle hold?"
   "Papa's rifle is single-barreled, so it takes one cartridge. If he needed a double-barrel, he'd be sure to buy one."
   Suddenly Yazli let out a gasp: a loud, crackling noise came from the bushes directly beside us.
   We sprang to our feet. Our goats and sheep paused and looked up for a moment, and then returned to their browsing. But I was still apprehensive.
   "Maybe it's a wolf!"
   "Hey!" Yazli cried, running over to the bushes and waving his stick. The next instant he jumped back: "Kayum, there's something breathing in there!"
   Overpowering my fear, I picked up my stick and walked over to Yazli. At that instant an enormous boar came crashing out of the bushes. It ran past us and went tearing headlong into the reeds. Then there was silence. The next moment I heard my father's voice:
   "Zhek! Zhek!"
   The hound came bounding towards us and dove into the reeds.
   "Papa!" I cried.
   "Kayum?!" The bushes crackled once again and Father came running towards us. "Are you all right?"
   "We're all right!" we said in astonishment.
   "Where's the boar? It's wounded, and very dangerous."
   Zhek's bark resounded from the reeds. Father slung his rifle over his shoulder and headed towards the reeds. We waited expectantly for the sound of a shot, but Father soon returned, his rifle still over his shoulder.
   "It's all over. The wound was fatal!" Father patted us on the head and I could feel a slight tremble in his hand.
   "Do You want us to run and get Voloshin-aga?" I asked.
   "Go ahead, lads. I'll look after your flock."
   We dashed off to the village to get Voloshin-aga. A boar is just a wild pig, and no one in the village had ever tasted pork. Father rarely went hunting for boars. But once he killed an enormous sow and gave the carcass to Voloshin-aga. The latter smoked the meat and sold it in town. He brought us half his earnings wrapped up in a handkerchief and gave it to Father. Father refused to take the money. Voloshin-aga placed the bundle on the stove and left. No one touched the bundle, even though Voloshinaga had included money for a second carcass too.
   And the money lay there until the day the tax collectors paid us a visit. Father pointed to the bundle and told them to take as much as necessary. Not once did Father himself ever touch the money.