Posts Tagged ‘revenge’

“The Bull’s Blood”, a novel.

April 19, 2019

Cover for Bull's Blood

Chapter 34

It was raining the next morning. The rain pelted the roof in loud cascades of white noise. Vadas opened one eye, saw the ominous darkness of the morning and curled himself around Elizabeth.

Elizabeth woke up, yawned and stretched. “Come on, it’s morning. It’s late. Get up.”

Vadas buried his head in her hair. “No, I want to stay in bed all day. In you, too.”

“Vadas, don’t be silly. There are plenty of things to do today.”

“What? You got someone to visit? You want to go shopping?”

Elizabeth yawned. “No. I have nowhere to go, but we could do something.”

“You can scratch my back. Massage my shoulders. Maybe you trim my toenails.” He snuggled down in the covers and tightened his arm around her.

“I don’t trim your toenails, Vadas. Even if we marry, I don’t do that.”

“What? A wife does these things for the husband.”

“I’m not your wife, yet, remember?”

“So? You are in training, no?”

“Ha. Come on, Vadas. I’ll get you some coffee.”

“Good. Bring back the pot.”

Elizabeth went downstairs and poured two mugs of coffee. On the way back she looked out the window at the top of the staircase. It was pouring outside. Perhaps Vadas was right. Perhaps it was a good day to do nothing.

Vadas was sitting up in bed, scratching his chest. Elizabeth handed him his mug and sat down in a chair by the window, sipping the hot coffee gingerly.

“It’s too wet to go visit the grapes, Elizabeth,” he said mournfully.

“Okay. Why don’t we go into Eger and see what furniture your aunts have stored in that warehouse?”

“We could do that. You could pick what you wanted for the house.” Vadas yawned. “We could also stay right here in bed.” He patted the bed beside him.

“Vadas, we don’t have a lot of time before the wedding. If you are serious about making the house livable, it’s going to take a lot of time and attention. The roofers should be coming soon, right?”

“Ah, we can go up there today and see where the rain is coming in, Elizabeth. Good idea. First, take care of your man.” Vadas grinned over his mug.

“You are going to wear me out before we get married.”

“Yes, I am. Aren’t you a lucky woman? The ló fasz is lonely.”

“You’re a maniac, Vadas. Later, sweetie, maybe this evening. I want to get some things done today.”

“As long as you remember the ‘later’, Elizabeth.”

“I’m going to take a shower.”

“Good, I’ll join you.”

“Nothing doing, Vadas. You know what happens when you butt into my shower.”

Vadas smiled, finishing the last of his coffee. “Listen, Elizabeth, before you go shower, I’ve been thinking. The reception? We need a big place. We can rent a hotel, or we can open part of the house. You want to live there, right? Well, we can fix up the roof. We can have people come in and repair some of the rooms. We can have chairs and tables rented. We can make part of the house livable. What do you think?”

Elizabeth stopped where she was. “Vadas? Can you afford to do this? You know that roof will cost a lot of money. And the murals must not be touched. We need a conservator to look at them. They might be of historic value. We don’t want to rush things. Is the house even wired for electricity? What about bathrooms? You are planning on, what? Two, three hundred people?”

“Elizabeth. I would be expected to have at least that many. This whole village and people from Budapest and Eger. It will be a crowd. For three days.”

Elizabeth’s mouth fell open. “Vadas. Some people will have to be put up for that long. At least those from Budapest. Your aunties and my Aunt Irene for much longer.”

“We can put a tent on the grounds. We can have people from out of town stay here. It would be tight, but Maria and Janos will arrange. As for toilets? They can use the bushes.”

“Oh, stop it, Vadas,” said Elizabeth laughing in spite of herself. “Be practical. And the food? We need a wedding planner. We need caterers. We need someone who knows what to do.”

“Okay. Hire someone. Vadas pays.”

Elizabeth shook her head in disbelief and went to take her shower. Vadas picked up a paper and started to read.

The phone rang. It was Andor. “Miklós has been seen in Eger.”

Vadas sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “What? When was he seen?” Vadas stood up and paced while he was talking. “Okay, okay. This changes plans for today. I have to get rid of Elizabeth. No, no. She wants to come into Eger, but that can’t happen. Yes, get Marcus and some of the other men here. I want at least two men here in the house, and two parked near the house. If Miklós is around, Elizabeth is in danger. No, I will meet you in half an hour, maybe a little more. Okay. I’ll unlock the gun cabinet in the hall. You know what to do.”

Vadas put the phone down on the nightstand. So, the bastard had surfaced and he was right under his nose. Now he had to convince Elizabeth to stay here, and not ask questions. But she would be alarmed with two other men in the house. She wasn’t stupid. She would know something was up.

Maria. She would help. Vadas threw on clothes and went downstairs to find Maria. Janos and Maria were both in the kitchen drinking coffee.

“Good. I’m glad I caught both of you. Janos, Miklós was seen in Eger. I’m going there. There will be four men here, two in the house, and two parked nearby. Just in case. Maria? I need you to keep Elizabeth under your thumb. Perhaps she can help in the kitchen? I don’t want her alarmed, but these men here? She will know something’s afoot.” Vadas shrugged his shoulders.

Janos nodded. Maria wasn’t so easy.

“Vadas. Elizabeth will know. She will be scared. I’m afraid for you. Don’t do this, Vadas. You don’t know what Miklós is planning or how many men he has. Please, Vadas, don’t go after Miklós now. Let the police handle it.”

“If the police get involved, I will go down with Miklós.”

Janos spoke: “Maria. This is Vadas’ decision. You, woman, stay out of it. You just keep Elizabeth busy until the smoke clears. Vadas, what are you going to do?”

Vadas turned in the doorway and looked at Janos. “I don’t know. Maybe beat him up. Maybe cut off his dick. Maybe I kill him. I don’t know, Janos. But I won’t go easy on Miklós. That’s if I find him.”

Vadas picked up Andor and Tomas, another man who knew what Miklós had done. Andor filled Tomas in about the sighting of Miklós. They got to Eger fast, Vadas driving like a maniac. They met the man who claimed Miklós had been seen. Miklós had disappeared, though someone had followed. Vadas turned and punched the wall of a building, cursing his head off. Bad move, as he skinned his knuckles. Vadas glared at Andor. “This seggfej is screwing with me.” Vadas lunged at the man, anger contorting his face.

Andor and Timor grabbed Vadas by the shoulders and arms and held him back. “Vadas! Stop it. Don’t kill the messenger, you shithead,” hissed Andor.

The man went pale. He stepped back.

Vadas shook his head, recovering himself and held out his hand. “Sorry. I lost my head.”

The man didn’t take his hand, his eyes flashing anger. Andor stepped in front of Vadas and put his arm around the man’s shoulder. He led him away and spoke quietly to him. Andor slipped something into his hand. The man looked back at Vadas and nodded his head.

“Maybe I should stay here and tail him myself.”

“No, Vadas. Miklós probably wanted you to know he was here. He’s playing cat and mouse with you. Go home and wait. He will probably do this again. But we will get him. Just be patient.”

Vadas looked at Andor and Tomas, and sighed. “You’re probably right. Miklós always was a tok feju. I just lost my head. I can’t afford to do that again.”


Elizabeth found the gun cabinet open and immediately knew something was happening. She saw Marcus sitting on a chair in the hall. He nodded to her. Elizabeth could see he was armed. She went back to the gun cabinet and looked for a small pistol. Vadas’ guns were too big for her but she was damned if she was going to be unarmed. Marcus walked over to her and in bad English asked what she was looking for. Elizabeth said “gun” and he rolled his eyes. She opened the bureau next to the cabinet, rummaged around and found a small .38, unloaded. She found five bullets, loaded the gun and stuck it in the back pocket of her jeans. Marcus winked and nodded at her, then went back to his seat.

Elizabeth walked into the kitchen. A mood of unease filled the room. Maria was silent and Janos was smoking in the kitchen, something Maria usually forbade him doing. They suspected Elizabeth knew something and tried to take her mind off Vadas’ absence. Elizabeth had pulled her sweater down so the gun didn’t show. Maria didn’t notice, but Janos did. He smiled to himself and puffed on his cigarette. This was no helpless, dumb American woman.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

“The Bull’s Blood” will be published in May, 2019 on

Noon Rose

“A Kapitany”, Chapter 35

October 5, 2014

Budapest Balcony with flowers

I started this novel seven years ago.  I dropped it, mainly because it started out with a bdsm theme and it fast queered me out.  I left it for 6 years, just dangling in my documents, but last year finished it.  The trick of this was the change in emphasis of theme.  Gone was the bdsm stuff  and the characters were able to develop.  The woman, Elizabeth more fully fleshed out, and Vadas, the former Dom, became more human.  Actually, besides an ‘action’ story, full of things like art thieves, violence and revenge, it also  became a love story between two very convoluted characters. I was able to research some historical information about WWII and what happened in Hungary and the ‘containment’ camps for Jews and all others, and especially what happened with the Soviet occupation.  All this information went into the novel and I believe deepened the plot.

I had a lot of fun this summer rewriting this.  Mostly tense changes and some other changes. This is just one chapter of 40 and perhaps I will post others later.

Lady Nyo


Vadas slept badly. Shortly after dawn when first light appeared, he left the bed and stood watching Elizabeth, still sleeping. He avoided her questions the evening before, but she was no fool. She pressed him why Marcus was sitting in the hall of the lodge, obviously armed. Why the gun cabinet he was so careful about locking was unlocked and wide open. Why Maria wanted her company in the kitchen even though they couldn’t understand each other, and also because Maria wasn’t that welcoming of Vadas’ new squeeze. And why he had disappeared without notice.

Vadas avoided her questions until he started yelling at her. She didn’t back down. God, how she had changed in the months when he could do as he pleased! Now? She met him word for word, even yelling and stamping her foot. She was pushing him. He raised his hand, thinking she would shut up. He wouldn’t have hit her, just wanted her to stop with the questions. She looked shocked and then laughed. “You fall back into Hungarian because your English is so bad. Actually, it’s cute.” That had cut him. Cute? He was the Dom and didn’t think what he did was cute. What in hell was she thinking? Ah, there was no fear in this woman. She was fast getting the upper hand.

Vadas went downstairs. Maria must have gotten up even earlier as the coffee on the sideboard under the boar’s head was fresh, waiting for him. She must have heard the ruckus upstairs last night.

A cigarette and some coffee would concentrate his thoughts. He needed to think. He needed to get in control of Miklos and Elizabeth. Miklos was the serious threat, but Elizabeth was getting too bold. Ah, God. Women. If she wasn’t so fragile now, he would beat her. Of course he wouldn’t, but she needed to fear him a little.

It was still raining, but lighter today. The gloom outside fit his mood this morning. He looked out the window at the mass of trees and to the landscape stretching down the valley. There was a lot of land out there. He needed to put Elizabeth out there with a spade. Perhaps a plow. A big garden would tire her out, made her more docile.

Janos must have come in the middle of the night to lay the fire. Maria would be making breakfast soon. Elizabeth? Let her sleep. She probably was disturbed by his tossing in bed all those hours. By bed time they weren’t speaking. Like an old married couple, he thought with a sigh.

Miklos. He was in control now. His appearance (if that information was reliable) in Eger was part of his strategy. Andor was right: Miklos was playing cat and mouse. Vadas didn’t like being the mouse.

All this over a mere woman. No, that wasn’t right. Elizabeth was just a pawn in Miklos’ game. Actually a pawn in a shared game. He had done the unthinkable. He had pulled down the foundation of Miklos’ empire. Well, if not that, he certainly had disrupted his business. Why didn’t Miklos pick someone to replace him? He knew why. Twenty years and Miklos was comfortable the way things were. It was a delicate operation. Each man was necessary to the success of what they had been doing, illegal as it was. They were well honed parts of a particular machine. A man just didn’t walk into the job: years of risk and valued contacts, years of trust, at least with the clients. No, his wanting out had come from left field. Miklos didn’t believe he would walk away. It was an affront to his power and control. Of all injuries and insults, this was the one thing Miklos could not stand.

Vadas thought of the woman upstairs. It was an old tale, a classical tale. Both men wanted her. For different reasons, but both used her against the other. Vadas had used Elizabeth to break with Miklos; Miklos had used Elizabeth to break Vadas. It was like Achilles and Agamemnon, with Briesis between them. A long war with much causality until one defeated the other.

None of this was fair to Elizabeth. But women were pawns in the conflict between men. It had been so since the beginning of time. Why should it be any different now?

He felt like a sitting duck. Miklos was moving the pieces around the board right now. Well, there was nothing to be done about it except go on the offensive. Perhaps getting Elizabeth out of here for a while would give him time to develop his own plan besides sit and wait for Miklos to show his ass.

He sipped his coffee and decided he would take her to Budapest. Let her be introduced to the old girls there. It was right and proper she be brought before them anyhow. They shouldn’t meet her at the reception for the first time. Plus, he could kill two birds with one stone; he could meet with his wine clients and perhaps take in a museum or two. He had promised this to her before, and he had broke his promise. She was anxious, nervous. God knows she had reason to be. They were getting on each other’s nerves. A change of scenery would do them both good.

He would ask Zoltan to go with them. He would talk this crap through with Zoltan and get a better perspective. Right now he wanted to stalk Miklos to the ends of the earth, shoot him down in the street. He knew he had to be smarter if he wanted a future.

Vadas looked at his watch. Too early to call Andor and Marcus, but he wanted to meet with them before leaving. Perhaps they could meet together at Zoltan’s and lay down a plan while he was gone. Just talking it over with them would be good. Right now he was too close to the fire to think straight.

He heard someone in the dining room and thought Maria was bringing in breakfast. It was Elizabeth. She poured herself coffee and came into the room, saying nothing to him, only nodding her head.

“Good morning, Elizabeth. You sleep as badly as I did?”

“Your moving around in the bed didn’t help.” Elizabeth sat down across from him and looked out the window.

“I’m sorry, but I have a way to make it up to you.”

“What? Separate bedrooms?”

Vadas laughed uneasily. “No, smarty pants. That will never happen, not while we’re married. The winters up here are too fierce for that. No, I was thinking we go to Budapest later today to visit the aunties and play tourist.”

Elizabeth looked over the rim of her cup. “Are you serious, Vadas? Look me in the eye and say that?”

Vadas laughed. “So, you are picking up the phrases? Good, you need to learn if you live in Hungary.”

He sipped his coffee.

“Yes, would you like that? A change of scenery will do us both good. I am going to ask Zoltan to come with us. He needs a vacation, too.”

“I would like to see Zoltan. I would also like to see Budapest, again. This time with you instead of seeing it alone.”

She put her cup on the hearth. “Vadas? I want to pick up art supplies while we are there. I need to get back to my painting. I think it will calm me.”

“Then we will do it, Elizabeth. And it is time you met the aunties. We will stay maybe for three days. I will have to visit some of my wine clients while we are there, but you will enjoy that. We will go play the tourist like I promised.”

“Thank you, Vadas.” Elizabeth gave him a wry smile. “I’m sorry we fought last night. I didn’t enjoy it at all.”

“Well, that was hardly a fight, Elizabeth. The big ones come later in marriage.”   Vadas smiled into his cup.

“Vadas? Don’t ever raise your hand to me again. I am not a dog to discipline. You do, and I will be on the next plane back to the states.”

There was no mistaking her. Her tone said it all. Vadas knew she would do just that.

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth. You were pushing me. A man doesn’t like to be pushed. And, my English is good, not ‘cute’.”

“And a woman deserves answers, especially when it concerns her life.” Elizabeth stared into the low fire.

She would have the last word this morning, thought Vadas. Let her be difficult. She would come to know he was the man and a man didn’t answer every whine.

“Vadas, can we see Soffia in Budapest? I sort of miss her.”

“Sure, Elizabeth. You can call and warn her. I’m sure she wants to see you, too. But don’t think the old aunties want to see her. They never approved of Soffia, not in all these years.” Vadas laughed.

“Why, because she is a lesbian?”

“No, because they wanted me to get married after Marta, and Soffia looked too fast for their idea of a wife.”

Vadas stretched, the tension of last night mostly resolved.

“Look, Elizabeth. I go see Zoltan. I won’t be long. I need to talk to him. You go pack and pack for me, too. It will give you good practice when we marry.” Vadas half closed his eyes and smiled at her. Now, he would have the last word.

While Elizabeth was upstairs he called Andor. They agreed to meet at Zoltan’s. Then he called Zoltan to let him know he was coming. Gulping down one last cup of coffee and chewing on some bacon, he left before Elizabeth could appear and ask more questions.

Vadas met Marcus and Andor on the road to Zoltan’s cottage. Again the same dog met them at the gate and again Zoltan’s cousin yelled at the cur. It ran to the back under the house. Zoltan was in his favorite chair, his shoes propped up on the fender of the woodstove. It was early, but he was drinking plum wine. The cousin brought in a tray with a bottle and glasses. She left it on the table with a large sausage and a knife. The men found places to sit and Vadas poured out the wine.

“Well, Zoltan. We got news Miklos was seen in Eger yesterday. Maybe true, maybe not. But I have men there watching. It’s a big town, and Miklos knows the hiding places. But so do the men. We will see what happens. You up for a trip to Budapest?”

Zoltan blew out smoke and nodded. “Sure, sure, I’m up for anything right now. I’m getting stir crazy sitting here. I got my pills. I can visit a woman I know. Fine, but I drive, Vadas. We will make it with our lives spared.”

The other men laughed. Vadas drove too fast, talked too much and drove with his knees, his arms flailing around with his talking. Only Zoltan was used to his ways, but now? He decided he had tempted fate enough and wasn’t a cat with nine lives. Being in Vadas’ company was dangerous enough. He would drive.

“What about Miklos’ men? Has anyone seen or heard of them lately?” Vadas lit another cigarette.

“Nah, only that Barna is still bitching about his finger. He can’t grip his cock with his hand missing a finger,” Marcus said.

The men laughed. “Barna better be grateful Vadas left him his cock to play with,” said Zoltan.

“What about this Ukrainian?”

“Nobody has seen him, Vadas, but he’s probably lying low. What happened to Barna sent a clear message to those dickheads.”

“To some of them. Some need to clean the wax out of their ears.”

There was nothing new so they decided to continue to wait and see. Sooner or later they would flush out Miklos and his merry men. It was a dangerous game all around, but they had little to go on. They could wait. Miklos would come to them, eventually. The point was not to fall into another trap. That would mean ‘game over.’

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Tin Hinan”, Section 3 of Chapter 1

March 8, 2012

(Berber girl, from

My thanks to all who are reading this Chapter 1 of my novel, “Tin Hinan”, especially  the readers from d’  I am delighted by your comments and encouragement.  I have broken this long chapter into 4 sections, and will post Chapter II, but will also break it  into sections.

After 4 years I am close to finishing this book, and Bill Penrose, who formatted my last three books at, will stand again for this book.  Thank you, Bill.  None of these books would ever have seen the light of day without your hard labor.

Lady Nyo

Section 3, Chapter I, “Tin Hinan”…..‘Wedding Preparations’

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing to do were to take a piece of my Mother’s tent and sew it into one of my own.  All the woman of the tribe gathered at my Mother’s tent one morning and with singing and playing of the bendir, a frame drum, we cut out a large piece in the back of her tent and started stitching the heavy cloth woven from goat hair.  It was long and tedious work, but we ate dates and millet puddings and drank honey-sweet mint tea and told stories.  For a fortnight we worked on my marriage tent.  The east side would be for Hasim, and the west side for me.  I would have our marriage bed and our stores, musical instruments and rugs on my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the east side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men protecting our settlement from raiders across the mountain and from the desert. By custom, the tent, the bed and everything in it, except the weapons and saddles would be my property.

Our settlement was in a large oasis, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.  It was lush and shaded in parts by woods and orchards and streams running through the land. We tilled the fertile earth, made so by the runoff of water from the mountain, and fed by the snows of winter.  It was a beautiful site for our nomadic people, and we defended it fiercely from others who would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with my father and decided this would be the place for my tent.

There was much more to do, but the next task was to build my marriage bed.  This was to be the most important piece of furniture a woman could have, and each was done differently according to the skills and imagination of the carver.  My father hired the best carpenter and carver around to build it.  It would be big and wide and would not be too high off the carpets paving the floor of the tent.  My father went with the carpenter to pick the wood, and he obtained some beautiful, scented cedar to make the bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place in the tent.  It was so beautiful, but of course, I was not allowed to lie down on it, or even to sit upon its frame.  I would have to wait for the wedding night with Hasim before I was even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between sides was hung and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and good fortune carved along with flowers and palm trees.  In the middle of the back of the bed, was a large and flowing palm tree, with its roots extending outward towards the side posts. Little pigeons and doves were being chased by two hawks and some of the doves were hiding in the tree.

Next was the sewing of the mattress.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton. We spread it out on a carpet and during the night, my kinswomen, young girls to elderly women, my cousins and great aunts, would sit around the heavy mattress and we would all take up our bone needles and stitch carefully across and down the mattress.  This would be laid upon the woven ropes that were stretched from one side of the bed frame to another, and woven back and forth until there was a tight foundation for the mattress.  Our tradition said that a tightly woven bed frame augured well for a marriage.  Loose or slack weaving would let the attentions of the husband sag and the wife would stray in her affections.

As the wedding approached, I was bundle of nerves.  I had not seen Hasim, except from a distance.  We were watched very closely, for there was to be no contact before the wedding day.  I was not allowed to venture to the river without another woman with me, and I believe Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss shared pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Death took matters into their own claws.  I say Death  for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life. We Berbers believe strongly in malicious spirits, and they seemed to hold their own festival with my wedding plans.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration planned,  I heard some women in my mother’s tent crying and went to see what had happened.  As I neared her tent, two of my favorite Aunties  ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,” said one fat old auntie, panting in her excitement. “You must prepare yourself!  You must be strong and comfort your parents!”

“What? What? What has happened that I am to be ‘strong’ as you say?”  I started to run towards her tent, and since I am tall, my legs were long, and my Aunties could not keep up with me.  I heard them wailing behind me, yet I did not heed their cries.

I made it to my mother’s tent and entered her western side, where I found both my parents in her quarters.  My father looked somber, and my mother was rocking back and forth, like she was in grief.

“What has happened, oh my parents?  Has something happened to Hasim?  Tell me, oh tell me now!”

My mother was beside herself, and had thrown a cloth over her head as we do when a kinsman dies.  This is to blot out the sight of any happiness and is one of our forms of our mourning.  I was white faced with fear and was sure that Hasim was dead!

“My daughter, my daughter,” began my father, with tears in his eyes.  “Our family has been tricked, we have all been betrayed. Even though our gifts were returned this morning, it is not to be borne.  Hasim has contracted to marry another and has left to go to her tent.”

I was told I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty, my mouth open without sound. Then, one long wail came out of my throat before I collapsed on the carpet at my father’s feet.

Chapter 1, Part 3, “Tin Hinan”

August 6, 2009

Three days later I  recovered my senses under the loving care of my kinswomen, enough to sit up in my mother’s bed, for she would not have me leave her.  I drank mint tea until I was tired of walking out into the desert to squat down.  I thought my senses had taken leave of me  for one night I started to walk, after dark, when the desert turns dangerous, even more so than by day.  The old women told me there were Zars out there, waiting to claim my liver, but I knew there were  snakes and scorpions and these alone were trouble enough.

I did not care.  I was torn between love, a pitiful, self-effacing sentiment where I  cried out for the man I had never really known.  But then, like a limb that has fallen over a high rock, and teeters, first one side then the weight of it on the other, I fell to hating Hasim with all my heart. My hatred for him made my fingers curl and a lump of burning pain in my stomach rise up to my throat.  If he were before me now, I would be a savage and kill him with my bare hands.  He had brought shame on my family, but mostly he had disgraced me, the woman who was his intended, the woman who was to bear his many sons.

Until a new moon rose in the sky,  I walked  a part of each night in the desert, tailed by the girl Takama, who was sent by my mother to watch me.  I bore her presence until finally annoyed, I yelled for her to go to the devil.  Takama was a good girl, a slave in our family, and she fell on her knees and threw her apron over her face.  I took pity and told her she could follow, but only at a distance of three camels. I turned and continued to pace out in the desert, always in a wide circle around our community’s many tents.  I was trying to make up my mind what to do. I knew my parents would take some kind of action, but I had my own to do.

On the third night of my pacing, I went out into the desert, and forbid Takama following me.  I had bathed myself in a ritual bath in the river that ran through our oasis, and had thrown off all jewelry.  I unbraided my long black hair and drew on a white cotton dress, and barefoot I went into the desert.  There I chanted and prayed to my goddesses for I wanted their help in deciding my course.

Isis was the first goddess I prayed to, lifting my hands to the heavens and imploring her. It was Isis who gave justice to the poor and orphaned, and though I was neither, I knew she would hear my plight.  Isis was all-seeing, but apparently busy.

I next prayed and chanted to Tanit and Tinjis.  I needed all the answers and ideas I could find.  They were silent, but suddenly I shivered, and I knew that one of them had listened.. Or perhaps it was a Zar that tickled my spine, for Zars were known to attack a woman when she went alone in the desert. They delighted in that.  It made access to souls so much easier.

But I was looking for a stronger solution. I was enraged at the treatment of that man. By now my anger was such  I could not speak his name.

I closed my eyes, threw out my arms to the heavens, to the moonless sky above me and threw myself into the vortex of my misery. Ayyur, the Moon God was one I exhorted, and then Ifri, the war goddess.  I needed some answers, some plan of action. I mumbled and prayed and exhorted them all until the constellations in the sky above me revolved with the passage of hours.

Finally, it came to me.  I knew what I would do when I heard the sound of the imzad, the violin only a woman can touch and vibrate.  I heard it’s sad sound floating over the desert in the evening air.  My destiny was staring me in my face.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2009

“Tin Hinan”…Chapter two, “Damaged Goods”…

January 7, 2009

Early the next morning, I rose from my pallet in the corner of my mother’s large tent. I knew my path.  After a sleepless night, I had time to refine it.

I sent Takama to gather dates, millet, barley and to fill two large water leathers.  I told her to pack for a journey, to roll up clothes for both of us, and to also pack blankets.  We were to go away, and with big eyes and trembling lips she listened in silence. I told her that I would beat her to an inch of her worthless life if she slipped up and made anyone notice her doings.  Takama was a good girl, and she nodded in silence.  Although only two years younger, she was now my travelling companion.

When I listen to myself relate this story, so many years ago, I think I was what the Turks call “burnt kebobs”. A bit crazy, desert-mad, had lost all my senses.  Perhaps I would do things differently if given another chance, but I was so young and the young are not known for their wisdom.

I took a piece of wood used in the setting up of tents, smooth and about as long as my forearm, and walked far into the desert.  There, after prayers to Isis and Ifri, I threw off my gown, and placing the wood stake upright in the sand, I lowered my body over it and fell down in one fast motion.

With a scream, I cried out to Isis.  The pain was tremendous, this pain that I would have felt on my wedding night.  I destroyed my value as a bride, for my life as a woman was over at that moment.  Now I was not marriageable, I was damaged goods.  I took my virginity so I would not be burdened with thoughts of marriage and it’s happiness any longer.  No such dreams fit with my plans for the future.  Now that I had dispensed with my value as a bride, I was freed in my mind.

I drew on my gown and walked back to my mother’s tent.  I bled down my legs and I almost fainted when I entered her side.  Takama had gathered the stuffs I had demanded and hid them under a blanket in my father’s side of the tent.

No one was there, in either the east or west side, and even my little brothers and sisters were out running around the settlement.  Only my old great-grandmother was there, but she was stricken dumb by some elder’s infirment.  Her eyes rolled in her head, but she could not speak.  She did watch me closely, but her face could not form an expression.

I took my hair down, dropping the bone pins on the carpet. Taking a large sharp knife I cut off my two braids as close to my head as I could.  My crowning glory as a woman was now gone.  Great-grandmother Tuba watched me, her eyes widening in alarm.

“Do not worry, Grandmother Tuba.  I know what I am doing.  I am shaping my destiny the only way I know how.”

The two black braids lay like snakes on the carpet.  All those years growing and oiling my hair, pinning it up and brushing it out were now with the past.  I went and opened a cedar chest and drew out men’s clothes.  I put on the loose pants and the over- dress of cotton, I drew on the outer robe and walked to my father’s side of the tent where he kept his many weapons.  Picking a short curved sword, light enough for me to use, I also chose a dagger to wear in my girdle. I outfitted my feet with a good pair of sturdy men’s sandals.  The final part of my new costume was to wrap a dark indigo-blue cloth around my head many times and cover my nose and mouth with the ending.  It had a funny smell but I supposed I would get used to it, and I would be stained blue like the other men, even Hasim.  At the thought of his name, my stomach churned, but I can’t now remember if it was in anger or remorse.

Takama came into the east side of the tent and stopped suddenly when she saw a man standing there.  Then she saw the two black braids on the carpet and her eyes grew wide. I took down the veil from my face and smiled at her.  She would have screamed but her shock made her silent.  All she could do was stare and shake.

“Come, Takama, we have one more thing to do before we leave.  Saddle my white camel, and bring her to the tent.  Saddle yourself a donkey and get the boys to load up both beasts. Meet me back here quickly.”

Takama did as she was told.  My camel, named Niefa, kneeled and I mounted her, the saddle feeling strange to my buttocks for I was sitting like a man would on a camel.

“Coosh, coosh, Niefa”, I called out to her as she rose up with a groan.  Camels talk a lot, and my Niefa talked all the time.

We rode to the elder’s tent, an open- sided covering with large rugs laid on the sand.  There sat all the tribal elders, and the women of status, my mother prominent amongst them.

I was an object of immediate curiosity, for although I was not recognized, my Niefa was.  I came up to the tent, and stopped a respectful distance from them.  Niefa moaned and kneeled, and I toppled off her, and saw some of the older men smile at this young man who did not gracefully descend from his beast.

I walked up to them and bowed, and drew aside my indigo veil.  Immediately I was recognized, and my mother gave up such a wail that my stomach flipped.  My father stared and stared and said nothing.  My presence for a few minutes threw them all into confusion.

“I stand before you, no longer Aicha.  Aicha is dead to me and to this tribe.  I know that satisfaction is demanded for the behavior of Hasim Ghanim Iher and his family and tribe.
I know you meet to discuss what is to be done.  But I would not have the blood of my tribesmen on my head.  I will seek my own revenge in time on Hasim Ghanim Iher and his tribe, but Ammon and Isis will lead me to that moment.  Now I will leave our oasis and my family and with Takama as my companion, I will go through the desert until I can find my peace.”

Those words were the most I ever uttered in public.  A girl of eighteen does not presume to address her elders. But of course, in my mind, I was no longer Aicha, a member of my family or my tribe.  I was now a stranger to both, and I could see the doubts as to my sanity in my parent’s eyes.

“Ah, Aicha has lost her senses! A Zar must be commanding her. Whoever would believe that this child could cast off her name and do such a thing?”  My mother’s voice rang out in agony, and I winced at her pain.

There was a general hubbub, a confused mingling of voices, when I heard my father cut through all of them with his own low voice.  Immediately, everyone stopped talking out of respect for this shocked father.  He stood up, drew himself to his full height, and addressed me.

“My daughter, I know your grief.  I saw you former happiness and I know how oppressed your soul and liver is now. Do you understand what you do?  It is heresy in the face of  your tribe to appear in men’s clothing.  Do you understand the weight of your actions?”

With tears in my eyes that I shook from my head, I spoke to him, the daughter of his old age and his favorite.

“My father and mother, I do this for the great love I have for my tribe.  I know bloodshed will follow the breaking of our wedding by Hasim and his parents.  Our people will die because of this man and his family. Leave them to their shame.  I have my own. But I am born anew and I left Aicha in the desert when I prayed to Isis and Tanit.   She is dead, but I am alive and I go to meet my destiny.”

I did not tell him what else I had done. That was for me only, for that knowledge revealed would have me stoned to death.  Such a violation would not be tolerated by the traditions of our tribe.

My father came forward to embrace me, and turning to the others, with tears running down his face, he addressed them.

“My daughter Aicha, for she will always remain my daughter, has consulted our Ammon and the Goddesses.  If they spoke to her, she is bound to obey.  Aicha is a good girl, and would not lie to me.  I will bless her with my deepest blessings and let her find her destiny.  Anyone who would move against her now, moves against me first.”

I mounted Niefa and with the indigo veil wrapped tightly around my face catching my tears, I turned my camel and Takama and I walked out of our oasis.  I did not dare look back, for I knew if I did so, I would not be able to leave my tribe and my family.

The desert spread out before me at the edge of our oasis, like a vast, white ocean. I turned my eyes to the east where I knew my future was waiting. What I would find, not even the God and Goddesses would tell me.  I was, with the exception of a slave girl, on my own.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2008

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