zaterdag 12 oktober 2013

The Evil Eye

It was very surprising to experience to be accepted so soon. After some years as a somewhat lonely child, because there were hardly any children in the forest where we lived, I found myself surrounded by the village children. I was amazed and sometimes it almost got too much and I tried to get away from the rowdy company. But most of the times I was just very happy with the luxury of so many friends.

The village was quite small and there were hardly any facilities. We had our school, there was a church, a pub that had closed down years before but functioned as an off license, a bakery where you could buy sweets, a milkman without a shop (but you could get milk at the back door) and a smithy. It does not sound like there was a lot to do for children, but our days were always filled.
When we were not in school or on our expeditions in the fields surrounding the village or playing football on the grass in front of the school we would spy on the blacksmith.

His big wooden double doors were always open during the day. The  fire that the blacksmith used made the work space very warm. We would peep in hiding behind these doors, not making a sound. At first I didn't know what this was all about, but the others explained it to me very clear. The blacksmith had the evil eye and when you were caught in his vision you or a person in your family would become seriously ill and could even die.
So whenever the man turned around from his hammering on the glowing metal we would run off, the girls sometimes screaming from fear.

One day my mother took me to the doctor because a wound on my knee would not heal. We got some cream for that and after that I was ready to go to school. Mother thought it would be better to skip all day and so I found myself alone on the streets. I decided to have a look at the blacksmith.
I found him hammering on some horseshoes, once in a while holding them in the fire and when he was done he held them in the water causing a lot of hissing and steam.
"Better show yourself kid!" he suddenly shouted. To my surprise I found myself walking straight in the smithy instead of running off.

The blacksmith had taken a seat on a stool and gestured me to sit down too. There was a wooden bench near the doors. I felt no fear I could run off easily. My sore knee didn't bother me that much and I knew already that the man was not very young. He asked me why I was not in school and I explained. He nodded, maybe he had been wondering if this was a day off for all the children.
Now I noticed that he was cross-eyed. Maybe the children knew this too and made this story about the evil eye?

The blacksmith started telling me about the way the children reacted on him. He invented the story himself, by this he tried to keep the children away from the smithy. It was far too dangerous for them.
He asked me to run to the bakery and get him a loaf of bread. No money was needed, I just had to tell him it's for the blacksmith. And on my return he would give me something.    
So I did what he asked me to do and he gave me a few cents.
"And don't tell the others. This is our secret!" I nodded and he told me to go home.
When I left he told me that if I was on my own I could ask him if I could sit on the bench again and maybe I could do an errand again.

I did some more errands in the time that followed. Sometimes I would run along with the other children away from the smithy while coins were tinkling in my pocket.
A year later the smithy closed it's doors forever; the blacksmith had suddenly died and there was nobody willing to take over the business. The smithy stayed like this for years and years. I heard rumors about relatives and the municipality to quarrel about the building.
When I left the village to live somewhere else the building was still there, slowly becoming a ruin.

Years later I came to visit the village again. It changed beyond recognition. The population increased a lot and so did the amount of shops: there was even a shopping center.
The smithy had disappeared, instead there was a new building with a cafe in it. The name of it was "The Friendly Neighbor". I myself would have named it "The Evil Eye".

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