By Sait Faik

In the summer the seashore is most beautiful when it is less crowded. We were in the month of June. There wasn't even a whiff of a wind. Above the beach, which was covered with pebbles, there were rocks and cliffs as fertile as the fields with pine trees growing here and there. Over the cliffs yellow sweet-briar, green thistles and pink heather grew in abundance. The sun came down like a torrent through this ferrous earth and flowed into the distant beach as if it were flowing into a lake. I was filled with an irresistible temptation I couldn't control. I slid over the goat-path half crouched. I threw my jacket, my trousers, my underwear over the pebbles, the way a sleepy man throws his things; in one minute I was in the sea. I remember that my heart had beaten fast when I had lain on the pebbles. I closed my eyes feeling the sky inside them. I felt as though a warm body was hugging me and the fragrance of virgin lips was warming up my sensuality; these were not thoughts, they were feelings. The breezes that suddenly blew from unknown places caressed the hair on my chest and I felt as though something was being crushed between my arms. Sometime later I thought I felt lighter and had gotten rid of many of my burdens. I got dressed. Presently I was walking along the deserted shore. Everything was faraway; there were no ferries in sight. There was only a cloud of smoke over the sea. I climbed over the cliffs. Below, the water was full of shadows, transparent and shallow. I saw a shadow out in the sea. It looked as though it were a black sail about one fathom long and as wide as the width of my body and its shadow had fallen on the sea. The seagulls were alighting on this shadow. All of sudden I saw the shadow plunging into the depths. Then, again, it surfaced and spread out on the sea, a little farther. This was a skate. God knows why this fish laid his big flat body over the lukewarm waters of the sea and moved around like this! And why the seagulls thought this fish was dead and attacked it... And why this creature played games with them. Again I went down to the beach accompanied by my solitude, the birds and the fishes. I was walking amid knee-high grasses. Suddenly, I saw a man standing in the sea up to his waist. His complexion was very dark. He had a handsome and strong body. Now and then little waves hit his waist and receded. I could see that he was stark naked. He was making his ablutions. His dark shaven head was turned toward the deserted shores across from him. He didn't hear my footsteps. He was reciting something very loud, but I couldn't discern it well. He plunged into the sea three times and came up three times jumping up, up to his private part. I went nearer him. As he rubbed his body he was saying, "Euzü Billahimineşşeytanirracim, Allah... Allah..." Most likely he didn't know any other prayer. The man was feeling the poison and the after taste of the dream he had seen the

previous night settling slowly in his body like a sediment. His name was Mehmet. His father's name, too, was Mehmet; that is, he was Mehmet the son of Mehmet. When he saw me he yelled: "Keep out!" Then closing his private part with his hand he came to the beach. He pulled on a pair of long, hand-woven cotton drawers. He folded its bottoms carefully and tied them in knots. After winding the waiststring twice around his waist he made a knot for that too. After sitting down and drying his hands on his drawers he lighted a cigarette. He wondered why his parents, who lived in a hut heated with cattle manure, on the plains of Çankiri didn't send him a letter if they were still living. His son Emin, a slip of a boy, was he taking care of the house? was he sweeping the streets of the town? what was he doing? Satan fools us when we are in a strange land away from home. We wade in the sea. We look at the turret shell we find among the pebbles, with open eyes, like looking at a mystery of nature and say: "'Oh, God! We cannot question your divine reason, but what creatures you' ve created! Creatures with houses as strong as the concrete on their backs. Creatures with houses made of stone. My God, such a mystery, you're so great! Creatures with stone houses... houses without people... people without houses." When Mehmet, who worked in a place that made cinder blocks, got an answer to his letter from the village we wrote another letter. When he slept over the stones and dreamed -- with blue and green flies around his mouth-- it would be like he was in the village again and white girls like white clouds mounted on his shoulders. His ears were filled with songs, ballads and tales. Mehmet would wake up, cursing the flies settled on the particles of fish stuck to his rotten teeth under his bushy mustache. He would jump into the sea. He would paddle like a dog as he did in the river. He would have three dips in the sea. "Euzü Billahimineşşeytanirracim! " Mehmet was thirty-two years old. In winter he went back to his village. His son, Emin, met him in town and they walked together to the village. His mother had died. His father had become all white-haired; he was ninety-two years old. Mehmet took out seven pieces of gold from his belt and gave them to his father. His father kept these seven pieces of gold for seven years. When he died seven years later, Mehmet tied four pieces of gold into his son's drawers' waiststring and sent him to Istanbul. He kept three pieces of gold. It was trying times and one had to look far ahead, not backwards. The day after Emin left, Mehmet was sitting down facing the hearth with a crackling fire made with three pieces of cattle manure briquettes. His wife cried every night looking at the sheepskin that Emin used to lie on. Mehmet was looking absentmindedly at the hot embers of the manure briquettes. He was as pensive as he was when he had taken the turret shell in his hand. He was visualizing the creatures with stone houses whose mystery was unfathomable. He thought he had plunged in the water three times and come up three times A tear drop came down from one of his eyes. "Euzü Billahimineşşeytanirracim!"

Then he felt ashamed in front of his wife who was standing sheepishly by the door and looking at him, "Woman why are you crying?" he yelled, "Open the door, let the smell go!" The smell was the smell of the Turkish village that had penetrated into every nook and cranny of the room. Maybe, it was also the smell of Emin's absence... When the door is opened it may, or it may not go away. The woman opened the door. The light of a bright winter day flowed into the room like a stream which had found its course. For a long time the husband and the wife couldn't see anything with their bleared eyes. Then, far away, a very white road shined on the bare hills: the road to Istanbul.

Translated by Nilűfer Mizanoǧlu Reddy

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