Luz Lanch de Bairacli Levy


The Silver Fox and other Stories
A collection of
 short stories

by Luz Lancha de Bairacli Levy


daughter of Juliette de Bairacli Levy.
Published online by Ash Tree Publishing

 


The Gypsy Children
by Luz Lancha de Bairacli Levy © 2007


The Silver Fox and other Stories - Table of Contents


They set up camp at the far end of the deserted field. Each time I passed by in my car, I was tempted to slow down and look towards their encampment. But I did not dare to slow down too frequently, in case they might spot me and become worried.

One morning as I drove by I noticed a blue van parked near the now familiar large brown canvas tent. It drew my attention because of the flashy red curtains over its windows. I also noticed three little children playing beside the van.

Then a few days later, late one afternoon, I saw the same three Gypsy children walking up the road towards me. I slowed down to have a closer look at them. There were two little girls and a smaller boy. They all had lovely dark, but very tangled hair, shiny skin and large dark eyes. The three of them were holding hands as they walked along the side of the road. I waved to them; they looked at me with astonishment and then walked on.

All that evening at home, I dreamt about the lovely gifts that I would take to them when I should visit them at their tent. I knew though, that I would never have the courage to do so!

The following day poured with rain. Leaving the house late that morning, I drove by swiftly, forgetting to look towards the Gypsy dwelling.

On my way home that same afternoon however, I noticed that the large brown canvas tent was gone, and that the far end of the field was now left empty and desolate. I was saddened; I would have loved to have gotten to know them, to sit by their blazing fire, to speak to those adorable dark-skinned children, to enter into the mysterious concealed world of the traveling Gypsies. But now they were gone! I was annoyed with myself for not possessing the courage to have walked over the muddy field to visit the Gypsies in their fascinating dwelling when I had the chance.

Early one Saturday morning I went to the market which was held once a week in the village square opposite the church of Saint Marina. There, parked near the town square, I spotted the blue van! I could not be mistaken, for the flashy red curtains that covered the windows of the large vehicle were easily recognizable.

The rear door was held open by a thick rope attached to the metal railings of the van’s roof. A tall, dark-skinned man stood by the van. He wore a light blue shirt and he had a red spotted scarf around his neck. A large woman stood beside him. These must be the parents of the three children, I thought.

Scattered all around the van were towering stacks of white plastic chairs. They were piled one on top of another, forming tall heaps. Alongside the van, beautifully made wicker-baskets had been arranged in a neat row according to size.

I went up to the Gypsies. I felt strange, as if I knew them! Well, after having spied on them for so long I guess that could be expected! The children were nowhere to be seen.

The Gypsy woman eyed me from head to foot and then said, “Take this basket! One thousand drachmas, very cheap!” She handed me a beautifully made basket. Her eyes were very dark; her skin was cinnamon-colored. She had flashy gold teeth, and her head was covered with a colorful scarf, decorated with small beads glittering in the early morning sun.

“Don’t you like it?” she asked, squinting at the bright sun that shone directly into her eyes.

“Yes, I do!” I took a one thousand drachma note out of my purse and handed it to her. She took the money, folded it into a small square and placed it in the bosom of her scarlet dress.

I looked at the plastic chairs scattered around the van. The Gypsy man came up to me flashing his professional salesman’s smile, showing his gleaming gold teeth. He asked, “How many do you want?” He took a chair from the pile and handed it to me. The chair had no weight to it at all! It was molded in one piece out of hard white plastic.

I put the chair down gently, saying, “Thank you, but I really have no need for chairs, thank you.” He looked at me kindly, and not with the angry look I had anticipated from him for having rejected his offer.

“Never mind,” he said, and turned to attend to an elderly couple who had begun to inquire about the chairs.

The Gypsy woman smiled at me. “Where are the children?” I asked affectionately.

“The children?” she seemed alarmed.

“Yes, the three little children,” I replied. She gave me a sharp piercing glance, studying me attentively from head to foot. She did not reply to my question.

“Thank you,” said I, holding up the basket I had just purchased. I walked away.

The market was fascinating: farmers from various neighboring villages had laid upon the ground large canvas sheets spread with many different kinds of fresh home-grown produce. Large wicker baskets contained the harvests of the earth: bunches of purple grapes, mountains of wild figs, freshly picked cactus fruit in shades of orange and red, variously shaped homemade cheeses, lovely bright bunches of lush-looking parsley and celery, wild thyme and fresh mint.

After completing my shopping, I went to sit in a cafe situated among tall pine trees overlooking the hectic village square. I relaxed in the cool shade, enjoying a long swig from my refreshing lemonade.

And then I saw them, the three Gypsy children! They were walking among the crowded tables, begging, the older girl at the lead holding her head proudly, followed by the younger girl and boy.

My heart leapt with joy, as if I had suddenly spotted long-lost friends. I watched them carefully as they walked among the tables. The older girl was wearing a dark green dress and was barefoot, the smaller girl had on a shabby brown pullover and a bright yellow skirt which hung down to her feet, clad in flashy, new, red sandals. The little boy was wearing a green pull-over and ragged blue trousers; he too was barefoot.

Their small campaign was expertly planned. The older girl would go up to one of the people sitting at a table and ask them for ten drachmas. I could hear her clear childish voice saying, “Deka drachmes, deka drachmes.”

After drawing their attention, she would thrust forward the two smaller children who would hold out their tiny hands, and stare at their hopeless victims with sorrowful eyes. Some of the people waved their hands at them as one would do to a cloud of pestering flies. Others were less patient and shoved them away angrily.

But then there were the conquests — those who could not resist the dark woebegone eyes, the minute outstretched hands, the small bare feet — and these sympathetic folk handed them money, which the older girl made sure was passed very quickly on to her. She would place the money swiftly into a pocket at the side of her long flowing green dress. And off they would go to make yet another conquest.

I stood up and went towards them. Standing very close, I waited for the conclusion of their campaign, and then I went up to them. “Come here!” I said to the older girl.

She signaled to the small children to follow her. “Deka drachmes,” she said, this time holding out her own hand to me.

“No! Come with me.” Now I was the one who gave the signal. I walked into the cafe, followed by the three Gypsy children. They walked behind me in a small procession, according to height and rank.

“Wait here,” I commanded as I stopped at the counter. They waited at a considerable distance as I chose three fancy-looking little cakes, each one resting neatly in a delicate white paper-cup. The children remained motionless, as if their little feet were fixed to the ground. I handed them each a cake, but not before asking them their names.

“Maria,” the older girl said.

“Heleni,” said the younger girl.

“Traki, “said the small boy.

“Traki?” I asked, astonished at the sound of the unusual name.

“Dimitraki,” the older girl explained, smiling.

They strode out of the cafe, holding their cakes carefully in their little hands. I waited to see what they were going to do now, with the real prize that had magically fallen into their hands. The two small children looked at Maria, she gave them a secret sign, then the three of them began eating their cakes in sheer bliss.

Maria, her mouth still full with chocolate and pastry, held out her hand to a woman passing by, carrying two laden shopping baskets. “Deka drachmes,” Maria said, this time not managing to make her theme-word sound clear. The woman ignored her totally.

“It is not nice to do that,” I said to Maria, “to bother people as you do!”

She squinted at me, not responding. The two smaller children finished their cakes, wiped their sticky hands on their clothes, and were all set to make a fresh start. But I was not going to let my conquest slip out of my hands so smoothly!

“Where do you live now?” I asked Maria.

She studied me for a fraction, then she replied in an obvious tone of voice, “By fresh water,” and off they went, to venture their luck, Maria walking gaily and upright at the lead, followed ardently by her two small companions.

 

by Luz Lancha de Bairacli Levy © 2007
for reprint permission, contact Ash Tree Publishing
PO Box 64 Woodstock NY 12498
or write to: wisewoman@herbshealing.com

 


Click here for more stories by Luz, daughter of Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The Silver Fox and other Stories - Table of Contents

 



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