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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Edu Zabala Garagartza > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2004 | Gero

Her fear of the bleeding was over, her dreams persisted and neither the world nor life was ignited inside Maddi. But what surfaced was something quite different. And the longing to be a joaldun that she had been repressing for the last three years was renewed. With a different kind of discretion, without pestering anyone but with the renewed intensity of one time, she began to taste the carnival period, her beloved, impressive carnival period barely a month before it began.

In the street she would approach the people who were going to be joalduns more often; every day they used to delight in discussing the festivities with each other: Where have you put your sheepskins? And your baton? And your bells?

-You've put on weight this year, Martin, you won't be able to fasten your belt. They'll have to squeeze that waist of yours. You know what you're going to have to do in the month that's left, cut down on your wine and the amount you eat and do more work, you lazy old thing!

That is what the daily banter and chatting were about in Zubieta, Ituren and the villages nestling among the green mountains. The atmosphere gradually intensified from one day to the next and there was a festive air, even though there were still quite a few days to go.

Maddi could not escape the festive atmosphere, either, and once again allowed her longing to hover in the magic. However, this year she was aware of something new, a calling, a special calling that was inviting her especially to participate in the joalduns' preparations.

And the appointed day came. A group of joalduns began to cross the town noisily from door to door collecting ham, and eggs, and wine and the smiles and encouragement of numerous farmers. The imagination of the town and its inhabitants was fired, from the smallest kids to the old grandfathers with wrinkles round their eyes. The festivities infected everyone with their magic and joy; and the conversations and smiles revealed the drunkard's rotten teeth and the grandmothers' wrinkled lips, wanting to speak.

The young joalduns happily got down to gathering a special harvest, as they exposed their cheeks made rosy by the cold and the wine. For a fleeting moment once a year the old men would see and remember their former youth in those young men, and tears would course down the wrinkles on their faces.

From a distance Maddi, with calm, controlled steps, would observe the carnival, the whole parody, her heart heavy with emotion; she was about to overflow with the waters that had accumulated in the stream over the previous three years.

The ritual took place, the eleven o'clock snack, they feasted on eggs, cheese and ham, and after filling their bellies, the joalduns, emboldened by the wine began to get immersed in the happy atmosphere.

By that time Maddi inadvertently already half in a trance, discreetly, virtually without causing a stir and without taking any notice of the noise and looks of those around her, stood in her little childhood corner under the arches of the inn, like a turtle dove on its branch.

-Hey, Manu! That sister of yours hasn't been here for ages and here she is; you have to admit that she's turned into a strapping girl. In a few years from now she'll have more curves than between here and Ituren, won't she?

-You watch out, you understand? That girl's my sister and deserves respect, you idiot! Stare at the lavatory pan at home if you want!

-That'll do! No need to get so worked up! Calm down!

-Give me a break, will you, you idiot!

As time passed Maddi noticed voices, murmurings, which were not in fact coming from the people around her. For her eyes alone and invisible for everyone else a parade of faces began; when these spirits had greeted her politely, they somehow stopped on one of the joalduns. Finally, a spirit in the image of an old grandmother approached her.

-Maddi, you have never set eyes on me before now, but we have spoken to each other in dreams; you know me. I have been looking forward to meeting you for a long time, but the time of human beings has to be respected and now the moment has come, you have shed blood, you are a young woman and one who suffers will know how to love and understand, too. The moment has come for you to understand my message. I am your grandmother's mother, my dear!

The nervousness and fear in Maddi exploded, but they disappeared as fast as they had come, giving way to trust and calm.

-But who are you all, who are you? Why do you remain on the joalduns, why can't everyone else see you while I can?

-Maddi, you were born with special powers, even though you knew nothing about it. But the time has come for these gifts to appear, not to harm anyone, but for good. However, be careful! The customary evil voices will even now say you are a witch, but it is not as dangerous today as it was at one time, not as painful.

-But what gifts are these, what can I use them for?

-You will have the ability to interpret the wishes of other people, their souls will not keep secrets from you; people won't like that, and perhaps neither will you, but that is what will happen. Nature will keep no secrets from you. You will be able to heal and cause affliction, too. The other spirits you see here are the ancestors of Zubieta and even though they are dead, they do not want to miss this wonderful carnival. Do not be afraid, we are not bad. And one last thing, Maddi, I will not be appearing to you again in this way, when you need me you will be able to call me, otherwise I will leave you alone, I have come to pass these powers on to you, just as other ancestors passed them on to me: "Let not the thread be broken."

And having said this all the spirits vanished in an instant with a loud irrintzi . At that very moment Maddi awoke from her trance and realised that all the people under the arches of the inn, the joalduns as well as those who were not, were staring at her speechless, their mouths wide open.

-But what's the matter with you? Why are you staring at me like that? What's going on, Manu?

Manu's eyes were wide open and he didn't utter a word.

-Manu, what's the matter with you? Tell me!

Manu woke up all of a sudden.

-You made an irrintzi, a terrible loud irrintzi, more powerful than a bolt of lightning and you have nailed us to the ground. What's the matter with you, Maddi? Are you all right?

Maddi made no reply and with her head bowed under the burden of such amazing experiences and wanting to understand, wanting to believe, she slowly left the arches under the inn, and ttuntturros and people made way for her out of respect, fear and curiosity.

All of a sudden the clang of the bells that had been frozen started up again and after the joalduns had emerged from the hallway, they made their way behind Maddi. At that point Maddi turned round and to her surprise she had all the joalduns behind her shaking their animal bells looking at her as if waiting for her. The two lines of them spread apart and the oldest joaldun came up to her with the costume and equipment in his hands. Maddi did not understand anything, but as if everything had been written down in secret, and mechanically, in response to a ritual, she dressed as a joaldun: nankeen trousers, a white underskirt, sheepskin, ttuntturroa, a red scarf and taking the horse's tail baton in her hand she joined the back of the joaldun group and ran up and down the streets of Zubieta again and again, in and out of the town, until they set off for the stream in search of the people of Ituren.

Since then the old people, the experts of Zubieta, say the joalduns have never produced such a united, loud, mysterious sound.
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