The Red Maple Leaf

The old oak-tree stood sad and irritated. The last leaves had already fallen from the hornbeams, beeches, rowan-trees. It itself, firm and horny, which had endured much adversity, was blackish-red, its thick as if lacquered glossy leaves were scattered on the ground and sometimes quivered at the blowing of the breeze. And one big maple leaf, overhung on the cliff, was a little bent and calmly glowed red in the dim air of the wood. The oak-tree, the greenish water running in the valley, the fat badger and big-headed owl knew that the maple leaf was waiting for somebody or something.

“Who are you waiting for, you poor thing!” babbled the water from below, “Come down to me, if you are offended by your kin. I’ll take you downwards, show you the most beautiful places and stay wherever you like.”

But the leaf didn’t answer the water.

Every morning the fat badger would come out, breathe deeply the frosty air; would see the maple leaf glowing red, scrunch up its fat snout with disgust and grumble to itself:

“Who is this fool waiting for? It would better stay with its kin.”

And the unimaginable firmness of the weak, at any noise trembling, maple leaf made the oak-tree angry.

It rained, the wind blew, the branches twisted with one another. Everything was frozen by the hoar-frost time and again, but the red maple leaf still waited and its bent shoulders were hardly noticeable.

One day the sky became cloudy as it often does at the beginning of winter.

The cold damp breeze blew. It blew the whole day. Then the breeze stopped and it began to rain. It rained till midnight. And after midnight the rain became snow. At dawn the wood was as if carried far away by a thoughtful mist. The branches of the trees, blackened by the rain, were covered with soft snow; the ochre ground couldn’t be seen under the feathered blanket of snow and the red maple leaf, overhanging a cliff, was heavy with snow but still hung firmly to the end of the branch; still waiting for somebody or something.

“Come down, you poor thing!” the water called, “Come down before the ice binds me through and through.”

But the red maple leaf was silent.

And the old oak-tree stood restrained in dignity.

At noon the sun rose. The snow melted on the maple leaf.

The snow also melted from the branches of the trees. The sound of the blackened carrion and the fall of large drops on the dry leaves was heard throughout the wood. The snow on the ground was as potholed as a skimmer, but in the evening the sounds ceased. The frost came down from the tops of the mountains and the wood was colored dark blue. The water also became silent. The birds kept silence, too. The environment was embraced with the mysterious sadness of parting with the light...

And then, in the immovable dark blue air as that of the ground, a male deer appeared and came up to the old oak-tree. Everybody noticed it at once. Everyone held their breath, as if they stood on tiptoes behind one another. The male deer, sad but proud, came slowly. Sometimes it stopped, moved its ears, widened its nostrils and went on again. Its footsteps, parted in two, left a black trace on the snowy ground. The deer came down into the valley, drank a bit of water, then raised its head and got a surprise. There was only one big red leaf on the maple, overhanging the cliff and that leaf was trembling, quivering.

There was no sign of breeze in the air and the leaf was still trembling and quivering. The deer lengthened its neck and gazed at it in more surprise.

Then the leaf dropped from the branch and came fluttering down, it seemed in a moment the leaf stopped in the air, then, as if in weakness, it fell flat on its back on the snow-red, hopeless. The deer approached it with its nose, it even raised its front leg, wanting to kick it with its hoof, turn it over to see what leaf it was, but it lay so helpless on the snow – blood-colored, fragile, a little bent at its shoulders – the deer lowered its leg, walked round it humbly, stopped several times, looked back. Some amazing sorrow seized it and the deer raised its head and bellowed.

At the beginning of the winter, in the silent wood, the unexpected voice of the male deer was heard like the morning bell, and now the immovable dark blue air shook and trembled.

The old oak-tree saw all this. Now it was clear who the big red maple leaf was waiting for! And this is one more picture of century-old foolishness. The old oak-tree knew such things! But in spite of it, it was still seized with one wish: the oak-tree also wanted to raise its head as the male deer and bellow, bellow so as to make staring hornbeams and beeches ruffle and shiver.

But the old oak-tree was unable and so it stood silent, the hearts of the buds filled slowly with drops. These drops were the tears of the old oak-tree.

Ketevan Tukhareli is the translator of short stories by Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alan Malley, John Updike (from English into Georgian), an essay by A. Chekhov, poem and prose work by K. Balmont, poems by A. Block, S. Esenin, M. Tsvetaeva, Th. Tiutchev (from Russian into Georgian), short stories by D. Javakhishvili and G. Rcheulishvili (from Georgian into Russian), fables and children’s stories by L. Tolstoy (from Russian into Georgian). She is the compiler of two English-Georgian Dictionaries on Art (The Fine Arts and Music) and is the translator of the summaries and the lists of musical works and their performers of the magazine ‘Music’ (from Georgian into English). Other literary works are being prepared for publication.

Rezo Inanishvili Translated from Georgian by Ketevan Tukhareli

21 January 2016 22:11