Janis Einfelds
The Porcelain Chariot Race
 
 
         A man had a very beautiful daughter, with whom everyone, upon seeing her, fell in love. There would have been many suitors, one could even choose, but the man decided that he himself would select his future son-in-law from candidates who had been through fire and water. And so the porcelain chariot race was created.
         There weren’t many such, who could control the capricious porcelain and still dash at high speed. Yet three were found. First the eminent black-bearded Saami, who put together horoscopes for the local newspaper and was head of the local temperance society as well. Black as a moor. The other – pub trawler Ingus, who had already managed to cast an eye at the bartender’s rounded daughter. The third – a garage mechanic with thick glasses, nothing more was known of him.
         The crowd raced to the track, and the three stout-hearted ones began to ride. Axles and belts broke, sand was stirred up and the travelers disappeared along the road. The observers were muddled and couldn’t follow. First to rush past the barn was the mechanic, he guided a Kuznecov porcelain tureen like a hard pancake and beat a whip against the side. The tureen had three-cornered wheels, which had a large circumference and therefore were faster. The commotion of hens just managed to disperse, clucking. The man’s daughter guessed the winner, and that may have been the happiest moment in her life. The man smiled.
         The track, the pasture and the lower enclosure were where the people ran. At the pig farm the mechanic was overtaken by the Saami, who galloped along in a Meissen porcelain sugar-bowl, having reached for the handles with both hands and energizing the four-cornered wheels, which, parting the grass and sometimes splitting molehills too, squeaked forebodingly. The Saami was exhausted from the great race and, pulling off to one side, broke into a parrot coop and drank the box of water, so that droplets fell into the sun’s rays and glittered. The mechanic ate the bread and butter he’d brought along. The three-cornered wheels sounded: ti-ri-mi.
         Ingus drove into the bushes, bit a raisin in half, but that wasn’t an ordinary raisin, it turned out to be a magical raisin, in the center of which was a boosting tablet. When the drivers reached the southern portion of the field with sweaty foreheads, a stork flew over, carrying bread in a basket, a chunk of sausage and a bottle of beer. Less people walked here. Ingus pushed his mug, as if asking for goat’s milk to be poured into it, to the brim, and his lips would soak in cream, a bit of unstrained butter would cling to his beard, but the milk would taper off and lie along the boy’s intestinal tract. But, no, the mug helped Ingus, because he stood in it to his middle, unseen, as in a war chariot. Those who looked saw a rose painted in watercolor, stem and cap. But Ingus’ sweaty palm had blurred the picture.
         The wheels of the mug now ran along the path cattle had trod, and around Ingus’ forehead there was a cloud of flies about like a black nimbus. The boy wanted to throw a kiss to his beloved, who didn’t know him, but at that moment the mechanic trotted past. In the great gallop the master had lost his glasses, and the ground had become an inexplicable material, that wavered like a drunken mushroom. When it neared, the observers ran to the edge and caught its head. Rich-rach game pieces in various colors stood at the sides, they managed to overcome the monotony and to build a stately piled-up caricature. They had no shepherd, they wallowed as they liked, because the players didn’t need the society of childish games. The abandoned field glimmered in colors like those of cog-wheels set on a slant, and the game rich-rach continued, slipped downward, until it flooded in with the tree-tops.
         The mechanic lashed the tureen and shouted words from the monkey language. One of his boots came off and fell on the head of some observer. The coffee colored sky brought moisture to the combatants, and they took the droplets, wove them around their heads like laurel wreaths, from their ears hung empty peapods and the bright confidence that others might be dishonored, but not they. Because chariots, porcelain chariots support our hopes, the running battle awakens the masculine in one, which feels a bit strange, but constitutes a strength and bravery like eagles have, who throw themselves into the fight with birds of prey in the territory of the sky, and it seems so funny, that one’s home is the weightless, blue All.
         The Saami, vibrating with the sugar-bowl, guided it through the bull’s horns, grazing with a shaft the animal’s tuft, flew into the air, underestimating the midges, which there were swarms of, tasting of the essence of the competition. At the post boxes the Saami came down, looked at the sundial on his wrist, it had slid down to the pine forest dunes and grown into blackish men’s bones, and a dart leapt aloof, 3 centimeters from the fingers. Four o’clock in the afternoon. Tea time. To the devil with tea, one could have a drink, holding in the other hand a beauty’s soft little hand!
Ingus became bored and decided to smoke a pipe. As soon as the pipe caught, a whole satire of locomotives and a cantankerous smoker came out, making the born leader prominent but with malevolence. But Ingus wasn’t like that. The smoke he inhaled allowed him to overtake those ahead, and to quickly make out the winding path on the backs of reclining cows. The four-cornered wheels beat their rhythm: 1-2-3-4, A-B-C-D. A choir of girls was on the road, who sang songs and plaited wreaths not for the winner, but for those of whom each dreamed. The man’s daughter began to be bored, the blonds of the race no longer held interest, her eyes read a book about various foreign countries and general history.
         In Medare, where houses are guarded by four black dogs, the mechanic had the lead by a finger’s breadth, inelegantly pounding the rim of the tureen. Drums sound about like that, however making music was not in anyone’s mind. And then a dilemma presented itself. With the pounding, a crack appeared at the front of the tureen, it grew larger, until the dish broke in half, and the mechanic fell on his rear into the mud, badly twisting his head. Two competitors remained. Of course, they didn’t want to stay at the buffet among dishes and forks. It was no longer fated for them to be decorations in a calm, uninteresting dining room life. It might be worse, if the horse you rode in competition spilled boiling coffee or drowned you in a mass of white sugar, so that there was no hope of moving. And they strove to fight against absurdity, the so-called circumstances of service. A wheel broke loose from the Saami’s dish, and, savoring his outspoken curses, the Saami gazed skyward with his eyes. Ingus drove up, having cast the winning die, but good-hearted. Ingus hooked the four-cornered component to the white surface.
         But misfortune ensued. The Saami drove onto Ingus’ foot, bones cracked, and the good lad was no longer a competitor. After that everyone remembered the famous song and shouted it out, so that really tears came to the eyes: Owl trampled on sparrow’s foot. Ingus limped smiling to the pub and seemed satisfied. Beer foamed, mugs were filled, songs were bellowed and the broken bone healed. Meanwhile the Saami’s porcelain rolled on. Hats were flung in the air. And the gluttonous birds related to the Saami’s victory were awarded a lifetime stipend. In the courtyard of the estate, having ended his journey, the Saami leapt from the dish and, not even having shaved his beard, threw himself into the earned embraces of his bride. The temperance brethren rejoiced (but not the intemperate, they were in the pub extinguishing the pain in Ingus’ foot) and wrote out a diploma in gold letters. The puff pastry cooks voted the Saami in as an honorary member of their club. But the Saami caressed his new wife. There was no end to the joy, and later the victor, heartily waving his hand, gladly acquiesced to become hen-pecked.