REPUBLIC OF TURKEY MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND TOURISM

THE HEAVEN ON THE OTHER SIDE - Talip APAYDIN

THE HEAVEN ON THE OTHER SIDE

The other side of the river is so green, and this side is so brown. The other part is full of vineyards and orchards, and this part is gray as far as the eyes can see…

In our childhood we used to think that God created it like this. We used to admire Yasin Agha's garden that seemed large as if it was endless from a distance. We used to look in a state of sadness. Especially when the fruit became ripe, so yellow apricots, so red apples, and so big quinces… We used to look and desire innerly.

The river was wide, and deep. It used to flow muddy. We could not cross over it swimming. Our parents used to warn us often as: "Don't go in the river! Don't think of crossing over to the other side. Yasin Agha's watchmen beat one too brutally."

Anyway we could not cross over it. We were only children.

Sometimes we used to hear from our older brothers that they had crossed over to the other side that night. They had filled their bags with apples and plums. Yasin Agha's watchmen hadn't seen them as they had been sleeping. What a lot they had eaten! They had eaten so many that they hadn't been able to swim with full stomach as crossing over the river, and they had nearly drowned.

They used to tell it in a boastful way. And we used to envy.

We used to herd ox along the river. We used to work in fields. As we sweated under the heat, we used to look at the other side of the river and Yasin Agha's yard. Green grass like the sea, dark shade under the trees, so yellow and so red fruit… It seemed to us that the heaven was there.

Yasin Agha used to often announce through a public crier in the village:

- Everybody, get your wife and children, ox and donkey under control. Whoever crosses over the river, I will get them shot with a fowling piece. And I will get their ears and tail cut. Look here; don't say later that you haven't heard about it!

And he used to get what he said done indeed. Most of the oxen and the buffalo of our village are without ear or without tail. Because the animals can't control themselves as they see the green grass at the other side, and they run into the river and cross over it. And the end is obvious. Yasin Agha's watchmen having long moustache draw a dagger and finish their work saying:

- Come on dark boy! Whoa! And then they cram them into the stable. They leave them thirsty for three or four days, and tame them.

Our villager gets to Yasin Agha going the long away around the Yassıhöyük bridge and implores earnestly and takes his ox with difficulty. If he doesn't know how to talk, he also gets a beating there. He is scolded from head to toe thoroughly. As returning back, my villager thanks God even for this. Because it is his fault. He hasn't got his animal under control. The damned ox has gone in the stranger's garden.

For this reason our parents used to warn us strictly:

- Be careful, get the animals under control and don't let them cross the other side. Don't take your eyes off of them.

The oxen and the buffalos have such habit that one doesn't take lessons from what the other experienced. They don't let each other know. They don't even say:" I crossed and that happened, so don't cross." For this reason most of the oxen and the buffalos of our village are crippled. They are either without ear or tail.

I once saw Yasin Agha. He was a huge man with black dress at the other side of the river. He was walking around with his hands at the back. He was looking at the branches somehow. Two watchmen with rifles on their shoulders were walking respectfully behind him. So the owner of those parts was this man. And I assumed great proportions to him. I got afraid as if he would extend his arm from the far side of the river and beat me. And I crouched down right there. As soon as they disappeared, I drove our oxen just as a precaution. They might cross to the other side. Who knows how would it end?

The other side of the river was green and rich as the heaven but a place that was hard to reach and impassable for us. We used to look with aspiration. We used to watch the fruit becoming ripe and then being picked up in baskets and taken away with desire. Sometimes we used to say:" If only we were birds and we crossed over the river flying and we alighted on an apricot tree and we ate juicy apricots. If only we filled our pockets and bosoms with apples and then came back flying with a whir of wings."

But it did not realize. No matter how much we desired, it was in vain. The heaven was just at the opposite of us and a hundred steps far from us but also it was as far as that could not be reached.

Our childhood years passed like this. With longing for, keeping at a distance, and sighing…

Then we grew up and became young men. Kara Veli, Kamıs Hasan, Yanıgin Osman, Gaga Yakup… We used to wrestle. We used to swim in the river. We were as hungry as to eat a sheep all at once.

Our side is dry again. And the other side is green again. As the summer months come back, the apricots turn yellow, the apples turn red, and the quinces turn white. Is it possible to remain indifferent? Yasin Agha's watchmen have rifles but above all we are young. We have the heart to jump in even fire.

One day we said: "Let's go and cross over the river at night. Let's jump in Yasin Agha's yard. We won't die at the end in any case!

We took off our clothes in the darkness of the moon. Gaga Yakup said:

-Shall we cross with our underpants or with nothing?

Kamis Hasan said:

- Let's cross with nothing on. If we are caught, they can't take us. They let us go after beating.

- Who are they beating? Is it possible to beat when so many brave young men are together? Is it easy?
- It is really right. Actually we beat them. Don't worry!
- OK. All right.
- Speak silently. Don't let them hear.
- They can hear, so what?

Gaga Yakup was bullying most. He jumped in the river first. He started to swim making a loud noise. Then we… The river was flowing here fast. We could come out of it only in the down part, among the reeds. We plunged into the night barefoot and naked. That side was a place that we did not know. We were walking quietly and gropingly. I felt terrified for a while. I tested myself, and my heart was not as strong as it was in our side. Especially when one is naked he becomes much more weaker obviously. What he wears makes him strong. At one point I felt regretful.

And I said:

- Come on! Let's go back! If we are caught, we get into trouble.

- What does it mean? What a coward you are! Just look at him! He will go back after such a long way.

- Speak silently, Yakup! They will hear!

- So what?

I walked at the behind deliberately. The thorns were pricking my feet, and those parts were full of shrub. We were walking one after the other. After a short time we plunged into the trees. We were testing gropingly if they were apples or apricots. Hasan's voice was heard:

- Yeah! Come here! I found.

We came close. Wow! Apricots as big as a fist! Very soft. Sweet like sugar. And also sweet-smelling. Eat as much as you can! We were swallowing without chewing.

Gaga Yakup climbed on the tree. He was picking up the fruit in a fury. Osman said:

- Hey! Shake it.

- Be careful! Don't let be heard.

- Don't worry! They won't hear.

Smacking noises filled the night.

Yakup said:

- If only we brought bags. Now how will we take them to the other side?

- Don't bother about taking them. Just enjoy eating.

- I'm full.

- Hold on, my brave lad! We will eat apples as well.

- Come on! Hurry up!

We started to look for the apples. We were walking touching the branches of the trees that were hanging down. Suddenly it seemed to me that I heard a sound. Surely someone coughed. I whispered as:

- Hey! Someone is coming. Run away!

Yakup said:

-Oh no! So where?

We stopped and paid attention to the surroundings. Nothing was heard except the buzzing sound of the grasshoppers. But I became suspicious. I walked towards the shore. The moment I was about to step into the water, a rifle was fired "Boom!" Then footsteps and whispers were heard. I jumped into the river. I started to swim very fast. And the others jumped from eight or ten steps behind me. They were swimming with splashing sounds. I was hearing their sounds. A rifle was fired once more:

-Boom!

Someone started to shout as:

-Oh my! Ouf!

My heart was beating wildly with excitement. Who was shot? At the same time I was trying to swim. I was swimming with difficulty somehow. I thought about returning, but I could not because of my fear. I wanted to arrive at the other side as soon as possible.

I thought that it was Gaga Yakup's voice, he was shouting continually:

- Ouch! I am shot! Oh my! Ouch!

But I paid attention to it, and his voice was strange. It was not like the voice of a person that was shot at all. I looked back, and he was swimming. And after a while he became silent.

I arrived at the shore, and I started to wait. I was filled with curiosity.

I whispered as:

- What has happened?

Yakup said:

- Nothing. Take your clothes and get moving! I did so to stop them to shoot again.

They came out of the water. We got our clothes and walked immediately. As we went far from the shore, we started to laugh together. Yakup had deceived the watchman. Maybe he went to the down parts of the river and he was looking for the corpse at that moment. And also he was afraid, thinking that he killed a man. It was something funny.

As we came close to the village, we put on our clothes.

Yakup said:

- Ah! We ate so much. I really swam with difficulty.

- And I, I thought my stomach would burst. Look at it!

- Well, apricots were amazingly good and like Turkish delight.

- It's a pity that we could not eat any apples.

- And we eat apples tomorrow. We found the easy way finally.

- Yeah! We learnt the way. Let's take bags next time and fill it.

- It's okay, but how will we take them across the river?

- It's easy. We tie them to our backs and then take them across.

- All right. Let's do so.

We boasted about it for a few days in the village. There was nobody left who did not hear that we crossed to Yasin Agha's yard, and we ate fruit till we became full up, and then we deceived the watchman and ran away. The adults were saying:" Don't do so!" But the children were looking at our face with admiration. If only they grew up and became as old as us. If only they learnt swimming and crossed to the other side and plunged into Yasin Agha's yard. That place was the heaven. There it was, just at the opposite. It was coming into sight.

After a few days we decided to cross there again and banquet to our black bodies.

We crossed there. And this time the watchman was not there. Maybe he had slept. Gaga Yakup had taken a large bread bag. Apples, plums, apricots… We ate till we were full up. And we filled the bag up to the brim.

- Well, how will we take them across?

Yakup said:

- I take them across. Don't worry!

He hung it on his neck crosswise. We ran into the river. But we ate so much that we were swimming with difficulty. We were fighting against the water. Something happened at the behind. But I did not understand well at first. I thought that Yakup was playing a trick again. Some wheezing, and sounds like "Hey! Help! Ah!" Who will help in the dark? Everybody is occupied with his own trouble already. On the one hand Hasan and on the other hand Kara Veli started to shout:

- Hey you! Yakup is drowning! Help! My god!

Nothing was seen in the dark. I could not know what to do. On the other hand I got tired. I did not dare go back.

- You go and help! Remove the bag from his neck!

- Where? I can't find. He sank.

- How strange! Where is the guy?

- Yakup! Yakup!

We could not find Yakup.

The next day they found his corpse one kilometer away with the bag full of fruit hanging on his neck.

Talip APAYDIN