Hovhannes Tumanian: The Carnival
Translation of story by Hovhannes Tumanian
ONCE UPON A TIME there lived a husband and wife who did not see eye to eye. The man called his wife a dimwit and she returned the compliment. They were always fighting about something or other.
One day, the man bought a hundred pounds of butter and rice, hired a man to carry it on his back and took it home. His wife was furious. “Didn’t I always say you were a dim-wit!” she cried. “What did you go and buy so much butter and rice for? Thinking of holding a wedding for your son, for a funeral banquet for your father?”
“What are you talking about? What funeral banquet, what wedding? Take it and put it all away. It’s for the Carnival.”
The wife calmed down, took the stuff and put it away. Some time passed and the woman waited and waited, but the Carnival did not come. As she was sitting by the door one day, she saw a man hurrying by along the street. She raised one hand to her forehead and called: “Hey, brother, come here for a minute!”
The young man stopped.
“You’re not the Carnival by any chance, are you, brother?” she asked.
The man saw at once that there must be something wrong with her up top and thought to himself: “Aha, I’ll say I am, and see what happens.”
“Why, of course, sister. I’m Carnival. What is it?”
“Well, all I have to say is that after all we’re not your servants, to keep your rice and butter for such a long time! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, taking advantage of our kindness? Why haven’t you ever shown up to take your stuff away?”
“Why so angry, my dear? That’s just what I’ve come for. I’ve been looking for your house for a long time but couldn’t find it.”
“Well, alright, come on and take it then.”
The man hurried into the house, grabbed the butter and rice, put it on his shoulder and took off for his village.
When the husband came home in the evening, the woman told him: “The Carnival came at last. I gave him back his things and he took them away.
“‘What Carnival...? What things, Woman!?”
“The butter and the rice. . . . I saw him coming along the road, looking for our house. I called him over, gave him a good telling off and had him carry the stuff away on his back.”
“Oh, you dim-wit you! You’ve ruined me! Didn’t I always say you were a stupid dim-wit! Which way did he go?”
She showed him and the man mounted his horse and rode after the Carnival.
Meanwhile, the Carnival, making good his escape, glanced back and noticed a man on horseback riding after him. He realised at once that it must be the woman s husband. The man rode up to him and said: “Good day, brother. Have you seen a man going this way?”
“Yes, indeed, I did see one.
“What was he carrying on his back?”
“Butter and rice.
“Ah, he must be the one I’m looking for. Did he go by long ago?”
"Quite a time."
“Do you think I can catch him up if I ride fast?”
“How could you?” said the Carnival. “You’re on horseback, but he was on foot. By the time your horse has taken four steps—one, two, three, four—the man will already have walked away on his two feet: one-two, one-two! Much faster than you!”
“What shall I do then?”
“Well, if you like, you can leave your horse with me and go on foot like him. Maybe then you’ll catch him up.
“Yes, yes, well said!” approved the dim-witted man. And he climbed off his horse, left it with the other man, and set off on foot—one-two, one-two.. . . As soon as he was out of sight the Carnival loaded his burden on the horse’s back, turned off the road and galloped home.
Our man, however, walked on and on and finding nobody turned round and came back—to find both the horse and the stranger gone. He returned home and husband and wife started fighting anew: the man because of the butter and rice, the woman because of the horse. And they are fighting to this day. He calls her a dim-wit, and she returns the compliment.
And the Carnival listens and laughs to himself.