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Hovhannes Tumanian: Uncle Kechan

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UNCLE KHECHAN

“Good morning!” “Welcome, welcome, Uncle Khechan. Hey there, wife, bring some tea! Bring food and drink for Uncle Khechan! Well, I hope nothing is wrong, Uncle Khechan. What brings you to town?” “What could be wrong? I just missed you, that’s all. I said to myself ‘Life has its ups and downs. We’re here today and gone tomorrow. I’ll go down and see how they re keeping.’ “Thank you, thank you, Uncle Khechan.” Uncle Khechan talked about this and that, drank tea, ate, then fell silent and puffed away at his chibouk. After a while he removed the chibouk from his mouth and said, “A fine business! What are we going to do?” “What are you talking about, Uncle Khechan?” “Our boy is being called up. “Really? But what can I do?” ‘‘What do OLI mean, ‘What can I do’? When your aunt ‘S eyes are red with weeping for the boy!” “Well, tell me what 1 can do. I am ready to do whatever I can. ‘‘First let’s get his birth certificate and then see what we can do about it.” “All right, come on!” We went to the church council. I asked the registrar and he produced the registers of the year indicated by Uncle Khechan. We looked for his son here, there and everywhere, but he was nowhere to be found. “Brother, how is it possible?” “There’s just no record, Uncle Khechan.” “Look further down, some years later. We may have made a mistake.” The registrar produced other books. We searched but could find no record of the lad. “We must have made a mistake. . . . Certainly, we’ve made a mistake,” said Uncle Khechan again. According to my reckonings the boy must be older. How silly of me! I should have said further up, not further down.” “All right, Uncle Khechan, we’ll look some years earlier too.” More registers were brought, and we went on searching. He was not to be found there either. “He’s not there. The priest didn’t register him.” “Well, what’s to be done?” If he’s not registered, there’s nothing we can do about it. Let’s go home, Uncle Khechan.” “What do you mean, ‘Go home’? Your aunt is weeping her heart out.” “Well, what can we do if he isn’t registered?” We went out. We had hardly gone some fifty paces when Uncle Khechan stopped. “Just a minute!” “What is it, Uncle Khechan?” “What have we achieved and where are we going?” “What do you mean, ‘Where are we going’? Home, of course. “A fine business!” “Well, what can we do?” “I told them at home I could depend on you and came straight here. Now what shall I tell them when I get back?” “Well, what do you think I can do, Uncle Khechan? The registers are there, we went through so many years, up and down the records, here, and everywhere there. He’s just not there!’’ “What do you mean, Not there’? How is it that everyrbody’s child is there all right and just mine happens not to be there?”

“Well, that’s the way it is. What can we do about it?” Uncle Khechan did not utter another word all the way home. When we arrived niy wife asked, “Well, what have you achieved?” “We shall see,” answered Uncle Khechan. “What shall we see? There’s no record in the register, and that’s all there is to it,” I put in. Uncle Khechan sighed. “That’s all there is to it, is it? And I’m to retrace my steps back home, I suppose,” he concluded and sat there with a grieved air, sucking extra hard at his chibouk. Dinner time came, and we ate in silence. Suddenly Uncle Khechan stopped eating and addressed me: “And when I get home, what shall I tell your aunt?” “About what?” ‘‘The birth certificates.~~ “Ye Gods! He’s not registered! He’s not in the books! The priest didn’t register him. He’s not there!” “What do you mean, ‘Not there’?” “What do I mean!? I tell you he’s not there!” Uncle Khechan sighed again and took up the chibouk. After dinner I stole into my room to have a rest. I was thinking what funny people our peasants were.... Just then Uncle Khechan came in, Having a nap?” ‘‘Yes. “Is this a time for sleeping?” “But what can I do, Uncle Khechan?” “I have come here in need of help and you7re doing nothing to help.” “What am I supposed to do?” “What do you suggest we do about the certificate?” “You’re an extraordinary man. I’m telling you in your own tongue, man, that the name s not there! It’s not there, Uncle Khechan!” “All right, all right, but why do you get so worked up? So it’s not there, then i’m going home. Good-bye,’ he said and went out muttering. “Good-bye. But what can I do if he’s not there. When I woke up and came out of my room I saw Uncle Khechan sitting on the balcony sucking at his chibouk. I took my hat and was about to leave. “Where are you going?” Uncle Khechan called after me. “What do you suggest?”

“Are you going out?” “Yes, I am. “Won’t you call again at the church council?” ‘‘No, I can~ t.” After this event Uncle Khechan returned to his village and told his neighbours that he had been in difficulty, had come to town and asked me to help him, and I had refused. Nobody had paid any attention to him and he had been completely ignored.