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Living Water

Annotation: Living Water is a drama / poem in 2 acts. ...

Surely not Tippler Bertulis!

Anotācija: Lugas pamatā ir kopš latviešu teātra sākumiem pazīstamais dāņu ...

All Cats are Human

A tragicomedy in 2 acts Translated into English by Margita Gailitis ...

Земельный налог

Mара Залите. «Земельный налог», трагикомедия в двух актах. 2003. Перевел ...

Tobago!

Anotācija: "Tobāgo!" ir traģikomiska dziesmuspēle divās daļās, sarakstīta 2001. gadā. “Tobāgo!” ...

Mama and Papa at a Resort by Māra Zālīte

Translated by Margita Gailitis
Edited by Vija Kostoff

Once, not so long ago, Mama and Papa felt so very tuckered out that they decided they should go to a resort to rest up. A resort is the kind of place in this world where everyone goes to rest for a while. Of course they could have rested also at home together with their four children, but this time Mama and Papa wished to be just by themselves because, besides needing a rest, they also had a need to make up. The two of them had had a bit of a spat.

Mama and Papa headed for a distant resort, where it’s hot not only in the summer but also during the winter, not only by day but also at night. They could cool off only in their air-conditioned room.

Thus they rested up. They swam and sunned themselves. Got hot and cooled off, and very soon they had made up. They even forgot what the spat had been about.

One morning, Mama waking up in the wide hotel bed, heard a loud and contented purring. With eyes closed, Mama listened and wondered how loudly and nicely the resort cats knew how to purr! With her elbow she nudged Papa lying beside her, so that he too would listen, but Papa turned away from her because he still wanted to sleep for a while.

Purr…purr… purr… the sound made the air tenderly quiver and also Mama’s heart tenderly quivered in response. The purrer was somewhere quite close. Maybe the resort’s affectionate cat was on the balcony? She should go and look. Better not, because that might disturb the cat, or even frighten it so it would run away, and so Mama only listened and listened to the wonderful sound. Purr… purr… purr… purr…purr…purr… Suddenly it seemed to Mama that the purrer was Papa. Mama laughed! No, no! That couldn’t be! Although Papa would sometimes snore, but surely not purr! Finally Mama opened her eyes. Opened them, but immediately closed them tight. It must be a dream! Mamma rubbed her eyes and shook her head. Mamma tugged at her earlobes and bit her fingers. Aee, all her fingers hurt! So it wasn’t a dream after all? It was real!

Beside Mama slept not Papa, but a tiger. Not Papa, but a tiger! An enormous, striped, beautiful, dreadful and real tiger! And it was the tiger who was purring! A tiger!

Oh, horrors!

Mama jumped out of bed and let out a loud scream.

The tiger opened his eyes and said: ‘What is it, dear?’

Mama screamed even more loudly.

‘What’s the matter, dearest?’ The tiger asked.

He lifted his massive striped head and yawned. Revealing a tiger’s sharp, white and powerful fangs. Mamma hid in the clothes cupboard.

‘Are you alright, wifey?’ The tiger had begun to worry.

‘You shameless beast! Your place is in the jungle not in a hotel bed! I’m no wifey of yours!’ Mama had somewhat regained her courage because she could see that the tiger was meek. Surely he had been tamed. Maybe he had fled from a circus?

‘Off with you! Out of my bed! Get out! Out! Out!’ Mama waved a clothes hanger at the tiger.

The tiger laughed.

Mama froze with her arm raised, her hand clutching the clothes-hanger. Maybe it’s nothing special that tigers laugh, but this tiger laughed like Papa! That was Papa’s laugh!

‘Who are you?’ Mama anxiously questioned.

The tiger no longer laughed, but having thrown back the white bed-sheets and the fluffy blanket, got up.

‘Help!’ Mama yelled.

The tiger was wearing Papa’s pyjamas. Poor Papa! It could only mean one thing – the tiger had eaten Papa!

‘Help! Save me!’ Mama in fear screamed at the top of her voice.

‘Dear,’ the tiger calmly said ‘Why this fuss? We made up, didn’t we, made up so nicely, didn’t we dearest?’

Mama suddenly had a thought. But she needed to make certain of it. She needed to test it.

‘Where do we live?’ From a safe distance in a firm voice Mama asked the tiger.

‘In an inn.’

No, Mama wanted to know where they live usually! When they’re not in an inn, not at a resort. Please! Let the tiger tell her! Right now!

‘Have you really forgotten? We live in Forest Park. We have a nice house, don’t we sweetheart?’

‘How many children do we have, and what are their names?’ Mamma questioned him further.

‘Dear, how is it you don’t know how many children we have?’

‘Answer me!’ Mama slowly and threateningly approached the tiger with the raised clothes hanger.

‘Why are you asking me this?’ The tiger grew impatient.

‘How many children do we have and what are their names? Either you answer or I call the police!’ Mama yelled as insistently as she could muster.

‘Fine, all right. We have four wonderful children and their names are Christopher, Marat, Emily and Kate! Christopher – aha! – he’s a school basketball champion. Just the same as I once was! Our twins Marat and Emily already know how to read! At four years of age! It’s true, of course, that I started to read when I was three.’

‘How many teeth does Kate have?’ Mama asked.

‘Kate, our baby, already has two teeth and she…’ Tiger wanted to finish but Mama had already thrown her arms around his neck.

‘This really is you! Yes, it’s you! But dear, what are we going to do now? Soon we have to go down for breakfast!’

‘Yes, I’m as starved as a wolf,’ Tiger agreed.

‘It really is you!’ Mama couldn’t stop marvelling.

‘Who else could I be, if not me? Why are you behaving so oddly?’ Papa didn’t understand anything.

Then Mama led Papa to a mirror,

‘You’ve really changed, haven’t you?’

Papa looked in the mirror. He raised his hand but in the mirror it was a tiger raising his enormous paw. Papa stepped closer to the mirror but immediately shrunk back. The tiger did the same in the mirror.

‘It’s all clear. However it may have happened, I’ve turned into a tiger. Still, that’s better than turning into a frog.’

‘It depends how you look at it,’ Mama said. ‘I could at least put a frog in my purse when we go down for breakfast.’

Papa in the meantime admired his powerful tiger muscles and wondrously beautiful stripes in the mirror. His fur was shiny, his movements lithe, and in his paws Papa sensed amazing strength.

‘Let’s go for breakfast,’ Papa urged Mama.

‘Looking like that?’ Mama worried.

‘Let’s go and that’s final!’ Papa was hungry.

‘You’ll scare everyone! A tiger in the restaurant? Maybe they won’t even let us in?’ Mama fretted.

‘Let them just try.’ Papa once more glanced in the mirror and flicked his tail.

‘Alright. But then you have to come along on a leash.’

‘Me go on a leash like a dog?’ Papa was insulted. ‘Dear, we made a pact, didn’t we, that I would never again go on a leash. You agreed, and we then made up,’ Tiger said in a somewhat reproachful tone.

‘Yes, but you were not a tiger then! Now coming along on a leash is the only way,’ Mama responded.

Otherwise there would be no choice but to give Papa away to the zoo, no matter how sorry she would be to do that. Mama took her longest and most beautiful necklace, threw it around the tiger’s neck and voila – a leash. The two of them got on the elevator. Midway the lift stopped. Some people wanted to get on but exactly at that moment Papa, no it was Tiger yawned. The people who had wanted to get into the lift didn’t wish to do so any more, but screaming fled helter skelter in all directions.

‘Good morning, Mr. Innkeeper!’ Mama politely greeted the man as she exited the lift.

‘Mor-rrr-ning,’ growled Papa, that is, Tiger.

The innkeeper grew pale. His white-gloved hands started to tremble.

‘Mr.Inkeeper! Please don’t be afraid! This tiger isn’t at all dangerous. He is smart and trained. Tender and affectionate. See how calmly he comes along on a leash?’

The innkeeper was responsible for everything that happened in the inn, therefore he courageously said: ‘Forgive me, but in our inn, how shall I say it… in our in, honestly speaking… forgive me but, in our inn with tigers, that is to say, with tigers, in a word, one is not allowed to stay here with tigers!’

The innkeeper wiped away sweat from his brow, his duty to be courageous now accomplished, but his teeth continued to chatter from fear.

‘Really? Where is that written?’ Mama asked politely.

‘In the rules.’ Replied the innkeeper.

‘With respect, are you absolutely certain?’ In the rules it’s written that one can’t stay in the inn with dogs. But there isn’t a word in the rules about tigers! Please check! So all of us have piece of mind.’ Mama suggested, smiling charmingly at the innkeeper.

Tiger didn’t hide the fact that he was ravenous as he stared directly at the innkeeper.

With trembling fingers the innkeeper flipped through the rule book. Reading through it from one end, then once again from the opposite end, it turned out that Mama was right. Nothing was mentioned in the rules about tigers. Absolutely nothing!

‘Thank you! We’re going in for breakfast!’ Mama jingled the necklace, which now was a leash, and leading the tiger headed for the restaurant.

Before the two arrived at their table, Mama had to repeat many times how kind-hearted and affectionate Tiger was. That no one need be afraid, no one need scream, no one need shriek, and no one need flee because this was not a typical tiger. This one was an atypical tiger. This had to be repeated for all the resort guests. It had to be repeated for the waiter, the chef and even for the errand-boy. Little by little everyone calmed down.

‘Will you as usual – have coffee and a salad?’ the waiter asked, not approaching the table too close.

‘I – grrr — want meat!’ quietly Tiger growled in Mama’s ear.

No, Mama didn’t want a salad. She politely asked to bring five, no, better seven pork chops, twelve hamburgers, a roast, a stew and a ham. The waiter jotted down everything and wished to know, how much ham would they like?

‘A lot,’ Mama replied. The waiter also wrote this down.

After a brief while the kitchen door opened. Loaded down with plates and bowls, the waiter came out. Since the waiter only had two hands, he was carrying a tray on his head. Upon nearing Mama’s and Tiger’s table he carefully slowed his pace, but overall the waiter was courageous, and the full order soon was on the table.

‘Please eat slowly, because everyone is staring at us.” Mama whispered.

And it was truly so, the many people having breakfast stared at Papa, that is – Tiger as he ate five, no, seven pork chops, twelve hamburgers, the roast and all the stew, as well as the ham. And there really was a lot of ham.

The morning sun shone in through the window. It was so bright that one had to squint. It played in and warmed the tiger’s glistening fur. It warmed the fur so nicely that the eyelids of the well-fed tiger began to droop, then close as he fell asleep and started to purr.

Purr…purr…purr… In the beginning softly, but ever more loudly.

Purr… Purr… Purr… Purrr… Purrr…

Little by little silence set in the dining room. The guests sitting at their breakfast tables listened in surprise. Papa’s purring was as lovely as music. It was brimming with well-being and tenderness. No one knew, of course, that Tiger, that is, Papa was seeing in his dream his children, his four wonderful children – baby Kate with two teeth, the twins Marat and Emily, and Christopher, who already, blimey, was the school basketball champion. In his dream he was happy about Mama. With whom it was so good to make up. Purring, he missed their home, when all of them would be together again.

The purring had enchanted everyone, because it was so tender, there could be no words to describe it, and so loud that in the kitchen teaspoons began to softly jingle. Tiger’s purring reminded many of their happy childhood days, when almost every child had his or her own cat. The resort children wished to pat Tiger and their parents allowed them to do so. Tiger purred and purred, and the inn guests felt ever better and happier.

The wondrous mill that purred in Tiger’s breast, ground on and on.

It ground up all troubles and worries.

Everyone who had had a spat, wanted to make up.

All who were sad wanted to be joyful.

In the meantime the resort children audaciously had started to tug Tiger’s tail. He woke from his pleasant nap and stopped purring.

‘Let’s go,’ Mama pulled the necklace-leash.

Now everyone wanted to know at what time Mama and Tiger were having their lunch. All of them were hoping that after a good lunch Tiger would once more purr.

Mama replied that they would eat lunch at lunchtime and hurriedly led Tiger away. She sensed that Papa would start talking in a human voice soon, and that was all they needed!

So thus they spent their days at the resort.

Each time after breakfast the tiger purred while the resort guests listened and wished that Tiger would purr his utmost longer. The innkeeper himself, wearing his white gloves, made sure that no one disturbed Tiger in an untimely way.

One evening Mama and Tiger went to a dance. In the centre of the dance floor, right in the midst of passionate dancing, Mama unwittingly tugged more forcefully on Tiger’s leash, which in fact was a necklace, and, oh my! – The leash broke! Mama’s necklace beads scattered all over the floor. They rolled in every which direction like multi-coloured sea pebbles. The dancers fell to their knees and crawled to gather the scattered beads. Everyone on the sly hid their found bead on their person. Some believed that it would bring them luck. Others wished to keep the beautiful bead as a memento. A memento of the resort, where they had once been together with the so unusual tiger. A memento of the times of the tiger’s purring which had made them feel ever better and happier.

‘My loveliest necklace! Where is it now?’ Mama sighed when everyone had dispersed.

‘Don’t fret. I’ll show you later where your necklace beads are.’ Tiger said.

When night arrived, Tiger called Mama out on the balcony. ‘Look! No, look up higher!’ he said, and Mama saw her bright and lovely beads in the sky. They shone there with the stars. On falling asleep Mama had the thought that it wasn’t a bad place for the broken necklace’s scattered beads. As it was Tiger had no further need for a leash because everyone had understood that in the whole wide world there wasn’t another creature as nice and affectionate as…

Mama fell asleep.

Waking up the next morning, Mama felt something odd. There was silence and besides, the bed didn’t seem as comfy as it had been earlier. Why wasn’t there the sound of purring? Where was Tiger? Mama turned toward Tiger’s side of the bed. Oh, my! It wasn’t Tiger who was sleeping there, no it wasn’t!

Mama didn’t know if she should be happy or not. On the one hand Mama wanted to be happy, but on the other hand – not.

It was Papa who was lying in bed beside her! Yes, yes! Looking like himself! About this Mama was happy. Yes, but Papa would never again purr like Tiger and it looked like he would never again go on a leash beside Mama. About that Mama was not happy.

While Mama sunk in deep thought, Papa also woke. Now Mama understood that she was more happy than not.

‘Dearest! You’re once more like a human being, my dear husband!’ Mama wanted to embrace Papa, but Papa was looking her way fearfully. No, more than that, in Papa’s eyes was true horror.

You’re no longer a tiger! Understand? It doesn’t matter. It’s good. You wouldn’t want to be a tiger for the rest of your life, would you? How would you as a tiger take Chris to school on a bicycle? How would you accompany Marat and Emily to kindergarten? How would you as a tiger dress little Kate? Think of it!’ Talking thus, Mama tried to comfort Papa, for him not to worry that the tiger was no longer here. Not to be sad. But be happy. Papa, it appears, was not at all listening, but was staring in total confusion at Mama. Then finally he began to speak. In an oddly anxious and suspiciously caring voice.

‘Dear, don’t move! Don’t be afraid just don’t worry! You know that I’ve always liked long and slim necks. Our children have already for ages wished for a slide! Yes, and now you won’t need high heels. What lovable little horns!’

‘What horns?’ Mama in surprise blinked.

‘Wondrous little horns! Soft, velvety, with black tiny tassels. Dearest, you have such fantastic eyelashes and your eyes -¬- like reed embraced clear lakes!

‘Reed embraced clear lakes?’ Mama asked again. Truly, something was screwy with Papa’s head. Probably it wasn’t so easy for a tiger to become a human being again. Maybe such transformations weren’t good for one’s head?

‘These patterns and this colour are in fashion! You look elegant! Dearest, all will be fine! Besides you already were a vegetarian and you liked all sorts of greens and fresh salads.’

It seemed to Mama that it was not she who had been comforting Papa but that he was now comforting her. Mama wanted to get up, but she couldn’t. She was stuck.

‘What’s happening? Ouch! Ow! The bed has shrunk during the night! It’s too small for me! I’m going to ask Mr. Innkeeper for a bigger one!’

‘Look in the mirror. Now it’s your turn.’ Papa urged her.

‘The mirror is too far. I can’t see anything from here. And I’m wedged in after all.’

‘Stretch your neck, then you’ll see,’ Papa encouraged her.

Sceptically Mama stretched her neck, and wonder of wonders! She could now see herself in the mirror.

Gazing back at her were large and beautiful eyes. And, oh what wonderful eyelashes!

Her little horns truly were adorable! Soft, velvety, with tiny black tassels. Mama with pleasure moved her head from side to side.

Such colours and patterns truly were in fashion! So slender her neck!

The bed squeaked loudly as Mama got up, her little horns grazing the ceiling. Papa was right. Mama no longer would need high heels.

‘Let’s go down for breakfast! I want fresh lettuce leaves.’ Mama said.

‘My dear Giraffe, I’m afraid you won’t get into a lift. We’re on the twentieth floor.’

‘What now?’ said Giraffe.

‘What now?’ asked Papa.

What now?

But that’s another story.

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