THE CUDGEL GAME
The Old Clough No. 1. A very inglorious and beaten old house with a funky stable, looking like some unpretentious fire caught it long ago.
5.00 a. m.
The door of the inglorious house opened. Out stepped an older man with something resembling a cudgel, except its end was sharpened.
The man stopped at the stable and ran his cudgel over the cranky planks.
He then threw the cudgel in the grass and went back into the house.
While this was performed, another door opened. From the house The Old Clough No. 2 stepped an older man wearing nothing. He crossed the asphalt road leading to the stable of the house number one, picked up the cudgel and went back into his house.
»Well, dear colleagues,« said the guide to the small group of tourists, which amounted to fifteen people, not more, »you’ve just witnessed an old village tradition – the changing of the cudgel!«
»But,« said someone from the group, »why did we have to wake up so early? Why don’t they do this in the daytime?«
The guide smiled.
»Let’s knock on the door of the house number one and ask!«
Her knock was answered by an older man in his pyjamas, which had never seen a tailor after 1902.
»Whuzzup?« he pettifoggingly grumbled.
»Mr. Ferjanc, do you see those tourists in a group by the barn? They would like to know why must the cudgel be exchanged by night, not by daylight?«
Ferjanc grumbled again.
»Natasha, stop asking foolish things and go to sleep!«
He slammed the door.
The guide looked a bit uncomfortable, nervously scanning the group.
Then she knocked again.
Ferjanc came out storming.
Natasha whispered into his ear:
»Mr. Ferjanc, Mimika!«
Ferjanc turned pale.
»I should’ve beaten the hell out of you! What am I supposed to say to those fools there by the stable?«
»That’s my first group ever, Mr. Ferjanc!«
»All right, all right!«
He walked to the stable in his pyjamas and scanned each and every member of the group with his eyes.
»Where do you come from?«
»City, sir!« answered a younger man from the group.
»I didn’t ask you to speak!« snarled Ferjanc and continued: »Don’t you people have anything better to do with yourself than to wait for me to exchange the cudgel at 5 a.m.?«
»That’s what we’re really interested in!« said a very round woman, who was hardly standing by now.
»There’s a village legend about a dragon who terrorized our village many years ago. He knew no fear, except of a sharpened cudgel. But the village was poor, there was only one cudgel. It had to be handed around. The sun wakes up at five in the morning and wants to be poked. That’s when we started the exchange. The dragon moved away from the first house by then. Is that old story really that interesting?«
»I don’t get it!« said the aforementioned younger man. »Houses are built so close together. If the landlord threw the cudgel in the grass at the moment when the dragon was moving away to the adjacent house, the dragon would have spotted him and the other landlord. He’d kill them mercilessly even before …«
»Right, right, that one,« said another younger man, uncanilly resembling the other one, »if the dragon was afraid of the cudgel, wouldn’t it have been smarter for the village people to hand it around like a relay? He couldn’t have spotted it in the grass!«
Ferjanc started to shout.
»You!!! Been studying, eh? Been to the university, eh? Who are you to doubt our tradition?«
The very round woman said:
»But the Trzhniks are right, all this is highly unorthodox. Why …«
The guide quickly interfered.
»Thanks to Mr. Ferjanc for the elaborate explanation of the village tradition. We are going back to the Domen’s pub to spend the night now!«
Ferjanc went into the house and angrily slammed the door.
He got up quite early next morning, knocked on the door of the house The Old Clough No. 2 and shouted:
»Gimme back my cudgel!«
Translated from Slovenian by author