Exile


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It was dangling there, hanging from a nail in the wall on a little copper-plated hemp string. It shone softly with a crystalline silver reflection, almost translucent. Sometimes, when through the open kitchen window a breeze rushed into the abode, it swung, making the small melodious sound of a bell. Then Grandfather would say it was the echo of the light chains bedecking the goats, back there…. His eyes turned hazy and became lost in the void. Everyone took on a serious expression and was quiet. Grandmother closed her eyes and, on her puckered lips, we could perhaps read an inward prayer. Then the sound vanished in the noise from the street, it stopped swinging, and the present took over once more.

However, Sarah often looked up from her assigned seat at the table and saw it there, gleaming and mysterious. Something happened in her heart or rather in her little girl's stomach. A wave that was both hot and cold, a lump in her throat, a sadness without rhyme or reason.

Sarah had often asked Grandmother why it was hanging there. Why, in all the houses they visited in the neighborhood, it had a twin, clearly displayed, hanging on a wall, shining. And as soon as the bell sound echoed, people's eyes misted over, there was silence, and that melancholy feeling filled the room.

"Because one day, we'll go back," Grandmother simply replied.

Not one word more. No one ever spoke much about that place. Maybe no one, not even the oldest ones, really remembered. While they waited, it dangled there, hanging from a nail in the wall on a little copper-plated hemp string. The shining key of another house. Of our house. Because one day, we will go back.

-- Translated by Kate Deimling

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