Алла Фишбейн

Я не писатель, не поэт, не переводчик, не иллюстратор и не режиссёр, хотя всем этим немного занимаюсь помимо профессии архитектора и дизайнера интерьеров. Рисую и люблю английский язык с раннего детства, публикую стихи и рассказы в интернете лет пять. Переводила чужие стихи с английского на русский, теперь — свой рассказ с русского на английский. Новый опыт — новые впечатления. Источником вдохновения может быть всё — дождь, сон, запах, музыка, любовь, путешествия… «Нам не дано предугадать…»

Отрывок из произведения «Martha’s Portrait (Портрет Марты)»

Old Jürgen, as long as he could remember, was always drawing. He drew with a help of a twig on the ground wet after rain, later on any found scraps of paper… Once he, dipping his finger in the ash, covered with tracery the entire fresh-whitewashed wall. Strict and stern mother whipped him with rods, and father brought from the town so desired real artistic brushes and colors. But there could be no question about serious studies of painting  — who would take care of the vineyards? Jürgen’s brother had drowned beeing a teenager, and God did not give children to his elder sister. So painting remained for him only a consolation and balm for the soul.


Once in his childhood Jürgen overheard the father’s conversation with the familiar fishermen while they blustered, emptying the cask of wine. «The Philosophic Stone»… He did not understand much, but from that day this expression filled his mind and gave him no repose. Soon his father compelled Jürgen to prepare barrels for new grapes crop, and he, for the first time having noticed tasting bitter rough tartar on the bottom, decided for himself that this just was «the philosophic stone». Since then Jürgen has grown up long ago and was already called «old Jürgen», but he increasingly wanted to find his own philosophic stone, although he could hardly explain what and why he was looking for. Gold did not interest him — the vineyards brought a good income, all the more that he did not need anything for himself alone — but something forced him to continue his experiments year after year. The medieval alchemists have searched in the wrong place. After all, it was clear that nothing, like vine, unites in itself the generosity and care of the Earth, Water, Sun and Wind, it only remained to find the Quintessence. And he took the wine of those years when the love of the sun was especially hot, the whiff of the wind was especially gentle, the rains — especially desired and tender and the nourishment of the earth especially full-blooded, and mixed, infused, evaporated, added cherished herbs and mixed again, infused, evaporated…


Old Jürgen did not sell his paintings, they were arranged all around the house. One could see vineyards in different seasons and times of the day, the portraits of his daughter from infancy to present days and his wife, who left forever young, famous biblical stories … Yesterday Jürgen persuaded Martha to sit for a portrait. It would be ridiculous to choose Martha as a model for Danae or Aphrodite. She was squat, with swollen feet in worn out shoes, red hands with fingernails broken off from constant work, sagging heavy breasts under a faded apron, weather-beaten broad face, as red as her hands, with flaking lips, colorless eyes with almost missing eyelashes and burnt out, tucked-up rare hair. Martha did not understand what for Jürgen wanted to paint her, but was glad to rest for an hour, twiddling her fleshy hands on the vast knees. Sometimes she nodded, dropping her shapeless chin on a powerful neck (surely she treated herself with a bit of wine while wiping in the cellar), and Jürgen had to hail his absurd model to return her back to life. He hurried to paint the portrait in the whole before nightfall, and the details he loved so much could be worked at later.


In the morning Jürgen realized — it was Martha’s portrait staring at him at night. He looked at his work, which yesterday he was not satisfied with. It was, undoubtedly, Martha … and not her at the same time. Both the face and the whole figure of the stately, corpulent woman on the canvas were filled with such confident dignity, such an all-conquering inner strength that it seemed as if the overfilled with fertility Mother Earth itself had sat down for a second waiting for its unreasonable children whom she was always ready to embrace and defend by beautiful maternal hands. Her golden hair laid around her head resembled a radiance coming from her very essence. Not believing his eyes, Jürgen made a step towards the portrait, when suddenly the simplest possible and simultaneously mystical supposition stopped his breathing, made his hands and legs lose weight and brought his heart into his mouth. He grabbed a lantern and rushed to the basement, dropping thе chair along the way. On the high stone steps Jürgen stumbled and only massive body, leaning his shoulder against the wall of a narrow staircase, did not let him roll off head over heels. The candle in the lamp went out, and Jürgen had to come back again and set fire to it with his trembling fingers. He hit his knee hard and it was quickly swelling and did not want to bend as he stumped down the stairs back to the cellar. Had this damned muppet reached the blue bottle in the cupboard? How could he forget the key there?


In this old faceted vessel of dark blue Florentine glass there was the result of many years of his searching for the philosophic stone. Only one day remained before the moment when Jürgen was going, ineptly muttering a pray as he was able, to filter the contents and introduce Quintessence to the world …


The bottle was lying on a wooden table in the already almost dried sticky puddle. After taking a sip, Martha upset it in haste and even did not bother or had not enough time to remove the traces. Jürgen rubbed his hand over the puddle left from what had been the meaning of his life for many years. Fingers felt several crystals of bright ruby color. Lifting them to his mouth, Jürgen slightly licked, and then, no longer able to stop, swallowed them. His head suddenly began to spin around, the walls of rough stone turned, accelerating and squeezing around him, the gleams of the candle from the lantern also danced, winking at him with yellow eyes and then faded together with the last wish of old Jürgen to sit down on the stone step. There in the basement Martha found him a week later. She did not recognize her portrait and pushed it into the far corner.


*  * *

    Damn, what an idiot, I did not shut the curtains yesterday, now this moon, full as if on purpose, stares impudently and does not allow to sleep. Surprisingly, the head is clear after yesterday’s booze, although I’ve drunk plenty and managed to doze off only for a couple of hours. It seems that this vaunted collection of Austrian wine, which the organizers so boasted of, turned out to be original. Something is spinning in my head, I can‘t catch it… An important thought, it seems to me, or I’ve just dreamed, I don’t understand, blast! The first personal exhibition of photography is not opened every day. How did all of them sing there, «Dear me, Mr.Petrov, that’s incredible! Ohhh, my God, Mr.Petrov, your «Peasant- woman» is a modern Willendorf Venus, awww, we invite you to take part in the international exhibition in Milan, yow, the glossy magazines will rival for the interview …»

Well, Yegor, son of a bitch, remember recently turning an honest copeck as an unknown reporter, the devil knows how it turns out… Look, Svetka from the second floor — funny, redhead, eccentric girl — on my photo is if not the queen, the court lady at least. And all these actresses (looking as if their years are their main wealth) are queuing up to make a portrait. It seems I do everything as everyone did, as I was taught… well, of course, I did not get out of the studio for several years, quickly only cats would be born. And what about this Willendorf, well, Martha, it’s enough to make a cat laugh… Why Martha, she seemed not to introduce herself… Argh, I’ll by all means grab by the tail that what‘s spinning in my head… Last year in Austria I could not find the necessary turn on that alpine serpentine, and when the navigator for the third time drove me past a clean puppet church, I understood  I had to ask the way, but it’s a real problem to find there somebody in the afternoon. Suddenly I saw the same clean puppet house and a woman besides busy with arranging the pumpkins. I got out of the car, asked how to get to the nearest town, the hostess did not even change her face expression, waved her hand something like the second turn to the right and gave me a pumpkin. What would I do with it, I wondered? Then I peeped in the open window…


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