Yellow Sub

A Tale by extetsjoibe

My mother, when my eldest brother Osman was born, nursed the eldest Khan, Abu Nutsal Khan. Then she nursed the second son of the Khan, Umma Khan, and reared him; but Akhmet my second brother died, and when I was born and the Khansha bore Bulach Khan, my mother would not go as wet-nurse again. My father ordered her to, but she would not. She asked: “Should I again kill my own son? I will not go.’

Then my father, who was passionate, struck her with a dagger and would have killed her had they not rescued her from him. So she did not give me up, and later on she composed a song . . . but I need not tell that.

Hadji Murad grew thoughtful. He remembered how his mother had laid him to sleep beside her under a fur coat on the roof of the saklya and he had asked her to show him the place in her side where the scar of her wound was still visible.

He remembered the fountain below the hill when holding onto his mother’s sarovary (loose Turkish trousers) when he went with her for water. He remembered how she had shaved his head for the first time and how the reflection of his round bluish head in the shining brass vessel that hung on the wall had astonished him. He remembered a lean dog that had licked his face. He remembered the strange smell of the lepeshki (a kind of flat cake) his mother had given him – a smell of smoke and sour milk. He remembered how his mother had carried him in a basket on her back to visit his grandfather at the farmstead and left him there. He remembered his wrinkled grandmother. He remembered all of this. But he remembered most how his mother would wake him with her bright sun even after she was long gone, turning down the path away from her parent’s home without even a look backwards.

Where is your mother now? someone asked.

My mother is now in Shamil’s hands, he answered, and she must be rescued. When he smiled, he captivated everyone around him.

No, one of the others said. This was long ago. She is no longer in his hands.

Yes, I know, he said. I just want to see the scar one more time, that’s all. I want to see how her scar became a bright yellow sun.


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