Tcha and Cha
English translation by Jonathan Soen
His missing arm the acrobat Tcha disposed of within the mouth of Johnny, a tranquil and obedient lion by most accounts, even drowsy, after a bet made with the Dutch lion tamer named Cha.
Cha envied Tcha for his spectacular acrobatic skills and vice versa; Tcha envied Cha for his valor in the predators' cage; furthermore, for his natural aptitude for making friends with them, and with animals in general. A person whose ability of observing animals with the utmost subtle scrutiny, and who is capable, apt and wishes to invest a great deal of time in it, almost the whole time, was in the eyes of Tcha a superman. Cha would shed astonished tears at Tcha's performances. He thought that Tcha's ability of selecting precisely those leaning points, onto which he would balance himself during the intricate situations he'd created weariless time and time again, each so different from its former, is a living proof of an absolute inner control. All acrobats excelled in supreme flexibility, yet in Tcha's performances there was another thing; Cha thought that Tcha's spirit is mysterious. He would look at stringy Tcha hovering atop his towers of chairs and bottles, wiping his tears and wandering downcast, despised with his cumbersome body, to pay a visit to his lion, Johnny. He would sit in front of it, staring into its enormous, yellow eyes, observing detachedly, half repulsed, the diamond pupils of his humongous cat, and sigh.
When Cha and Tcha had really quarreled between themselves, each over the other's greatness, and their humility contest had taken somewhat of a hostile turn, Cha, the par-excellence superhuman according to Tcha, demanded for Tcha, the man with absolute inner control, to enter into Johnny's cage so as to proclaim the mystery of his spirit, proving everyone the exalted delicacy of the human soul as opposed to the absolute opacity of the beast.
All riled up from the dispute, Tcha had rushed into the cage and in less then a minute was forced to give up his right forearm. This one acquired an independent posture upon Johnny's lower right canine tooth. The rest was no less exemplary: Cha, stricken with guilt, had wished to die on the spot, and pounced at the cage with a shriek so mighty and in particularly piercing as to horrify even Johnny. The lion prepared itself to be meted with the worst of its punishments. Akin to a misbehaved pooch, it crouched submissively upon its knees, paws gathered against thorax, its giant maw half open, and Tcha's arm hanging there upon the canine tooth, dripping. It fixed two rolling eyes upon its frenzied trainer, and the latter thrusted his head with the rest of his upper body part into the lion's throat, while clinching to the piece of bloody arm in a heart rending cry commanding Johnny to tighten its jaws, hard. Johnny refused. Cha repeated, shouting his head off into the lion's maw. Johnny refused.
Despite of his excruciating pain, hand-plucked Tcha was trembling from an intense laughing spasm. Bleeding allover and still laughing recklessly, he pulled Cha with the rest of his strength and dragged him outside the lion's maw and outside the cage, and then, still laughing, he fainted.
The arm was hopeless. In some sort of a hesitation and quite sluggishly in fact, like a bewildered burglar trying to stash his plunder to the eyes of a cop yet even more perplexed then himself, Johnny had swallowed it along with the sleeve.
Cha had nursed Tcha through his recuperation and assisted him with all his new trainings after the accident. Amputee Tcha had redoubled the sum of chairs and bottles within his towers, and a diverse set of tricks was needed in order for those to have been for him to the heights. When he had finally recommenced performing, his stunts became the most intricate and breathtaking ever. Thanks to that, Cha had managed to persuade the circus owner to purchase a lioness for Johnny. The match turned up successful. Johnny had become less drowsy and more hostile. Within only a little time, the predators' cage was filled up with an active family, absolutely hazardous, and equally hilarious. Cha had taken care of all these developments with great skill and indeed his own performance ameliorated as well, becoming inventive and daring. He would seat his group of lions in wide-opened mouths and place onto their tongues dumbfounded hares. Bloodthirsty children were invited to command the predators to tighten their jaws and the lions, refused. Cha would extricate the hares and hand them as presents to the children. Tcha would balance himself onto the top of his towers upon his right arm stump, and with his left hand sprinkled mica-covered rice. The crowd shouted of joy. The number of visitors multiplied and the circus revenue went sky high. The whole status of the chief-staff as well as the juniors improved; the wage, the housing, nutrition, health, all sorts of grants and sales, holiday and vacation, and most particularly education system, insurances and pension funds. These were all immeasurably better.
Onto a tripod having a four-arm bearing as its top was placed the first chair, upon bottles. The second chair positioned onto a cask. The third above it stood inverted upon a pair of balls, and yet eight more chairs were mounted each upon the other in a manner thoroughly inexplicable, and balanced from on top of these. At the peak of the structure, there hovered Tcha calmly balanced upon his one and only arm, his feet crossed heavenward, spinning inside his mouth a miniature umbrella, red, made of stem and paper.
There was no question about it, Tcha had pulled it off; by virtue or despite of being an amputee, or rather for he was simply skilful. True, he was also lean and light as a feather. Tcha had tremendous success. His act fully transcended all those perfect circles the painter Giotto had once produced freehandedly to the eyes of his admirers, who would moan at each other as if beholding divinity itself.
One day Cha was in low spirits. He observed his flying friend with an extreme bitterness and thought to himself: a single circle or a thousand of them, as in Tcha's maneuvers up there in the heights, a single glance upon such perfection, and of what use? Cha sunk deeper and deeper: and what arises there, yet more perfect, gleaming in a frightful strangeness up to the heart of the sky, but that which is all along incorrigibly faulty? Cha's eyes began flowing. And what of all that demands urgent completion, from which it is likewise prevented? By now, Cha's mood had truly worsened. For instance, the act of the suicidal terrorist; Cha had submerged into his pondering. This suicider, he said to himself, a smallish figure, a minuscule, wretched character… yeah, that type with the submachine-gun, or else with his explosive belt, cocked, blindly erecting there, wholly pointed, and all pointing into whatever infinity into which he discharges, and from which he is driven out, punished, dismissed at once from both life and infinity, as anyone who's been haughty and covetous beyond all tolerance.
And what's destined for such perfection?
Sore-backed and open mouthed, the crowd witnessed Tcha, sky-hooked upside down above his lunatic chairs' tower, tonguing his annoyingly red little paper umbrella. The attention was profound, marked by the extraordinary tension saved for people witnessing a display of the abilities of the human body. No book, nor any captivating idea, could bring people to such sheer concentration.
Toddlers as elders altogether were looking upwards open mouthed.
Flies hovering within the circus dome breathed their last. I had been there too, and I too had swallowed a fly.
But it is not the fly-holocaust that troubles the mind as Tcha's jiggling.
Oh, Tcha, frolicsome upon an ephemeral tower - - -
Intangible he was and more aspiring than any of the acrobats devoting themselves to the quest of finding out how many chairs would mount onto glass bottles. A lot of comfort brought this flawless amputee to the world, and tears.
Cha would shed them time and again when godly Tcha floated around, upside down, and the red umbrella held in his mouth spinning like a fan.
However, here it is, suddenly it all seems no more than the margins of a constant terror, trivial. Cha was twisting with the pain of jealousy; in the null of its chronic failure, glimmered in its murkiness the terrorist's remonstrance, inflaming it, until Tcha seemed afar, lost as a falling star.
So it went:
Of his missing arm the acrobat Tcha disposed within the mouth of that very Johnny, who was indeed a tranquil and obedient lion by most accounts, even drowsy, after a bet made with the Dutch lion tamer carrying the slightly foolish name, Cha.
This Cha had envied flying Tcha.
Even if he sprayed himself with a good deal of perfumes, Cha had always emitted the pungent odor of lion-urine, and to his footwear stuck its droppings, even to the diamond-buckle pair, which he kept from all harm for shows only. Was this really life? Stamping in yellow sawdust, whip-lashing, orders to a big cat… Cha felt himself an absolute nobody, truly belittled; a man's man stuck behind the bars with a lion. Both of us have no motivation, he pondered with grief. The whole thing has been a terrible waste. He nevertheless was fond of his lion. Like all trained animals, Johnny was slightly difficult, with sensitivities; he had allergies, stomach-aches, moods. Hares yellowish as he was aroused his abhorrence, from the speckled he would flee; facing the black ones he wouldn't open his mouth, only the white ones he ate. Cha had always taken great pains around him.
However, there were some moments of grace. For instance, while combing and brushing long as he pleased the marvelous fur of the anesthetized Johnny, or when picking punctiliously between his canine teeth, or silently admiring from near the tremendous enormity of its spectacular testicles, even fondling them at times, only to indulge on their impressive weight.
And there was also the more exuberant bond between the two, whenever Cha would sit upon an inverted bucket outside the cage; his head very close to Johnny's huge head lying crosswise to the bars while ogling at his trainer with a pair of wide-open sparkling eyes. Cha would look inside them, each at a time, talking to him lengthily. Cha was obligated to consistently maintain the giant corpse, and had indeed paid his dues.
Only all that beauty, natural, of the king of animals, vanished into thin air when Cha was watching Tcha. How much he'd envied him for all those sky-high flowery floating of his! This, he'd name an absolute control, of one's own self, not of a lion.
So, Cha had always sobbed during Tcha's performances.
And that tiny umbrella over there at the top, oh, Cha's heart was overflewn. The very essence of Tcha's mysterious spirit, all its genius, was inscribed within the pinky wake of its dizzying spin.
But Tcha would think otherwise, and Tcha had envied Cha.
The truth shall be said, virtuosos of the kind of Tcha are not envious. They are busy day and night with exhausting exercise, and in the rest of the time they are so saturated with it that they have no energy for envying someone or something. They are withdrawn people, happy and opaque. Yet Tcha was an unusual acrobat, impeccably attentive and sensitive, much before becoming, as his enthused audience believed, a "sensitive" acrobat by virtue of the loss of his hand. No, he was just born that way. And he, Tcha, saw Cha. He saw Johnny as well, and kept a sentiment to both. He admired Cha's valor in the predators' cage, paid close attention to both his and Johnny's despondency, day by day, and his loving heart would pinch with compassion.
Hardly would this emerge and soon it turned into deep jealousy.
Cha got himself a beautiful friend, magnificent, big and warm; a lion, whereas himself, Tcha, what was he? Day in day out only pondering between chairs at insane heights. A tiny distraction and he would crash into the ground. Even during those hours in which he wasn't performing, a real brake never came. Balancing onto a stack of chairs stabilized on bottles, this was his life, a life of constant muscle tensing, inflamed tendons, and futile confrontations with objects. To lessen the boredom, Tcha would come up with new ways for balancing himself upon his planks. If only he had some other possibility, but Tcha tended to forget whatever he already had mastered. Therefore he had to invent. His inventions brought him small comfort, and the audience's applause was also of somewhat help to cover up the deep conviction he had nursed that his life weren't truthfully a life.
The tiny stem umbrella epitomized this absurdity; Tcha loathed it. Ingenuity isn't enough, proclaimed the circus-owner, people want magic; the variety of stunts is for you, and the umbrella for the audience. He demanded its presence in every show. Along with all the aching muscles, Tcha's tongue would also be afflicted by the foolish stunt, and pimples often appeared on it. No, a life like this he never wished for anyone. Tcha coveted Cha's aptitude for making friends with his lion, and in general, with animals. For Cha is a natural caregiver, for he puts his lion into sleep with stories, for he walks from cage to cage taking care of the rest of the animals, for he talks so warmly to all of them… Tcha thought: A person whose ability of observing animals with the utmost subtle scrutiny, and who's capable, apt and wishes to invest a great deal of time in it, almost the whole time, as Cha would do, is a superman.
In the end, Cha and Tcha had quarreled. It began with a dispute and ended in a squabble. Only then, Cha, the par-excellence superhuman according to Tcha, demanded for Tcha, the genius of absolute inner control, to enter into Johnny's cage so as to finally show to the world the hidden delicacy of the human soul, as opposed to the overt – the absolute opacity of the beast.
Cha was about to shove Tcha inside, only it was of for free. All riled up from the dispute, Tcha had rushed himself into the cage, but, in less then a minute was forced to give up his right forearm. It acquired an independent posture upon the right lower canine tooth of Johnny the lion.
And so was the rest of it: eaten with guilt, wishing to die right on the spot, Cha pounced at the cage with a wailing so mighty as to horrify even Johnny, who prepared itself to be handed with the worst of its punishments; as if asking itself whether to swallow or eject, it crouched submissively, tucking and cramping itself as hard as it could, its giant maw dripping with blood, wide open, and Tcha's forearm sticking out from the inside skewered upon the canine tooth. It fixed two round eyes upon its frenzied trainer, and the latter would thrust his head and after that the rest of his upper body part into the lion's throat, while clinching to the piece of bloody arm in bitter weeping, and commanding it to tighten its jaws, hard. Johnny refused. Cha repeated, shouting his throat out into the maw of the terrified lion. Johnny refused. Tcha gurgling in pain and laughing his head off, crawled inside the cage and pulled Cha out, and then fainted.
The arm was hopeless. Johnny, insulted and confused, chewed it and swallowed it along with the sleeve.
Cha nursed Tcha through his recuperation and assisted him with all his new trainings after the accident. Amputee Tcha had redoubled the sum of chairs and bottles within his towers, and a diverse set of tricks was needed in order for those to have been lifted for him to the heights. When he had finally recommenced performing, his stunts became the most intricate and breathtaking than ever. At long last, the tiny umbrella was good as gone. This time, insisted on it the circus owner; in the name of the pure performance. Thanks to that, Cha had managed to persuade him to purchase a lioness for Johnny. The match turned up successful. Johnny became less drowsy and more hostile. Within only a little time, the predators' cage was filled up with an active and dangerous family. All these developments had been taken care of by Cha with a tremendous skill, and his own performance ameliorated as well, becoming inventive and daring.
The lions, the hares, the bloodthirsty children, mica-covered rice and a screaming audience, repairs, improvements, grants, sales and benefits – all that as well, took place.