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Marsh Angel

Hagai Dagan

Copyright © 2020 Hagai Dagan

All rights reserved; No parts of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information retrieval system, without the permission, in writing, of the author.

Translation from the Hebrew by Itamar Toussia Cohen

Contact: [email protected]

Contents

PROLOGUE

a. Early Childhood

b. Childhood

c. Adolescence

1. THE ROYAL FLEUR-DE-LIS

a. The Holy Anointing Oil

b. We’re All Palestinian

c. The Fate of the Russian Nation

d. Hostile Terrorist Activity

e. A Distant Star on the Border of Dawn

2. KIDONIT

a. Behind the Curtain

b. Stay Low

c. Black Material

d. Tulip

e. Memory and Forgetfulness

f. Abandoned House

g. Intuition

h. Neta the Intelligence Analyst

i. The Great Infidel

j. Pools of Light

3. THUNDERBIRDS

a. The Plot Thickens

b. Sacrifice, Return, Liberation

c. Bourgeois Intelligence

d. Illusory Chill

e. Mainstream, and Slightly to the Right

f. Blackening Matter

g. Speculations

h. Is Something Bothering You, Binder?

i. Autonomous Sex

j. Gnats

k. A Kite Aflame

l. Where Were You?

m. Chariot of Fire

n. The Brains Lottery

o. What’s Going on in Tripoli?

p. The Cage is in Motion

q. Radio Check

r. Revelation

4. TWILIGHT

a. The Wrath of God

b. The Best Interest of the Matter

c. No Big Deal

d. Transparent

e. New Zealand

f. Backlog to Be Taken Care Of

g. Bad Boy

h. Tediously Familiar

5. THE LIFE OF ARTS

a. The Stint Will Die Here

b. Source Confidentiality

c. Strive for Clarity

6. SHIKMA STREAM

a. Carpenter’s Glue

b. Skimmed Milk

c. At the Tail-End of All Things

d. Rustic Grace

e. Different, Completely Different

7. VIENNA

a. Blocked Number

b. He Has to Know

c. Forgotten Frequency

d. Cautious Joy

e. Green Mist

f. Black Rain

g. Hidden Ground Water

h. Sorcery and Deception

i. Distance

j. Low Priority

k. Light of Reason

l. Letters

m. Who is Flamingo Reed?

n. Literature Lesson

o. Anta min Arab al-Ghawarneh?

p. Austria Vienna

q. The Banks of the Na‘aman

r. Cremeschnitte

s. Direct Order

t. Zwickel

u. Saving Polnochi

EPILOGUE

Message from the Author

If darkness still prevails and I am bereft a star,

and if angry is the sea

on the bow of my ship, mother,

light a fire for me to see.

[…]

Above, a golden canopy,

beneath, a void lies taciturn.

Carry me, o wave, do carry me,

to the land for which I yearn.

Carry me in wisdom

why? do not ask of me.

A little bird, a little bird

on the horizon waits for me.

— Raphael Eliaz, “A Love Song for the Sea”

PROLOGUE

a. Early Childhood

Tamir lay close to his mother. Her warm body exuded an aroma of cinnamon rolls. The small bedroom enveloped and embraced her, and she embraced it in return. Far off in the distance was an open window, like a dream, and outside, the night engulfed Kibbutz Sufit: thin rain murmured, frogs croaked in the creek, the scent of water and reed carried in the air, cows lowed in the fields, and jackals howled in the distance. Tamir asked to hear the story of Princess Polnochi again. His mother laughed. Maybe she will come tonight, she said, you never know, you need to wait. She never comes before midnight. Polnochi means ‘midnight’, in Russian.

Tamir asked where she would be coming from.

From Siberia, his mother replied, she will fly from Siberia through the night sky. Her voice was pensive and distant. It seemed to Tamir as though she were talking from a dream. She rides rays of light, she said, gentle rays of light, star and moonlight.

What happens if the sky is clouded and you can’t see the moon? Tamir insisted.

We can’t see it, but she can, his mother answered. In every darkness there is some light, and Polnochi knows how to find it. She sees all the children lying under the cover of darkness, and if they are very lonely, if they get lost in their dreams, she descends down to them, like a beautiful angel, and strokes them, and they are no longer alone. Close your eyes, Tamirchuk, and wait for her. In the morning, tell me if she came to visit you in your dreams. His mother leaned over and enveloped him in a soft embrace; her large body was heavy and sweet, diametrically opposite of Princess Polnochi’s soft and starry essence. His mother pulled him down and Polnochi pulled him up, and he was beside himself.

b. Childhood

One day, the kids went out on a field-trip along Hilazon stream. They sat in a cart harnessed to a blue Ford tractor, which drove through the fields of Sufit, passing by the ruins of Damun village, which was razed to the ground in 1948; they observed the fish ponds and continued along Na’aman stream, until they reached the plain near the estuary and the ramshackle shanty village of the Bedouin al-Ghawarneh tribe. The name of the tribe derives from the Arabic word ghur, meaning ‘valley’, their Arabic language teacher who accompanied the trip explained. Tamir loved Arabic, and loved the Arabic teacher. She had red curls, full cheeks, and slightly bucked teeth which reminded Tamir of a rabbit. He loved hearing the guttural sounds emerging from her throat. He listened to her pronounce those sounds and imagined the patient gnawing of a carrot. The Bedouin of the Arab al-Ghawarneh explained to the schoolchildren that their tribe is dispersed all over the country, especially in valleys and marshlands. One of the kids said that the pioneers that established the kibbutz had dried the marshes, but a tall man with a proud, penetrative gaze said that there was no need to do so, that they had always lived in peace with the marshes. Later, they treated the students to sweet tea and olives whose flavor was intensely bitter, as well as dates, and all sorts of odd, oily sweets. The sweets weren’t to Tamir’s liking, but the olives— which most of the kids found repulsive— evoked thoughts of earth, muddy riverbanks, roots, and humus.

Two girls served the olives and sweets. They were introduced to the children as a pair of twins: Sa’ira and Dallal. They were slightly older than the schoolchildren. They were dressed in long colorful dresses and wore bracelets on their hands, despite their young age. They told of their lives in a Bedouin village, their quotidian routine, how they help in the kitchen and play in the tamarisk thicket. The Arabic teacher

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