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HOME / Tibor Déry translated by Elizabeth Csicsery-Bónay THE SOLDIER STOPPED by the gate to the house and stood for a moment. A rank smell of garbage, urine, and boiled cabbage seeped out from the tenement house in Angyalföld and, like a familiar motherly voice in his consciousness, insinuated itself into the soldier's nose and lungs. He swallowed hard and blanched with joy. It was exactly the same odor he had left behind six years ago when he went out through the gate to join his regiment. Neither in the Ukraine, nor later as a prisoner-of-war did he encounter it. The closest to it were smells in the homes of more or less distant relatives, but they barely stirred his memory; none spoke to him in his mother tongue. But this . . . this smell was the smell of home; this smell was his country. He took a good look at the house. The dark-yellow plaster under the first window on the left between the first and second floors had peeled off leaving a space shaped like a heart. It was a scar left by the past six years. He stared at it, then stepped through the gate. The staircase was the same as always, except for the glass missing from the windows. His feet found the hollows worn in the steps as easily as they slipped into well-worn shoes. A broken tile in the corridor tipped beneath his feet as of old. The green door of the communal privy in the corner was slightly ajar as usual. The house had been waiting for him. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand, then knocked on the glass door of the kitchen. The door of the inside room did not open; the kitchen remained dark. By the second knock, he knew that his wife-^if she was still alive—was not at home, but for good measure, he knocked a third time. Behind him, a door on the other side of the corridor opened. A small crack stared at his back for a while, then closed with a sudden clattering of glass. One or two windows on the right came alive with curious eyes, then the first door on the left opened and stayed open. The man turned around and looked carefully at the child standing on the doorstep. That could be my child, he thought to himself. Perhaps Mariska's at work and the Molnars are minding him. 44 · The Missouri Review "What's your name?" he asked. "Jancsi Molnár," said the child. "Are you sure?" The child laughed. "Of course, I'm sure!" he shouted and looked the soldier boldly in the eye, who nodded quietly and laughed too. "Who are you looking for?" The child received no answer, for the soldier had turned and started down the stairs, and only his bobbing knapsack said goodby to the child who was staring after him. Downstairs in front of the caretaker's lodge, he had to wipe his perspiring forehead again. The woman stared at him from behind her stove with the hostile, defensive look that caretakers have. Outside, a good many spying greedy eyes from the courtyard and circular galleries bored into his back. He took off his cap and leaned his knapsack against the wall. "Don't you recognize me, Ruff Néni?" he asked. The woman lowered her arm. "I can't get into my apartment," continued the soldier quietly. "My wife doesn't seem to be at home. You have the key, let me in." He studied the woman's thin, mobile face. Her face, with its quickly changing moods—astonishment, shock, malicious glee, and sympathy—was like a historical panorama. It said in a moment everything that had happened in his home in the six years he was away. He turned his face; he didn't want to learn these things from her. "Please open it," he repeated, coldly this time. "We didn't know you were alive, Mr. Juhász." The woman's pale mouth opened showing gaps between her teeth. "We thought you . . ." "I've been a prisoner-of-war," said the man...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 44-49
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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