When I was born, I was sleeping in my mother's eyes. I spied myself in the reflection---a mashed-up face of a rosy country pumpkin with a crooked nose, which stood nearly pinned to my soft cheek from the laborious, 18-hour passage through the birth canal. The women who helped me abandon the uneasiness of the womb stood guard in the room, petrified. All around spun a maelstrom of shadows and whispered words, and suddenly from the fog dislodged the sinuous, rubbery stem of my brother Vladi.
“You came in making such a racket, you woke up the animals,” he said and shook his head with content at the bloody, slimy pile of flesh that cooed and bubbled in the hammock made of old shirts and towels. “You look like a cracked wall with peeling paint.” The old gypsy pushed her way in, carrying burning incense in a golden censer held by three chains and a small, wooden cross. “They won't ring no bells for you, sonny” she said, “that's a done deal for sure. Bells no longer vaunt the birth of children, you little louse; they call out the birds of war now.” She swung the smoky censer at my face and began to chant. Someone said: blasphemy. But there were no priests to be found anywhere then. All the men were gone, even God. Only the women now stood in the archways of their gates, calling home their cows and goats in the evenings.
The gypsy elbowed her way through the others and crossed herself. “Don't worry,” she said. “In all the muddle I ripped out a piece of your brother's shirt. Don't pay no mind to his lip; you was angry when you checked in. Now let the old woman take care of you and cure you.” She lit the patch of cloth with an oil lamp and circled my head with smoke. “Sleep, sleep now. Go ahead. Be soothed by the heart of the earth. Sleep.”
The woman danced and whispered and then she chased away the dissipating ovals of smoke with her stale breath. “Run, arrows, leave, demons, forsake heartache and pain. Leave the head, the ears, run to other lands, other depths, let him rest in his own house.” She spat on the dirt floor three times. “Sleep, lamb, go now. Find your stillness, gather it inside your breast and cover your heart with it.”
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This is the intro to my forthcoming novel "The Sun Eaters." The setting is a village in WWII (and subsequently post-war Bucharest, during communist rule) Romania. The narrator is a boy with deafness in his left ear--a birth defect.