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i turned to iren. but iren, i said, isn't there anything that can be done to help you, what about the doctors, what about the last time in the hospital, iren, i said. last summer, when i was in the hospital for two months, the doctor said i need one of those operations, you know, where they take the veins from your legs and put them in your heart, she said. then he said we would have to pay anywhere from 25 million to 40 million. for him to do it, she said. jozsi said, no one has that kind of money. it's god's will, jozsi said. it's god's will. there is nothing we can do. it's god's will. we have to accept it. all churches are whores. they take the money and paint themselves. IF GOD WILLS

all the churches around here are freshly painted.

BY ELIZABETH FISCHER

the poor can go to hell barefoot. all churches are whores. they take the money and paint themselves. there are an awful lot of churches in romania, all freshly painted. iren is very ill. in the evening, every few days, we meet for a pastry, iren, jozsi and i. i invite them, it's very good for her, a little walk in the evening air, when it cools. they live only about 10 minutes from where i'm staying. but it takes, sometimes, 45 minutes for them to get here. that's because iren has to stop so often to rest. she takes 8 meds a day. i went and bought all of them, so that at least she gets them regularly now. we were sitting, talking, two days ago. like that, at the cafe. i said, look jozsi, i know you were offered good work in hungary. if you really want to do that, go to hungary again to work, i will help you. for example, i said, you could travel with me when i go back, on the train. and then no one would dare to put you off the train. i mean, not if you are with me, i said. he sighed. he said, once, when i was working in hungary, my uncle, my favorite uncle died. and by the time i got back, he was two weeks buried and all that. my favorite uncle, and i never got to see him to say goodbye. my wife is very ill, he said. the doctor says, the veins in her heart are all stopped up. what if something happens to her while i'm gone. i could not stand that, he said. so i stay. to be with her. for i don't know how long. you see how she is, you see. what if she gets sick in the night and there is no one to even call an ambulance. what if i never get to see her again, i said.

i found a little black kitten in the drainpipe outside the gate of the church where i am staying. it had been inside there for days, meowing. so i coaxed her out, a little black kitten, about 6 weeks old. with a bit of cut up kidney, from the butcher across the street. she stuck her head out of the pipe and i grabbed her. pitiful little thing, all scrawny and dirty. i carried her in in my palm. why did you do that, said the gatekeeper of the church, the church where i stay. you can't bring it in here, no animals allowed. so then i sat outside on the stairs, waiting for jozsi and iren. when iren saw the kitten she lit up. oh she loves cats, said jozsi, isn't it a sweet little thing. iren, can you take it home, i said, i don't know what to do, i can't take it inside. oh yes, she said, give her to me. and i know what i'm gonna name her, she said. i am naming her after you. zsoka. the kitten's name is zsoka, laughed iren, on our way to the cafe, the kitten in her hand, looking out through her fingers. i have a kitten named after me. don't tell my dog, he might not live down the embarrassment. later that night, when i went back to my room, there was a different gatekeeper, one i am friends with. i told him about the kitten, he knew, we had listened to her cries for days too, he too had tried to coax her out. oh yes, he said, that keeper had told me you had done that. and you know what he did then, he said, that keeper, that good christian keeper of the christian church. he stuffed up the pipe, he did, further down where we can't reach, so if there were more kittens they would all drown. FRONT 23

Front Magazine January February 2007  

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