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From Jerzy Kosinksy's The Painted Bird

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Sep 12th, 2014
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  1. The Jewess was to spend the night at Rainbow’s home. That evening I was awakened by noises and cries from his barn. At first I was scared. But I found a knothole through which I could see what was happening. In the middle of the cleaned threshing floor the girl was lying on some sacks. Next to her an oil lamp was burning on an old chopping block. Rainbow sat close to her head. Neither moved. Then Rainbow, with a quick movement, pulled the dress off the girl’s shoulders. The strap gave way. The girl tried to escape, but Rainbow kneeled on her long hair and held her face between his knees. He leaned closer. Then he tore the other strap off. The girl cried, but became motionless.
  3. Rainbow crawled to her feet, wedging them between his legs, and with a deft jerk pulled off her dress. She tried to rise and hold on to the material with her good hand, but Rainbow pushed her back. She was now naked. The light of the oil lamp threw shadows on her flesh.
  5. Rainbow sat at the girl’s side and stroked her body with his big hands. His bulk hid her face from me, but I could hear her quiet sobbing broken occasionally by a cry. Slowly Rainbow took off his knee boots and breeches, leaving on only a rough shirt.
  7. He straddled the prostrate girl and moved his hands gently over her shoulders, breasts, and belly. She moaned and whined, uttering strange words in her language when his touch grew rougher. Rainbow lifted himself on his elbows, slipped down a little, and with one brutal push opened her legs and fell on her with a thud.
  9. The girl arched her body, screamed, and kept opening and closing her fingers as though trying to grasp something. Then something strange happened. Rainbow was on top of the girl, his legs between hers, but trying to break away. Every time he hoisted himself, she screamed with pain; he also groaned and cursed. He tried again to detach himself from her crotch, but seemed unable to do so. He was held fast by some strange force inside her, just as a hare or fox is caught in a snare.
  11. He remained on top of the girl, trembling violently. After a while he renewed his efforts, but each time the girl writhed in pain. He also seemed to suffer. He wiped the perspiration off his face, swore, and spat. At his next try the girl wanted to help. She opened her legs wider, lifted her hips, and pushed with her good hand against his belly. It was all in vain. An invisible bond held them together.
  13. I had often seen the same thing happen to dogs. Sometimes when they coupled violently, starved for release, they could not break loose again. They struggled with the painful tie, turning more and more away from each other, finally joined only at their rear ends. They seemed to be one body with two heads, and two tails growing in the same place. From man’s friend they became nature’s freak. They howled, yelped, and shook all over. Their bloodshot eyes, begging for help, gaped with unspeakable agony at the people hitting them with rakes and sticks. Rolling in the dust and bleeding under the blows, they redoubled their efforts to break apart. People laughed, kicked the dogs, threw screeching cats and rocks at them. The animals tried to run away, but each headed in the opposite direction. They ran in circles. In mad rage they tried to bite each other. Finally they gave up and waited for human help.
  15. Then village boys would throw them into a river or pond. The dogs tried desperately to swim, but each kept pulling away from the other. They were helpless, and their heads only emerged from time to time, frothing at the mouth, too weak to bark. As the current carried them away an amused crowd followed along the riverbank, shouting with joy, throwing stones at their heads as they bobbed out of the water.
  17. On other occasions, people who did not intend to lose their dogs in this manner brutally cut them apart, which meant mutilation or slow death from bleeding for the male. Sometimes the animals managed to separate after wandering around for days, falling into ditches, getting caught in fences and brush.
  19. Rainbow renewed his efforts. He appealed loudly to the Virgin Mary for help. He panted and puffed. He made another big heave, trying to tear himself away from the girl. She screamed and started to hit the bewildered man’s face with her fist, scratch him with her nails, bite his hands. Rainbow licked the blood off his lip, lifted himself on one arm, and dealt the girl a powerful blow with the other. Panic must have dimmed his brain, for he collapsed on top of her, biting her breasts, arms and neck. He hammered her thighs with his fists, then grabbed her flesh as if trying to tear it off. The girl screamed with a high-pitched steady cry that finally broke off when her throat dried up—and then it started again. Rainbow went on beating her until he was exhausted.
  21. They lay, one on top of the other, motionless and silent. The flickering flame of the oil lamp was the only thing that moved.
  23. Rainbow started crying for help. His shouts brought first a band of barking dogs, then some alarmed men with axes and knives. They opened the door of the barn and, uncomprehending, goggled at the couple on the floor. In a hoarse voice, Rainbow quickly explained the situation. They closed the door and, not letting anyone else enter, sent for a witch-midwife who knew about such things.
  25. The old woman came, kneeled by the locked couple, and did something to them with the help of others. I could see nothing; I only heard the girl’s last piercing shriek. Then there was silence and Rainbow’s barn grew dark. At dawn I ran to the knothole. Sunshine was coming in through the slots between the boards, lighting up sparkling beams of grain dust. On the threshing floor, close to the wall, a human shape lay stretched out flat, covered from head to foot with a horse blanket.
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