Each street has its own imbecile, and such was the case with ours. His name was Vaja, with a stutter that caused him many troubles. Anybody could “pretend to be” Vaja and allow himself to babble everything. Nonetheless, sometimes it is useful to have such poor idiots. Vaja invented the word “Ке-ке”, which means: “someone has died.”
One day some men were playing backgammon directly in the street under a tree’s shadow. Meanwhile, a little boy brought a message that 100-year-old Uncle Vano had died. There was a break, with Vaja punctuating this pause: “Vano ke-ke!” The neologism soon became habitual. What was there in this word: disrespect or fear of death? In the event, no one bothered to reflect on it.
The exception was Bejan, my neighbor: “Disrespect to death will be avenged!” He arrived at this conclusion when he became really ill. For a long time, Bejan had been reproaching himself that he was abusing the use of alcohol. However, once an idea struck him that he had been punished since the time when Robert, a young lad, had died. He suffered from a ruthless illness and expired in the hospital. As usual, men were playing dominoes in the street when a woman, a neighbor, opened the window and with a tearful voice delivered the awful news. Bejan was in a good mood. He had just won several games, one after another.
He let drop as follows: “Robert ке-ke!” Nobody noticed. Other men became agitated and approached the woman. Only Bejan with his domino pieces remained sitting.
After a while, Bejan’s liver began to ache somewhat, he lost his appetite, and weakness overcame him such that he had to cease working. He was a taxi driver, and his stomach suddenly started to expand. Soon thereafter, doctors made a diagnosis: cirrhosis.
He lay in bed when he heard suddenly: “Bejan ke-ke!” It became unbearable, and he summoned his wife. She helped him to approach the window. In that serene summer evening, men were speaking about political topics, and children were playing. It seemed to him that nobody remembered him and never did for that matter. He noticed a lone goose that wandered along the street and gaggled: “Ke-ke-ke!”
Here is another story. Peter hated his father-in-law. He called the old man “the spitting object.” Phillip used to spit everywhere and at all times. He would open the window and spit outward. In his turn, the old man was of the opinion that his son-in-law was the loser, “the clever fool.” His daughter’s husband was the only one around who had a higher education, but he earned less than the drivers, who were numerous in the vicinity. Peter became enraged when Phillip chewed noisily during a meal. He even got furious when this “disgusting old man” uttered “ke-ke”. “He croaks like a raven!” Peter complained to his wife. It became a terrible obsession for him–namely, that he would die and Phillip would speak in the street: “my son-in-law ке-ke!”
Peter got really fatally ill. That March morning Peter, wrapped tightly in a coat, was sitting on a bench in the garden, quite weak. Phillip was digging in the vineyard. Peter heard his senile grumbling. He was a failure with his son-in-law such that he, the old man, had to dig in the garden himself. Anger rose in Peter’s soul. This odious cursed “ke-ke” came into his head. He took notice of a garden knife and stood up. Philip did not pay any attention to Peter and went on grumbling. The last words Phillip heard were: “You won’t enjoy yourself with ke-ke!!” Peter died two months later in the prison hospital after he had killed his father-in-law.
Imbecile Vaja’s verbal pearl is still enjoyed. I was a boy when he was grey-haired, tottering about the street. Just recently, I have been to Mengrelia to the funeral of a relative of my boss. On the way to the funeral, the boss warned us about possible surprises: “The locals are very clever at inventing various ceremonies.” We got out of the bus and directed ourselves toward a gate at the entrance. What we saw surpassed our expectations. A portrait of an elderly man awaited us there. The person in the grey suit looked severely at us from the picture. It was “deceased” as one woman whispered to us. I could hardly pull myself together when I saw that the right hand of the “deceased” separated from the picture and stretched toward the visitors. It was an artificial limb that was fixed to the surface of the portrait. I looked around. There were many mourners. Women wailed and told arrivers that the dead man liked to welcome visitors at the gate. A man, whose right suit sleeve was empty, stood not far from the gate. With a terrible feeling I shook “the hand.” One my colleagues swooned.
After several hours, the ceremony ended. Once we returned from the cemetery, there was a tent in a courtyard with rows of tables. We had spare time to inspect the courtyard when I heard a familiar “ke-ke.” The badly greased wheels of the carriage were saying this. A portrait already without a “hand” was on the carriage that one fellow was pushing.
In the company of one Moscow educated guest, we enjoyed a game of recalling synonyms. It turned out that the verb “to die” had the biggest number of them. Tens of them were pronounced. When we were about to finish, I suddenly offered a word “ke-ke.” Everybody doubted the existence of this pronouncement. I told them the history in which Vaja, Bejan, Peter, and others were present. After this explanation, the company granted Vaja’s invention status of the word. By the way, our company failed to recall the synonyms of the verb “to live”.