“So,” he says, “are motorbikes the new Roma horses?”

He's briefly proud of his question until Boshor repeats it, not once, but twice, and then there's a giggle from the youngest girl and the men slap their thighs in laughter.

“Shit, friend,” says Boshor. “We don't even have bridles anymore.”

Another round of laughter goes up, but he pushes his question harder, saying surely horses are part of the ancient Gypsy ways. “Y'know,” he says,

“pride, tradition, heritage, that sort of thing? ”

Boshor's chair scrapes against the floor and he leans forward. “I told you, friend, we don't have any horses.”

“Different times?”

“It was better under the Communists,” says Boshor, flicking ash towards the doorway. “Those were the days.”

And that's where his heart surges, he's momentarily high on the lift of it, and just by leaning forward, ever so slightly, he has Boshor by the neck-scruff, a newsman's trick.

“Yeah, back with the Communists we had jobs, we had houses, we had food,” says Boshor. “They didn't knock us ‘round, no, friend, may my black heart stop beating if I tel a lie.”

“Isthat so?”

Boshor nods, and from a battered wal et takes out a photograph of a traveling kumpanija long ago in which the men are elegant and the women long-skirted. They are out on a country road, and a red flag with a hammer and sickle nutters from the caravan roof.

“That's my Uncle Jozef.”

He takes the photo from Boshor, turns it in his fingers, and wishes to Christ in the clouds above that he had clicked his tape recorder on, for now it has begun, but he wonders how he wil reach into his pocket without attracting too much attention, if the smal red light wil shine through his jacket, and where he should begin his real questions. He wants to say that he is here about Zoli, do you know about Zoli, she was born near here, a Gypsy, a poet, a singer, a Communist too, a Party member, she traveled with harpists once, she was expel ed, have you heard her name, did you hear her music, We sing to sweeten the dead grass, did you see her, is she stil talked of, From what is broken, what is cracked, I make what is required, was she damned, was she forgiven, did she leave any sign, I will not, no, never call the crooked finger straight, did your fathers tel stories, did your mothers sing her songs, was she ever al owed back?

But when he mentions her name—leaning forward to say, “Have you ever heard of Zoli Novotna?”— the air stal s, the drinking stops, the cigarettes are held at mouth-level, and a silence descends.

Boshor looks towards the doorway and says: “No, I don't know that name—do you understand me, fat-neck?—and even if I did, that's not something we would talk about.”



THERE ARE THINGS ABOUT youth that only youth knows, but what I recal most clearly was sitting in the back of the caravan, wearing red, staring out at the roads going backwards.

I was six years old. My hair was cut short. I'd hacked it off with a knife. I tel this to you directly, there is no other way to say it—my mother was gone, my father, my brother, my sisters and cousins too. They had been driven out on the ice by the Hlinka guards. Fires were lit in a ring around the shore, and guns were pointed so they could not escape. The caravans were forced to the middle of the lake as the day grew warmer. The ice cracked, the wheels sank, and the rest fol owed, harps and wheels and horses. I did not see any of it happen, daughter, but I could hear it in my mind and, although there was great music to come along later, sweet sounding moments when our people were raised up and strong and valued, that wil always be a time of looking backwards, listening and waiting for my dead family to catch up.

Only Grandfather and I escaped—we had been out beyond the lake, traveling three ful days. We came back to silence. He clapped his hand over my mouth. The horse reared and the caravan shuddered. Ash from dead fires ringed the lake. Grandfather jumped to the ground. Wait here, he said. He was not a man with whom you could dispute. He thought that places were good and most people were good, but the rules they put on the places were vile, and that people became vile with them.

He did not wait to shed a tear, nor did he pick up the hats and scarves and boxes that were floating among the shards of ice. Instead he walked across to me, his hair at his shoulders, and said, Quick now and silent, Zoli, don't say a word.

We pul ed the curtains on the windows and wrapped the sharp knives in towels so they would not clink. He draped the mirror in a shirt. Al the dishes were put in cloths. The road we took was smal , with a line of green down the middle, two mud-tracks worn on either side. It was already spring, which was why the ice had cracked. Smal buds were beginning on the trees. Birds whistled and the sun was bright as tin. I shut my eyes against it. I kept waiting for my mother to appear, my father too, my brother and my two sisters, al my cousins as wel , but Grandfather pul ed me close, looked over his shoulder, and said, Listen here, child, the Hlinkas are stil out there, you must not make another sound.

I had seen the Hlinkas, their leather boots that wrinkled below their knees, the bil yclubs that slapped along their thighs, the rifles across their chests, the rol of fat at the back of their necks.

Grandfather guided Red along until dark, then pul ed us into a grove of trees. The stars were like clawmarks above us. I sat in the corner and rocked back and forth, then chopped my hair off with a very sharp knife. I hid the braids in my pil ow. When Grandfather saw me, he slapped my face twice and said, What have you done? He took one of the braids, put it in his pocket, pul ed me close, and whispered to me that my mother had once done the same when she was a child, it was not a good thing, it was against our laws.

When we woke, there were dark marks in a line down my grandfather's cheeks. He went outside,

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