Translation:Tommy (Karinthy)

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Tommy: A simple-minded monologue about the dog's heart
by Frigyes Karinthy, translated from Hungarian by Wikisource

It’s hard for me to resolve myself to ease my soul
and confess the sin to myself with stuttering words
as it’s counted as a sin in this harsh and fighting age to pity
unless you spend it on such suitable and admittedly sad matters
as human ill fate and joblessness are
I’ve seen my fellow human beings die in hospitals and in battle and on scaffold too
and it happened that I didn’t even mourn for them
for absent-mindedness or because I paid too much attention on them
imagining myself in their place and one won’t mourn for oneself
even around a dying man only the relatives cry he won’t do so himself
in this excuse do I ask for absolution for the weak and silly act
which I committed by the fact that I who don’t like to cry
and hadn’t cried for a long time I still began to weep
on watching my fluffy little Pekingese a certain Tommy pass away
how it could happen I’d like to explain somehow
in fact Tommy had belonged to us for four years
a sort of family member who feels fine and is in clover
one sometimes growls at him won’t you go to hell Tommy
always stumbling about under my feet I’ll tumble sometime
or why don’t keep quiet shut up you nasty dog it’s night-time what are you barking at
on which Tommy would give a yelp or two but then he’d stop he understood it
he knew very well it wasn’t serious he’d flutter his tail hushing me
wagging it like it’s all right I see you don’t have to shout like that
my honoured master what are you expecting of a little Pekingese like me
you as a human a higher intelligence you could really know
it’s an instinct with me to bark like this at night when woken
a worried instinct that someone would climb in and attack you sir and ma’am
now I can see there’s no problem I’ll go to my place on my own
to my lair to dream of sausage and muzzle and stroking
of passion and senseless devout love and hatred
that’s how Tommy wagged and blew and growled when I shouted at him
or sometimes determined and utterly desperate he even answered back
when in bad mood I chased him away when he jumped at me with joy
or when in good spirits I mockingly barked too bow-wow like a dog
he did yelp back at such times astounded and indignantly
he moved back in confusion jumped at me his ears shivering like leaves
and it was written in his agitated two pupils shining in black from under his locks
that it was indeed an unprecedented nasty affair against all sense
why are you barking sir for you are not a dog why are you humiliating
the human in you and the dog in me and the fact that I’m barking
since you know very well anyway that my barking and my wagging tail
are the same the same as when you kindly say hi my little Tommy
oh come here silly dog come here but stop eating me will you
my fluttering tail and fainted panting are the same the same
the same love just intensified a hundred thousand million times
as I have nothing else it’s only by panting and yelping
with a sagging tongue and by jumping and whining and rotating around
like an idiot that’s the only way I can express
the joy more intoxicating than any other joy on earth
the storm of love and affection sweeping away all other instincts
which I feel as a response which answers in me to the tiny little dawning of love
when you sir tell me it’s okay my dog Tommy
so that I start to rejoice and keep barking beyond my hunger and desire for life
that I’m here I’m here I’m here hallelujah my human master my Lord
I’m here I’m here let me die from love
so that’s why I’m saying it’s not nice to mock the barking
that’s what shivered and throbbed in that bunch of fur
which Tommy was when I barked at him teasing
(just even messier and hazier than the above words)
of course he immediately forgot all this eruption of rage afterwards
and he was willing to slobber and completely take into his mouth
every human being who favoured to notice his person
in his effusive happiness not to drink its blood like that of a game
but to protect and love them with his saliva and body warmth like a mother does to her cub
and then he was already running fussy to smell the corner stones
as if notifying I’m sorry I’m still a dog after all
as far as career and occupation are concerned and by office by profession
the obligation towards my breed is one thing and hobby is another
a sniff of passion of love and of a higher idea
a bit like art and religion for you people
and yet beyond this all I had the constant impression
that Tommy is not the least biased in favour of the human race
he knew our frailties very well and the strange flaws of our characters
and he treated us each separately as required by our character
he knew if Gabi told him clear off the bed Tommy
it didn’t mean he should jump right then it was enough if he pretended to want
Gabi is absent-minded he doesn’t pay attention he has a line of poem in his mind
he’ll go to him in a minute and stroke him on the bed
however if Julis says well Tommy prepare yourself we’ll have a bath now
he should jump already at the letter bee and hide under the sofa
not as if he could avoid what is destined
the loathed soap and all the desperate rubbing
(which he actually bore manfully like a lordly patient the doctor
even if he doesn’t really believe in science anyway)
but it can be delayed “’tis but the time and drawing days out that men stand upon”
(it was said by Shakespeare’s Brutus and among others by Tommy)
Tommy exactly knew who the right person was not by the criminal law’s
point of view but indeed and who a bad man of exemplary conduct was
once he waited for hours next to the elevator for a certain lady
of whom he knew was a big friend of dogs who liked to take him up by the elevator
not out of laziness as six floors were a moment for him
but from a cavalier’s slyness so as to make her happy
Tommy also had a lot of complicated private affairs
especially in summer when he had a holiday at Verőce and by the Balaton
two I remember well one was an ugly little black
smudgy and silly bitch named Szuszi that was the big love
that’s why he stood up to thirty males and obtained bloody wounds
the other was a whimpering and hysterical lady-like little white bastard
a hopeless illusion yet it was because of her why he left he block twice
he came home in the morning he didn’t dare to ask for admission at night
he hid from me sneaky with his tail between his legs and filled with remorse
he remembered well what I had told him in the evening Tommy if you leave
with that dog you’ll find all doors closed you can wander all night
but it passed over Tommy it didn’t leave any deeper marks
he came and went and kept running and when the table-cloth was brought at noon
he sat down pressed close against the wall always at a certain point
he waited shivering his tail and watching every movement
and he only left his post when everybody was already sitting
then he came closer stopped by the chairs and looked waiting
and only when he wasn’t noticed long did he give a disapproving bark
everybody on Verpeléti Street kept calling Tommy and loved him
he only showed with his tail okay I know who you are
he didn’t even turn back I’m busy now but I know and like you
he had the fame of an easy-going dog and that’s what he basically was indeed
sometimes he would run from home to the café after me
if I chased him he ran back but he stopped at the corner and waited suspiciously
if I should change my mind and invite him for a coffee or have some chat
it was his easy-going naive sniffing always curious trust
which caused the conclusive and shocking event of his life ten days before his death
that he was caught by a dog warden and he spent four days in a dogs’ prison
which on the one hand I don’t want to dwell on extensively
on the other hand he reported about it himself in the last Saturday’s paper
and I’ll only make an account of what happened afterwards
when he came home everybody in the block was immediately talking
that his mood was considerably upset by the dramatic lesson
he became silent and polite he kept staying at home never escaped
when I approached him he didn’t lie on his back as usual
to let me tickle him which would make him laugh displaying his gums
he kept sitting he gave me a serious look and started with difficulty
he was down on the street two more times in the nice autumn sunshine
he did some sniffing but there was no need to brawl or beg
so he should go home for he did go obeying without a word
on the third day I kept calling him somehow he missed his voice
he only answered for the third time from under the wardrobe with a hoarse cough
I tried to lure him out and he came with great difficulty toiling and sat in the corner
but this dog’s ill someone take him to Doctor Farkas immediately
I don’t have time I have a huge backlog for that day
a meeting in the morning a lunch in Pest an invitation in the evening I go to bed at dawn
and the fight again on the following day I’m deaf I don’t take notice of anything
on the third day I (again) wake up in dizzy it’s ten o’clock my head’s buzzing
all of a sudden a flash across my mind I sit up hey what’s up with Tommy
oh sir he’s as if he were near the end the dear one’s only breathing
the doctor says it’s distemper or something with the lungs
he got an injection I’m applying him a poultice he’s lying in the corner
and Tommy was already brought in covered with cambric and put in front of my bed
like a broken pot and at the moment when I bent over him
as if it weren’t by chance silence arose from the thin walls of the flat next door
the scraping morning music of the radio fell silent
silence arose a profound silence because among the straps of the wet rags
Tommy was hardly breathing his belly and jaw languished cringingly
only his haunches jerked awkwardly like a big caterpillar with its head trampled on
a silkworm that will never pupate again
his faithful black eyes were covered by some reddish plaque
and after a minute I said Tommy in the silence and I shuddered myself
how high and thin and down in the mouth the voice came out of my throat
a little shiver passed over Tommy but he couldn’t lift his tail any more
I laid my palm beside his ear and at this time with crumbling efforts
he bent his dumb head into the hollow of my palm for the last time
he made some moves in it made himself comfortable as if to stay there for good
and I felt him transmitting the last warmth of his body into my veins
my little Tommy I whispered once again and the alien
and distant and long forgotten music of my own voice made the tear leak out
of my eyes one single drop which suddenly made everything
simple and warm and cosy and comprehensible like life itself
now I understood what Tommy’s wild and angry barking had meant
when he explained by it beyond words that it wasn’t food
and wasn’t only the instinctive interest that connected him to us but something else
his dying head in my palm which didn’t have any more wishes
and that little moisture in my eyes suddenly flowed together
and now still with the tart aftertaste of this tear in my musing eyes
will I tell you truly I tell you what I learnt about Tommy
apart from all that one can know about a Pekingese dog anyway
truly I tell you nothing more is this vanishing small bit of life in my palm
it’s nothing more but pure love itself and even less any less
yes indeed it’s that certain love which human souls
hunger and yearn and search for in devout ecstasy and lacerating battles
so it can burn like the bush and gape like Francis’ fish
here it is lying it’s so simple and tiny and it glitters so purely
as the active radium extracted from a hundred thousand pounds of pitchblende
he has nothing no mind and no soul only love
no thoughts no instincts any more but love
no more life he doesn’t even want to live any more but to love
love without mind without soul without instincts without life
I truly say to ourselves humans wouldn’t it be great
to love I know it’s love that we want to do love one another not ourselves
one another rather than that boring self-somebody chained to us by life
it would be great to love wouldn’t it to love someone else and not cry for ourselves
I know you are good you children good behind the mask distorted by evil
you’re expecting aren’t you you’re expecting my death my murderer
it would be great to love it would be great but how you cry as long as I live
you all you’re waiting along with me for you to be able to love at last
for me to die aren’t you so that you love me and cry for me.

This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.