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The Menkas

Based on a teensy bit of truth, this is a cautionary tale about having a wife and pet bear who share the same name.


Published by the NZ journal Headland (2016). Click here to purchase the journal and read the full story. Here is a teaser.


A bronze statue of the legendary Menka in Pelister, Macedonia.

Not that long ago, in Macedonia, there was a man. He lived in a small town on a cobbled street in a wooden house. In it, he had a wife and a bear. He also had a job – not in the house, but at the metal smelter in the town's centre. It was this or nothing else. So it was unfortunate, then, that the products and byproducts from the metal smelter contaminated and poisoned the town's river and air and earth. But that is a whole other story. The point is that the man had the wife and he had the bear. And both of their names were Menka.

The first, the wife, had always been a Menka, ever since the man had known her. She was his valentine-faced childhood sweetheart. They had just been married.

The bear, on the other hand, still a cub, had been nameless, as far as the man had known, when he'd first found it in the forest in the surrounding mountains not long after the honeymoon. Then, it had seemed abandoned, so he'd picked it up and taken it home and called it Menka too – because it was a girl. And because, even though he could sometimes be serious, he very much liked a joke. And this was a very good joke, he thought. To have two Menkas – one for a wife, and one for a bear. A great, great joke.

His friends thought so too. Hilarious! The friends who also worked at the metal smelter. Those same ones who every Friday night went over to the man's wooden house to play cards, and bluff and bet, and lose and win, and laugh and shout and swear. This they did each time with high, high spirits. And so, of course, eventually, inevitably, at some point in the evening they'd all get hungry and thirsty.

Then, the man would call out, 'O Menka! O Menka! Bring us some pretzels and peanuts and beer.'

And Menka would come – one or the other. But which? The man could never be sure. Sometimes it was Menka the wife who'd push through the door wearing a thin, worn smile across her valentine face no longer. At other times it was Menka the bear, still a cub but growing up, who'd lumber in on her hind legs carrying the pretzels and the peanuts and the beer on a silver tray, a wedding gift...

If you'd like to read the rest of the story, you can purchase Headland 5 for $8.45 here.

#Macedonia #Shortstory #Folktales

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