Only Yesterday

By S. Y. Agnon; Barbara Harshav | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
In the Labor Marketplace

1

Our two comrades, Isaac Kumer and Yedidya Rabinovitch, set off to hire themselves out as laborers. The air was pure and the earth was neither hard nor raked, and the trees were shining with the morning dew, and a good smell stretched from one end of the village to the other. The firmament had been white and was starting to turn blue and warm up, and birds and butterflies were flying in the heights and singing. Isaac forgot all his torments, and expectation and hope rejoiced his heart.

Isaac and his comrade came to the marketplace where farmers come to hire laborers. Masses of Arabs came shouting and shrieking, like enemies who come to lay siege to a city. But the tools on their shoulders indicated that they came not for war but for work. Shriveled in their torn clothing stood a few of our comrades, each of them holding a small basket, with half a loaf of bread and two or three cucumbers. Some of them stood with eyes completely indifferent to everything. While the sad eyes of others bubbled with hope and fear. Hope of finding a daily livelihood and fear that the Arabs might get there before them.

The firmament turned blue and the sun grew warm. The birds were still heard, but their voice was weary and wearisome, and flies and mosquitoes and gnats were humming and fluttering on the green pus in the eyes of the Arabs and on the baskets of food in the hands of the fellows. Finally they traded places. Those who had surrounded the bleary eyes came and surrounded the food and those that had surrounded the food came and stood on the bleary eyes.

-56-

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