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"Mustafa" by Nikolai Grozni [Guardian Short Stories from Eastern Europe]

Today’s installment in “The Guardian‘s” week of Eastern European stories is Mustafa by Nikolai Grozni. By far the funniest piece of the week, “Mustafa” centers around a funereal gone awry:

In any event, questioning the authenticity of my grandmother’s body at her funeral was not the proper thing to do. Then again, I had been away from Eastern Europe for ten years. I had a good excuse to act inappropriately. So, I walked over to the two gypsies and asked them where they’d found the body. I thought it a perfect question: I didn’t challenge their right to choose which body we should bury at my grandmother’s funeral, and I certainly didn’t threaten to disrupt the funeral ceremony, already in progress. Just a casual question, an offhand remark, as it were. Nothing serious. Where did you guys find this body?

“You don’t think that’s her nose?” countered the younger one. “Mustafa, you tell him.”

“My friend,” said Mustafa, blinking very slowly, “this is definitely your grandmother’s nose. I’ve been around. I know what a nose looks like.”

“But you don’t even know my grandmother,” I objected, trying not to raise my voice.

“You should listen to what this man says,” the younger gypsy advised me. “He’s been in the piano delivery business for thirty years. He can tell a Zimerman from a Bosendorf from a hundred meters with his eyes closed, and with the wind blowing in the opposite direction.”

“I think I know this guy,” said Mustafa, pointing at me. “Didn’t we deliver a Petroff to your house fifteen years ago? A good lower register, somewhat tinny as the notes get higher?”

“Probably you did,” I conceded. “You must have.”

“What do you know,” said Mustafa, raising his hands toward the sky. “Now I come to deliver your grandmother.”



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