Stupid Beautiful Country
by William Michaelian

Now I tell you about my brother Levon. One day, I am making breakfast. When is ready, I call to him, Levon, is time to eat. But Levon, he doesn't answer. So, I go look. I find him, he is sitting his bed, holding head with both hands. I say to him, Ah, what is it, Levon? You got headache? And Levon, he says to me without looking, Go to hell. So. Right away I know, my brother is not sick, only he has been drinking again.

I say to him then, What, you stay up all night? And Levon says, Go to hell. Only this time, he looks at me with big red eyes. When I say to him don�t you remember, we have watermelon job, he says to me he is dying. Levon, I tell him then, you are not dying, you are drunk. Is big difference. Get up, I make you some cup of coffee and we eat eggs. I find lots of good eggs today.

Other days, Levon is happy about eggs. But not today. Still, he gets up, because he knows we have to work. He doesn�t forget we need fifteen dollars for pay rent to Mr. Fred Taylor, big jackass who owns house. Last time, when we forget to pay Taylor, he comes and says he is going to throw us out. I no give charity, he yells on us. Especially to Armenians. So right away we give him fifteen dollars. When is gone, Levon says someday he is going to kill Taylor, because he hates Armenians too much. I say no, but I know Levon is right. Big jackass like that, what is he doing?

Anyway. Levon gets up and we eat eggs. I make ten eggs. Levon eats maybe three, so I finish others. Inside the eggs, I put parsley, onion, garlic, and tomato. With bread, is big feast. Now I am thinking to have small glass arak, but I am afraid Levon will want, so I don�t say nothing. I drink coffee instead. Then I clean dishes and we go to work.

Watermelon patch is half mile away. While we walk we see sun coming up next to tall mountains. Is beautiful sight, I say to Levon. This is beautiful country, no? And he says, No, is not beautiful country. Is stupid country. How is stupid? I say to him. Look. Is sun coming up, no? We are alive, no? No one is try to kill us. Is beautiful country.

Levon, he stops walking. Is not home, he says to me. Then he starts walking again.

Levon, I say to my dear brother, I know. You are right. Is not home. Okay? Someday, maybe things change and we go back. Or maybe we stay here, find nice girls to marry. Then we build house and have kids. Then, is home. What else can we do?

Poor Levon. He says nothing. We finish walking and go to watermelon patch. There is tractor waiting, and wagon. Wagon is full of straw. Already is watermelons being picked by man named Aslan and man named Hovsep. Aslan is from Yozgat. He is good watermelon picker, works very fast. Hovsep is from Sivas. He is also good picker, with big mustache and black, hairy arms. Everyone, they like Hovsep, because he is good joker. Aslan is too sad for jokes, because the Turks, they kill his family. You see his eyes and you know. This is not good world for Aslan. Is empty world, with only watermelons. When Hovsep is laughing, Aslan, inside he is crying, and is looking far away.

Pretty soon, the other men, they come. There is Haig, Vahan, Aram, and Bedros. Together we are going to pick up watermelons and put into wagon, then we put into trucks for take melons to Los Angeles. Los Angeles is big town. Levon and me, we go there once, we see lots of orange trees. In between orange trees, there is little towns, then you come to Los Angeles.

So. We start working. First is nice and cool, but later on sun goes up and is one hundred degrees. We work to end of field and drink water. Then we work to other end of field and drink water. All morning, we drink water and work. Levon, he is sweat so much, I think maybe five gallons water come out from him. But he drinks ten gallons, so I know is all right.

For five hours, we are picking up the watermelons, and Levon is say nothing, only drinking water and working. Is hard, picking up melons. Then, is time for lunch. Haig�s wife, Araxi, she brings us something to eat. Bread, cheese, and some meat. We are eating and talking, but Levon, he doesn�t eat, he goes to sleep in shade of truck. Then Araxi, I see she is smiling, so I ask her what is smiling about. I find nice girls for you and Levon, she says to me. They live in Fresno. Is good, I say, if girls not ugly. And everyone laughs. Doesn�t matter, ugly, Aram says, as long as girls can cook. No, Bedros says, you are wrong. If girl is ugly, how can you eat? And Vahan says, Is easy, you don�t look on her. And I say, Vahan, is easy for you, because you already marry beautiful girl. And we laugh some more.

So, I say to Araxi. Never mind. Who are the girls? They are two sisters, she says. Their name is Ailanjian. The father, he has grocery store. That�s good, I say. How old? The father, Araxi says, or the store? The girls, I say to her. Again, Araxi, she is smiling. Verkin is twenty, she says. She is the oldest. Asdghig is pretty soon nineteen. Okay, I say. We meet. But first we have to give fifteen dollars to Taylor, or he throw us out.

After that, we start working again. Levon, I can tell he is feeling better. We work until seven o�clock, then we stop and go home. By this time, my brother is starving and I am starving, so I cook chicken and big pot of rice, then we sit down to eat. Levon is happy now, so I decide to tell him good news about Ailanjian girls. I tell him what I know. There are two sisters, and father has grocery store. Sure, sure, he says, and then he gets a big glass and fills it with arak. He stands in front of me and drinks. Wait, I tell him, you will get drunk. But Levon, he laughs and pours more arak into his glass. Sure, sure, he says, and he looks at me and drinks. Pretty soon, he has so many glasses, he is drunk. Then, so I am not alone, I get drunk. Sure, sure, I say, and I fill another glass.

All night, two crazy brothers, we are clapping our hands, singing and dancing, saying sure, sure.

All night, we forget about watermelons. We forget about stupid, beautiful country, we forget about rent, and we forget about big jackass Taylor. Instead, we remember the Fresno Ailanjian girls, and we talk about who is going to marry the old one and who is going to marry the young one. Then Levon tells me, It doesn�t matter, young, old. What is difference, as long as they are not ugly, and as long as they can cook.

William Michaelian�s newest releases are two poetry collections, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, published in paperback by Cosmopsis Books in San Francisco. His short stories, poems, and drawings have appeared in many literary magazines and newspapers. His novel,
A Listening Thing, is published here in its first complete online edition. For information on Michaelian�s other books and links to this site�s other sections, please go to the Main Page or visit Flippantly Answered Questions.

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