Beware the Hounds of Cobor – Jack Den

I left Bucharest on a night train bound for Sibiu, the home of Dracula, in the north and from there would catch a bus to Fagaras. I had found work for the next few months on a farm in the north with a French German couple. It seemed idyllic, as all hard work seems before it wears on the body.

Arrival in Fagaras brought adventure. A town of 10,000, the city center consisted of a giant slab of concrete, which I suppose functioned as some sort of joint market/bureaucratic office. Communism is over in Romania. With no idea where the farm was in comparison to Fagaras itself, I was given a phone number to call once I had arrived. I found Internet service in the giant slab and dialled away.

A woman answered in Romanian.

“Uhh, Hello! This is Jake! The American who is going to work on your farm”

Hazy details followed in which the woman told me with a thick German accent that her husband, Erwan, would be in town later in the day and would give me a ride to the farm.

With nothing to do but wait and with Kerouac running through my blood I sat along the curb and pulled out the classical guitar I had bought in Serbia. Within half and hour I had made 60 Lei which is probably the equivalent of the weekly salary of an average person in Fagaras, with it being one of the poorest communities in the country.

I was feeling fucking good.

I waited a few more hours on the stairs of the concrete slab and, feeling hopeless, hoisted my bag over my shoulder and was going to switch locations when suddenly a man in a dusty beaten blue van yelled “Jake” from the dirt road.

Erwan was a short stout man with a receding hairline and the glasses of a revolutionary. He shook my hand with stoic ease and proceeded to tell me in broken French English that the van was full and he’d take my bags and meet me at the farm.

“Head to the dirt road over there past the castle and get to Cobor”

Or something like that.

I parted ways with my belongings and headed to the dirt road past the castle. I waited there with other folks who were wearing clothing that I can only describe as medieval gypsy like in fashion. Of course, no English.

“Cobor” I asked.

Eventually an old man with a toothless grin took my hand and after ten minutes or so flagged down a van without seats which was for all I knew head to Cobor.

Always trust old toothless men.

In the van was the driver with a bearded face hiding pock marks who spoke very little, a man in the front seat swigging away at a three liter bottle of beer, a old Romanian grandma, and a woman maybe a few years older than myself with nice plump breast on display.

Away the van went.

After twenty minutes of flying down the only dirt road for miles, everyone in the van started laughing at me. I laughed too, with the gypsum techno music in the background blasting from the radio. Soon the man in the passenger seat turned around and handed me the beer. He yelled in Romanian and I drank that from the gargantuan plastic bottle beer. He then started pointing at me and at the woman with the breasts and she laughed. He wanted me to grab them. I smiled nervously as he then swiped and her himself. She laughed and the gypsy techno music continued to blast from the radio.

We stopped. They pointed down the new road, with five-foot-tall corn outlining it and said “Cobor”. I sheepishly got out of the van. Away the van went.

I started walking down this road with no idea what was happening other than “Cobor”. I was in pursuit of “Cobor”. I walked for an hour or two down the road as the sun grew dim. I’m going to have to sleep in the field I thought more excitedly than I should have.

More time passed in front of me. The sun played with the boyish dreams running through my mind. Alas sounds of a motor approached from behind. A big fucking motor. Some sort of semi-truck carrying some sort of liquid was being driven by an old man down this old dirt road. He stopped. I said, “Cobor?” He laughed and said “Cobor”.

We drove down the dirt road for half an hour more until we reached a village. “Cobor”

I hopped out of the truck and thanked the old man. I then started walking. What used to be Hungarian village, the new borders drawn after the war made it Romanian. It was full of dilapidated stone buildings. They looked like they had been inhabited by gypsys over the years with an upkeep that made them only slightly homely but more the setting of a Steven King horror.. I walked until I stumbled upon the watering hole that every little town has. A bunch of guys sat outside a shop drinking beers. They glared.

I asked for Erwan and they directed me. I made my way up the hill and found myself at the end of the road. Still not knowing where I was going I spotted an old man just arrive back to his house. I asked for Erwan and he smiled and walked me to his neighbors place. Erwan opened the door and with the sun setting spoke.

“You made it.”

***

Erwan,  a Frenchman, had been living on the farm for fifteen years. He built the place from the ground up. He had worked in construction in France and had decided that he would move out to Romania and live life. He had the idea that he was going to help build the community in the village which was so destroyed by the urbanization of the 21st century. I read somewhere that in the last fifty years the world has gone from seventy percent rural to seventy percent urban. Anyways, Erwan didn’t drink and thus he didn’t drink with the other guys in town. A fatal flaw when trying to work with people. He frequently told me that he was living a video game in which one tries to create an empire.

The house itself was impressive in that it was Erwan in tangible form. The main entrance was backed by an inch of steel. Doors backed by steel in Cobor. There was a large wall running around the farm that was a clearly meant to keep something out. There was a large tower in the back of the house. Erwan told me it was a sniper tower and laughed. I knew it really was a sniper tower in his mind. Behind the tower was a small field with ten apple trees and a few trees

Erwan was the fire chief of Cobor. Erwan was the fire chief of Cobor because the Romanians in the village had once threatened to kill him and burn his house down.  Erwan was a smart guy and found some rule in the city rule book that every community needed a fire chief. So they had to buy him a fire truck. There is much to be said of Erwan.

His wife was a German woman who had volunteered on the farm ten years ago. She came from Dresden and for some reason the silkiness of her coal black hair always reminded me of that. We shared many afternoon coffees.
There eldest son, Paul, was 3 years old and spoke German, French, and Romanian. He was sometimes cruel. He liked to beat both me and the 4 dogs on the farm with sticks of varying size and material. Once I lost my temper with him when he was beating me with a wooden stick and I grabbed it from him, broke it over my knee and through it 20 feet. He ran off crying and told his mother what I had done. She laughed.

They also had a three months old named Unus. Not much is to be said for Unus as it is hard to say much about a three year old, but Paul was often very jealous of the attention Unus was receiving from his mother. Sometimes Paul would get so upset that he would bite his mom’s nipple in retaliation.
I lived across the dirt road from the farm in a little house of my own. It was insulated with wooden fiber board and contained a wood stove that was improperly finished and allowed much of the smoke to stay within the house instead of being outside. This made for many smoky but warm nights in the late fall.

The entrance to the house was guarded by a severely abused Doberman Pinscher named “Bruno”. His left ear was torn in half and he had scars running over most of his body and face. There was a strong bond between the two of us and I sometimes wondered if I was the first human to show him real affection. Every morning I gave him his bowl of food and after scarfing it down he would strangely ram his nose into my lower leg for as long as I allowed. Both of us broken, making it all the more beautiful.

Occasionally Bruno would slip out of his chained collar and not be seen for days. I like to think he got away after I left and never returned.

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