Well, not quite the kind we all know from stories, nothing along the lines of say, János Erdei retired forester (and thereafter celebrated poacher) growing back that leg he'd lost in an occupational accident, nor did old Miss Katinka rise from the dead after a week's stint of dying, though many wish that Providence delayed its call until the lady turned a hundred to become the first-ever centenarian villager. With only four blessed storm-beaten days to go, they had the TV crew on alert and interviewing the old girl, who was deaf as a post and blind too without a clue who she was talking to, not that it would ever keep her from mumbling and mincing out the genuine historical recipe for famous Felsőiszapos Catfish Pie. It never made the headlines of course, no matter how the mayor called, begging and even threatening the crew, his promises and curses gained no purchase. Small wonder really, considering what he may have to offer these city folks who balked at the villageside mosquito-thickets and never even got as far as the riverside, afraid of catching some swamp infection or other. Yeah right! Felsőiszapos was always swamp country and that's no joke. But let's not stray from the miracle here. According to some haphazard remembrances collected in the Upriver bar (not that anyone would call the other one 'downriver', that's the Belltower and no prizes for guessing why, it's right next to the Reformist church) it had been little Ferike, Feri Kiss's eleven year old boy who first noticed something was out of the usual. He was rousted from his corner seat to run home and fetch some change, just when he'd taken up a watchful position, his gaze piercing the billowing cigarette smoke to follow every jiggle of the barmaid's ample bosom. Soon as he'd turned by the shop and up the road toward the cornfield, a blackbird slammed into the hard dry dust beside him. It didn't land so much as crash, like a goddamn rocket in a war flick. The kid was so freaked they found him hours later still scouring his clothes to get the blood and feathers and muddy dust off, which of course he couldn't. Felsőiszapos dust is notoriously unwashable, once on it never quite comes off again. Dust was ingrained in people's skin, staining all clothing a uniform yellow-brown, and young men here were quite unfamiliar with pomade until they made their way up into some big town, in fact the last hairdresser had given up on Felsőiszapos some thirty years ago in a fit of curses and wasn't exactly sorely missed. Feri Kiss kept up the game of simplified poker he was playing with the priest who reeked of onions and only attended the bar out of reverence and the slim hope of preaching some of the other patrons into piety, as well as a cousin of his also awarded the same first name by an entirely delusional family and thus went by the moniker Fecó, while the fourth seat was filled by a random stranger wearing a brilliantly shiny wristwatch that he didn't hesitate to place on the betting table as his stake. The name of the game asserted the fact that about a third of the pack was out of service, and the game went on with what little was still left of it. At quarter to six in the afternoon they finally broke it up, and left the table with the minister's bible, Fecó's sneakers and the stranger's watch now all Feri's winnings. Feri put on the precious timepiece and in three minutes flat it stopped, never to tick again. As the priest stepped into the street he had an attack of hiccups at the sight before him. Blackbirds fell from the sky like hail, smearing the dirt road of Iszapos with bloody pulp. People took shelter indoors, only mad old Mrs Kovács kept pedaling her bike apparently oblivious to the showering blackbirds, raising a red umbrella to shield herself from heaven's blessed gifts. Hiccuping uncontrollably, the pastor made repeated efforts at a rendition of the Lord's Prayer, but his mounting nausea prevented him ever getting much further than "Our Father". Gradually the village was covered in the fallen birds' black cadavers, first all of the street was swallowed up and then the scrubby little plot (ambitiously named the Park) around the Holy Cross across the way, until dead blackbirds had covered just about everything. To the people still inside the bar, it seemed as if the priest (the people of Felsőiszapos remained entirely ignorant of verbal inquisition techniques, and called the pastor 'priest' without a qualm) got somehow stuck in the doorjamb and a limbo between the outer an inner world as it were, swaying like a lunatic. At the last possible moment Fecó caught the collapsing minister, himself a righteous atheist with his poor mother knocked dead from a loose brick falling off a church facade when he was only five. After the best part of twenty minutes, all of a sudden the black downpour subsided and ceased, the sun shining bright as all the neighborhood cats came out to gorge themselves sick, while a splash or two of water brought the priest around and off on a holy roller sermon there on the tavern steps to all who gathered below, the likes of which not even the oldest villagers remembered ever hearing. He spoke of the coming end of the world, of the Bible and of course old Jerusalem town, and all the innumerable sins the people of Iszapos had amassed in the last century or three. It seemed to escape the eminent minister's mind that the bible makes no specific mention of blackbirds (of Turdus Merula Merula, to be exact) though as many as thirty other bird species do make an appearance, most notably perhaps the hoopoe, which thus far has failed to fall crashing out of the sky, in fact the hoopoes are all fine. During the great cleanup operation that followed, the mayor took up a count of bird carcases, got as far as 9743 and broke into quite a sweat before succumbing to a generous wine spritzer and three subsequent shots of liquor. The cornfield too was done for, 'gone to the birds' as the newscaster commented the very next day, winking snarkily, not that it's any laughing matter one might add, just you try holding up half a thousand acres of grain corn when a flock of blackbirds ten thousand strong make it their business to drop dead all over it. Police investigators found out zilch, and neither the hunting club, the wildlife association or the meteorologists could explain why the birdfall had only hit the village. A couple of adventurous college students (claiming to be ornithologists, and boy could they take their drink!) camped out in the beet fields by the village for a month, but left without any results to show for it. The mayor even had a television soothseer come in, though in the end the screen psychic had to be chased right out of the village on account of charging an inordinate fee for divining that indeed, a miracle had occurred here. (That's prime-time TV rates for you.) Suspicion fell on the stranger in the bar that day, but he was later established to be second-cousin twice removed to that simpleton Pisti Balga, downriver esquire, thus accounted for as halfway decent country folk if and though of city dwelling persuasion, and promptly cleared of suspicion. The village itself continues to thrive and prosper, and even while most of the populace would rather forget the whole bloody ordeal there has been an upturn in the miracle business, with miracle-tourism positively booming. The mayor set about rounding up investors so we now have the Blackbird-brand Butcher Shoppe selling their famous black pudding special, but if that wasn't enough he also passed a referendum for renaming our dear village Rooklyn. That's just over the top, trading off centuries of swamp heritage for a smattering of dead birds, when we've always been grounded firm enough in mud and dust.
Photo by Stuutje1979