An iPhone and an Empty Stomach


Georgi Stavrev is 13 years old from Plovdiv. He won the “Бодлите на таралежите” price this year for his short story “Айфон и стържещ от глад стомах“. I was very impressed by that story and his writing style, which still appears raw, but I’m sure holds a promising future. I decided to translate it to English to give it a allegedly wider audience, but also to show the world and its social realities and values through the eyes of a Bulgarian child.

I have an iPhone. The latest model. Reason for everybody at school to burst with jealousy. They’ve seen me with super gadgets. They resent me because of the car that drives me to and from school to a house that looks not only on the outside, but also on the inside like a futuristic palace. I’m popular among the girls — for them I’m an opportunity. A boyfriend and someone to pay the bills. They want to go out. They want to see the world. I hope not mine though — I asure you — it is not an affable one…

I am thirteen years old. Some girls are interesting to me, but not as much, as this iPhone. I leant it fast. I have no paper manual. In fact, I haven’t read a manual for any of the machines and appliances at home. I’m a natural. I almost became a hacker. I crack passwords, I log into people’s emails, I eavesdrop, I observe, I have information, which usually costs money. Even a lot of money. Gives you opportunities. Brings you profit.

They’re watching me too. I know it for a fact and I am aware that my life also depends on the hidden eyes. But I have an iPhone now. I hide under the blanket to play around with it. I am alone in the room. This is rare. Everything around me is super cool. The lamps are italian, the lighting creeps along the walls and it has some diodes, so when I move it lights the place I walk.

The TV is the latest model. The furniture is custom. I’m doing excellent at school. I surpass all the nerds. Usually I need not more than two hours to prepare for school — reading, homework, exercises, plus two foreign languages with online tutors. I have access to a rich virtual and paper library, so I don’t have to go out except to work.

Since I’ve been here I’ve become aware that luxury is not built upon laziness. You give and then you take. Although, often giving is trice more and the taking – miserable. Accumulation of the dividends requires persistance.

I have an iPhone. The latest model. With golden edging. It is mine since today. I hope I can bring it to school tomorrow. I’ll show off and… I won’t have it for long. God! I’m alone. I have an iPhone for a night (and I hope for another day). I am happy. I am rich.

I am rich, but my stomach aches with hunger. I didn’t bring anything home today. They punished me to go without a dinner. I am hungry. Terribly hungry, but I have an iPhone. I stole it in the afternoon in front of the hotel. It was some fool whose car broke down. He took me for an intelectual — we talked in German and English. While he was fussing around he just parted ways with his gadget, and I with him. He lost some money too, but I spent it all on sprays and anti-inflammatory pills for the wound on my leg. I bought the most expensive and most reliable ones. I went to see a doctor in a private clinic. They gave me a shot. I didn’t know that such a thing could burn through 200 levs. The rest I stuck in a secret compartment in my boot. I have to give up the iPhone to the ringleader, so I can eat. I won’t be able to buy anything to eat from the dolly between classes.

There’s three of us at school and we snitch on each other. Boyish being boys. A chauffeur takes us there and brings us back home. Who knows if good fortune will smile at me again tomorrow. I am hungry. Terribly hungry and even the iPhone doesn’t give me as much pleasure as I thought. It even hurts. I depend on my job. I steal.

I am not a gypsy. It’s just that my mom died. My dad and his new (-est) wife took me in. I stood up to him a few times. He beat me up and I ran from home. I wandered for three days. A bleached blonde slender woman found me. She looked like mum. I thought she is like her, good.

She brought me here. They trained me how to steal for four months. They fed me. I’ve always been a straight A student and I did good with that too. I had no other choice. Otherwise there was no food, pleasure, extras. I resisted in the beginning, but hunger is the best friend of fish and a tacher of silence.

They pronounced me a golden goose and that increased my privileges. We are seven boys living here, three of whom go to my school. Two of us are in the same class. They take us and bring us back with SUVs. The chauffeurs are as accurate as swiss clockwork, but their hearts have more holes than swiss cheese.

It’s been a long time since the gypsy ringleaders stopped beating child thieves, or cutting their fingers for a finer touch. These are all myths now. They punish them with hunger, and hunger is stronger than a beating, the cold, and the pain. Besides, they may give you drugs, which I’ve seen that the elder ones become addicted to and they drag themselves convulsing. But they don’t bring them here. We are like a big family. We are all related on paper. My name is Angel, I have such an aura, but only for those who haven’t been burned by the devil inside me.

Have I forgotten mum?

I haven’t.

I’m just hungry. I fight for myself and for her. I will save some money eventually. I’ll buy a ticket from the seaside to Sofia and I’ll go to her grave. I’m sure I’ll recognise it. Two years have passed. The grass has probably reached my height now. I hope I can endure another five years until I am of age. So I can run away and give myself up to the police. Otherwise my future is in a home for children — they starve there, they beat them and rape them. And I have everything here.

My only duty is to steal and bring back. Luxurious setting, warmth, sea, SUVs, virtual private lessons in everything. Good preparation. Perfection in any way. Why should I wander the streets and sleep in the stations?

I have an iPhone. The latest model. With golden edging. Only until tomorrow. Like the hunger, I hope.

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