beyond the mountains

When she had finished her song, the gypsies extracted her tongue with a diamond studded arabian sword and declared their queen the greatest singer…”


by ed markowski


The pitchman who stood at the entrance of every

tent she performed in from Kalamazoo, Michigan

to Yazoo City, Mississippi for thirty-eight years

would shout…

“On her way to fame and fortune with the Opera

El Grande D’Oro of Madrid, Spain, this once

brilliant star was abducted on the outskirts of

Sanguesa in the foothills of the Pyrenees by

a band of Romanian Gypsies.

That night, she was pitted against the queen

of the camp in a singing contest. When she had

finished her song, the gypsies extracted her

tongue with a diamond studded arabian sword

and declared their queen the greatest singer

in all of Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls of all

ages, for a few measly coins you are about to

meet and hear The Magnificent Magdelena,

The Diva Who Wouldn’t Die, The Singer Who

Wouldn’t Be Silenced, yes my friends, you are

about to bear witness to the one and only

Tongueless Tunesmith of Torino Italy!”

It is said though, that beyond the city lies

the forest, beyond the forest lies the

mountain, beyond the mountain lies

the sky, and somewhere within the fog

shrouded landscape of the legend…

lies the truth…

After having surgery to correct a cleft palate in

1927, her short a’s were pronounced as short u’s,

and her short u’s were pronounced as short a’s.

Taxi cab became tuxi cub, an apple a day became

un upple uh duh, sun up became san ap, an umbrella

became un ambrellu, push me pull me became

pash me pall me and a pair of purple pants became

uh pur of parple punts.

When she was fally recovered from the sargery, she

would sit on the porch with one of mam’s old huts

beside her. People would wulk ap und she’d tulk

und they’d listen, und she’d sing Ulexunder’s

Rugtime Bund or some other tan, und people would

toss pennies und nickles into mam’s old hut, und

she’d wink und say, “thunk you very match, udios

umigos, und please come ugun.”

She made real good money und by the end of Jane,

she bought herself a new bike, uh bluck cut, ten

dollurs worth of penny cundy, und a shiny red boa

thut she twirled ull around her when she sang.

She gave most of the money to mam und dud, bat

she shured plenty with me und our little sister

Putty. We feasted on Crucker Juck und Tarkish Tuffy

jast ubout every day.

By the end of that Sammer, jast about everyone

in town und the towns that sarrounded our town

hud stopped by to see her. Und thut’s how our big

sister Mury got sturted in show basiness, thut’s

really how she became Mugnificent Mugdelenu

The Tongueless Tansmith of Torino Ituly.

Originally published:
Issue Fifty-Seven
March 2010


Ed Markowski lives and writes in Auburn Hills, Michigan. More of Ed’s stories can be found in the Vault of Smoke.


Comments are closed.