“Bosur the River God” By Pamuk Altan-Bonnet

We start our story in the bustling city of Constantinople, where a festival is taking place in honor of the return of Bosur, the great general who conquered many lands for the Ottoman Empire. The streets filled with the scents of rose and pistachio baklava, lamb kebab, and all sorts of seafood from the unnamed and calm river. Shouts of fishmongers and wives trying to get ahold of their children echoed throughout the city, all the way to the beautiful temple of Athena atop a small hill. Not many people worshiped Greek gods, but Bosur was half Greek, and so he made sure the city of Constantinople had made a intricate temple where he could worship. Carvings of Athena’s most prized moments were everywhere, and a painting of the mighty goddess lay just overhead Bosur, who was praising Athena for the victory in his battles. Athena listened intently, smiling at the temple where Bosur kneeled, deep in pray. After his praising had ended, he criticized Apollo, Athena’s brother, for the town he had conquered the easiest was named after Apollo. The town said they didn’t need their money and their gold, all they wanted was the instruments they had carved so delicately, which Bosur thought was weak and gentle. On Mount Olympus, Athena laughed at her brother whose ears turned red as a tomato and his teeth gritted at both his sister and Bosur. He stormed out of the shining palace, and asked Hermes to take him down to earth. Before heading out to seek his revenge, Apollo caught himself out of a costume and quickly applied a disguise no one would notice. Instantly everlasting youth turned into wrinkles of old age, strong prideful posture turned into a sour curve, and finally a cloak of mystery and darkness folded around the young, now old, Apollo’s shoulders. As Apollo limped in character through the twilight streets of the city, Bosur, who was in the street drunk on his celebration’s beer offerings, wandered through the streets, not knowing a duel had been struck. Gulls gawked on the shingled rooftops of clay houses on the bank of the river, and a woman up with the sun banged pots and pans, making the gulls scatter and fly through the sunrise’s glare. Apollo, who had found the house where the priest of his temple lived, grimaced as he woke from his deep sleep. The priest was open to all that that came and Apollo knew his kindness was granted because of his devotion towards a peaceful life. After the blur in his weary eyes cleared, the form of the priest took place in front of him. Apollo smiled as he stood and thanked the priest for the meal the night before and the place to stay, he stumbled out the door and splashed his face with water on the dock. He squinted into the distance, looking for answers, and indeed he found one. An island. Just across the river, the calm river, an island, waiting to be noticed. Apollo raced as fast as his rickety old legs could take him, to the inn where Bosur was staying. Apollo told Bosur he was a guide to the city, and that he would take Bosur on trip around the city, ending at the shore. Bosur decided to go along to see how his beloved city had changed in the years he’d been gone at war. Luckily, Apollo was a good actor, and Bosur was a good tourist, so the plan went off without a hitch. They traveled the city, with the sound of sitar’s ringing in their ears at the grand theater, their taste buds bursting at the Grand Bizarre’s cafe with the strong Turkish coffee and the light Turkish tea, their touch seduced at stalls filled with soft cloth and silk, their nose relaxed at floral gardens near the mosques, and finally the sunset by the shore. Apollo quickly turned Bosur’s attention to the island he had seen that morning, telling Bosur if you swam across the river to the island, there would be pots and pots of gold and rubies waiting for you. Bosur listen intently, and said, foolishly, he was going to swim to the island the next day. And that was it, Apollo had Bosur in the palm of his hand, the trap was set and the prey was interested. That night Apollo said that Bosur needed to eat, so he would be strong enough to swim the next morning. Bosur ate like the pig he was. Lamb chops, lamb shish, pilaf, yogurt, spiced beef, chicken shish, lamb liver, chicken liver, and many, many, MANY, baklavas were funneled into the general’s mouth until the moon had been up for several hours. By the time he was done, he was as fat as a cow, and Apollo walked back to the priest’s house smirking and whistling, breathing in the fresh sea air and savoring the sound of waves crashing against the shore and seducing him into a deep sleep. Apollo, up in a happy manner that morning, skipped towards the shore in the early morn, glad to be out of the old man costume. He called his uncle, Poseidon, who took him across the river to the island, where Apollo sat atop the tallest hill and played the sweet and happy tones of his lyre to the fullest, joyful as he waited eagerly to see his plan play out. As Bosur waddled to the shore, both Poseidon and Apollo laughed, and Athena, who watched from Mount Olympus, burned with embarrassment from her warrior’s duck-like walk. Bosur jumped in and quickly made it to the center of the river, but, realizing he was sinking and tired, he started to panic and trash his arms. He trashed and trashed until he started to sink again. He made swirls with his vigorous trashes and panics, and the lovely swirls rippled throughout the river. Loving the swirls he made, Athena quickly turned him into the river god and he was able to breath under water! Apollo, confused and outraged, raced back up to Mount Olympus and argued with Athena until their father, Zeus, broke them up. He had had enough, and favored Athena, for she was his favorite child, and said that he had not chosen a river god for that river and Athena had solved his problem. Apollo grumbled an apology in return. Zeus called to Bosur, who joined them on Mount Olympus, and there they held the ceremony that crowned Bosur the river god. He must fulfill his duties as the river god and swirl the water so no one gets to the island’s treasured amounts of gold. He also must keep the silvery, glittering, and scaled fish flowing through the river to feed the city of Constantinople, who mostly relied on fish to feed their hungry families. And finally, the river was named after the glorious conqueror, who now ruled the choppy waters with the force and power he applied in his battles, Bosphorus. And to this day, in the city of Istanbul which is still encircled with the glinted blue river full of a huge amount of fish, a river god stands in the middle, waving his arms to make the water churn and whisk so no mortal can get to his island, with his gold. And on the shore, when the blood red sunset is closing as it did many years before when Bosur first swirled his fists. When water stops it’s churning, every person in Istanbul knows Bosur has gone to bed. And the children hum in their sleep a poem that was made in his honor:

The river churns, the river whisks

When mighty Bosur waves his fists

And when his eyes start to close

The mighty river begins its doze

Forever we will respect him

He is the soul of the our river within


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