||[Nov. 17th, 2013|01:05 pm]
Yes, it was really it.
It was one of that first spring days when rays of yet warm sun, squeezing through smudged with snowballs windows, cover you with vague expectations, misleading. A math lesson was underway. The fourth for today. “Repetition is the mother of skill” – repeated our mom – a mathematics teacher, she was also our form mistress. A group of pupils were preparing for their new spring: bleary-eyed they were intensely peering through their teacher’s mouth, trying to knock in time. Each of us in his mind was outdoors where everything was full of freedom.
The bell rings.
Screams of happiness are breaking to atoms stuffy silence of the classroom.
Grabbing everything from their desks in schoolbags in a hurry, outrunning each other on turns of corners and a ladder, an alive avalanche is carrying their dressed in haste classmates on a greasy sill of the school.
The sun is brightly shining
Icicles are dropping by the scruff of one’s neck.
Life is so fresh and spanless!
Having climbed on a huge snow bank, the heroes of a small victorious war for cloakroom make a shot at straggling. The second platoon holds a position from snow strikes by holding schoolbags very high.
- Readhead! Hold the wing!
The battle begins.
The previous school achievements do not count. You are in the war. All is fair here. Every man for himself. You were not taught it and you would scarcely be. No knowledge is required here. You need something different. Breaking out from the depth of your nature, the subconscious brings into play the most ancient skills. Yes that very skills that in ancient times split men into warriors and plowmen. And if you are a warrior deep in your mind, sooner or later everybody finds it out. And now stop thinking and go for it! The main thing - the temples are beating unconsciously – is to provide bullets! You have to make them as fast as possible and put in the attacking hand. But the most important - the hypothalamus echoes – is protection strategy. Yes, yes protection, because a direct hit in the face or ear can ruin everything! To disable a fighter means to deprive a cohort an offensive initiative and to quit on teammates. And here should be told a few words about our friend and defender. You are the one and the most loyal friend.
You can be different: made of leather or faux leather. You are new or old, or worn; with some pockets or without them; or with modern shiny deflectors, for example. You’re simple like a hippy bag; or mysterious like a military map case or proud like an aristocratic kitbag. We spend the best days of our life with you. We love you, we carry you and when the handle is broken we take you and hold tightly. But we also throw you and kick you. We play football by using you, we fight, and we tuck into you everything interesting we see. A rusty gear and autumn maple leaves, a dead rat or an ice-cream, which traitorously is leaking out of you at home at the most inappropriate moment. But you even the most unsightly, old, worn and with only one clasp – you’re always faithful! Because nothing could save us from the chilly avalanche of enemies better than the school bag being used as a shield right in time.
Northern lights of spring.
Frost and sunshine, lovely morning!
- They are coming!
The war whoop of Apaches is a signal for armistice. Slowly and gracefully like white-breasted swans, hand in hand, girls are coming out. All the fighters have freezed up for a second because of the feel of beauty. Going on forming live shells, lining up on the top of the snow bank, they are standing still with beatific smiles. «What the wonderful, what the wonderful targets!» - these little chingachgooks think to themselves. And without arranging that, their metal tools slowly, but steadily, are turning round and start shooting at a new target. Now everyone is trying to shoot that very girl for whose sake he hadn’t missed a single lesson for a year. So in such a way lads show their interest to the opposite sex.
As a rule having occupied a snow sangar we were still the kings of the hill until we got tired or bored. It was practically impossible to dislodge us. But my friends and I sometimes made some unforgettable errors; I could call them even fatal! Sometimes pupils from other classes appeared. In every company there is a kind of unicum, who is remarkable by his dexterity and skill.
We also had one.
We called him Elephant because of his big ears; he was really flapped-eared. The huge clumsy overgrown boy could not ever hit the spot. Putting snow with his giant arms he produced so many different sounds that even sparrows laughed their head off. His snowballs looked more like the heads of young snowmen and were going to and fro, they were scaring away all the unexpected passers-by. - Got it! – wiping snivel, Elephant declared with his melodious baritone. In the middle of the battle we didn’t appreciate the heroic exploit of our beardless recruit at once. But when his victim stood up and dusted down, we were petrified.
It was not our girl.
It was definitely another girl.
Loudly weeping, she returned in school very fast.
Next hour hardly controlling the superior forces of the enemy, our small army stepped back deep into the school garden. That girl studied in the senior forms and her classmates had no mercy. Hiding from their snowballs between the trees, the firs troop battlers were saving their strength for the last gasp. A military personnel was exhausted – there were some wounded among us. It was impossible to suffer wrong. The bitterness of defeat was burning ego of our youngsters like ulcer. We understood that if it was going on that way, there would be nobody to solve population problem in our country.
There was only one thing left.
My mom worked in the central gastronome.
Loosing our gloves and scarves without stopping and looking back, making big swallows of frosty air, a group of pupils from the middle school was rushing to the safe place, and only their toes twinkled.
There is a quite play of James’s Last orchestra.
Distinguished audience is idle enjoying the delicatessen. There is a scent of vanilla and bourgeoisie. The flavor-of-the-month is a milk shake with cognac. It’s expensive, ropy and luxurious. Sometimes you happened to collect enough money and persuade somebody to buy it for you, and then you were drinking it, becoming drunk from happiness. Bottoms up! You’re like a vacuum cleaner, making a spectacle of yourself.
-Whence did you come, ragamuffins?
In the fashionable cafeteria between thin legs in high boots and shiny shoes, which threw plashes of sunlight, there were a huge heap of our school bags stuffed with snow, caps without earflaps and scarves.
There is no chase. It’s warm.
Having taken seats on a radiator the first squad in past and now more looking like skinned flock of sparrows –waifs, lads are drying their bottoms, raising feathers. Elephant is phlegmatically cruising between the tired battlers, underlying that he isn’t doing it on purpose. The snow seems to have melted down, because of the thin water thread, which is reaching the door. Having noticed the liquid the stately attendants of the cafeteria are delicate galloping. Tingling with million needles, fingers, noses and cheeks begin to operate again.
Someone is trying to save their school diaries and copybooks with lots of ink blurs. Someone is trying to dry their school jackets with some torn buttons. Suddenly after a long search in his uniform Elephant is taking out of his trouser leg one crumpled and washed up rouble. He’s been twisting it before his face for a long time with lust. Our hands are continuing doing something, but our eyes are on this very paper as if it’s a golden key of a turtle Tartilla.
-Eh, - this big stupid animal is whooping pathetically, examining us. And then physically experiencing the solidary might of our looks, that were demanding satisfaction, he is striking a classical pose of Lenin in an armored car. And addressing to all revolutionary sailors of the cafeteria (thumbs up!) Elephant asks not to judge him.
- Come on, let’s celebrate!!! – His generous initiative finds a deserved response in our forgiving souls, and we, cheered up, are setting off in the gastronome.
And do you know what happiness it is to have an unexpected rouble?
No, you, obviously, don’t know. You’ve got plenty of it, and you’ve already planned what you are going to do with it. And here is another story. Principally. Only a short time ago this primitive assignation lived quietly and unnoticeable in Elephant’s pocket and along with twenty kopeks was destined to finance Elephant’s breakfasts. Cool tea and a semolina porridge that can’t be separated from your plate.
And it continues till the end of the week.
And now? Now it’s not his anymore, it’s ours! Now it’s visible, seeable and strong! No, of course it wasn’t tsarist silver and you couldn’t buy a cow on it, but still, easy Brezhnev’s rouble was very powerful for us! The owner of this paper with hammer and sickle was out of reach for his counterparts. Not anybody could boast such a treasure. Our Elephant could, his parents for some reason thought that his child should possess some pocket-money. And at the weekends he, to everybody’s envy, goes with his friends to the cinema or park, or to motordrome, or shoots in a shooting gallery. Then at school tut-tuting, everybody discussed these events. And now, having become proverbial Elephant’s rouble was ours and it was our power, more truly our heap. Yes, it was the heap, the heap of appetizing bread rolls only for five kopeks, ice-cream for ten and you can also buy some cancelled postage stamps. The whole stamp album!
Feeling happy, we were hanging around the huge shop with our fresh black eyes, blinking cheerfully and pushing each other one-by-one on the nervous, hurrying buyers. And then our ice-creams occasionally was sticking on their coats co-citizens became unbearable. And we were forced to shake off from our victims by making leaps to initiate no conflict. That way sprinkling crumps from our bread rolls, we were cruising between the gastronome’s departments without any goal back and forth.
We had stood for a while in a meat department; made silly faces to the constantly drunk loader Vasya in a milk department; peered at the young and blushing shop girls from delicatessen, they were wearing funny starched caps on practice!. Suddenly we, to our surprise, found ourselves on the street, near the kiosk «Soyuzpechat» and sighing that we had no money to buy some more stamps, decided to see Elephant off; the good thing was that he lived not far from here. Near his porch we had rolled him in snow, filled his pockets with it to help him to prove his parents his alibi about the occasionally lost weekly food deposit. Feeling glad because of our deed, reddened from frost and unexpected tasty fullness, we returned to the gastronome.
It got dark suddenly.
People started to home and then I remembered that my mother asked me to buy some bread. I fled to the bakery department. The tired people were coming back from their work – the waiting line was long and inaccessible. I was staring at the ceiling, cursing anything and everything - at home I would be punished. Having paid, with «Podmoskovye» loaf atilt, I strolled back in the cafeteria to take my schoolbag. My undone homework was waiting for me, the following day was school day again… and there would be no chance to play ice-hockey in the yard. There were a lot of people in the cafeteria, a janitress had already wiped our mud, and I, spreading by hand someone else’s feet, was rummaging under the tables.
It was nowhere.
I tried again.
Oh, my God!
It was a disaster!
Was my new, made of leather school bag with two steel clasps, so soft with suede inside, which was given to me by my granddad for my birthday stolen? It was stolen..no, no, it was a mistake, it couldn’t be true, no, it couldn’t have happened with me! It was a mistake, comrades. I was crawling again and again along the cold senseless marble floor of the cafeteria. It was unbearable just to think that that very moment somebody was fumbling with his dirty hands in my favorite school bag. Where were you, my lovely pretty bag?
I was rude to you; you suffered a lot, especially when I got the bad mark again. Forgive me, my dear, come back, I am begging you..I feel so alone now. Then I felt my father’s heavy look. The weighty buckle of the soldier’s belt had flashed in the air. Because of such injustice I sat on the floor and burst into crying.
No, I wasn’t crying.
I was sobbing.
I was sobbing and nobody cared.
In fifteen minutes an old lady came to me and gave me a handkerchief that I could wipe my tears and snivel, which were spread over my cheeks. Maybe she thought that I had been beaten, I had a fresh black eye.
- What’s happened to you? She asked maternally.
- My schoolbag was stolen…How…I…suppose to go home…how?
- And where did you get this black eye?
- I was struck by a snowball…we always leave them here...always! Everybody leaves them and me too.
That way, trembling and stuttering, my body was croaking and sobbing pitifully.
- Don’t grieve, my boy, I’m a teacher myself and know what is like to lose copybooks.
I breathed in deeply and became silent.
- Let’s go to school together!
We were walking along the evening city. I was bobbing up and down and describing in details how wonderful my schoolbag was. And how much I loved to take it in school, and that I always listened to my teachers, and that I was fond of doing my homework, and liked the most to learn Russian poetry by heart. Accompanied by the astonished glances of the passers-by, I declaimed: «Frost and sunshine, lovely morning...». I imagined myself as an antique hero, who faced bravely all the severities and hardships of the rough and unpredictable military service. Meanwhile, in the empty literature classroom of another school the kind old lady was looking for suitable textbooks for the seventh grade. We had found practically everything we were searching. But there were no schoolbags.
- You oaf, - my savior murmured, having removed embroidered with beads zip-through purse.
Wild with overwhelming good feeling, in the bliss of gratitude for my salvation, full of grateful silence, I led her in a department store. On the store’s shelf, lo and behold! there was just the same good-looker with sparkling chrome-tanned leather. It cost sixty seven roubles and fifty kopeks. The teacher’s salary is one hundred twenty roubles and extra twenty roubles for classroom supervision.
I was ashamed.
- Heh…- I gasped.
I had been staring after her for a long time.
It’s indescribable. It’s as if you fell off the mountain and go to abyss, and in your head there are episodes of your happy, but absurdly small life. And suddenly, bang, you are clinging to the living tree appeared from nowhere, growing on a dead cliff, it springs you and takes you back on the mountain. And you are alive again, and you are at the top of the world, now you are able to do everything and you are hearing you blood running in veins, speeding by mighty heart beats.
I was saved! I felt giddy.
I don’t remember how I returned home.
The door was opened by my mom.
- Where were you hanging around? I was finishing my work and went to the cafeteria to buy some crumpets and suddenly saw that your schoolbag was lying at the corner…and you were nowhere…
That very moment she stepped aside to give the way to my dad, and I petrified: on the chair there was my schoolbag with shimmering steel of the clasps.
- And now, buddy…- with ponderous bass, dabbing with his finger straight to my soul, hissing and growing to the size of a genie, my father was reddening , - tell us, Where did you get this?
And why aren’t soldier’s belts made of suede?