Fasolya, a Bicycle. Joanna’s Page 8. Door 1

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Fasolya, a Bicycle. Joanna’s Page 8. Door 1

Сообщение  Vlad в Ср 2 Июн 2010 - 1:21

It was the autumn of 1945. We went into the first form 'b'. Only few pupils had briefcases, but others went to the school with cloth and tarpaulin bags. In those bags they had a lot of things: cartridge cases or even real cartridges, trophy mouthorgan, clockwork frogs and slices of sunflower and poppy seed oilcakes - the best delicacy of our childhood.

I and Lyuska got under the school desk by turn in order to thumb a huge and solid piece of oilcake that had just been exchanged for my drawing album.

The teacher of singing Fasolya[1] (perhaps, this nickname originated from music notes 'fa, sol, la or because her hair arranged over her forehead looked like a bean) accompanied on her guitar. There was no piano at the school? And a guitar, though it was considered as a vulgar instrument, but it was easier than an accordion, with which Fasolya couldn't cope because she survived Leningrad's blockade and became very week.

I was not a resident of Leningrad and imagined the blockade as something like a heavy concrete slab that was carried by bent Fasolya.

They said that now Fasolya was a little out of her mind. During all her leisure she made pretty dolls and figures of birds and beasts of many-colored rags and cuttings, but she made them not for sale (they said that if Fasolya would do so she would live in clover). It would be understood by everybody. And everybody would understand it if she gave her beasts to children. Everything would be understandable if she sold them for profit or gave them as presents out of her kindness. But Fasolya was neither kind, nor selfish; she was out of her mind, and it was crystal-clear.

Twice a week she gave a recital at her home. She put on a black low-cut narrow dress and high-heeled shoes, carefully combed her hair, lit candles on her old piano and played Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart. Those adults who happened to listen to her said that she played wonderfully, though she never invited adults to those concerts of hers. She invited only us, children, though it was obvious that neither Beethoven, nor Haydn attracted first formers but those beasts which were given to everyone by Fasolya after her concerts.

She even didn't conceal that she broke her back over the toys to attract us to her place.

"They want to learn to love and understand serious music" Fasolya used to say, "and such a wish of theirs is worthy of reward. I'm sure the day will come when they refuse these trifles and say, 'Dear Antonina Stepanovna.'"

But that day never came; nobody wanted to refuse getting those beasts because for every hare one could get a box of colored pencils, several glasses of sunflower seeds or whirl on merry-go-round until one felt sick.

In two or three evenings I surrendered once and for all. I counted hours from one concert to another, though I still laughed up my sleeve at Fasolya. My hidden passion for her concerts seemed to me as something shamefully absurd, and I tried as much as I could to conceal it from boys in order not to be laughed at. And later for a very long time I would associate music with her and only with her. Even on radio I would be listening to only those familiar compositions that she played to us.

Perhaps, she was really a wonderful pianist.

And perhaps, not only I was addicted to her concerts.

But nobody ever confessed it. We still took away her mice and hares in our pockets. And Fasolya thought something...

I never found out that she thought about all of that. Many years ago Fasolya soon disappeared. A distant relative of hers were found, and when we returned to the school after summer holidays, a new teacher of singing came to us with an accordion.

Fasolya sold the piano to Alla's mather, and all of us learned to play it...



The girl's name was Manya. She was unnaturally white-skinned and gaunt like a potato sprout. She seemed to be very week, but we knew already that it was a delusive impression. Manya fought in a horrible way; even boys didn't fight like that. We were explained that Manya spent two years in a German concentration camp where children had to fight for every crumb of bread in order to survive. Therefore, she had grown such as she was; she suffered traumatic events, and we should understand it and treat Manya in a special way.

Manya had an oddity: she never smiled. Such was a girl, this Manya. When everybody played and made marry she could suddenly go away. And in classes she could write and count but suddenly become silent, and nothing could help her; the only thing remained for teachers not to pay attention to her.

According to her age, it was time for Manya to go into the third form, and we were glad that she studied at the class 'a' but not at our 'b' because she fought.

In a May fine day of 1946 on the anniversary of the Victory Day Manya's patrons brought her a bicycle for a present. The whole plant had the patronage over Manya. Once an article in a town newspaper was inserted where it was said that she forgot how to smile, that she endured so much in fascist captivity and that Manya's mother became an invalid for the rest of her life and was in hospital. Since that time patrons appeared.

In the middle of the school-yard Manya stood, seizing the bike's handlebar and saddle, kept silence and gaze around with a wild look. She'd better say 'thank you'. What a bike! It was real bike, a wonder of wanders that glittered in the May sun with all its details. It had a bell, a bag for wrenches and headlight; it was fantastic!

I was even afraid to breathe, squeezing the elbow of Lyuska who stood by me. Lyuska's face was twisted with envy. Taking away her arm, she stole up to patrons with small fox steps and, looking into their eyes, hummed,

"Uncle, may we ride?"

The faces of the boys, crowding around, showed the same mute and desperate request. The patrons, two boys with fashionably curled hairs, looked at one another in embarrassment.

"OK, what's wrong with it? Of course, Manya will allow you. Manya, would you allow children to go for a ride?

It was useless to hope for it! Manya kept silence but her face spoke more significantly than any words, "Nobody will try even to touch her bike!"

Making sure that nobody dared to try, Manya dragged the bicycle outside the gate, looking around and heavily breathing, like a beast dragging its prey. The patrons lift their hand in embarrassment and hurried away in this difficult pedagogic situation.

"Let's make it hot for her!" Lyuska said through clenched teeth.

But our conscious boys didn't support Lyuska.

"Forget her. She has hard fate, forget her..."

But less conscious girls squealed, "You are a niggard, you are a niggard."

During a few days we were gloatingly watching Manya's ineffective attempts to control her bicycle. The bike kicked and through her away as a restive horse, and tall and odd Manya in bruises and scratches again and again climbed on it and again fell to the ground with a crisp sound because her body was bony.

The boys were first who lost their patience. They caught, dirty and dazed Manya out of a ditch full of melt water, repaired the bent handlebar, seated her on the bike and began to instruct her how to ride.

Manya stuck in the saddle, straight as a ramrod, as Don Quixote on his Rosinante, and loud, breathless and merry boys around her, looking like Sancho sword-bearers, accompanied her, supporting her bicycle from all sides and not allowing her to fall.

"Don't sit like a soldered one, turn pedals! Don't hold on the handlebar; it's you who must hold it. This way, this way; turn, turn, a dull girl..."

A few days later, many years ago, June would come, and I would run into Manya's bicycle on an already dried road. She would ride by herself, loudly ringing with the bell, and behind her on the trunk one of the boys from the form 'a' would sit, dangling his legs.

I would show my tongue to Manya, and she would drive past me, sparkling with unseeing eyes and teeth in her first smile.

[1]The Russian word for 'bean'.


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