Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Talk to Her

Last night, just as I was falling asleep, my wife walked into the bedroom and told me that there is a big leak in the kitchen. I was quick to realize that were are not on the boat, and so this incident will not involve me plunging into icy bilge-water armed with a hammer, a screwdriver and an oily rag. And so I calmly strode into the kitchen and gently horsed the garbage disposal unit back onto its bracket (it had vibrated off). And then I asked her: "Aren't you glad you married a plumber?" (Perhaps I was wrong to use the words "glad" and "married" in the same sentence.) My memory jogged, I thought of one of my favorite plumber-bloggers, Slava S. Here's an excerpt. I can only hope that my clumsy English translation can do justice to his elegant Russian prose.

Mommy came to visit, and thrilled us with stories of love and childhood. She is a school psychologist, and has many great stories from her practice. Little girl Alice went to first grade—a skinny blue-eyed girl with ribbons in her hair. Her daddy was worried that she would be bullied. He would have liked to give her a weapon to use against the boys—a two-handed sword or a bazooka—but these aren't allowed in school because the teachers are cowards. And so daddy sent his daughter to Karate lessons, from age three.

By the time she enrolled in school, Alice had learned the seven ways of killing a man with a rolled-up newspaper. She threw knives, forks, and spat dessert with precision. She was prepared to be schooled in contemporary circumstances. "Thank you, daddy!" She referred to cracking collar bones as "the least harmful way to neutralize an opponent."

During the first week of school, Alice took on the boys one at a time. Then the boys elected five delegates. The delegates told her: "Let's go and have a talk." The talk took place on Wednesday, behind the school, between the dumpster and the fence. Alice came with a rolled-up newspaper, and, it would seem, couldn't hold back. The delegates ran away, screaming: "Crazy idiot!" After that, the lower grades were suffused with peace, quiet and matriarchy, all the way through autumn.

But in January Alice fell in love with an eighth-grader. For two days she sighed and batted her eyelashes, but on day three she caught him in a traitorous embrace with a heifer from ninth grade who had him jammed up against a wall and was kissing him. The heifer hobbled away with a broken heel, but the boy caught it in the family jewels. When he doubled over from an excess of emotion, she kissed him, so that he would understand. She couldn't have reached up to him otherwise, being so diminutive.

The next day daddy came to school. He listened and felt happy that he didn't buy the bazooka. The school building still stood, so that he could go there to hear of his daughter's conquests. The school principal suggested that they go to another school—one where there were some as yet uninjured children running around. Daddy suspected that the other school wouldn't want to accept Karate experts from elsewhere, plus this school had already had time to adapt to his daughter. He pulled out some money, to use as a bargaining chip. The principal also offered some money, for them to leave. They started thrusting money at each other, and neither side could prevail. Finally, they decided to do as the school psychologist will say.

The school psychologist—that's my mommy. "Poor girl!" she exclaimed. "The child tried so hard to defend herself as her daddy told her to do. And now she confronts incomprehension, the teachers are angry at her, the children are afraid, even daddy is in a bad mood. And she is unhappy in love. Of course, this is deviant behavior, but the child is blameless. We simply must talk to her."

Mommy herself once loved when she was little. She was in love with one boy, and didn't know how to express her feelings, so she caught him, threw him to the ground, and stuffed his shorts full of sand. Mommy's feelings were misunderstood back then, and she was even expelled. But now she is all grown-up and even has a Ph.D. Someone must have talked to her quite a lot, then.


Andrew MacDonald said...

Well, I read that this morning before coffee, and it was worth it. Worked just as well to clear the morning fog!

Charming! And not unlike Dmitri's "voice" in writing. Is it a Russian temperament we're getting, something communicated by Dmitri's translation or what? I hope there's more where that came from.

I tried to click on Slava S (I guess he'd be a Slav?), joined LiveJournal as requested, but still couldn't find more stories from the esteemed plumber-blogger.

Judge373 said...

Agreed, I'd like to send this to some Russian friends, but I can't find the original. Can you post the Russian as well?

Dmitry Orlov said...

The link to this entry on LiveJournal no longer works. I have no idea why.

xbornstubbornx said...

He's such a great blogger and he writes lovely post-Soviet love stories all the time. Every time he's worth reading.

Vadim Tsushko said...

It is true gem.

I guess, you may receive original story in Russian, by subscribing on rss channel of his livejournal site.
It worked for me as charm.
Google reader, for example, shows recent posts, and that is third from top

Mr. Sunshine said...

What a charming find! Thanks, Dmitri, for the translation and post. I spent some time in Russia, post-Soviet, in Kolyma / Magadan 1994 and wish I had learned the language...