By Raji Singh (my great grandmother Shelva’s little girl wonderings and wanderings)
Many are the nights in the 1870’s summer that mine brutter Ivan must be away – at the mandatory for boys Youth for Czar Conclaves. He is such a sweet brutter, I hope it does not make he and the others sour as the Cossacks who command them.
I cross my fingers and wish it. Then I, as our superstitious housekeeper from far off Vladivostok advises, blink three times, pull my hair twice, stand as a one legged crane for six seconds, and then swallow a bug. Well, I do all but the last and hope I haven’t spoilt a spell.
For a while I have the lonely glums without Ivan at home. But Mama and Papa’s visitor from America, via Lindia, the Publisher, Blackjack Fiction, tells us tales from his books The Lore of the Lindian Woods.
Some are ancient stories and fables; others not so old. Forest creatures live magically, almost as humans in their make believe world. They are short, little tales. Both children and adults enjoy the lessons they teach. I know this because the smiles on Mama and Papa’s faces are as big as mine when Blackjack acts them out after supper.
Later, at night when I am glummed, missing Ivan, I wander our house watching our pets at play. I imagine another world, their near-to- human one. I magnify the creak of a rafter into a tree collapsing. I see our cats Alexa and Ragamuffin feverishly pulling from beneath the massive trunk, by the scruff of the necks, hundreds of trapped squirrels, raccoons, and lizards. The thankful creatures give a grand parade up and down the staircases. They toss fresh sardine beads and squishy baubles soaked in catnip, and then, out the door.
I see shadows, cast by someone’s lantern as they pass by on the sidewalk. I imagine Captain Polly, who has flown in from America to visit her friend Blackjack, is leading an aerial assault by of a clutch of vultures. They dive bomb the Czars craven Cossacks who are raiding a peasant village. Three or four vultures seize each Cossack by the seat of the pants and carry them all away, and ‘PLOP!’ drop them into dirty ponds where they ‘glug, glug’ disappear forever.
Then there is Cecily the Cobra, who accompanied Blackjack to Russia from Lindia: As she climbs the kitchen rafters seeking an invading rat or mouse, I create a tale of her encountering arch enemy, the vile-snouted, near-furless, conniving Mongoose. A violent poison fang and razor sharp tooth battle ensues.
‘HISS!’ ‘GRR!’ ‘Thump, thump, thump.’ They tumble head over hood, avoiding the others teeth and fangs. Mongoose, he tries to bite into Cecily’s neck, and rip her into many pieces. Cecily dances away and tries wrapping herself around his body to squeeze him til he bursts. Ew, the smell of their breaths and the putrid odors whistling out of them, you don’t want me to try to re-create.
The thick rafters suddenly block their actions from my sight. I cannot see what happens. One of them, maybe both, falls. I cannot tell by the deafening ‘SCREE!’ sounds cutting into my ears, which it might be. ‘PLOP!’ into Cook’s burbling stew pot. Good riddance to either or both. I don’t like snakes, and though I’ve never encountered a real mongoose, I don’t think I’d like those ratty creatures either.
* * *
Brutter Ivan and I often played one of Russia’s most popular child’s make-believes, Cossacks and Rotters. I still enjoy it though I am now mature pre-teen. I shall teach the household animals all the rules and surprise Ivan with a Lindia Woods version when he is released from the real Cossack and Rotters camp. I smile. I can just imagine Cossack Captain Polly commanding. “Aark! Hand over all your valuables, Serfs.” Rotter Cecily Cobra, she is pinning the necks of Alexa and Ragamuffin to the floor, and is seizing their cat food.
I cross my fingers, blink thrice, pull hair twice, balance, as a crane, and this time I am so determined that Ivan repel Cossack ways, I even swallow the bug.
YES! It works – at least in my imagination. Ivan revolts against the Czar by shedding his Cossack attire. He leaps to the defense of the helpless felines and liberates them.
I am so thankful. Blackjack’s lore of the Lindian Woods has helped lure away my glums. Ah yes. As Blackjack so often says, “Enter your imagination, and, voila, GLUMS BE GONE!”
Next Week: Ready to meet the Czar?
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon Kindle and Trade Paperback, and Barnes and Noble.)
©2013 Raji Singh