Friday, December 16, 2005

I’m nobody’s vich

From my kitchen window I can see a school playground. Usually I pay the noise no mind; it’s just a murmur at a certain time of the day. But this afternoon I looked while waiting for my eggs to boil. There were maybe twenty children out on the blacktop, a little after twelve noon on a gray day. Recess, I thought. Lunch time. Then I noticed what seemed to be a beating-in-progress. Four boys were playing at this game, ten or twelve-year-olds all, and one of these had been assigned the role of victim. Poor chap, I thought. Getting a bit of a rough end of it. A fist or two here, another there, maybe a flying foot every now and then. Nothing too dreadful – these blows didn’t pack enough punch to send anyone down – but then I looked up from this group and saw another duo of boys at the far end of the playground, back behind the trees that’ve gone leafless with the winter. Here was another boy getting beat, mittens on a string flying up in the air with each punch. Two other children came in from the left side. I didn’t even have time to hope that they might be the peace-makers. One of the advancing boys got in on the fun, and then the two aggressors were lining up their victims against a wall, an ominous move that touches on the worst of history. I told myself to look away, I had to watch. Nothing too serious, I guess. Just Ukrainian boys having fun. The girls were mostly playing hop-scotch, some of the boys too, but otherwise there were no more options: no jungle gyms over beds of soft tanbark, no four square courts and bouncy red balls, no tetherball poles, no benches on which children were gathered around books of D&D. Just the most natural toys: the stick and the boot, the fist and the elbow, the concrete wall.

In other news, I realized yesterday that I’m nobody’s vich. You know, my neighbor is Yuri Grigorovich. Such-and-such at the university is So-and-So Nikolayovich. But me, I have no patronymic. I’m nobody’s vich.


Richard said...
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Richard said...

I was half expecting you to run out the door and bully the bullies, Stephanovich. This brief piece walks that rare fine line between journalistic observation and authorial reflection. Oh, I just had a bad Catholic School flashback about dogpiling on the playground. Where's Sister Mary Berthayovich when you need her?