Fiction — April 14, 2015 11:32 — 0 Comments

WITH NO ASHBERRY BEADS – Valery Petrovskiy

We had no fish with us when we came back, so I can just recall woods with red trees on the way home from a stream that day. They said, a fox inhabited the woods then, I wasn’t sure, yet if he were there, one wouldn’t be able to hunt after it in the trees brown, yellow and red. 

…In front of me the brook was whirling, a narrow one but loud, and the wood towered behind me silent. I felt it from the stream. I was aware that along the woods grazed some red cows of my villagers. When I turned back, they looked well on the spots where the trees didn’t become red yet. As for a girl, she had a yellow overcoat on, a checked one, and she was pasturing a herd there: now behind the red cows, now aside while they took no notice of her. However, she wasn’t quite visible: weather stood dull, light fog left the stream slowly but for the wood. And the trees appeared parti-colored in all tints of gold yet blurred as watercolors.

Yes, I do remember well the colored woods, the red cows and her, wearing a bright golden coat of waterproof nylon. I stayed afar on the bank while the cows slowly went away and she was following them leisurely, hardly visible at the end. Gradually, she vanished in the distance, and then there was silence.

We kept silent because we were fishing, and she – Ninka – why she was silent I didn’t know. She was going away little by little, following the herd. The cows were used to pasture by the woods day after day, and they never got far into the forest and then were gazing in silence. In contrast to the village cows, Ninka was a newcomer, I didn’t remember her initially and some other day she was gone. It happened right the next day after we went fishing and failed.

…Right the day before I had begun to limp: either I trod ineptly or cut my foot running, I can’t say now. We, boys, rushed around in a lousy way. My parents went on a visit somewhere far off and took my little brother and sister with them. And I refused to join them: not because of bad foot but more for my bad temper.

In the morning my foot felt better, we spurted for fishing, me and a neighbor boy. Vitek was not my playmate, he was elder, and he lived next door and protected me in some way. I stayed at his place overnight and in the morning he thought up of fishing. Apparently, it was a day off and we had not to go to school.

Vitek was not good at fishing, and I hadn’t any rods at home. Still he arranged everything, and early in the morning we hurried to a brook. It run not far away, one had to go behind the gardens, and then descend a steep slope through the woods and there was the stream there past a flood plain.

In the woods, I dropped behind Vitek though it was he to take the rods along, and I was making haste after him. Still I didn’t keep up with him: soon I started limping, then stumbled all of a sudden and fell down. A narrow path ran across the woods scantily lit and I could hardly see the way. Vitek was much taller than me while the fishing rods stuck out the hazel grove. I caught up with him, and soon on we got out the woods. And there was all quiet by the brook that moment, merely a thick fog cloaked all round. So we stepped into the fog cautiously as if entering sauna, a Russian sauna, damp and misty.

In haste Vitek descended to the water from a high bank in a wrong way – on all fours, and he wasn’t able to brake in time and went down to get wet. I came down next to him but did it cautiously, that’s why I didn’t soak.

The main thing while fishing was complete silence, I knew it well. And we sat there still on the bank. Vitek kept silent because he got wet, and I sang dumb because he didn’t speak. Maybe he felt uncomfortable after he had gone down awkwardly right into water. Or he could have thought that I’d recount it to the boys round: how he’d drenched his pants. And I had no intention to do so: Vitka could easily beat me up, no matter he had no dad while I had mine.

After all, there was nothing to speak about: we had no fish and, on the other hand, I took offence at my folks. In the evening they had gone on a visit and left me by neighbor’s to pass a night. Nice Vitek had thought up of fishing in the morning – let my parents look for me! While fishing, we sat there deep in thought: I thought of my family and I didn’t know what Vitek pondered over – he had no dad.

In springtime there’d be more boys fishing around, and then there were only cows grazing above. That time only two of us were fishing but all was in vain, no fish. The stream gurgled loud like some fish soup on the boil. Still we wouldn’t have fish soup that day at home, no luck.

Occasionally we turned back to look at the villagers’ cows that went off little by little, accompanied by a ginger girl. From afar, she shouted from time to time – it wasn’t meant for us – she was driving a cow that dropped behind. Yet we were going to fish there long enough, in spite that the cows went away with the girl attending.

Unexpectedly, my dad peeped out from above, his red hair mop nobody to confuse with. In quiet, he uttered no word; he simply waved his hand to us and left: it meant he found me there.

In the country we lived in a rural manner: mom, dad and their kids in a house. Except Vitek, his dad never appeared but it seemed he didn’t mind. So there was a shock when red-haired Ninka arrived to her dad Nick: where from and how it’s possible after all I didn’t know. Still she was right to come out! Though I don’t know a day she had shown up but the day she was gone I tell you well. In fact they held no farewell party: it was a regular day, her last day here. Nothing to speak of: we were fishing down on the stream and Ninka followed the red cows along the woods’ edge there.

If I knew that she was to leave us the next day, I could have run up to her just to say Good morning or Good bye. Or I would give her ash-berry beads, one like girls used to string together, it would suit her red hair, I know it now, but then that was a lot of rubbish for me. And I never knew what to tell a girl when parting, just “drop a line” maybe.

For the meantime, red-haired Ninka was moving away, following the red cows of a special breed. She’d arrived to my village for a short while, looking for her dad Nick, and the next day after we went fishing she disappeared.

They were said to leave from Nick – ginger Ninka, and her mom, a pleasant looking lady. And Nick remained here to walk along by himself: going shopping to the town or visiting a neighboring hamlet. I watched him ever silent and then recalled Ninka, a loud-voiced girl, while Nick, her dad, past me in silence. And every time I was going to ask him about the red-haired girl, who had no time here to grow to be skilled nor in pasturing neither in fishing.

One would be wrong to say that they were brothers, my dad and that Nick. They both were not giants but made men around to hold them in high respect. Shocks of hair on their heads were alike as if caps of the same brand; still my dad was ginger and Nick was dark-haired. Yet, living on the same street but on the opposite sides, they never were on friendly terms. After Ninka left, her dad Nick still paced unhurried to fields past my house several years more.

They were said to leave for Bodajboh, a remote town in Siberia by Lake Baikal or it was just a settlement, I don’t know. Once I looked for it in a map: Baikal’s shape resembled the woods that run about my village, right on the brook’s side.

Yes, as fishermen we were good-for-nothing: it was no use to go fishing in autumn then: me, then a first grader, and my neighbor Vitek, who vanished in jail in Siberia in many years after.

And the only day got stuck in my mind – one with Ninka, red-haired girl, Nick’s daughter, though ginger was my dad. A day off it was, I suppose, and on Monday the girl was away.

Well, I could title my tale as “Ash-berry beads”, but I hadn’t presented Ninka with them then. And I like “Bodajboh” for place name: it’s to God’s willing for me to meet Ninka one day or another, or her brother, or maybe her mom is still alive but Vitek…


Valery V. Petrovskiy is a freelance writer from Russia. He is a Chuvash State University, Cheboksary graduate in English, graduated VKSch Higher School, Moscow in Journalism, and earned a degree in Psychology at Kazan State Technological University. His work was published in Monarch, Metazen, Atticus Review, elsewhere. He is a Pushcart Prize nominee and Finalist to Open Russia Literary Championship, 2012. Valery lives in Russia in a remote village by the Volga River.

Leave a Reply

The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney