Meanwhile, the girl, whose name was Alisa and had introduced herself as our new English teacher, continued as if nothing had happened:
“I’ll tell you right away. You have a newcomer here. I don’t know the city. So you will tell me about it?… You know-it-all young man!”
She looked at Klaus, quite unexpectedly. It was the same old story – no initiative goes unpunished.
“By the way, will you please introduce yourself?”
“Herr Klaus,” he replied matter-of-factly.
The teacher didn’t even raise an eyebrow in response.
“Nice name. And a rare one, that’s for sure. So come on, Herr Klaus, tell me about your city…”
“Hey, since when has our city come to be in England? Or have you, the English teachers, stopped understanding Russian?”
“My dad’s Latvian, okay?”
“That’s another matter. But still a difficult task for one – mind if I ask for a lil’ help from my friends? Let Igor join me, okay? Together, we definitely won’t run out of words…”
“All right, two is even better,” she raised her eyes to the class. “Who is Igor, anyhow?”
I got up and reluctantly walked to the chalkboard after Klaus.
“Let’s do it this way,” continued Alisa Arturovna. “One of you will only ask questions… you, Herr Klaus. Let’s pretend that you are actually a tourist, came from the USA. And your guide Igor, by answering your questions, will tell us about the city. Got it? Are you ready?”
“Better from Canada …” retorted Klaus.
“From Canada… what?”
“I’d rather be a Canadian tourist.”
“It’s easier to run off there. I mean, in terms of immigration. Don’t you think Roza Markovna’s the only one who…?”
“Okay, let it be Canada. Since you dislike the States so much.”
“No dislike whatsoever!” exclaimed Klaus eagerly. “For the sake of someone like you, I’m ready even for the States!”
Klaus, I realized, was playing for time, still in search of one of his pranks. Sure, he was a smooth-talking virtuoso, but the lesson had just begun, and our situation seemed quite awkward.
“So, you, Klaus, flew to us from …”
“…Tucson, Arizona,” Klaus suggested readily.
I just couldn’t help but sigh, “That’s all, folks.” Klaus broke loose. An old Bitloman10 can’t help but draw on his favorite Beatles, Tucson, Arizona – Get back! – Let it be. Having been friends with Klaus for so many years, I learned such things were all but inevitable.
“For your information, Miss Alisa,” I decided it was a proper time for me to enter the scene. “Mr. Klaus is not Herr Klaus from Germany! His hometown is Tuсson, state of Arizona! How are you, Mr. Klaus? Love it here, don’t you?”
“Hey, Mr. Igor! Russian is not problema for me: my dedushka and babushka are from Odessa! Me too want to have praktika in Russian!”
“Stop, stop, that won’t do!” Alisa interrupted us.
“But why?” I wondered quite sincerely. “Mr. Klaus wants to have practice in Russian. The guest’s wish is our command! So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is: I don’t understand!”
“Ah, well, I completely forgot,” Klaus ran his hand over his cheek, “Dad’s Latvian…”
And all of a sudden he asked…
“Do you want us to recite you a poem about our city?” he offered, “In English!”
“I’d be delighted.”
Klaus winked at me, and I could swear I’ve heard the beat of some invisible drumsticks: one… one… one – two – three – four…
Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs
Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know.
And all the people that come and go
Stop and say ‘hello’ …
Klaus’s pronunciation was impeccable. He had studied English almost from the cradle, and it would be surprising otherwise, with such a father. Nikolai, the Senior, or Papa Nikolai, was a former military adviser in his time. He had to leave military service because of some tropical illness he’d caught in Africa, and now taught English at an institute. I credit Klaus’s love of the Beatles to his papa’s vibes. The Beatles still were “his everything,” as well as alpinism or the pipe, which he never let out of his mouth.
I often visited Klaus’s house and got along with his parents, as only the best friend of their sole son could be. Sometimes I even wondered, “Who’s my best friend actually? Young Klaus, or his dad?” Papa Nik’s interests, and his company seemed so fascinating to me. His alpinism, for example. One would rather expect yachting in our seaside city. You see, they have their own tusovka11, Klaus once explained, in the absence of Papa Nik (who was on one of his hiking trips at that time). Klaus showed me the contents of his dad’s mezzanine, and a real treasure opened before my eyes. It was packed with samizdat of the most various kind, from the dissidents of the 60s, typewritten on withered yellow pages in letters already blue from time, to the quite recent-looking photocopies of Castaneda’s books. That was indeed an unexpected twist to the story! Papa Nikolai went only so far as to introduce me to the translation of Herman Hesse’s “Steppenwolf” into Ukrainian, the language even stranger to me at that time than English. Yes, I knew who Steppenwolf was, but, again, only from the song of the same Boney M: a lost and lonely one, he was a Steppenwolf, forever on the run. Oh, how I wished to join them, those wolves of Nikolai, the senior’s pack, when they banded together for their next adventure in search of Snowmen in the Caucasus Mountains, or on an expedition to the UFO landing site in Siberia!
“And the banker never wears a mac,” meanwhile Klaus was rounding off smoothly, “In the pouring rain… ”
Alisa Arturovna sat leaning back in her chair and slightly nodded her head. The astonishment in her eyes shifted to joy in the moment, as if she had accepted the rules of the game and decided to join in.
“Very strange!” I snapped out at last, so as not to be silent.
“That’s what it is, our city!” announced Klaus. “So how do you like it?”
“Great! That description is indeed wonderful! As for you two – well, a good start. Congratulations on the first two “fives”12 in this school year.”
Klaus and I slapped hands.
“Yes!” said Klaus and nodded at me. That was my first “five” in all my years of studying English. We went back to our places.
“And yet,” continued Alisa Arturovna. “I still do not lose hope to hear something about your city, and not only about Liverpool.”
Klaus and I looked at each other, and he whistled again. This time aloud.
(…to be continued…)
11. Informal gathering
12. Top grade, an “A”, in Soviet school
2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation
January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)
March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)
July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)
August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)
October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
December: I Can’t Breathe – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)
Background – Context
In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine – School no. 46 – Zubarev Lexa (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed