Sassafrass and Kentucky Fried Down Home Country Wisdom

(But whose country?)

Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov had two rubles to rub together, and he sort of did, compulsively. “The devil take it!” he said, though not in English. By which he meant, not the rubles, but the whole roogatsed mess he’d found himself in, specifically, a bouncy castle.

Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov was the sole proprietor and operateer of a sprawling luminous (because fluorescent) Russian-style bouncy castle. In spite of his many warnings, those hooligans kept rushing in with their keys in their hands, their gem-encrusted rings on their fingers, their cokes in poorly lidded paper cups. He was always patching, washing, sewing, cleaning, scrubbing, patching, washing, cleaning, and he was just so sick of it all!

*Poof!* A berehynia fluttered down to rest on top of the bouncy castle. “A lobster singing on a mountaintop,” muttered Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov, and then louder, “Hey! Get down from there!” The berehynia was dressed all in golden and scarlet robes, no wings to speak of, this not being a rubbishy English sort of supernatural creature, and she cackled pretty marvelously, though not entirely meanly. He had expected her to float down from the ground, but she climbed down. She even slipped at one point, and almost fell. Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov chewed his worn out gum.

The berehynia fixed her hair and then fixed Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov with a deeply unsettling uncanny gaze. Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov stared back for as long as he could stand (1.6 seconds staring into her darkly whirling eyes), and then looked at the ground, then at the sky, then over at some trees, and then at the bouncy castle, his bane, his doom, his looming failure. Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov heard the faint hiss of leaking air. As for the barely functional petrol-powered air pump, let’s not even go there.

“You,” the berehynia said informally, because that matters in Russian, when you only seem to be speaking English, “are the owner of a castle.”

Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov snorted.

“Do you want it?” and here she paused for a bit in a manner that reminded Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov vaguely of chicken’s feet, “Or not?”

You would’ve asked Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov this question five minutes ago, and there’d’ve been no hesitation at all, but now something was happening. Something, though vaguely tediously strange, something was happening. And now Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov wasn’t sure.

They stood like that for a while.

It was only later, when Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov woke to a mosquito buzzing in his ear (it was springtime), that he realized his decision hadn’t been important at all.

Somehow, someway, and for some inscrutable reason that he, Vladimir Petrovich Ostranov, might never understand, he, he himself, had mattered enough for a Visit.

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