Chapter 3 GENNADIY       

Gennadiy was the name of my brother who was born on 19th of January 1942 and passed away on 30th of January 2012. He was our Mom’s favourite ’cause he was the only one – a boy, and second of all, the youngest. We, sisters, just inherited that love for him. He told me once a story of meeting a strange man at the shore of the upriver Desna. As teen of 13, he was shocked by a voice above his head:”Cast thou draw out leviathan with a hook? Or his tounge with a cord which thou lettest down?”

The man saw how taken aback Gennadiy was. “Sorry”, he said. “It’s a bit early in the morning for fish catching, isn’t it?” he nodded at the two or three fish in the boat. Think you could teach me how to catch those?”

Ordinarily, Gennadiy was wary of strangers, but anyone interested in fishing was hardly a stranger. He nodded, and the man climbed down into the boat.The boy gave him a handline and showed him how to bait his his hooks with worms. He kept losing baits, and he seemed content not to catch anything. The man said he was a teacher, though, and so Gennadiy asked what he taught.

“In school catalog they call it English”, he said. “But I like to think of it as a course in magic-in the mystery and magic of words. Are you fond of words?”

The boy answered that he had never thought much about them.

For the first time in his life the boy met an adult on terms that were in balance. In the realm of words and ideas, he might be a teacher. But in his own small universe of winds and river creatures the wisdom belonged to him.

Almost every day of that summer after that, they’d go wherever the river gods or boy’s whim decreed. Sometimes up the silver creeks, where the green brances skittered down the banks and the great white-and-b;ack herons stood like statues. The boy learned that the teacher was incapable of much exertion; even pulling up the anchor seemed to exhaust him. But he never complained. And all the time, the talk flowed from him like a river. Much of it was forgotten, but some came back as clear and distinct as it happened yesterday, not years ago. They might be sitting in a hollow of bank, watching the sun go down in a smear of crimson. “Words”, he’d say, “Just little black marks on paper. Just sounds in the empty air. But think of the power they have! They can make you laugh or cry, love or hate, fight or run away. They can heal or hurt. They even come to look and sound like what they mean. Angry looks angry on the page. Ugly sounds ugly when you say it.”

But the magic that the stranger taught was not confined to words; he had a way of generating in him an excitement about things that we had always taken for granted. The man might point to a bank of clouds: “What do you see there? Colours? That’s not enough. Look for towers and draw-bridges. Look for dragons and griffins and strange and wonderful beasts.”

Then the man disappeared out of the town.

Gennadiy remembered him all his life. Himself, he was generous to his family helpimg them as he could. His beloved granddaughter Albina was under his skin all the time. He loved his son Danil, his daughter-in-law Elena, his niece Larisa and her son Gleb.

After he died, there was a monument erected at one of the St. Petersburg cemetries.

Eternal memory to you, my dear brother GENNADIY!

(to be continued)


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