Stories form Soviet Childhood: Laddy! (1)


Today we continue reading a Stories from my Soviet Childhood what seemed so funny for me. That will be one more story by Nikolay Nosov. This story is pretty long so we divide it on two parts. Hope you’ll enjoy this story also. (You can read the story in Russian in Moshkov library.)

Mishka and I had a wonderful time in the country this summer. I do love the country! You can do all sorts of exciting things like wandering about in the woods picking mushrooms or berries, bathing in the river and lying in the sun, and when you get tired of bathing, you can fish. When Mum’s holiday ended and the time came to go back to town, Mishka and I felt very sad. We went about looking so miserable that Aunt Natasha took pity on us and persuaded Mum to let Mishka and me stay on for a while. She said Mum needn’t worry, she would take good care of us. So Mum finally agreed and went back to town without us, and Mishka and I stayed on with Aunt Natasha.

Now Aunt Natasha had a dog called Diana. The day Mum left Diana had puppies. Six of them: five were black with brown spots and one was brown all over except for a black spot on his ear. When Aunt Natasha saw the puppies she said:

“Oh dear, that dog is a nuisance. She’s always having puppies. What on earth shall I do with them? I shall have to drown them.”

“Oh, please don’t drown them!” we pleaded. “They want to live too. Better give them away to the neighbors.”

“The neighbors have dogs of their own,” said Aunt Natasha. “I can’t keep so many dogs.”
Mishka and I begged and pleaded. We promised to find homes for the puppies ourselves after they had grown up a little bit. At last Aunt Natasha gave in and said we might keep them.

Soon they grew bigger and started running about the garden and barking loudly like real dogs. Mishka and I had great fun playing with them.

Aunt Natasha kept reminding us of our promise to give them away, but we felt sorry for Diana. She would be very unhappy without her children.

“I ought never to have given in to you,” said Aunt Natasha. “Now I’ll be left with all these dogs on my hands. How shall I feed them all?”

So Mishka and I had to get busy and look for homes for the pups. And what a time we had! Nobody wanted to take them. We went from house to house for days and after a lot of trouble we managed to place three of them. Then two more were taken by some people in the neighboring village. That left one—the pup with the black spot on its ear. We liked him the best. He had such a nice face and such beautiful eyes, big and round as if he was always wondering about something. Mishka couldn’t bear to part with him and so he wrote a letter to his mother.

“Dear Mum,” he wrote. “Please let me keep a little puppy. He is so very sweet, he’s brown all over except one ear which has a black spot on it, and I love him very much. If you let me keep him I promise to be very good and get good marks at school and I’ll train him so he’ll grow up to be a fine, big dog.”

We named him Laddy. Mishka said he would buy a book about dogs and learn to train him properly.

* * *

Several days went by but there was no answer from Mishka’s mother. When her letter finally came there was nothing in it about Laddy. She wrote telling us to come home at once because she was worried about us. Mishka and I got ready to leave that day. He decided to take Laddy without waiting for permission, because after all it wasn’t his fault if his mother hadn’t answered his letter.

“You can’t take him with you,” said Aunt Natasha. “Dogs aren’t allowed in trains. If the conductor catches you, you’ll have to pay a fine.”

“The conductor won’t see him,” replied Mishka. “We’ll hid him in my suit-case.”

We emptied all Mishka’s things into my knapsack, made several holes in his suit-case for Laddy to breathe through, put a piece of bread and some fried chicken inside in case he would get hungry and set off for the station. Aunt Natasha came to see us off.

All the way to the station Laddy was as quiet as a mouse. When Aunt Natasha went to buy our tickets we opened the bag to see what he was doing. There he was sitting quietly at the bottom blinking up at us.

“Good dog!” cried Mishka. “Clever boy! He knows how to behave.”
We stroked him a little and shut the bag. When the train came Aunt Natasha saw us safely inside and said good-bye. We found an empty seat in a quiet corner of the compartment. The only other passenger there was an old woman who was dozing on the seat opposite. Mishka stuck the bag under the seat. The train started and we were off.

At first everything was quiet, but at the next station a crowd of passengers came in. A long-legged girl with pigtails ran up to our quiet corner shouting at the top of her voice:
“Aunt Nadya! Uncle Fedya! Here’s a seat, come quick!”
Aunt Nadya and Uncle Fedya came down the aisle to our seat.
“Hurry up, hurry up!” she rattled. “Sit down quick. I’ll sit next to Aunt Nadya, and Uncle Fedya can sit beside the boys.”
“Hush, Lenochka. Don’t make so much noise,” said Aunt Nadya, and the two of them sat down next to the old lady on the opposite seat. Uncle Fedya shoved his bag under the seat and sat down beside us.
Lenochka clapped her hands and said: “Now, isn’t that nice—three gentlemen on one side and three ladies on the other.”

Mishka and I turned away and looked out of the window. For a while the only sounds were the clicking of the wheels and the engine puffing up in front. But suddenly there was a rustling noise under the seat and the sound of something scratching like a mouse.

“It’s Laddy,” whispered Mishka. “What if the conductor comes this way?”
“Perhaps he’ll quiet down in a minute.”
“But suppose he starts barking?”
The scratching continued. He must have been trying to scratch a hole in the bag.
“Oh, Auntie, Auntie, a mouse!” squealed that stupid Lenochka, picking up her feet.
“Nonsense,” said her Aunt Nadya. “Whoever heard of mice in a train?”
“Oh, but it is! Can’t you hear?”
Mishka coughed as loudly as he could and kicked the bag with his foot. For a minute or two Laddy was quiet, then he began to whine softly. Everyone looked surprised. But Mishka quickly ran his finger over the window-pane, making a squeaking noise on the glass. Uncle Fedya turned and looked at Mishka sternly.
“Stop that, young man!”
Just then someone farther down the carriage began to play the accordion and for a while you couldn’t hear anything else. But soon the playing stopped.
“I say,” Mishka whispered to me, “let’s start singing.”
“Oh, but what will they think of us,” I objected.
“All right then, let’s recite poetry as if we’re learning it by heart.”
“All right, you begin.”
Something squeaked under the seat. Mishka coughed quickly and began in a hurry:

Green the grassy meadow, bright the shining sun,
Gay the spring-time swallow; good cheer to everyone!

The passengers laughed, and someone said: “It’ll soon be autumn and here we have spring.” Lenochka giggled.
“Aren’t they funny boys!” she said. “When they aren’t imitating mice or making squeaky noises, they’re reciting poetry.”
But Mishka took no notice. As soon as he finished reciting one poem he went right on to the next, keeping time with his feet:

Fresh and green my garden looks,
With lilac fragrance in the air,
With its cool and shady nooks,
With bird-cherry and linden fair.

“There, now we have summer,” joked the passengers. “The lilac is in bloom.”
The next minute Mishka had plunged into the middle of winter:

This winter! The rejoicing peasant
Is seen again upon a sleigh.
His pony also finds it pleasant
To trot along the snow-clad way….

After that he mixed everything up and autumn came right after winter:

What a gloomy picture!
Clouds, and nothing more,
Rain from early morning,
Puddles by the door. …

Just then Laddy let out a pitiful whine and Mishka rushed on at the top of his voice:

Why so early, Autumn,
With your chilly blight?
People’s hearts are yearning
Still for warmth and light!

The old lady who had been dozing on the opposite seat woke up, nodded her head and said: “True, child, true! Autumn has come far too soon. The little ones would like to play in the sunshine a little longer, but the summer is over. You recite very nicely, child, very nicely indeed.”

She leaned over and stroked Mishka’s head. Mishka kicked my foot under the seat to tell me to take over, but for the life of me I couldn’t think of a single poem. The only thing that came into my head was a song, so I blurted it out as loudly as I could:

My cosy little cottage,
Brand-new from floor to roof,
From maple floor and pine-wood wall to shining shingle roof!

Uncle Fedya scowled. “Good God! Another elocutionist!” Lenochka pouted and said: “Poof! Fancy reciting a silly thing like that!”
I rattled that song off twice and began another:

I sit in my prison cell murky and dark,
An eagle, in irons—born free as a lark….

“They really ought to put you in a cell, young man, for getting on people’s nerves!” growled Uncle Fedya.
“Now, Fedya,” said Aunt Nadya, “I see no reason why the boys shouldn’t recite verse if they want to!”
But Uncle Fedya fidgeted and rubbed his forehead as if his head ached. I stopped to catch my breath and Mishka carried on, this time slowly, with expression:

Serene is the Ukrainian night.
The sky is clear, the stars are shining….

The passengers roared with laughter. “Well, well, now we’re in the Ukraine. Where will he take us next?”

More people came in at the next stop. “Listen to that youngster reciting!” they remarked to one another. “The journey won’t be dull.”
By now Mishka was in the Caucasus:

The Caucasus lies at my feet, while alone
I stand at the edge of the dizzy abyss….

He went nearly all around the world, but by the time he got to the Far North he was quite hoarse and it was my turn. I couldn’t remember any more verses, so I recited another song:

All the world around I traveled,
Nowhere could I find my love….

Lenochka burst out laughing. “That one only knows songs!” she squeaked.
“I can’t help it if Mishka has recited all the poems,” I said and began another song:

It’s a jolly young head on my shoulders,
But I doubt that I’ll keep it there long….

“You won’t,” said Uncle Fedya, “if you go on annoying people like this.” He rubbed his forehead with a sigh, pulled the bag from under the seat and went out.

* * *

The train was approaching town. The passengers got up, gathered their belongings and moved towards the exit. We pulled out the bag and the knapsack and followed the others on to the platform. There was no sound from the bag.

“Look at that,” said Mishka, “when it doesn’t matter he keeps quiet, but when he ought to have kept quiet he made all that noise.”

“Perhaps he’s suffocated in there. We’d better take a look,” I said. Mishka put the bag down and opened it. Laddy wasn’t there! There were some books, note-pads, a towel, soap, a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, and knitting-needles, but no dog.

“Where’s Laddy?” said Mishka.
“We’ve got the wrong bag!”

Mishka examined it. “So we have. Ours had holes in it, and besides it was dark brown, and this one is yellow. What an ass I am. I’ve gone and taken someone else’s bag.”

“Let’s run back to the station, perhaps our bag is still under the seat.” We ran back to the station. The train was still standing, but we had forgotten what carriage we had traveled in, so we ran through the whole train looking under the seats. But there was no sign of our suit-case.
“Someone must have taken it,” I said.
“Let’s go through the carriages again,” Mishka proposed.
We searched the train once more, but we didn’t find any trace of our bag. We were wondering what to do when a conductor came up and chased us away.

We went home. I went to Mishka’s place to get my knapsack. Mishka’s mother saw that something was amiss.
“What’s the trouble?” she asked.
“We’ve lost Laddy.”
“Who is Laddy?”
“The puppy we brought from the country. Didn’t you get my letter?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, I wrote you all about it.” And Mishka told his mother the whole story: what a wonderful pup Laddy was, how we had packed him in the bag and how the bag got lost. By the time he finished he was in tears. I don’t know what happened after that because I went home….

Don’t worry that is not the end of the story – Part 2 here…


Post by Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia…