Stories from Soviet Childhood: MISHKA’S PORRIDGE (2)


As you remember on Wednesdays we publish Stories from Soviet Childhood – my generation was brought up reading the stories, and generation of our parents was brought up on them and we tried to bring up our children by reading them good children book. Today we are finishing a story by Nikolay Nosov “Mishka’s Porridge”. If you did not read the first part please click at the little picture. To the right —->

(Part 2)

Mishka [a boy’s name] took matches, tied a rope round the handle of the pail and went off to the well. In a few minutes he was back.

“Where’s the water?” I asked him. .
“Water? Out there in the well.”
“Don’t be silly. What’ve you done with the pail?”
“The pail? That’s in the well too.”
“In the well?”
“That’s right.”
“You mean you dropped it?”
“That’s right.”
“Oh, you silly donkey! We’ll starve to death this way. How are we going to get water now?”
“We can use the kettle.”
I took the kettle. “Give me the rope.”
“I haven’t got it.”
“Where is it?”
“Down there.”
“Down where?”
“In the well.”
“So you dropped the pail along with the rope?”
“That’s right.”

We started hunting for another piece of rope, but we couldn’t find any.
“I’ll go and ask the neighbors,” said Mishka.
“You can’t,” I said. “Look at the time. Everyone’s gone to bed long ago.”
As luck would have it, I felt awfully thirsty. I was simply dying for a drink.

Mishka said: “It’s always like that. When there’s no water you always feel thirsty. That’s why people always get thirsty in the desert —because there’s no water in the desert.”
“Never mind about deserts,” I said. “You go and find some rope.”
“Where shall I find it? I’ve looked everywhere. Let’s use the fishing-line.”
“Is it strong enough?”
“I think so.”
“What if it isn’t?”
“If it isn’t, it’ll break.”
We unwound the fishing-line, tied it to the kettle and went out to the well. I lowered the kettle into the well and filled it with water. The line was as taut as a violin string.
“It’s going to snap,” I said. “You watch.”
“Perhaps it’ll hold if we lift it very, very carefully,” said Mishka.
I raised it as carefully as I could. I had just got it above the water when there was a splash, and the kettle was gone.
“Did it break?” said Mishka. . “Of course it did. How are we going to get water now?”
“Let’s try the samovar,” said Mishka.
“No. We might as well throw the samovar straight into the well. Less trouble. Besides, we haven’t any more rope.”
“All right then, use the pot.”
“We haven’t so many pots to throw away,” I said.
“Well, then, try a tumbler.”
“Do you want to spend the rest of the night scooping up water by the tumblerful?”
“But what are we going to do? We’ve got to finish cooking the porridge. Besides, I’m terribly thirsty.”
“Let’s try the tin mug,” I said. “It’s a little bigger than a tumbler anyway.”

We went back to the house, tied the fishing-line to the mug so that it wouldn’t overturn and went back to the well. After we had drunk our fill of water Mishka said:
“That’s what always happens—when you’re thirsty you think you could drink up the sea, but when you begin drinking you find one mugful is plenty. That’s because people are naturally greedy.”

“Stop jabbering and bring the pot out here. We can fill it with water straight from the well. It will save us running back and forth a dozen times.”
Mishka brought the pot and stood it right at the edge of the well. I very nearly knocked it off with my elbow.

“Silly donkey,” I said. “What’s the idea of putting it right under my elbow? Hold on to it and keep as far from the well as you can, or you’ll send it flying into the water.”

Mishka took the pot and moved away from the well. I filled it up and we went back to the house. By this time our porridge was quite cold and the fire had gone out. We got it going again and put the pot back on the stove to cook. After a long time it started to boil, thickened gradually and made plopping noises.

“Hear that?” said Mishka. “We’re going to have some wonderful porridge soon.”
I took a little on a spoon and tasted it. It was awful! It had a nasty bitter burnt taste, and we had forgotten to salt it. Mishka tasted it too and spat it out at once.
“No,” he said. “I’d rather die of hunger than eat such stuff.”
“You would certainly die if you did eat it,” I said.
“But what shall we do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Donkeys!” cried Mishka. “We’ve forgotten the fish.”
“We’re not going to start bothering with fish at this time of night. It will be morning soon.”
“We won’t boil them, we’ll fry them. They’ll be ready in a minute, you’ll see.”
“Oh, all right,” I said. “But if it’s going to take as long as the porridge, count me out.”
“It’ll be ready in five minutes, you’ll see.”

Mishka cleaned the fish and put them on the frying-pan. The pan got hot and the fish stuck to the bottom. He tried to pull them off and made quite a mess of them.

I said: “Whoever tried frying fish without butter?”
Mishka got a bottle of vegetable oil and poured some on to the pan and put it into the stove straight on the coals so it should cook faster. The oil spluttered and crackled and suddenly it caught fire. Mishka snatched up the frying-pan and I wanted to pour water on it, but there wasn’t a drop of water in the house, so it burned and burned until all the oil had burned out. The room was full of smoke and all that was left of the fish were a few burned coals.

“Well,” said Mishka, “what are we going to fry now?”
“No more frying. Besides spoiling good food you’re liable to burn the house down. You’ve done enough cooking for one day!”
“But what shall we eat?

We tried chewing raw meal but it wasn’t much fun. We tried a raw onion, but it was bitter. We tried vegetable oil and nearly made ourselves sick. Finally we found the jam pot, licked it clean and went to bed. It was very late by then.

We woke up in the morning as hungry as wolves. Mishka wanted to cook some porridge, but when I saw him get out the meal I got cold all over.

“Don’t you dare,” I said. “I’ll go to Aunt Natasha, our landlady, and ask her to cook some porridge for us.”

We went to Aunt Natasha and told her all about it and promised to weed her garden for her if she would cook some porridge for us. She took pity on us and gave us some milk and cabbage pie while she cooked our porridge. And we ate and ate as if we couldn’t stop. Aunt Natasha’s little boy Vovka stood watching with his eyes popping out.

At last we had had enough. Aunt Natasha gave us a hook and some rope and we went to fish the pail and the kettle out of the well. It took us a long time before we finally managed to pull them up. But luckily nothing got lost. After that, Mishka and I and little Vovka weeded Aunt Natasha’s garden.

Mishka said: “Weeding is nothing. Anybody can do it. It’s easy. Much easier than cooking porridge, anyway.”

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Best wishes and next Wednesday we will read next story!


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