After a couple of month's absence we are delighted again to take part in YAM-Aunty's Final Friday Fiction. Today's effort is, we admit, an ever so slightly contrived tale. It is of topical relevance although the source text for the phrases, Vasily Grossman's 'An Armenian Sketchbook' was written in 1962.
The phrases are:
Line 8: professors, old revolutionaries, sculptors, architects, actors
Line 12: a sullen looking man, he had cast a quick glance
Line 16: administration had decided to make use of his phenomenal
Kolya the KanineThe Black Russian terrier Kolya lived, or should we say eked out a precarious existence, sheltering in the basement of a decaying apartment block in Nizhny Novgorod. He was streetwise enough to have survived three frigid winters in this once closed Soviet city. Kolya was born to a bitch owned by a retired professor of nuclear physics. A sullen looking man, he had cast a quick glance at Kolya's wonky ears and too curly tail, and concluded that this puppy, the runt of the litter, could never be sold for a profit and to keep him would be an unjustified drain on his ever diminishing pension. So Kolya was cast out into the cold, to take his chances with Nizhny Novgorod's ever growing band of street dogs.
This tenacious terrier survived, feeding on scraps scrounged from dustbins outside a nearby restaurant. Left-overs of the local speciality, green shchi, made from soured cabbage leaves, salt and pig fat, sustained his skinny frame. You had to be tough to endure this environment, and although Kolya was in fact gentle by nature, he developed a facade of aggressive behaviour, his repertoire including a truly terrifying snarl.
Come 2018, a certain Russian President issued a decree that the city had so be cleared of street dogs ahead of the FIFA World Cup*. When the dog catcher came round with his net and his van, Kolya tried hard to make use of his phenomenal snarl, but all to no avail - Putin's henchmen are not so easily deterred. Kolya found himself incarcerated in a pound with half a dozen other dogs, and all had similar stories to tell.
Initially the decree had required the stray dogs to be shot, but a public outcry had resulted in a stay of execution for Kolya and his fellow prisoners, who were still awaiting their fate when English football fans started arriving ahead of their nation's game against Panama.
It is of course well known that English people (even football fans) are uncommonly sentimental about dogs.
It just so happened that a couple of likely lads from Newcastle, Gary and Ryan, were staying in a hotel next to the dog pound, and were woken by anguished howls during the night. On hearing about the decree, they asked to see the dogs, and a visit was arranged.
Ryan had long yearned for a pet, and when he set eyes on the poor half starved pups, his heart melted and he asked if it would be possible to take one of them home. Gruffly, but with the slightly unnatural smile she had been practicing ahead of the World Cup (having been taught that foreign visitors expect to be smiled at, an alien concept to many Russians), the lady in charge of the dog pound said "Yes no problem, just select the one you want".
But of course Ryan found it impossible to choose. "I know", said Gary, the more practically-minded of the two lads, "Why don't we randomly label them from zero to six, and then we'll come back tomorrow and you can take the dog whose number coincides with the number of goals England score against Panama tonight!"
And so it was agreed. Poor Kolya was allocated the number six, and looked enviously at the dogs who were zero and one, and trembled with foreboding, so convinced was he that, once all the World Cup visitors had departed, it would be the firing squad for him.
After all, it was impossible to imagine that England, with their lamentable recent record, could ever score six goals in a single World Cup game. Wasn't it?
The next day, Ryan and Gary returned, looking, frankly, more than a little green about the gills. They were singing, or rather croaking " Six-one! Six-one! Six-one!"
Yes it really was true. England had scored six goals. Kolya's snarl transformed into the broadest of smiles as the reality of his reprieve sank in.
So Kolya will be going back to Tyneside to live with Ryan, as soon as the paperwork and vaccinations are sorted out. He can look forward to fattening up on a diet of meat pies from Greggs and will henceforth be known as Harry Kanine.
And this Russian fairy tale has a second happy ending. Once Ryan and Gary told all their mates about the likely fate of the remaining six dogs, the pound was flooded with adoption offers from slightly hung over England fans, and all the former strays will in due course be living lives of relative luxury, as they remind their new owners of one memorable night in Russia.
*This element of the story is sadly based on fact.