Telling Tales 30
The Only Thing That Can Save Us
“Sometimes the breaks all fall your way. I had this thing and an empty cart, and there was Anatoly’s town just past the horizon. Well, I made some arrangements, is what I did, and the pieces kept falling into place. You know, you don’t always think about it when that happens, things falling into place, and it happens more often than you realize. I say this as person who says, ‘Just my luck,’ but the truth is, things go better for me more often than they don’t. Look at me! I’m healthy. I make an honest living. Alright, Dmitri, I may have dealt from the bottom of the deck with you once or twice, but we all know you were asking for it and you were doing the same anyway, so let’s not bring that up any more, hey?
“So to say it’s bad luck that I had this piece of string simply because I didn’t know what to do with it, well, that’s just plain unreasonable is what that is. I’m normally optimistic, sure, but that’s never stopped me from complaining. At this point, I didn’t know what to think, except that I should get to Anatoly because who else was going to tell me what this funny little tangle of sparking string was worth? As it happened, a colleague had a friend who had a brother who had another colleague who needed a couple of things delivered to Anatoly’s town, so I picked up some goods for sale, the goods for transport, and what do you know, I even picked up a couple of passengers.
“That’s where things started to come together, even though I didn’t know it at the time. It was two brothers who sat in the back of the cart, and no, their names weren’t Ivan and Pyotr! They weren’t princes, for crying out loud. Nikolai and Sasha. Farm boys. This Nikolai, he looks like he can pick up a tree, knock down the tsar’s castle, put the tree back in the ground where he found it, and young Sasha’s not much smaller. Doesn’t matter, because Nikolai is practically crying like a baby, throwing a tantrum the whole way to the town. Three days. Three days! Three days I have to listen to little brother explaining to big brother that there’s nothing to be frightened of, ‘He’s always misplacing things,’ is all he says to me, as though that’s supposed to explain it.
“We get to the town, and I’m happy to see these boys gone, never to see them again. I make my delivery, I make my sales, I make my way to Anatoly’s, and he tells me what I’ve already told you. ‘Who knows what it is?’ he asks. ‘Who knows?’ It’s about now that I’m starting to question my luck – unreasonably, but there you go, sometimes I’m unreasonable. You’ve got an empty cart, Anatoly’s got no leads for me, and I’m wondering where my next deal is coming from, when I hear the sound. ‘Sound,’ I say. It’s a noise. A noise like a mountain cracking in half, if you can call that a sound. Anatoly and I go running out of his shop, I’ve got the sparking string in my hand, and over the buildings – over the buildings – we can see the giant. I’ve never seen anything that big, not anything that walked on two legs.
“My mouth’s hanging open, Anatoly’s mouth is hanging open, and suddenly there’s young Sasha grabbing my shoulder, pointing at the string, and yelling, ‘That’s Nikolai’s! That’s the only thing that can save us now!’ ”