Fasolya. Joanna's Page 8

Yulia Ivanova

Fasolya. Joanna's Page 8

It was the autumn of 1945. We went into the first form 'b'. Only few pupils had briefcases, but others went to the school with cloth and tarpaulin bags. In those bags they had a lot of things: cartridge cases or even real cartridges, trophy mouthorgan, clockwork frogs and slices of sunflower and poppy seed oilcakes - the best delicacy of our childhood.

I and Lyuska got under the school desk by turn in order to thumb a huge and solid piece of oilcake that had just been exchanged for my drawing album.

The teacher of singing Fasolya[1] (perhaps, this nickname originated from music notes 'fa, sol, la or because her hair arranged over her forehead looked like a bean) accompanied on her guitar. There was no piano at the school? And a guitar, though it was considered as a vulgar instrument, but it was easier than an accordion, with which Fasolya couldn't cope because she survived Leningrad's blockade and became very week.

I was not a resident of Leningrad and imagined the blockade as something like a heavy concrete slab that was carried by bent Fasolya.

They said that now Fasolya was a little out of her mind. During all her leisure she made pretty dolls and figures of birds and beasts of many-colored rags and cuttings, but she made them not for sale (they said that if Fasolya would do so she would live in clover). It would be understood by everybody. And everybody would understand it if she gave her beasts to children. Everything would be understandable if she sold them for profit or gave them as presents out of her kindness. But Fasolya was neither kind, nor selfish; she was out of her mind, and it was crystal-clear.

Twice a week she gave a recital at her home. She put on a black low-cut narrow dress and high-heeled shoes, carefully combed her hair, lit candles on her old piano and played Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven and Mozart. Those adults who happened to listen to her said that she played wonderfully, though she never invited adults to those concerts of hers. She invited only us, children, though it was obvious that neither Beethoven, nor Haydn attracted first formers but those beasts which were given to everyone by Fasolya after her concerts.

She even didn't conceal that she broke her back over the toys to attract us to her place.

"They want to learn to love and understand serious music" Fasolya used to say, "and such a wish of theirs is worthy of reward. I'm sure the day will come when they refuse these trifles and say, 'Dear Antonina Stepanovna.'"

But that day never came; nobody wanted to refuse getting those beasts because for every hare one could get a box of colored pencils, several glasses of sunflower seeds or whirl on merry-go-round until one felt sick.

In two or three evenings I surrendered once and for all. I counted hours from one concert to another, though I still laughed up my sleeve at Fasolya. My hidden passion for her concerts seemed to me as something shamefully absurd, and I tried as much as I could to conceal it from boys in order not to be laughed at. And later for a very long time I would associate music with her and only with her. Even on radio I would be listening to only those familiar compositions that she played to us.

Perhaps, she was really a wonderful pianist.

And perhaps, not only I was addicted to her concerts.

But nobody ever confessed it. We still took away her mice and hares in our pockets. And Fasolya thought something...

I never found out that she thought about all of that. Many years ago Fasolya soon disappeared. A distant relative of hers were found, and when we returned to the school after summer holidays, a new teacher of singing came to us with an accordion.

Fasolya sold the piano to Alla's mather, and all of us learned to play it...

[1]The Russian word for 'bean'.

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