Tuesday, September 1, 2015

#29 Sunflower (Excerpt)

Write about sunflowers – in the garden, in the fields, in the bouquet, in the wreath on the door. Write about the flowers or the seeds…
OPTIONAL: Work on your own fiction, without the connection to the topic. Share what you are working on.

At the end of August, sunflowers in babushka’s garden were taller than babushka or Marusya – it was a long and unusually hot summer for their land, and the flowers that are named after the sun, had more than enough time to get bigger and taller day by day, trying to reach the golden ball in the sky. The flower heads were also especially large – wider than Marusya’s face, rows of bright yellow petals, framing the circle filled with hundreds of little seeds. The seeds were not completely ripe still, they had a mixed black and white stripy pattern, or rather gray and off-white. The shells were soft, and to eat the sweet seed inside, Marusya had to either chew on the shell or tear it apart with her fingers. She loved doing it, but mostly she just loved laying down in that thick row of flowers, tall as trees if you looked at them all the way up, from the soil. Babushka rarely came to that far end of her extended vegetable garden, usually spending time between the beds of green cabbage which used to remind Marusya of roses when she was little, and seemingly endless rows of potatoes. Potatoes, cabbage and home made bread were the staples of babushka’s simple, but delicious cooking, while sunflower seeds were rather something to cover the old rugged wooden fence, which got crooked over the years of snow and rain pouring over it, so Marusya was left alone in her little yellow kingdom.
She opened a book that she borrowed from her friend Tanya, which was a little unusual for the two girls, as Marusya’s family had a much bigger library. But Tanya was so taken with this book that she just couldn’t stop talking about it. Marusya had never heard of that author neither before, nor after that book, if we’re allowed to get a little ahead of ourselves in this story. It was about a girl named Natasha who just graduated from school and did not get into college because she did not prepare for a history test very well. So she got a job at the local factory, some boring entry level job at her 17 years old, with zero work experience, of course. She met a new friend who was a few years older and loved pinching her cheeks, singing “Your little face is like a pretty apple in the garden…” which Marusya found rather odd. And she also met some guy who was ten years older and worked as an engineer, and Natasha fell for him, without realizing what was happening at first, but then it looked like the feeling was mutual. Later in the story, it occurred that Boris happened to be married, and then he was not married, or maybe he was separated or something like that – it was hard to say, as grown-ups often make everything sound so complicated. Marusya was annoyed with the way things were overly complicated, yet secretly she enjoyed those chapters where the little known author, and a man at that, described Natasha’s feelings, as Marusya thought, so accurately and delicately. That confusion inside when you are drawn to someone and happy to see him, and yet get painfully shy when you have a chance to see him, and can’t say one coherent sentence when you’re around him, and feel so stupid and annoyed with yourself for that, that come across as rude or uneducated or something, or worst of all, come across as a silly little girl in love. Nobody wants that! Marusya was so sure that every girl in Natasha’s shoes would feel the same.
“I wonder why Tanya picked this book for me. Is it because she really liked it? Well it’s curious enough, but it ain’t Paganel, let me tell ya,” she talked to herself.
Or is it because Tanya had a crush on someone and it was her way to tell Marusya about it? Or… oh no… the hint of a guess hit her. Is it… is it because Tanya was so sure that Marusya had a crush on that physics teacher who left the school before Tanya got there?
Laying under the shade of her yellow flower tent, in the heat of summer, Marusya felt like all the blood in her body rushed to her cheeks. Now if someone saw her, they would probably sing something like “Your little face is like a pretty tomato in the garden…” So good nobody was around, only babushka’s old faithful mutt Sharik* with whom Marusya used to play as a kid – Sharik was jumping at her, sweeping the girl off her feet into the tall snowdrifts which surrounded the little country house from every side in the winter. Then they would giggle. All right, actually only Marusya would giggle, and Sharik would bark, but it sounded very much like giggle to little Marusya.
“Stop!” little Marusya would yell, laughing. “Do it again!”
And as Sharik jumped at her and she fell into the soft snow bank, babushka who later loved telling this story, could hear the same phrase mixed with laughter and barking over and over again:
“Stop! Do it again!”
 After Marusya started school, she did not visit babushka in the winter anymore. She only came to the far away little village for a month or so during her three month summer break each year. No more playing in the snow with Sharik, but the old fellow still remembered his play buddy, and loved hanging out with her in the vegetable garden, enjoying the shade of her sunflower kingdom.

*Sharik (Шарик) is a common name for mutts in Russia, can be translated as “balloon” or “little ball”.

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  1. I can't wait to read this cover to cover when a full book comes. And I will read with my daughter who I know will love to read about Marusya and Tanya too. I love the detail-the story in the story, captured so well, and by a man for goodness sake!

  2. Yes, I too look forward to reading more of these tales and they do deserve to be a book. Friends from far, far away ... yet so close to home and so vividly portrayed.