Our favorite is the one from Baku. It passes our station, Kumylga, at 22.57
It bears foreign inscriptions; it is offbeat and the messenger of a different world.
Local store offers lemon soda and ice cream.
The air smells of steppe and dung. Once in a rare while a motor scooter rattles by.
Cicadas sing in the black of night. I like to look out the window into the illuminated yellow spot under a street lamp.
Or to read cozy Victorian mysteries lying on the sofa.
Country life is pleasant.
We, boys, sit on a bench, make small talk, nibble sunflower seeds and stroke Toozik, the dog.
“Hey, guys, let’s play volleyball!” – someone shouts.
Only Dryusha and I remain. We do not feel like playing. Besides, we are older than the others by full two years and thus have the right to elitist behavior. It does not befit us to take off running just to pound at the ball with country bumpkins.
Subordination must be maintained. And we stolidly sit as before.
We are fed up with the simple country pastimes. And to think that we are supposed to stay here with the grannies for another month and a half before returning to the big cities. To school, college entrance, much-feared adult future.
That is why we just sit on the bench and daydream of something plain and untroubled, only to be desired in green years (the happiest, as it would turn out later): of our becoming lords of the world, for example, and reformers of our small globe.
They call us several times to join the game. We proudly reject the invitation with the hint that that is beneath us.
As a result, they give up.
“We’re aristocrats, you and me” – Dryusha sums up.
“You bet! – I agree. – Volleyball is an improper game for us. Aristocrats have their own games: golf, for example”.
My idea of golf is the most stupid, but the most high-status occupation, which could have been invented. A group of smug folks walk here and there, spend half an hour to prepare for a stroke, the stroke itself lasts a second, then walk for half an hour to the ball to spend the next half an hour in preparation. The head is covered by pomponed cap.
When you look at that and at every player individually you understand right away it is at least hereditary prince of Monaco.
“Heh, – complains Dryusha, – no way to play golf here! No clubs, no ball”.
At that moment, we cast a glance at the spare ball that lies under the bench.
It is extremely tattered demonstrating the vicissitudes of its carrier: staying in poodles or exposure to canine shit.
It does not look in the least like a golf ball, but rustic standards are different. Even the aristocrats by birth may turn a blind eye to many things here.
OK, the next task is to find a club.
The closest thing we found is a discolored piece of steel reinforcing with a rake-type bend.
We have tried to play golf: strike the ball in turn with that rake of ours, with a pit at a wooden pole serving as hole. The one who bunkers, wins. First-come, first-served, so to say.
Zap, zap! The tattered ball sent by the rake from Dryusha, ran jumping along the meadow trampled down by geese.
Zap, zap! The ball missed the pole: that was my clumsy stroke.
The charm of the play has suddenly appeared: the big idea is the process itself. Just that aristocratic leisureliness combined with the proud awareness of proper importance for humankind.
To approach without interrupting social small talk, to aim, to talk again for a while, to aim once more, and only then – z-zap!
No matter who wins, performance is everything: socializing of two gentlemen.
We, two boys, half cousins in klutzy shorts, drove the ball about with a rake, periodically nodding contentedly to each other: «golf is a game for aristocrats”.
The volleyball players were at first laughing at us. But we continued our kingly sport not giving them time of day.
Then they stopped laughing. Then volleyball stopped.
They meekly asked our permission to join. We refused.
Golf is the game of the aristocrats. The right company is more important than sports scores.
The following day we came to sit on the bench. A company at the far end of the street was self-forgetfully driving a dirty ball with the rake.
Looks like we have become the local cultural avant-garde.