Aleksei Lukyanov


Ever read The Lord of the Rings? I knew it! You look like a reader, you have that kind of face. Remember they had a race in there — the Ents? Tree people, all of them male, who had lost their women. Oh, yes, you know what I’m talking about. So alright, then, listen to my story all the way through, and you’ll catch on. You’ll understand that I couldn’t have done any different.

It all started during the next-to-last recess, when Fedka Proshin said, “Yo, dudes, after school don’t leave. Meet me at the monkey bars. Got something for ya.”

Fedka never just shot off his mouth for nothing, so all through fifth and sixth period we were all, like, on pins and needles, wondering what it was he’d gotten wind of that it couldn’t wait, that we just had to get together after school on Monday and not Friday, as usual. No matter how much we poked Fedka, how much we pleaded with him to at least drop us a hint what the deal was, he wouldn’t crack. It was pretty obvious another rumble was brewing between us and B class — lately they’d been getting uppity.

But it all turned out way more interesting than that.

After school, we went out on to the playground, crossed the sports field and squatted down by the parallel bars. Fedka looked around to make sure we were alone, then said in a low voice, “Trefilov’s a fag.”

There was this silence that came down all of a sudden, so loud it rang in our ears.

“You’re fucking with us,” said Tolyan, when the silence had started to drag on too long.

“I shit you not.”

Zheka and I looked at each other. If any of our teachers was least likely to be a homo, it was Sergei Igorich. He was taller than anyone, he had the widest shoulders, with enormous hands all covered in blisters, burns and cuts. Those big hands could just as easily handle flasks and test tubes during chemistry as they could lathes and carpentry tools in vocational class, and — way cooler — a knife in self-defense class.

“Fuck you guys,” I said. “How many hundreds’a times have we gone to the pool with him, taken showers all together there? If he was a butt-fucker, he would’ve gotten a hard-on around us.”

“Shut up, Kolyan,” my brother cut me off. “Let him talk.”

Fedka’s nostrils were already flaring up, which meant an agro for sure, so Zheka was right to stop me. Nobody had it in him to get into a throw-down with Fedka, not even Tokha, the strongest fighter in our class. Fedka rumbled with no rules, he could just hit you in the balls, bite, tear half of your hair out. Word was, they’d transferred him to our school after something really bad happened — like, Fedka had killed some dude in a fight by accident or something.

Fedka said this Uncle Gosha, some guy from his dad’s work, had come from Siberia for a visit. Of course, they spent half the day getting wasted, but Fedka’s dad, knowing that his son had to get up at 7:30 in the morning, gave the order for lights-out at 23:00 hours, like he was going by a schedule. During the night, Fedka had to go to the bathroom, and when he was making his way back to bed, he heard them talking in his dad’s room. He listened in. The grown-ups were talking all hush-hush, real-soft-like, but Fedka could make out that they were talking about some homo. Uncle Gosha was saying that this queer’s picture right away looked real familiar to him, and he remembered that his puss was plastered all over Krasnoyarsk —“extremely dangerous, homosexual, and child molester,” a whole mess of “aggravated” and “most wanted.” Dad was quiet for a long time, then he told Uncle Gosha to stuff a cork in it ‘til they got it all figured out.

“So why’d you think they were talking about Trefilov?” Zheka asked.

“‘Cuz I asked. In the morning when Dad was shaving, I woke up his buddy real quiet-like and got it out of him. But, it’s a fucking secret.”

It didn’t look like Fedka was shitting us. But maybe Fedka’s dad’s buddy was. Who knew anyway who our head teacher could look like? In our own class we had a good example of how you could mix up two people: Tokha and Tolyan.

They weren’t even brothers, but the face recognition software had trouble telling them apart all the time — they had almost exactly the same scars on the left side of their faces, Tokha’s from a dog bite, and Tolyan’s from a loose round in shop that flew up and hit him in the mug. The school security system mixed them up them all the time, and here we thought it was so smart. It could even pick me apart from Zheka, even though we’re twins.

“Your Dad’s right. Don’t be fucking with this shit, not ‘til it gets figured out,” said Zheka.

“What, you don’t know how they’re gonna figure it out?” Fedka looked at each of us, one by one. “They’ll drag us in, and ask us if he touched us, if he said anything bad to us.”

“Well, he didn’t touch and he didn’t say,” said Tokha, like a dumbass. “What’s the big freaking deal, dudes?”

“Shut up,” we said, all together-like.

Fedka really did have a point. A commission would come to the school, and they’d start fucking with us, working us over, like, “What, you’re covering for him? You’re faggots, too, huh?” We knew all about that little game, we’d already been through it. Two years ago they were sniffing out a child molester in another school near here. Two dudes gave it up right away, another one got his ass totally ripped open for not, like, testifying against the guy. That dude ended up OD-ing on pills. He did leave a note, though, where he got the teach off the hook — saying it was all lies, and he wrote down all the real rapists’ names. Those dudes fell apart right away in the interrogation, saying they had thought he was a homo. Everybody got splashed with shit, they disbanded the school. And here we only had two more years to go, then the army — and then that’s it, freedom! Why the fuck would we wanna go spoil it all for? Why’d Fedka have to go to the bathroom that night? He should have just pissed himself, the fucking idiot.

“So what do you think we oughta do?” Zheka asked Fedka.

Аt first Fedka was just mumbling something or other, all confused, but then suddenly he perked up and came out with a creative solution. The dudes all backed away from him right away.

“Proshin, are you totally fucking nuts?” asked Tokha.

“What else are we gonna do? Look, if my dad figures it out, then what? There’s gonna be a commission and investigation anyway.”

“And if Igorich isn’t a fag? How’re you gonna find out?”

“It’s all the fucking same to me. I’m never going in the same room with him again anyway.”

“Shit, Proshin, use your head!” Zheka barked at him. “Even if you did get the drop on him, how are you gonna explain why? There’ll be an investigation, they’ll be trying to figure out what the fucking deal was with this teacher that got killed, and who killed him. They’ll connect the dots to you right away, and once they do that, they’ll break you, make you talk even faster. But before any of that shit even happens, Trefilov is just gonna squash you with his thumb. How do you think you’re even gonna handle him?”

“My dad’s buddy is leaving the day after tomorrow. I’ll talk to him. He’ll take care of fucking Trefilov.”

We moved back from Fedka even more. Basically, it was one against all. But that didn’t scare him.

“What the fuck, dudes? What if it turns out he really is a fucking fag, don’t you see this shit will stick to us the rest of our lives? I guarantee you, some lowlife’ll turn up and blab all about it.”

“Right. Like your Uncle Gosha. Fuck, Proshin, you turned out to be a real dick. Аnd I thought you were an okay dude.”

“Say it again, what’d you call me?

“Fuck off, Proshin,” said Tokha. “We don’t give a fuck about your sports rank. We’ll beat the shit out of you, all of us together, before you can get a peep out.”

“They … they’ll fucking rake you all through the coals!” Fedka started going psycho. “What’re you, wearing his colors, that you keep covering for him?”

“If we’re wearing his colors, then what’re you doing? Don’t forget Trefilov made you his sweet little teacher’s pet in wrestling.”

“You faggots!” Fedka jumped up. “Just fucking try telling that to anybody and see what happens!”

“Fuck off.”

Fedka left, we stayed behind. What we were supposed to do now — nobody knew. However big of an asshole Proshin was, he still got us all real worried. What if Trefilov really was a homo? Maybe he was doing his dirty little business somewhere, on the side, maybe he was even getting his rocks off with one of us, or someone we knew.

“Short version, just be cool,” said Zheka.

He wasn’t the toughest or the smartest in the class, but people respected him, because he never pissed himself and never said stupid random shit. Even though we were twins, Zheka always acted older. I didn’t complain. I didn’t want to be older. All that crap was gonna happen anyway, all by itself — the fuck’s the point of running ahead of the train, like our dad always said. Dad, by the way, saw Zheka as higher up the totem pole, too, and talked about house stuff with him all the time, no problem.

“What if this fuckhead really does waste Igorich?” asked Tokha.

“He doesn’t have the balls. He’ll just graduate first, then start talking shit about Trefilov.”

That sounded about right, too — Fedka was just barely hanging on in school, and mostly thanks to Sergei Igorich. Proshin had a lot of talent in sports and wrestling. He brought up our stats in all the competitions, and because of the good results, the school got extra money from the govern ...

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