Ushanka

(A story involving rhetorics with the keywords: Russia, coffee cup, confusion, small child, car)

Janosh’s father, Pjotr, arrived on the 1:30 p.m. flight from Russia. The plane landed on time and it didn’t take long before Pjotr appeared through the gates. The old man wore his ushanka-hat and a thick, woolen coat as if he was about to catch a connecting flight to the south pole. A broad grin appeared on the wrinkled face as soon as he saw Janosh. They hugged and kissed in Russian fashion.

“How was your flight?” Janosh asked as he took his father’s suitcase from him.

“Not bad, not bad. Long, but okay,” Pjotr answered. He had studied English for a whole year before coming over to visit his son in Australia. He was proud to show off how much he had learned.

“That’s good to hear. Your English isn’t bad, Dad. Say, do you want to have a cup of coffee before we go?”

“Okay, I would love a coffee cup,” his father said. He loved the sound of English words, especially the word ‘okay.’

After they had ordered their coffees and sat down at the coffee shop in the arrivals hall, Janosh looked at his father’s hat and shook his head.

“Why do you always wear that ridiculous thing? It’s forty degrees outside.”

Pjotr looked up, took his hat off, and inspected it.

“Because it’s Russian,” he said and put it back on.

They chatted about the family at home and about Janosh’s work in the outback mines. There was so much to catch up on.

At some point, a small child ran up to them, following a stray ball his sister had thrown. The ball stopped at the feet of the two men having their coffees. The boy picked up the ball and his eyes locked on Pjotr’s ushanka.

“Why are you wearing a fur hat? Mum, this man is wearing a fur hat because he thinks it’s cold inside!” The boy had run off already, telling his family about the strange man he’d just met.

“See, even the children think it’s stupid to wear a hat like that,” Janosh said. He was embarrassed by his father’s outfit.

“You may not like it, but I do.” Pjotr wasn’t going to let his son make him renounce his Russian heritage, no matter how much he liked Australia.

When they finished their coffees, Janosh stood up.

“Let’s go, Dad. Do you wanna see where I live?”

Pjotr also rose and took off his coat. He slung it over his arm as he followed Janosh toward the exit.

“Okay. I do. Is it a nice place?” he asked.

“Yes, it has a verandah all around, a pool in the backyard, and has three bedrooms. You’ll have your own room to sleep in.”

Pjotr looked at his son. He had done well coming to Australia. His way of living had improved so much from living with his father in the cramped, dark apartment in Moscow.

“A pool…” Pjotr wasn’t quite sure what to imagine. Banyas in Russia were commonplaces, usually combined with saunas. And then there were Olympic sized pools. Only really rich people owned private pools. Surely, his son didn’t get that rich by working in a mine for a year?

The sliding doors to the car park opened and they stepped out into a wall of heat.

“How hot is this weather?” Janosh said.

Pjotr looked confused at his son.

“You said it was forty degrees when we had our coffee cup,” he said.

Janosh laughed.

“It wasn’t a question, Dad.”

Pjotr didn’t understand. He thought he had mastered the English language quite well and it sure sounded like a question to him.

“Will I ever understand this language?”

As his son didn’t bother to explain his comment and had walked on, dragging the suitcase behind him, Pjotr hitched up his shoulders and followed Janosh to the car, still wearing his ushanka.

 

Copyrighted (c) by Jacky Dahlhaus

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