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    James K
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

An Awkward Revolutionary - 8. Chapter VIII

Spiridon Alexeev Egorov lived in a large timber building that resembled a warehouse, next door was another similar building, but one which was in a state of dereliction. Wooden constructs were prone to catch fire and from the charred remains that would appear to be what happened. Fires in provincial towns were not uncommon, but this one had somehow not spread to Spiridon's premises.

Yulian pushed the door open, Daniil and Aleksander followed him inside to the dimly lit but rather huge open space. The floor was covered with sawdust and there were rough wooden benches scattered along the walls on two sides. In the middle was a square formed from hay bales.

"Who do we have here?" A voice boomed out from a platform at the end of the hall.

"It's Yulian!" Yulian shouted. "I have some friends with me."

"Yulian! Come on up." The voice moved in their direction.

The three of them reached the end of the hall and climbed what was more of a ladder than stairs, one behind the other. At the top, standing in front of them was a large rotund fellow, dressed in a tartan waistcoat and dark brown jacket. He had a thick curling moustache and bushy sideburns, and looked to be somewhere between forty and fifty years old, nearer to fifty, Aleksander thought.

"Come and have a drink with me. You are early," Spiridon said.

They moved across the platform to take seats at a long solid wood table. As they took their places a young lad of about fourteen or fifteen approached carrying a tray, with glasses and a bottle. He set down the tray and glasses, took the bottle and filled each glass.

"Welcome to the Sportivnyy Zal."

Spiridon raised his glass and the others did the same. They drank the vodka in one go, Spiridon banging his empty glass down on the table. The young lad immediately refilled their glasses.

"Let me introduce my friends," Yulian said. "This is Aleksander Nikolaev" he indicated Aleksander with a turn of his head, "and his companion, Daniil Vinogradov, from Saint Petersburg." Yulian spread his arm out towards Daniil who was sitting the other side of Aleksander.

"To your friends!"

Spiridon raised his glass a second time and they all did likewise. At this rate, Aleksander thought, he would soon be under the table and not sitting at it. Their glasses were again refilled.

Appraising the situation and probably knowing their host's drinking habit, Yulian spoke up, "Perhaps we could order something to eat as we are here early? If it is no trouble."

"Of course, of course. Boy, get some food, my guests are hungry."

The lad disappeared quickly and they all downed a third shot of vodka before Yulian managed to engage their host in conversation.

"My friends are only in town a short while and I told them they could not leave without visiting the famous Sportivnyy Zal and witnessing the competition."

Aleksander knew nothing of what Yulian was talking about, so he sat, smiled, and listened. Spiridon was obviously delighted to talk about himself, the Sportivnyy Zal, and wrestling. This occupied them until the food arrived, and Aleksander learned the entertainment was a wrestling contest which would happen tonight. The meal was accompanied with tea and Aleksander's light head was assuaged by both.

"So what do you young gentlemen do that brings you to Mamovsk?" Spiridon asked.

"I don't do anything for the present. I have just finished university and came home to visit my father," Aleksander explained.

"Your father lives here in Mamovsk?"

"No. We were invited to visit a relative here, but my father and uncle could not, so I came."

"Would I know this relative? He has a house here?"

"It is Viktor Frolov, the privy councillor."

"Ah! Splendid."

Spiridon replied as if it was of little consequence, giving the impression he had asked out of simple politeness, but Aleksander detected a certain mistrust.

"And you Monsieur Vinogradov? How do you occupy yourself?" Spiridon asked, amiably.

Daniil looked across at the old gentleman and said vaguely, "My interests lie in the arts."

"And sport?" Spiridon gestured with his head to the arena.

"I must be perfectly honest with you," Daniil replied, "I did not know we were invited to a wrestling competition, but my interest is indeed peeked. In my pursuit of an equilibrium I have become somewhat the searcher after perfection in the human situation."

"Perfection in the human situation," Spiridon repeated. "You sound like a revolutionary or else an admirator of form. Which is it I wonder?"

"Both," replied Daniil, which greatly surprised Aleksander, but made Yulian laugh.

"You are a dangerous gentleman," Spiridon smiled. "I detect you have a free will that knows no bounds. Well, you must let me know more of your thoughts after this evening. For now, if you will excuse me, I have preparations to attend to."

Spiridon rose from the table. "Ask the boy if you need anything. We will talk again later."


 

Later in the evening they took their place around the arena defined by the bales of straw. There was a small crowd of spectators, all gentlemen, all well dressed, and amongst them Aleksander spotted Viktor. He gave him a sign, which seemed to annoy Daniil, who frowned.

"It would appear you know all the best places in Mamovsk," Viktor Frolov grinned, as he joined them.

"We have a guide," Aleksander said. "Allow me to introduce Yulian Gusev."

Yulian gave a nod of the head. "Privy Councillor," he chuckled.

"We are already acquainted," Viktor told Aleksander.

At that moment a drum roll sounded, their attention shifted to the two rows of competitors who marched towards the arena. In all, there were six wrestlers of different builds and varying ages, but all were youths. What struck Aleksander most, was they each wore nothing more than a linen cloth wrapped around their waist and looped through their legs from back to front. Yulian explained how from the first matches the wrestlers gained a point each win as they battled not every opponent, but two randomly drawn. This would eliminate two competitors and the four remaining would be paired in the semi-final. Aleksander knew of this Greco-Roman wrestling, but had never witnessed it. The closest he had come was a sketch by Daniil who had explained he had seen a competition and persuaded the winner to pose with the runner-up.

Aleksander watched fascinated as the first bout commenced. The one lad was shorter and younger, the other more stocky, they seemed ill matched and the winner evident. However, the art is in agility, feints, and surprise, which was proved when the younger wrestler threw the bigger youth to the ground and pinned him down, all in one swift unforeseen move.

As the matches succeeded one another, Aleksander became totally immersed in the competition, which did not go unnoticed by his companions. The tangled struggling bodies of various shapes, all youthful and toned, was a picture which engulfed him, although he gave no thought to why this would be so. The eventual winner was one of the older youths, a slim, muscular, dark haired young man with deep eyes and a tanned skin.

"I would make a bet you would love to practice some sketches with him," Yulian grinned at Daniil, who scowled.

It was obvious to Aleksander how uncomfortable Daniil was with the almost crude innuendo. Viktor only added to the fire brewing inside Daniil by commenting condescendingly, "Any one of them would get buggered for a few kopeks."

"I think, any one of them," Daniil said, forcefully, "would be worth more than a few kopeks!"

Viktor ignored the rebuttal, but did not look pleased. He excused himself, saying he had another engagement.

"You too, should be rather less frequent with your crass insinuations," Daniil addressed Yulian. "It gets ever so tiresome, you know. One should praise beauty and have respect for art and free thinking."

Yulian looked suitably admonished. "I'm sorry, I had no wish to give offence."

"None taken," Daniil said, brightening up.

"I know your are genuine in your feelings and beliefs. All the same it is not wise to be offhand with our friend's cousin," Yulian added.

All three turned on hearing Spiridon's voice. "Excuse me, but I could not help overhearing. Everyone in this town, apart from a few, are so petty, which is what makes it terrible. I used to spend winters in Moscow, but now my spouse, Madame Egorov, lives in the apartment. I'm thinking of travelling aboard. Last year I was all ready to go."

"To Paris, I presume," said Daniil.

"Paris or Heiligendamm. The Baltic coast is deserted at this time of the year, but I find the salt air envigorating."

Daniil could not imagine Spiridon Alexeev Egorov strolling along a deserted promenade swept by icy winds off the Baltic sea.

"I think I would prefer Paris," he said, knowing he definitely would.

"Ah, but Savin Vlasov is in Heiligendamm. Do you know him?"

"No, I am afraid I do not."

"Well, he invited me. We could spend a week together, men only. He was sending his wife away somewhere. A cure I think."

Spiridon began rolling a cigarette between his yellow fingers, stained by the tobacco. He licked it, set it alight, and drew in the smoke, before blowing it across the room. The boy came in carrying a tray with a bottle and glasses on it. He set it down on the table.

"Yulian, uncork that bottle, it's your speciality, is it not?"

Yulian gave a shrill laugh and set about the task, pouring them each a glass.

"There is something enticing about your wrestlers," Daniil said after a second bottle was brought, and his third glass.

"Indeed," replied Spiridon, "and they would happily oblige a revolutionary like yourself."

"A revolutionary! Not I." Daniil put his glass down on the table with a thud. "But all this talk and drink has my pitzel ready for action."

"You won't be up to anything with them," said Yulian. "It's best Aleksander takes you home."

"Oh, just fetch me one and we will see." Daniil stumbled to his feet.

Spiridon called his servant and whispered to the boy.

"Aleksander, help your companion to bed. I have had a room prepared for you. And to keep him happy..." Spiridon looked at Daniil, "Anton will join you."

"Anton?" Aleksander asked, as he pulled Daniil's arm over his shoulder and began to leave.

"A young wrestler," Spiridon smiled.

"An absolute charmer," Yulian smirked.

"We've reached the last drop," Daniil said, taking his arm back from Aleksander and sitting back down.

"Of what?" asked Spiridon.

"Champagne, not your blood." Daniil laughed loudly.

"I despise it when people cannot allow free thinking," Spiridon continued. "There is room enough for everyone and all tastes."

"And why no talk of love," said Daniil. "Love and revolution."

"I think we will bid goodnight gentleman."

Aleksander heaved Daniil onto his feet once again, and with the help of Spiridon's servant, between them, they carried him to the bedroom. Daniil made no objection this time as they pulled him along, entered the room, and threw him on the thick mattress.

"Would you like me to help undress him?"

Aleksander looked up at the youth. "I don't even know your name?"

"Misha, Misha Kuzmin, sir," the boy said, avoiding Aleksander's stare.

There was a knock on the still half open bedroom door. Misha walked across and opened the door, standing back.

"Anton Sorokin," the figure standing there introduced himself. "Monsieur Egorov told me you wished for company."

Aleksander was flustered. He had his friend drunk on the bed and two young lads standing looking at him waiting. He felt the colour rush to his cheeks. He was for all purposes the only one able to make a decision and say something.

He took a deep breath. "Thank you for coming," he stood up addressing Anton. He reached into his pocket and fingered the coins he had on him. He handed a ruble to Anton, who looked at the coin.

"I cannot accept this," he held out his hand. "I have done nothing to earn it."

"I think I can sort this out," pipped in Misha.

He closed the door and walked with Anton across the room to where there was a second bed, identical to the first. Misha put his arm around Anton's shoulder. "This lad is my hero. Will you join us?" His eyes appeared to plead with Aleksander.

"Won't your master need you?" Aleksander looked at Misha.

He could feel his heart thudding in his chest. He felt the two boys must be able to hear his heart beating. Misha shook his head. Aleksander threw a blanket over Daniil, then walked over to join Misha and Anton. His nervousness faded as the three drew close to each other.

Copyright © 2021 James K; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Oh my...what will the morning bring??

Daniil has the overconfidence and classic immaturity of youth!!

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