Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Russian Fan Club

The guy didn't look like any plumber I'd ever met. Stylish tee shirt, pressed slacks, gold chain on his neck as big as a Cartier window display, a fist-sized diamond on his pinkie, he smelled like an ad for Bergdorf for Men!

The gentle giant moved with grace and spoke with such a heavy accent I had to concentrate hard.

After he finished the work in my shower, he glided on his buttery-soft loafers into the hall and studied the book-cover posters I'd taped on the walls. For a launch party in honor of Bob Knightly's debut novel, I'd made photo-copies of the cover and stuck them on the walls and never taken them down.

Bodies in Winter by Robert Knightly.

The plumber, whose name was Boris, told me he was an emigre from Russia and lived now in Little Odessa (Brighton Beach) with what sounded like half the population of the Motherland, all of whom were his close kin.

After close scrutiny of one poster his face lit up. "Ha! Miss Sllubtaw - (Straw does not translate well in Cyrillic) your very fine president! We love Mr. Kennedy. Most great man, yes?"

Plumbers' fees being what they are in New York City, I did not argue, question or correct him.

I quickly realized he saw the capital K and his mind read the familiar K-word to him - Kennedy not Knightly!

"Uh, no, this is a picture of a book by my friend Mr. Knightly," I stammered, trying to steer him toward the front door.

But he stood his ground and waved his arm toward the wall. "Ah, yes, Kennedy – your friend?"

Clearly we were on different mind-tracks.

"Your friend, Robert Kennedy!" he exclaimed, with devotion all over his wide smile.

"You worship the Kennedys in your house," he said, glaring at me with a beatific smile.

"No, my friend's name is Robert. But his last name is Knightly, not Kennedy," I repeated, trying to dig in my memory what you called names in correct Russian grammar.

"Oh, we are being kindred souls," he said, sounding like a Russian orthodox priest pronouncing a benediction, "My family is liking your President Kennedy and his family. My wife she have pictures on house wall of man. We live in Kennedy country now. We are leaving our country many months to live your American dream, now."

I pulled out my purse and fished for my wallet.

He touched my hand gently.

"No charge," he said proudly. "All in the Kennedy family!"

Out of my dim past I found the word. "Spacibo," I said quietly.

How do you follow that act?

Thelma J. Straw


  1. T, spacibo to you, too. This is marvelous! And so completely New York.

  2. I LOVE this city tale!!! Too many characters and not enough time to write about them all!!! So glad you got this fine fellow written down!!!