Anatoly Aleksin: Crazy Evdokia


“Ex-best friends are the worst enemies, they say,” Olya told us once. “And I have the proof.” She stopped for a moment, then went on, “You want to know who it is? Lucie!”
She called Lusya Katunina Lucie, the French way. “Like in the house of the Rostovs,” she would explain. “Or the Bolkonskys.”
Lusya aggressively predicted for our daughter the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Ignoring Olya’s many fierce protests, Lusya carried her huge sketch folders - she even mixed colors and rinsed brushes for Olya. What woman would withstand such admiration? Olya befriended Lucie, though having very little time for this friendship.
Actually, Lusya didn’t have much time, either. Lusya’s mother had been bed-ridden for years. Lusya’s single aunt, her father’s sister, took care of the poor woman. But Lusya always called home – whether she was at school or at our house visiting.
Trying to make her mother happy, she would exclaim, “If only you could see the sleeping lion Olya made! I am whispering the entire evening, scared to wake him up!”
Very often she took Olya’s works home to show her mother. She made Olya promise that the moment her mother finally got up (and there was hope for that), Olya would paint her portrait.
Lusya made some attempts to take up drawing, too. The only of her masterpieces that we saw was her work in the school humor magazine, which per Olya’s suggestion, was entitled “Jibber-jabber.”
Suddenly everything changed.
The first cloud emerged when the art school arranged a conference with a renowned artist. Lusya highly appreciated the works of the aforementioned artist, but unfortunately, everyone else appreciated him no less, so the lecture hall was packed. Olya couldn’t get a pass for her friend, and Lusya didn’t get in.
“I couldn’t find a place for Lusya in the auditorium,” Olya shared with us the evening after the conference, “the watchdogs were blocking the doors. And she got mad… Why? This academician paints a lot better than he talks. I told her, ‘If you know his works, that means, you know him. The artist is his art.’”
“What did she say?” Nadya asked.
“She gave me back my folder: as they say, ‘Take your stuff back!’”
“And then?”
“Well, then – merci, ma chere Lucie!” Olya rhymed a bitter joke.
“Friends are a lot easier lost than found,” Nadya said.
“If she can be lost – that means she’s not much of a friend!”
“Didn’t find room for her at a conference?” Nadya said thoughtfully. “If you hadn’t found it in your heart… But it was in our family that she confined her darkest secret!”
At that time Lusya found out, that her father had long been in love with another woman.
“We have to be nicer to her now,” Nadya said. 
“A typical story,” Olya said bitterly.
“But each person suffers it like the first one to ever experience it.”
“I suggested talking to her father. She said no, ‘I don’t blame him’, she says. It’s logical… We don’t blame Anna Karenina, either. Well, of course, Karenin wasn’t handicapped. Everything is way too complicated. Go figure!”

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