Kids. There's an awful lot of things kids do not know. Like why the skye is blue, how far such and such stars are, like all the digits in Pi or how to spell or pronounce words in Latin. Yet. Yet they know when fruit is ripe, what song to hum at midday, when to pet a dog's head, and, most importantly, they know when one is in love. This does not necessary mean when them kids are in love, but when anyone is in love.
Janek was a wee kid of nine. He spent most of his mornings at school, mostly paying attention, but mostly not, wandering off in his head, walking by the river to collect round stones that would later be thrown in the pond, making ripples in the water. At times he pictured himself running in wheat fields along with Kuba, his lowland sheepdog, scaring birds off, shouting and barking of joy. Sometimes he was dreaded Long John Silver, at least in playtime, assaulting the fort his friends had built to protect the west coast of England. Of course, only in his head for school occupied most of his morning. He did not enjoy it much since, he believed, his teacher was the closest thing to a dragon this good Earth would have: the man had the worst temper to imagine, unable to think outside his doctrine, and wary of the kids imaginative replies whenever they felt they needed a chuckle. So Janek sometimes felt tempted to tell his father to take him along to the fields as an extra hand and teach him all he needed to in time properly own himself a farm. Then. Then there was Marika. Marika with her cascading shiny dark brown hair and her pearly smile and her peppered freckles. Marika, who sat next to Agnieszka and giggled about who knows. Marika. As obvious as the color of the sun, he was in love. Hence school became bearable for him. He meant to say they should play together in the afternoon. They should together storm the west coast of England. They should both hide from Kuba, to then pop up elsewhere to scare him or to confuse him as to he would not know where in heavens they were. They could lie next to the other in the grass. She may hold his hand. She may give him a kiss.
He dared not tell her to come along and play together.
The class was so boring. The teacher could not stop talking about math, numbers, additions and subtractions, why such and such makes such else, why one minus nothing was still one, if math mattered regardless what one did for a living and the sort. An awful sort. Someone over the corner scratched his head and someone by the window dozed off quietly. But, something unexpected was to happen. Not the unexpected Janek sometimes wished would happen, like a lightning bolt hitting the roof of the school for the classes to be suspended, or the sighting of a whale which would have everyone run out and the class would be over, at least for the day. So, no, the unexpected about to happen was something more subtle, something that rather than ending things, would make them pleasant.
After the usual babbling, babbling at least to Janek, of mathematics the teacher announced there was a special guest for the history lesson: Mr Adamczyk's daughter, Ada. She herself was teacher, though she did so at high school level, and did so in Warsaw. She sometimes reprimanded her father for being so tough on the kids, though her upbringing sunk in books and why culture mattered and why culture should not be an option, all bridled by her father, came out alright. There fore, she at times gave her dad the benefit of the doubt, not without reminding him of how fast times were changing, and that someday he might have to go soft on the children.
Ada, Mr Adamczyk announced, was there to talk about something he called the best example of how history is sometimes fictionalised so one may not really know what has happened, how one can have difficulty discerning whether what the narrator has chosen to spread as truth is such a truth: the siege of Troy. The kids had read about the importance of The Iliad as a classic, of its relevance in western literature, and of how blind Homer had been. However, they had never actually read it as to the only copy the school had had been stolen by little Anastazy Dubicki as a present for his grandfather the Christmas before. When little Anastazy was inquired about the whereabouts of the book, he tearfully replied his granddad had not made it past the winter, and as the last present he was given by his beloved grandson, the book had been buried with him. No one desired to exhume someone for an old, rotten classic, so the case was dropped and the school was just another book short.
At the sight of Ada, most of the boys smiled. Her cascading blond hair reflecting sunlight, her smirking peach coloured lips wielding trust and confidence, her pearly milk skin contrasting her navy blue jumper and her auburn red cardigan. Even the girls felt enchanted by her grace. Not Janek. Years later, when told about his school time in Warsaw, when she ran into Ada in high school, he repeatedly said there were no eyes for other than little Marika.
Ada asked the class if they knew how it all had begun, why Agamemnon had come to siege Troy. Helena, someone at the back shouted. Ada grinned and asked if they knew how Helena had foregone all the power and wealth Agamemnon for Paris and his beauty. No one replied. So then she told them about Hera, Athena, Aphrodite and that apple, that apple and that dreaded decision Zeus wanted not to know about. Hence he chose Paris to decide on the fairest of Olympus. Hence Paris chose Aphrodite and she was able to grant him what he desired most. Hence the war began. All for an apple. All discord sown by a simple apple.
An apple. Janek had seen some, but never had one. The price was too high for him, all he was able to afford with his weekly allowance was krówki and, if he saved enough, a ptasie mleczko. Not that he was interested in buying apples, you understand. However, Marika had the tiniest bit of curiosity to ask Ada why such a bicker for a piece of fruit. And her interest automatically awoke his. The apple had been a representation of virtue and mysticality, of forbiddenness, of love and, basically, of any other fruit. It bore such considerable sacredness to Aphrodite that to declare one's love one could simply throw an apple to that one's heart desired. Some of the kids laughed, even Mr Adamczyk chuckled a bit. Not Janek, for he now had a plan.
Now, I say a plan as to he kind of knew what he sort of wanted to do so Marika came and played with him. It is not that he planned on pitching an apple at her so she would discover his love for her. It was more like he just believed he simply needed an apple to let her know he sometimes dreamt of her, holding his hand, feeling the autumn breeze that swung the wheat and caressed their faces, while Kuba jumped around in circles, while the sun began its decend to bed and in turn dream too, perhaps of them, perhaps of holding hands with the moon in the wheat fields.
Where? Where in heavens would Janek get an apple?
That afternoon while having lunch with mother and his two little twin brothers, Janek thought of asking his mother if she could not only give him his coming Sunday allowance, but the ones for the following bunch of Sundays, like eight or nine. Of course he knew she would say he was crazy, that she did not have that kind of money, that she would never have that kind of money, not at least for the stupid amount of candies Janek was surely thinking of buying, and she would ultimately ask him why the hell he needed such money. His mother was not the swearing kind, especially the profanity one, yet she went over the top once in a while when she heard Janek's plans for so and so. Throwing an apple to the girl of his fancy did seem as that which would take her to using the name of the lord in an inappropriate manner. Then, a thought of what to do landed swiftly in his mind while he took a bite off his frytki.
Jan Alojzy Brzezicki, zwraca tutaj!
Janek ran down the trail to the town. He believed that if he did chores for Mr Dubicki the rest of the afternoon he might give him an apple as pay. Perhaps if he promised to do so all week long for Mr Dubicki in his market stand, perhaps then he could get that apple. Kuba ran along with him, faster down the slope, faster cause he would have more time and perhaps he could have that apple today, though Marika would have to wait till the following day. Would he dare give her the apple at school? In front of those all who heard the story? Did he mind their scorn and their laugh, their noises, their envy? What if Marika felt not the same? Was it all worth it for an I-love-you? For a kiss? Would he...
Then Janek heard a crackle and a voice.
He came off his way, dodging a log and a rock. So he saw Mr Dubicki on the ground, rubbing his ankle and trying to wipe blood off his nose. What he was doing there, so far from his stand in the market, Janek would not know since, well, it did not seem incumbent to his story. People years on would ask him if he did not believe the sudden apparition of Mr Dubicki felt forced and opportune in an otherwise fine story. Janek would only shrug and say life was like that, full of eccentricities and deux ex machinas.
Janek helped the gentleman onto his feet and to his place. Sure his mum would swear for her son's sudden rush to disappear, but she would not when she saw him help a stranger. Mrs Brzezicki bandaged Mr Dubicki's left ankle and stuck a bit of gauze up his nose to stop it from bleeding any longer. She also made him a hot beverage and had him lie in the old couch so they could wait for her husband to be back and take him downtown to see the doctor, and then see him home. Mr Dubicki appreciated all of their help, yet he wondered if his family by the stand would worry enough at his not having come back. Janek said he was going down the market eitherway, so he could mention it to them. Mr Dubicki smiled and pointed out that Jan had been such a lovely and helpful boy, taking him to his house and all, that he was willing to give him what he wanted. Janek's eyes lit of joy.
So little Jan Alojzy was walking back home. He walked so lightly, with Kuba by his side, that the distance between Marika's house and his felt like nothing. He actually enjoyed it for when he closed his eyes he felt as though there were red, blue, yellow, green and orange fireworks blooming in the sky. He had walked up to Marika's window and knocked on it three times. After not having a response, he simply left the apple and the brief note he had written at Mr Dubicki's stand on the window stool, and then made for home. All the anguish that had swarmed him on the way to Marika's place vanished. No more did he worry about her reaction, whether she would correspond his feelings, whether she would be interested in sitting by the stars while holding hands. All he could think of was how proud of himself he was, and how soft Kuba's fur was and how it moved in the autumn breeze.
By the way, the day after at school recess, Marika approached Janek and asked him if he would go on a picnic with him. Janek brought sandwiches and Marika soup and some krówkis. She gave him a kiss.