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Further adventures within one day in the life of Ivan and Denis

In which our two Heroes take a break from saving their city and the world in general to discuss complementary evolution and the racism of birds.

By Roderick MakimPublished 4 months ago 10 min read
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Further adventures within one day in the life of Ivan and Denis
Photo by Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Introduction

The canal was an ugly concrete gash through the guts of the city. Thin brown water frothed by unhealthily on a warm day in late spring, carrying the dead smells of trash and urine and shit along with it.

Either side, ugly concrete buildings covered in fluorescent, delinquent scrawl gave way to the steep grey walls of the canal, which dropped down further at a sharp angle, similarly defaced.

The base of the canal was covered in large concrete hexagonal blocks, pockmarked with age and disrepair and sloping further down to the water as it frothed by. Some of the hexagons were missing, and overgrown undergrowth burst through the gaps in great green blotches, spring’s attempt to beautify the industrial grey. A nameless, doomed tree struggled valiantly to grow in one of the gaps, pushing up in a stunted effort to reach the clean air high above the city.

It barely reached the bridge. A narrow, concrete footbridge crossed over this particular part of the canal and it too had gaps where chunks of cheap cement had simply fallen out, leaving nothing but air and a couple of thin, rusted metal rods between the hurrying steps of the pedestrians and the brown water below. Ankle-breakers, they were called, but none of the people this morning paid much attention to them.

It was Monday and everyone was rushing to get to work. They flooded over the footbridge, stepping around and over the gaps automatically with heads, mouths and spirits all pointed downwards.

One of them was a young woman with short black hair and the frown of someone heading towards a day of dealing with other people’s problems. The ugliness of the scene around her matched Hanna's mood perfectly. Vlad wanted the files from the Gazprom deal on his desk by 11 that morning, before his meeting with the bank that afternoon. Unfortunately all the work she had done last week getting the files ready had been undone by Vlad the Entirely Useless in an unfortunate shredding incident on Friday afternoon. What sort of moron mistakes a memorandum of understanding with one client for a dodgy contract with another and shreds the wrong damn one?

As Hanna pondered this question, the sound of laughter rose up from the canal beneath her feet. Peering down over the side of the bridge, she spotted two homeless men, shabby and grey like their surroundings. Their faces were grizzled and addled with alcohol and they could have been 40 or 60 – but they were happy. They smiled as they spoke and joked and laughed and passed a large bottle of cheap, dark brown beer between them.

She wanted to be annoyed at the two old drunks, but after a moment found that she couldn’t be. At least someone was having a good time this morning. She waved at them as they looked up, and the two old drunks waved happily back. Noticing something else appoaching them unseen, Hanna then tried to draw their attention towards the oncoming danger. Two angry grey geese were bustling their way down the bank of the canal towards them. Unfortunately, the two old drunks mistook her pointing for even more vigorous waving, and so waved even more vigorously back. Hanna shrugged. She had tried, and now she had to get to work. She continued on her way, brushing past a tourist rude enough to stop walking on the bridge, with a quick frown at him for getting in her way. The tourist was scribbling something down on a notepad.

Beneath her clicking heels the conversation had turned to the comparative merits of Bulgarian carpets versus Turkish ones – something that seemed as out of place as laughter in that ugly concrete gash which ran through the guts of the city.

___

That’s one way to describe it.

___

Reintroduction

The Heroes were to be found in Paradise.

Where else should you expect to find them?

They were sitting in the shade of the Tree of Eternal Spring on a beautiful day. The sun was warm, the grass was soft, the shade was cool and the River of Babylon ran swift and cold – perfect for keeping their beer chilled.

The Heroes were old and grey and ragged, as veterans of a thousand adventures should be, but their eyes still gleamed with the promise of a thousand more.

They joked and laughed and spun stories of mighty deeds while the rest of the folk of their fair city went about their daily lives, unaware just how much they owed to the two Heroes.

Ivan and Denis (for those were their names) did not mind. It was another perfect day in Paradise and they were enjoying the spoils of battle – passing a bottle of good, strong, dark beer back and forth between them while a second cooled in the running river.

What else should they be doing?

An angel passed over their heads and waved down at them. Ivan and Denis waved happily back. She waved again, more vigorously, and Ivan and Denis waved more vigorously back. The angel moved on above them, so the two Heroes went back to their conversation on the merits of Bulgarian carpets versus Turkish ones.

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The Invasion of Grey Geese

“The reason you have to go Bulgarian – if of course you have the option, Ivan – is their mystical properties.”

“Mystical properties, Denis? Mystical properties? Turkish carpets can damn-well fly! How does any Bulgarian mysticism compete with that? Do the rugs have self-cleaning charms woven into them? Can you pick it up and wear it like an invisibility cloak? Actually, even if Bulgarian carpets could do both these things, it still doesn’t beat flying. I’m sorry, my friend, but I think you have the wrong end of the stick on this one.”

“Not at all, Ivan. Not at all. And please, don’t think for a moment that I’m dismissing the value of a flying carpet. You know there are at least 17 occasions in my mind at this very moment where such a rug would have helped us enormously in our adventures. When we saved the Mayor from little green assasins just last week, for starters. And what about last month, and the incident with the dragon? Let me ask you this though – does the ability to fly trump the ability to know the future?” Denis responded calmly, aware already that he had his friend intrigued.

Ivan began to answer then stopped mid-word, taken aback by this new information. He gave it some thought, then responded carefully.

“Can’t say that I’ve heard this theory, Denis, but I’ll admit that I’m intrigued. Before we get there, however, I cannot let that comment about the incident with the dragon pass. Please, we were barely involved. If I recall correctly (and I do recall correctly), you spent the majority of that incident hiding under a piece of tin. I don't believe you ever even saw the dragon. Still though, pass me that beer and tell me how Bulgarian carpets allow one to glimpse into the future.”

“It’s all in the patterns…here you go…all in the patterns," Denis said, handing over the beer. "The very best of them are woven in strict accordance with the signs from the stars and the natural world. As you know, soothsayers were reading these signs for thousands of years, and the secret of good Bulgarian rug weaving is the secret of soothsaying. Learn how to read the patterns in Bulgarian carpets, and you learn how to see into the future.”

Ivan gave this information a moment of careful consideration, then shook his head.

“Nice theory, but I’m afraid I don’t buy it. I’d still prefer a flying carpet – at least you’d know pretty swiftly whether or not you’ve been sold a dud. How long might you be waiting for proof your Bulgarian floor cover knew a damn thing about the future? A man might go mad, trying to decipher patterns in stitching. I’ve never had much faith in fortune tellers, Denis. If they could really see the future, why isn’t the world run by soothsayers?”

“Who’s to say it isn’t, Ivan? Who’s to say it isn’t?”

Ivan gave this a further moment of careful consideration. Ivan believed a serious man should give most things in life careful consideration, and was careful to always do so, if at all possible.

His moment of consideration was broken however, by Denis' exclamation about oncoming danger.

"Look out, Ivan, there are two of those damn geese coming to attack us again!"

And indeed, bustling down the bank of the canal, two grey geese approached, hissing and flapping their wings.

"Do you suppose they think we stole their golden eggs?" asked Denis. "There must be some reason they are always so angry at us."

"I think they are just angry birds, geese." Ivan replied. "And these ones are angrier than normal. I swear, Denis, geese used to be white, when I was a boy. When did geese become grey?"

"Since Canada," Denis declared enigmatically.

Ivan gave this a moment of careful consideration.

"I'm afraid that answer makes no sense, Denis. No sense at all. You might even call it nonsense."

Denis looked hurt.

"You know I have always taken a keen interest in ornithology, Ivan."

"Yes, but the thing about ornithology, Denis, and you might say the important thing about ornithology, is that ornithology is not geography. Two entirely separate areas of study, they are. So unless further context is swiftly forthcoming, I'm afraid 'since Canada' remains a nonsense response to my question about grey geese."

"Oh, context," Denis huffed dismissively. "You're always going on about context. Context is for office workers explaining themselves to a manager. Oh, very well. Canada is where these grey geese originated, Ivan. And in Canada they have bears and wolves and hockey players and all manner of dangerous beasts. So the grey geese of Canada had to become even more angry and aggressive than European white geese in order to survive such a place."

"Ah. Complementary evolution of specific traits across a variety of species as a result of their particular environment," Ivan nodded.

"The very thing," Denis agreed.

"So how did angry Canadian geese end up here?"

"I forget, but I think it had something to do with British imperialism," Denis replied. "They started showing up in Britain, then took over France. Soon there were grey geese popping up all over Europe, and because they were used to dealing with bears and wolves and the like, the local geese were no match for them. Ran them all right out of town. Finally they ended up here. And all that aside, Ivan, I would hope you weren't suggesting there was anything wrong with grey geese, vis a vis white geese. People might get the wrong idea. They might try to draw some racial parallels or something."

Ivan gave his old friend a long, long look.

"Denis, my old friend, what a terrible thing to say. Is this because you're annoyed I asked you for context? Anyway, as an ornithologist, you should know that there is no species on earth more racist than birds. They mark out their territory and god help any other type of bird who tries to live there. There's no live-and-let-live, let's-all-get-along-together between different types of birds, Denis. Look at these geese, for example."

Ivan and Denis looked at the geese.

The geese, unused to people completely ignoring their attempts at intimidation, had given up on their charging and hissing and flapping, and were milling around the water's edge, looking for food.

"Let's give them some food, Ivan."

Ivan grumbled about saving food for those who needed it most (namely Ivan and Denis), then found half a crust of stale bread in one of his pockets and threw it to the geese.

Later, as the geese settled down in the shade of the tree, occasionally honking at him to give them more bread, Ivan had an interesting thought.

"Denis," he said, "I just had an interesting thought."

"Go on."

"Well, what if we keep giving these geese bread, and they follow us around? Might be handy to have a couple of attack-geese on hand, ready to defend us when we're up against it."

"A fine idea, Ivan. Give them some more food."

"And then, we should go out and find our new adventure for the day. We can't sit by the River of Babylon talking about ornithology and geography and complementary versus divergent evolution all day. Maybe we should go to October Square and catch the vanishing pickpocket. I bet the geese would come in handy there. Or we could go to the park and look around for clues in the case of the rich vampire who preys on the homeless."

"We really do need to crack that case soon, Ivan. The City is depending on us. Alright, to the park it is. The vanishing pickpocket can wait. Before we go, however, we need to talk about assumptions in an investigation. We know it's a vampire, but how do we know it's a rich vampire?"

"Oh come now, Denis. Whoever heard of a poor vampire? If you've been alive for hundreds of years and you haven't managed to work out a way of stealing at least a couple of fortunes from the world, you may as well just eat a bulb of garlic and step out into the morning sun. Really, Denis. A poor vampire, indeed."

"Right you are, Ivan."

"Right I am, Denis."

And the two Heroes swept to their feet, rising majestically from their resting place under the shade of the Tree of Eternal Spring, by the banks of the River of Babylon, ready to defend their beloved City from evil. And their two new attack-geese followed them.

__

That's certainly a better way to say the two homeless old drunks stumbled to their feet and scrambled up the banks of the ugly concrete gash running through the guts of the city, before making their way to the park to beg for change, isn't it?

Life is all in the delivery.

__

Author's note:

This was originally going to be for Mackenzie Davis' "Ekphrastic Challenge" where I was given the task of writing a story about a photo of two Canadian geese, hissing and honking at something off-camera.

Unfortunately, the challenge was to write something very short, and I just didn't feel like writing something very short. A couple of old characters of mine from my travels around Eastern Europe a few years back kept coming to mind and the story became their encounter with the geese. Sort of.

Anyway, it can't be part of the challenge, but it can still be published for people to read. So here it is.

HumorFantasyAdventure
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About the Creator

Roderick Makim

Read one too many adventure stories as a child and decided I'd make that my life.

I grew up on a cattle station in the Australian Outback and decided to spend the rest of my life seeing the rest of the world.

For more: www.roderickmakim.com

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  • Mackenzie Davis3 months ago

    I am appalled I missed this, Roderick, and my apologies. But I absolutely adore this story. Your skill for dialogue is impeccable! Plus, you clearly had a blast writing it. The humor, first and foremost...I was laughing all the way through part 3! Too many lines to quote! I loved the ornithology vs geography bit, the entire debate about Canada and their geese, and then just the absurdism of the fantastical happenings around them, the vampire, the vanishing pickpocket, flying carpets, dragons, etc etc. This is a brilliant story!!! One of my favorites ever (not exaggerating). Thank you for letting me know this existed. I enjoyed every word. 💜

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