For as long as I can remember, I longed for a red chopper. A tiny airborne vehicle, fit
for one person; propeller, a short tail, quick to soar into the air, swiftly leaving behind
the memory of my being there.
Seated in class, on a wooden chair, my chest squeezed against the table – I was
dreaming up helicopters. A notebook filled with impressive statements like "mom will
come" or "dad is sad" - the letters smeared upwards, crossing the lines, making room
for swarming flocks of little red choppers. My teachers and mentors assumed this
fascination with aerodynamic objects will soon wear off, "a childish fantasy that will
disappear into grown ups mist". That didn't happen. My childhood whims never
disappeared and my red helicopter fantasy grew robust, like the memory of a favorite
dish, tickling the taste buds more easily as you grow older.
I was repeatedly begged to keep my school books a helicopter free zone, and
consented to make my air vessels smaller than my letters, so not to disrupt my writing
- but soon enough I came up with a chopper so minuscule, it was almost impossible to
detect. Studious as an ant, I scattered dozens of little red dots. Each dot was a perfect
My fine teachers never imagined that between "mum will come" and "dad is sad"
hovered at least twenty helicopters, the straight blue line stretching underneath them
like the horizon.
One Friday in November, on my 58th birthday, I bought myself a red chopper. There
was no one to share my big thrill. Not because I wanted to keep it to myself, but
because I didn't have any friend - Or rather none that could show any sympathy.
(If truth be told: having no one to share your odd childhood dreams means, you have
no friends at all).
Once in a blue moon, an accidental encounter draws two people together, and
surprised, they find themselves inseparable. Life has this peculiar way of joining two
strangers together, creating the illusion of a shared fate. They feel great warmth as if
finding a long lost sibling or a parent that has gone astray and for whom they have
longed their entire lives. These encounters are by nature very much like a promise,
drawing its power from knowing it will never be fulfilled.
From that day onwards, the music was constantly played throughout the cow sheds.
The girls would wiggle their plump buttocks to the rhythm, while enthusiastically
milking the cows. The cows would go out to the fields in the morning and by
lunchtime already began displaying some signs of homesickness, rushing back and
blocking the entrances, creating a traffic jam that took hours to unblock.
Baby Oleg, lay there in the cowshed, on a pile of hay, and would cry out loud only
during the silent intervals, when a record was changed.
Milk production might have been induced.
The Ostrovskies tended to agree: "Cows are the prettiest creatures, and milk is the
healthiest drink there is".
The five girls used to wake up happily very early in the morning, and eagerly start
milking even before having their breakfast. Papa Ostrovsky would go from one
cowshed to another, nursing the sick cows, caring for the calves, supplying them with
vitamins and operating the record player. Mama Ostrovsky, at the same time, would
shake her bottom rhythmically against the stove while preparing breakfast. After the
cows were sent to the fields, the Ostrovskies would meet in the kitchen and feast on a
huge meal, rich with dairy products.
Not long after he was born, Oleg was diagnosed as lactose intolerant. It was the third
omen, marking him as an outsider in the Ostrovsky family: Unlike the others he was
born in winter, unlike his siblings, he was a boy, and unlike everybody else, he hated
The little cell was flooded with pale light and a tender murmur filled the air. I hurried,
so not to allow myself any regrets, and pulled the handle that operated the engine. A
sharp whistle blew into the air and accompanied the turning of the propeller. The
bubble was shaking and tilting like a juice machine and the dashboard was submerged
in blue light. Start Elevation said the digital monitor. I held the joystick and pushed
the button. The tin object tenderly turned upwards, mumbling and moaning while
parting itself from the ground.
There is an unavoidable sense of destiny weaved into the realization of a childhood
fantasy. During my lifetime, all my dreams have, one by one, lost their meaning.
Their sweetness, so to say. All but this one. I wonder if I held on to my dream of
flying, kept it alive inside me in such vividness and detail, in order to remain sane.
Has my implausible alternative reality allowed me to survive?
Oleg loved my parents. "Little one, shall we go visit them?" he would frequently
suggest. One day he said: "It's your parent's anniversary. Let's bring them Primo
Lvey's book. The one about memory". We drove there and arrived after sunset. A
little light was on in the hallway. The rooms were filled with silence and the air thick
with the smell of cooking. We followed our noses to the kitchen. Empty, there was
no one there. The same was true of the living room and the bedroom. Oleg heard a
slight noise coming from the bathroom. We went there and found ourselves facing the
tub, a few petite candles lit on its banks. Inside, like two ducklings, dunked my
parents, an extremely surprised expression on their faces.
Oleg was first to recover. "Good evening madam and sir"' he said. "I am glad to have
caught you both together. In honor of your anniversary today, allow me to play you
this rare piece of music, I have written just for you".
My father and mother tried to immerse their exposed body parts into the water
without causing a flood. Oleg, noticing their embarrassment, continued, trying hard to
disguise the chuckle in his voice. "This piece is for piccolo and piccolo, and by a
remarkable coincidence I brought with me my piccolo".
Oleg took his piccolo swiftly out of his trousers' pocket and went on to take off his
cloths. My parents, understanding what was going to come about, were too
embarrassed to stand up naked and flee the scene, so they stayed in the water, barely
controlling their giggles. Oleg lifted one giant leg and pinkish nude as he were,
entered the tub, sitting between the two, holding the piccolo up in the air and letting
his giant legs peek over the rim. My mother covered her eyes laughing and Oleg said:
"The audience is kindly requested to relax and not to rock the boat, so we can start
playing". They stopped laughing, sitting quietly as if in a velvet upholstered concert
hall and Oleg began producing from his silvery metal pipe its heavenly sounds. When
he finished playing we were clapping excitedly. My parents forgot they were naked,
and only when noticing the expression on my face, sat there on the banks of the
bathtub, they declined to jump up and shout Bravo!
After getting dressed, we met in the kitchen and had a cod and fig stew, a horrible
dish - so we unanimously agreed - that my father invented for the occasion. Late that
night, we left them the Priom Lvey book and went home.
On the first page Oleg wrote:
"Thank you for being who you are
And not being who you are not"