Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flipping Chekov's "The Kiss"

The past year has sped by so fast! Goodness gracious. Wasn't it just yesterday I was unsure of what a Masters in Creative Writing would be like? It's been an exciting whirlwind. I got on the course determined to come out a bad ass fiction writer. It's hilarious thinking about it because we were warned that this would happen. At the induction meeting (where we were plied with loads and loads of wine) we were told that many of us change our areas of specialization by the time the year was over. They ain't never lied!

The Creative Writing MA in Swansea is sooo diverse and versatile. I am REALLY glad I came here. Unlike other Creative Writing MAs across the country, the Swansea programme makes sure you do Fiction AND poetry compulsorily. Of course I hated poetry then and I still (almost) hate it now.... but that's not what this post is about. It's about the fact that I did Writing For Radio, I crashed ALL the Writing For Stage classes. and I did Dramaturgy! (where I actually wrote a treatment for a play.) As in, I wrote a Nigerian adaptation for A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen (How bad ass is that? Well it is... lol if you like no gree.) Anyway, I did a lot of things I never thought I could. Ehn hen, I also found out that The Art of The Short Story is NOT beans. That course is almost harder than Long Fiction. There are loads and loads of techniques for writing Short Stories. Hehehe It has only made me a more critical editor. Lol I feel sorry for people who send in submissions for publication at my day job. Because, now I know what I'm looking for and I don't find it I'm just like...  nyeh nyeh nyeh! Oh did I mention I did Creative Non Fiction and Pyschogeography as well? Ignore that big name... psychogeography is just a fancy name for writing about your locale... something like travel writing but more like a place where you've very familiar with.

That is how I wrote a piece about Lagos in that class... one English man who has now relocated to Wales now started saying that he believes I romanticized my LAGOS!!! Imagine the audacity ke! IMAGINE!

LAGOS where I was born, bread, ( buttered in Ilorin) and then toasted and marinaded gbogbo e gbo egbo e? I was so livid. I asked him if he had ever been to Lagos. Guess what he said? Dude said he had friends who had been there. It felt like my head would explode! LIKEEEE!!!!!!! Don't ever argue Lagos with me... especially not when you're English.

Anyway, I digress, so today's post is about my version of Anton Chekov's classic story "The Kiss". Please if you like reading, look for it. It's a sheer work of genius. But it's Chekov we're talking about innit! Sha sha....we were asked to take a character from the original piece and write our own version of the story... using any of the techniques we had learned at that time. This was probably halfway through the term.

I decided to do it in form of a Frame. You know how they say overskill dey kill Ninjah. Ehn hen... that is me gan gan. If they give us assignment like this I will come up with one swaggerlicious idea/ plan and execution. When I now start writing and get halfway I will now be tired.

Lol Or I'll ask myself God who sent me message???? I always used to get mad props for my creativity sha but yinmu... I know that they always speak positively in this country. Even when you're flopping there'll be someone telling you oh you did 'breeely'nt'. Lol

Anyway, let me stop talking and paste the story below. Oh, my version of the story is told from Lobytyko's point of view. He wasn't the main character in the original story (shey I said I always like doing over skill). Also I am pasting the raw copy.. as per the one I took to class for dissection. So there is another version that I cleaned up and submitted for my portfolio. I just can't start checking folders to dig it out. Ngwa make una manage this one okay?


It is said that one can never really tell when that pesky cherub, Cupid would strike with its arrow. For some, it is a slow fire - short, fierce embers which consume one in its entirety; for others the intensity of the passion burns fiercely, leaving its victims ensnared. When Lieutenant Lobytko told his grandchildren of how he met the love of his life, would start by explaining how love works. They would ask that he quickly dispense with the preamble and jump right into it, they wanted to hear the story of The Kiss.
Loby, as his friends liked to call him was a tall, stalwart fellow. Although he was twenty-five years old, he had a face devoid of hair. When he spoke, it was with a confidence that gave exuded through his every expression – especially when he was talking about women. He could tell from a mile ahead when there was someone of the opposite gender within his radius.
Thus, when all the six batteries of the N—Reserve Artillery Brigade stopped in the village of Myestetchki, the soldiers knew that Loby would settle into his unofficial role as the spotter of comely bosoms.
Shortly after they arrived, a man in drab civilian clothes came to their quarters on a strange horse. Loby would describe the horse in and the awkward way it ambled into the courtyard with so much flair that his grandchildren would bend over laughing till their sides hurt.
The strange man on the even stranger horse brought an invitation for the soldiers to have tea with the family of General Von Rabbek.
“And there, my life was going to change forever,” he would lower his voice and look pointedly at each child, letting his gaze linger for a few seconds before he continued.
“The Kiss. Tell us about The Kiss” They would shriek in unison.
Nineteen officers honoured the invitation of the good General, with Lobytko leading the way – like a good scout. “Yes, there must be women here; I fell that by instinct”. He was not far from the truth as Von Rabbek himself met them at the entrance apologizing for being unable them to stay for the night. Then he went on to say that his sister, their children, some brothers and even neighbours were there to visit.
The officers settled in to their new environment, having been told by their house to ‘Make each other’s acquaintance’.  They all seemed to be quite relaxed as they made their bows and settled to tea, but one of them looked like he did not quite fit in. His name was Ryabovitch.
Lobytko would pause at this point in the story, waiting for the reaction. The children would sit up in anticipation. The fun part was about to start.
Ryabovitch was a little officer who had sloping shoulders and wore tiny spectacles. He never quite looked like he had a sense of self-worth. Who could blame him? With physical attributes as he had, and whiskers like a lynx, nobody was surprised that he kept to himself. Lobytko had noticed that Ryabovitch always had a look of awe on his face every time the men talked about women. He would watch keenly as his comrades put their arms around a woman’s waist, while letting their shoulders be available for a woman’s arm to rest. Loby could tell that Ryabovitch was fascinated by it all, by women.
Women. There were about six women in the house. Lobytko’s instincts were right on the mark, but the one that caught his eye was a fair girl in a black dress. She was almost as tall as Lobytko with fiercely bright eyes that dared him to take more than was on the surface.
She wore bright make up and she had a face that showed that she knew more than the average woman. Her scent was like that of wild flowers, untamed.  It suited her perfectly. For every word that Loby said to get her attention, she would give a little condescending laugh. The setter was frustrated. How was he to get her to want more of him? Did she not know he was quite skilled in these affairs?  The more he tried to impress her, the more she seemed indifferent to his overtures. Was this something women in Myestetchki did?
“Tell us how you got her to meet you in the dark room!” The oldest of the children, 13 year old Becca would pipe up in fascination at this point in the tale.
It was during the dance. Having been made to dance with a scraggy looking lady passed over to him by Von Rabbek’s son, Loby wondered if he’d ever get a chance to speak to the fair lady in a black dress. Another chance to show her he was more. So, while he glided over the parquet floor, he found himself twirling from one woman, to another, and even to another. None of them, the woman he wanted. He spotted Ryabovitch near the door, looking at them. Sorry sod.
No sooner had he thinking of the pathetic state of his fellow officer, did he get a chance to dance with a woman in a lilac dress. With one hand on her waist, he danced confidently with resigning himself to fate.
“Two doors from the drawing room” Words so faint that he wasn’t sure he heard it. He jerked his head up, looking at his dance partner in askance but not wanting to be obvious.
“My sister will be in the dark room, two doors from the drawing room. Go when the men have retired for games”.
Lobytko could not contain his excitement and with every tick of the clock, the anticipation of what lay ahead of him was impalpable.
“What happened after that? Tell us more!” The excitement rose in the children as well. They wanted to know how he felt when he saw her. Was it love at second sight? Why was she being coy before that time? Oh how smart it was of her to have sent a message through her sister.
Nothing happened. Lobytko slipped out of the room where the billiards were being played and stepped into the hallway. There were rooms on both sides of the drawing room; cursing himself for not asking for more clarity in description, he went on a hunch and turned right. You can’t be wrong if you go right.
Half an hour after waiting in the dank, dark room, Lobytko felt himself the victim of a horrible female prank. He was the Setter. How did he get played?
They returned to their quarters and Lobytko longed for a drink. Something, anything to make him forget the humiliation he had just experienced.  The orderly who had been sent to buy them beer came back with the announcement that there was no beer.
“What a fool and a dummy a man must be not to get hold of any beer! Eh? Isn’t he a scoundrel?” He was furious, taking his anger out on everybody around him. Determined to get some beer, he asked Ryabovitch to go along with him.
“Rabbek, Grabbek, Labbek. I don’t care to go alone, damn it all! Wouldn’t you like to go for a walk eh?”
His sour mood did not improve and it was visible to all. “You look very melancholy today, Lieutenant Lobytko. Are you pining for Madame Louphov? Eh?” His General had teased him.
It was during this time that confused-looking Ryabovitch, having drunk a lot and had his tongue loosened, told them about a strange thing that happened to him while they were at the Von Rabbeks”.
“The Kiss!” The children yelled in unison.
Hearing the narration filled Lobytko with a mix of emotions. That she did not play a trick on him after all was a great relief. That she bestowed a kiss, meant for him, upon Ryabovitch angered, yet pleased him. He could make no sense of it.
He found himself saying out loud, “That’s an odd thing! How strange!...throws herself on a man’s neck, without addressing him by name… She must be some form of hysteric neurotic”
Ryabovitch obtained a kiss that was clearly meant for him. He was ecstatic. When they returned to Myestetchki in August, Lobytko could not wait to visit the home of General Von Rabbek.
“Imagine my joy when I saw the messenger on horseback. Luckily, Ryabovitch was not about. No room for mistakes a second time around!”

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