The following is a short satirical story I wrote last week, reminded as I was by current events of the state of international affairs. I would welcome any feedback, so feel free to comment! It would be interesting for me to know what my readers interpret the story to mean. I do hope you enjoy it!
Joe and Rostislav sit side by side, backs to the school wall, benignly inspecting one another’s baseball cards.
“We never had these back home,” Rostislav remarks.
“See, things are better in America,” says Joe.
Rostislav’s reply is a frown. “No. We were all happy at home. We had hockey cards. Hockey is more fun than baseball.”
Joe smiles a patronising smile; Rostislav must be too stupid or brainwashed to know any better.
“Are you trading cards?” Asks the pair’s teacher, Miss Clemens. She peers at them with well-meaning interest.
“We’re in the middle of a big deal right now,” Rostislav says.
“I’ll be rich by this time tomorrow,” Joe nods with eagerness.
“You have some ambition for a twelve-year old!” Laughs Miss Clemens, patting each boy on the shoulder. “I’ll leave you to your business!”
The next day at recess, the business deal is complete, but Joe is angry, not rich. Miss Clemens’ attention is grabbed by his indignant shouts.
“You moron! I don’t know why you ever left your dismal homeland! You don’t fit in here, you’re too stupid to be an American!”
“Joe!” Miss Clemens cries, appalled. “What are you doing, talking to someone like that? You know that insulting a fellow student is unacceptable.”
“He’s stupid!” Joe gestures to the ashen-faced Rostislav.
“Well, then, so are you- you each share the same uninspiring grades. What’s the problem?”
“He doesn’t know who Babe Ruth is! Russkies don’t know anything.”
“Joe knows less than me,” Rostislav pipes up. “‘Yuri Gagarin, who’s that?’ How can you not know the name of the first man in space?”
Miss Clemens shakes her head- for people with little more than a decade of life, these two possess an unbelievable amount of pigheadedness. “Try not to be so self-centred,” she says. “Your cultures are different, so why don’t you try to learn about and understand each other’s culture, instead of being so concerned with your own?”
Joe sniffs and crosses his arms. “I don’t want to learn about Russkies. I know all about them already thanks to my grandpa. He flew a Tomcat in the ’70s.”
“Try to have an open mind,” Miss Clemens sighs. “Learning about the world is fun if you’re prepared to accept that not everyone is going to be exactly like you.”
“Well, maybe,” Joe concedes.
“I understand,” Rostislav agrees.
“Good. Why don’t you start by telling each other about Babe Ruth and Yuri Gagarin?”
“Are you sure your mother has her American license?” Laughs Joe, watching a rusty old BMW screech to a halt beside the curb. “She looks like she’s from one of those driving fail videos online!”
“Shut up,” scowls Rostislav. “At least she doesn’t look like she singlehandedly keeps the local McDonald’s afloat like your mother does.”
“You calling my mom fat?”
“I’m only saying what anyone with eyes and a brain sees.”
“McDonald’s is an American staple!”
“Don’t you like McDonald’s?”
“Yes. We do actually have McDonald’s at home,” says Rostislav waspishly, as his mother approaches. “We just don’t feel the need to eat there every few hours.”
“What’s this, an argument?” Rostislav’s mother asks, glaring at the two boys. “I will not allow this!” Without another word, she sweeps up the school stairs, returning a few moments later with Miss Clemens. The two boys blurt out their grievances simultaneously and with equal indignation, and Rostislav’s mother shakes her head.
“Russian passion and American relaxedness. You two are true children of your nations.”
“But who’s right?” Joe cries.
“You’re both wrong,” Miss Clemens replies in exasperation. “Stereotypes like these only perpetuate old pain and suspicion. And anyway, what’s wrong with enjoying driving or a hamburger?”
“Nothing, I guess,” Rostislav admits, giving Joe a sidelong glance.
“But we aren’t supposed to get along,” Joe maintains.
Miss Clemens sighs in frustrated disbelief and looks skywards. “Well, if you keep telling yourself that, you never will get along. And you’ll probably miss out on a great friend, too.”
“Maybe we can try to be friends again,” Rostislav says. “We were good friends once, years ago.”
“Okay,” Joe agrees. “I’ll try.”
Joe and Rostislav sit again, as they do, against the school’s brick wall- their interaction no longer benign, but confrontational.
“This isn’t going to work!” Cries Rostislav. “Our project will be garbage thanks to you. What are you trying to do, sabotage me?”
“It’s your fault that your views aren’t the same as mine,” Joe counters, seizing the paper in question from his companion’s hand. “Why can’t you think like an American?”
“Why can’t you think like a Russian? Why do things always have to be your way?”
“Are those stubborn, selfish babies really at it again?” Mutters Miss Clemens, dashing over to the combatants. “What is it now?”
“It’s about our project,” Rostislav says, stepping in front of the fuming Joe. “Someone wants to write an essay on how America’s responsibility in World War II was to bring freedom back to the world- typically arrogant and obtrusive! It would be better to write about how war appeals to your duty. Soldiers from my country fought in World War II because they owed it to the Motherland.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Miss Clemens responds after a moment. “You’re both being disgustingly selfish, to be honest, and you’re obviously not willing to put aside your own pride and think of the greater good. I can’t help you, if you refuse to man up enough to help yourselves.”
“What am I supposed to do, he’s wrong,” Joe says forcefully.
“Pointing out someone else’s failures won’t cover up your own,” the weary teacher sighs. “This is up to you two. You, and the effort you make, are the only things that need define your relationship. I hope you make the right decision, and employ some understanding, so you don’t encounter greater problems in the future.”
The following recess reveals a reality that, although reviled, is no surprise. Miss Clemens visits the school wall to find only Joe seated there.
“Have you finished your project already?”
He shakes his head. “I’m not talking to Rostislav. He’s not talking to me, either.”
“What a disappointment,” Miss Clemens laments. “How do you expect to finish the essay if you two aren’t working on it together?”
“I don’t know,” Joe shrugs with impunity. “Who cares. He’s an idiot and his attitudes are unacceptable. Just like him to sabotage me like this.”
“If I had a final project due, I wouldn’t cut off all communication with my partner.”
“Pfft. Maybe we can talk if he apologizes and stops making such irritating and threatening statements.”
“He’s probably saying exactly the same thing!” Miss Clemens exclaims, throwing her hands to her eyes. “Can’t you see? You have a responsibility to complete this project! Can’t you forget your petty differences at least long enough to fulfil your duty?”
“I’d love to,” Joe says. “This is regrettable, but I can’t not take exception to Rostislav. He’s being a total jerk, and is very threatening.”
“Unbelievable!” Cries Miss Clemens. “You dearly need to grow up and take a look in the mirror. This is real life, not international politics!”