The next post will be on or before Saturday May 27th
MY NIGHT WITH NATASHA (a short story)
Author’s note. This is the first short story I have written in all of 25 years (the last one was in 1992). I have been concentrating on comic extravaganza novels but now it seems time for a change
Three years ago, I went to Athens airport to meet a beautiful woman from Alma Ata, the fabled capital of Kazakhstan. Natasha had come all that way to see me but had detoured via Budapest where one of her sons Sergei had a lucrative executive job with a powerful global multinational. When I first saw her after the endless wait at incoming flights, it struck me she looked very Asian rather than Central Asian with her high and wide cheekbones, that handsome tanned skin and her exceptionally childlike and naughtily humorous eyes. She had explained her provenance in several emails, but it had been very confusing and she clarified it now as we took the taxi to a mainland hotel. Her parents were Korean, not Kazakh, and they had relocated to Soviet Siberia in the 1950s from a town that was to become a part of North Korea. They never spoke Korean in front of her so she grew up speaking Russian, was a very bright child, and attended Novosibirsk University where she studied chemistry. She then went into industry where aged 22 she met Fuat who was an ethnic Kazakh and spoke the eponymous language as well as the dominant Russian. They were married in 1978 and then moved to Alma Ata, where they soon started a family and where Fuat insisted she stay at home to tend them and to be a good, which is to say a flawless housekeeper. She only went back into industry after their divorce in 2010, after 32 years’ marriage, and she was now working in the promotional department of a flourishing food imports concern.
Suddenly something remarkable happened, though admittedly I found it far more remarkable than she did. She noticed that the taxi driver was speaking in Russian on his phone to presumably a friend, and it must have been the precise inflections that moved her to ask him in their common tongue where he was from.
“Me?” he replied in a boisterous voice. “Oh, I’m from Kazakhstan. I’m from Alma Ata.”
She snorted hilariously and slapped her thigh, and he guffawed likewise to hear she was from the city which among other things boasts the sumptuous Central Mosque with its tenderly blue dome, and the massive Zenkov Orthodox cathedral, both marvels adorning the largest landlocked country in the world. Natasha turned to me, touched my fingers affectionately, and explained his extraordinary reply. I was both dumbfounded and delighted.
“That is unbelievable,” I snorted. “The first person you meet in Greece apart from me, is from Alma Ata, which most people in the world have never heard of. What are the mathematical chances of that? The odds must be impossible.”
She smiled and stroked my palm in a tender and natural way but I could see she wasn’t bowled over by the miracle. I asked her if the taxi man was possibly more mind-blown and she answered, no, no, not at all, so then I wondered aloud if all Kazakhstan folk took these impossible coincidences so lightly.
“It is very nice,” she replied playfully. “It is so funny. But I don’t think it is a miracle. These things happen.”
I was quiet for a few moments as I vividly recalled a dark-haired young man in Glyfada I had asked directions of a year earlier. I had asked him in Greek and he had touched his glasses, looked at me shrewdly and replied in very good English. After giving the directions, he explained that he was doing a degree in Maths in London and I told him I also had lived in London for a year in 1974, 17 years before he was born that is. He applauded my mental arithmetic and smiled that I was only a year out with his age. Where had I lived in London he enquired? Oh, West Hampstead. Aha? You don’t say? Why that’s where I live now. Really? That’s a little bit of a coincidence, given how big London is, eh? Which street? Oh, Priory Road, I love that area near bustling Finchley Road and I’ve been living there three years. Eh, but that’s absolutely crazy I said excitedly! That’s bloody crazy! I lived in bloody Priory Road, West Hampstead in 1974! And of course, I could have asked anyone at all for directions on a teeming Saturday night in Glyfada, but I asked you, and no one else! Yep, for sure! Aha, so look, let’s explore the supernatural and I’ll ask what number on Priory Road did you live at back in 1974?! Dammit, I sighed in moderate desperation, usually I can remember everything but I can’t remember that one after all of forty years. I haven’t a clue. I recall it was owned by an Indian lady Mrs Desi who must be long dead now and she had an ancient bespectacled caretaker from Nepal who wore a white hat that looked like an upside down plant pot. He also had a remarkably decrepit and more or less bald little dog that he really doted on and I think it was called Sally…
Once we got to the hotel and started to unpack, Natasha approached me solemnly and said that it was my birthday and priorities were priorities and I must look at her presents before anything else. What followed then was as startling as the taxi driver surprise, as she pulled out of her suitcase a stupendous treasure trove of beautiful objects, like some bountiful and magical princess in Central Asian myth. First of all was a sumptuous slip-glazed Kazakh tea set with an elegant shining teapot and six little handless bowls. She had wrapped it all meticulously and lugged it from Alma Ata to Budapest and then to Greece and here it was as pristine as when it left the workshop. It would have been a royal present on its own but then came three splendid silk scarfs made in Alma Ata, one crimson, one sea blue, one a kind of speckled gold she had bought for my daughter who she had never even seen a photograph of, much less met. By way of interim relief there then came a fetching little glass paper weight with some inserted marbled pattern that looked like three petrified fishing flies coloured crimson, turquoise and black.
“I’m speechless,” I said, as I kissed her fine hair. “You have spent a fortune on me.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “But that is appropriate. It is your birthday and our first meeting. And there is more to come.”
There was indeed. She stooped and hauled out an enormous and bulky museum tome on Kazakh architectural epigraphy, full of handsome photographs and a text describing all the important mosques of Kazakhstan, replete with a parallel Russian, Kazakh and English commentary. It came in a luxurious blue box with gilt lettering, must have cost a sultan’s fortune, and took up half of the bedside table where I looked reverently through its pages. A few enchanted minutes passed, and then I took her hand and told her we must go down the road to the excellent Italian place run by Greeks, where we would have the best thing on the menu, lobster if she wanted it. She wrinkled her matchless little nose, squeezed my fingers with a careful tenderness and said that no, no she wasn’t a bit hungry. But surely I said protectively, after a delayed flight from Budapest, and it being such a romantic occasion, our first date, and me the birthday boy to boot, the least we could do was go and gorge ourselves and order a really good bottle of vintage Cretan white to wash it down.
“It’s a very romantic occasion, isn’t it? Let me spend my birthday money on you, Natasha.”
She looked wise beyond her years, though like me she was in her early sixties.
“There are more ways than one of being romantic. If you think about it there’s a much more obvious way.”
I smiled my admiration and took her in my arms. “Ah yes. To be sure.”
“Look, my fine English gentleman. Just remove all my clothes and I will do the same with yours.”
She was standing with her back to the mirror so I was easily able to unclasp her bra, a thing which normally farcically defeats me and should have today after the heavy mavrodafni we’d just consumed. Then I removed her silken meaning Silk Road panties, and saw the sweetest thighs and most exquisite glistening peach behind that anyone might imagine. But now I need to pause the story, and refer you to the academic research on dating agencies, of which there is a surprising amount, and which assures us that despite almost 50 years of post-feminism (Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch appeared in 1970) the vast majority of women prefer the man to make an obvious approach when it comes to dating and courtship. It is a fact I find baffling, faintly irritating, given how many liberal and educated women I know who all complain about the general doziness and mediocrity of so many men when it comes to tender little acts and endearments, small and romantic gifts, not to speak of any notion of sensitive and preparatory embraces in bed, not to speak of occasionally dubious personal hygiene and reeking armpits on demand, and, much more to the point, such things as coital staying power and a phenomenal stinginess not only with orgasmic precedence, but with money and feelings, and a thousand other little bagatelles. I mention all this because Natasha being the ex-wife of a man called Fuat who made her play the domestic goddess, should have been the one to wait submissively for my approach, but not only did she take the courtship initiative for the obvious reason that she hadn’t been with a man for a year and was hungry for love, she also took the erotic kamashastra lead and decided exactly where the embraces should begin.
Briskly she led me to the enormous double bed, with its pink and sentimental Greek coverlet, where, predicting maximum satisfaction for both of us, she ordered me to lie flat on my back. Grinning from her Korean to her Kazakh ear, she climbed on top and seated herself face on, whilst also facing yet another mirror, above which was an unconvincing reproduction of a Matisse. She fished successfully below and, inserting it like an acclaimed world expert, without a second thought and as if my groin were an unfeeling tractor seat, she started to bounce up and down with ever increasing pressure and velocity, all the while moving her brown Korean thighs and snow white Siberian bottom in carefully graded arcs, as if only through industrious years of application and connoisseurial expertise, could she get exactly where she wished to be.
“Many Happy Returns!” she gurgled, red faced and breathless as she increased the speed of her mad bouncing and as if indeed I were not a tractor but a trampoline, and she was wishing to be propelled to the height of the fluted ceiling.
I said to her in a state of stupendous excitement, “It’s actually more like Christmas! All of those magical gifts! One of them being a woman who rides me like a horse and who treats me like a king.”
“Yes yes,” she snorted. “Compliments of the season! God rest you, Merry Gentleman!”
Her Central Asian buttocks as calibrated battering ram on my groin were of course unspeakably wonderful, and indeed I felt half delirious, but there was one far from trifling thing was worrying me.
I hesitated then, “This is great, and nothing like this has ever happened to me before. But-”
She smirked and inclined her head like an inquisitive little cockateel.
“What is it, birthday boy? Consider me at your command. Let nothing ye dismay!”
I frowned and felt very foolish.
“I’m frightened that…well to be honest, I’m scared that it’ll snap off!”
She paused in mid bounce like an eccentric gymnast.
“You what? Come again? Or at least I hope we will.”
“You’re going hell for leather, Natasha! Like an industrial steam hammer, and doing massive lurching sideways gyrations, and I’m worried that it’ll simply snap in two…”
She hooted her extreme merriment. “That’s quite impossible, my sweet North Englishman! Such an outlandish thing has never been known.”
I grunted. “I know it bloody hasn’t! But anxiety is anxiety, be it rational or not. Think of a woman in the throes of labour who genuinely imagines she is going to split in two. That’s why my poor old Honourable Gentleman here is worried for his bloody life.”
She chuckled helplessly as she continued to ram and then catapult up and away from me, and murmured ah yes, that was certainly a good nickname I had given him, but all the same she could suggest a better one.
“I think you should call him your Right Honourable Gentleman.”
I stared bemused. “Like an MP? A member of parliament?”
“A member alright. Haw! Right in one, birthday boy. And a very fitting acronym. My Peen-“
I looked at her with a sudden determination. “But actually it’s mine, not yours! And that’s the problem.”
I also asked her with serious if farcical concern if her lovely soft as a Greek peach bottom wasn’t bruised from all that crazed sledgehammer battering. At this she gasped and chortled.
“You’re kidding. This Central Asian behind happens to be specially cast of tungsten-plated steel. Believe me it is not worried it will split in two, even though anatomically and with its two voluptuous buttocks, it is well on the way to evolutionary fission.”
I marvelled aloud at her amazing English and wondered how long it would take me to be proficient in Siberian Russian so that I could pun on Right Honourables and bifurcating backsides and the like. I didn’t marvel too long however, as, once she had reached her summit, she then commenced ingenious things with her hands, nipples and the perimeter of her thighs that made sure I reached mine five minutes later. Around midnight I fell into a slumber of great depth, but it only seemed a few minutes before I woke again and saw by the alarm clock it was 3am. I also noticed that I was corpselike flat on my back again, and that someone small and determined was on top of me and was industriously bouncing up and down like a variation on a perpetual motion machine. And it was pitch dark as this strange simulacrum started to croon in an affecting little childlike register:
“Bearing gifts, we travel so far! Westward leading…still proceeding!”
Yes she was still proceeding, and more than anything she seemed like an old fashioned if demented PE mistress determined to show the lazy schoolgirls what could be done if you had enough reckless zest and bulldog stamina. She was an oriental bearer of gifts, as well as a Home Counties Physical Education fiend and a Siberian CCCP steamhammer and a cosmopolitan expert on the shotblast steel technique as she suddenly deserted her perch, only to stoop and use her tongue to do the truly unbelievable, yet something that you are probably old enough to imagine for yourself.
“Numerous Happy Returns!” she cooed, as if beginning an excerpt from some light operetta she had just devised.
And so it went. She climbed back onto her favourite chariot, and for another hour she poy-yoynged to the ceiling at ever more feverish rate and paused only to do slow and measured stirring of my groin with her expert behind, as if the groin were a cauldron of witches’ soup and her Kazakh bottom a magic ladle. At length we reached our appropriately Olympian summits and immediately fell asleep, but then I shot awake at 6 with this exotic giant cuckoo back on the nest again, and back once more in furious harness. Dumph dumph dumph, it went, dumph dumph dumph! It had a music tantalisingly its very own and it was both oriental and unplaceable, perhaps more the infinitely intelligible orchestration of an afterlife specially designed for those who are helplessly addicted to the pleasures of the flesh.
Turned 8 o’ clock (our boat went at 11) she woke me a third time with her exultant aerial soaring, and we began our fourth dizzy ride of the carousels and the sky flying showboats. I kissed her tenderly and protectively and told Natasha the obvious, that with her all my birthdays had come at once and all my Christmases had arrived simultaneously, and I would surely never meet another woman like her, who not only gave me everything I wanted. but far, far more than I wanted. She even gave me the fear of being unmanned in the literal sense, and that only through excessive and orgiastic and adorable indulgence, albeit she offered no guarantees nor renewable five year warranties, much less any cowardly fire or safety exits.
The Honourable Gentleman did not snap off, needless to add, even though for all four rocket rides it really felt that it might. But then the supremely generous in this life (The Creator, Shakespeare, Rabelais, George Eliot, Beethoven and all the rest) are often those who present us with the hazardous and the terrifying also. For they know what we do not know, which is there really is no bogeyman inside the wardrobe, unless it be a skulking and perverted and scheming human being, and that there never has been and that there never will be any genuinely supernatural ghost in the overwhelming darkness that surrounds us.