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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


A Quartet of Creative Cubs
A ‘Lisa and Friends’ story, no.6
Illustrations by Nika Harrison
Story by Ross Hunter

BORED?” Lisa could not believe her furry ears. “If only protecting the burrow from the ravages of four overenergetic cubs let me get bored”, she thought. “You can’t be! The school holidays have only just started”.

“Mum, we’re bored!”, wailed Dasha, Masha, Sasha and Boris in unison. Lisa took her apron off and tried to think. She knew all too well from clearing the floor of toys that they had plenty of diversions if only they wanted them. She resisted the strong temptation to invite help with the housework, doubting if washing, cleaning, dusting and ironing would sell well.

With an exhausted sigh, she bought time by commanding bedroom-tidying while she looked for inspiration. Again. She glanced at the pile of papers needing attention, and saw their school reports. Plenty of pleasing effort from the twins, some good work from Sasha, with little effort, it seemed, and a string of catastrophes for Boris. Nothing new. Hang on! There is something missing. Everything normal is there, so far so worthy, but nothing creative, to tingle the heart or set the brain ablaze.

Before she got any further, the cubs returned. Not a purposeful procession, more a vulpine tornado of fighting fur, crashing and laying waste to all it rolled over. Prised apart, the damage could be assessed. Boris had a bruised nose, again. Sasha was nursing squashed paws. Dasha was choking on mouthfuls of foxfur and dust. Masha was rubbing scratched and pummelled eyes and ears. All exuded the rancid sweat of battle, and nursed bruised egos. They felt very small and foolish. That was it! Sight, smell, taste, touch and sound. That summarised everything.

A clean up first. TLC and TCP work wonders. Family conference time. “Each of you can be more creative with your talents”, said Lisa. “Sit there.” The cubs went quiet while Lisa ferreted around the burrow, and dropped an ever growing pile of Good Things in front of them.

“Here are some ways to stretch not wreck your senses. Choose a hobby for the holidays, and stick with it. Otherwise”, she added menacingly, “I’ll choose for you.” The cubs were in no position to argue.

“Masha, you first. Pull out whatever pleases the eye”. Paper, brushes and pencils piled up. Dasha opted for Lisa’s old violin (Nika – change that to any instrument you feel like drawing!) and make songs from her verses. Sasha chose carpentry, to make a rocking chair for Mum, with a side offer of finding mushrooms and truffles. “Good luck to him (and me if it ever needs testing”, thought Lisa). “Boris, what smells good?” “Easy, Mum”, said Boris, relieved, “food, flowers and fragrance. I’ll cook”.

Groans all round. “Stop!” ordered Lisa. “We haven’t heard your songs yet or seen your pictures, so give Boris a chance. You can start in pairs. Masha and Sasha, get organised for painting, before you go into the shed and sort out woodworking tools. Dasha and Boris, you start in the kitchen and I’ll teach you how to cook your supper, then you can make a song about it”.

The cubs switched quickly from nothing to do to too much to do. With a hint of competition, a dash of pride and no small dose of fraternal jealousy as to what the others were up to, they got going.

Early results were not encouraging. Sasha’s bashing and hammering sounded better than the strained squeaks from Dasha’s fiddle. Masha’s water-colour portrait looked uncomfortably similar to Boris’s soup ingredients. There seemed to be more wood-glue flowing than consommé, and they resembled each other. Early on, Lisa’s five senses were telling her that this was a mistake. It was hard to tell when Dasha stopped tuning and warming up and started a tune. Sasha’s first chair prototype failed to support... itself. Boris’ culinary creations were clearly compost. Covered by Masha’s unintendedly abstract canvases.

But, bit by bit, order asserted itself. Sasha foraged in the forest for better ingredients for Boris. Masha found she could draw good chairs, which Sasha then copied. They sang or whistled while they worked, and Dasha picked up the tunes. Sasha made a workable easel, then a music stand. Dasha’s ideas and spices added to Boris’ dishes. Boris couldn’t draw or sing for toffee (or make it) but he became adept at composing both Masha’s pictures and Dasha’s ditties.

Best of all, they discovered that each creative skills offered clues and encouragement for the others. And their vocabulary, calligraphy and mathematical dexterity advanced along with their arts and crafts.

By the time they were done, Lisa could relax in her new chair, while enjoying her meal and being serenaded by pleasing tunes and fantasy landscapes. The cubs helped each other more and squabbled less. Their bedrooms somehow became tidier, though she never worked out why. Next term, their school grades improved, especially in the so-called core subjects.

Lisa asked the cubs what they thought of their busy summer. The twins said that they had learned from their mistakes, which prompted Sasha and Boris to declare: "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

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