Student or Learner
This is the fifth part of my short story, "The Nineties." Please would you take a look and correct my mistakes.
We discussed about what we were going to do if war broke out in our country, and could only conclude that we had no family abroad or friends who could help us and give us shelter. We were stuck here like millions of others. To dispel our fears, Ivica changed the topic and told me that Nenad had become married. He was in the same class with us at college, but lately I did not have much contact with him. I never liked him and thought him a nuisance. He could not sit five minutes still and quiet. When he did not speak, he was chewing a gum, which irritated our teachers enormously. He would insult both teachers and his fellow students for nothing, and in the next moment, he would behave as if he did not say anything. When our young English teacher told him off for disrupting the lesson Nenad shot up from his seat and shouted, “Bloody stupid cow with a pea brain.” This was an unimaginable insult, probably never heard before in our school. The poor women turned crimson, then started to shake, and was unable to stop the tears that welled in her eyes. She rushed outside, but Nenad sat down laughing uproariously as if someone had cracked a good joke. “Don’t teach us nonsense!” he shouted at our mathematics teacher who was writing complicated logarithm rules on the blackboard. The old, overweight man, who had spent almost 40 years in education, did not stand any nonsense. His large head turned towards Nenad, and in the blink of an eye, he threw a piece of chalk at him. Nenad ducked quickly, like an experienced boxer, and the projectile hit the wall leaving a white mark on the green surface. Nenad jumped up from his seat and said laughingly, “Nice shot mate.” We expected the teacher to lose his temper and throw him out of class, but the old man returned to the blackboard and the logarithms as if nothing had happened. Nenad was not worth wasting his time on.
Nenad was summoned to the rector on several occasions. He was strongly criticized and threatened with expulsion, but nothing worked on him. Because of my pointed ears, he called me Dr Spock. I was furious and wanted to beat him up, but my father, who had known his mother Olga for more than thirty years, told me to ignore his teasing. Nenad’s father was killed in a traffic accident when he was still a toddler, and Olga, who worked as a cleaner, had a heavy responsibility to rear her child alone. I had met her on a few occasions in the street, and I remembered her beautiful, wavy, chestnut hair, dark deep-set eyes and a painful expression on her face, as if she were suffering from some chronic illness that would not give her respite.
Although I knew that Nenad had a difficult childhood, I could not understand where all this malice and restlessness were coming from. I had believed he was going to become a criminal, drug addict, or homeless, and certainly was never going to marry and settle down. And now that I heard he was not only married, but his spouse was a beautiful daughter of a CEO of a large paper mill I thought that he must have undergone a complete transformation when he had managed to capture her heart.
I those days I searched refuge by the river. I would get on my bicycle and ride to the other side of the town, where the sound of artillery fire could not be heard. The river was magnificent, with clear, calm water and the banks covered in grass, shrubs and willows, which offered cool shade even on the hottest days. I liked to swim and I would imagine myself as a boat gliding along the banks. The water was so clear that I could see every pebble on the bottom. Sometimes a fish would swim so close to me that I could have touched it with my hand. The river meant very much to me. I believed that if I ended up in exile because of war, I was certainly going to die because of my yearning for river. Its banks were always crowded with people, the young, old, whole families, lovers, friends and neighbours. Usually, you could see at least two, three crates of beer cooling in the water, or some watermelons, which later on would be cut and eaten with relish. In my hometown, everyone knew everyone else, and this must have been one of the reasons that the riverbanks in summer looked like great parties.
One afternoon I swam slowly towards the middle of the river when I heard someone calling my name. I turned my head and saw Nenad with a nice girl standing in the water until their waist. He had his right hand around her shoulder, and with his left waved at me. “Come and meet my wife,” he shouted. I was curious to discover how much he had changed; what kind of person she was.
“So you are deliberately avoiding your old schoolmate,” he said when we shook hands standing in the water. “Please shake hands with my wife Milena.” She gave me a smile, extended her hand and we shook. Her dark hair, which was now wet, was sparkling in the sun. It fell down over her shoulders, revealing her broad forehead and her beautiful dark eyes. Her skin was milky and without any wrinkles – a skin of a young, healthy woman.
To be continued
Maybe instead of saying the watermelon was cut and eaten with relish you could say it was cut into slices and eaten eagerly.
I think you have made a mistake in one of the sentences. My sentence is, "Nenad's father was killed in a traffic accident when he was still a toddler..".
Your version is, "Nenad's father was killed in a traffic accident when Nenad a toddler..." I think i need "was".
I am just wondering about one of the sentences above" Its banks were always crowded with people-young people, old people, whole families..."
Do I really need to repeat the word "people" all three times? Is it not enough to say just, young, old..."?
Well, you'd only be repeating it twice. However, you might say:
Its banks were always crowded with people -- young and old, whole families (or parents with children), etc.
You see how good it is that someone can tell you where you have made a mistake. I did not even think about what kind of mistake I made in that sentence until you now tells me how illogical it sounds with the word "he".