June 24

The opening day is a great thing, especially if only half of the alumni is available for the summer camp session and the bus confirmation takes away most of the night.
Only 10 out of 19 students brought the requested medical documentation, and none of them has enough copies. I gave up worrying about that a while ago.
The bus driver turned out to be a stoic man. When two figures in black cloaks stuck up the sign “Ostentum-Express” on his bus, he only asked – his jaw stiffening a bit – if there will be adults accompanying the children. As if that would save him. We played the anthem on the bagpipes next to the bus, and the driver did not seem to mind.
We arrived, checked in, and Professor Bruce took everybody for an after-dinner walk, while I arranged for a blackboard, House flags, and a cooler… and so it was that the third floor of a boarding house near Zelenogorsk became the School.
Our tutor Ludmila Aleksandrovna had a nice and easy start – after a telephone conversation with the mother of Olya Krasavina we discovered that the girl may be a lunatic. And she wants to sleep on the upper bed.
At night we had to discipline the senior girls for fussing – we made them sit on a sofa in the hall wrapped in blankets over their pajamas. They were delighted at first, but gradually grew tired of sitting in silence and only consoled themselves that they would have something to remember for later – almost falling asleep right in the middle of the hall.

June 25

In Transfiguration class with junior students I asked them to name some animals that can be used to describe human character. When we had a big list, I suggested picking the animal that they associate themselves with. Everybody answered (cats, dogs and foxes were among the answers given), and only Varya Koludarova said as she often does “I do-o-on’t kno-ow…” And the kids cried out in chorus “a shee-e-e-ep!” The best thing was that Varya laughed along with everybody else and her participation improved!
When Professor Grace came to the cantina at lunch time, she was met by a nervous karate instructor (the first and second floor of our facility is occupied by a youth sports camp) who announced that our kids ate there alone, without adults! Honestly, we were not too concerned, our little wizards manage to hit their mouths with their spoons without much exhaustive training. Moreover, while the two were talking, our kids “on duty” came up to Professor Grace and nicely asked her to join them because the tables were set.

June 26

Kostya Ritter complained that girls were trying to get to the balcony of room of senior boys and that they shouldn’t because “boys have their private life.” It was with some difficulty that we explained why this was not a happy choice of words, especially in front of strangers.
The senior boys – Kolya, George and Kostya – went to play football in the evening, having first driven Vanya nuts with their non-stop urging to join them. He explained patiently and politely that he did not want to, did not like football, and so on, but they just would not take it. Oh well, – I thought, – just you wait… And when they left I invited Vanya to go see Professor Leo to read a book on her laptop. His roommates came back and started looking for Vanya. They searched for two hours, could not find him, and nearly burst with curiosity. It goes without sayding, we did not breathe a word. When Vanya was returning the laptop I suggested that he could say that Professor Terra took him to a different reality so that he would not be bored.
In the morning Vova Sidorov was all upset – he was having some serious problems with his roommate. Vova’s mom called, very worried, I barely managed to convince her not to take the boy home and give him a chance to overcome the difficulties with our help. Turned out to be the right decision, because everything returned to normal, and now they will have memories of the victory, and not of the initial defeat.
It is raining cats and dogs and girls in the last room down the hall have a leaking roof – surprise, surprise! Why is it that out of four people – the administrator, the chief engineer, the building manager and myself – only I came up with the idea to spread a makeshift piece of plastic above the room and postpone the repairs till the morning. Apparently, I was the only one really interested in a solution.

June 27

It turns out, the karate students envy us, they say our school is interesting and fun. Unfortunately, it’s not all fun and games. In the morning, one of the younger boys cried for a long time and was comforted only when I called his mother and she promised to come the day after tomorrow. And in the evening the baby sister of Polina Sidorova was weeping in the hall. As we discovered “a boy in red socks was blocking her way.” That is to say, Herman, a five-year-old son of one of the professors, just could not let the lovely brunette go, while she took it the wrong way and got scared…

June 28

It seems, we are done with crying. That is just wonderful, because I had to leave for St. Petersburg for the whole day. The tutor called me and said that one girl warned them that sometimes she could get very upset, and that the granny had not packed the “drops” that helped her calm down. I took the call in the middle of a celebration after my husband’s thesis defense, so I snapped for the hall auditorium to hear: “Call the granny and strangle her!” Later, though, it turned out the girl was perfectly normal, she simply did not know that some other kids were occasionally valerian drops as well.
The cantina staff addressed our professors as “vozhaty” (a Soviet term for Young Pioneer Leaders). Professor Grace was the one most taken aback, since she did not go to Soviet camps in her childhood and looks as a “vozhaty” not more than a wineglass resembles a tractor.
Kostya Ritter spent half the day looking for his cap and did not have time for anything else. As a result, everybody had a nice and quiet day – both the kids, and the teachers. Alas, somebody ate his cookie and he announced that he would leave the camp right away and would not attend any more lessons. When Professor Leo came to him and tried to convince him to change his mind he told her it was all a joke. That’s Ritter humor for you.

June 29

Yesterday Zhenya Sedova was playing tag with the older boys, lots of screams and terrible kaboom, yet everything stayed under control and no harm done. Today they were joined by Nikita, who is a little younger and less expert at dodging, so Zhenya accidentally tore his gown and had to patch it later.
Kostya Ritter told us that Rurik and Ivan the Terrible are one and the same person!!!!
We heard Kolya admonishing Zhenya Sedova, loudly and fervently: “You are half as old again as Katya, you should stop her sometimes, always in fact!” An internal Flammenor wrangle, which, for some reason, took place in a room of the junior boys.
The karate campers are still envious – our older boys do not pester or insult the younger ones. The younger kids take full advantage, sticking to their seniors like glue. The latter take it stoically and with a good deal of humor. They are quite supportive of their younger peers.
In class, I said that we would be happy if after graduating our students stayed at our School as professors. Ritter immediately yelled – “I’m ready now! I’ve been here a long time, longer than anybody else!” George immediately jumped in: “No, I came earlier!” Kolya only fell face-down on the desk, convulsing with laughter. I assumed he was amused with the “length of service” as a principal criterion for getting the teacher’s position. Actually, if that be the case, he was the one with seniority in the group. Or maybe, he was just imagining our naughty Ritter teaching. Or George, for that matter.
In the evening, Kolya, George, Vanya and myself were sitting on their balcony, debating philosophical questions, while the balcony next to us was occupied by Professor Skald and the older girls, discussing significations and their perception. Nice late-night talks imperceptibly shifting into extracurriculars…

June 30

Olya Krasavina’s mother promised to visit us on the weekend and to bring her pet rat. Luckily, she came alone. We were already rehearsing telling the management that this was just another student. By way of contrast, the toy house on the playground was adorned with a dead rat carcass, since the morning. I went and talked to the building manager (nicknamed by us as The Bad Guy), explaining that the visiting parents might get a bad shock. The building manager found nothing better than to order karate students to remove it. Then came the mother of Danya Vorpulev who said nothing about bringing a pet, but came with a dachshund. Apparently, our students never go to other camps and their parents are blissfully unaware that the board house management ought to chop my head off for rats and dogs on their territory. Yet it seems the management gave up since the first day when they saw people in black cloaks invading their facility. They would let us bring in a dragon if we really wanted to…
Professor Bruce came up with a great exercise: blindfolded students had to hit him with pine cones. The lesson was a tremendous success, kids did not want to leave.
The janitor seems to have taken a vacation, the dustbins are full. The karate students came to our floor and asked very nicely not to throw litter out of the windows, because they are tasked with keeping the yard clean. After dinner, the older students (girls included) almost picked up a fight with the karatekas. Perhaps, the tension was due to litter picking. They were throwing pine cones at each other and got “caught up in the action.” A little later the karate learners came to issue an official combat challenge, and our simpletons were about to take it up! They kept shouting that the karate students started it, even though we repeatedly explained we did not care who started. In the evening, we had another quarrel with the karatekas; this time, because of a DVD-player. It had been agreed that they would bring us the player at 8.30pm. We would have just enough time to watch Howl’s Moving Castle, but the karate learners were watching Spiderman! They could not possibly break off, it was only a third time! Our students were sitting quietly in front of a dark screen and waiting for about ten minutes, while I, in the role of a Kicking-Boot-Woman, had to argue with the karate instructor. Amazingly, no one fussed or made noise, even the smallest ones, so when Professor Bruce peeped out of his room to ask what they were doing, they laughed and shouted: “Watching a movie!” Of course, we let them go to bed a bit later, so that they could watch the movie to the end.

July 1

In the morning the janitor asked Professor Eidan-Green if she had a broom. Funny, does she think that we are cleaners here?
A crazy day, a Sunday – and that means the parents are here; it is the Tail Day with its traditional competition; it’s also Kostya’s birthday – we celebrated, congratulated and ate the cake; then there was a bonfire, and finally – the labyrinth!
In the morning everybody, professors included, came out of their rooms without their gowns and with self-made tails – more or less artistic. Attired thus, we proceeded to the cantina, then to our study rooms, and then outside. Just when the boarding house staff was beginning to think they got used to us… The karate learners were so shocked they did not even say anything – maybe they were afraid of pestering the crazy people.
Children kept asking why Professor Bruce did not have a tail. I told them that once the professor had sported a magnificent tail, which was treacherously stolen from him. He could never quite bring himself to replace it, so it was probably not a good idea to even mention tails in front of him. Everybody heartily agreed, imagining the terribly painful loss of such a tail that Professor Bruce might wear. Only George wickedly suggested to punish Bruce for this. That’s probably because the Professor keeps taking off points for the mess in their room, often favoring George’s House.
I openly complemented the mother of Varya Koludarova. Her daughter amazed us with her diligence and good behavior. Varya blushed quite noticeably. However, soon after her mom had left she told a fellow student that he was a round fool, and that Uhlwissen was falling behind because of him… and so on, and so forth. The boy was really depressed and Professor Leo tried to comfort him. So that when on my request Varya went back to apologize, she got a full-rate scolding from Professor Leo, and did a bit of crying herself. All is well that ends well.
Piercing cries and wailing were heard from the lower floor about 10 in the evening. They lasted for half an hour, and Sonya even found herself unwell. It turned out the karate students were having their ligaments stretched so that they could do the splits. Sometimes it seems we are not from different floors, but from different planets.

July 2

The day began with a bit of stress. Professor Bruce awoke with a start upon hearing a terrible crash and a long agonizing scream early in the morning. Fearing that something terrible had just happened to one of the students, he jumped into his pants and raced to the room of the younger boys. They told him nothing really happened, they were just shouting. Well, they felt like shouting and so they did it. Good morning, Professor Bruce.
Varya Koludarova is ill – she ate too many crackers that her mom had brought her. Kostya has stomachache – he says he ate only a few grilled sausages at the yesterday bonfire – no more than 6 or maybe 7. Now we understand why some children said there weren’t enough sausages.
George swears he never lies. Yesterday he said nobody had stuck his pillow with a knife, then – that one of the boys did it, but he would not say who; today – that everybody did this, except Vanya and Kolya, and he, George, only started it, while others followed; and, finally, somebody else did it. Apparently, all of these versions are nothing but the truth. As much mystery surrounds the secret as to who was throwing apple cores at the karate learners and managed to hit their instructor instead. Nevertheless, I had to declare the balcony off limits.
On Transfiguration, we had a seance to exemplify collective reception of information on the kinesthetic channel. I decided to let the children test their readiness for independent magical work, so I did not prepare any of the props and simply gave each House a big sheet of paper and a saucer, explaining that they needed to draw a big even circle with notches for each letter and number, put the saucer in the centre, and then they are all set. You should have seen the mess! What to use for drawing! How to draw a circle! They do not remember the alphabet, they cannot flatten the roll of paper – nice going, oh mighty mages! Finally, all preparation was completed. Somebody asked if you could learn about the number of you previous lives, and so gave me an excuse to expostulate on pointless questions, and stupid and dangerous attempts to “conjure spirits.” My most fiery comments and scary stories were heard by the janitor, who instantly became obliging to the utmost. After the lesson, George rushed into our room and asked: I just have a very quick question – so what was that you said on past incarnations?
Despite all Professor Bruce’s nudges about cleaning the room, George did not do a thing and ignored the retributions. So the professor started ignoring George. First the boy did not notice, and when he did, he was very surprised, disappointed, and even puzzled.
Almost everybody succeeded with creating sensory glyphs, even if not from their first try. Professor Skald threatened that I will give this task during the tournament, and the children hope I forget. Wel, well.
A kitten was mewing plaintively next room for a rather long time. I was beginning to suspect that cats replaced our rats and dogs, but it was Zhenya’s mobile. Still, I’ll have to drown it if it keeps making noise.
Dasha Dementieva was jumping on her bed, or something like that, and hit her head on the upper rung. I treated it with iodine and suggested that next time she feels like ramming a wall or doing something similarly rash she should go right ahead. By the way, a short time before that Dasha had been crying and (as Zhenya said) “depressing” because the camp session would end soon and there would be no more magic. So I had to promise her remote education.
You could say that everything was quiet up to this moment and only now has the real trouble started. George, Nikita, Tema, Vova, and, of course, Kostya, how could he stay out of it, went climbing on the ropes spread over a gully; that was after they had been personally never to do it without the adults. What’s more, they did not listen to the tutor who told them to stop, so that she had to bring in Professor Leo as heavy artillery. We tore everybody off the ropes and punished them by making handwritten copies of texts. Danya, who also went to the gully but was not seen climbing with the others, voluntarily joined the others in their chore. Now, George is suffering cruelly, the rest are simply writing, and Tema is, of course, happy to study a text about hieroglyphs.
Earlier today, some children were shouting and thundering through the hall so I came out and yelled: “Quiet, besides us, there are PEOPLE living here!” Obviously, I wanted to say “other people,” but what can you do against your subconscious!
After that, we lost Zhenya Voronova. And then I was really scared. Professor Leo found her. After she shouted the girl’s name, the latter came out of the woods. What she was doing there remains a mystery. She says she went for a walk. Alone. To the swamps. I really wanted to slap her, but, of course, didn’t. I bellowed and put her under house arrest. It is a bit early to admire the beauty of the swamps, Zhenya, the orchids are not yet in bloom… But very soon.
After lights out Sonya became all unnerved because Professor Bruce underestimates her. The professor told her nothing of the kind and, the nerves, it seems, have everything to do with the fact that just before bedtime George ran into the room without knocking and found Sonya all undressed. You can imaging the screaming. All to protect the nerves.
And for a grand finale – Kate Galustova was throwing up at night. She said she just could not sleep (it was half past one) and she felt nauseous, but that she did not want to sleep anyway, she’d just finished one book and would start the next one. I honestly replied that is she kept going she was about to get some spanking and switched off the light. Five minutes later she was sleeping. If it keeps going like this I will not survive to the Tournament.

July 3
Oleg Kuznetsov and Fedya Maksimov had an all-out fight in the morning before the lessons. Fedya is new here, he never went to Ostentum before the camp session. After we took them apart, he became outright histerical and yelled, and sobbed, and screamed in the hall in front of everybody that he will take Oleg to the madhouse and that he won’t go anywhere before Oleg is lying beaten on the floor. Finally, we managed to take him to a different room where he explained that he was the good one and that he was right (well, not always right, of course, but when it matters, like this time), and the others are all bad and wrong. After our little conversation I was pretty much convinced that no matter what he would not be going to Ostentum in the school year.
In the afternoon, after the lessons, we went to the beach on the Finnish Bay. We had a wonderful time, took photos and relaxed. The children were playing in the sand and used a divining rod to find a comb buried in the sand. The older students tried working with the element of air. We also played lunar rover (a Russian game involving crawling in circles). Professor Leo again had to urge some children to think with their heads – they were digging in the sand with her expensive badminton rackets, since it was too windy to play badminton properly.
On the whole, the kids were behaving while the professors were hardly adequate after the yesterday adventures which had left them on the verge of nervous breakdown. When Herman did nothing worse than lost his slipper in the sand, Professor Grace became furious and other kids immediately found the lost property. And I had two cameras discharge double quick in my hands.
On our way back we decided to host a photo gallery on the first day of our Fall semester. And then Kolya and George were running across a respectable resort The Black River, yelling: Professor Bruce, Professor Bruce! A gentleman they met stopped in his tracks and kept his gaze riveted to our professor, who was wearing a bandana with skulls and a waistcoat over his bare skin.
Today our senior boys were on duty at the cantina. When Professor Skald pointed out to George that there were no spoons on our table, he replied “They could get up and bring some themselves.” In this case, she suggested he should go to Professor Terra and inform her of that personally. The spoons immediately appeared as if out of nowhere. There’s some magic for you! Soon, however, Professor Bruce came and found out he, too, lacks a spoon…
We were doing the Labyrinth, an adventure for the mind where you can choose a wish that will be fulfilled at the end. George and Vanya could not choose a wish for themselves, and I suggested that George should look for self-control, and Vanya should seek out his sense of humor.
Varya Koludarova called other children names again and was severely criticized for this; in response, she started crying and refused to join the bonfire picnic. We did not dare leave her alone in the building and so had to coax her into going. Meanwhile, all of Ostentum’s camp to a person was waiting in the yard. Finally, George came down with a message from Professor Bruce and said: “Don’t you wait for her, I’ll bring her later.” And I replied (before realizing that all of the kids were nearby) : “No way, George, or you’ll come back as man and wife – with you two anything is possible!” I’m not sure how much of this the smaller children understood, but they all doubled-over with laughter. Almost as soon as they finally quieted down Varya came down as well.
I had just asked Professor Grace earlier today is she could yell at children, and when we approached the bonfire, she had a perfect opportunity to show her skill. Next to our cozy fire there were some karate campers who decided to have a night-out as well – they had a fire going not far away from our favorite clearing and they were playing with pyrotechnics. All of this became clear when we came closer, first we had just heard the explosions and Kostya Ritter and Oleg Kuznetsov immediately had taken off in that direction. Grace yelled till she nearly lost her voice. Because hell knows what is exploding down there, and the children are all but flying towards the sound. At the bonfire, we played on mouth harps, everything seemed quiet and peaceful. The girls, their eyes rolling, discussed the hypnotic gaze of Professor Bruce.
All in all, an easy-going day.

July 4

It is now a proven fact with me that there can be no bus without a fuss – the company manager told me that our bus broke down, and the replacement vehicle will arrive at 7pm. I roared and he immediately promised that they will be there by 4pm, just as planned.
In Professor Eidan-Green’s class the younger children were making giant, melon-sized soap bubbles and setting them floating from the upper balcony. Meanwhile, the karate learners were in the middle of their training session on the ground below. Poor karatekas, they were so envious. Well, to each their own.
George made peace with Professor Bruce by volunteering to help with the yesterday bonfire. Today he is polishing his room. In the process, he brought us some napkins and said: maybe you take this, we don’t need them. Sure, we say, why would you need napkins? You’ve got not use for the napkins so, yeah, we’ll take them. He was a little taken aback, but the irony of it was lost on him.
Sonya asked for a permission to gather blueberries near the football field. I’m not against blueberries, but skirts of this length are absolutely incompatible with berry gathering!
It’s a madhouse – every 2 minutes there is a knock on the door and somebody comes in with homework for submission. Or complaints.
George gave Fedya Maksimov a harsh warning for tripping five-year-old Herman. George told the boy that in our School we don’t beat the smaller ones and that if he does it again George will give him a thrashing. Fedya retorted that George won’t do a thing to him, because he has no right and tried to kick him. The tutor confined Fedya to his room till lights-out. Scoundrel. Later I asked George if he would really have beaten him up. He replied reluctantly: not really, I would just frighten him. I’m not like him, I don’t fight the smaller ones.
Katya Galustova accosted Professor Eidan-Green, saying Kostya Ritter told her to do the homework for the senior class, and gave her a piece of paper with barely three-lines of text. Something about Lenin (!). The professor refused even to read the text, she pointed out that if Ritter gave her the task he should check it and grade it as well.
The karate students wanted to party at our disco, but we bought them off with music records. The disco is raving. Meanwhile we, the professors, are preparing the Tournament.
The younger girls were chasing the senior boys and made Vanya and George climb on the upper bed in their room. And there Katya finally kissed George. 7 times, no less. On the whole, the disco was a success.
No sooner have we finished driving everybody into beds and sighed in relief that Professor Bruce comes back from checking on the rooms and exclaims amazedly: number 38 is asking for their tea! We are flabbergasted – now they want room service as well! It turned out, by “tea” the younger girls meant the immunity-booster herbs that professor Eidan-Green brewed for them every evening. Today we were too exhausted to remember, but the girls would not have it any other way!
Finally, we sat down to finish the tournament preparation. By 2am we started checking the logic puzzles made up by Professor Leo. In the end, it was done by Lyudmila Aleksandrovna solo, because the other professors were too daunted by the task, myself included. In the middle of the night Professor Grace found herself seriously ill. We had to call in an ambulance. Some kind of infection, we started thinking in panic – now, a quarantine, a scandal with the administration, with the parents, a total nightmare! The professor is feeling worse and worse and the ambulance is coming all the way from Sestroretsk! The tournament is not finished and tomorrow we have to leave… The doctors came, took a look and declared immediately that this was a renal colic. And took her to the hospital. Bruce and his wife came along. Their little son Herman, thankfully, slept through all this soundly and did not wake up till the morning. When they left, we sat back to the table to finish with the Tournament. About dawn we were done, the treasure was buried and we even had an hour or two left to catch up on our sleep.

July 5

Bruce was back in the morning, he took a camera and told us he was ready to go. He’s made of iron, that man! Right after breakfast Fedya Maksimov’s mother came and took him away – our life is full of wonders. Everybody felt a sharp relief and the Tournament began. The kids performance was a pleasant surprise, especially the way they dealt with the glyphs – not only have they recognized the symbol, and the emotional state, but they also guessed very quickly that the glyph they had was of Professor Eidan-Green.
After one glance at the treasure map, all the Houses for some reason assumed that the big cross on it represents the church and took off in that direction. In fact, the whole map clearly portrayed the area in front of our building.
Not everything went smoothly with the treasure hunt. The number of steps from the last landmark to the treasure was measured by Professor Eidan-Green and myself – hardly the awe-inspiring giantesses. The practical experiment showed that children’s strides are about twice as long. All the three Houses ended up roaming through the forest,but in the end it was Cervus who reaped the prize. Hurray!
After dinner, we began packing. The bus was already on its way and things were drawing to a happy end… The peacefulness of the moment was a mere illusion. That was only the beginning of the final act.
I was called downstairs for a talk with the karate instructors and the building manager (the Bad Guy, as you may recall). There I learned that several days ago personal belongings of the karate students began to disappear and that it was today that the situation became critical. Several MP3 players were stolen along with mobile phones, some other belongings, a bag and some money. Which is why they were determined not to let us leave, until we agree for an inspection of all the bags of our children. There you have it. Or the karatekas call the police. All of it, in rather rough phrasing. Go ahead and make the call, I say. I vouch for my children, I am not about to let you search them; the costs of our stay for an extra day and our bus tomorrow are to be covered by the local administration. The administrator could not take it any longer: no police here, I beg you – such a shame for the whole establishment, such a stain! And the general manager will never pay for the extra day of your stay. That is your problem, I reply, we have enough on our shoulders as it is; we will gladly leave today, the bus that we paid for is on its way. The administrator is on the verge of crying, the karate instructors are threatening to keep us in the building by force, and the Bad Guy keeps insinuating: well, please, let them have a look at the bags, it’s not like it is a search or anything, just an inspection! When asked, though, he could not quite explain the difference. In the end I said: I’m against the search, because it’s futile and demeaning. However, a scandal threatening to evolve into fighting is not an alternative. I’m going upstairs to ask the children if they will let their bags be inspected. Can’t you just make them do it? – the adults ask me. I can, I reply, but I will not.
So I went upstairs, halted the packing and called for the older children and all the adults to join me in the hall. Most of the younger students came as well. That’s how it is, I say, What should we do? And our kids reply as one – let them search! – in a tone like they were slapped across the face by manner of challenge. I was so proud of them that tears welled in my eyes. So together we decided that: first – they should have a quick look around the rooms just in case they were “framed” – it was the kids’ idea; second – that they should search the teachers as well – that was the professors’ idea. Beside that there were some other details to discuss – that the older students should help the juniors to show their belongings to make it faster and less traumatic. That everybody should stay calm, and keep their dignity. One should be prepared to deal even with such nasty situations. At that moment I tried not to think about what the parents would do to me when they learned of the search. So I went to the ground floor and told the “inspection”: “We are waiting, only try to make it quick, we have a schedule to keep.” When I returned I found that the students had put on an improvised act. The packing was slowly proceeding and every now and then somebody would shout: “hey, where is my cup?” – “the karatekas stole it!” would come the reply from next door. Kostya yelled: “where’s my cap?” – and somebody answered, – “Go and check downstairs.” And everybody sniggered nastily. Zhenya Voronova exclaimed, – “Oh my! I have some money, but it is my money, really.” I answered: “Don’t worry, Zhenya, we know it is your money and you mom will always confirm it. And just in case some fools get ideas you could write ‘mine, mine, mine’ on every banknote…” There were a few of those rather mirthful moments.
Finally, the inspection came, consisting of the administrator, the Bag Guy, and a female karate instructor. And they found themselves fact-to-face with Professor Bruce. He politely invited them to his room, which was the nearest to the staircase. They tried to back out of it, but we would not let them. You have our rules, we said, – we did not go against them, so don’t go against ours. Search everybody or none at all. Okay, they say, but what about the children, shouldn’t not they leave the room? No, we say, you will do it with the students present, these are our representatives from the School departments, they are witnesses. If they get tired we will get others. And so Bruce ver-r-ry politely and somewhat artistically showed them EVERYTHING there was. Including disks, cameras, leftovers from food rations, Herman toys, and the personal stuff down to the underwear. Desolate and wretched, the justice champions tried to stop this disgrace from time to time, but he’d firmly tell them each time: “if you’ll excuse me!” and went on. And the children watched how the management suffered from their own dumb-witted insistence.
On the whole, Bruce kept them for about half an hour and the inspection has lost most of its nerve. Nevertheless, they went on into the room of the junior boys, accompanied by senior children and myself. There, everything went as if by a script. The older students helped the younger ones carry their finished bags to the middle of the room and together – helping each other along the way and just as politely as Professor Bruce – they demonstrated the contents of each bag, opening pockets and turning them out, methodically unwrapping bags… And the “inspectors” grimly understood that in each room they were to witness a similar manifestation of mutual support and contained contempt, while they would be presented with items to inspect, no personal belonging excluded. On top of that, I stood next to the karate instructor urging: ‘why are you looking away, inspect diligently!’ Finally, she could not take it any longer and exclaimed: ‘I’m not a policeman to dig through other people’s stuff.’ ‘Really, I shot back, but you were the one to initiate this obscenity, so now’s hardly the time to be squeamish!’ She chose this moment to turn about and storm downstairs, followed by the rest of the “inspection” team. I strode to the middle of the hall and yelled: “That’s it, folks! You can finish packing now!”
With our adrenaline still high from the experience we were done in forty minutes and sitting in the bus nine minutes later. And hardly left a thing behind.
Meanwhile, the administrator came to me and apologized in a soft voice, saying she did not know how she could agree to this, and so on, and so forth… To this I replied that I had no use for her apologies and that I was going to call the junior students, whose bags had been searched by the inspection, and she could apologize to them in front of everybody. Craning their necks, Tema, Danya, and Nikita listened to the lengthy apologies of the stuttering and blushing woman. An interesting thing, she did not even remotely blush forcing her apologies on me, but with the kids it was a different thing. Did her some good.
Standing near the bus the administrator asked if there was anything she could do to make it up to us and I decided, well, ‘everything is good for something’ (or, as the Russians say ‘Even a tuft of wood from a mangy sheep’), and I asked her to bring us some bottles of minerals water and plastic cups for the road. She hurried away and then the Bad Guy approached me and whispered into my ear that the karatekas had found their bag hidden in the bushes and that some of the stolen things were discovered among the belongings of their fellow karate students, that the instructors are kicking up a storm there right now and they have sent him, the Bad Guy, to apologize on their behalf. I told him that, given the situation, the apologies were only acceptable in person, and chose to keep gloomy silence in response to hopes of doing further business.
Then the water was brought to us and we took off. Amazingly, right on schedule.
And we arrived on time as well. When I told the parents about the search they answered supportively: “It’s probably all for the best At least, now, they have the experience.” So it turned out I had no reason to fret about this moment.
Everybody was exhausted, of course; still it was hard to say our good-byes.
The bus driver asked me to check that the children had left no litter behind. However, our children are not like some others: no candy wrappings, apple cores or plastic cups – the bus was clean and I only found a forgotten album drawing of a mermaid and a basilisk, subscribed “To George, from Katya.”


Selected students’ works for for Professor Eidan-Green’s class. The task was to write a scenario in any genre using the information about poisonous herbs from their Herbology and Potion lessons.

Sonya Lyzkhovitskaya
Genre: thriller, drama, love-story
There were two brothers. One of them was head of a corporation dealing in drugs, and the other only owned a small shop where he sold pot. The second brother grew tired of being the insignificant one, and he poisoned his kin with deadly amanitas (he mixed the mushroom with the wine and brought it to the orchard where his brother was resting). On the third day, when there came a characteristic illusory improvement in the condition of the patient, the dying brother understood everything, asked for his son Hamlet and called for revenge.
When the drug dealer died, his brother took his place. He also took his brother’s widow as his wife.
Much later, a girl whom Hamlet found attractive (her name was Ophelia), ate some “false” mushrooms (confusing them with similar edible species) and died from food-poisoning.
Only then did Hamlet poison the father’s killer with inocybe mushrooms.
It all ended tragically. Hamlet had enough of this and stuffed himself with monkshood, dying from paralysis of the respiratory center.
Kostya Ritter
There lived a king. He was young and strong, but he had a rival who was jealous of the king’s relationship with his fiancee. This rivalry lasted many years, until at last the king and his fiancee got married. But the envious miscreant came up with an evil plan: he stirred some corn lilies into the king’s goblet. The king drank the wine and in the evening he was unwell. He died four days later.

Katya Galustova
A friend of Lenin comes to him and says:
– Let’s go to your park!
– Ok.
They are walking through the park and he sees the Paris herb, he thinks it is blueberry and eats it, and dies the next day.
Signed: Flammenor

Zhenya Voronova
She is running across the swamps. Her happiness has ended and despair began. The sunset is blending with the branches of the trees. Maybe she shouldn’t have come this way. Yet it was decided and even the light of the dying sun will not stop her. Far ahead she sees death. A dead anarchist looking for his old house, leading a rank of corpses. No, it is the necromancer, the wretched outcast, the rays of the setting burning right through his mangled body. Yes, likely it is his shape. Yes, it’s him, running towards her, faster and faster. He still loves her!
But no, this was only a trick of imagination. To many poisons. Oh, these white mushrooms! An exquisite taste to season a broken heart! Strange mushrooms, strangier and strangier… Then she ate some weird blueberry – something’s not right. Why? How should she know… She went away into her own world, nothing earthly lasts, the plant brought her death and nothing remains, too many hallucinogens…
Soon she will faint, and an eternity later her body will decompose, her bones will rot, and only her soul will be left, wailing in the night. Yet this is still far ahead. Right now, there is somebody running over the swamps, shouting her name.