Timo Vaananen's mission was to teach Esko everything. At the village school, where Timo was one of the two teachers, this wasn't so bad. In school, at least, learning did not involve slaps. There was safety in numbers, and surrounded by the other kids, his head always deep in a book, Esko had only to pretend to negotiate the laws of geometry, algebra, trigonometry, the triumphs and sadnesses of Finnish history, the subtleties of Swedish, Finnish, and, because it was now the law, Russian, and the dirgelike chanting rhythms of "Kalevala," the national epic poem. "Kalevala" had Vainamoinen, the poet, the sorcerer who creates the world and defeats his enemies through the power of song; it had Aino, a beautiful maiden who spurns him; it had Lemminkainen, a fellow who lies and kidnaps and plays tricks; it had the doomed and sad Kullervo. Esko looked at "Kalevala" and saw a world that was familiar to the one he knew. In 1901, a time of simmering rebellion and nationalistic fervor, there were those who preached that the poem was also the literally true account of Finland in times gone by, an idea that appealed to little Esko, and one that appalled Timo, who preferred his history tinged a different color.
At night, at home, now that school was out, there was no pretense of scientific or scholarly rigor. Timo came on full and furious. Sometimes he stared silently at Esko for minutes on end, daring him to give a wrong answer.
The Cloud Sketcher. Copyright (c) 2001 by Richard Rayner. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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