Tamara Khristoforovna by Margarita Ardasheva – translated by Maria Guzenko

Tamara Khristoforovna works in Lennon Preparatory High School. She imparts high-quality, lasting knowledge, which consists of telling children that she is their mother-in-math, and they are nothing but back-alley trollops. When Tamara Khristoforovna gets really emotional, she adds that only prostitutes wear black pantyhose. What about socks and stockings of that color? The jury’s still out on that one. It is also unclear how Tamara Khristoforovna knows so much about prostitutes. These kinds of conversations leave seven minutes at best until the end of the class. At that point, one of her more diligent students grabs a piece of chalk and spends the rest of the class scribbling some sort of abomination on the smart board, like an equation or, worse, a logarithmic function—naturally, with a mistake.

As soon as the bell rings, a mob of students bursts through the door of the math classroom with joyous howls and triumphant hoots. Never mind that the door’s been locked with two different keys. Tamara Khristoforovna stays behind to carry out minor repairs and water the flowers—a plastic ficus and a dried-up geranium. This is clearly an exercise in futility, but every teacher in the school waters something. You’re expected to keep up with your co-workers.

Back home, she stops being Tamara and simply goes by Khristoforovna on account of her young age and solitary lifestyle. A few times her darling students tracked her down and tried to catch a glimpse of her teacherly existence through drawn curtains, but nothing came of that. They shouldn’t have bothered, anyway. There is little furniture in the apartment, and Khristoforovna sustains herself on meager fare—boiled chicken and cabbage. It’s a special diet that keeps her body extra low-fat. But there is some variety in her drinking: whisky on even days and gin on odd days. No more than 50 grams of either. Just to feel alive.

As soon as it gets a little darker, Khristoforovna can’t wait to get in front of her mirror. She puts on a fake beard, pulls on a black knit cap and sunglasses that cover half of her face, and, suddenly, she’s no longer a woman but almost like a drummer. Most bands have one just like that these days, and if they have any other kind, they’re simply behind the times. Quite possibly, if you got a dozen drummers into one room and mixed them up, it would be hard to tell which band each plays for.

In this getup, Khristoforovna wanders the streets at night, admiring the lights and imagining she has just played a show. No one recognizes her, and she does not recognize anyone—she’s got nothing but traditional Russian heavy metal on her mind.

On April 13 Tamara Khristoforovna showed up in class in a particularly happy mood: that day she was going to teach her favorite topic. After a short lecture on mathematical motherhood, she called Bogdan to the board.

“You take this number with the plus sign and move it to the other side with a minus sign,” Khristoforovna muttered, tapping the board with her pointer. “Got it, knucklehead?”

“I got it,” Bogdan answered in a basso profundo.

Just as you would expect of a knucklehead, he kept the plus as he moved the number. Tamara Khristoforovna did an appropriate amount of yelling and prepared to place a fat F in Bogdan’s grade book. None of the pens lying on top of her desk turned out fit for the task, so Khristoforovna reached into the cabinet to get a red pen. Lying in the drawer, on top of her familiar office supplies, was a pair of drumsticks. Khristoforovna let out a shriek, and the knucklehead never got his F.

The rest of the periods were quiet and boring. The students were whispering to each other trying to understand what on earth had gotten into their Mathemother, and she did nothing but open the drawer at intervals and admire her discovery.

No sooner had Khristoforovna changed into her favorite black pajamas than someone started banging on the door in a most scandalous manner.

“A delivery for you, ma’am. Sign here,” declared a red-haired man in company-issued green coveralls.

“Come again?” Khristoforovna asked, bewildered.

“Your guess is as good as mine. Bring her in, guys!”

Three other guys as red-haired as the first dragged several boxes into the apartment, tracked dirt into the hallway, and left on their green coverall business.

“What if there’s a bomb inside?” flashed through Khristoforovna’s mind, but she quickly dismissed this thought as baseless—the boxes were too large. Whatever might be inside, she had to clean up after the delivery guys. After all, you can’t live with clumps of dirt by the front door! Khristoforovna grabbed a mop, but because she was a bit clumsy, she bumped against one of the boxes. This was immediately followed by a muffled but unmistakable metallic ring.

After a few hours of puzzling over assembly instructions, a drum kit emerged in the center of Khristoforovna’s room.

On April 14, a teaching position was posted at Lennon Preparatory High School: math instructor, a whopping 30 hours a week, open to external candidates. And no one ever saw Tamara Khristoforovna again. Music connoisseurs couldn’t stop talking about a cool new drummer who joined a certain famous band. Rumor had it his name was Khristo. Where do they even find these guys?



Margarita Ardasheva lives in the Northern Caucasus region of Russia and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Philology and Russian Literature. Her work has been published in Russian journals, including Solnyshko, Cura, Daryal, and Novaya Yunost’.

Maria Guzenko is a Russian-born translator based in Rochester, NY. She holds a master’s degree in Translation from Kent State University and specializes in the health and human services domain. This is Maria’s first published literary translation.