Email 32

Subject: Re: Kostya’s Goblin
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The image in the book is a painting.  Actually, however, I did get a photograph of the goblin.  Well, not the whole goblin, but at least its eye and its fingers.  I used the photos as a reference for the painting.

My friend, Kostya, had an old dacha, a summer house.  It was located in Staritsa, between Moscow and St. Petersberg.  The dacha’s shape, weathered exterior, and sagging roof gave it the appearance of a small barn.  Many years ago, someone had splashed a bit of gray paint on the log walls.  Inside, the cracks between the logs were chinked with moss, and every room was wallpapered with old Russian newspapers.  A tiny balcony clung precariously to the upper level of the house.  I was certain it would come crashing down if anyone ever stepped onto it.

Kostya and I spent two delightful weeks there in late summer, picking cucumbers, digging beets and carrots, and weeding the potato patch.  After dinner we sat outside and told stories.  The evening air carried the scent of ripening apples.  Sometimes Kostya played his guitar.

But I wasn’t there just to vacation.  Chicken had been disappearing from Kostya’s coop, and he was upset about continually having to replace his hens.  He had put a lock on the door and replaced the loose boards in the walls.  Kostya knew, however, that once the goblin had tasted his chickens it would be back for more.  And he knew it was the chance I had been looking for, which was why he’d invited me to visit.

We mounted my camera on a tripod inside the coop.  I aimed it at the door.

“Nyet,” said Kostya, waving his hand at the camera.  “Don’t aim it at the door.”

I looked up in surprise.  “Why not?”

“I’ve been locking the door,” said Kostya.  “The goblin knows it can’t get in there any more.”

“Just leave the door unlocked tonight,” I said.

Kostya shook his head.  “No, that will make it suspicious.  It will suspect a trap.”

Kostya kicked at a board in the wall until it started to come loose.  Then he picked up a piece of tar paper from the corner of the chicken coop and tacked it over the opening created by the loose board.

“Point the camera at the tar paper,” said Kostya.  “That’s where the goblin will be coming in.”

We hid a microphone in the hay, along with a video camera and infrared sensor. Kostya also attached a wireless remote to my camera’s shutter release by using a garage-door opener he borrowed from a neighbor.  When we had everything set up, we retreated to the house.  We set the video monitor on the table, filled the table with snacks, and got out the cards for an evening of poker.

Kostya always beats me at poker.  He seems to know the cards I have in my hand as well as I do, and I suspected that the only hands I was winning were ones he was letting me win.  Around midnight, I saw Kostya suddenly tense up.

“Look,” he whispered, pointing at the monitor.  A hole had appeared in the tar paper, and there was an eye peeking into the coop.

I pressed the shutter release and got my first picture.  The eye blinked once.  Kostya mumbled something in Russian under his breath.

Then, the microphone picked up the quiet sound of tearing tar paper.  Six delicate, claw-like fingers reached through the tear.  As the tear widened, the video camera picked up the image of a worried hen hurrying to the far side of the coop.

I pushed the clicker and got a picture of the goblin’s fingers.

Kostya jumped to his feet.

“Wait!” I shouted.  “You’ll scare it off!”

But Kostya was already out the door, running through the darkness toward the coop, waving a shovel he’d grabbed on the way out the door.

“That’s enough!” he shouted.  “That’s the goblin that’s been stealing my chickens, and he’s not going to get another one tonight!”

The goblin was long gone by the time Kostya reached the chicken coop.  And I didn’t get a picture of the whole creature.  But, at least I learned what its eye and its fingers look like…


To be continued…

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