Hungary

At some point in the early 80s my Mum brought home two things from Hungary.  I couldn’t really get the hang of either of them.  One was a puzzle called a Rubik’s Cube, and the other was a Hungarian.  This is a story about them.  Most of it is made up.

***

He said his name was Ebor Wolf.  He said that his real last name isn’t Wolf but that’s what his name means in Hungarian.

“What’s your real last name?” I asked him.

He said something strange and I shrugged.

“I’ll write it down,” he said helpfully.  He took a pen and a little notebook out of the breast pocket of his shirt and wrote his name down.  His handwriting was quite messy and I had to look at for awhile.

“Try and say it.”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to say it out loud as it seemed quite rude.  I thought he might be playing a joke on me.

Ebor smiled.  “Go on,” he coaxed.  “How you read it is how you say it.”

I decided I would say it.

“Is it, Fark Ass?”

Ebor’s smile slipped.  “No, no,” he said as he tore off the paper and crumpled it into a ball.  “It’s hard for people to say in New Zealand.”  He pushed the paper deep into his pocket.  “That’s why I changed my name to Wolf.”

“Sorry.”

Ebor has been to my house a couple of times and he seems a bit odd.  In the morning he insists that I have some kind of breakfast cereal that is mainly bird seeds and grain.  He also seems to like wearing just his underpants.  At the moment I’m not sure if it’s the bird seed that makes the cereal taste bad or the underpants.

“Do you like puzzles?” he asked me one morning from his underpants over a bird seed gruel.

“No.”

“Puzzles are great.”

I nodded.  “I don’t like puzzles because I can never finish them.”

“You just need to practise,” Ebor said confidently.  “It’s just maths.”

I hated maths.  I faked illness every Tuesday for a month to avoid the weekly maths test.

Next time Ebor came over he gave me a Rubik’s cube.

The Rubik’s Cube came inside a clear plastic dome, perched diagonally on a black plastic base.  It looked really cool.  I said thank you and put it down on the table in my bedroom.  Ebor waited for a while and then he said,

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

I really didn’t want to because I knew that if I started to play with the puzzle I would never be able to solve it and get all the colours lined up again.  On the other hand Ebor was standing looking at me, and I suppose he gave it to me so that I could play with it.  Reluctantly I took off the plastic dome and picked up the cube.

“Go on,” Ebor said enthusiastically.  “When you solve it I’ll have a go.”

I gave an experimental twist and mixed up one band of colours with another, and then I twisted it back so that it was all matched up again.

“Come on.  Mix it all up.”

I sighed and started to twist the different bands at random until the squares of colour were scattered across all sides of the cube.

“The record to solve it is 42 seconds,” Ebor said.  “Shall I time you?”  Ebor’s watch had a stopwatch function.

I shook my head.

Ebor rubbed his hands together.  “I’ll leave you to it.”  He went back to the door of my bedroom.  “Let me know when you’re finished.”

I smiled and he left.  I put the cube back down on the table in my room and went to the book case.  I took down an atlas and looked up Hungary.  It was in Europe inbetween lots of countries I hadn’t heard of.  It was near Turkey.  Hungary and Turkey were funny names.  Like Greece was a funny name.  I looked for other countries with funny names.  After along time I found Sandwich Island.

Mum called me for dinner.  I noticed it was dark outside.

Ebor was sitting at the dining table when I got there.  “Well?” he asked.

“It’s really hard.”

“It’s just maths.”

“I don’t like maths.”

“Do you like music?”

“Yes.”

“Music is maths,” he stated triumphantly.  Ebor reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his pad and pen.  I could see that the pad and pen were going to be a problem.  “I’ll show you,” he said.

The pad paper was very small and Ebor wanted to draw something very big involving lines getting halved, and something called chords made out of three things on a bunch of lines, and a spiral with lots of letters on it.  When he had finished I had finished my dinner and his was cold.

“You see?”  Ebor flicked through the five pages of his little pad now covered in lines and letters.  “It’s quite simple.”

Mum brought in dessert.

“J. likes music,” she said.  “He bought me Hooked on Classics for my last birthday.”

It was hard to read Ebor’s expression.  Perhaps he didn’t like cold spaghetti and meatballs.

“I love Hooked on Classics,” I said warmly.  “It’s classical music.  Do they have classical music in Hungary?”

Ebor mumbled something.  It sounded like “list”.

I thought perhaps they wouldn’t have classical music in Hungary so I explained it to him.  It took awhile.  When I had finished it was time to go to bed.  Before I went to bed I put the Rubik’s Cube in one of my desk drawers where I put other things I never use like my calculator, and my compass and protractor set.

4 thoughts on “Hungary”

  1. After reading/watching this I wanted to say nice story, or this year was the first year i have ever seen anyone in person solve a rubiks cube(a girl in my form class can do it in under 3 mins which I thought was impressive) or that clip ended before the young boys had finished so I never got to see who won. But the thing that most stuck in my head after this blog entry was the memory of how I called myself Cathy Lee after Cathy Lee Crosby on That’s Incredible – oh the shame

  2. Yeah, I know, it’s dumb that the clip ends early.

    I used to love watching That’s Incredible. Looking back now it seems pretty low budget and corny, but back then I remember thinking it was slick and cool.

  3. I LOVED that show – I wanted one of the shiny That’s Incredible jackets that they used to give away. It is best not to watch things you loved as a child when you become an adult – I learned that by watching Macgyver, it was like seeing my childhood crumble before my eyes

  4. 43 quintillion possible combinations on the cube! Sounds like a miniture universe in itself!

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