the short story project


As The Crow Flies


My father killed a bear. With his own frozen bare hands, he killed it. Those big hands that took out gold from the banks of the frozen rivers, with bare fingers – like that – drew out fish from the water under the ice of the frozen rivers. My father worked as hard as the builders of the pyramids in Egypt did, maybe you’ll understand that. Minus 19 degrees is not something you can understand. We lived in a small tent, in a tent! Papa, Mama and me the little one, and all the time we lived around the stone oven in the middle of it. 11 months a year this oven worked. Father’s frozen hands brought wood to this oven. I had no idea where from, I did not see anything growing in this white desert. How do I explain to you the fear of the oven going out? That fire Stop? Fear of death. People there died of cold, froze to death. Only bears can live there without problems. We dreamed that if you die, it’s better by a predatory bear. Death by a bear sounded warm, almost pleasant. And there were such incidents. People don’t speak about it because it sounds even less reasonable than minus 19 degrees. Everyone talks about prison, snow, hunger, but there were also bears and there were also families like ours who came here to work, not for a prison. Who do you think built all the roads and buildings you can see there today? Who touched the gold and the fish with his own hands and who could not have anything for himself but food stamps? My Papa!
My father told me to love Russia, so I loved. I did not know there were other places, that there were other suns, that with this gold they built palaces in Moscow, that over there, they threw cooked fish in the garbage. However, my father killed a fucking bear! I remember many uses we did with it. Father not only saved us from prey, thanks to him, we had fur, we had shoes, and yes, we had no worries about food for a time.
After that, Father didn’t come for a long time. Luckily, my mother had a decent job at the factory. They did not dare touch her. Mother assured me that father would be back. You know, if he came back I would never have left. Even the coldest place in the world, I wouldn’t leave. My father killed a bear! Do you hear me?

Each day Grandpa Yuri has a story. I listen to him quietly and think – if a person surrounds one of the poles and passes throughout all the longitudes, he accomplishes, allegedly, surrounding the whole Earth. I like globes with glowing latitudes and longitudes. My little son’s father was from Varanasi. My little son’s father was from the country of the green parakeet parrots. Many longitudes these parrots crossed to get here, and they don’t even know. Thanks to him, I have a beautiful boy that smiles, twinkles and has slightly slanted eyes.

Novosibirsk and Varanasi are on the same longitude. Tomorrow I will check how many latitudes there are between Russia and India. How many green parakeet parrots can cross these lines or how much snow it takes to fill those lines? They simply attached right here, in Ramat-Gan, on the bench near the kindergarten’s gate of my son.  Above me is a tree full of parrots from India, beside me stands a grandfather from Russia, waiting here for his grandson with me every day, telling stories. To me, this kind of connection opens up all the meridians, all the languages.

Grandpa Yuri remembers how his mother took care of him in the snow. She covered him with a warm blanket full of white cotton, fed him a sweet hot white porridge with a smell that we don’t have here and sang him a white lullaby. He would cry and ask where Papa was and she went on singing.
She told him Papa would be back soon and he asked if he had gone to war, if he loves him anymore. She kissed him on the forehead and told him “don’t cry my son, we are far away from the border and Papa will come back, I’m quite sure war is over.”  
At nights, here in Ramat-Gan, without the sweet porridge, he dreams of an old white horse, and his noble rider in his long fur coat, approaches him slowly in the snow. This is Father Oleg, he knows. In the days, he waits for his grandson under a tree full of small green parrots who think we don’t see them among the leaves, who think we don’t know they have run away, that there is no child waiting right now for them to return. Every day.

My little son has no father as well!

I try to tell Grandpa Yuri, but he is not attentive and I keep sitting and listening to his stories about fish in frozen water, bears, and expectation in the cold snow. Stories of a dream about a tired white horse approaching slowly with his noble rider in a fur coat.

My son always runs ahead, arrives first at the kindergarten’s gate. I wave goodbye to Grandpa Yuri. He has to wait. His grandson is certainly well educated, lifts the chair at the end of each day and probably leaves this gate last.

As in any language, like all children, Grandpa Yuri too just wanted a secure warm, or even cold hand, or a big leg to embrace, to encircle between his hands; just wanted a father to warm his little heart with the memories of the snow; just wanted to close his eyes and sleep with confidence that Papa will come back tomorrow.  He still wants a big fatherly hand, but he has only a horse in a dream, and he will never ever believe that Papa left him.

4021 kilometers as the crow flies between Novosibirsk and Varanasi. And I’m interested in latitudes and longitudes glowing on the globe and in tricks how to surround the earth. In my dreams, I see green parrots playing in white snow and children without a father having no place to go. Children without a father are similar across all latitudes. They don’t have a central meridian to cling to. They don’t have an estimate of where the poles are, they don’t have precise coordinates. They don’t have a father. In all languages.

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