9/2011 – Untitled
700 words or less, must have one character leaving town and one character arriving.
This is fairly autobiographical. The details were all extracted from my parents over time. The conversation is completely made up.
by Eneasz Brodski
Luba rocked her grandson in her arms as the pan of water slowly came to a boil. She looked again at the cupboard of formula and tried to ignore the sinking weight in her stomach. She had stood in queue at the grocery for five hours yesterday, arriving well before sunrise. Early enough to watch the government trucks rumble away, and speculate with neighbors on what goods might have arrived. Once inside she’d pulled up short before the baby formula, surprised to see it in stock, the first time in months. She hesitated for only a second before clearing out all the laundry soap in her cart. The shelves would be bare by the time she returned.
Now she stood in her kitchen, surveying the sixteen kilos of formula that should have lit up her daughter’s eyes. Instead Anya’s breath had caught, her eyes twinged with an instant of regret, before being papered over with a grateful smile and words of thanks. Luba had suspected for months. As valuables disappeared from the apartment she’d stayed silently – after all, this was no place for a family, not if you expected your children to soar. Anya and Josef were too ambitious to stay in the blocks but too idealistic to ascend through the Party. She’d even been proud of them. Then her grandson had arrived.
Carefully she measured formula into the bottle, added water, and screwed it shut. She carried both child and bottle into the common room where Anya was setting the table. Josef wasn’t home yet, now was the time.
“I love his name,” Luba opened. “He’ll stand out wherever he goes.” Aeneas, after the Trojan hero who’d been one of the few to escape the city as it fell.
“Yes,” Anya smiled, clearly thinking they were being subtle. “It was Josef’s idea.” She approached to take the boy from her, but Luba pulled back with an exaggerated huff.
“Let your mother enjoy her grandson for a bit,” she protested. “I’m not an old woman yet! I have plenty of strength for a child.”
Anya backed away and took a seat. “I assumed you’d be tired of rearing children by now.”
“Nonsense. In fact, I think I’d do better than before. I’ve gotten all my childish mistakes out of the way, this time I could make a proper job of it. You barely even have time for him between all the things in your life pulling for your attention. Children are wasted on the young.”
“The young have more to give than just a widow’s pension.”
“It was enough for you.” Luba paused. “In the old days young mothers would give their daughters to the grandmothers to raise, and care for their granddaughters in turn when it was their time. That way the newest generation would always be raised by the wisest in society, while the strong did the work and enjoyed their youth.”
“You just made that up,” Anya accused. But her eyes had taken on a distracted look.
“I did not,” Luba lied. “We could learn a lot from the ancients.” As she spoke Josef entered, and she cut herself short. She had planted the idea. She looked down at Aeneas again and wondered if his eyes would stay blue, like his father’s, or darken like his mother’s. She wanted badly to see for herself.
Two days later Luba returned from the market to find the flat empty, and a letter folded on the table. Her heart jumped into her throat and she strode past it quickly, already knowing most of what it would say. The important question was answered when she opened the door of the larger bedroom and saw the children’s clothing gone as well.