04 February, 2010

Pass the salt...

“Salt, please,” a forlorn-faced Yevgeny asked, not even looking up from his gruel. 

Dmitri glared across the table. Sharing a bunk with Yevgeny was eating away at his soul. 

Yevgeny was constantly trying to impress him. That morning Yevgeny had come right up to him before breakfast with a child-like glee slapped across his face, hands hidden playfully behind his back. He shook with excitement, eyebrows up and grinning ear to ear. 
“Close your eyes.”
“No.”
“I have made you a gift. It is a surprise.”
“Yevgeny, I haven’t the time for this.”
“Come along Dmitri Petrov, please… for an old man…”
Dmitri could feel a migraine beginning. He groaned. Then capitulated. 
Fine,” he agreed, “but make it quick old man, it is nearly meal time, and people may see.”
Yevgeny opened his hands wide,  
“Open!” he cried. 
Dmitri yelped. Yevgeny’s hands were filled with compost. 
“Do you like it?” he inquired proudly, “It is a little cello! I have fashioned it for you!”
Disgust was visible behind Dmitri’s glasses.  Yevgeny just paused, face aglow, “…for you.” 
Dmitri, revolted by both the figurine and its creator, still took it up all the same and placed it in his pocket just to make the man go away. 

“Oh!” Grigory would say, laughing, “how you two amuse me!” he was folded over himself.
“What have I missed?” Andrey Tenverov asked, tray in hands, as he sat down beside them all. Young as he was, the men soon found Tenderov to be buoyant, charming; and quickly made so favorable an impression on the crew that at times it felt he had been there all along. 
“The way they carry on Tenderov, the way they carry on!”

Below the bellows of Grigory Boleslav a young woman approached the table, dented mug in hand. She seemed a mixture of Cossack and Mongol races; small, lithe, and taut as a cord, with a heart-shaped face framed by a headscarf, and little eyes, which were ferocious but sunken.  She tapped Andrey Tenderov upon the shoulder and handed him the mug of lukewarm tea he had left back at the meal line upon the counter. He turned around and caught her gaze—a vacuum of silence suddenly came over the scene for a moment before being broken by—
“—One would never think,” Grigory guffawed, clasping Tenderov’s arm, “that were the boy and that the old man!” 
“Thank you,” Tenderov muttered, turning back to the girl, but she had already disappeared into the crowded canteen without a single word. Tenderov’s gaze followed her, as if she left a scented trail. 
Griogory, still doubled up and howling, grabbed his eyes for they were tearing, “His humor and your hatred of it Mitya—God it is delightful!” 

Dmitri glared. 
“How can you eat it?” he rebuked adjusting his glasses scathingly so as to emphasize the full power of his reproach. “It is seeped into our pores, it flakes from our scalps, we discover it in the pockets of our coats, the crevices of ourselves, it sloughs off into our beds!” and he shook his cap over Yevgeny’s food.
Bah! Look here Dmitri! Mind your business! And here when I gave you my extra half a slice!” 
“You are a halfwit,” Dmitri dismissed. He was in another ornery temper.  
 “Come, Dmitri, leave the man and his tasteless food alone!” Mikhail entreated the men, trying to intervene and eat in peace. 

The men shifted, exchanging looks, chewing through their amusement. For a moment all they could hear was the clanging of the spoons against the tin trays. 

“The food tastes of nothing!” implored Yevgeny, unable to let it alone.
“Better of nothing than of salt, surely?” berated Dmitri once again, his voice raising. 

Yevgeny had no response.

“You are a bore.”
You are.”
“You!”

The two returned with renewed zeal to their respective tin trays, leaving the rest of them bemused and silent once again. 

2 comments:

  1. i cannot flipping wait to read this book

    ReplyDelete
  2. “You are a bore.”
    “You are.”
    “You!”

    ReplyDelete

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