a weekly series of fiction to enjoy with your bowl of cereal
Igor and Spank by Kel Rohlf
Elena and Igor invited me over for dinner at their house. I arrived a few minutes early. I pulled up into their driveway, parked and went to the door on the side of the house. Igor greeted me leading me into their kitchen. Elena’s kitchen had a window box over her sink filled with little terra cotta pots with various herbs. I sat down on a stool at their breakfast bar. The room was filled with the aroma of stewing tomatoes and garlic.
Igor had gone off to check on Georgie. Elena offered me a glass of wine, but I settled for ice water. Wine usually makes me sleepy.
“How was your day?” I ventured.
“I worked all day cutting hair, my feet are killing me,” she replied as she poured my water from a Brita container into a wine glass. She poured herself a glass of wine and joined me at the breakfast bar. “Ahh, this feels great to be off my feet.”
“How do you do it, Elena? Caring for two active boys and working and all by yourself.”
“You do what you have to do, my dear. Before my husband was killed I had lots of help. He was a good man, you know.”
“I’m sure he was… um, Elena, would you be up to telling me more about what happened?”
She turned on her stool, and looked into my eyes. I don’t know what she saw there, but I couldn’t take her gaze for very long. I felt she was looking into my soul and might see some of my secrets. I looked away out the window. Igor was playing fetch with Spank in the backyard and Georgie was digging in their sandbox. Elena touched my arm, and said, “Gail, it’s a sad story for me to tell, but for some reason I think I’m supposed to tell you. You see my family lived in a rural town outside of Sarejevo. We were a small community that still clung to the Orthodox Church. We owned a little family farm and raised sheep, and grew vegetables in our own garden to feed our family and share with our neighbors.
The non-Orthodox leaders of the community thought we were better off dead. Our existence offended them. My husband’s family had lived there many years, and wanted to defend their right to live where they had settled. Since my husband’s family founded the village, the congregation of our church looked to him to resist the taking of our heritage. Samuel, my husband, and others met secretly at night to discuss ways to resist and keep our land.
Soon after they began meeting, I had this recurring dream of the building where they met, being on fire, and Samuel not being able to get out in time. I would beg him not to go anymore, that we could move to America and start over, but he was too proud. He refused to give up his land. Georgie was just a little seed in my womb at the time. Samuel and his friends began planning ways to cut off supplies to those who were trying to take over, and my nightmares continued. I kept them to myself and was very worried. I tried to trust God, and not worry so much, as I did not want to upset my growing Georgie. I needed to be calm, so he would not be a cranky baby when he joined our family.”
I nodded in agreement, not really understanding her reasoning. Elena continued her story.
“One night very close to Georgie’s birth, Samuel had a meeting at the church. They were going to set up a land mine on the road to where a huge convoy of supplies were scheduled to be delivered to our enemies. Once again, I begged Samuel to stay home. My dream the night before seemed more urgent and this time I saw Samuel lying on the floor not breathing from too much smoke. It broke my heart, but he would not believe me. He told me not to be superstitious. “God does not speak through dreams anymore,” and then he told me, “You must trust me.” He gave me a long, tight hug.
With tears in her eyes, Elena whispered more to herself than to me, “Those were his last words to me.” She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and looked out at her boys in the backyard. I gulped back a sob, and looked at the floor. I wanted to hug her, but felt too awkward. Elena stood up from her stool. She patted me on the shoulder, then went to the door to call the boys in for dinner.