a weekly series of fiction to enjoy with your bowl of cereal
Igor and Spank by Kel Rohlf
After school started, once or twice a week, Elena and I would take the boys and Spank for a walk to the park in the evenings. It was nice to have something to look forward to, and Elena was easy to be with. She sometimes would tell me more bits and pieces about her life in Bosnia.
“Gail, I was wondering do you ever miss Jack and the boys,” Elena asked.
“Of course. I can hardly believe, they’ve been gone almost a year now. I was so depressed when then left, and really it was my decision to stay behind. Jack wanted me to come, but at the time, I felt I was too much of a burden. I couldn’t hide the depression anymore. At the time, I just was so desperate to be alone, to no longer have ANY responsibility. Don’t get me wrong, I love my boys and I tried to love Jack, but it just was so hard. I couldn’t keep making myself get up each morning. I just didn’t want to be involved anymore. Jack tried to get me to see a doctor, get medicine or help of some sort. I couldn’t admit I was that depressed, I just wanted a break from the tedium of life. I didn’t realize I was sleeping all the time. After they left, a good friend insisted she take me to her therapist. Its taken lot of therapy and tweaking of meds to get me to this place.”
“That was brave to get help. And to stay behind.”
“I don’t know, was it? I haven’t even talked to my boys on the phone. What must they think? Jack checks in occasionally, but he’s so busy. He had his parents move to New York to help with the boys. Some days, I feel so guilty, but other days it seems like it’s the only way for me to get better.”
“It’s hard to take care of ourselves, I never stood up to Samuel much, and even when I did he didn’t listen. And then that horrible night took him away from me.” Elena wiped a tear from her eye. “Even though we disagreed, I loved him. Our little farm was sustaining our family, and even feeding some of our neighbors. I miss those days.”
We sat in silence watching Igor push Georgie on the swing. Spank sat next to us seemingly enjoying the cool autumn breeze on his fur.
I ventured to ask Elena about Carl. “When I first met Igor, he said your boyfriend was watching him, while you were at work? What happened to him?”
“Oh, that was a big mistake. I met Carl during our orientation classes at the International Co-op in the city. He had emigrated from Bosnia, too. I was a lonely widow with two children. I knew I was disappointing my dead husband, but I didn’t know how to live alone. We were staying in temporary housing in the city, until I could get a job and decide what school I wanted for Igor. Carl seemed nice at first, we could talk in our native language, even while learning English in the ESL classes. When I found the rental home in this neighborhood, I invited him to live with us. I thought it would be safer and less lonely.
The Co-op offered various services, like classes for me to get my beautician’s license. And one of the local Christian schools provided scholarships for Bosnian refugees like us. I accepted the scholarship to honor Samuel. He would have wanted our sons to remain connected to our faith.”
“He didn’t care. I kind of liked that about him, he was open to whatever. At first his companionship was a comfort to me, and he even seemed interested in the boys. He promised Igor we could get a pet once we got settled. I took my classes at night, and he watched the boys.”
“Did he work?”
“Yes, he got construction work when he could, but it was hard since he wasn’t from here. When I met him he never drank much, but during the day he started going to the local tavern. He told me that’s where he could meet crews that needed an extra hand. He promised he could get work. I just went along with it. I didn’t feel I had much choice.”
“He started yelling at me and the boys. He told me I was lazy. I should get a second job to keep food on the table. I am ashamed that I let it go on like that for a few months, but the day he raised his hand to Igor, I demanded he leave. And amazingly, he packed up his few belongings and rumbled off in his truck. I haven’t seen him since.”
I sighed, and held back my impulse to tell her about Igor’s experience. I made a promise, and Igor hadn’t mentioned Carl or dreams lately, so I let it go. The sun was fading, so Elena called to the boys and we walked home.
I haven’t seen Igor and Spank much lately. I still drive by their house on my way out of the neighborhood, just to see if Elena’s ex-boyfriend’s truck is in the driveway. I never did tell her about Igor’s dream, and the narrow escape from Carl. I guess I wanted to keep my promise to Igor. Apparently he hasn’t had any more dreams lately, but he did stop by to invite me to go trick or treating with them. It was hard to say yes, as it brought up the ache of not being with my own boys on Halloween.
I used to love Halloween. As a kid, I loved making my own costumes. One year I used a whole package of toilet paper to wrap myself up as a mummy. By the end of the cold, rainy night, the paper clung to my clothes in little patches, while the rest of it had flown off around the neighborhood. I loved sorting my candy and comparing my haul with my brother. We always got one or two apples, which we threw away because of the one year, the news reported that a kid cut their mouth on a razor blade hidden in the apple. I always wondered why we didn’t just cut the apples open to check for hidden dangers.
When we had kids, I was going to make themed outfits for all of us. But Jack didn’t celebrate the holiday. He never did as a child, and didn’t believe it was necessary for our kids either. I disagreed. It was the one time in our marriage, where I stood up for what I wanted. I told him that he didn’t have to participate, but I was going to make matching costumes for me and the boys each year, and walk the neighborhood. I still can’t believe that he gave in, he usually stood firm on his principles. And normally I’d just go along to keep the peace.
Our last Halloween together, we dressed up like characters from the Wizard of Oz. I was Dorothy, of course. Adam was the tin man and Joshua the scarecrow. If Jack had agreed, I would have made him the lion. But once again he opted out. We had a balmy evening, and I was in good spirits for a change. The boys came home with pillow cases filled with candy, and I even enjoyed watching them sort and trade for their favorites. My brother and I were never that generous. Jack, even came in and asked if the boys would give him one of their big candy bars. They both denied him with loud laughter and giggles. Finally, Adam, said ok, and gave his dad a Baby Ruth, Jack’s favorite. That was a good night. Then the darkness crept back in as November unfurled, and on Thanksgiving, I told them I wasn’t going to New York. I wonder if the boys are begging their grandparents to take them out trick or treating this year, or have they just moved on.
I’ve decided to try my hand at being a mummy again this year. This time I cut strips of white fabric and sewed them together to make long strands to wrap around each section of my body. While I wait for Igor, Georgie and Elena to arrive, I look in the mirror. I think this year my costume will stay intact, despite the forecast of rain and cold weather. Igor is keeping his costume a surprise. Elena told me, she and Georgie were going to be Mama and Baby Bear. I look one more time in the mirror, and swallow the ache. The doorbell rings, it must be them.
I open the door to Mama Bear, Baby Bear and Goldilocks. I start laughing so hard, and Igor glares at me though his golden curly bangs.
“It was momma’s idea,” he growls, then pulls off the wig to reveal a baseball cap. I notice his stockings are actually old-fashioned baseball socks and his shoes are cleats. Elena unties the dress to reveal a baseball player suit.
“You guys, really had me.”
“The look on your face,” Elena laughs and wipes happy tears from her eyes. “Are you ready, Lazarus?”
“You know, come out of the grave, Lazarus? Your costume?”
“Oh, no. I’m a mummy, like from Egypt.”
“Oh, I see…I wasn’t thinking of that. Let’s just go,” Elena shrugged off her mistake, and grabbed Georgie’s hand.
I notice that Spank is missing, “No, Doggy Bear?”
“He doesn’t like costumes!” Igor answers. “And I don’t think baseball players take their dogs out on Halloween. Come on, Mummy, let’s catch up with Mama and Baby Bear,” he offers me his hand.
I take it and swallow the ache again. We walk hand in hand toward them and our first house of Halloween. A question rises in me, and I hesitate, but ask anyways, “Have any dreams lately, Igor?”
“Yes, we get lots of candy tonight!” He tugs me along, and waits behind his momma and brother. We all shout “Trick or Treat!” as the door opens.