The Osseous Tissue of Fish, Two Poems and One Song,
How to Safeguard a House Key, They Drank Water Out of Jars,
Where the Microphone Is Hidden
—For you fish, for me sausages.
—I said it only once.
The table had no cover. They ate next to one another staring at the wall.
—Were you a good pioneer today?
—What did you learn?
—Two poems and one song. About the revolution.
—Good man. Will you tell them to me after dinner?
—I’ll have to practice still Љ
—Good man. When you can. When you’re ready.
She whispered: Tonight I’ll teach you the Our Father.
—You mean Our Leader?
—No. Our Father.
—Is it a poem?
—It’s like that. You say it at night, before bed. Before night falls all the way through. Eat your fish.
—It has bones.
He spat out tiny, sharp slivers of endoskeleton, which he pushed together into a pile on the side of the plate.
—Uncle Petru drinks yogurt straight out of the jar.
and makes horrible gurgling sounds when he does it.
—Means he likes it.
—It makes me ill.
—Don’t exaggerate. Eat more fish.
She slapped him lightly on the back of the head.
—Be nice to Uncle Petru. Without him we’d have no hot water. Or fish.
—Eat. Now. What else?
—We memorized the periodic table in chemistry.
—Good. What’s Lead?
—That’s easy. It’s just like plumb.
—It is. And?
—Laurentiu pissed on the staircase at yard time. He couldn’t hold it any longer.
She sucked something out of her teeth: —Animal. Did they catch him?
The boy snickered through his nose.
—Did you remember your key?
She slapped him lightly on the back of the head again.
—Where is it now?
The boy dug into his shirt and brought out the awkward piece of metal, tied to a thin rope hanging around his neck.
—Good man. Eat.
—Tomorrow can I have sausages?
—Fried potatoes tomorrow.
—I said it only once.
They drank out of gigantic two-liter jars. She had sterilized them with boiling water the night before, while he sat and scrubbed himself in the bathtub. Before they were sterilized, she had pickled cabbage in them. They still tasted like it.
She whispered: —I want you to tell no one about Uncle Petru.
—Anything about him. Don’t even mention him.
—Look at me.
—Yes, Ma. I won’t say nothing.
—Good man. Will you recite those poems for me?
—That’s my good man.
She said that last bit about the poems much louder. And when she said it, she cocked her head up toward the light fixture in the kitchen. That’s where the microphone was.
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