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I. Sparrows

000 |The Night Grows Pale, scene 02

I leave my shleptop bag with Zhenya behind the bar, glad that the rest of my luggage — a vintage carpet-bag and a tatty leather suitcase — are far way, sealed in a metal storage locker at the General Post Office so neither Mika nor Zhenya can see them, see that I’ve got nowhere to put them, nowhere to sleep.

Slinging my handbag over one shoulder, I make for the basement discotheque. The mimosa’s gone to my head, loosened the hold of terror, and I’m suddenly starkly aware of how my chiffon blouse lies against my chest, where it brushes the vinyl pasties — heart-shaped — I stuck on not so much for modesty but, ah, to signal that I’m aware the blouse’s see-through — like, I’m flat and I

intend on staying so, and a bralette under gauzy fabric doesn’t scream “I’m a tart” quite as loud when thou hast nothing to put in it, nu?

It’s been a long, dreary dry spell, and oy, before the Mamka there was life with Gilya — a long, dreary, dry lesson in when loneliness is a narrow life with a boyfriend what lingers like a census-taker over the notch where the bris inscribed the Covenant upon thee and stays silent when thou kvetshest.

I pause just at the top of the stairwell, and I think about Gilya, and I think about the apartment we shared back on Osedka, the apartment what used to belong to his grandparents, where beside the front door, just under the door-bell, lingered a light rectangular patch set at thirty degrees, and four empty holes where nails had been gouged out.

I lean against the doorjamb, and I take my yarmulkeh out of my handbag, and I fish the bobby pins out of the side-pocket, and I pin the yarmulkeh back in place, where it belongs, and then I tell myself, I’ll die a yid. I’ll die a yid, and Gilya can frown all he likes, in the halls of memory, where a part of me will always sit at our kitchen table, under Gilya’s sad gaze, as he calls me by the name on my Ladsky paperwork, and I drink vodka out of his great-grandmother’s silver kiddish cup.

The handbag’s clasp twists in my fingers as I fumble to latch it shut, still leaning on the doorjamb. It’s cool in the Peach, but I run hot; a feverish resolve grips me. I double-check my chatelaine, making sure I’d remembered all the bead colours and silver charms what would tell any hot-house flower what cared to look what kind of late-night mutual activity I’m looking for, because like, nu, I have my preferences when it comes to such things and tonight I’m not in a temper to deal with any more roses what would baulk at fucking me up the arse or for that matter, feh, don’t take it that way themselves.

I run my fingers over the main strand of beads — strung on a leather cord, with a silk tassel, just to indicate the basics — and make sure I’d remembered the large silver beads both at the start and the end; I pause to fidget with the top one — okay Leyb you’re a

kombayn but when’s the last time you didn’t bottom — and then decide to leave it.

I’m stalling.

I pause to collect myself; I feel a presence behind me, and the tug of a sign, a missive from Infinity—

I glance behind myself, but there’s just a sulky thorn — pallid and flushed, birchwood stained with blood — what looks only vaguely familiar, drinking beer and not even looking in my direction.

I shake myself. The veil of premonition does not lift, but it loosens. Feh. False positive.

Enough stalling.

I descend to the basement discotheque.

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Author’s Note

If you’re looking for the original Part 02, it’s now Scene 03! The site was restrucuted on 06/01/2022, since I decided chapter divisions constrained by an arbitrary word count were aesthetically displeasing to me.


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The Bitter Drop © 2014–2024, Isidore Bloom; licensed underCC BY-NC-SA 4.0