We Are Going To The Seashore
Dad’s name is Sioma, Mom’s name is Zina, my name is Alik. We used to live in Tallinn before the War, but I don’t remember that time, I was small then. Yesterday I ate too much of almonds, it made me sick.
How could you leave it lying about on the table, says Gran to Mom, you are out of your mind.
Dad made me drink water, a whole decanter of water, then fingers into the mouth, and I was sick twice. By the evening I was right as rain, only I have sore throat now, but not because of this. Gran says that the climate is rotten here, we live right next to the sea.
Then why did we come here, asked I.
We were born here, and we used to live here, says Dad. Tomorrow we will go to the seashore, to look at the water.
Will there be ships?
Of course there will be.
So now I am waiting for him to return a bit earlier for lunch, he will be allowed a short leave from the hospital, he is a doctor there.
But at the front lines you were a surgeon, weren’t you, I asked him not long ago.
He laughed, I am no surgeon, I am a general practitioner, I treat maladies. But at the front lines I had to do anything that was required.
How could you do the cutting if you don’t know how to do it?
I know some about it, they wouldn’t require from me to deal with difficult cases, only to cut it off if it was no good at all.
What was no good?
If an arm or a leg cannot serve a person any more. Then the surgery is simple, you just cut it off.
And then an artificial limb?
That would be in the rear, I wouldn’t know about that.
How many arms and legs have you cut off?
He sighed – I don’t know, I lost count, it’s war, Alik, let’s forget about it.
And now he returned to the clinic where he had been working before the war.
He came, he was in a cheerful mood – that’s quite another kettle of fish, normal people afflicted with deceases. Have you eaten your porridge? Let’s go, we have to make it before lunch.
Mom says, you are going? Sioma, be careful, there might be some mines left…
We won’t get out of the path, somehow or other it will take us to the water.
We went by the street car, it started running again not long ago, and then walked for some very long time along a narrow shadowed street of small wooden houses. That is Leineri street, I used to live here once, says Dad, only that house doesn’t exist any more. There indeed were some houses there that didn’t exist any more, only ruins were left. At last we reached some flat grounds with grass growing over it. Ahead of us was empty sky, unpleasant smell, and noise, not strong, but continuous, it was sort of thrusting on into your ears.
It’s the sea that makes this noise.
And where is the sea?
You cannot see it, I’d better lift you up. He took me in his arms, sat me on his shoulder. And I saw a gray wide band ahead, and above it sky that was almost as gray, a bit lighter maybe, and in the sky there were very white clouds, we never had any clouds that would be that white. When we lived in Tiumerevo, it is a village in Chiuvashia.
It’s autumn, look, the grass is withering, says Dad, farther on there will be sand. And the trenches, we will have to watch our step. At first we walked over the grass, then we made it to the sand, and I saw the sea from my own height. It is gray, but with white spots, because it is windy, wind makes waves, on the waves sits foam, which is of water and air, interlaced. The gutters started, they ran along the waterline, it was obvious that they had been filled in, but not completely, and a narrow path was leading to the water, you can walk along the path, and we did walk along it till we reached the dark strip of sand, of wet sand, there were pieces of broken trees, rags, rusty iron things scattered along it, and right next to those there lied and stirred slightly when moved by the wind and the water some green, dark… grass-like…
That’s seaweed, they grow in the sea, and now it is low-tide. Later water will catch them, it will advance on the shore, it will be high tide.
It will come close to us?
We won’t wait for it to do so, high tide will come not soon.
How do you know when?
Every six hours. The Moon by force of its gravitation draws water after itself, it cant’s actually lift it off the Earth, but it makes a wave, and that is tide… We have come back, Alik. Look, this is our sea. We fled from here, chased away by the Germans, and now we have come back. We have got the better of them, and we are to live here again.
Then we came home, and had some porridge, but without any husky-husks of bran in it, the yellow kind of porridge, Gran managed to get some millet, and there was a piece of meat to go with the porridge, of boiled meat. I couldn’t chew it up, Mom says I will cut it for you. And still I was hardly able to eat it, dry pieces are difficult to swallow.
But to make up for it you have had some meat soup, says Gran. Have I had soup? I don’t remember eating it at all, honestly.
You must eat meat, says Mom, you are undernourished. Now we have come back, and everything will go the way it used to go, won’t it, Semion?
Nothing will go the way it used to go, says Gran, and she began to cry, you will have to start from scratch. And I will have to start nothing, only to wait for the end of my life.
And she retreated to behind her folding-screen. And Mom and Dad stayed where they sat, and gave no reply.
Then I left, to sit in Uncle Ber’s arm-chair, upholstered with leather, huge, with flat hard buttons.
If it has to be from scratch, let it be from scratch, says Dad, we’ll give it a try, we are not old yet.