DEATH AND LIFE IN THE CITY OF N.
RON GIBSON, JR.
I have lived in a Russian novel for years. The skies, choked with goose feathers. The ground, always dirty with snow. Everyday a new corpse lines the streets, be it brave soldier or murdered landlady or passionate woman whose heart has exploded with despair. It is becoming increasingly difficult for pedestrians and droshkies to navigate. Someone suggests men be hired to clear the way, but those willing to do the work have all frozen solid during the night.
Each day, what little daylight is spent mourning the newly departed. Brave faces are worn, toasts made, remembrances exchanged. Until, after so many days of the same, arguments break out over who it is being toasted. Voices are raised, patronyms misspoken, punches thrown, challenges issued, dueling pistols drawn, more blood shed.
With so many bad deaths stacking up like cordwood in all the city’s parlors, people huddle together in upper floors. But soon even the upper floors are filled. As a last resort, everyone moves to the rooftops. Below, the city streets are a maze of bodies. After a time the shivering rooftop dwellers refuse to look, for only the fat crows move.
Everyone longs for borscht, smoked herring and fresh potatoes, yet there is never a shortage of vodka. One bottle drained, another materializes. Together, we huddle in black. We sing songs, despite being robbed of life. We pass the bottle, faces blank with resignation, waiting for the final page to turn so I can return home.