Leningrad Before and After it Rains

There wasn’t a pigeon left in the city. Not a rat. People were hungry. People died. Bricks were laid.

A couple celebrating an anniversary walk over a mother who sold her wedding ring for a slice of bread; a tipsy woman clips her heel over the child who ate it.

It’s a placid night.

“The bones act up just before the rain,” J says as we walk down Nevsky prospect. He has neat hair and a clean sweater.

We pass a pair walking awkwardly arm-over-shoulder. The girl slips a little, the man catches her. They giggle.

“There are people alive who remember the names of these bones,” J says, motioning to the bricks passing beneath us. “Look, you can see, the bricks are wet.”

I look up, the sky is fattening itself up. I look down, he is right. I frown.

“Why?”

He shrugs. “No one knows.”

“Tears,” I suggest, “or maybe sweat?”

J shakes his head, thoughtfully. “Not sweat,” he says. “Winters were colder back then.”

I shudder. “Huh–but, no, I meant why are there so many dead people here?”

J gives me a remonstrative look. “You don’t know The Siege of Leningrad? One of the longest sieges in history.”

I shake my head, looking down at the stones. “A siege, like, everyone was trapped here?”

J nods. “Three years,” he says. “People could take their piano out to buy a half kilo of bread. That was in the beginning. Then, they could only get– what is less than a kilo?”

He asks, fishing for the word.

“Gram?”

He nods, “Yes, then only a few hundred grams. And even then, it was mostly made of wallpaper and glue.”

“Damn,” I mutter.

“Yes, damn.” He nods. “History tells us a lot—“

J stops to dodge a flyer being passed out by a man in a wizard costume. I automatically hold out my hand and take it.

“Girls, Girls, Girls!” it offers, in English.

I put it in the garbage.

“History tells us a lot about people,” J says, “why they do what they do, what they might do if it happens again.”

He looks around suspiciously at the passers-by. I follow his gaze to a young woman with pink hair. She is browsing the street with what modernity has dubbed a bitch-face.

“We’ll all probably die,” I say, with little commitment. J smiles at me.

“I am an optimist, I do not want to die.”

I think about it a moment. I shrug. “Me either. But, probably.”

J looks at me, then down at his feet. “Yeah, yes, probably.” He sighs.

We walk faster as the rain begins.

7 comments

  1. This is an incredible piece of writing, Flash 365. It must be such an eerie experience walking among the ghosts of that conflict but you’ve mixed the past and present so well. You mention bones and neat hair and clean sweater in the same breath. The fattening sky a nod to mother nature’s sick sense of humour and the importance of knowing history. We sleep walk towards disaster but let’s not get our hair wet. Just brilliant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • haha, I’m glad you like it. I’m going to start trying to experiment with some different styles and tones. I mean, I’ve got a year to experiment. I really enjoy the first person, present, magical realism, but, I want to branch out a bit. A bit darker or sadder or more subtle. Maybe some different ays of description. In the coming weeks hopefully I hit a few notes. Don’t want to be a one song pony.

      Liked by 2 people

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