Y and her brother are speaking Russian too fast for me to follow. He is upset, she is doing what every good little sister does; poking, prodding, antagonizing.
Little sisters sound the same in any language, it seems. Y’s brother hangs his head.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
Y turns to me, chewing on a bit of dried fruit. “The military is after him.”
I turn to her brother.
“What did you do?”
He sighs, “finished school.”
“So, he has to go into the military, unless you pay, or hide,” Y cuts in.
I frown. “Pay?”
He nods. “You pay a doctor to find something wrong with you. Then you can escape.”
I try the bit of dried fruit Y has been eating. It doesn’t taste like fruit.
“Well,” I wonder, “why don’t you just do that?”
Y laughs. Her brother sighs; heavier, harder.
“What?” I ask.
“So, they didn’t find anything wrong with him. He is too perfect.”
I turn back to her brother. He nods, gloomy. “I’ve had sixteen x-rays, four MRIs. They test my blood too much. Nothing is wrong with me!” He looks lost, realizing he’s holding the short end of a short rope.
“Gees, sorry man,” I try. “What else can they do?”
He shakes his head, defeated. “They’ve tried everything.”
“Yesterday they even tried chopping off his hand,” Y says, excited. I look at her suspicious, then over at her brother’s hand. He is looking at it too, betrayed.
“It just grew back,” he moans.
Y puts a cup of tea in front of me. She sits, she places one hand over her brothers.
“It will be okay,” she says, lovingly. Then adds, “soldier boy.”
Her brother holds his perfect head in his perfect hands and groans.