A Brief History of Mine

15 Nov

I was born in 1938 in Nazi-occupied northeastern Romania. My father was the mayor of the small village in which my brother and mother and I lived. He was an alcoholic who systematically beat everyone in the household, including all the farm animals out in the barn–for no reason. Once, I saw him take the rake and swing it at the cow’s belly and sides, puncturing her skin. She bled all over the courtyard. When he drank, my father would come into the house and urinate on the walls. And then he would wake us up and make us sing Communist songs or recite Communist poems, before he took the belt to us for not remembering some of the words. I went to University in the capital, Bucharest, and studied Forestry. After I finished, I worked in the Carpathian Mountains as a Ranger. I was charged with keeping out gypsies and loiterers from living in the forest and hunting animals or starting dangerous fires. Once, while walking through the trees on an afternoon shift, I ran across an old, rusted Nazi radar and communications panzer. It was strange. It was 1960, fifteen years after the war had ended, and the Soviets apparently never found this machine. I climbed up and looked inside through the hole. The equipment was rusted out and decrepit. It brought back weird memories of the time I was four and my brother and I came across a damaged Soviet tank, still smoking and with bodies inside, at the edge of Barna’s cornfield. In 1968 I crossed the border on foot into Hungary and was picked up by a friend who drove me to the Austrian border. From there, I greased myself up with pork fat and swam across the Danube River at night into Austria. In order to be able to stand the brutal temperature of the water, I had practised for three years waking up in the middle of the night and lying in a bathtub full of cold water. At first I could only stand it for a minute or two, but by the time I was ready to cross into the West, I could fall asleep in the water. I never told my plan to anyone. The night I crossed into Austria, my father died from asphyxiation with his own vomit. I was not to find that out for another month. In 1970 I became a guard on the Western side of the Berlin Wall. We were to stop any defectors, but it was widely-known that if anyone ever made it across from the East, they would be welcomed into West Germany. On my watch, I personally let through seventeen people. In 1979 I emigrated to the United States and settled in Erie, Pennsylvania. I took a job as a buyer for a small factory which manufactured lighting fixtures. I saved enough money to buy a white Chevette so I wouldn’t have to depend on the bus any longer. Public transportation in the United States was not very reliable. On the morning of May 8, 1981, while getting out of my car in the factory parking lot, I was hit over the head by two men who robbed me. They took my wallet and car. On their way out with the stolen automobile, they ran over my body and crushed my ribs and every organ inside. I was found by my superior, Terry, a short while later. He spilled coffee on his shirt when he saw me lying there. I was pronounced at 0845 by a Croatian emigré emergency room doctor at Hamot Medical Center on 201 State Street, Erie, Pennsylvania. That day, my brother became a father for the first time, back in Bacau, Romania. My mother hired a man to split wood for the hearth. One of her neighbours got drunk and vomited on his front steps, near a turkey feeding on his corn. A woman celebrated her thirty-eighth birthday by moving into an efficiency apartment in Cleveland, Ohio. Two boys, brothers, bought tickets to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Majestic Movie Theatres in Lawson, Missouri. And a little girl named Siobhan was born to a Thomas and Rose-Marie Pendleton in Bath, England.


4 Responses to “A Brief History of Mine”

  1. slyboots2 16/11/2007 at 3:09 AM #

    This one hung around in the back of my brain all day. Lovely writing, but kind of disturbing. Don’t know why exactly…just is. But hey, don’t go changing just to please me, you never let me down before….

  2. (S)wine, Inc. 16/11/2007 at 1:08 PM #

    this one is still hanging around the back of my brain, also.
    this is one of a few with which i’m pleased.
    thanks sly, it seems you and three others are my only readers nowadays.
    for that, you get a free copy of my book (which…will never see the light of day, so hold on to it in case it becomes a…collector’s item-BWAHAHAHAHA, just kiddin’), and a couple of pints of your favourite mead. Uh, I mean beer.

  3. Janete Cabral 18/11/2007 at 1:52 AM #

    Great one lx. I really love the way you describe the central character and then draw the parallel lives of others around…It builds the atmosphere, makes the writing more compelling.

    As before…have you thought about developing it into a novella or a novel?

    I do like shorts myself…usually keep them locked away…a friends once told me they seemed more like essays then stories…but then what makes a story?

  4. (S)wine, Inc. 18/11/2007 at 1:14 PM #

    thanks janete.
    i’m not a big fan of my own writing, but this one–i believe–i got just right.
    i am indeed toying with incorporating this kind of stuff into a larger project.

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