I don’t know what you call it in English. A rug beater, maybe. It’s made of bamboo or something wooden and strong like that. Has a long handle. Looks like a paddle, but slightly longer than a tennis racquet. How you use it is: you take down your rugs, down into the courtyard, hang them on the rusty, iron bar the government has provided to all schemes, and use it to beat the dust and dirt out of them. That was my job then. I would take out my mis-understood feelings of my father beating me, on the rugs, downstairs in the courtyard of our scheme, swallowing the dust. I would take them out on the cat, as well, holding him down and spanking him hard as he made the most heart-wrenching sounds. And now thinking about it I can’t bear it. I did many violent things to somehow come to terms with the beatings. Nobody really thinks about how that bleeds into other people’s lives. Or animals’.
The afternoon the Arabs came in Soviet-made Volgas and Zaporozhets, wielding Kalashnikovs I was watching Planet of the Apes on the tele. Later, they opened up the secret files and we found out the Arabs were given student visas and had been housed in security-monitored rooms at the Intercontinental Hotel. They cut down a pensioner sitting on a bench inside the courtyard, two small girls making a house from sticks and mud, the old woman from Stairs B, and a bald man in a cheap suit. No one knew why. We were told via megaphones to stay inside and close the windows. Quickly, a black Lada pulled in and arrested a young woman, and a red bus backed into the courtyard and removed the corpses. After that, a woman brought down her rugs and hung them to be beaten.
On Wednesdays they cut the hot water. Mum fills pots, heats them on the stove, and dumps them into the bathtub. We own a Water-Pik. No one uses it except me. To launch the jet of water out the small holes cut into the concrete of the building, and down onto the boulevard at unsuspecting people, six floors below. We own lots of jars in the pantry. Some are filled with jelly. Most are empty. Sometimes I help my father carry vegetables back from the market in a burlap sack.
To-day we are having fried cabbage.