Lyubka was standing in the yard, dolefully gazing at the pig. It had wrecked its pen and was now out and trampling the vegetable garden. “Lyoshka!” she yelled, from force of habit, before stopping short, because, whether called or not, he wouldn’t come. Her son had been taken into the army during the spring draft, along with another dozen or so local rubes just like him. The city boys, the ones with money, wormed their way out of it or signed up for college, but the village lads went where they were sent, every one. Still, after the army they might be able to score a job in some city or other, as a security guard if nothing else. There was no work in the village and no pay for whatever work there was. Anyone who stayed drank themselves sick or got an occasional side hustle with the seasonal visitors, mowing their grass in summer and chopping wood or shoveling snow in winter.
Her son, Lyoshka, was good with his hands (if not with his head). He drank (but not too much), could drive a tractor and a car, could take apart a motor and fix a television. Now, after three months without him, Lyubka was starting to think that Lyoshka was simply the perfect son, although only six months earlier she’d been chasing him around the village with an oven fork after finding out that he’d swiped the money she’d been putting aside for her old age.
Lyubka looked down at her feet; yesterday’s rain had turned the yard into an impassable mud puddle. She’d asked her son umpteen times to spread sand there but could never quite get through to him. The fence on the street side had rotted way back when and was now splayed out like a fan, so Lyubka had to keep patching it up with wooden slats. But the outside privy was the worst. It too had rotted long ago and collapsed onto the neighbor’s property. In winter, you could go in a bucket in the entryway, but that was no good at all in summer, and Lyoshka kept promising to put up a new outhouse, but, as usual, he hadn’t done a thing. Everything was falling apart before their very eyes, and there was no money to make it right, and Lyubka’s meager pension melted away within a week after she got it.
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Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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