Nobody… Anymore…


“Don’t cry.” She presses the doll tight to her chest and whispers, “It will be fine. Nobody will hurt you anymore.” She stands outside the burning house watching the firemen extinguish the remnants of the fire.

The policeman wraps her up in a blanket. “What’s your name?”


“How old are you, Annie?”

“I’m seven.”

“Do you live in this house?”

She nods.

“Was your mom in the house when the fire started?”

“No, she wasn’t there. Mom’s still at work.”

“So you were alone?” The policeman writes in his notebook.

“No, Bill was home.”

“Who is Bill?”

“He’s Mom’s boyfriend.”

“Can you tell me what happened?”

“Today or yesterday?”

The policeman looks puzzled. “Something happened yesterday?”

She nods.

“Tell me about yesterday.”

“Bill made Mimmy cry.”

“Is Mimmy your sister?”

“No.” The girl shakes her head and points at the doll, “This is Mimmy. And he made her cry.”

“What did he do? Did he hit you… or her?” The policeman frowns.

“No. Bill told me to come to his room. He took Mimmy and dropped her on the floor. Then he took off his pants and lay on the bed. He said, “Come here and sit on it.” I didn’t want to, but he made me. Then he said, “Don’t tell Mom.” I took Mimmy and went to my room. Mimmy cried all night. It hurt. It still hurts.”

The policeman keeps writing in his notebook, his fingers tremble slightly. “Did you tell your mom?”

The girl shakes her head. “No, he told me not to.”

The policeman nods. “Now, Annie, can you tell me what happened today?”

She nods. “Bill came home and called for me.”

“You were in your room?”

She nods. “I was with Mimmy. She was afraid.”

“Then what happened?”

“I took Mimmy and came downstairs. Bill took a beer from the fridge and told me to come to his room when he called for me. Mimmy and I waited in the kitchen. Mimmy cried.”

“Did he call for you?”

“No. Mimmy wanted to hide in my room, but Bill told me to wait for him in the kitchen so I had to stay there. I waited for a while. He didn’t call for me so I tiptoed upstairs to see what he was doing. He was sleeping. I went downstairs to the garage. I know where he keeps gasoline. I took the can and went back upstairs. I spilled gasoline in front of his door and then went back to the kitchen. I know where Mom hides cigarettes and a lighter. I took the lighter and went upstairs. When the fire started I took Mimmy and we left the house. Lucy ran away too.”

“Who is Lucy?”

“She’s my dog. She’s over there. She got scared when the firemen arrived. I’m not scared. I’m waiting for Mom.” The girl smiles at her doll. “And Mimmy is not crying anymore.”


The Pine Kingdom

Image Credit; Kim Daniels / Unsplash
Image Credit: Kim Daniel / Unsplash

I was eleven months old when my mother brought me to a camp in the pine forest. The photo of me sitting on the ground and staring at the trees with my mouth open was lost, but this image is safe and vivid on my mind.

After our first travel to the camp we would go there every summer which explains a great variety of memory pictures. I am running in the grass on the sunlit lawn. I am eating berries picking them right off the bush. I am walking along an endless woodland path. I am playing in the sand with a boy I’m in love with at the age of four. It’s a slide show of my childhood.

One of those memories is about my first acquaintance with ants and unfairness. My mother and I walked in the forest and found a big anthill. My mom told me that ants crawled around looking for food, and I decided to give them a wild strawberry I had in my hand. I put it on top of the anthill, and one of the ants bit me. I cried for half an hour, and I still hold the grudge even though my mom explained me then that I should have simply dropped the berry instead of pushing it on ants to try and convince them how yummy it was.

The camp where we lived was set up near a beautiful lake with grayish-blue mountains rising on the other side. I spent days in the lake and taught myself to swim in the warm summer waves when I was about five. In the evening all kids grabbed little torches and wandered in water near the shore looking for crayfish that hid under the stones. Almost every night campers gathered on the lakeside around the fire to share their stories and worries. Accompanied by the droning sound of their conversation, children watched sparkles fly up to disappear in the dark and toasted pieces of bread pinned to long wooden sticks. The bread got usually burned on one side, but you could not imagine anything more delicious than the black-smoked crunchy crust. Well, one thing was yummier: potatoes baked in the coals of dying fire. When potatoes were ready, we rolled these hot balls out of fire and gave them a minute to cool down a bit, then peeled them, soiling our hands with black coal coating. After that we dropped a pinch of salt on steaming white pulp and bit into it, slightly burning our lips and tongues.

In the daytime we made little boats of the pine trees’ bark and then shipped them into the lake. The wooden boats with leaves for a sail rocked on the waves and headed away. We stood on the shore and watched them disappear in the glittering distance and imagined big adventures. I loved pines and believed they were travelers in their core, and that’s why today, when I look at their tall and straight trunks, when I breath in their spicy resinous smell I feel as if I were on board a ship, next to the solid brown masts that reach up to the sky and stretch its infinite sail.

Childhood memories are indelible. If someone tells me today, “Imagine your favorite place where you feel calm and happy,” I close my eyes and immediately see myself sitting at the foot of a tree, on the soft carpet of fallen, yellowed pine needles. In the realm of my vision, I look up at the blue that shows through the lace of green branches, and I want to stay there forever.


Odd Memory

As a kid, I had a very strange reaction to the news of death. When I heard that somebody had died I wanted to laugh, and my lips created a creepy grin that shocked me, myself, infinitely. I knew it was wrong to smile, but I couldn’t help it, I felt like laughing.

First time it happened when I was in the second grade. The teacher entered the class and stood at the blackboard. Some boys in the back of the room didn’t notice her and kept giggling over some stupid joke one of them had made.

“Who can laugh on such a tragic day!” the teacher suddenly yelled. The boys in the back of the room got quiet, and the rest of us looked up at the teacher in silent surprise. “Don’t you know that a member of the government died last night?”

I didn’t. But when I heard it I wanted to laugh. I didn’t know why, it wasn’t funny, and the teacher’s angry face looked scary, but my mouth betrayed me and started creating a smile. I bit my lip and lowered my head to hide my face so that nobody could see it and think that I can laugh on such a tragic day.

The teacher decided that I was deeply moved by the sad news. She came up to me and stroke my head. That was tough: I wanted to laugh even harder.

Years passed. I don’t smile at the news of death anymore. On the contrary, I get upset when people I love leave this world. But when I think of that day when the member of the government died I still can’t imagine what was in the teacher’s head and why she expected small kids to care about some total stranger’s destiny.


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The Red Date


The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. He stared at the calendar in despair, “There’s no hope here. The future is empty, there’s no way to fill it in.” He touched the red date of Sunday. The smell of blood hit his nostrils. He jerked his hand as if to wave the smell away, but it stayed. He shivered, his memory brought him there again.

He came back to that weekend where time lost its meaning, where the whole world stopped, where he couldn’t feel anything but the pain of burning regret and remorse, remorse, remorse. That weekend when he knocked at the door of his son and didn’t hear anything in response.

“Stupid boy, playing his games all day long, can’t hear anything but the shooting in his headphones. Open!” he knocked stronger. “I need to talk to you.” The room behind the door stayed silent. “Jerry, if you don’t open I’ll come in anyway.” Silence again. “Enough! I’m fed up with your childish behaviour.”

He pushed the door and entered. The room was empty. The computer was off, and the bed was neatly made.

“Finally, somebody came to his senses,” he thought with relief. “I hope he also washed his hair.” He knocked at the bathroom door. “Can I come in?” He heard nothing but running water. “Jerry, I’m sorry I yelled at you, but I’m your father, I know better. And I see that you have agreed with me.” He looked around the clean room and smiled: even the bookshelves were dusted.

“Jerry, I’m coming in.” He stepped in the bathroom, and his foot sunk in the pool of water. “What the heck, Jerry!” he wanted to say, but his eyes received the answer already. Jerry, dressed in his Sunday-church suit, floated in the opaque red water flowing over the brim of the bathtub.

The hysterical ambulance siren pulled the neighbors out of their houses to the street where they watched in silence the car carrying the body away. “What are you staring at?” he yelled. “There’s nothing to look at here, don’t you see? Nothing to look at!”

“Nothing to look at here.” He turned away from the calendar and wiped his tears. “I’m sorry, Jerry. I thought I knew better than you, and it’s too late now. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”


The Shaky Age Perspective


When I was six all adults seemed to be people from another world, even kids above fourteen were not our, children’s kind.

When I was nine I tried to convince my mom that she was old. She protested, but I knew I was right and couldn’t understand how she could not understand it. We were sitting in front of a TV, and in the middle of our discussion one man on the screen said to another, “You’re thirty years old, you are a young man. Why don’t you do something about your life?”

My mom victoriously pointed at the telly, “You see, thirty is young!”

“Yeah,” I said, “but you are thirty nine!”

When I was fifteen my mom mentioned someone from her work as ‘this boy’.

“How can you call him a boy?” I resented. “He’s twenty five, he’s a man with a beard, he’s totally an adult!”

“Ah, for me he’s a very young boy,” my mom sighed.

When I hit twenty five myself I was shocked. I felt, “That’s it, I’m a grown-up.” I stepped into the world of adults that seemed to be so alien even a year ago. I didn’t have a beard, but it wasn’t too consoling.

Next Monday I will be thirty nine. My son won’t tell me I’m old, not because he is smarter than I was, but only because he is four and can’t count further than ten where, probably, the border of strange adulthood starts for him.

It’s funny to look back and see how the concept of young and old changes. I’m not old, and if somebody tries to convince me in the opposite I won’t believe them, no matter how desperately they try. But I can look at a twenty-five-year-old thinking “Oh, that kid’, and, like my mom years ago, I don’t care if he has a beard.

These days I think I won’t get old, ever. I don’t mean on the physical level, of course, here you meet the power you can’t overcome. But on the inside, there are two stages for me, live and dead, the rest are nuances not worth attention. My belief is that if you don’t let it your soul will never get blind, deaf or callous.


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The Puss in Boots’ Miracle


As a child I loved fairy tales and believed them as if they were non-fiction. Once I read a story about a girl who, after reading Puss in Boots, forgot the open book on the table and went to sleep. At night the cat jumped off the page and became her best friend.

“Wow!” I was fascinated. “That’s a great idea! Which book should I leave open for a night?”

It was a big question. There were so many characters to choose from. Dumbo? I imagined the elephant in our small apartment and brushed off the idea. Pinocchio? I wasn’t a big fan of this liar. Winnie the Pooh? Hmm, he seemed nice, but kind of silly. Karlsson? Well, he could fly, but he would eat all my candies. Pippy Longstocking? She was just a girl like many of my friends and I didn’t like her hair style.

In the end I left the idea of being original and opened Puss in Boots in the middle. I thought if the cat went out of the book once he probably was more experienced than all other candidates. I was a little bit worried that the mouse who was also an ogre and whom the cat was going to eat on the chosen page could come to life as well, but, again, I hoped that, being real, the cat would still eat him.

I woke up in the morning full of expectations. I looked around, but the cat wasn’t seen anywhere. I came up to the table and saw him standing still on paper in the same position as he was yesterday. He didn’t even move!

I was disappointed, but left the book on the table again for the next night. Nothing. Maybe it was because I didn’t forget to close the book, but left it open on purpose? Each detail might count. On the third night I put the book on the table and played with some toys to give myself a chance to forget about the whole business. When my head touched the pillow I knew that I hadn’t pretended well enough and the cat knew I had never forgotten about him. So I wasn’t surprised not to see him next to my bed in the morning, and with a deep sigh I put the book back on the shelf. I lost my hope to witness a miracle.

Today I look back at naive little me with a condescending smile. But the funny thing is that I still believe in the power of the written word. Many books’ heroes are much closer to me than the people I can touch with my hand. I don’t expect them to come off the pages, but I know where I can find them when I feel the need. On my bookshelf.


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How Moms Get Lost


I remember how my mom got lost when I was six.

My mom took me and my brother to the countryside. We went there every summer so the road was pretty familiar. We would take a local train and an hour later arrive at the station to catch a bus that would bring us to the destination point, a little town at the lake where we would spend holidays.

That day started like always. We climbed up the train with all those bags my mom packed. For an hour we stared through the window at the green fields and forests passing by. Close to the end of the trip I had a strong wish to go to the bathroom. My mom said, “Go, it’s in the end of the carriage.” She stayed sitting with my three-year-old brother.

Today it’s impossible to imagine how a minor could be left alone, even for a second. But I was born in pre-historic times when nobody heard of pedophilia or illegal organ traffick, at least my mom didn’t. So I went to the bathroom and saw it was closed. I wanted to pee very badly so I decided to check the bathroom in the next carriage where I went and happily did what I had to. Meanwhile the train stopped. I looked out of the window and recognized the station. We arrived. I rushed back to our carriage and didn’t find my mom. The train moved when I saw her standing on the platform surrounded by all the bags and holding my brother in her arms. The same moment she saw me in the window of the departing train. My mom was totally lost.

I was six years old. I knew how to read, knew the name of our station, understood the concept of direction, and luckily, in the earlier travelling bustle, my mom left the train schedule in my pocket. So I did simple math. I had to get down at the next station, wait for the train that would go back in five minutes and take it. I wasn’t scared; I had a plan and knew what to do. My only fear was to meet a train supervisor who could ask, “Where’s your ticket, girl?” I knew I would not have any and was afraid to get arrested. I was lucky, I didn’t meet the train supervisor, and ten minutes later I was already next to my mom telling her that it was easy to find her. My mom didn’t let my hand go all the rest of that day.


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