Literary work has been published in The Amherst Review, The South Carolina Review, and Dialogue

Another Anastasia

Papa brought me a jewelled vest he said bullets couldn't pierce. He told me to wear it beneath my undershirt when the situation got touchy.  But the only thing touchy in our lives was him.

My father was a spy who posed as a carpet seller.  When he disappeared each autumn, Mother told us he was in Tupelo or Billings, and not to worry.

Winter was our summer.  Long white afternoons, mother locked into her thoughts, we took turns playing family.  One of us put on Papa's silk jacket and velvet slippers, and downed water out of shot glasses.  The second, our official drummer, counted them out while we chanted: 

            One.  I'm Only Having One.

            Two.  Don't Look At Me That Way.

            Three.  Nice Pair of Knockers.   

            Four.  What Do I Pay For This Dump?

            Five.  Damn Good Stuff 

            Six.  You Know The Trouble With You?


At the seventh shot we'd all fall down, and the one playing Mother would get up and slam the door.

In the spring, when he returned, Mother put on her lips and eyes, and the girdle of gold he had brought for her birthday.  With each step of Papa's boots, the house descended one degree, our ears popping from the pressure, settling at last on the bedrock of the continent.  It was time to leave them alone.

We climbed up to the yard eating melon while they grappled in the house below.  While they spat words we spat seeds, and over the weeks we witnessed these emerging from their shells and seeking ground.

Summer twilights he played Marco Polo with us in corn fields tall as churches.  It was hard to run in our jewelled vests, and with dismay we cried Marco! Marco! to Papa's Polo! growing faint and far away.

We found him at the creek.  He had installed our formal dining table on the muddy bank, white damask, and my grandmother's silver samovar.  Him drinking, muttering in an antipodal tongue, we stood, urchins gawking at the mighty, awaiting formal recognition.

You, girl, he said, pointing laughing to the tallest, me.  Tell me, am I your father?  So where did you get those bloody blue eyes?

They say I have a sister somewhere, dead, buried in the Ural mountains.  I wonder who had the better fate:  those who went down with the ancien regime, or those who remained, Socialists perforce, history exhausted, the empire in shambles.

Published in The Amherst Review, Volume XXIX.

© Joann Farias 2017