by Raji Singh
(Writings from the 1880’s of my Russian immigrant great grandmother, Shelva Fiction just a few years after, as she would say “I come Amerika”.)
Mine husband, mine sweet druzhyna, Doc Fiction: So successful is his spieling-on about his elixirs and folk cures. He sell out all of entire inventory in the little Wise-consin town where we stop with our wagon. The crowd, ach, good folk all. Glad faced, they leave with salves, potions, and ointments. Their itches, limps, and disorders of all types, they are cured, or at the least, eased.
The women show biggest smiles. Plain countrywomen in their worn dresses. They come as we prepare to leave for our next stop. Say good-bye. Hug me tight. The two dear Kazaks, nomads – that is what my husband and I, are to them. We give them hope for a merrier marital life with our “NEVER FAIL” sumptuous pastry we call Madame Rose Heather’s Whure’s Delight. Its name derives from the recipe’s creator.
We load wagon with table we use to show our wares. “Whoosh!” Away, our ponies whisk us.
I remember always this particular night: our romantic ride. Autumn air is crisp. Our beacon and protector Luny Mum, our close friend, she is nowhere to be seen. A blanket of stars warms the crinkled land. Cricket and frog choruses harmonize. Their “kree, and rrribit” become a tender, continuous balalaika strum. The countryside’s sublime honeysuckle fragrance – it ferries us along on a slight breeze. All seems Heaven to me this night. Especially so, because tonight I will tell mine Doc, “I carry our child, sweetheart.”
Only wish – that Luny Mum be there to share the joy.
In moments our Heaven, it become Hell.
“Whoa! Hold on there.” Three riders shout out.
Doc, he obliges them. He say, something like. “Sorry gents. We’ve sold out our inventory. More coming in by Wells Fargo. A plentiful supply of Goat Scrotum Juice, if that’s what you’re needing. And who doesn’t, ‘eh? Meet us tomorrow night in…” (I can not for the life of me recall name of next town we were to come.)
One of the three men seizes our ponies’ bridles and says, “Don’t rightly think so.”
I nudge husband. He know our pre-arrange sign, and says. “We sent our sales revenues to our bank via stage coach. We only travel with a few bills.” He pulls out billfold, shows lonely dollars. “You’re welcome to it.”
All our money: It safely below seat, in false-bottom secret compartment. Trick I learn from University Professor papa of mine, Moscow. He hide revolution papers from hoarding Cossacks in compartment on his horse drawn sled.
The three men – they dusty farmers not prone to talking. Their strained yet somehow contented faces are no different from those of the dozens we saw in the crowd earlier in the evening. That is why; when two of them draw firearms, I am so shocked. I close eyes tight, think – COSSACKS. This how some of my peasant relatives who live outside Moscow die. By brutal hands of Cossacks – is this how I, Doc, and our baby, to die?
At that moment, I am changed. It is because my ‘great protector’, Luny Mum, she peaks out briefly in the sky and says. ‘Always I there in Moscow for you when you be sad, Shelva; and close by when you cross ocean alone to new land, saying, Shelva, be not afraid of storms, I am here; and, I beside you when you disembark ship and embark on the new land – I, a friend to a stranger in strange land. Now Shelva, there is someone you must protect. Be brave, little sister.’
Silently I begin repeating, ‘Saint Stylianos, I beseech you. Protect our unborn infant.’ Maybe my prayer answer. No shooting. Men turn wagon around and lead us back to town. Within me, I sigh. ‘Good folk there. They will protect.’
* * *
To jail we go. A rickety wood fronted, stone backed, hovel. “Clank” goes metal bar door to cell. “Click” go lock. I put my hand to bars. Ice! I pull away. Lean, briefly, against stone. Even colder! Husband, he ask, “What charge sheriff?” Quiet men who quickly seized us on the open road leave us just as quickly in the dank prison.
Sheriff, a flabby-face man, star on his dirty shirt, pistol in holster, sadness in eyes, pours coffee for mine druzhyna, himself, and myself. He hands us ours. “You folks don’t appear the typical drummers that come huckstering about. Shoot, my wife’s even one of the ladies who bid you farewell. Talked so kindly about you. Even bought some of your ‘Delight’, preparing it for after supper dessert.” He look right into Doc’s eyes. Rigid, without blinking he says. “Appears some of your medicines gave a man a bad turn. Looks like the charge could be murder if things don’t get better for him by daybreak.”
I feel a sudden sharp stabbing pain in my womb. I double over. Coffee cup slips from my hands and shatters against the stone floor. All I can think: ‘I haven’t even told mine Doc yet.’ He helps me to lie down on a metal cot. I look out the cell’s bar window. ‘Please Mum. Come to your Shelva. Let me feel your warm glow.’
NEXT WEEK: DEADLY ‘GLUMS’ OR GLORIOUS GLOW?
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)
© Raji Singh 2012