By Brian Mihok
Theresa put the children to bed. Momma, Russel said, how do I join the Russian mafia? Wherever did you hear of such a thing? Theresa said. From my contacts, Russel said and winked. Then he turned over and went to sleep. Manny said, goodnight Momma, and Theresa kissed him and turned the lights out. In the morning, since it was Saturday, Theresa made pancakes. The house was cold so she turned the dial on the thermostat. The children, sleepy-eyed, dragged themselves into the kitchen. How did you angels sleep? she said. She placed a stack of steaming pancakes on each of their plates. Manny, elbows off the table, she said. Manny stuffed his face and it became sticky with syrup. Russel didn't touch his. Not hungry, sweetie? Theresa said. They don't eat pancakes in Russia, he said. At first Theresa didn't understand, but then she remembered the night before. First of all, how do you know they don't eat pancakes in Russia, and second, you're not in Russia. It's called assimilation, Mother, Russel said. Theresa began washing the dishes. For lunch Russel ate just the cheese and bread of his ham and cheese sandwich. What's wrong with ham? Theresa said. In prison, they'll only give you bread, cheese and brown water. Every man gets caught sooner or later, Russel said. That's enough of this, Theresa said. She wanted to send him to bed without dinner but he hadn't eaten all day. That night she and Manny cuddled beneath a blanket on the couch and watched The Wizard of Oz. Theresa called out for Russel every once in a while when she thought he would like what was on the screen. Her voice traveled through the house, echoing off hallway walls. It just barely made it to the boys' bedroom, which was empty. Russel's skin was in a pile on his bed. The rest of him, a different color, was on a plane halfway to Smolensk.
Brian Mihok edits matchbook, a literary journal of indeterminate prose. He's also on staff at Keyhole and Tarpaulin Sky.
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