A sample from the novel, ‘Russia.’
Chapter 2, Doctor Pollock
His name was Dr. Pollock, he wore a monocle and decorated his face with an untidy grey moustache that seemed to Opa completely unnecessary. It was unclean and that was a sign of the doctor’s medical practice Opa had decided, and hence why he opposed the suggestion he wear eye glasses for life. Then Opa thought that if the sign of a messy face can resemble messy work, what would a face empty of facial hair suggest? Perhaps one that is missing of the most current and up to date scientific practices. Perhaps the moustache was a good thing. Mostly, Opa was just nervous and uncomfortable with the notion of wearing eyeglasses. Also, he didn’t like the room, nor the idea of a medical ‘examination’. Ulanen was new – it was exciting: take the prescription and get back to work. Opa chose this as his final decision and thanked monocle man for his time.
‘Take them with you when you report for duty.’ It was at that exact moment when Opa realised what it was that had been placed into his hand, but if the messenger were to have smuggled him the envelope so flagrantly, why on earth choose morning time to meet at Montgomery Square? Before returning to the barracks, Opa chose to visit Heinz and discuss this matter of espionage in secret but it would not suffice, Monocle Man’s eyes found the envelope and could see for himself, the velvet marking. He removed his eye piece and looked at Opa now with acute knowing. France, it seemed was going to have to wait awhile for Opa was now certainly the centre piece in this entangled and dangerous conspiracy. The door opens and Opa’s eyes flick to it where a man now stands, holding papers tightly under arm, pressed to his ribs like he would die to protect what was printed onto them. Opa recognised the man, but he could not quite believe it was him. His eyes quickly scan the doctors room for something sharp but find only the edge of a small mirror. It would have to be used as a weapon, because Opa was not going to prison today. He knew what was written on the papers.
He was at the prison camp in Hauptlager, Minsk. Christmas had just passed, apparently. Opa sits at a table staring into the same metal bowl. How many times had he eaten from this exact one he wonders, watching the watery grey-green soup form a skin, but then break when one of the stalks would surface. Where do these stalks come from, he asks himself but imagines from the leaves of a tree. Where else would stalks come from? Sometimes, there would be husk in the soup – but not today. Opa begins to slowly pick out the fish bones, a ritual which he chose to spend some time on today, his energy was lower than any other Monday and perhaps if he picked out the bones slowly, he would somehow develop a yearning for what was otherwise a vile and bitter meal. The word was miserable, and so were the colour of the walls, grey like the faces sat opposite him, next to him and all around, the eyes of the men, white balls of sorrow in their undernourished skulls, waiting for daylight to hit but receiving only the grey and the scum of the prison. Its smells, its sounds of guards barking, and chairs scraping over cold floor. How it came to this, their eyes beg, but Opa cannot answer, all he can do is pick at his food, which he decides is the wrong word, a disgraceful word to describe this total rubbish. Death was surrounding him and it seemed to somehow ignite a flame inside, a warm burn in his chest. If death is uponeth, then die with dignity, and even in a last breath, speak to speak of passion, of love, of liberty. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people. Was it possible to free the self, even in the confines of this prison camp? If yes, how? Opa’s fingers stop picking at the fish, his hands recoil, and for a reason he chooses to keep private with God, Opa’s mouth opens, and he begins to sing.