Friday, June 21, 2019

The Inability to Shrug

Pravdin hands her the form he has filled out, along with his Moscow residence permit (it cost a small fortune), his internal passport, a letter (forged) certifying he is a member in good standing of the Writers' Union and therefore is entitled to twice the standard nine square meters of living space that is the inalienable right of every Soviet citizen, and a military certificate (the genuine article) indicating he suffers from an old war wound and therefore is entitled to live within a radius of a hundred meters of public transportation. Methodical in her movements the woman piles up the documents, begins with the internal passport, glances at the word Jew penned in alongside entry three (ethnic origin), pockets the two Bolshoi tickets Pravdin has discreetly placed in the military certificate.

The interview, Pravdin senses, is off to a reasonable start. Touch wood.

"What is the nature of your war wound?" the thin woman asks in a voice that conveys total lack of interest in the answer.

"Shrapnel in the neck," Pravdin explains. "Pinched nerves. I lost the ability to shrug."

"That doesn't sound incapacitating," comments the thin woman.

"Incapacitating is what it is," Pravdin argues passionately. "In a workers' paradise the inability to shrug is the ultimate wound."

- From Mother Russia by Robert Littell

No comments: