WHITE NIGHTS AT LUNA PARK, An excerpt

WHITE NIGHTS AT LUNA PARK, An excerpt

Fri, 04/16/2010 - 13:40

Each night Phoebe and Edwin slept like this, in the reverse of the usual coupling of spoons in the marital drawer. Phoebe would try to summon sleep by pressing tight against Edwin's back, then calling forth that waking dream which had long gently tricked her into unconsciousness, a fantasy in which, most often, she would be huddled in a cave or sometimes the corner of an abandoned boxcar, cradling an infant that was only hours old.

Sometimes it was her child, sometimes it had been entrusted to her by her Girl Scout leader, Mrs Fox. Once it had arrived on a ruota, the medieval Italian wheel where, in the depth of the night, foundlings were placed through an iron grille into a wooden box and spun behind a convent's walls.

Phoebe wondered what Edwin would think if he knew that she could sleep only while cradling him like some mutant newborn. She wondered what it would have been like if she had had her own children. Maybe she would have been spared the luxury of insomnia.

Above Phoebe and the baby would stand a vigilant protector, whatever man – uncle, teacher, celebrity – currently commanded her sexual imagination. In adolescence it had often been the Harpo Marx of the later movies who shadowed her, old, his wig slipping, smoothing the quilt over Phoebe, rocking their invisible infant in his liverspotted arms.

Phoebe scanned the room. Anyone, she thought, except Lech Walesa. When he first arrived at her bedside she had loved to hear him speak the only English words he ever said – "Union Yes!" in an accent so thick and a voice so hoarse it sounded like he was hatching a Polish eaglet from his throat.

But with Lech came too many infants in pink or blue blankets all over the bed and on top of Edwin's Art Deco dresser and chest of drawers. One would awaken just as Phoebe was cradling another to sleep. Lech wasn't much help – he straddled a chair in the corner of the room, orating into a mirror. He left no doubt, though, that all the newborns were his. And someone had hung a paint-by-numbers Wojtyla in a coordinating Deco frame above the headboard.

Phoebe, drifting off, was startled by a foreign voice. "On the night of my arrest I had procured an egg for Anna Akhmatova, which later I salted and ate before my departure." Osip Mandelstam, Edwin's hero, joined Lech's noisy brood just as Phoebe was beginning to realize that she might never supplant the flamboyant and eccentric wife of Edwin's youth. Osip seemed to know that Phoebe would never win the gentle Edwin. Truer lovers than they were had been broken apart. Fate had done them in. Opportunism. Acts of God. Stalin.

Mandelstam turned out to be a regular mother's helper, thoroughly absorbed in caring for all the tiny products of Lech Walesa's potency. Dailiness delighted him. He pinned a baby girl into a cloth diaper with one hand and with the other merrily pounded a second baby's back until she let out an enormous belch. Then he walked over to the radio. Edwin had spent his youth sprawled in front of it, hearing the scratchy voices of the world through its gold mesh. Osip liked to polish the cabinet's inlaid veneer and to finger the golden names of cities that shouted across the dial – LONDON PARIS BERLIN MOSCOW CAIRO NAIROBI JAKARTA TOKYO NEW YORK. He fiddled with the Bakelite knobs until he heard some imaginary music. He spun a baby around the room. Then he vanished.

At the age of four Lana Santoni attended a Polish-American wedding and has since been intrigued by most things Slavic. A former editor of the literary journal Sou’wester, she has been awarded an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose. She tries to spend several months a year in Prague.

EK_Logo.jpg THE ELIZABETH KOS­TOVA FOUNDATION and VAGABOND, Bulgaria's English Monthly, cooperate in order to enrich the English language with translations of contemporary Bulgarian writers. Every year we give you the chance to read the work of a dozen young and sometimes not-so-young Bulgarian writers that the EKF considers original, refreshing and valuable. Some of them have been translated in English for the first time. The EKF has decided to make the selection of authors' work and to ensure they get first-class English translation, and we at VAGABOND are only too happy to get them published in a quality magazine. Enjoy our fiction pages.
Issue 43-44 Elizabeth Kostova Foundation

Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

0 comments

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

IN SEARCH OF EMPTIED TIME
1 I remember her bloody, drained, and happy, her thighs trembling from exertion, spread open to the sides. And I'm holding a piece of living flesh in my hands and trembling with fear.
BEAR BOY
"Can I get you anything else, Bear Boy?" inquired the waiter of the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall café with an ill-contained smirk. 
REGIME CHANGE, An excerpt
The white Renault parked in front of the House of the Communist Party. The chauffeur rolled down the window to have a smoke. Dimcho took a few moments sitting quietly in the back seat.
THE WRITER AS SPY
I have a story in which the main character is a voyeur. It is called The Red Room. Every few months this guy rents a new place to stay in search of more and more new scenes for observation.
RAKIYA, a short story
Comparisons of rakiya and other spirits are nothing new in Bulgaria – one such competition takes place annually in Sofia – but those contests consider alcoholic drinks mass-produced by established wineries and corporations.
RED TIDE
To defrost from a long Arctic Vortex and to draw mangroves in charcoal I flew to an artist colony near Fort Myers, Florida, on an elongated and thin island, a Key.
ALONE TOGETHER
We're in the time of COVID-19, and I'm in the southernmost country in the world, save for New Zealand and Antarctica.
THE SHAPES WE TWIST INTO
I've been to Bulgaria twice, separated by a gap of three years, though it feels like I've actually been to two different Bulgarias. This difference is on my mind as I think of how my home country, America, has changed in about the same timeframe.
BEING HAPPY
The White Gentleman decided that the weather was too beautiful this morning to waste the day in everyday nonsense. Therefore, he put on his happy hat and flung the door open with a flourish.
SAN SALVADOR
If somebody's heart stops due to a trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, CPR cannot save them. I know this, but I don't know if it is the same with cycling.