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Stalin's Haystack (standard:other, 1445 words)
Author: ProfessorAdded: Nov 14 2001Views/Reads: 2000/1263Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The child shrieked and released his biting mouth from Yuriís calf. It took one blow from his rifle butt to crack the childís head like a turtle shell. In his pantís pocket, Yuri felt the childís picket-pocket hands tremble, then go limp. Yuriís own hands,

Stalin's Haystack 

The child shrieked and released his biting mouth from Yuri's calf. It
took one blow from his rifle butt to crack the child's head like a 
turtle shell. In his pant's pocket, Yuri felt the child's picket-pocket 
hands tremble, then go limp. Yuri's own hands, muddy from pushing the 
diesel truck, were now stained with blood. 

He heard voices from underneath the truck. "Come Yuri," they screamed. 

More of the starving stumbled from the fields toward Yuri. Open mouths.
Long pale arms extended. Gun-shots rang out, coming from underneath the 
truck. Dropping the child's corpse, Yuri scurried to join Leo and 

At the side of the truck, Yuri dropped and rolled underneath. Leo
grabbed the boy. "I warned you," he coughed, "You should not have gone 
to that haystack." 

Several of Leo's backhands left Yuri's face tender. He cried into a
grain sack. Leo snored and Viktor kept watch. 

Viktor's only previous trip to the Ukraine had been through the stories
of his late father. His father had spoke of Odessa at the dawn of the 
century. Fruit from the Mediterranean. Turkish cloth. Man-sized 
sturgeon from the Black Sea. In 1931, Viktor was allured by this 
splendor. Instead he saw only grey. Grey rotting piles outside 
agricultural stations. Yellow grey swollen bellies on roadsides. Grey 
mucky earth that kept their truck from reaching the weigh station. 

At dusk, Leo had insisted they stop the truck. He held a higher rank
than Viktor. Leo said he saw grain flowing from the side of truck's 
payload. Stopping the truck, Leo and Viktor inspected the plank-board 
box for leaks. Leo summoned Yuri and ripped the sleeves from his 
ceremonial uniform, stuffing the fabric into the tiny holes. 

"Tonight, you have made him proud," boasted Leo, pointing to the patch
of Stalin sewn on Yuri's cap. Leo threw Yuri's cap into the air and 
tousled the boy's chestnut hair. Yuri caught the hat and smiled. 

The truck didn't move again that night. 

Viktor could no longer feel the warmth from the diesel engine above
them. Yuri was sobbing. 

"Little Yuri," breathed Viktor, "are you awake?" 

Yuri rolled over, his face crimson and blotchy. 

"Leo was right about the haystack." 

The boy nodded. He looked not at Viktor directly. 

After working on freeing the truck, Yuri asked Leo if he could sleep on
a nearby haystack. 

"That is Stalin's haystack, and you will not crease one stalk of that
hay, roach!" he had barked. 

After Leo had fallen asleep, Viktor watched Yuri grab a rifle, slip from
beneath the truck and nestle into the dry haystack. He regretted not 
grabbing the boy. Viktor had promised to protect Yuri. 

Six months ago, Viktor arrested a man in Moscow. The man was a factory
worker, charged with threatening his supervisor. He also drank too 
much. In an interrogation room, he told Viktor he was a widower and 
that his son would have no one to protect him. Viktor promised. 

Yuri's father died two weeks ago. Viktor was stationed in Kiev when he
first heard. Bedding in stinking barracks, Red Army soldiers often 
exchanged tall-tales as they drank bootleg swill. One soldier spoke up. 
" When I was at the Volga Canal project, I watched a man sink and drown 
in a mold of wet cement." 

"It's no wonder," poked another soldier. "You had his boot on his head."

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