Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Thirteen

     ...Maybe I'll just lock my bedroom door until he's gone. Click. There. Me on one side, them on the other. Maybe I should escape in a box of oranges like Cheburashka? I can be cute when necessary too.



Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Twelve

         ...I can't wait for it. I know that there's got to be air above this level, but with a leather jacket in my kitchen and a single thought inside his head even I can admit aspiration seems foolish. I guess I can't blame my parents for not wanting to take the chance.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Eleven

     ...Anyway, there's not much money in the jar to give today's hooligan so he should be gone as soon as he's scared my mother witless. Maybe if we didn't pay and had to flee in the night, bags in hand and possessions on our backs, then we could go somewhere better? Well, perhaps not. That hardly seems like an honourable way to progress and I'd hate for someone to dig that little fact up once I'm well-known and in my proper place. Mud sticks, you know, so I'm gonna keep myself rosy clean and sparkly fresh and in fight stance so I'm ready when my moment arrives.



Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Ten

      ...I can see now that that vehicle I saw approaching is one of Simeon's vans and can (from my bed) hear it hurtling up the road and hand-braking into our yard. I hope one of the dogs get whichever base-level thug he sent to collect the money this time; although when you consider how the wild dogs round here have thrived and multiplied perhaps I should give them more credit than to go for minion shit like him. Or not; they do live on rats and the anything else that wanders down from Chernobyl. Maybe the dogs succeed so successfully because they don't buy their protection from the same people that pose the threat? Huh.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Nine

       ...As I think I said before, I plan to educate my ass out of this dump as fast as humanly possible, and then I'll be on the first flight, full scholarship, one way. There might be an obligatory year in Odessa whilst I find the right course, but then I will be on my way, leaving a welcome trail of jealous looks and snide put-downs in my wake. Who cares? It's not like I'll write. My teachers think I could do it. They told my parents so at a school visit last year and they just scoffed and laughed and looked at each other with pathetic sad eyes. It must be hard to hear that your daughter is desperate to leave, but that's not my fault: if they wanted me to stay so badly they should have lived somewhere worth living in the first place.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Eight

       ...I don't see the attraction of the city, I really don't. The kids in my class dream of the day they can live in their own little box of post-Soviet slum and either date or be one of the guys who managed to bring his weapon back after completing his National Service. It's disgusting. The guys who run the place (the bratva, if you'll excuse the use of my native tongue) are usually Ukrainian-Ukrainians, rather than Russians like me, who wield their state-issued firearms around like they're something to be proud of. If I was ever in charge, ensuring the proper return of military kit post-conscription would be the first thing I'd do, as for years now it's been a fucking joke. Give a kid a weapon, teach him how to use it, scramble his brain with hideous sights and then set him free, telling him he'll never get a job. Government-enabled mafia boys under the steely grey sky. Forgive my slight lyrical turn there again; I have words running through my head in a way that people here don't understand. I rarely get the chance to flaunt my mind.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’: Part Seven

               ...There's a dust cloud drifting towards me on the breeze from the direction of the 'highway' meaning a car must be coming this way. Ugghh. The dirty air coming off the rubbish is faint corrosive yellow as it hits the window pane. I have absolutely no desire to gaze out the window to watch the 'workers' down tools (only figuratively, you understand) and look longingly at the person who has either enough influence or the right contacts to be able to put petrol in his car. We manage it occasionally, but then where do we drive to? My mother will put on a skirt and treat it like an occasion, but better the shithole you know I reckon. Odessa city centre is no better than here, just so you know; it's just the extended version with more hip hop, graffiti and crumbling high rise, and the odd restoration thrown in to put the dilapidation in its rightful place. The Potemkin steps haven't changed much though. I guess inside I'm screaming like the mother and the baby rolling down the hill. I'm not sure which one is me though. Ugghh. Who thinks that kind of thing at 15? Better that I was stupid and that kind of thing didn't occur to me at all. 


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Six

         ...My mother's a hypocrite, anyway: she's knows what it's like to be part of a great country and yet she'd keep me here to nurse her and feed her in her old age. If only they'd been on the other side of the border. I reckon she'd hand me over to some teenage gangster tomorrow if it meant I'd stay. No thanks Mum. You live your life, I'll live mine. She must have some kind of pension so why does she need me? And I can't imagine my sister will ever leave.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Five

         ...All I want to breathe proper air and have someone look me in the eye and see exactly what I'm worth. I'm not an idiot, but the constant cloud here cover cotton-wools my wit and sometime I can't breathe for disgust and shame. Is this it, really? My mother says I'm a snob but why pretend I'm happy compromising my life to remain in the familiar? I only get to do this once and I won't let my youth be wasted on my youth, or whatever that saying is. It's in my English textbook; in a second I'll go and check. Please correct me, by the way, if I make a mistake; rather I did it now than when I'm on that plane or at that reception, destined for more salubrious skies.



Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Four

           ...Maybe, instead of heading for the Russia that rejected me and left me here and I should go west like the Poles and forget that Russia every existed for me in any tenuous way. If I speak Russian and look Russian and spend my evenings watching Russian television in a country that used to be Russian doesn't that make me Russian? No, it doesn't. Screw them. There are plenty of other countries waiting to welcome me with open arms. I quite fancy seeing America, with the sunshine and the cherries and the pie. There seems yellow and here seems dull rusty steel and cloudy dishcloth white.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Three

          ...To be a little poetic for a second, I guess that the moment I was proclaimed Ukrainian, by accident of timing and location, Russia became my Ithaca, but I can't sit here and wait, hoping the road is long and boring and useful. Now is my time, and if I wait much longer to go and be a success in the place where things actually happen my time will be over and I might as well come back here to my parent's house and raise a couple of kids. I've yet to find out what these Ithacans mean, I guess. Huh. Apologies, Cavafy probably isn't on everyone's reading list, but why cater to the lowest? My mind will be my fortune one day and they will clamour then for the diary I wrote when I was 15 and stuck on this infernal building site a few miles back from the sea.


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ – Part Two

        ...Other than us, that is. Or more to the point, why must I live here in this dump, with a view of six weeks' of rubbish that hasn't been collected so the bags have burst like pimples and the rusty end of a disused rail track that once led away from here to anywhere else? How I'd have loved to be on that train when it was working, travelling away from here on the outskirts of Odessa towards Poltava and onwards to the land that was mine by birth but not mine by the time I entered pre-school. A great land was what I was born for, born in, and is obviously the reason I have this brain, these eyes, this wit; they are my weapons against suffocating mediocrity, but I feel as if before I've had any chance to use them the army has retreated and I've been left standing in a field with tools that are no use because there's no success to be had. When there's nowhere to go, who cares what means you might have to progress?


Short Story Serial: ‘Saturday Afternoon, Odessa’ - Part One

     And so begins November's short story serial, 'Saturday Afternoon, Odessa'. I'd love feedback on this character as this is actually background for a longer  piece that I'm writing, which involves this character (provisionally called 'Ekaterina') 10 years on from this point, after she has tried some of the things she talks about here, and is at the point of having to resort to other means.  

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