by Linda S. Gunther
Dmytro Kuzmenko sat in the Oncology Department reception area awaiting the results of his lab test. The image of Dr. Braderman twisting the end of his gray handlebar mustache while staring at the computer screen a week ago made Dmytro quiver in the uncomfortable chair.
“We need more tests,” the doctor had said, “to be sure what we’re dealing with here.”
Dmytro had no family in California. The only one he cared about was his eighty-nine-year-old mama, Anichka Kuzmenko, who was trapped in a Mariupol, Ukraine steel plant, the same factory Dmytro’s father Oleksiy, now dead for ten years, had worked at for thirty-six years.
In the thin slice of mirror between the two reception counters, Dmytro saw his reflection. An old man, overweight, disheveled, tired. His mama had managed to phone him six days ago on a crackled, uneven line. He could make out only half her words. “You’re alive Mama,” he had screeched into his cell phone.
“Tak! Tak!” Mama said. She spoke in Ukrainian, words about how she had sheltered in her back yard shed with cans of food and water for more than two weeks until her neighbor Daryna rescued her and led her to the steel plant six streets away. “It was the only safe place in Mariupol,” the neighbor had said. Dmytro listened but her words on the phone had become less understandable. “We there now,” she said. “No power soon. Trapped.” The line went dead.
Last night on television, Dmytro watched as the camera scanned the crowd of survivors sheltered in the Mariupol steel plant, the site surrounded by Russian militia. It was the purple and white patterned papushka wrapped around Mama’s head that caught his eye. The nightmare played out in his mind as he prayed to himself in the Oncology waiting room. Please dear God, give me the cancer but let Mama escape hell on earth.
Linda S. Gunther is the author of six suspense novels: Ten Steps From The Hotel Inglaterra, Endangered Witness, Lost In The Wake, Finding Sandy Stonemeyer, Dream Beach and Death Is A Great Disguiser. Her essays and short stories have also been featured in a variety of literary publications.
T.M. Givens (artist) taught art and photography in a variety of local elementary and secondary schools, as well as at local universities and colleges. He continues to create art in Upland where he lives with his wife and their dog.