In Sleep He Again Returned to Siberia
by Sal Buttaci
Jacob Nye, armed with a swatter, waited for the sweat bees to alight on whatever sweetness they could find. Few weekends this summer were this hot. Even the oppressive humidity seemed welcomed in the absence of ubiquitous rain. Taking advantage of the last-minute weather, he stood outdoors swatting at the sweat bees.
Few neighbors liked him, wondering what childhood misery robbed him of joy and replaced it with dark cynicism. Nye would never reveal those secrets bottled up inside him.
Yakov Abramovich Pokrovsky. He had abandoned his name in the burned-down dilapidation that had been his Siberian home near where his father labored at the salt mines. There, in the bowels of the earth, Abram Pokrovsky in a perilous moment, shared his disgust of Stalin with somebody he naively considered a friend. That somebody told the NKVD. Somebody came with a gun and shot his father and mother and little sister Irina Abramalovna Pokrovsky. Narrowly Yakov had escaped.
Years later Jacob Nye was a free man in New York. Free but imprisoned within the darkness of himself. He lived alone. He trusted no one. Even when Beria poisoned Stalin, he suspected the KGB would hunt him down.
Jacob did not see the sweat bees hovering above the rim of his soda can dive into the sugared waters below. He drank from it.
In sleep he again returned to Siberia. Bloodying his fingertips digging beneath the burnt soil, he called to Irina, “I’ve come to save you!” Sharp stones cut away at his hands and arms. When he awoke, he could see in the near darkness red welts everywhere puffing on his flesh. He stumbled to the bathroom. Flipped on the light.
The sweat bees were squeezing themselves free of his pores. In his head a deafening buzz of wings. He thought of the salt mines. His father picking away at the white rock. Now the sweat bees under the dermal surface of his body were devouring him. Shredding the secrets.
Up close he could see the rivulets of blood filling the squared perimeters of the white tiled floor.