Andrey Gritsman


In a dormant corner of the hospital campus morgue is a quiet haven hidden
in unkempt bushes by the abandoned workshop. “Here, dead teach the living.” Off school, my mom, a pathologist, would take me to work. Most of my time spent
outside in the jungle of tall July grass catching the grasshoppers. Inside—

silent world of transparent jars with fixed organs, and older motherly technician Rosa fixing lunch in the corner of the cluttered lab: fried new potatoes, pickled cabbage, juicy gray rubbery sausage, strong tea in the pot; diener Vassiliy, winking, filling the glass with the lab alcohol. It was almost home: cool marbled floors,

scratched wooden furniture, dusty files filled with the names of people who, I was told, died in the 1919 flu epidemic. I took my sandwich and off to the summer paradise
at the dead end of the world. Prematurely aged janitor Marya would sit with me behind the building, telling the city boy her village stories, until Mom would take me home,
all in tears: another autopsy on a boy of my age, fresh scratches from the soccer game
still on his knees, new case of acute polio, I guess, before the Salk vaccine.

Cimarron Review, 3/14/07


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