Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.
Since it’s December, I’ve switched to Christmas-themed excerpts (even though my own winter holiday is Chanukah). This year, the snippets will come from Chapter 87, “December Dilemmas and Delights,” and Chapter 90, “Cruel Christmas,” from A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University, the fourth book about my Russian-born characters. They’re set during December 1950 and January 1951.
The chapter’s second section features cousins Andrey Safronov, Tomik Barashka, and Vilorik Zyuganov, who live together, and their respective girlfriends, sisters Zoya and Zhdana Karmova, and Susanna Eristova. Susanna is a cousin of the Karmova girls. In April, Tomik and Vilorik came to the U.S. after several years in London. Though they’re happy to be out of Stalin’s clutches, there are many things about the West they can’t get used to.
Though Andrey is an unbaptized atheist, he went to Russian Orthodox church camp and school after coming to the U.S., and began celebrating Christmas to be like all his friends. Tomik and Vilorik can’t believe he would take part in a holiday that’s not his.
Tomik and Vilorik cross their arms and stand back when they reach the pop-up lot. Andrey and Zoya browse the fairly limited supply of trees before selecting a five-foot Fraser fir dripping with needles.
“Is it to your liking?” Andrey calls to his cousins.
Tomik grunts. “I won’t decorate it or spend much time by it. You’re the one wasting your money on a bourgeois symbol.”
“What the hell is bourgeois about a Christmas tree?” Zhdana asks. “Poor and working-class people have trees too.”
“It’s not really bourgeois,” Susanna says.
The nine lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.
“They were taught to bandy that word about as a catch-all insult. Whatever meaning it may have originally had is long since lost. It’s like describing everything as fantastic, even when it’s not. By the time it really does apply, no one thinks the person is serious.”
“It may not be an exclusively bourgeois convention, but it certainly was popularized and embraced most heartily by that lot,” Tomik says. “We shouldn’t want any vestiges of bourgeois society in our midst.”
“How did you get approved for immigration?” Zoya asks. “You’re completely open about your Communism. Little does the HUAAC know an entire family of Communists is living across three boroughs.”
Andrey pays for the tree and lifts it in his arms. During the walk back to the southern portion of the neighborhood, he, Tomik, and Vilorik take turns carrying it.