WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when young couple Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova headed out to their Christmas tree at the urging of their children.

Vladlena has just directed 7-year-old Karina to a present for Patya, and Karina has put it in her father’s lap. Patya, a former Marine with a below-elbow amputation, wishes Dyed Moroz (Grandfather Frost) had left him a new arm under the tree.

“Mama found this with a lot of help from some very special people.  We hope it’s your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya eyes a thin, rectangular box. “It looks like someone got me the new pastel colors I asked for.  Couldn’t I please open those first?”

“You don’t know anything I got you, you naughty boy,” Vladlena chides. “Just open this first, and then see if it’s not your best Christmas present ever.”

Patya holds it in place with his right arm while he pulls off the paper and bow with his left hand.  Three and a half years after his below-elbow amputation, he’s gotten significantly better at navigating these sorts of tasks, but he still struggles to do them as quickly as other people.  When he reaches the cardboard box, he lifts the untaped flaps and pulls out a bulky parcel wrapped in orange tissue paper.

Patya has become an artist since his amputation, particularly with pastels, the present he wanted most. His priest’s granddaughter Violetta, whom some of you may remember, visited him in hospital and let him borrow some of her pastels.

Drawing was what helped her to develop greater strength and dexterity in her left arm and hand after her right side was damaged by polio, so it was natural to suggest this to Patya. He’s now an art student in a master’s program at Queens College, hoping to become an art teacher.

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WeWriWa—Patya’s Christmas present

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes from Part IV of Journey Through a Dark Forest, my third Russian historical, which spans 1933–48, three continents, and about 15 countries.

It’s now Russian Orthodox Christmas 1948, which falls on 7 January. Patya Siyanchuk and Vladlena Zyuganova moved from the Upper West Side to Queens Village in 1945, and are now expecting their third child.

Patya, as some of you might remember, is a former Marine who lost part of his right arm by the Battle of Saipan in June 1944. He was convinced Vladlena would leave him and couldn’t possibly still love him, but he came to realize Vladlena still sincerely loved him and didn’t care about the missing arm.

Vladlena pulls on her cherry-colored robe and steps into matching slippers while Patya maneuvers into a robe matching his dress blues.  As usual, it takes Patya longer to dress than Vladlena.  By the time he’s put on his dark blue slippers, Karina and Bruno are calling them downstairs.

“Somehow I doubt Dyed Moroz left me a new arm under the tree,” he says as they go downstairs.

“Come now.  You’re too old to believe in Dyed Moroz.  But I hope my first gift will be just as good.”

Once they’re in the living room, Vladlena sinks onto the overstuffed red davenport and directs Karina to a Prussian blue present with a bright red bow.  Karina obediently fetches it and puts it on Patya’s lap.

Dyed Moroz, Grandfather Frost, is the Russian Santa Claus.

WeWriWa—Enjoying a Thanksgiving feast

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a few pages after last week’s, when Cinni invited Harry to be her family’s Thanksgiving guest after he was thrown out of the soup kitchen for fighting with his thuggish older brother.

No one was home when they arrived at Cinni’s house, so Cinni went next door to her easily-annoyed neighbor Mr. Valli to ask for help with cooking. Cinni discovered her family went to the Vallis for Thanksgiving dinner.

Cinni’s mother is quite displeased she was out so long getting a turkey. She’s much happier after seeing all the food Cinni and Sparky won, but discovering there’s yet another guest to cook for upsets her again. Finally, she starts cooking before it gets any later.

This has been slightly edited to fit 10 lines.

Mrs. Filliard fumed as she hoisted the turkey out of the wagon and pulled the stuffing out of the refrigerator.  While she prepared the turkey and other food under the Smalls’ careful directions, Cinni, Sparky, and Harry went into the living room to read comic books and listen to the radio.

It was 10:30 when supper was called, wonderful smells wafting all through the house.  These were the kinds of smells which were supposed to permeate the air much earlier on Thanksgiving, but better late than never.

“This is the greatest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” Harry said as he took a seat. “Remember, Cin, one day I’ll pay you back for tonight.  Don’t think I ain’t thankful just ‘cause I ain’t in a position to do something so nice anytime soon.”

“Of course I know you’re thankful, Harry; unlike some people, you know what being thankful’s all about.”

The Smalls intoned a blessing over the feast arrayed before them, and then everyone dug in.  It was the sweetest, most delicious Thanksgiving meal Cinni had ever had.

WeWriWa—Inviting a Thanksgiving guest

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Cinni and Sparky won a 25-pound turkey, and a lot of other goodies, in a bingo tournament at the kosher butcher’s.

By the time the girls won, it had just started growing dusky. As they lugged their food home on two large wagons, they discussed whether they’d need to wait till tomorrow to eat the turkey, or if they’d just have a very late meal.

Then they ran into their friend Harold (Harry) Brewster outside of the soup kitchen, kicked out because his older brother R.J. started a fight with him. R.J. then taunted him from a window, and Harry was thrown out again after running back inside to respond to the challenge.

“Why not eat with us?” Cinni offered. “Turkey, carrots, eggs, potato gravy, beets, and yams, plus all the grub my mom’s making back at home, like cranberries, cornbread, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.”

“Are you kidding?  Of course I’d love to eat with you!  Your family looks rich next to mine, and now you’ve got all this grub for an even better feast.  Someday I’ll pay you back for this good deed, even if I don’t get a chance to do something so nice in return till we’re grownups.” Harry took Cinni’s wagon handle. “Let me pull yours the resta the way.  The Most Popular Girl shouldn’t have to work on a holiday.”

Harry finally has a chance to repay Cinni’s kindness in February 1985, by giving her his family’s old house when she’s been made homeless by the evil, powerthirsty general holding her husband hostage in Vietnam and pretending he was killed in action. A promise is a promise, no matter how long it takes to fulfill.

WeWriWa—Thanksgiving bingo

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when Cinnimin Filliard and her best friend Sparky (real name Katharina) headed off on Thanksgiving morning to get a fresh turkey.

Instead of going to Gregory’s Groceries for one of the free turkeys being given away, the girls decided to go to the kosher butcher so Sparky’s family could eat with Cinni’s. The Filliards have a very large house that’s been in the family for generations, long before the Great Depression, so there’s a wing with another kitchen and dining room enabling each family to keep their own dietary customs.

The girls weren’t able to resist the butcher’s bingo tournament, with a 25-pound turkey as a prize. The tournament runs until only five teams are left, and then those five teams play off for the winner. Several times, false bingo is called among all the competitors.

“The winner will not only get a twenty-five-pound turkey, freshly slaughtered, but also a pound each of carrots, beets, large yams, and eggs, and ten cans of potato gravy!  The runners-up will get a pound each of beans, eggs, and yams.”

Cinni put all her focus on remembering the names of each German number and matching up as many as possible on their cards.  Each time another team didn’t call bingo in time, she rejoiced.  Finally, as it started growing dusky, bingo appeared on Sparky’s latest card.

“Bingo, bingo, bingo!  B fünfzehn, I neunzig, N eins, G elf, O fünfundvierzig!” Sparky called.

The butcher verified the win. “The turkey and all the other food is yours.  I’ll go and slaughter the turkey right now.”

In order, the German numbers called are 15, 19, 1, 11, and 45.

If you’re wondering, my new banner goes along with my 12-part series on the 90th anniversary of The Jazz Singer. It’ll run from 13 November–11 December. I had so much fun researching and writing it. This also gave me back my writing mojo. I desperately needed a break away from fiction, where words were no longer coming as prolifically and easily as usual.