Saturday, July 26, 2008

Two stories by Olga Zilberbourg

Two stories
by Olga Zilberbourg


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I don't like being late. Usually when I need to be at work at 9, I come at 8:10 and hang out on the street for an hour waiting for my boss to show up with the keys. You may think that it's a good custom, but it can also be a menace. In college, for example, it affected my grades: I would show up 2 hours before the exam and get so agitated counting down the minutes and listening to all the kids feverishly trying to memorize the textbook, that when the test sheets were actually given out, I froze up and had to spend the first 15 minutes trying to remember anything at all. I am working on improving my habits: now "to come fashionably late" means to me to be only 10 minutes early. My dream is to meet one day somebody who will have to wait for me.

Every day I take the subway to work. The nearest subway station is exactly 15 minutes away by foot or 10 minutes by bus. Every day when I come out of the house and lock the door behind me, I am faced with a choice: should I turn the corner left for the bus stop or right towards the subway? The decision is decidedly inconsequential, since usually I leave the house at 7:30, with plenty of time to spare, yet a very difficult one. Say, I turn right and walk only half a block before being overtaken by a bus, charging full speed ahead and sneering at me with its wicked round eyes? What an insult! However, is it in any way better to turn left, sit down at the bus stop and spend the next 15 minutes watching the flies munching on the sticky red liquid on the next seat over? When the bus finally shows up, the grin on its face is so wide, I experience an intense desire to spit right into its shiny bright eye, turn around and walk all the way to the subway simply out of spite. I have never done it yet; instead I swallow my pride and meekly pay the fare. No, I can't win with the bus.

The situation had gotten to be so bad that recently I started to gamble. Now, every day, after locking the door of my apartment, I toss a coin: if it lands face up, I am to face the bus: to turn left towards the bus stop. This sounds like a perfect solution to all my problems, for what can be easier than transferring the decision into the hands of chance? It worked well for a while, until one beautiful spring morning when I put on an extra tight pair of pants. I was so delighted when I opened the door to hear the birds singing on the rose bushes in front of the house! Slowly I locked the door and fumbled in close fitting pockets for change. You get the gist: when the coin finally sparkled in the crisp morning sunshine, the bus hurried by right in front of my eyes, winningly rattling its armor.

The state of this warfare is growing from bad to worse. The bus is now affecting my choice of clothing in the morning. First, I had to discard entirely that one pair of pants that so unluckily had interfered with fate. Second, I have switched from wearing sweaters to jackets with pockets that have the capacity to hold an ample supply of coins. Third, I refuse to go out of the house carrying more than a backpack on my shoulders: this way, I can pull out a coin with one hand while at the same time locking the apartment door with the other. What else? Next week I am planning to buy a jacket with the hood, in order to dispense comfortably with the umbrella.

Comparatively, the way back from the subway is sheer pleasure. Something always turns up to help me: today I have to go to the post office, tomorrow I need to stop by the grocery store, the next day I am going to Super Cuts for a haircut. All this activity is fortunately situated between the subway stop and my house, so, naturally, I never even have to think about taking the bus.

Author bio:

Olga Zilberbourg is a reformed Comparatist, and alternates between studying literature and writing fiction. She is based between San Francisco and St. Petersburg and writes in both English and Russian. A longer story of hers is due to appear sometime next year in an anthology from Drollerie Press called "Trick the Object: An Anthology of Literary Weird."

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