Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

No Saints or Angels

by Ivan Klima

“A literary gem who is too little appreciated in the West . . . [A] Czech master at the top of his game.” –Scott Bernard Nelson, The Boston Globe

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date October 22, 2002
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3923-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $13.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9666-8
  • US List Price $13.00

About The Book

Ivan Kl’ma is one of the world’s most important writers and, in No Saints or Angels, he takes us into the heart of contemporary Prague, where the Communist People’s Militia of the Stalinist era marches headlong into the drug culture of the present. Kristyna is the divorced mother of a rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter, Jana. She is beginning to love a man fifteen years her junior, but her joy is clouded by worry–Jana has been cutting school, and perhaps using heroin. Meanwhile Kristyna’s mother has forced on her a huge box of personal papers left by her dead father, a tyrant whose Stalinist ideals she despised. No Saints or Angels is a powerful book in which, “like Anton Chekhov, Mr. Kl’ma is . . . able to show us what’s extraordinary about ordinary life” (The Washington Times).

Tags Literary

Praise

“It is inevitable in the wake of September 11 that we ask whether fiction writers have anything to say to our altered consciousness. The answer is a clear yes in the case of Ivan Kl’ma, who for 40 years has been chronicling the pursuit of happiness across rubble and shifting sands. His newest novel, No Saints or Angels, offers–once more, with new relevance–characters going about their daily lives in the gritty shadow of history. . . . You can’t move far these days without hearing someone announce the death of irony, by which is usually meant cynicism or flippancy. Ivan Klima’s irony is something else, a world view that acknowledges paradox and anomaly. . . . Against this cosmic mismatch, frail, flawed human beings play out their volatile longings and inglorious heroisms.” –Janet Burroway, The New York Times Book Review

“A literary gem who is too little appreciated in the West . . . [A] Czech master at the top of his game.

” –Scott Bernard Nelson, The Boston Globe

“Perhaps Kl’ma’s domestic terrain could have been limned by various so-called minimalists of American fiction, but where Raymond Carver or Ann Beattie might have stopped at the bedroom or trailer door, the Czech master sees his characters’ malaise as part of something larger. . . . No Saints or Angels [has a] humane power.” –Melvin Jules Bukiet, The Washington Post Book World

“It could be argued that reading Kl’ma is like immersing yourself in somebody else’s nightmare. Kl’ma’s pain tends to be our gain, though, and No Saints or Angels is another worthwhile read from this Czech master at the top of his game.” –Scott Bernard Nelson, The Boston Globe

“A compassionate realist, [Kl’ma] unflinchingly presents the problems facing modern Prague and civilization in general.” –Jennie Yabroff, San Francisco Chronicle

“Kl’ma teases the history and secrets out of four generations. . . . [He] has created something stirring and valuable.” –Jules Verdone, The Hartford Courant

“This compelling, bleak story is worthy of Kl’ma’s growing acclaim.” –Publishers Weekly

“An affecting story, affectingly told.” –Library Journal

“An existential despair on par with the best Camus has to offer . . . At its core there lie moments of poignant beauty and deep human understanding.” –Randall Heath, Rain Taxi

“His Prague is not that of a triumphant Dubcek or Havel, but of his mentor Franz Kafka. It’s a haunted, brittlely beautiful, rubbish-strewn labyrinth of thwarted desire.” –Peter Keaugh, The Boston Phoenix

Awards

New York Times–Notable Book for 2002
New York Times Book Review–Notable Fiction 2002
Washington Post–Best Books

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
1
I killed my husband last night. I used a dental drill to bore a hole in his skull. I waited to see if a dove would fly out but out came a big black crow instead.
I woke up tired, or more exactly without any appetite for life. My will to live diminishes as I get older. Did I ever have a great lust for life? I’m not sure, but I certainly used to have more energy. And expectations too. And you live so long as you have something to expect.
It’s Saturday. I have time to dream and grieve.
I crawl off my lonely divan. Jana and I carried its twin down to the cellar ages ago. The cellar is still full of junk belonging to my ex-husband, Karel: bright red skis, a bag of worn-out tennis balls, and a bundle of old school textbooks. I should have thrown it all out long ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I stood a rubber plant where the other divan used to be.

You can’t hug a rubber plant and it won’t caress you, but it won’t two-time you either.
It’s half past seven. I ought to spend a bit of time with my teenage daughter. She needs me. Then I must dash off to my Mum’s. I promised to help her sort out Dad’s things. The things don’t matter, but she’s all on her own and spends her time fretting. She needs to talk about Dad but has no one to talk about him with. You’d think he was a saint, the way she talks about him, but from what I remember, he only ordered her around or ignored her.
As my friend Lucie says, you even miss tyranny once you’re used to it. And that doesn’t only apply to private life.
I don’t miss tyranny. I killed my ex-husband with a dental drill last night even though I feel no hatred towards him. I’m sorry for him more than anything else. He’s lonelier than I am and his body is riddled with a fatal disease. But then, aren’t we all being gnawed at inside? Life is sad apart from the odd moments when love turns up.
I always used to ask why I was alive. Mum and Dad would never give me a straight answer. I expect they didn’t know themselves. But who does?
You have to live once you’ve been born. No, that’s not true. You can take your life any time, like my grandfather Anton”n, or my Aunt Venda, or Virginia Woolf or Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn didn’t kill herself, though; they only said she did in order to cover the tracks of her killer. She apparently took fifty pills of some barbiturate or other even though a quarter of that amount would have been enough. Her murderers were thorough. I myself carry a tube of painkillers; not to kill myself with though, but in case I get a migraine. I’d be capable of taking my life, except that I hate corpses. It was always an awful strain for me in the autopsy room, and I preferred not to eat the day before.
Why should I make the people I love deal with my corpse?
They’ll have to one day anyway. Who will it be? Janinka, most likely, poor thing.
I oughtn’t to call her Janinka, she doesn’t like it. It sounds too childish to her ears. I called my ex-husband Kaj”nek when I visited him recently on the oncology ward. I thought it might be a comfort to him in his pain to hear the name I used to call him years ago. But he objected, saying it was the name of a hired killer who recently got a life sentence.
We’ve all got life sentences, I didn’t say to him.
I can feel my early-morning depression taking hold of me. I had one glass of wine too many yesterday. I won’t try to count the cigarettes. Lucie maintains I don’t have depressions – I’m just ‘moody”.
Lucie and I got to know each other at medical school, but whereas I passed anatomy at the second attempt, she never mastered it. She dropped out and took up photography and was soon better off than those of us who stayed the course. She and I always hit it off together, most likely because we differ in almost every conceivable way. She’s a tiny little thing and her legs are so thin you’d think they’d snap in a breeze. I’ve never known her to be sad.
What do photographers know about depression? Mind you, she advises me quite rightly to give up smoking and restrict myself to three small glasses of wine a day, though she drinks as much as she likes. I’ll give everything up the day I reach fifty. It’s awful to think that I’m less than five years away from that fateful day, that dreadful age. That’s if I’ll still be alive in four years and eleven months’ time. Or tomorrow for that matter.
The best cure for depression is activity. At the surgery I have no time to be depressed. I have no time to think about myself. But today’s Saturday: an open day for dreams and grief.
I peek into Jana’s room and see she is peacefully asleep. Last year she still had long hair, longer than mine, and mine reaches a third of the way down my back. Now she’s had it cut short and looks almost like a boy. The stud in her ear twinkles, but on the pillow alongside her head lies a rag doll by the name of Bimba that she’s had since she was seven and always carries around with her. After she’d wriggled out of her jeans last night she left them lying on the floor, and her denim jacket lies in a crumpled heap on the arm-chair, one sleeve inside out. She hangs out with punks of both sexes because she says they don’t give a damn about property or careers. The last time we went to the theatre she insisted we take the tram. She wants to do her own thing, but what does it mean to do your own thing in a world of billions of people? In the end you always end up getting attached to something or someone.
There’s an open book on the chair by her bed. It’s not long since she read fairy stories and she loved to hear all about foreign countries, animals and the stars. She was lovely to talk to. She always seemed to me wise for her age and to have a particular understanding of other people. She’d generally sense when I was feeling sad and why, and do her best to comfort me. Now I get the feeling she hardly notices me or simply regards me as someone who feeds and minds her. I tell myself it’s because of her age, but I’m frightened for her all the same. We were watching a TV programme about drugs and I asked her whether she’d been approached by pushers on the street. “Of course,” she answered, almost in amazement. Naturally she had told them to get lost. I told her that if I ever found out she was taking anything of the sort I’d kill her. “Of course, Mum, and you’d feed me to the vultures!” We both laughed, although the laughter stuck in my throat.
I close her door and go into the bathroom.
For a moment I look at myself in the hostile mirror. No, the mirror’s not hostile, it’s dispassionately objective; it’s time that’s hostile.
My former and so far only husband once tried to explain to me that time is as old as the universe. I told him I didn’t understand. Time couldn’t be old, could it? For one thing it was a masculine word.
Time was feminine in German and Latin, and neuter in English, he told me. He was simply trying to explain that time began along with the universe. It hadn’t existed before. There had been nothing at all, not even time.
I told him how awfully clever and learned he was, instead of telling him he should get a sense of humour.
I couldn’t care less what happened billions of years ago and whether time began or not. I only care about my lifetime, and so far time has taken love away and given me wrinkles. It lies in wait for me on every corner. It rushes ahead and heeds none of my pleas.
It heeds no one’s pleas. Time alone is fair and just.
Justice is often cruel.
Still, time has been fairly good to me. So far. My hair is not quite as thick as when I was twenty, and I have to use chemicals to stop the world seeing that I’m going grey. My golden locks – one time I wove them in a braid that reached below my waist. But I still carry myself as well as I did then. My breasts have sagged a bit but they’re still large. Not that there is much point in humping them around with me any more – apart from men’s enjoyment. Selfish bastards. But nothing will save me from time. They say that injections of subcutaneous fat can get rid of wrinkles round the mouth, but I don’t like the idea of it. I don’t have too many wrinkles yet. Just around the eyes. My former husband used to call them sky blue, but what colour is the sky? The sky is changeable and its colour depends on the place, the wind and the time of day, whereas my eyes are permanently blue, morning and night, happy or sad.
When I step out of the shower I’m shivering all over and it’s not from cold. Even though it is already April, I still have the heating on in the flat. I am shivering from loneliness – what shakes me is the weeping I conceal, weeping over another day when time will simply drain away, a river without water, just a dried riverbed full of sharp stones – and I’m barefoot and naked, my dressing gown lies on the floor and no one looks at my breasts. Abandoned and uncaressed, milk will never flow from them again.
From the bedroom behind me comes a roar of what is now regarded as music and what my little girl idolizes: Nirvana or Alice in Chains or Screaming Trees, heavy metal, hard rock, grunge, I can’t keep track of it any more. The time when music like that excited me is past. It’s true that when the chair in the surgery happens to fall vacant, Eva dispels the quiet by tuning into some radio station, but I don’t notice it. My assistant is scared of silence, like almost everyone these days. But I like peace and quiet, I yearn for a moment of silence within myself, the sort of silence in which I might hear the rush of my own blood, hear the tears roll down my cheeks, and hear the flames when they suddenly come close.
But that sort of silence is to be found only in the depths of the grave, such as in the wall of the village cemetery on the edge of Ro’mit”l where they buried Jan Jakub Ryba. He cut his throat when he could no longer support his seven children. His poor wife! But in that sort of silence you don’t hear anything because the blood and tears have stopped and Master Ryba was never to hear again from the nearby church the words of his folkish Christmas Mass: ‘master, hey! Rise I say! Look out at the sky – splendour shines on high “”
For me blood, unlike tears, means life, and when I bleed from a wound in my gum I try to stop it as quickly as possible.
2
I’ve given my daughter her breakfast and I’ve reminded her she has homework to do. I’m dashing out to see Mum. Jana wants to know when I’ll be home, and when I tell her I’ll be back around noon, she seems happy enough.
The street is chock-a-block with cars on weekdays but it’s not so hard to cross on a Saturday morning. And there’s not such a stench in the air. I actually think I can smell the elderflower from the garden in front of the house.
The houses in our street are sexless, having been built at the end of the thirties. They lack any particular style. It was the time when they started building these rabbit hutches, except that in those days they were built of bricks instead of precast concrete, and most of them had five or six floors instead of thirteen. Mum used to tell me how in summer before the war people would take chairs out in front of the house and sit and chat. In those days this was the city limits and people had more time to talk. Little did they suspect that one day normal human conversation would be replaced by TV chat shows.
They weren’t afraid of each other yet, I didn’t tell Mum. During the war they were afraid to speak their minds because it could cost them their lives. But Mum knows that all too well from her own experience. People were afraid during the Communist years too, although Mum wasn’t affected so much, thanks to Dad. What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions? They stop thinking, most likely. Or they get used to empty talk.
During the war Mum’s life was at risk, even though she was only a little girl. Her mother – Grandma Irena, whom Mum never talked about much – was murdered in a gas chamber by the Germans. So were Grandma’s parents, her brothers and sisters and her nieces. Mum didn’t tell me about it until I was almost an adult. All I knew before then was that Grandma died in the war. And it was a long time before Mum told me she was Jewish. Mum wasn’t sent to the camps but spent the war with her father. Even so, throughout the war she had a little suitcase packed ready with essential things just in case, as one never knew. “They only gave my mother an hour to pack her things,” she told me.
Mum’s father, Grandpa Anton”n, had a furniture shop. To avoid being Aryanized, my grandfather made a show of divorcing my grandmother as soon as the Germans invaded. He saved the business – though not for long, because the Communists took it away from him. But by then it was too late to save his wife.
Mum never forgave him that trade-off and left home as soon as she was eighteen. Two years later she got married. She deliberately married a Communist, who wasn’t a Jew or a Christian but believed religion was the opium of the people.
Grandpa Anton”n also never forgave himself that divorce. When the Communists ordered him to leave the shop they had confiscated from him, he saw no reason to go on living. He went to the storeroom, sat down in a brand-new Thonet armchair and shot himself. But that was long before I was born.
Mum lives not far away and I can walk to her place through streets of villas. On the way I pass the villa where my favourite writer, Karel “apek, used to live. He was a good man and a wizard with words. I stop by the fence as if hoping that his free spirit might somehow still be hovering here so many years after his death. No sign of a spirit hovering but the trees have grown up here. They must have grown since he died because they were no longer young when I first saw them. When I was born that green-fingered writer was already fifteen years dead. My darling, he wrote to the only real love of his life, please learn to be happy, for God’s sake. That’s all I wish for you, and apart from your love you can’t give me anything more beautiful than your happiness.
That’s something Karel would never have written to me, even though he claimed to love me, in the days when perhaps he really did still love me.
Why do good people die so young, while scoundrels manage to keep going for years?
Good people suffer more because they take the sufferings of others to heart. I don’t know if I’m a good person, but I’ve had more than my share of suffering.
I wend my way through the narrow streets until I reach the street that’s been known as Rusk” for as long as I remember. The name has survived all regimes, unlike many other street names. Here, in a two-bedroomed flat, in an apartment house with a miniature garden in the front and one only slightly bigger at the back, I came into the world. On the other side of the street there are villas, and between them and the street there is a strip of grass with two rows of lime trees. In those days the treetops were full of the chatter of wagtails and the song of flycatchers, warblers and finches – which was drowned from time to time by the insistent blare of a siren as an ambulance sped past on its way to the nearby hospital. There is only cheap furniture in the flat, the sort made since the war, but at least it’s real wood. There are no pictures on the walls. Dad used to have a coloured portrait of Lenin above the table, and Mum had a framed tinted photograph of her mother from the period when Grandma Irena was a student. In that picture Grandma apparently resembles her famous contemporary Mary Pickford, with her pronounced chin and nose. Her hair in the photo is strawberry blonde. I have never asked my mother whether my grandmother really had auburn hair, but I hope so, as I like redheads.
Mum’s hair has already lost its red colour. It used to be strawberry blonde like mine, but now it has turned white. She still wears black even though it’s six weeks since Dad died. Grieving should last at least a year – that’s something I remember from psychology lectures. Do I feel grief? No, no more than usual. It’s as if Dad didn’t belong to me, as if he were part of another world. No, it was the same world, but a different time. Parents tend to live in a different time – some of them, at least. But there’s no reason why they should; after all, what are twenty or thirty years? That’s what my one and only husband would say. Just an insignificant moment compared to cosmic time.
“What am I going to do with all those things?” Mum laments. She opens a wardrobe stuffed with old clothes that stink of mothballs and I discover to my horror that the vile grey uniform of the People’s Militia is still hanging there. He didn’t even throw that away. As if he wanted the shame to survive him. Es war, als sollte die Scham ihn “berleben. That was written by an author Dad never read. I used to read him because he was virtually banned and because he tended to be sad and lonely too. And he was scared of his father and the future. Maybe he was also scared because he was a Jew like my Grandma Irena, who died horribly in the gas chamber ten years before I was born. He would have ended up there too if he hadn’t died so young. I wonder whether Grandma was scared of the future too. Was she able to imagine it? Could anyone imagine it, in fact?
‘do you think you could make use of any of it?”
“But, Mum, there’s no man living at our place.”
“I know, but maybe you could get it altered.”
“Yes, that one in particular,” I say pointing at the uniform.
“That’s all you ever see. Dad was already that way inclined. He didn’t alter overnight like a lot of others ” He had that made for our wedding,” she says indicating a black suit whose origins I’ve heard about a hundred times already.
“I know.”
“It’s one hundred per cent wool. Wool was very hard to come by in those days.” Mum sorts through the suits and frets. She can’t just throw them out, can she? But she doesn’t know anyone who might need them. I sense behind it a reproach that I’m on my own. If only I’d managed to hold on to my man as she had, right up to the last, even if it meant being made a slave, then I could bring him home a caseload of old, worn-out, useless rags.
I tell her I’ll help her sort the clothes and what is reusable I’ll take to a charity shop or to a homeless shelter.
“And what about the uniform?” she asks. ‘do you think a museum might take it?”
“They’re bound to have wagonloads of uniforms like it. And just one would be enough for posterity.” I imagine the display case: “Uniform of the People’s Militia, mailed fist of the working class. Donated from the bequest of Alois Hor”k.”
‘so what shall we do with it?” Mum asks.
“Cut it up for rags. You should have done it long ago.”
I happened to be born at a moment when Alois Hor”k and others of his ilk had been put on alert. Naturally – it was the day God’s little messenger finally rid the world of the Soviet tyrant. Mum told me how, when they were carrying me screaming out of the labour ward, she looked out the window and was amazed to see a black flag slowly being raised on the flagpole. Dad first came to visit Mum three days later. He was wearing his uniform, and now and then he would start crying. He asked my mother as she showed him the baby, in other words me, “What are we going to do now? How will we live?” His desperate question had nothing to do with how he’d live now he’d become a father, but how he’d live now the tyrant was dead and he was left an orphan. It was a slight against me and it was only my third day in this world about which I suspected nothing. He was a master at slighting others or making them feel guilty.
“Krist”na! He’d never get over it.”
“Oh, yes he would,” I say, but don’t add that he’s dead and gone and it’s time she stopped deferring to him in slavish fashion. But Mum is only using him as an excuse: she’d never destroy anything while it could still be used. The war had left its mark on her. When she had to buy herself new clothes she always felt it as an offence against her relations who died. I didn’t survive it to doll myself up! is something I heard her say on countless occasions, so I always felt guilty any time I indulged in something new.
“They wrote in the papers,” Mum says suddenly, as if she’d just recalled, “that the skinheads had a rally and were shouting Sieg Heil. And the National Security just let them.” Mum still hasn’t got used to the fact that we’ve had a normal police force for the past nine years – or at least we call them normal.
‘don’t worry, nobody’s going to resurrect Hitler.”
“It’s not myself I’m worried about, but the two of you. Goodness knows what they’re up to.”
I stroke her hair. ‘don’t worry about us. The world has changed.” Just recently she’s talked about feelings of anxiety she must have had since she was small. I never suspected it because she never let on. On the contrary, she was always full of life, and worries never got her down. For years she worked in the municipal housing office in charge of maintenance. It meant she came into contact with lots of workmen and from time to time she would take me along with her. And although I tended to be miserable among strangers I liked the way she was able to have a laugh and a chat with them. And at home, too, particularly when Dad was out at some meeting, which he was almost all the time, she used to laugh at things that would have most likely irritated my father.
She takes me over to a cupboard that is full of books. “And what about these?”
“There’s no need to get rid of the books, is there? The moths aren’t going to harm them.”
“His books? I’m never going to read them, am I?”
Yes, of course: books by the Soviet luminaries, their covers as boringly grey as the language they were written in; a red star above the title, symbolizing the blood shed on their account.
“Oh yes, and there are all sorts of letters and things,” Mum remembers. “I can’t bring myself to sort them out. And there are some letters from you.”
I can’t recall ever writing to Dad. But I expect I did. Maybe from Pioneer camp. “They can stay here, can’t they?”
“And loads of speeches and notes.”
Dad trained as a locksmith, but he didn’t repair many locks in his life. He was in charge of political indoctrination and was also a paid official, so he had to give speeches. I never heard or read any of his speeches but I can well imagine them, having heard plenty of others. They were all the same. Cold grey tedium that nevertheless managed to arouse dread because the spectre of that bloody star hovered above it.
“I’ve wrapped up these things for you. I thought you might like to find out something about your dad. That he wasn’t as awful as you imagine.”
‘mummy, what could I possibly find out? I knew him for forty-five years. Every year on my birthday he’d light a candle in memory of a murderer he never set eyes on. And he’d buy a white carnation to put in front of the bust of him that he had on his desk. He bought me flowers about three times in my life. And of course they had to be carnations because they were sort of comradely.”
“It’s ages since he did anything like that.”
‘really?” I won’t tell her that it was probably because he begrudged the money for the candle and the carnation. In recent years he didn’t even send me a flower. In fact he didn’t even visit on my birthday; he just telephoned to wish me lots of success. I don’t know what he had in mind. Whether some dazzling career in dentistry, or a splendid marriage, or first place in the competition for the most beautiful elderly woman. Nothing, most likely. For him success was happiness. There was no love lost between us. There was a time when we used to argue, though we even stopped that. But we didn’t start to like each other. Lack of affection for one’s father would seem to run in our family. I wouldn’t say he was never right. He tried to talk me out of marrying my first and last twice-divorced husband. “He’s a man without ideals,” he warned me.
Better none than yours, I thought.
I’ve now discovered that people without ideals are like machines. Machines for churning out words, making money and love, degrading others and exalting themselves, machines for supporting their own egos. Dad had ideals, I’ll grant him that. Maybe he really did believe that with his Party in power nobody would go hungry and justice would be established in the world. It was such a blind belief that he couldn’t see all the injustices being committed around him. He himself tried to lead an honourable and even abstemious life. He had just one suit for weekdays and the famous wedding suit. When it was cold he would wear the same old beret he’d had since I was a child. He was terse with Mum, but he never left her and I don’t think he was ever unfaithful to her. I don’t remember ever getting a hug from him, but from time to time he would tell me stories about wise Lenin or Young Pioneers who loved their parents and their homeland. Yes, they were the phrases he’d use, but at the time I was just happy that he sat down by me and spared me a bit of his time. It was only later, after the Soviets invaded and he welcomed them as saviours not occupiers, that I became antagonistic towards everything he praised or believed in.
Almost as soon as I got into medical school – partly due, no doubt, to my class background – I started to let my hair down and sit around in pubs, drinking, smoking and having a succession of boyfriends. I did it to spite Dad, even though he never knew the whole story, and I felt a sense of satisfaction at going my own way.
“You shouldn’t talk about him that way, Krist”na,” my mother scolds me. “He never meant anything badly. Stalin, or rather the Russians, saved his life. If they’d come a day later he’d have been dead.”
“Or so he’d have you believe.”
“No, that was the way it was. He showed me photos of him taken when he got back from the camp. He looked like a skeleton. A skeleton covered in skin.”
“But that didn’t stop him helping set up concentration camps here.”
“Your father never set up any concentration camp.”
‘maybe not, but his Party did.”
“Your father fought the Germans,” she said. “That’s something you should respect him for at least, seeing you know what they did to my mother.”
It’s inconsiderate of me to torment her with this sort of talk. Even in the days when I tried to spite Dad by my behaviour, she was the only one I hurt. Dad would only have noticed something that affected him personally, or his career.
I sit down by Mum and take her hand. “You must stop thinking about him all the time.”
“Who am I supposed to think about, then?”
“You’ve got us, haven’t you?”
Us is me and L’da, my songstress sister who lives down at Tabor and only visits Mum four times a year. Of course there’s also Jana, her sweet little granddaughter, who has started to grow wild recently. She sang at her grandfather’s funeral – not the “Internationale”, as he’d probably have wanted, but the spiritual “Twelve Gates to the City”. And me – tired, worn-out and empty: a vase without flowers.
I take the box containing Dad’s writings and give Mum a hug and a kiss.
The box is wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with a gold ribbon. It weighs at least ten pounds.