P. W. Bridgman is the 1st place winner of Streetlight‘s Flash Fiction Contest
She told the story about him, but only once. About how she found him on a chair, pushed up to the kitchen window leaning out over Baskov Lane from their second-floor apartment in Leningrad. He was holding between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand the bloom of a Siberian Fawn Lily, plucked from her window box.
His little hand was steady, his gaze was too, as he waited.
She dried her hands on her apron, bread rising on the table, and drew closer to see.
He waited patiently, the purple bloom steady in his grasp, until the hummingbird appeared, flashed its ruby throat, hovered, approached, retreated and approached again, and finally drank as from a holy chalice.
Gently he turned his little round head toward his mother, smiling faintly. She smiled broadly in return, new hope flickering in her eyes.
“Tik tik tik”—he made the sound softly, as he knew hummingbirds do, comforting it, reassuring it, while its head poked further in, further into the flower’s dark funnel, its eye disappearing from his view, the bird lost in the sanctity of its private eucharist.
Like a frog’s tongue, like a serpent’s, his right hand darted quickly out. He pounced and squeezed and crushed. And squeezed and crushed some more.
Nyet, Vova! she cried, hands to her face, rushing across the kitchen toward him, stricken. Nyet!
Da, he said quietly, the muscles in his neck and forearm ropey and straining, his veins distended, his tightly closed fist shaking.
Gently he turned his head toward her again, a rictus grin spreading.
“Tik tik tik”.
Tiny bones breaking.
Ruby droplets staining his cuff.
[*] “Vova” is a diminutive for the name Vladimir. It is the one used by Vladimir’s mother when addressing him as a child.
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