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Yardsticks: Chapter 35


The apartment was quiet when I returned from work. There was a pot on the stove, and I sniffed something sweet and spicy.

“Benish?” I called.

I was rewarded with a grunt from the direction of the dining room.

I hung up my coat and went to the dining room. Benish was sprawled on the couch, eating pretzels and reading the paper. I inhaled. “Where’s Mama?”


I glanced at my watch. “Why is she sleeping now? It’s late, she won’t be able to sleep at night.”

Benish folded the paper. “She was tired, she wasn’t feeling so well. I tried keeping her up, but she insisted on taking a nap.”

I sighed. “And Papa? Where is he?”

“Road trip,” he muttered.

Road trip! I hadn’t heard about those in a while.

A wave of anger crested in my chest. I left Benish with his paper and stormed into the kitchen, grabbing the cordless phone.

Surprisingly, Anzel answered on the third ring. “Zdravstvuyte?”

There was noise in the background, loud rumbling. “Are you driving?” I asked.

“Ny—da. Da, I’m on the highway.”

He was lying. And he was a terrible liar.

I sucked in air, filling my lungs. “Highway,” I hissed.


He’d— he’d fooled me. All these months, and my husband had been lying to me, pretending to be making an effort to sustain our family, while all along he hadn’t been earning a dime. My eyes flew to the dead refrigerator. No cheese, no eggs, no milk. Two tomatoes rotting on the counter. And Anzel had lied.

I should have known. It hadn’t made sense, that we couldn’t cover. That we couldn’t afford Anna. I was the only breadwinner in this place, and nobody else cared.

Bitterness filled my throat. Anzel was idling his time, while I wanted to work — I could work — if only he’d help me, earn some money so I could buy the sewing equipment I needed, so I could accept Mina’s offer and pay Anna to take care of his mother.

I clenched my teeth. “And with the money you earn from this trip?” I asked derisively. “Will you call Anna back?”

Anzel sighed. “M-maybe. But maybe, I was thinking, my tooth, it’s gotten worse….”

My stomach twisted. Was he trying to guilt me now? “Of course,” I said, swallowing. “Da, of course, yes.”

I heard voices in the dining room. Mama was up. I hung up the phone, feeling a jumble of anger and pity.

Benish was talking to Mama. I put up the kettle to boil and made a tea, then took it to the dining room. Mama looked pale. I watched Benish press his palm to her forehead.

And then the door opened.


“Hey, Mom, surprise!” He grinned and held out a bouquet of roses.

I raised my brows. “Flowers?”

“It’s your birthday, Mom! Don’t tell me you forgot. I had a conference in the city, I was so happy I could make it over.”

I nodded dumbly. My birthday, wow, and Moriz had remembered, bought flowers. I took the bouquet from him and pecked his cheek. “Thank you. Thank you.”

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 679)

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