Typing Test


He said that four samples of bone marrow had been extracted and no one had told him anything since. Most of the pain was in his mouth and stomach. When he asked for a drink, I offered some mango juice I'd brought with me. He said it was just the thing he wanted. He was fed up with mineral water. He shouted at a passing doctor that the noise of her heels was giving him diarrhea. "When we got outside, graphite was scattered all around," he said, as if we'd been in the middle of discussing the accident. "Someone touched a piece of it and his arm flew up like he'd been burned." "So you knew what it was?" I asked. I assumed I wasn't allowed to touch him because of the cream. He was always the boy I'd most resented and the boy I'd most wanted to be. I'd been the cold one, but he'd been the one who'd made himself, when he'd had to be, solitary and unreachable. An orderly wheeled in a tray of ointments, tinctures, creams, and gauzes. He performed a counterfeit of patience while he waited for me to leave. "Have you had enough of everything?" I asked Mikhail. "Is there anything I can bring?" "I've had the maximum permissible dose of my brother Boris," he said. "Now I need to recuperate." But then he went on to tell me that Akimov had died. "As long as he could talk, he kept saying he did everything right and didn't understand how it had happened." He finished the juice. "That's interesting, isn't it?" Mikhail had always said about me that I was one of those people who took a purely functional interest in whomever I was talking to. Father had overheard him once when we were adults and had laughed approvingly. "Someone's going to have to look after Petya," he said, his eyes closed, some minutes later. I'd thought he'd fallen asleep. As far as I knew, he wasn't aware that his brother was on the floor below him. "I have to get on with this," the orderly finally remarked. When I told him to shut up, he shrugged. There Is No Return. Farewell. Pripyat, 28 April 1986 Two years later, at four in the morning, my father and I drove into the Zone. The headlamps dissolved picturesquely into the pre dawn mist, but my father's driver refused to slow down. It was like being in a road rally. The driver sat on a lead sheet he'd cadged from an x ray technician. For his balls, he explained when he saw me looking at it. Armored troop carriers with special spotlights were parked here and there working as chemical defense detachments. The soldiers wore black suits and special slippers. Even through the misty darkness we could see that nature was blooming. The sun rose. We passed pear trees gone to riot and chaotic banks of wildflowers. A crush of lilacs overwhelmed a mile marker. Mikhail had died after two bone marrow transplants. He'd lasted three weeks. The attending nurse reported final complaints involving dry mouth, his salivary glands having been destroyed. But I assumed that that was Mikhail being brave, because the condition of his skin had left him in agony for the final two weeks. On some of my visits he couldn't speak at all, but only kept his eyes and mouth tightly closed, and listened. I was in Georgia at the start up of a new plant the day he died. He was buried, like the others in his condition, in a lead lined coffin that was soldered shut. Petya was by then an invalid on a pension Father and I had arranged for him. He was 25. He found it difficult to get up to his floor, since his building had no elevator, but otherwise, he told me when I occasionally called, he was happy. He had his smokes and his tape player and could lay about all day with no one to nag him, no one to tell him that he had better amount to something. "It's a shame," my father mused on the ride in. "What is?" I asked, wild with rage at the both of us. But he looked at me with disapproval and dropped the subject. At Pripyat a sawhorse was set up as a checkpoint,