Typing Test


I served on the panel charged with appointing the commission set up to investigate the causes of the accident. The roster we put forward was top heavy with those who designed nuclear plants, neglecting entirely the engineers who operated them. So who was blamed, in the commission's final report? The operators. Nearly all of whom were dead. One was removed from a hospital and imprisoned. During his arrest it was said he quoted Petrosyant's infamous remark from the Moscow press conference the week after the disaster: "Science requires victims." "Still feeling like the crusader?" my father had asked the day we turned in our report. It had been the last time I'd seen him. "Why not?" I'd answered. Afterward, I'd gotten drunk for three days. I'd pulled out the original blueprints. I'd sat up nights with the drawings of the control rods, their design flaws like a hidden pattern I could no longer unsee. But then, such late night sentimentalities always operate more as consolation than insight. I could still be someone I could live with, I found myself thinking on the third night. All it would take was change. A red fox, its little jaws agape, sauntered across the road a few meters away. It was said that the animals had lost their skittishness around man, since man was no longer about. There'd been a problem with the dogs left behind going feral and radioactive, until a special detachment of soldiers was bused in to shoot them all. Around a curve I came upon the highway that had been used for the evacuation. The asphalt was still a powdery blue from the dried decontaminant solution. The sky was sullen and empty. A rail fence ran along the fields to my left. While I stood there, a rumble gathered and approached, and from a stand of poplars a herd of horses burst forth, sweeping by at full gallop. They were followed a few minutes later by a panicked and brindled colt, kicking its legs this way and that, stirring up blue and brown dust. "Was I ever the brother you hoped I would be?" I asked Mikhail toward the end of my next to last visit. His eyes and mouth were squeezed shut. He seemed more repelled by himself than by me, and he nodded. All the way home from the hospital that night, I saw it in my mind's eye: my brother, nodding. It took them both a long time to understand that the boy was sick, though she would point out that she had been the first to notice that he was unhappy, and had sought to remedy his discontent with sweeter treats and more delightful distractions. She thought it was evidence that she loved him more that she had noticed first that something was wrong and she said as much to her husband, when they were still trying to outdo each other in love for the child. Neither of them had much experience with illness. They had each taken many mortal lovers, but had cast them off before they could become old or infirm, and all their previous changelings had stayed healthy until they were returned, unaged and unstuck from their proper times, to the mortal world. "There was no way you could have known," said Dr. Blork, the junior partner in the two person team that oversaw the boy's care."Parents always feel like they ought to have caught it earlier, but really it's the same for everyone, and you couldn't have done any better than you did." He was trying to make them feel better, to assuage a perceived guilt, but at that point neither Titania nor her husband really knew what guilt was, never having felt it in all their long days. They were in the hospital, not far from the park on the hill under which they made their home, in the middle of the night early for them, since they slept all day under the hill and had taught the boy to do the same, but the doctors, Beadle and Blork, were obviously fatigued. The four of them were sitting at a table in a small windowless conference room, the doctors on one side, the parents on the other. The