THE BLACK ICON
The potato diet was now beginning to affect the family. A lethargy set in, and all three were becoming irritable with the meatless fare. Languid. And little Genyk was infested with roundworms.
One night Genyk awoke, complaining of a buzzing sound in his ears. Katerina, knowing just what this meant, was the first to rise, putting a match to he coal oil lamp on the oaken table between the children's beds. The light, streaming through the children's open bedroom dooway, woke Sophia immediately; Sophia had long-since gotten used to this ritual. She sat upright in bed for a few seconds, then put her feet on the cold earth floor, at the same time grasping out for the pile of newspapers prepared for just such an emergency.
In the other bedroom, she could hear Genyk shouting out, "The buzzing. It's getting louder. And I feel like I'm going to poop."
Sophia hurried towards Genyk, a handful of newsprint rusling in her sleep-numbed fingers.
While Kateria tried to comfort the boy, Sophia threw back his covers, yanked down the baggy pantaloons that served as the boy's covers, and did what had to be done.
Genyk, lying face down, Katerina's hand gently stroking his head, cringed as he felt the stiff paper touching him.
"Got that one...Here, get me some more paper, Katerina. Poor boy, they just keep coming out...damn worms." Sophia continued the operation for twenty minutes, tossing each long, dark, wire-consistent parasite on an outstrtched centrespread on the floor.
"There, that ought to be the last of them," she said finally.
Genyk began crying, but settled down after Sophia stroked his head and flushed face.
While Katerina continued to calm the boy, Sophia made for the kitchen, returning with a large jar of pickle brine, said by the village women to be a cure for worms. Genyk, whimpering and wanting something to get rid of the foul taste in his mouth, snatched at the brine jar and began taking loud swallows.
"Drink as much of it as you can," Sophia said. "It'll keep the worms away." But she scolded Genyk while he gulped down the brackish fluid. "What did I tell you about eating all that brown sugar? It gives you worms, and if you keep eating it all by iself like that, someday they'll come out of your throat in a ball. I've sen it happen."
Genyk took the jar away from his moth and shrieked, making Sophia immediately sorry for the insensitive chiding. She cradled the brine jar in he crook of her arm and stretched out her free hand worad Genyk, caressing his face. "There now, she soothed, pulling th covers back over Genyk. Katerina, on the other side of he bed, stroked Genyk's head and shoulders.
Genyk fell asleep after a last stiff sob.