Monday, June 22, 2009

Black Icon II

(From my novel, The Black Icon:
The house still stands, seventy years later, Standard one-storey, square, nearly windowless Ruthenian structure of plastered white adobe and a roof that had been thatch, but now in rot.
Nobody lives there anymore. but the house stands by the creek that used to flood and had often threatened the very edifice itsel.It had taken so long for my young father to build. For a near stripling of a lad, he would show 'em.. And he did. There it stood on its slight rise over the creek. It did not have tile or a tin roof, the very model of wealth in Ukraine; a peasant house, but not bad for just turned twenty and newly married.
"Marry Dmytro, for he has golden hands." Well, didn't he?
But a great war came and the machine gun and cannon shells would whoosh into the house. But the walls were thick. Though the roof burned, the house would not crumble or burn. It was made of clay brick.

We had to abandon the house for the real fear of Communism.
My uncle went back recently to roport that the house still stood, empty "for they all had gone to Canada."
Nobody lives there save for an old hobo lady who begged she not be reported.
Would I dare to go back?

(Submitted to Jo's blog last week)


Charles Gramlich said...

That's very nice. Excellent wording. said...

Thanks, Charles.

I would have said, half-jokingly, "Years of self-denial" to find the words, but my wife would add, seriously, "You S.O.B., you never denied yourself anything." :)

the walking man said...

You can't go back but you could return for a visit.

Honestly Ivan who gives a shit what their ex old lady has to say about their ex old man? That smoke wouldn't even be seen on the wind. said...


Many had gone back for a visit.
The natives call them the crappers.
Apparently none of the "Canadians" can handle Ukrainian vodka. Crap themselves.

Mona said...

The Senselessly Constructed House that I lived in , and write about, has been destroyed and a Women's hostel has come up in its place now. I was really sorry to see what had become of it...

Going back to a place of past inhabit is always a disappointment I heard. Reality of it kills our imagination and memories and everything appears to have shrunk to a smaller size... said...


Yes, it is so.

I have gone back to places of my childhood. And they are so tiny. Even the heretofore mammoth Hydro-Electric dam seems small.

Jo said...

Ivan, you are a wonderful writer. When you posted that on my blog, I almost felt as if I could walk right into the house. I was right there. said...

Thanks, Josie.

benjibopper said...

Josie's right, great description, no words wasted.

Is this the beginning? Tastes like more, as mum's mum would say.

ivan@c said...


Thanks for being interested.

This is close to the beginning.
It's actually from my notes on the first section of the novel. I have all the earliest chapters in my files, including Michael building the house, but I can't find that chapter right now, or the chapter following.
Stay tuned. said...


I can't for the life of me find the chapter that follows, after Michael builds the house for his wife. I dasn't start typing chapter Two from the actal book. Too much work.

I Have, however found Chapter One of the Black Icon. Viz,

Bright July sunlight etched out the shapes of dun and green fields stretching eastward from the gloomy Carpathians. The Prut River wound through rectangles of wheat that skipped checker-fashion across squares of yellow-tufted potato fields. Above, the sun shone in summer heat.
Below, in a potato tract, Sophia Podolska, nine months pregnant, looked up at the sky and wiped her face with the tails of her babushka. Not a cloud in sight. Another hot one.

With a sigh, she bent back towards her work. Work kept her busy, kept her from thinking of the loss of two infant boys before the arrival of Katerina, a healthy, bright girl child now six years of age.

"Dear God, if you could only make his baby inside me just as whole and healthy."
Sophia's prayer was suddenly cut off. A dizziness seized her and she found it hard to catch her breath. A sharp pain came into her abdomen, causing her to drip the hoe and clutch her middle. "It's coming, Sophia's brain warned.

She hurried off in the direction of her home. The pain and the swimming sensation told her shoe would be lucky to make the house, let alone the midwife who was a good mile away.
She stumbled on, now approaching the woodshed some paces from the house.

A sudden wet leakage running down her thighs told her the woodshed would be the place. She opened the leather-hinged door and sank down heavily on the chip-littered floor.

"Michael," she called her husband's name as the pain increased to a pitch she could no bear. "Michael...Help...The ensuing blackness was the last thing she remembered.

* * * * * * * *

She awoke to find the baby's head protruding from her groins. Without a second thought, she grasped the head with her open palms and gave a yank that sent a fresh spasm of pain through her, causing her to faint once more just as the infant was drawn clear.

Consciousness. But now a strange, high-pitched sound came from a red, appendaged creature beside Sophia. A thrashing entrail snaked around its neck. Again, by some Neolithic instinct, the pinched the umbilical cord with her nails, tied it and began wiping the baby off with the upper part of her shirt, the only part not soaked by the birth fluids. The infant, by this time, made a shrill, breathless sound.

"Cry, my little one," she thought, cry for both of us."

Having cleaned the child and herself as well as she could, Sophia held the infant to her, giving him her breast, which the boy bit impulsively with his toothless gums, but apparently without success. The cry again. She, realizing what was happening, took her other breast between her teeth until the blood and milk ran free. She then offered the breast to the grasping baby. No sooner had she done this, than a brilliant shaft of sunlight caused her to squint as someone opened the shed door. Michael's suntanned face appeared through the crack, bright brown eyes focusing on the mother and child.

"Sophia," he rasped as he came down on one linen-clad knee to stoop over the woman and infant.

Sophia said nothing as she cuddled the suckling child.

___________ said...

Oh yeah...Here is the proof copy of the housebuilding chapter of The Blac Icon and a bit of what follows:

Michael's family threw an enormous feast that lasted three days, guests pausing only for sleep between drinking and dancing bouts. Home brew ran like water. Food was shoved into everyone until surprised palates heaved up the unexpected richness. Liquor loosened tongues and wallets. After the wedding, Michel and Sophia counted the piles of Zlotys that would start them off building their house.

The wedding over, life began in earnest. Now came the building. Nothing but the finest material would do for Michael. Stout oaken beams were carted up, then stones and lime. The walls soon rose and adobe was mixed to fill them in.

Evenings would find Michael sitting in front of the project, smoking quietly, staring at his rising house. It was his very own; his by design and rising up under his own hands. "Come on, let's go to bed," Sophia would call. "It won't go away." Michael would wave her off to stay another hour and ponder his first mark.

And Sophia too felt her pulse rise with every stone and mortar she lugged to the house. Her own house, her own land, the birthright of every Galician no matter who ruled the region. Once you had it, no one could take your land, be he Austrian, Pole or Russian.

Michael worked fast and hard. In four months, the final crowning material, tile, arrived for the roof. "Look, Sophia, actual tile. That'll show them," Michael said, scornfully eyeing the straw roofs of surrounding houses.

Finally, the new house, a splendid, thick walled four-room structure stood new and white in its hilltop, shaming the neighbours' cottages. Only one other building surpassed Michael's, and that was the squire's. This one boasted a tin roof, the absolute standard of rank in a Galician town. "And someday we will have a tin roof too," Michael solemnly told Sophia as they went inside to do the finishing.

Oh Gawd. TMI!

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