Story Time

An old man heard babies squeaking from underground. Grabbing the shovel, he could not believe it

Constantine Sergeyevich was a widower. When he buried his wife, Abdokyo Nicolevnu, the ground literally fell from under his feet. He was left alone.

All his life, he and his wife lived for themselves. She did not want want children. She did not want to fall out of life and be bound hand and foot. She was afraid of responsibility, she told him. Was it wrong to enjoy each other’s company, to travel, to visit new places?

They were easygoing and visited different cities with full immersion, which meant renting a flat and starting to live there. Sometimes a couple of months were enough. More often they stayed for half a year in a couple of places. They even stayed for two years. Could they afford this kind of entertainment if they were burdened with children?

Of course not. Kids need school. They have friends. No one would agree to lug around the country following a crazy mum and dad. Still, somewhere after 35, Constantine insisted that he and his wife get a checkup from a doctor.

They both underwent tests, and she met him at the door of the clinic in tears, with shaking hands, clutching a file in her hands. You know, Costa, I want to tell you that you can be absolutely free. I just don’t have the right, she said, almost stammering through her sobs. What’s wrong? Costia didn’t understand.

I can’t give you a baby, she mouthed, and turned away. Let it go, said Constantine. He put his arm around his wife’s shoulders, and they did not return to this conversation. They simply lived and enjoyed life. When Abdonquia was a few years away from retirement, she suddenly started coughing.

Constantine was always very sensitive about her health, and after that check up, probably a simple allergy. Maybe the flat they rented this time had a cat or a dog around, although she hadn’t noticed her having any allergies to animals before. They were back in their hometown, at their home where no one kept any animals, Evdokia kept coughing. Constantine Sergeyevich insisted on a visit to the hospital. The doctor shook his head and held his hands apart.

There was nothing they could do. How could it be? It’s just a cough. Avokia blinked her eyes incomprehensibly. Two weeks later she was gone.

Sarcoma. It’s always a verdict. They had caught it too late. It had developed too quickly. After the funeral, Costa sat alone at home, not knowing what to do next, how to live.

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He had no one and no one left. What kind of journeys could he take now? What did he need them for? Now he was much older than Evdochia, so he was already retired now only a lonely retirement. He just didn’t want to live anymore.

A few days later, he was going through the papers, and suddenly he found the same yellow folder that Evdokia had clutched in her hands. When she found out she couldn’t be a mother. He hadn’t even looked inside. It strange. Why had she kept it.

After all. It was clear she could have thrown those tests away just for the sake of curiosity. Constantine Sergeyvich looked inside. To say he was shocked was not to say anything. It wasn’t Yevdokia who was barren.

It was he who was Baron. At first he felt bitterly resentful of her. What a liar. What an actress. How thoughtfully played everything and wept so naturally.

Then came the realization that Hivdocia had laid her whole life, her right to be a mother, on the altar of his happiness and marital well being. If only she had spoken to him, then maybe they would have found another solution. After all, they could adopt or try artificial insemination. And only later Constantine realized that it couldn’t have been any other way. There would be nothing artificial and no adoption.

Abdokia had not wanted to have children for a long time before the check up. She had seized on the results as an opportunity to rid herself of the problem. So she was driven by selfishness. You cannot go against nature, against her nature, for which if Tokyo was punished by God and diagnosed with a fatal disease. When Constantine realized it, he forgave her.

Now. He went to her Cemetery almost every day, watered the flowers, wiped the monument. He found a strange pleasure in this. For hours he would sit on the bench and talk to her. At first Constantin Sergeyevich thought he was talking to Abdokia, but then he realized that he was talking to himself.

It was only at that moment that he seemed to let go. He stopped being sad, stopped pining. He simply accepted reality. As it was, he realized that he was actually happy. He was happy with what he had.

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One day he took another stroll through the Cemetery. Now he no longer lingered at Eddokia’s grave, walking there like in a Museum. He was viewing the monuments and reading the tombstones, imagining what these people might have been like. Constantine Sergeyvic had no friends alive. All his friends were here now.

That day he stopped by one of the fresh graves. Usually they were littered with wreaths from relatives and grieving friends. This one had nothing on it, just some flaccid Tulip, a wooden cross, and a name and a surname inscribed in pencil. Not even a date. Clavdia Terra Canova.

Hello, Clavdia. I wonder who you are, how old you are. Welcome to our graveyard, new friend, thought Constantine to himself. Suddenly he heard a squeak from the ground. At first he didn’t understand what it was and where it came from.

Maybe a kitten. Constantine looked around. No one was there. The squeak came directly from under the ground, from that very fresh grave. Looking around again, he saw an abandoned or forgotten shovel nearby.

The man grabbed it and started digging up the grave. The squeaking sounded louder and louder. It had already turned into wailing. The crying was obviously from a child. Who are you?

Clavdia Tarakanova who would bury a child alive. Having dug out the coffin, Constantine threw back the lid. The picture he saw was horrible. In the coffin was the old woman. Obviously it was that Clavdia and lying on either side were two newborn babies, a boy and a girl.

The boy was barely breathing. The girl was crying. Girls are always the survivors, fighting to the end to survive, all for the sake of the continuation of the human race. Constantine went to the police. The children were taken temporarily to a shelter.

The old woman in the coffin turned out to be Clavdia Tarkanova. The old woman was quite well known in the neighborhood. The policeman confirmed that she had recently passed away. But what about the children? The thing is, Clavdia was known for her granddaughter.

She raised Milana on her own. Clavdia’s daughter passed away in childbirth. The girl had no father. It was a hell of a family. Claudia liked to drink alcohol and sold sunflower seeds at the bus stop.

The neighbor said Claudia used to roast sunflower seeds at night, then warm her feet in them because she suffered from joints. In the morning, she drank a glass of her own homemade liquor to warm her up. As Clavia herself said, she was proud of her Noble family name and was sure that she belonged to the ancient Tarakanov family. Although she behaved like her daughter, not at all Noble. Her daughter got pregnant.

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A hard childbirth took her away and left a baby. Everyone thought Clavia would send her to an orphanage, but no, she took Milana and raised her on her own. Well, as best as she could, she raised her. Milana became an exact copy of her mother, not only in appearance but also in behavior. Pretty soon she was going out with boys and then men.

Milana became pregnant. Claudia was having a hard time with her second failure in raising the girl. She was already sick. The seeds and alcohol had done their work. Claudia died.

Milana was at home at the time. Suddenly her water broke. Just as Clavdia passed away, Milana gave birth to twins. What was she going to do with them? She didn’t need them.

And then her grandmother relieved her of her responsibilities. Melania didn’t have much money. She barely had enough for the cheapest coffin and diggers. That’s why there was only one Tulip on the grave. On the day of the funeral, Milana had the wisest idea how to get rid of the children unobtrusively.

She put them there and they were buried on the same day. Milana rushed to Moscow for a new life. Constantine Sergeyevich could not comprehend what had happened. He could not forget the twins and kept visiting them in the orphanage. One day the nurse said, Why don’t you take them?

She was just voicing thoughts that had been going on through Constantine’s mind for a long time. After a check up to make sure he was healthy enough to raise the children. Constantine took custody of them. The only strange thing was that his barrenness was not confirmed. He was doing just fine.

Apparently this mystery would remain in his past life with abdokia. Maybe it was a doctor’s mistake. Maybe some kind of game she was playing. Constantine thought no more about it. Now he had two beautiful children.

Milana never appeared in his life. Costia stopped going to the Cemetery. Now he walked to the children’s playground.

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