Thursday, March 5, 2009

13 Falling Snow


Olga straightened in her seat as she watched Tom walk out of the door, head bowed. She registered every detail: the little wisp of red hair which curled down the nape of his freckled neck, his shoulders hunched in his grey suit, the creases behind his knees, his black woollen socks bunched over his ankles and the scuff mark on the heel of his right shoe.

Enkhbold smirked, re-lit his cigar, took a contented puff and waved her away. She returned to her place in the records room, opened the new green file, looked at Tom’s photo and breathed in deeply. Our agents are everywhere, she reflected. She wondered if it was the same where he came from, the land of Hardy and Dickens, where bloated aristocrats and tyrannical factory owners ruled vast estates and exploited poor peasants and orphans.

Tom half turned to smile as he walked past Mrs Jargal, the square-jawed Heroine of the State, but she looked straight through him and the smile died on his face before it was even born. An icy wind swept in from the street and followed him down the corridor. He shivered, opened the door to his prison cell of an office, where he walked into a wall of heat and the unwelcoming gaze of Shishmishig, who Tom was pleased to see had taken off his black suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves, was leaning back in his chair, his moon face glistening with sweat, reading a newspaper.

Hunched over his desk, with his brow creased in intense concentration, Tom gripped his pencil tightly and stared at the blank sheet of paper in front of him, then started to draw a mind map, with words in bubbles, interconnected with lines. Shishmishig looked up from his copy of The People’s Daily and watched this with some interest.

They sweated and breathed the hot, disinfected air for the next few hours, barely exchanging a word, and Tom thought more than once how terrible it must be to spend the rest of your life in prison.

At five o’clock, there was the sound of voices outside. Shishmishig stood up, lifted his suit jacket from the back of his chair, put it on, rolled up his newspaper, stuffed it into his jacket pocket, pushed his chair neatly under his desk and walked towards the door.

“Goodnight, Mr Rawlinson,” he said in an affected English accent as he opened the door and walked down the corridor, not bothering to look back.

Tom instantly stood up and thanked God that he could finally leave the House of Friendly Relations. He was tired and hungry and had a sore throat. He put on his jacket, placed the neatly folded mind map in his inside pocket and rubbed his aching stomach with his right hand as he started to walk out of the door and down the dark corridor to the entrance hall and Mrs Jargal’s cloakroom. She was standing, putting on her own drab brown overcoat, when he approached. She placed a big fox fur hat over her woollen hat, put on her black woollen mittens, then handed Tom his thin beige raincoat, hardly looking at him in the process. He winced as he caught a whiff of her sour breath. He said, “Goodbye.” She shrugged and wrapped the pale blue scarf she’d knitted for herself around her fat neck.

Tom walked out onto Brezhnev Street. Snow was falling and the darkness of the Mongolian winter night was closing in. Some lights were on in the rows of three and four storey government buildings and apartment blocks reserved for party officials. The limousine was waiting for him with its engine purring. Tom could see and smell the exhaust fumes and the steamed-up windows, as they melted the falling snow flakes, but the roof of the black car was already white.

As he opened the heavy nearside door, a khaki, canvas-covered truck trundled by, packed with young Russian soldiers in winter coats and grey fake fur Ushanka winter hats, each with a red and gold hammer and sickle badge pinned to the front. Tom noticed that some of them had Kalashnikov rifles slung over their shoulders. The young conscripts’ mournful singing echoed down the street. But, just before Tom slammed the car door to immerse himself in the stale odour of vodka and cigarettes emanating from the driver, a sudden movement up ahead caught his eye. A Mongolian youth in a black coat and fur hat had dashed out into the road, shouted, and thrown something at the army truck.


  1. You really know how to leave us hanging, don't you?

  2. I try to perfect my English to read your story "completely" !!! Hooked too ;)

    to be contd.

  3. I can´t believe I missed the posts of your last three chapters. Imagine my surprise when I got to read them all at once. Am still hooked!! Ps what are the camels´ names?...

  4. Wonderful story. I came over to your blog after reading your comment on Blood Red Pencil. I have found so many great blogs this way. :-) I will have to come back and read this from the beginning.

  5. You have a way with details and with leaving us all hanging :-).

  6. Ha! This is the winter of 1989, then. The protest of democracy threatened the communist government. Russians and "Olga Shevchenko"-like people emigrated with them. Sad..


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