Thursday, September 9, 2010


Well, it took longer than I expected, but the 2010 issue of the journal Permafrost has just been published, with my short story "Liberation" within its pages. You can't get this one online, folks; you'll have to pay the big bucks if you want to read it! (Actually, it's really cheap, only $16 for a two-year subscription.) Follow the link here to order.

Just to whet your appetite, here are the story's first couple pages. Enjoy!


by J. David Bell

One remembers only that one remembers nothing.--Nadine Fresco, Remembering the Unknown

The Russians were kind to her, my grandmother said. The camps were full of stories, no one knew what to believe. But these Russians were kind and so gentle. They brought blankets, spare boots. They stole eggs from abandoned farms and offered the protein-starved inmates a thick, sloppy stew. Most could not eat, they vomited back up whatever they choked down. The Russians had a doctor, but he brought little for people in such condition, no antibiotics, nothing for sores or wounds or dysentery or typhus. All they could do for those too emaciated to walk was bear them in stretchers to convoys of horse-drawn wagons waiting to deliver them to the nearest unbombed medical facility, many miles away in bitter cold across snow-clad fields. The soldiers were efficient, disciplined; they heeded their officers’ commands with none of the brusqueness or grumbling one anticipated of military men long separated from home and assigned to such grim work. Some of them, men with unshaven faces and soiled overcoats, wept silently at the sight of the skeletal survivors. Others pulled prisoners aside and, in signs and broken language, spoke their secret solidarity: Jude, they said, laying a hand on their chests and nodding fervently. Jude. The prisoners, for their part, were too sick and incredulous at their rescue (though they’d heard the shells nearing for weeks) to respond with anything but stares.

My grandmother talked, and I took down everything she said, every word.

She sat in a wingback chair with a pale rose pattern, faded from the alcove sunlight. Crocheted doilies draped its back and arms. Her hands rested on her lap, unmoving, palms up; her head inclined gently to the right, an affectation from long years of diminished hearing. Her dark eyes hove behind her lenses, emerging, retreating. The room sweated, the bare iron radiators bristling with heat. Delicately, I asked her about the days before the liberation. She waved a hand.

Ah. That is water underneath the bridge. You have books, movies. For that you do not need me.

Don’t push too hard, Tam. My father’s wisdom. She doesn’t like to talk about it.

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