The Palace of the People

Selected for the Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2011

“Is there more, Sergey Fedorovich?” my father demanded on the day I received the notice of conscription from the Leningrad Military District headquarters. He stood in the doorway and held a half gram of heroin in a slip of folded paper. I slouched to the floor of my bedroom, my shoulder blades breaking paint peels from the wall.

“Is there more?” he asked again. His breaths were labored. Partially from shouting, partially from smoking three packs a day for thirty years. I still hadn’t answered the question. I certainly hoped there was more, but I wasn’t optimistic. He opened my dresser drawers and left my clothes piled on the floor. He upturned the mattress and left the sheets dangling from the bedposts, left my club remix tapes broken beneath his feet, left the spiderwebs hanging in the ceiling corners. When I was nine he had left to serve a prison term, and four years later he returned.

People on couch
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