I saw five dead birds on the playground. I pointed them out to the Principal.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “Keep playing.”
At the end of school, still, two hours before dusk, I could see a glowing in the sky. It wasn’t a glow from a fire but something brighter and prettier.
“What is that?” I asked the teacher. She looked nervously out the window.
“I…I…dont know. Class is over. Go to your homes.”
I went the usual path and saw more dead birds on the street. I quite liked birds and was sad to see them scattered across my path home.
When I got home my mother was crying. “I don’t know what’s happened to your father.”
“Maybe he’s working on a fire.” Father was a firefighter. I was very proud of him.
“He’s been gone since two this morning. I can’t reach him.”
I started crying because she was crying. “Mama.” I sounded like a baby.
The alarms came and the announcement. We had to evacuate. We had family in Moscow. We could go there. We each packed a suitcase and boarded a severely crowded train for the city.
“Mama what’s going on?”
She shook her head and tears splattered my arm. I listened to the others on the train.
“Nuclear meltdown,” said one.
“No. It’s the Americans, Misha. The Americans bombed us.”
“I don’t think so,” said the man. “The explosion would have been more intense. Our government would have sounded the alarm. No. This is the power plant. I know it. Something happened in the power plant. The glow surrounds the plant.”
The couple said nothing more. Mama kept crying. “He’s dead,” Mama said. Her skin was pale and her knuckles were white. I crumpled onto the floor of the train. I wasn’t sad but I felt out of breath.
“Mama, I don’t feel well.” The passengers moved away from me.
“I can’t bear to lose you and him.” Mama was in a panic. I stood up to be strong but I could still see the glow of the powerplant in the engulfing night and it burned more spectacularly than before. It was beautiful. It was death.