"Samal" by Caroline Tracey
Issue #24 / December 2016
Illustrated by Sarah Sanders
KINDLE EDITION ($0.99)
CAROLINE TRACEY graduated from Yale University with a BA in Russian Literature. In 2014-15 she held a Fulbright research grant to Kyrgyzstan to conduct research about grazing law and environmental ethics in Kyrgyz literature. She currently works as a cattle ranch hand in New Mexico, and in fall 2016 she will begin a PhD in Geography at the University of California, Berkely. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in [PANK], Drunken Boat, The Cossack Review (Pushcart nominated), Sugar House Review, Public Books, Nowhere, and elsewhere.
"When the building started to sway, Tolkin, who sat in the cubicle next to mine,
grabbed my arm and pulled me down to the floor and told me to hold her ankle as we crawled to the nearest interior wall. We were dressed alike, in shiny white blouses, tight black pencil skirts, and pantyhose—we had gone to the bazaar together—though she was more beautiful. Finally, my kneecaps sore and cold from the tile floor, my thumb and wrist bent oddly from gripping Tolkin's thin leg, we got to the wall.
It was a flimsy thing, like everything else the building was made of, and there probably wasn't much point in making the effort to reach it, but somewhere in our hearts we were still socialist subjects needing to follow some, any, protocol, to make us feel less scared. Everyone from the whole telephone floor was now lined up against it.
"In the Soviet era," one older woman with hair dyed orange was saying, "this would never be happening."
She was probably right, but not for the reasons she thought. She was lamenting that the schools now ("run by the Asians") lacked the old disaster training, which explained why we hadn't been fast enough to drop to the floor and get under our desks, and why we hadn't held our breath for ten seconds at a time, staggering our quick gasps with one another, and therefore we were doomed.