Excerpt of The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore
(Page 4 of 8)
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That's how it will be.
What does Russov take me for? Does he think I'm a complete idiot?
Russov looks down at the gravel. His shoulders sag. He thinks he's lost,
thinks Andrei. He thinks I'm going to tell him to sod off. And of course
that's what I've got to do. Let Russov carry his own can. He's always
trying to make himself conspicuous, and now fate has found a way. He'll
'raise his profile' with Volkov all right...
Russov got the case. That's all the difference there is between us.
He could say yes. That's what he always says. Andrei has never been
one of those doctors who keep their expertise only for their own patients.
He doesn't spare his energy either. Sometimes it seems that the more
he uses up his energy, the more he has, as if he's got access to some
secret principle of acceleration that overrides the normal rules of fatigue.
Everybody knows they can count on Andrei. Russov will be counting
'You want me to take on the case,' says Andrei.
'I didn't say that.'
'Listen, Boris Ivanovich - '
'I'm only asking you to take a look at the boy.'
'Not today. It's impossible. I've got two clinics, and then a meeting
'But you will?'
'I can't promise. I've got to go, my patient is waiting, and the radiographer.
I'll speak to you tomorrow.'
Russov puts a hand on Andrei's sleeve. Shadows flicker on the dusty
brownish-grey cloth. 'I appreciate your cooperation,' he says. He wants
to sound as a man should sound after a normal professional discussion
with a colleague, but in spite of himself his voice pleads.
'These trees have done well,' says Andrei.
Russov looks up impatiently. Trees! For heaven's sake, aren't there
more important things to talk about? His grip tightens on Andrei's arm,
then he recalls himself, and says with forced civility, 'Splendid things,
Anna worked from first light to darkness on the big October treeplanting
day, the year the war ended, Andrei remembers. He didn't take
part, because he was on duty all day. She came home exhausted - she
had certainly 'fulfilled her norm of unpaid labour'. He was annoyed with
her for doing so much - all that slog on top of a week's work. Surely she
could have come home earlier, look at her, she was going to make herself
ill. But Anna said, 'It's trees, Andryusha. Something for the children. Just
think, one day Kolya will be able to take his children out to the new parks
and walk under the shade of the trees we've planted today.'
Andrei walks down the corridor towards the Radiology Department. He
can feel the tension in the back of his neck. He pauses for a moment,
drops his shoulders, rotates them, lets them fall. Sick children are very
quick to spot signs of adult anxiety.
'Hello, Tanichka, how's Mama behaving herself today?'
Tanya and her mother both laugh. It's an old joke between them. Tanya's
mother used to scuttle in and out of the hospital, head down, terrified of
breaking imaginary rules, terrified that Tanya would show her up. On one
occasion all her fears came true when Tanya couldn't get to the toilet in
time and wet herself, right there on the floor. But they've all got to know
one another now. Just as well, since Tanya has had to be hospitalized several
times with acute attacks. There is a new treatment based on extracts from
animal adrenal glands, but he thinks it is still too risky for Tanya, given her
weight and generally poor condition.
'You remember how I told you, Tanya, that your joint mobility
depends on you too now, not just on the doctors and nurses? How have
those exercises been going?'
Andrei has prescribed a course of isometric and isotonic exercise for
Tanya, plus massages.
'Very well, doctor, she's been doing her exercises every morning and
every evening, just like you said,' Tanya's mother answers.
The Betrayal © 2010 by Helen Dunmore; reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.