She sees everything now, in all directions. The red floor. Her husband lying in the doorway, covered in blood so thick his nightshirt is black and stiff with it. There are things on the floor between them: her grandmothers teapot in four pieces, the bucket, standing on its mouth, the cloth they hung for privacy. A hand. Her mother is lying on the floor, too, gutted like a chicken through her apron, which falls like a rough curtain on either side of her. Lillian stands naked in the red room and the color recedes, like the tide.
Her father lies at the front door, facedown, still holding his cleaver against the intruders. His own ax is deep in the back of his neck. Her daughters little bed is empty. Another hand is on the floor beside it, and she can see the thin gold line of Osips wedding band.
Lillian screams herself awake.
Judith says, Bad dreams.
Lillian nods her head and Judith says, sensibly and not unkindly, You dont have to tell me.
And Lillian doesnt tell her that shed heard the men whisper beneath their bedroom window, that the walls of the house had been so thin in places, she heard a man cough on the other side of the wall and another man sigh and it seems to Lillian that she had stopped breathing. Little Sophie lay on her stomach, dreaming, sucking on the corner of the quilt. The men put their shoulders to the door, hard, and Lillian reached for Sophie. The walls rocked violently, holding on to the door, but it was an old house, old wood, old mud, all pitted with holes as long and thick as pencils, and plaster began to fall from around the door. The wall would give way in just a minute.
Excerpted from Away by Amy Bloom Copyright © 2007 by Amy Bloom. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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