Excerpt from A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True

by Brigid Pasulka

A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2010, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Print Excerpt


"That won’t be necessary, Pan."

The others had been easily scared away by such talk, and as Pan Hetmanski stood in the doorway scowling at the Pigeon, he regretted that he had not answered the door with a knife or an awl in his hand to appear more threatening.

"And when will you begin?"

"Now if you like. I brought a change of clothes."

"Now? Good God, you are an eager one. Why don’t you preserve your enthusiasm until the weekend?" He smiled. "And whatever else might be propelling you."

"Friday evening then?"

"Saturday morning," Pan Hetmanski countered, suppressing another smirk.

"We’ll see if he shows up, the young buck," he mumbled to his wife after he had shut the door.

"I hope so. I do need a new pincushion."

The attention given to Anielica in the past year was not entirely unexpected. Some said that Pan Hetmanski had even planned for it. He had always been known as a man with big dreams born into a small village, and though he occupied himself with the modest business of sheep, he had conferred his dreams on his children. His son he had named after the great medieval king, Wladyslaw Jagiello, which, despite the obvious bureaucratic snafus it caused, proved to be the perfect name for a partisan when the war came. By the time his daughter was born, he had raised his aspirations to even greater heights.

The angel herself had heard the entire conversation from the corner of the main room, where she was pretending to do her embroidery. "Who was that?" she asked her father as indifferently as she could manage.

"He calls himself the Pigeon. He says he is from one of the villages on the other side of the Napping Knight." The Napping Knight was the optimists’ name for the Sleeping Knight, a rock formation and legend that is believed to wake in times of trouble to help the Polish people. After being thoroughly tuckered out by the Tatars, Ottomans, Turks, Cossacks, Russians, Prussians, and Swedes, however, it hadn’t risen in some time, and would, in the years of Nazi occupation, also come to be known as the Oversleeping Knight, and later, during the Soviets, the Blasted Malingering Knight.

"The Pigeon?"

"The Pigeon."

"Is that because of his nose or the way he walks?" Indeed the Pigeon was well-endowed of nose, and his feet turned in, causing his toes to kiss with each step.

"Hopefully, it is not because of the size of his pecker," Anielica’s mother interjected, laughing roughly. She had, in the tradition of górale women, become weathered by the merciless wind and snow that pounded the Tatras.

"Fortunately, he didn’t provide me with that information," Pan Hetmanski said.

"And why is he going to work on the house again?" Anielica asked.

"Don’t you see?" Her mother laughed. "Your father has sold you to the highest bidder."

"Sold? What are you talking about? Don’t be ridiculous! This one is just like the others. He will give up before he even gets a chance to peep in the window."

"You can’t see anything through the blasted greased paper anyway," Anielica’s mother said, waving her arm in her daughter’s direction. "But that doesn’t mean that he can’t picture it all in his mind from the yard."

Anielica went over to the window. She pulled back the edge of the greased paper and watched the figure disappear into the woods, the corners of her mouth creeping upward, cocking the bow that would eventually lodge the arrow securely in the Pigeon’s heart.

Excerpted from A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka. Copyright © 2009 by Brigid Pasulka. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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