Excerpt from The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

by Scott Stambach

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach X
The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2016, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2017, 336 pages

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PART ONE

The Count Up



Currently, the clock reads 11:50 in the P.M.

It is the second day of December.

The year is 2005.



I

The Anesthetization of Ivan Isaenko

Dear Reader, whom I do not know, who may never be, I write not for you but for me. I write because I can't sleep. I write because Polina is dead.

Currently, I'm drunk from three capfuls of vodka on a three-day-empty stomach. I have Nurse Natalya to thank for this. She is the only one who knows what I've lost. She is the closest thing I've ever had to a mother, and I know she thinks of me as a son. Like any good mother, she watches over me. For the last two days, she's checked on me every fifteen minutes. She checked on me seven times tonight, and every time I was wide awake. On the eighth time, she discreetly entered my room with a bottle of Stoli.

"Open your mouth, Ivan," she said. "It'll help you sleep."

She poured a capful into my mouth, and I coughed and heaved. As she pulled away, I grabbed her arm and asked for another. Hesitantly, she produced another capful and emptied it down my throat.

"One more," I demanded.

She glanced at me menacingly as if to terrify me from asking again, but nevertheless sympathetically poured one last capful down my throat. Now I feel right. It's not enough to get me to sleep, but it is enough to help me write.

I need to share this place with you, Reader. I need to share my friends who I would never admit were friends. I need to share with you my beloved, whom I would never admit I loved. For if I don't document our world right now, on this ambiguously stained paper, with my fading pen, in my delirious left-handed penmanship, we will risk fading into the foam of history without mention. Reader, I hope after this you understand that we are entitled to more than that.



II

Spectrophobia

I'm seventeen years old, approximately male, and I live in an asylum for mutant children. I first learned of the name of this hospital—the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children—from spying on random documents lying around the Main Room, but I wouldn't be able to find it on a map if you asked me. I only know it is somewhere in southern Belarus in a city that is most likely called Mazyr.

I've never met my parents, but as far as I know, when I squirmed out of my mother's nether parts, she took one look at the abomination that had been cooking inside of her and dropped it onto the doorstep of the nearest church in fear that she had fallen victim to the Soviet curse that she had heard so much about on the radio. Incidentally, this was the same curse that resulted in the random explosions of horse thyroids and in Eastern European fauna enduring more hair loss than Gorbachev.

I, for one, am hideous, and consequently, I've developed a crippling phobia of reflective surfaces (and anything else that reminds me of what I look like). But I will bravely face this fact for the sake of my story and describe to you what nature dealt me. My body is horribly incomplete. I only have one arm (my left), and the hand attached to the end of it is deficient in digits (I have two fingers and a thumb). The rest of my appendages are short, asymmetrical nubs that wiggle with fantastic effort. My skin is nearly transparent, revealing the intricate tapestry of my underutilized veins. The muscles in my face are only loosely connected to my brain, resulting in a droopy, flat affect, which makes me look like an idiot, especially when I talk. Of all my privations, this one has come as an advantage, since it helps me to feign a comatose state, which has allowed me to remain largely undisturbed by my doctors and peers whenever I'm uninterested in interaction (which is most of the time). Mostly, I choose to leave the hell of my surroundings in favor of the slightly more palatable hell of my mind. At least there I can create fantasies of the lives I'd rather have lived, such as King Leonidas, the Dalai Lama, Miles Davis, Oskar Schindler, Wilt Chamberlain, astrophysicist Carl Sagan, Larry Flynt (pre-wheelchair), any Russian who's ever written a book, and Confucius, to name just a few.

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Excerpted from The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Copyright © 2016 by Scott Stambach. Copyright © 2016 by Scott Stambach. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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