The next day, the brothers arrived at work to ﬁnd their foreman come to send one of them home. Not ﬁred, the man said, just rescheduled. Separated. Which one would switch from the natural-lit shift to the mirror-lit, who would get on the bus and return in a dozen hours just as the other was getting done, he left to them to decide. Dima stood there, silent. So Yarik chose the daytime (
If I’m only home when the kids are up I’ll never screw my wife
) and the new crew (
Dima, who’ll keep an eye on Mama during the day?
assigned to ground-level jobs. They were to work on different planes—Dima high up laying the glass, Yarik below in the stanchion crew—at opposite times. And life would split in two: the time of them together, the time of them apart.All their years till then, work had been just another way the world had paired them. As children, they’d milked the collective’s cows in tandem, four small hands squeezing four synchronous streams. As teens, they spent each weekend of every Potato Month, bused out to the ﬁelds with all the other schoolkids, not caring how many hours they raked tubers from the ﬁnger-cracking dust so long as they were doing it together. Which was why, when all their former classmates scrambled after occupation placements that promised promotion, privi-lege, the brothers simply chose the ﬁrst slot they could ﬁll side by side: the ﬂoor of a factory where they passed their days shouting to each other above the din, pouring molten metal into casts of tractor doors, ﬁtting windows into cabs, each pane held between them like a glimpse of the thing that had invisibly bound them since birth.
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