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Published by Matthew G. Roen
An elderly woman advises a boy about his future.
An elderly woman advises a boy about his future.

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Published by: Matthew G. Roen on Nov 04, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Matthew RoenYlna Krushinko eats a beet on the ramshackle porch of her tumbledown house. Glistening red beads of  beet juice dribble down her chin as she tears into the raw vegetable -- casting a gentle glare at the gauntand sickly-looking clouds that crawl ever closer across the sky....“I am not happy to say this, but yours is the last fortune I will ever tell.”In the vacant lot next-door, just beyond Ylna’s scoured yard, a young boy suddenly stops rooting throughscrap metal and tractor parts. He was born with a face that is always about to cry. A reindeer amblesvaguely by, in the direction of ст.трек. Ylna continues speaking, staring at the clouds.“Four months now, I have had visions. Eating beet for breakfast,” she gestures with it, “I will suddenlychoke and know how you meet your wife. Pretty girl, but beet juice never comes out of tablecloth.“It is interesting that I see
life with such clarity. Usually I only get a few moments, but I think Iknow everything about you. Everything about your machine.“But how can you know to trust old Ylna?” she turns her cataract gaze upon the boy, who is, naturally,speechless.“I tell you. Back when your family still lives in Moscow, your sister, she is dying from the coughing, and because she is eldest, all money goes to doctors. Anyway, she dies. Your mother, she dies too, of Ricketsthis time, and your Papa, he doesn’t know what to do.“He was going to take you to America, but he doesn’t have enough money for two, so he leaves you athouse late one night, and goes alone.“But that was obvious.”She pauses, as though for effect, and then takes another giant bite of the beet. The boy is visibly torn between running away, and standing steadfast. His sandy hair blows in a tuft of breeze.“This is what happens next:“Ylna gives you her money. You go to America. Find your father in St. Louis. Take job with Father attextile factory. Your Papa, he made nice with a man going there on the boat leaving old country - he has a brother who knows a man who owns the plant, but that’s not important.“You go to work with Papa. Become interested in textile engine. Thread weaving. It is in repairing theweaving machine that you cut your finger, and bleed on one thread skein. When machine is fixed andsingle cord of red gets sewn into border, you have your idea.
- Roen
“Ylna does not understand mechanic of it, but general impression is this: you could know, exactly,
, how everyone will die.”She takes another bite. Eating the beet is practical and joyless - and she eats it very plainly, with no relishof any kind. She looks about as old as the tractor, rusting in pieces on the lot. The boy steps out of thescrap pile, and approaches Ylna.“Its workings have something to do with choice and heritage. Somehow, because everyone is who theyare, there is general chance that they will act certain way.” she waves the beet dismissively, “You’vealways been good with numbers, and anyway it makes sense to you later. I am Babushka. It’s my job to be old.” The boy seems satisfied with her answer.“You want to start building prototype machine, think it would be best hidden under floorboards in boarding house, but because of red thread incident, you have promotion. More questions. Boss likes ideaof dyeing the thread
weave-making. Eventually you get access to his office and blueprints andmachine parts, and you start to design better, more elegant looms.“Big business boom.” She gestures widely, emphasising each word. “Promotion. Next thing you know,more questions.“Now, your Papa, he is very proud. But he is also not on Boss’ list. No-one is paying any attention to him,“So you have
build the machine.“You tell him how to do it, what pieces to use, how to take blood sample and string it out through probability chains. He is not dummy, but it is not natural way of thinking for him. He is pragmatic. Less...scope.“Machine is complicated, but you eventually get it right. At least, you think you do. So, you need to testit.”She takes another bite, eyes glazing over as though recounting a fond memory.“Only way to be sure of accuracy is to decide ahead of time how the subject is going to die. If test is takenfirst, you have
prophecy which ... works sometimes, but take it from me, is a little inexact.“In order to get guaranteed results, you must take steps.” The old woman squints at the boy.“Step One, make note: AIR EMBOLISM. Step Two, prepare materials: syringe with air in it. Step Three,take sample: be discreet. Have subject restrained, or asleep. You’ll think of something, you’re clever likethat. Step Four, kill him. Important that this happens before Step Five, get reading: run sample throughmachine. Machine will give you prediction, which you check against Step One’s note, and result of StepFour. Da?”
- Roen

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