Father Knows Best

May 2, 2009
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“Well, I’m leaving,” my dad announced to the nearly empty apartment, swinging the bulging grey laundry bag over his shoulder. I ran out into the main hallway, alarmed.

“Leaving?” How could my dad leave me in the apartment alone? I was only four years old! This is absolutely not right, I thought to myself, jumping from one foot to the other to avoid the cold Russian air from seeping through my thin 101 Dalmatians tights.

“Only for a few minutes. I have to put these in the laundry downstairs,” my dad reassured me, patting the bag.

“Alright, but hurry up,” I said, sulking back to our living room, to resume my play.

“Don’t open the door to anyone,” my father called back, his warning echoing down the green dim hallway.

“Uh huh,” I responded, shutting the doors. Each person in the building, and all of St. Petersburg I presumed, had two doors to their apartment. One a heavy metal one, and the second, inner door a light wooden one. I always questioned this practice, as I believed it did nothing other than make a person’s pockets heavier with the extra keys they had to carry. Padding down the way to the living room on the creaky floorboards weathered with a thousand footsteps worth of age, I came upon my pile of blue eyed, blonde haired Barbies smiling creepily back at me. I picked up Tanya, the most treasured doll I had, shown by the fact that I had not chopped off her hair or colored all over her face with markers. Picking up a flimsy brown dress and poking her arms through the armholes, I was so absorbed in playing successful-Barbie-businesswoman that I did not hear the knocks on the door until they became sharper and louder.


I jumped up in fright. My heart beating wilder than it had ever beat in the four years I had lived thus far, I wondered if I should ignore the knocking or answer the door. I looked around the room for help. The enormous black piano stood mute in the corner, as did the embroidered tapestries of bold dark reds and greens and browns covering the walls. And what good was Barbie in this situation? She was only good at accessorizing. I looked down at the Barney shirt I was wearing, sent over by an Uncle from the mysterious land of America. Barney did not exist on Russian television and I had no idea who he was, but I liked the kind smile he gave me every morning from the plastic pink hanger in my closet, and the shirt quickly earned its place as my favorite. Unfortunately, from my current point of view, his smile appeared as a large frown.


I had to make a decision – quick. Mind whirling with thoughts and possible scenarios of kidnappers and evil thieves, I tiptoed to the door, avoiding any floorboards that would creak.

“Yes?” I called out hoarsely, my voice shaking. The knocking finally stopped.

“Are your parents home, little girl?” A harsh, deep-throated voice asked back. Shivering, I called to mind the picture of every single wicked character in my fairy tale storybooks, standing on the other side of my doors. My mouth silently cried out for my mother, my grandmother and grandfather, the strange old lady who lived upstairs and gave me little glass figurines when I visited for tea. I even dared to miss my father, with his silly jokes and a plethora of Soviet-era anecdotes stored in his mind. The only time he had been serious with me, I had not listened. I soaked in the irony of my situation. But what do I say now? If I tell him they aren’t home, he’s gonna know that I’m all alone and maybe try to break open the door or climb up the balcony, I reasoned. But if I tell him that they are home, he’s gonna wanna talk to them, I reasoned with a child’s logic. I wrung my hands until they turned even paler than my already pasty skin.

“Uhm, they’re busy,” I stammered, congratulating myself for the genius and vague answer.

“But I need to speak to them. It’s important,” the voice pressed on. I was about to scream in exasperation. Between his answers and mine, there was complete silence on both sides of the doors.

“They…they can’t speak right now,” I called out, using up my last shred of confidence. That seemed to have beaten my formidable opponent, for he gave no answer.

Suddenly, a key jangled in the lock and the doors separating us opened, revealing my dad on the other side, complete with an amused look on his face. I shrieked, from a combination of anger and relief. He stood there in his red checkered shirt, swinging the grey laundry bag around, looking every bit the blue-collar Santa Claus.

“Why would you do something so mean?” I yelped, stomping my foot loudly on the floor and crossing my arms in annoyance. My dad chuckled.

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DreamInspired said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 1:15 pm
l love this story. What a wonderful tale!
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