After 20 months of fundraising, purchasing, and delivering critical supplies for frontline troops, Oleg stepped up for military service in December, 2023 and began sending in these creative works he calls, “War Through My Eyes.”
You can donate for critical supplies for Oleg’s unit at email@example.com (PayPal).
-by Oleg Veretskiy
Dusk was approaching in the still winter evening, when Pendulum Man appeared on the road. He weaved from side to side as if blown by phantom capricious winds.
On the thin sheen of black ice, the man resembled a tight-rope walker, balancing on the edge of disaster. Raising his arms for balance, the man miraculously stayed on his feet, at times throwing his arms inward as if to wrap some imaginary companion in a tight embrace.
He wore dingy thermal underwear topped by a rumpled jacket, and on his feet, knee-high socks and rubber slippers. An army cap stuck tipsily on the top of his head. The soldiers at the second post looked at each other.
–Let’s slow down this character! – a soldier ordered, without a hint of a smile.
The other reported the situation over the radio.
–Who are you? Where are you from? – The first soldier barked.
–I’m she-therere, – the man exhaled noisily, stumbling on consonants, trying to focus his gaze on the soldier. –Re-sher-eporting for duty.
– I mean sh-rere! -Shre-eporting for duty! Blurted the man after a deep breath, continuing to trip over the words he attempted to pronounce.
–Call the company commander, – the first soldier gestured in the direction of the other soldier. – Let him deal with this. I’ll watch him for now.
– What’s there to watch? Where else will this drunk go? The watcher asked.
– One time in Donbas, a moron just like this one walked out of the forest toward our dugout. The guys didn’ pay much attention, but he ended up wiping out a few of us. Turned out to be a saboteur. He had rinsed his mouth with some moonshine to make it seem like he’s wasted, waited for the opportune time and opened fire. And just then, two of his buddies came out of the bushes. We put the saboteur down and his buddies too, but it was too late for a few of our guys.
The company commander pulled up.
– What do we have here? – he snapped.
– Either a drunk or a saboteur, – the first soldier answered.
– After that story from the East, all you see are saboteurs now, – the company commander said, suppressing a smile. – But you’ve got it right. We can’t afford to drop our guard Let’s see who we’ve got here.
He squinted, trying to make out the stranger in the twilight and the weak light of the lamp post. Then he took two steps in his direction, and winced as a sudden stench hit his nose:
– What did you drink, you idiot? You reek of a garbage dump.
– I’m she-rere-ere! – Pendulum Man attempted to salute his superior, but a sudden movement of his arm threw him off balance, and if the commander hadn’t grabbed him by the collar, he would have chilled his flushed face in the fresh snow.
–I think I know this hero, — the commander released his grip on the man and turned to his soldiers: – Report to the 6th Company that we have located their missing person. They’ve been looking for him for two days now. They figured he’d gone AWOL. And here he is, “reporting” for duty.
Fifteen minutes later, a car arrived for the feckless deserter. They shoved him into the car, despite the driver’s demands to “throw the drunken swine in the trunk, to keep the car’s interior clean from vomit.”
As the car lights disappeared in the gathering darkness, all that remained was the quiet, the frost, and the boredom.
translation by Marina Palenyy Bailey
Author Oleg Veretskiy suspended his career to support his country’s fight for freedom. Help us publish his magical coming-of-age tale!