[community profile] daily_prompt: After the Party

Sep. 4th, 2012 10:24 pm
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Title: After the Party
Author: Wang Xi-feng ([personal profile] xifeng)
Challenge: [community profile] daily_prompt. Original.
Warnings: Language, verbal abuse.
Summary: 1918: Anna cleans up another mess.


It's past three in the morning, and the guests have gone; when Anna descends from her silent, austere chamber, she finds the lights still on, her mother nowhere in sight, and trays of half-eaten hors d'oeuvres still out. The Victrola is cranked up to an inhuman roar; some people find pleasure in music, but all she hears is so much caterwauling and honking and twanging.
Someone has left an ashtray on the edge of the couch, which teeters precariously, and there is a distinct odor of spilled cocktail; when Anna reaches for the upset gin bottle, she accidentally sets off the player piano, which startles her so that she jumps back and has to wait ten minutes for the banging and clanging to end. "Holy Christ," she mutters, her heart still pounding from the shock.

The phrase is rather apt for the scene around her. She couldn't sleep, so she's been up all night reading and has almost, tentatively, sketched out an article that hopefully will appear in the Nastrantsy Kommunist. If it doesn't pan out, she supposes she could send it to The Hornet; Anna, like most rather-too-serious Communists, is happy to read The Hornet, which falls into that genre of literature called "funny-because-it's-true". She would be embarrassed for anyone to think she wrote for it, though. On top of that, she's unlikely to get any sleep at this point; she has to be up in an hour and at the Konsiliya battle by six, ready to do battle.

At the sound of footsteps on the old, creaky stairs, Anna whirls, her long, black braid following in a belated arc. It's only Kash; her younger sister stares at the scene out of bleary eyes. "Is it over yet, Annyash?"

"Thank fuck, yes," Anna says.

Kash sits down. "God. I thought they were never going to leave. You might check the powder room; I thought I heard broken glass earlier."

"That better just be a glass and not the window," Anna says. "Otherwise, Shutka isn't welcome here anymore and I don't care if Mama did use to fuck him."

"Oh, God," Kash says. She's not quite fourteen, and it's her favorite phrase; she says it at every opportunity, usually with a special eyeroll. "You're so gross. It's like you just go into the Army and they fill you with all these gross ideas."

"Sex is a biological function," Anna says, "nothing more, nothing less." (In later years, she will remember this and cringe.) "In any case, Mama's...tendencies...have more than a tinge of bourgeois decadence."

"Oh, God," Kash says again. "You sound as if Mama is responsible for the war and the strikes."

"No, she's a symptom, not the cause. Go check the bathroom, will you?" And so Kash is roped into the cause of socialist labor.

Sometime later, after Anna has opened all the windows to let the frigid night air in, her mother stumbles out of bed and staggers downstairs. Alzbeta, Princess Harlova, is a huge woman, broad of hip and towering of height, and Anna suspects they have more than a little of the Hun on her side. She rubs her puffy eyes and stares at the cleaner scene before her. "Close the goddamn windows! You're wasting electricity!"

"I didn't leave the fuckin' Victrola on all night, Mama," Anna mutters, picking the last pieces of a smashed wineglass out of the carpet.

"I beg your pardon?"

"You might," Anna says, "have turned off the lights and the Victrola before you went to bed. You might also consider hocking that horrible player piano because it is hideous to look at and were I not a strict materialist, I would think it was possessed. It seems to go off at the worst possible time." She is tempted to give it a good kick, but knows better.

"Kash, you hear that?" Alzbeta yells in the general direction of the bathroom. "Your Bolshie bitch of a sister has the effrontery to tell me what to do in my own house!"

"Oh, God," Kash says. "By the way, this might not be a good time to say anything, but the bathroom window is definitely broken."

"What the hell," Anna says. "What was so exciting that you all had to celebrate it by bashing out the bathroom window and grinding ash into the sofa?"

"Your joining the Army, dear," Alzbeta says, stroking her hair.

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Wang Xi-feng

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