KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Flash Fiction: 706 words

Call to Arms

by Andrew Stancek

What a birthday I’ll have. Turning twelve is special, they say. In three days, on the day, I hope to be in a cave, or a foxhole, with a gun in my hands, a fighter. My classmates had cakes and balloons for their celebrations, and at Rudo’s party we sneaked off to smoke a pack of cigarettes and laughed when Jozo and Peto threw up. We thought we were grown-up, men like our fathers. But two days ago my father disappeared. Mom shushes me when I ask where he is, and I know that Jozo’s and Fero’s are in the mountains with the partisans. The Tatra Mountains are huge and the Germans patrol but I’ll find him, I know I will. Twelve is plenty old enough to help, to sneak out at night and paste leaflets, to go into the villages and steal food, to fight for freedom. Nobody can stop me. I’ll miss Mom but I’m no momma’s boy. I was always going to follow in my father’s footsteps, except we thought it would be as a carpenter, and now it turns out as a partisan. I’m ready.

Milan will be a problem. He’s only fourteen months younger and I don’t remember an adventure when we were not together. He’s almost as smart as I am, almost as fast, almost as brave. But the mountains are full of danger. It might take more time before I catch up with Dad. On my own I can hide in a cave or even an animal hole, find berries to eat, steal enough in a village at night to keep going. But two would be too dangerous. So now I watch everything I say so he won’t know and spoil it. We’ve been like two halves of the same walnut and he’ll be furious when he discovers me gone, but I have no choice. I can’t put him in that kind of danger. I’m the older one. I have to take responsibility.

It wasn’t supposed to be all secrets. Tiso, our President, was going to make sure Slovaks did not suffer like other occupied nations. We Slovaks do have it pretty good. Everybody in our village has food when in other parts of Europe there’s hunger. So what’s that to us? We’re doing fine. Sometimes I hardly remember a time when the war wasn’t on, when soldiers weren’t marching around, arms upraised, when we did not see swastikas on all the buildings, when the meat didn’t go straight to the barracks. But we all eat. Keep our heads down and survive. That’s what a small nation always has to do. Hundreds of years under the Magyars, and yet we survived. Then after the Great War we had our own country, with our brothers the Czechs, and Dad says that was a joyful time. Now, with the Germans, with Tiso as president, we have our own Slovak state. Mr. Kollar the mayor and his friends say this is the best time of all. We are finally a country, and can hold up our heads with anybody, the Magyars, the Brits, the French, all of them. But Dad has been frowning more and more when we sit at supper. “It’s not right,” he has said more than once and Mom gives him a look or puts a finger to her lips. Two weeks ago when he returned from the pub late, and smelled of borovicka and not just beer, he smashed a fist against a table. “We can’t say anything in our own country, in our own village, in our own home,” he shouted. “We’re just puppets on the strings of the damn Germans.” It took Mom a long time to shush him.

Anti-German slogans have appeared on the pub and the mayor’s house and last week there was a five-armed Russian star and the letters CCCP painted in red, right on the door of the town hall. When I passed Dad the basket of buns at breakfast on Monday, I noticed a speck of red paint on his fingernail. He did not come back home that night. We haven’t seen him since.

I know what I have to do. Twelve is not too young to help.

Andrew Stancek
Issue 5, Spring 2016

grew up in Bratislava (the capital of Slovakia) and saw tanks rolling through its streets. He currently dreams and entertains Muses in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Tin House online, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Every Day Fiction, fwriction, Pure Slush, and Camroc Press Review, among others; and in the anthology, Condensed to Flash: World Classics (Vestal Review Press, 2015). He’s been a winner in the Flash Fiction Chronicles and Gemini Fiction Magazine contests, and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Interview with Andrew Stancek by Stephanie Freele in Rkvry Quarterly Literary Journal (Summer 2012, Vol. ix, No. 3), in which they discuss his story, Elephants and Banana Leaves, and how the Russian occupation of his homeland during his adolescence has profoundly influenced his writing

Andrew Stancek: Featured Author in Pure Slush (March 2013); includes links to a dozen of his stories

Smell of Water in Tin House (6 June 2012)

Crash, a triptych in Matter Press (31 August 2015)

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