“There was a ravine where crystal water bubbled. On a branch hung a funnel-shaped ladle made of birch. They drank the cold fresh water. They walked along a winding path to an unused hunting lodge. They spoke of Dickens, of Dürer … favorite topics of well-bred Russians. In the late-afternoon sun the air was full of amber droplets, and everything was as if bathed in warm tea—the trees, the wet lane, even the faces of the two people who had not yet touched one another. This is the Russian spring.
“My mother’s eyes were hazel and her teeth were widely spaced. Her skin was freckled, her curly hair light brown. As a member of the household, she had seen that Nicholas was prodded and worried by the adored empress and the detested monk. She pitied the Little Father. She was not raped that afternoon, not seduced; seigneurial right was not exercised. She collaborated in her own deflowering. His hands were gentle. His eyes were the brown of a thrush, and his beard too. There was only a little pain. There was extreme sweetness.
“And then came an extraordinary moment. She looked up, into his brown gaze, and she saw his murder, the murder that would take place five years later, in July.
“Eight, she saw eight corpses—man, wife, five children, serving-maid—and a crushed spaniel, dying. The corpses, first shot, were then chopped, drenched in acid, burned, and buried. These meager remains were identified later by the metal photograph case and the skeleton of the spaniel, whose body had been tossed into the grave.
“My mother saw other future things, disconnected images. She saw an open-eyed little girl, dead of typhus, or was it starvation, or was it the bayonet. One of the millions of the Little Father’s children to die during the coming civil war. She saw Trotsky in his greatcoat. She saw Zinovyev the apparatchik getting out of a limousine whose seats were covered with bearskin. She saw members of the cheka, blood dripping from their fangs. She saw Lenin dead from stroke or perhaps poison.
“When news of these happenings reached her ears in far-off Brooklyn she merely nodded.”
Excerpted from “Lineage” from Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories Copyright © 2011 by Edith Pearlman. Used by permission of Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.