Now that the history of their country had come to an end he liked to tell the boy stories of the brave little Czech nation and night after night Aleks liked to hear though the hour stretched his mouth into yawns. When they had come to a close and it was time to switch off the light the boy delayed the dark with questions. Trn listened to them all.
This morning, when we were walking to school? Why did you pull me over the ice, like I was skiing? Remember?
Because I thought it might make you laugh.
Oh. In his hand he tried to hide a long yawn.
Why don’t you teach me German?
You don’t need German.
But you know German.
I had to study it in school.
When you were as old as me? In the empire?
Yes. Under the empire.
Mr. Director says that we will all begin to learn German next year.
We will see, Trn said.
Aleks faced the back of the couch, his head deep in the pillow.
Will there be aeroplanes tonight?
No, I don’t think so.
How do you know?
We haven’t had any aeroplanes so far.
In Poland they had aeroplanes.
That’s true. But we’re a long distance from Poland.
The windows are covered?
You saw me hang the blankets. Remember?
He placed a hand at the boy’s elbow, reached and found his hand.
Should you make sure? At the edges?
I will. I promise. As soon as you’re asleep.
The clock kept the seconds. A wind from Siberia shoved snow against the windows. The boy’s breathing eased and Trn leaned for the lamp.
Daddy, will I be alive in the year 2050?
Trn’s lungs grasped for air, let it go again.
Do you ask your mother these questions, or only me?
Why? What’s going to happen in 2050?
I don’t know. Will I be alive?
You will live a long time.
Like Grandfather. Yes.
How old will I be?
In 2050? One hundred and sixteen.
Another clutch for breath. What current ran through this boy that his little hands should always feel so fevered?
Time for sleep now.