Carry me

Sixth illustration from “Olga & Trotsky,” a short story by Katja Hofmann.

(6) ‘If you carry me under your breast inside your coat I’ll keep you warm,’ Trotsky murmured persuasively. Olga had to laugh despite herself. Trotsky was simply incorrigible.

‘But if I carry you, I might lose my balance and fall.’

‘So what? I’d break your fall. It’s me who would get bruised, you wouldn’t feel a thing.’

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘Because you’ve never fallen before. Why should today be the first time?’

‘There’s a first time for everything.’

‘Not with us. We’ve known each other longer than eternity itself. We swim back and forth within time; there can be no first time.’

Olga’s gaze was caught in the endlessness of the avenue stretching out in front of her. The houses lining both sides of it smirked down at her from their countless windows. A biting gust of wind suddenly blew under her coat and placed its cold hand on her heart.

‘What have you got to lose, Olga? We could warm each other; we could give each other what we both need.’

Olga’s resolve melted in Trotsky’s emerald eyes, like butter in a frying pan. ‘Ok then, since you’re such a good communist,’ she smiled, and lifted the tomcat’s heavy body to her chest.

‘No, right inside your coat, so I can smell you too,’ Trotsky insisted.

Olga could hardly feel her feet, and the cold was creeping slowly up the sleeves of her coat, but under her bosom a purring, furry bundle of sunshine was curled up. What an impossible, self-centred cream-eater! But he was right; why freeze the whole way home when he could keep her warm? Obviously the cold would be even more impossible to bear when, after a few days, he vanished again, but this heavy cost had once again failed to deter her. Her arms ached under the cat’s weight, yet the pain was still better than freezing.

— Translation by Steph Morris.

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