An excerpt from

A Short Journey by Car
by Liam Durcan

It is now a routine. In the midst of the trials they call again, still I do not merit a warning prior to the knock on the door--which has become our new national anthem, Anya's brother says. I tell Anya not to move, that I am certain that everything will be fine and so she does not stir from our bed. She is upset with me for tending to him, for having to tend to him. She whispers that he is a monster and that this is intolerable, to which I can say nothing. A new senior official this time, ushering me into and out of the car and then up to the office. I pray it is a different tooth. The NKVD henchmen clotted around the office are ashen-faced; he must have been roaring people into the next world. Do you understand, dentist, that the leader must speak to the assembly this week? I have no idea of his schedule but say that I understand, trying to steal a look at his open mouth, to see if it is the same tooth. I almost cry with relief when I see the abscess under a different lower molar, the gum glowing like a furnace. The senior official looms, sniffing for the gas, knowing the mistake his predecessor made. I tell myself that I will help Comrade Leader because a man in pain cannot take pity, a man in pain cannot use his wisdom to do justice, and so I set to work on draining the abscess. He looks at me and groans for the gas.