One fine day in May, my eight year-old brother, Simmy, staggered home crying, a knife blade sticking out of his left shoulder blade. Simmy collapsed, crumbling to the ground, his pitiful wail piercing my heart.
I burst through the screen door like a maniac. Then I saw the knife and froze, feeling sick and suddenly weak-kneed.
“Oh my God…Shit…shit,” I lifted his limp body and half-carried, half-dragged him inside the house.
“Katya! Katya! Come quickly!”
I heard the thump on the ceiling as Katya dropped the book she was reading and flew down the stairs to the kitchen.
I struggled with his weight. My hands slipped on his blood. Katya ran forward and looped Simmy’s good arm around her shoulders. “I’ve got him,” she said, then barked, “Table.”
I looked at the oak table and in one motion swept the heavy ceramic dishes and silver cutlery to the floor.
Between us, we lay Simmy face down on the polished surface.
“We need hot water, alcohol, a scissors and bandages,” Katya ordered firmly. “The blade is stuck in the bone.”
I ran toward the medicine closet.
I returned and watched Katya fill a pot and set it on the stove. Simmy moaned. Katya pushed back her sleeves, took some soap and scrubbed her hands. “Get me a sponge,” she said. I reached. “No, not that one. The new one.” I found it and handed it to her. She turned to me. “You must pull the knife out quickly,” she said and the meaning of her words sunk in. I rolled a dishtowel up tightly and forced it between Simmy’s teeth.
“Bite on it,” I said. He took it, whimpering like a wounded puppy.
Katya scissored away the bits of shredded fabric around the wound. I was terrified of hurting Simmy even more but took a deep breath to steady myself. I didn’t want to think about slipping or making a mistake. I placed both hands around the wooden hasp of the knife. I could feel the tip of it embedded deep in the bone, speared in the pulpy mass. My fingers trembled. No mistakes, I told myself. I placed my right knee against the edge of the table, braced my body and yanked.
Simmy flopped and twisted and groaned.
The blade pulled free and I tumbled over backwards, arms and legs flung wide. Katya sponged the wound. “Here,” she beckoned as I got to my feet. “Hold this and apply pressure.”
“Mama,” Simmy cried, writhing in pain. “Mama…mama…”
“Don’t worry, Simmy,” I said. “Katya knows what she is doing.” I hoped with all my heart that I was right. After a moment, Katya touched my hand and I lifted the sponge. A slug of blood oozed out.
“I need to disinfect,” she said looking distracted for a moment. “There’s some sulfa powder in Mama’s room, by the sink, and the thick tape. Go fetch them.” I ran off again, scrabbled around in the lavatory adjacent to my parents’ room, then brought them to her.
“This will sting, Simmy, but not for long.” She doused the wound. Simmy yelped, arching his back, flailing his spindly legs.
“Mama,” he cried again, his skinny body shivering with pain.
“Hush, hush, dear Simmy. We’re almost done.”
Quickly, she rolled out the bandages, cutting a section cleanly. She covered the wound, then held it fast with two bands of tape against his pale skin.
“There,” she said. “It’s finished now.”
Katya brushed dank hair off his forehead and murmured to him, stroking his cheek. “Help me get him up to his room.”
We managed to hoist Simmy up the stairs and lay him on his bed. I eased him out of his clothes, then covered him up. He’d passed out.
Katya looked frazzled, her eyes glinting with fear.
“The danger will be infection from the knife blade. I think we got it in time, but I can’t be totally sure. The next few hours will tell.”
“I hope you’re right,” I said.
“I am right,” she replied.
“When Simmy wakes up I’m going to ask him for their names,” I told her.
“What will you do?” she said, worriedly.
“Little sister. You leave that to me.”
“What about Mama and Papa?”
I shook my head. “We won’t tell them. Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”