by Drew Tkac
Steven Provok bursts open the door to his house. He is hungry after his twelve-hour shift in the coal mines followed by two hours at Ubritizie’s Bar drinking cheap whisky. “Andrew,” he bellows, “Take out the goddamn piss pot, it smells like piss in here.”
“Yes papa, I was doing my homework.”
“Don’t sass me, boy. I’ll knock out another tooth. Why the hell do they make you go to
school here anyway? It’s a waste of time.”
“Yes papa, I’m sorry papa.”
“Did you say your prayers tonight son?” His voice softened as it always did when addressing prayer, religion, and the spirit world. This respect was beaten into him as a child growing up in Handlova.
“Yes papa, I did.”
Ten-year-old Andrew lives in Grays Landing, a small coal mining town in Western Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Monongahela River, almost touching West Virginia. Without an indoor toilet, in their ramshackle company house, one of his many chores is to empty the piss pot every evening before bed. The entire Provok family of Mother Anna, Father Stephen and six older sons, all named after saints, use the pot. Leaving it quite ripe by the evening.
It’s a moonless, cold, and quiet night in January. The kind of quiet that exists when the temperature drops below zero without a breeze in the air. The only sound that young Andrew hears is the crunching of his footsteps in the freshly fallen snow.
He empties the pot in the outhouse and walks into the basement to wash it out. He closes the door tightly behind him then takes a minute to warm his hands. Sitting on a bench, made of an old wood plank and a few cinder blocks, he looks up at the only window in the dirt-floored basement.
The window is covered by an old bed sheet to help keep out the weather. A bitter cold wind blows through him, folding up the makeshift curtain, so that a glass triangle forms. He stands up and looks closer at the triangle. A white skull appears in the glass corner.
Gasping, he drops the pot. The only way out of the basement is past the window. He throws open the door and runs in the house yelling, “Papa, papa!”
Still unable to catch his breath, he tells his father what he saw. Steven, a strong, bellicose man in his late forties, hangs his head and slumps in the kitchen chair. His face turns white. It contrasts with the deep dark coal dust embedded in the folds of his skin that came from decades of hard labor in the mines.
The father that Andrew fears is now so humbled. He knows, not to say much more than yes papa or no papa. Anything more resulted in a punch in the face or, if papa was not drunk, a punch in the arm. Seeing his father like this sends a chill up Andrew’s spine. What is so frightening to humble this scary man.
“Andrew,” he says, holding his head in his hands. “That is frofet. It’s a warning sign from
“What papa, what’s the warning?”
“Only you can see it, Andrew. I am the seventh son, and you are too. You’re special, you can see the future, or see spirits or maybe even heal the sick. Seeing frofet means that someone in our family will die in ten days.”
Another chill ran through Andrew’s body. His mother is very sick with the flu. “Papa, if I
can heal people, can I heal mama? Tell me how I can?”
Steven raises his head and looks deep into his son’s eyes. He knows what he is about to say is not without risk. He is Slovakian but his wife is Romanian where the seventh son of a seventh son is believed to have evil powers. In Slovakia, the supernatural powers are for healing and good. He is waiting to see what powers his son has and how he uses them. But now he has no choice, with Anna so sick.
“Go pray at her side Andrew, every day, all day, and all night. Use your powers for good.” He grabs Andrew and shakes him as he speaks. “Understand, use them for good!”
As days pass, Andrew stays at his mother’s bedside with dogged persistence. Mother Anna shows signs of getting better. Her fever breaks and she is now sipping on garlic soup, a cheap traditional Slovak dish.
Steven keeps an eye on Andrew when he comes home from his twelve-hour shift in the coal mines and two-hour shift, drinking at Ubritizie’s Bar. From an early age he was always a staunch believer in the power of the occult. Now he is convinced that his son is healing Anna and that the frofet’s prophecy is cleared.
On the tenth day after Andrew’s sighting of the frofet, Mother Anna is much better and returns to her normal chores. She packs Stephen’s lunch pail and sees him off to work. That evening Andrew answers a knock at the door. Outside stands a large man with coal smudges all over his face and hands. He wears thick, filthy overalls and on his hard hat it says Foreman. His head hangs down and he only looks up with his eyes.
“Is your mother here son?”
“Mama it’s for you.”
Andrew stands close by as the man says, “I am so sorry. Anna.” His mother falls into his huge arms and weeps. While the foreman holds her, a slow and barely perceptible smile creeps over Andrew’s face.
Drew Tkac is an active member of The Palm Springs Writers Guild, founder of The Poetry Club in Menifee California, and is a published author of Songs I Sing. He holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree from National University in San Diego. Drew has studied screen writing and songwriting at UCLA. He lives in Palm Springs California with his dog Bodhi and two cats, Muffy and Calie.