The Golem of Zukow

My short story, The Golem of Zukow, has just been published in The Kenyon Review’s online journal. (Whoo hoo!) And to get you hooked, here are the first 300 words.

The Golem of Zukow
by Helen Maryles Shankman

The Mirsky mill nested at the fork of the Bug and Wlodawa rivers, near the liquid and ever-changing border with the Ukraine. At the hub of a cultivated patchwork of plowed fields, the plain stone structure could be observed for miles, a landmark in those parts, and was reached by way of a worn spur jutting off from the main road, exactly ten kilometers from everywhere.

Shayna and Hersh’s parents were the third generation of Mirskys to inherit the farm. As the sole proprietors of the only grist mill in a district famed for its endless fields of wheat and rye, Shayna and Hersh’s parents worked hard for the entire length of their short lives, wearing themselves out before they turned forty.

There were many who were willing to take advantage of the new orphans; after all, there was a Depression going on, the son was young and a dreamer, the daughter, just a girl. But Shayna’s black eyes crackled with a fierce intelligence, her tongue was quick and sharp, and she soon put an end to all that.

It was true that Hersh loved to read, but the dreamy exterior concealed a calculating mind. While the sister ordered the hands around, made sure the wheels ran true and the gears were mended, the brother stayed late in the office, poring over bills and receipts.

As he totted up their totals, Hersh told the farmers tall tales of forbidden feasts presided over by demons, many-headed dragons destroyed by their own teeth, sly foxes outwitting greedy wolves. Slapping heavy bags of flour onto the backs of their wagons, they shook their heads, regarded him with lined faces burned by the sun, hard, flinty eyes. Life was brief and brutal and pitiless, they told him. Fairy tales were a waste of God’s own time.

To continue reading, click here: http://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2012-fall/selections/helen-maryles-shankman-342846/