Written Today in the Library (aka this is what a rough draft looks like)
Finding her grave wasn’t difficult; I just looked for the larger granite markers that I remembered from my last visit. The slab with the laser etched portrait of an elderly babushka, the hard technical lines of the etching incongruous with the weathered face that peered out from the rock and a terrible irony that the granite slab cost more than the crumbling state-issued apartment where she’d spent the last thirty years of her life, with the mold that crept into the corners from the damp foundation during the rainy spring. That her grave was marked by such luxury was more a testament to her son’s prosperity in the post-Soviet economy than to her comfort in old age.
Katerina’s grave stood nearby, her youthful portrait adorned a much more modest slab as if the size of the stone bore some relation to the length of years she’d lived. Leaning against the gravestone were a bunch of dead flower stems grasped in faded scalloped edged once red, now pink, paper that had held them together, the only reminder that they’d once constituted a bouquet of flowers. I leaned over to brush aside this last offering and place my own flowers in their stead. As I moved the old flowers I found a familiar and unfamiliar talismans beneath the wreckage. There was a small bottle of vodka, empty of course. Bottles of vodka were not unusal in a graveyard, like offerings to the dead, they were usually accompanied by a small glass. In better weather, the families of the deceased would come to the grave, bring a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, sausage, and vodka, and spend an hour or two in communion with their dearly departed.
I looked around Katerina's grave for a glass or other remnents of the forgotten meal, but found none. Perhaps whoever'd brought the flowers had brought the vodka as well, finished it off with a gulp and discarded the empty bottle. Interestingly, my search revealed a tattered business card nearly buried under a small pile of leaves and crusted snow. There was an embossed Embassy seal at the center of the card. The name beneath had been worn away by exposure to the weather, but I could just make out the faintest tracings of the telelphone number. Unfortunately, this wouldn't do me any good as the only number listed on any Embassy card was the general switchboard number, as direct numbers were thought to risky to list for just this reason, if the card was lost or picked up by someone other than the intended. I pocketed the card and decided I would take it home and give it a better look. With any luck I would be able to find out who else had been visiting Katerina's grave, and why.