By K. Eric Pohost
It seemed like yesterday when Bold’s livestock covered the expansive landscape that surrounded his ger. But then arrived a dzud, an especially dry summer season—wreaking havoc on the natural food supply of his domesticated four-legged companions of the steppe—followed by brutally frigid temperatures that swept down from Siberia. The aged and frail sheep, goats, cows, and horses were the first to perish, but when they had ceased to exist, youth and stamina soon followed. For the fortunate few that survived, their lives were spared only temporarily as more dzuds further depleted the livestock. Private property had nibbled and then devoured his safety net and Bold was forced to face the realization that his destiny may no longer be intertwined with a nomadic lifestyle. The final straw was marked by the departure of his wife Zaya to the afterlife. Without her assistance, Bold could no longer manage his affairs in the countryside.
At the age of seventy-two, he was embarking on the most frightening endeavor of his lifetime. He sold his meager belongings, including his remaining livestock, and relocated to the smoke-filled, traffic-congested streets of UB. His destination had been limited by the dire financial situation of the majority of his offspring. At the end, it was determined by his family that he would reside with his relatively wealthy son Barkhas and his fetching wife Daria. Bold was not completely satisfied with this decision because while he had always thought highly of Barkhas—particularly his work ethic and skill in navigating the pitfalls of urban life—he had a less stellar view of his daughter-in-law, who he suspected as a city girl of having too much of an affinity for the good life. Nevertheless, they both welcomed him into their home and for that he was eternally grateful.
But troubles soon emerged when it was revealed that Daria was pregnant. A live-in Filipina housekeeper was hired to care for the home and the expected addition to the family, while the expectant mother worked for the family’s small mining operation—ordering people about to satisfy a lust for self-importance while making everyone else’s life a little more miserable. Obsessed with accumulating wealth and under the added stress of the prospect of raising her first child, she began to lash out at her husband, which often involved complaints about Barkhas’ father. While it sounded a bit muffled through the walls and Bold’s hearing wasn’t the greatest, Bold caught the gist of her objections.
“Your father can’t stay…any longer. We need…room…baby,” she grumbled.
“All he…sit around while we pay…food…utilities,” she continued.
These issues with him really stung. He didn’t want to burden anyone, but he was in shock over his move to the city and still grieving for his deceased wife. Bold just didn’t have the energy to improve his situation.
Daria’s complaints became more frequent and overt. Everything about her father-in-law irritated her: his musty smell, the hair sprouting from his ears, the sound of his gravely voice, and, of course, that annoying snuff bottle he was always exchanging with guests. And then one day, when her husband was away on business, she really let her father-in-law have it:
“You’re nothing but a stinky, lazy burden to everyone and we wish you’d just die already.”
When Bold heard this, he felt a knot in the pit of his stomach. How he missed the freedom and tranquility of the countryside and the comforting companionship of the love of his life. But he realized this was how his life would end: alone even in the company of his family and respected and wanted by no one despite devoting countless years to providing for his wife and children the best he knew how.
Even death took no pity on him. He lived in Barkhas’ home for eight years enduring daily verbal barrages before he was finally able to rest in peace.