photo/ willow/ magpie prompt
TOMORROW AT 11:00 AM, my Grandfather's walking stick is going to be auctioned off at Sotheby's in New York City. He was a frail man in his later years, had great difficulty walking and relied on his cane to maintain his balance. Measured, small steps, as if his feet had been bound in the Chinese manner.
I liked to watch him smoking, and the ceremony that went with it. He kept the tobacco in a small leather pouch and cigarette papers at the ready to be used. I missed him a lot after he died rather unexpectedly. I was about ten years old at the time and missed the tapping sound that let us know he was making his way through the apartment. We kept the cane in the umbrella stand afterwards and sometimes I would sneak a walk around our apartment, tap tapping and pretending to be lame.
One time the cane fell as my brother Sasha and I were fooling around. We were very surprised to see the metal top bounce off the wooden stick. A folded piece of paper fell out. Unwrapped, it read, "Remember the slain 300". My Mother just stared at it when we showed it to her and tucked it into her pocket. Grandmother walked out of the room, a handkerchief brought to her lips.
Much was hidden about my Grandfather, Josef Kasmine-Rashkov. While my Mother and Grandmother emigrated to New York from St. Petersburg in the 1930's, my Grandfather, scheduled to follow, disappeared.
The report in the Times about the auction of the walking stick revealed the unfolding history of its owner. Josef Kasmine-Rashkov was one of the most famous Soviet operatives during the 1930'S and 1940'S. It's believed in some circles that he took a leading role in the assassination of the enemies of Stalin. He was sent to Spain to monitor the Worker's Party and it was there that he received a gunshot wound in his leg, the bullet shattering and proving to be inoperable. It was during the process of healing that he found the walking stick in the apartment of a slain Trotskyist, and kept it with him always. As he tried to do with his new Spanish wife.
On close viewing, some of the ridges and swirls of the metal head seem dented. It is thought that more than one collaborator suffered a blow on the head, and the evidence remained on the top of the cane.
Grandfather entered the U.S. under a false identity, after the war. Of course he left his Spanish wife behind. He was embraced by my Grandmother, who, after long years of separation, appreciated the large amount of jewels he had brought with him.
He led a blameless life in New York, gaining popularity as a maitre'd at the Russian Tea Room. He was the dapper one who always walked with the fancy cane. Until an old war wound caught up with him, and forced him to retire. One could say that he died of a bullet that had struck him fifteen years ago.
We expect to get a pretty penny for the walking stick at auction.
Thank you Willow, at Magpie Tales, for this prompt...and do join all the other participants.