Chapter 019

“Wanna hear the news!?” I started as soon as I crossed the threshold of Vovka’s apartment.

“Shoot!” Vovka nodded, looked around with sleep creases on his face, and said, “Want some tea?”

“Yes!” I flopped down on a wobbly chair in the kitchen, lit a cigarette and offered one to my friend.

“No, I don’t!” Vovka shook his head, put the kettle on and opened the fridge.

“That’s it, are you done?” I looked at him with a grin. “Are you sure you’re not smoking?”

Vovka swore, put a sausage and a piece of cheese on the table, and said he had quit smoking.

“I haven’t smoked for a week!” he jerked his crooked index finger and started to make sandwiches, then he barked, “What’s the damn news!? You promised me news!”

“We and Sergey from ‘Sasha’ have merged! We formed a joint company.”

“Why would you and him merge!?” Vovka said, pouring boiling water into cups.

I told him, adding at the end, “I think his product will make more money than my father’s and mine. I think our sales would increase three times for sure. Anyway, we’ll see.”

“Mmm!” Vovka mumbled, mouth full. “Well, that’s a fucking good idea!” he chewed, and after thinking for a while he added seriously, “Good deal, Ramses! It should work out!”

“Are you even going to the club?” I said, looking at the two huge sandwiches in front of Vovka and the third one disappearing into his stomach.

“Let me fucking eat! I’m hungry as a hunter!” Vovka resisted, looked at me and immediately sneered. “You’re going to see Ritka today, aren’t you?”

“Maybe I am,” I said with deliberate indifference and smiled contentedly.

I did see Rita that night. Despite the commotion around me, I tried to stay close to her and communicate with her in some way. The girl was working, bustling back and forth like a bee, waiting on tables. And every time we managed to exchange a word, her eyes lit up. That night it was as if the rest of reality had faded away for me. I wanted to believe I was spending the evening with my girlfriend.


“Wow, the socket’s done!” I exclaimed, somewhat surprised.

“Indeed! Seryonka did his best!” my father said with a barely perceptible sneer in his voice as he followed me into the office on Monday morning. Sergey wasn’t there yet. I didn’t understand my father’s attitude towards him. “If he didn’t like Sergey as a person, why was it necessary to merge at all? Going to merge and at the same time clearly conflicted in personal communication. Why? Nice and polite guy. I didn’t notice any clearly bad traits in Sergey. Yes, there was a moment of behavior associated with delayed execution of the company documents. But that’s okay. He was also getting used to us. We are basically strangers to him. And then it’s hard for him to understand us”. So, having explained Sergey’s behavior to myself, I got a pretty coherent internal picture of his perception.

My father’s dislike for Sergey arose immediately, but after a while I clearly understood that his attacks were not random, but systematic. It was strange that Sergey did not react to them. He stayed within the bounds of silent politeness or defensive innocence. Sergey’s unresponsiveness surprisingly forced me to accept his side. And my mature conflict with my father lent itself to the situation at hand in the best possible way. I unconsciously took Sergey’s side, perceiving him as a victim of my father’s difficult character, as I felt myself to be.

“Well?” I looked around. “The office is ready. We can set up the office equipment and work, right?”

“Yes, we can move in,” my father agreed.

We left the office and drove to the warehouse. After half an hour, Sergey squeezed through the gap between the side of the “GAZelle” and the opening of the warehouse gate. He shook our hands politely, looked around and said: “Loading?”

“Yeah, well, while you were gone, we decided to load up so we wouldn’t waste any time,” I said.

“How much longer are you going to sell your goods?” Sergey said with a complaint in his voice. “I think I’ve implemented all your conditions, signed all the documents, made Roma a co-founder, but you’re still doing the same thing. Selling your own goods, making money.”

“Seryoga, as we agreed,” I said. “Until the first of July! After that, we’ll deliver from the company’s name and register the rest of the goods with it. What are you worried about?”

“What do you mean? You’re going to sell everything before the first of July! Look at the lots you are loading!”

“We’ll sell it and bring more! You said that as if it were the last goods!”

“Seryozha!” began my father, “We told you everything in advance, so why do you keep asking the same questions!? We said from the first of July, that means from the first of July! There’s nothing to discuss!”

“Anatoly Vasilievich, I got you!” Sergey parried. “Just don’t start! Roma explained everything to me, I got it! From the first of July it is!”

“Well, if you got it, fine,” said my father, and continued to carry goods in the “GAZelle”.

Sergey stayed there, and as soon as I resumed my work, he said:

“Well, what am I supposed to do while you’re here doing your business?”

The question puzzled me. I am so used to making such decisions on my own that at first I was confused, then, after thinking about it, I said that we need to solve the issue of office equipment and other such things. Sergey said that he had a computer, he took it from “Sasha”. I said that I had the printer and went to the old warehouse, I had to get some boxes from there. I opened the lock and the gate.

“Are you going to move all this?” Sergey’s voice sounded behind me as he came in behind me and carefully inspected the warehouse.

“Yes, it’s already leftovers,” I said without turning around and picking at the goods.

“Are you going to move them all? And the shelves?”

“No, not the shelves! They’re made here on the spot, there’s no point in moving them.”

I took the boxes I wanted and carried them to the exit.

“Let me help you,” Sergey said, taking one of the boxes.

“That’s it now!” I closed the board and looked at my father. “There are only iron racks, showcases, pallets underneath, and the return from retail. So we can pick a day and move everything at once if you want!”

“Well, if we have a free day, we’ll move it,” my father said, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Roma and I could move some things now, like the showcases,” Sergey suggested, and my father and I stared at him at once. “Anatoly Vasilievich, you could deliver the goods and we’ll move everything in the meantime.”

“I’m in, it’s a good idea!” I answered the silent question in my father’s eyes, glad to stay in the ringing silence of the factory, accompanied only by the crackling of grasshoppers in the hot grass, instead of shaking in the “GAZelle” and scurrying around the warehouses. And my growing sympathy for Sergey and the already chronic fatigue of my father’s company also influenced my decision.

“Well, stay!” my father exhaled. “I’m off.”

“So what’s your work scheme that you didn’t want to tell me before the merger?” Sergey said once we were alone in the old warehouse.

“Aah! Ha!” I laughed briefly. “Yeah, that was fun. Intriguing, eh, Seryoga!?”

“Well, not intriguing, just curious, what is it that you are so keen to hide!?” Sergey said, as if there was even a hint of resentment in his voice.

I offered to carry the showcases first. We carried the first two on our shoulders, panting, noticing that it was heavy, and then carried the next ones one by one.

“So what’s the scheme?” said Sergey, barely catching his breath.

“Seryoga, it’s very simple…” I began, taking the showcase and lifting it. “Did you work with food wholesalers in ‘Sasha’?”

“What wholesalers?”

“Well, which food wholesalers do you know?”

“I know where they are, but I don’t remember their names,” Sergey said, describing the location of two depots, the ones in the cinemas on the left bank.

“They closed a long time ago,” I brushed him off.

“Really?” Sergey chewed his lip. “Well, I didn’t know.”

“Do you know of any others?” I continued to inquire, picking up another showcase.

Not knowing the name, Sergey spoke of “Mercury”. I confirmed.

“And what others?”

“Wait, give me a minute,” Sergey gasped.

“And what other depots do you know about?” I repeated as soon as we had brought the showcase.

“Romych, I don’t remember their names! I know where they are!”

We silently took the next showcase.

“Do you know where ‘Peresvet’ is?” I said as we walked back.

“No, I don’t,” Sergey gave up, wiped the drops of sweat that appeared on his forehead, and suddenly asked, “Listen, what are those pipes up there under the roof in the warehouse?”

“What pipes?” I didn’t understand.

Heating pipes ran around the perimeter of the old warehouse at waist level. Next to them, two pipes about three centimeters in diameter dangled in the air below the ceiling on the left wall.

“Those pipes!” Sergey pointed at them.

“Fuck if I know!” I shrugged. “Nothing’s worked here for a long time.”

“Are you using foul language!?” Sergey smiled, and seemed to me to be surprised in a pretentious, sanctimonious way.

“Well, yeah! What’s the big deal? Everybody does it. I don’t swear in front of my father, you know.”

“Well, not everybody. I don’t swear, for example.”

“Oh, really!?” I was surprised. “And you never did!?”

“Well, I used to swear when I was young. But not anymore, I haven’t cursed for a long time, I try to watch my language.”

“Cool!” I felt respect. “I didn’t swear before either, but then I started. But when I met Vovka, it was like every other word was ‘fuck’!”

“Who is Vovka!?” Sergey perked up.

“There’s a piece of work here! My buddy! When you meet him, you’ll start swearing too!”

I laughed.

“No,” Sergey cackled. “It’s not good to swear. I’ve got children after all.”

“Let’s carry the last showcase,” I said, taking it by my side.

We left the warehouse with our burdens.

“How many kids do you have, two?” I said.

“Yes, two,” Sergey replied, walking behind me. “Lilka, four years old, and Lyonka, one year old.”

“Great! Two children already! I’m not married yet.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

“I just met a girl, but I don’t know if I have one yet,” I remembered Rita.

After taking the showcase, we went back.

“Look, since you don’t need the shelves anymore, why don’t you give them to me?” Sergey said as soon as we got back to the old warehouse. “I would take them to the dacha for firewood.”

“I don’t know,” I shrugged, thinking. “Technically, we don’t need them at all, but we’ll have to ask my father. If he’s for it, you can have them.”

Sergey said that he would cut the pipes and take them for the fence of the dacha – new ones are expensive and cannot be bought – he would dismantle the shelves and take everything out on Friday and pay my father for the delivery – money for my father and firewood for him for the winter.

“Well, you’ll have to deal with my father when he gets back!” I brushed off the strange and incomprehensible topic of conversation. I had always recognized the economic qualities of people as a good and necessary trait in life. But for some reason, Sergey’s actions did not seem to me like thriftiness, but rather like pettiness. I shrugged my shoulders, forgot about the conversation, remembered about work, said: “Come on, let’s carry the pallets.”

“So what’s with the food wholesalers and what’s-its-name ‘Peresvet’?” Sergey said as we moved everything out of the old warehouse. “Is that a depot too?”

I nodded and said that “Peresvet” was bigger than “Mercury” and was on the left bank, ten minutes away from “Sasha”, and that’s where I took the dichlorvos I bought from Sergey.

“I thought you said you were selling it to a regional customer somewhere,” he said.

“There was no customer, Seryoga!” I smiled contentedly, suddenly feeling like a mischievous child who had gone unnoticed in his shenanigans, happy to report them, and pleased with the reaction of the screwed-up party. “We used to buy dichlorvos from you and unload them in half an hour at ‘Peresvet’, they were sold in three or four days. Too bad you ran out early, we would have had time to make a few more trips with them.”

With his eyes bent on the ground, Sergey listened intently. We stood in the cool of the new warehouse.

“By the way, my father and I were going to work with dichlorvos this year. And then, as if on command, ‘Sasha’ died, and we had a lucky meeting with you. And you have a contract with ‘Aerosib’!”

Sergey was silent, looking at the ground and chewing his lip.

“We have a simple scheme. You understand – we sell barter goods through the food depots. We don’t need retail and a bunch of small customers. And those depots eat a lot of goods. We don’t even have enough barter goods, so your dichlorvos will come in handy. We’re going to have to increase our sales a lot. At least I hope so.”

Sergey was silent.

“So, Seryoga, I think it’s about time we merged! We’re lucky!”

“Yes,” he said thoughtfully. “Lucky you.”

“Come on!” I said, giving Sergey a friendly nudge on the shoulder. “Everything will be fine! We’ll make good money, you’ll see! So we are all lucky.”

My father came back.

“I brought you something to eat,” he said as he got out of the car with a bag.

“No, I’m fine, thanks!” Sergey brushed it off. “I have to go home soon.”

I had lunch for two. All the work was done and we drove home.

“Will you remember to talk to Anatoly Vasilievich about the racks and pipes?” Sergey gently reminded me as the “GAZelle” slowed down at the fork in the road.

I nodded. We said goodbye.

“What about the racks?” my father asked as we drove off.

I told him.

“Let him saw if he wants to,” my father said dryly. “It doesn’t concern me.”


The whole week passed in hustle and bustle. On Wednesday we took the rest of the goods to one of the outlets in the market, the one where Sergey’s mother worked. It was there that I saw her for the first and only time. She was a plump, short woman in her sixties, with skin as dark as her son’s, the same soft, sweet features, and faded, life-weary eyes. When you see women like that, you know they were very attractive when they were young.

“Sergey looks like his mother,” my father said as soon as we were alone in the cabin.

“Or maybe he looks like his father?” I suggested. “We didn’t see his father, did we?”

“I don’t think so,” my father said. “He looks too much like his mother, a copy.”

While we were driving and selling our goods, Sergey was sweating in the old warehouse. On Friday, July 1, after our last trip, I went to see him. Sergey was sitting on the top shelf of a rack, sawing a pipe that was dangling from the movement of the saw.

“Saw them, Shura, they’re made out of gold!” I joked with a famous phrase and laughed.

Sergey cackled awkwardly, gasped, stamped his tired legs, and went on.

I said we should look for a storekeeper and a loader. Sergey disagreed, saying that the storekeeper would be enough, and if necessary we would hire a loader. I agreed.

“Are we going to work for the company next week?” Sergey suddenly said reproachfully. “You sold out already? Can we start working?”

“Seryoga, as agreed!” I let the insult pass my ears. “We told you – since the beginning of July, that means since the beginning of July! Today is Friday anyway, so we’ll start on Monday!”


On Saturday my father took the racks and pipes to Sergey without me. Sergey called in the morning and said that he was with his younger brother to help him.

“Why are you going?” my father asked me. “There won’t be much room, and the two of them will be loading and unloading everything. I won’t even touch anything.”

“Are you even getting paid?” I asked.

“We made a deal for five hundred rubles,” my father reluctantly brushed it aside. “Never mind.”

“Well, at least that!” I said, realizing the symbolism of the amount.

My father returned about three hours later.

“How did it go?” I met him at the door.

“How did what go?” my father sneered, puffing up from the heat.

“Did you do it?”

“I did.”

“And where is his dacha?”

“Over there…” my father waved his hand north. “Ten kilometers towards Moscow.”

“Hmm, it’s kind of inconvenient. They live on the left bank, but the dacha is behind the right bank. It’s at the opposite end, it takes at least an hour to drive across town every time. Did he and his brother load and unload it themselves?”

“Yes, they did it themselves,” said my father, his face still red and dripping with sweat. “They unloaded it quickly. By the way, his brother’s name is Romka, just like yours.”

“Wow, that’s good!” I exclaimed, following my father into the room.

“Such an interesting guy!” my father said, raising his eyebrows in surprise.

“Who, the brother?”

“Yes, he is inquisitive, sociable and well-read! We had such a nice talk with him!” my father said and took a cigarette. I went to get mine and returned to my father. He was already sitting on the balcony in his underwear, wiping the sweat from his belly and smoking.

“Does his brother look like Seryoga?”

“Yes, he does,” my father nodded. “He’s the same build, except he’s not so fat, he’s normal. And his face looks the same, only smaller and with glasses and… he was, well… kind of modest. So polite! He greeted me normally and in general, I could tell right away that he was a nice, open guy.”

“What makes you think he’s well-read?”

“You know,” my father said, slapping his thigh, “we got to talking to him about books as we drove along. And he happened to read this and that, and all good, serious books. And he sensed that I was well-read too, so we talked all the way!”

“And Sergey?”

“What about Sergey?” my father raised his eyebrows and blew smoke upward. “Nah, he’s not like that! He remained silent the whole time, staring indifferently out of the window. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t interested.”

“Is it a nice dacha? Do they have a house there?”

“An ordinary dacha! There’s a house, like a chicken coop, small and made somehow crooked, any old how.”

“And how big is the property? Is there a fence? A vegetable garden? What else is there?”

“Well, as far as I know, there are two plots of six hundred square meters next to each other, just joined together, that’s all. Well, there’s some planting, but not much. The fence is made of junk…”

“Anyway, nothing special…”

“Yes, nothing special, just a normal pensioner’s dacha,” my father exhaled smoke.

“Why pensioner?”

“There was an old lady, as I understood it, the mother of Sergey’s wife, his mother-in-law. Maybe it was her dacha. It looks like it,” my father said, flicking a cigarette out the window.

I had hardly finished smoking when the phone rang. Vovka. In the evening we partied and drank again, I even tried to get Vovka to smoke. But he was too stubborn and I gave up.


At 9:02 on Monday morning, the phone rang as soon as I opened my eyes.

“Come over at eleven,” I told the applicant for the storekeeper’s job.

An hour later, when I was in the parking lot, I heard my father cursing again. He got behind the wheel of the “GAZelle”, turned the key, and it wouldn’t start.

“Fuck,” my father muttered. I looked at him. Red with rage and clenched teeth, my father was staring into the dashboard as if he wanted to burn it with his gaze. “Wow,” I wondered.

My father turned the ignition key again and the starter came to life, but the engine was silent.

“Fuck!” my father barked, jumping out of the cabin and getting under the hood.

Knowing that it was better not to touch my father in his condition, I looked at my watch – 10:15.

After a few minutes, I decided to take the shared taxi.

“Yes, go ahead. The man will be waiting,” my father agreed, and I left.

At five minutes to eleven, I met a man – about forty years old, medium height, wearing a brown jacket, cream-colored shoes and a tie – who was pacing back and forth with obvious excitement.

“Please follow me,” I invited the guest.

The man followed, showing every sign of reverence and diligence. The office greeted us with the smell of freshly painted floors, whitewash, and wallpaper glue. There was a table and chair in the room. After seating my guest, I took a stool from the room across the hall and began our conversation.

“I’m for the storekeeper’s position,” said the man I could see better now. My gaze was immediately drawn to the neat parting of his close-cropped black hair. I remembered the type of person who looked like that and realized, “He drinks”.

“Good,” I nodded. “Are you familiar with the working conditions?”

“Yes!” the man twitched, and without a pause he enunciated: “It says in the paper that the salary is eight thousand, five days a week from nine to eighteen!”

“Yes, that’s right,” I shuddered slightly and watched the guest’s fleeing gaze. “Such empty eyes, as if shrouded from within, glassy gray,” I thought, and began to tell the man about our company and the job waiting for him. Then I asked for his passport. The guest made a fuss, dug into the pockets of his unusual jacket, took out a document and placed it in my hand with an unnaturally stiff movement. Then, just as fidgetily, he pulled out his employment record book. The man’s hands were shaking. “Married, son of sixteen,” I continued to study the passport, reading aloud his last name, first name, and patronymic.

“Yes! It’s me!” the man jerked again as if stung.

His reaction started to make me laugh.

“How are you with alcohol, do you smoke?” I said.

“I smoke, like everyone else,” the guest nodded and smiled nervously, revealing some still-living teeth in a deplorable state, mixed with metal bridges for the gold.

I kept looking into the man’s eyes.

“As for alcohol?” he fidgeted in his chair, his eyes searching for salvation in the corners of the room and under the baseboard. “I drink sometimes on weekends… But like everyone else! Sometimes!”

I looked back at the passport and felt a wave of relief wash over my guest.

After a few more minutes of conversation, I told the man that I would discuss his candidacy with a business partner and that I would call him in the evening. With a nod of agreement, the guest began scratching on a piece of paper with a pen. I watched with interest as the hand, unaccustomed to using a pen, painfully wrote out six numbers with stiff fingers.

After saying goodbye to the guest, I had time to smoke a cigarette outside before Sergey and Vera arrived in a taxi with the computer.

“Oh, now we have a stool too!?” Vera exclaimed as soon as she entered the office.

“Yes, we are well-heeled now!” I nodded and told them about the interview.

“Really?” Sergey exclaimed. “And the man? Was he all right?”

“An ordinary man,” I said, looking critically at the computer again and expressing my doubts: “Seryoga, the computer is gross! Are you sure it works?”

“Well, I don’t know, it worked in ‘Sasha’ when I picked it up!” he threw up his hands and sulked. “Can you put it together and connect everything here?”

“Of course I can!” I said, surprised. “What is there to put together? All the plugs are different, specially made for fools, so it’s impossible to mix up the wires!”

“I just don’t know much about computers,” Sergey mumbled.

From that moment on, our office came alive. Vera immediately found a cloth somewhere, ran to the second floor for water, and quickly wiped the dust off all the inconspicuous office furniture. I started assembling the computer. Sergey hung around. As soon as I was done, Vera sat down at the desk, turned on the computer, and a minute later announced: “Everything works, everything is fine!” Then she took my papers from the windowsill and began entering the product balances into the program. Her fingers ran over familiar key combinations.

Three people in a small room – I immediately felt cramped, I wanted some fresh air and a cigarette. I went out to the front yard, called “Arbalest” and got an order. My father arrived. Just in time. I took the printer from the “GAZelle”, carried it to the office, connected it to the computer, and the first waybill of the company came out of the printer.

“We need a second desk,” my father said as he entered the office and looked around.

“Yes, we’ve been thinking about that too!” Vera said before the others.

“Shall we start loading?” I showed my father the waybill. “What happened to the car?”

“The igniter burned out!” he brushed me off. “They make such crap…”

Everyone went outside. My father drove the “GAZelle” to the warehouse and the rest of us walked. I removed the lock, opened the gate, and the “GAZelle” drove back to the warehouse and fell silent.

“Look, well, before we started working, just about everyone got together,” Sergey said, “We should decide on the salaries…”

“Oh yeah! That’s right!” I was surprised and agreed. “Let’s decide.”

There was a hesitation. I looked at Sergey and Vera, and they looked at me. My father sat in the cabin.

“Well, I think you and I would be okay with fifteen each,” I began, remembering Sergey’s words about that amount. “We’ll start with the minimum and see how it goes. If we start making good money, we’ll increase it. Okay? What do you say?”

“Yes, fifteen is fine,” he agreed immediately. “And how much should we give Vera? You two decide together, it’s just that I’m an interested party.”

Vera looked at me carefully, and I immediately sensed her inner tension.

“How much do depot managers get paid now?” I turned to Sergey.

“Somewhere between seven and twelve thousand,” he said immediately.

“Well, somewhere between seven and ten,” Vera said with a wince.

“Well, probably,” Sergey threw up his hands, looked sternly at his wife, and added. “It’s just that in our ‘Sasha’ girls used to get twelve!”

“Okay, I get it! Let’s start with the minimum and then we’ll see, okay?” I looked Vera right in the eye. “Vera, is eight okay to start with?”

“It’s okay,” she said, blushing slightly, like a person who was used to accepting decisions about her person immediately and without negotiation, as long as they were reasonable.

“I think ten would be fine,” Sergey said. “But since we have an agreement, I won’t interfere with your and Vera’s decision.”

“Seryozha!” the door of the “GAZelle” slammed, I turned around, my father came to us, and looking at Sergey, he said with pressure: “Are you going to pay me or what!?”

In his movements and facial expressions I could feel the restrained dissatisfaction and irritation.

“Anatoly Vasilievich, what salary would you like?” said Sergey. “Because we haven’t really discussed the amount yet.”

I remained silent and let them decide between themselves.

“Seryozha, I think fifteen thousand would be fine,” my father said. “The drivers with their own ‘GAZelles’ are priced like that now.”

“That’s a bit too much, Anatoly Vasilievich,” Sergey grimaced. “I think ten thousand is a pretty normal salary.”

“Sergey, buy a newspaper and see how much a driver with his own ‘GAZelle’ costs,” my father got angry in the face and added with pressure, “Have you looked at the newspapers with vacancies? Do you even know what the prices for a ‘GAZelle’ are now!?”

Sergey was silent, looking at my father warily and grudgingly, chewing his lower lip.

“And I do!” my father continued. “Fifteen thousand a month costs a driver with a ‘GAZelle’. Without a car – eight! So you won’t find such a driver for ten thousand.”

“Anatoly Vasilievich, of course, I do not know,” said Sergey, without contradiction, still softly, even childishly confused, his face showing incomprehension of the reason for my father’s tone and harsh position. “You see, you’ve already studied the matter and I haven’t. Let’s see, maybe you’re right and maybe I’m right. I believe you, Anatoly Vasilievich, you have no reason to lie. I know that you’re a competent man. I just think it’s expensive, fifteen thousand. But ten thousand is just right.”

Suddenly there was a dead end in my mind. Knowing my father’s pedantic and meticulous nature, I was sure that the amount was adequate. Sergey’s words sounded logical, but the excuses he used to deny my father fifteen thousand felt empty and far-fetched. Doubts flickered in my head, making me want to intervene, but my father put a stop to it all with one fell swoop.

“You know what, Seryozha!” he clenched his jaw. “You should find another driver for ten thousand! And I’ll see how you do it! I’m not going to beaver away for you for that money! Got it!?”

At that moment, I must have looked like Vera, who was standing next to me, watching what was happening with incomprehension and extreme surprise frozen on her face.

“That’s it!” my father raised his index finger. “I told you! Don’t count on me! Work on your own as you wish! I’m not your donkey to bust a gut for peanuts!”

My father got into the “GAZelle”, slammed the door as hard as he could, started the car, and drove away.

“What was that?” Vera interrupted the pause.

“Yeah, strange,” I forced myself to say.

“Why is Anatoly Vasilievich so nervous?” Vera added, looking at me, and I at her, and then at Sergey, who remained silent.

It was like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I felt unspeakably relieved, as if something had happened that was the best thing that could have happened at that moment. I no longer had to smooth the edges between my father and Sergey, to be in a constant state of nervous tension. Now all I had to do was work. And to do it with people who were agreeable, cheerful and sincere, as I had seen Sergey and Vera in a short time. It was as if my hands were free. All the time I wished for one thing: success in a business that was so difficult to start and carefully nurtured. I knew my father wanted the same. For the sake of an important common goal, I put up with his temper, and he put up with mine. But my father’s rude demarche suddenly jeopardized our common cause. A swarm of thoughts raced through my mind: “Why did he end it so abruptly? He didn’t even try to defend his position.” I didn’t understand. The move seemed stupid to me. Even if the subject of negotiation didn’t look pleasant, it still had to be negotiated. “Just like that, slam the door and leave.” It was not the first time that a sharp complication of the situation triggered my inner mechanism – I did not despair, did not lose heart, but gathered my will and thoughts into a monolith and coldly searched for a way out. That’s what I did at that moment, immediately pulling myself together and calmly saying:

“Well, on our own it is!”

Sergey and Vera came out of their stupor.

“Seryoga, we’ll have to advertise for a full-time driver with his own ‘GAZelle’,” I said, and went into the warehouse.

“Do you think Anatoly Vasilievich meant what he said?” he asked cautiously.

“Who knows,” I shrugged and put a lock on the gate. “I’ll find out tonight.”

“If your father’s coming back tomorrow, why place an ad?” Vera remarked reasonably.

“Let’s go!” I waved my hand at both of them. “If my father changes his mind, we’ll take down the ad. We have work to do! We can’t just sit around, can we? The orders will be coming soon, we have to transport them.”

In the evening, my father and I had a short dialog, the meaning of which can be summed up in just two sentences.

“Dad, why did you leave?” I asked an embarrassed question.

“I told you to work alone with your Seryozha,” my father said dryly, sitting on the balcony with a cigarette, looking out into the yard without even turning around.

Maybe I should have, but I was not good at persuasion. I was used to taking people’s words literally and not looking for hidden meanings in them. And I didn’t feel like it. I was terribly tired of my father. And I took his move as my deserved deliverance.

I called the only man on the ad and told him to come to work the next day and take over the warehouse.

Everything that happens, happens for the best, right?

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