Chapter 022

“Happy birthday, son,” my mother said as she woke me up at eight in the morning.

“Thanks Mom,” I nodded half asleep and sat up on the bed.

“Oh! What happened to your eye!? What a bruise!!” My mother instinctively drew her hands to my eye.

“Vovka and I had a fight at the club with some idiots,” I said, twisting, getting up and going to the bathroom.

My eye was barely swollen. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. There was a blue streak from my temple down under my eye and across my upper eyelid. The rest of my face looked normal.

“Yeah…” I exhaled and turned on the shower.

I have long realized that if a person does something with love and desire, it will come out good and beautiful. But if you don’t want to do it, it will come out badly. So it is with food. As long as I can remember, my mother always cooked well. But as soon as she and my father started fighting, it became impossible to eat my mother’s cooking. I had forgotten how good it used to taste when she cooked with passion. But that morning it all came back. I devoured cutlets and spaghetti.

“I love watching you eat,” my mother said as she sat across from me with her head resting on her hand. It was like she came to life. I looked into my mother’s eyes. They were shining again, not completely, but still. Their dullness was a thing of the past. My mother smiled. It was shy and awkward, as if she’d learned how to do it again.

“Is it good, son?”

“Yes, Mom, very good!” I nodded, mouth full, and swallowed my breakfast quickly.

“Eat, eat, take your time. What’s your hurry?”

My father entered the kitchen sleepily. He turned awkwardly, touched the kettle, pulled his hand away. He made himself some coffee and, coughing and unable to hide his embarrassment, forced himself to say: “Happy birthday.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I nodded, watching him from under my eyebrows.

My father scratched his nose, looked around, and walked away, coughing.

“How are you and that guy getting along at work?” my mother said.

“We’re fine, Mom, working! Everything’s fine, lots of work.”

“It’s good that there is a lot of work.”

“Yes, Mom, it is,” I nodded, shoved the last bite into my mouth, drank my tea, grabbed my bag and phone, picked up my flip-flops with my feet, and rushed out the door.

“Оh!!!” exclaimed Vera as soon as I entered the office.

“Damn it, Roman!” Sergey was startled and then laughed, resting his forehead on his hand.

“What happened to you!?” said Vera, and I told them about the fight, describing everything in small and seemingly ridiculous details. Petya arrived and immediately drove off to load.

“Well, let’s go to the warehouse, take a walk!” Sergey suggested with a smile, and once we were outside together, he added impatiently: “What a fight you had there!?”

I began to tell the story again. Sergey listened, humming and interjecting questions like “Well, and you?”, “And then what?”, “What about them?”. When we reached the warehouse and saw the loading in full swing, we went back. We talked about the same thing.

“It’s just that you haven’t developed the habit of taking a stance right away. I’ve been boxing for five years, so it’s automatic,” Sergey said and got into a very closed boxing stance – he pressed his elbows to his body, put his shoulders together as best he could, clenched his fists and hid his face between them.

“I got a withers because of it too!” He added, patting himself on the neck. “See what withers I have!”

Sergey rounded his shoulders even more, scowled and looked rather ridiculous. I was puzzled by his statement, because the only thing I saw was the usual fatty growth that often forms in that place in people who are overweight.

“Seryoga, to hell with the withers! It was a fight! It happened quickly. Bang, and I got hit in the temple! Vovka jumped on the big one, we knocked him down… What to do with him next? A few kicks to the head, that’s all… I just hold back… It’s for the best, the police came later, otherwise they would have caught us for sure.”

“Yeah, I was told, why are you jumping around, fidgeting?” Sergey jumped on his feet in a stance. “You kick him in the nuts and go!”

“There you go… I told you the same thing…” I nodded. “You used to box, didn’t you?”

“Oh, come on!” Sergey even seemed offended. “I’ve been doing it for five years! From the age of seventeen to twenty-two. And I performed at competitions.”

“Wow, cool!” I said respectfully, surprised.

“But when Verok and the family came along, I gave it up. Yeah! I was really good at boxing! Were you ever into sports?”

“Me? Just a little bit of everything. I tried boxing once in the seventh grade, spent two months there, then I did two sparring sessions. I beat up one guy, the other guy beat me up, and I quit!” I laughed, remembering my childhood. “I worked out for a couple of years, I even did karate for a year, can you imagine? I worked out in the army too, and then that was it – I started smoking, drinking… I’ve got to quit this crap… I’m getting kind of decrepit.”

“Oh, come on! You’re doing fine! I was like that before I got married. I even envy you that you can go out with your Vovan, hang out somewhere, rock out with the chicks! I’d love to be in your place, but it’s all over now – the wife, the kids. So have fun, Roman, while you can! When you get married, that’s it!”

We went to the office.

“Oh! I got the money yesterday!” Sergey was excited and reached for his briefcase.

“Yeah, that’s right!” I remembered. “Our first money in ‘Fort’!”

“Good!” Vera sang along, smiling. “How much have you got, Seryozha?”

“Yes, Vera, write it down!” Sergey said, putting the briefcase on the table and taking out a bundle of money in thousands, tied up with a rubber band. “I got twenty-two thousand.”

He removed the rubber band and began to count the money with shaky hands, one clutching the bundle awkwardly, the other pulling out the green bills with his fingers and slowly placing them on the table. It became clear that these hands had never handled bundles of money before.

“Let me show you how to count them, Seryoga!” I said, grabbing the bills, tying a rubber band around them, placing the bundle between the middle fingers of one hand, breaking the bundle in half with my thumb, and beginning to flip one bill toward me, picking it up with the fingers of the other hand and bending it back. “One, two, three, four, five…”

The bills flickered and rattled like a counting machine.

“Eight, nine, twenty…” I counted aloud in a whisper, “twenty-two, that’s right!”

Sergey and Vera watched in fascination. I threw the bundle on the table.

“Where did you learn that?” Sergey said, his eyes shining with admiration.

“I learned it from some guys, our neighbors at the last depot, selling sugar!” I grinned, remembering it with pleasure. “Funny guys. One was an intellectual. The other is good for nothing! Four times in jail, you know!”

Sergey’s eyes lit up even more, but now with interest.

“Boys!” Vera squeaked. “You’re disturbing me! I am working.”

“Then let’s go outside and you tell me about it!” Sergey said impatiently.

We went out. I lit a cigarette and began to walk along the path. Sergey cautiously sat down on the sagging pipe and turned all ears, chewing his lip in anticipation.

“Once, I remember, Yura, well, the one who was in prison… bought a ton of salt from someone, well, to sell, of course,” I remembered the incident and immediately laughed.

“Stop laughing!” Sergey shouted impatiently, smiling. “Come on, tell me! I see you laughing and I start to laugh too! Giggling like idiots!”

“We are idiots!” I waved away, stifling a laugh. “We’re running a business in an abandoned factory while everyone else is sitting in offices… So I don’t know why they bought that ton of salt! The sugar was selling well, maybe they decided to trade salt too, I don’t know, but the guys, the loaders, were fucking sick of carrying it into the warehouse. It’s salty, it’s not sugar! And they were running around, all itching, swearing! And Yura, as I remember, the next morning he drove up in his ‘Benz’, got out and greeted us. And we loaded beer into our ‘second’…”

“Did you sell beer!?” Sergey was surprised.

“Yeah, didn’t I tell you?” I was also surprised.

“No, you didn’t,” Sergey looked down and started to pick stones with his sandals.

“Well, never mind… So I understand that Yura got the salt, but they didn’t give him the documents… He stood in front of the warehouse and started calling: ‘Hello, I bought salt from you yesterday… Remember? Yes, they brought it, everything is fine. But there were no documents with the salt. Why didn’t you give me any certificates? What do you mean, no certificates!?'”

I pretended to be Yura with my arms outstretched threateningly and a cell phone to my ear.

“So what!? I don’t give a fuck that you don’t have certificates for the fucking salt! You think I bought it from you to pickle fucking tomatoes? I want the certificates today! Got it!? Or I’ll come over there and fuck you!”

“Ga-ga-ga-ga!” Sergey laughed, throwing his head back. “So? Did they bring the certificates?”

“They came in an hour! It took an hour to get there from the left bank. They must be scared shitless! You didn’t see Yura! And his face! Bold as brass!”

We stayed outside for a few minutes, trying to come to our senses from laughing. The summer weather was so beautiful that we didn’t want to go into the office.

We left the office and parted ways at five and met at the cafe at eight. I was in a festive mood, so I dressed up accordingly – a pair of pants with a number on the hip, a black tank top, and a light white and black jacket, all covered with motorcycle brand patches. Dressed like that and with a blue left eye, I stood at the entrance of the cafe and greeted the guests. Everyone had come. The last to arrive were Sergey and Vera. When I saw them, I felt sad. Vera wore a light jacket and skirt. Sergey came in black pants, a dark shirt and a dark blue jacket, the same as I had seen him in “Sasha”. It wasn’t the clothes, the couple didn’t look elegant. Sergey, in fact, was on the verge of tastelessness. The main thing was that they looked like a couple. A real one. “Wow, they really look alike,” I remarked. Sergey radiated importance and confidence. Vera glowed with happiness. And they were holding hands. I thought of Rita – I’d invited her, too, but she was working that day.

The evening was trivial: drinks, snacks, standard congratulations, hackneyed speeches and symbolic gifts. Sergey gave me a cigar. I put it in my mouth and clenched it between my teeth. Vovka took a picture. It was a funny picture of me with a cigar in my teeth and a bruised eye, sitting among plates of food and bottles of alcohol.

At eleven it was over and Vovka and I went to “Clear Skies”.

“Hi!” I said cheerfully as soon as I got to the bar.

“Oh, where did you have so much fun?” Rita was surprised and tried not to laugh.

“Here! Where else? Vovka and I got into a fight with some assholes!” I smiled.

And again I spent the whole evening at the bar, talking to Rita by fits and starts. Everything was somehow normal, but I didn’t understand how to develop a relationship with her. The girl worked nights, we only saw each other at the club and rarely after. Suddenly I realized that Rita was okay with that.

“Shall I wait for you after work?” I said half an hour before the club closed.

“How about Sunday?” Rita said, wrinkling her nose and curling her lips a little.

“All right, Sunday it is,” I shrugged.

The next night I waited for her outside the club. Vovka was nearby. Rita came out, and after we took a cab, we went to the park near her house again. We sat on a bench for about an hour. Rita drank two alcoholic cocktails and got a little tipsy. I, on the other hand, was sober and wanted to sleep. Vovka cheered up as much as he could, but he also dozed off.

“What are you doing, going to sleep!?” Rita said reproachfully, took a thin cigarette from her purse, lit it and added, “Weaklings!”

I objected, saying that it’s the middle of the night and that I and Vovka have to work in the morning.

“No, I don’t want to sleep yet!” Vovka fussed. “We can sit here for a while.”

“I see,” Rita said, her lips curling as she took the last sip from the second bottle and threw it in the trash. “It’s all clear…”

I offered to take Vovka home and then go for a walk together.

“Well… whatever, don’t mind me!” she said with disappointment in her voice.

The picker-upper we knew drove up five minutes later.

Vovka sat in the front seat. The car started.

“Did you have fun?” the driver said, looking at me in the mirror.

“We didn’t have enough!” Rita said, sliding forward on the seat and bending her knees.

“What’s stopping you?” the driver smiled.

“The men want to sleep!” Rita looked at me defiantly.

Vovka, who was sitting with his eyes closed, immediately perked up, turned around and shouted out:

“Nah, I’m not asleep! It’s just you assholes who want to get rid of me! Traitors!”

Rita smiled and I chuckled weakly. The car was quiet again.

“Eh, boys, stay awake!!” Rita shouted suddenly, jerking on the seat.

“We’re not sleeping, Rita, we’re not,” I said, fighting against sleep.

“Where are my flowers!!!??” the girl suddenly said petulantly and kicked the driver’s seat so hard with her knee that he turned around staggering.

I wanted to answer, but two sentences stuck in my head – one apologetic and one rude. They were on my tongue for a split second, not yielding to each other. Vovka helped me out, he said:

“Rita! What flowers!? It’s almost four in the morning! You’ll get flowers, next time we’ll buy them for sure!”

“I want them now!!” she shouted, and the driver felt another punch in the back.

At that moment, for the first time, I mentally distanced myself from Rita, sluggishly thinking “fool of a woman”. She continued to behave like a brat, but I turned away and looked out the window.

After sending Vovka to bed, we returned to the same park and sat on the same bench. The fresh air dulled the desire for sleep for a while. Rita lit a cigarette. We talked with her for about half an hour. Rita was capricious the whole conversation, and I made feeble excuses.

“You’re so boring, Roman!” She let out a puff of smoke and curled her lips sideways. “Not a chance to walk with you, nor to have any fun.”

“Rita, it’s five in the morning…” I said looking at the dawn that was breaking, “What walks? I want to sleep now. We’ll go for a walk next time. I’m all for it, you know. We’ll meet during the day when you have a day off.”

Rita looked at me, took a drag, and turned away.

“Why are you dressed like that?” She broke the silence after a minute.

“What do you mean, like that!?” I was astonished and looked at myself.

“Stupid, Roma!” She looked at me reproachfully.

“And what’s stupid about my clothes!? Normal T-shirt, pants, boots…”

I was dressed like I was on the night of my birthday party, only without my jacket.

“These aren’t normal pants, Roma,” Rita said reproachfully. “What kind of print is that!? How old are you? Kids go around with pictures like that on their clothes. Those shoes are just awful.”

I looked at the shoes, they were cool! Shoes with pointed toes were coming into fashion, and the fashion for square toes was coming to an end. I didn’t care about fashion! The boots looked classy, the lines and seams balanced on the edge of roughness. Black patent leather. Massive high heel. Big stitching on the edge of the square toe. Combined with a sleeveless tank top and linen pants, the boots created a masculine look. It was out of fashion, but what was the point of looking like most people? To signify the dullness? No, I don’t think so. But in that moment, like any man in love, I doubted myself and let my guard down.

“Regular pants,” I muttered. “I like them.”

“Exactly! It’s no good that you like them!” Rita said reproachfully.

“Then what should I wear?” I looked at her.

“Oh, Roma, we should go to the market together and buy you some normal clothes, not these!” Rita looked down at my pants and grinned. “I want you to look like a decent guy and I wouldn’t be ashamed of you.”

I was terribly sleepy, and my relationship with Rita was clearly not working, so I swallowed the insulting jab about shamelessness and just said: “Okay, well, next week, when you have a day off, we’ll go to the market… Come on, I’ll walk you home!”

Rita exhaled in disappointment, picked up her purse and walked away in a deliberately vulgar manner. I suppressed my anger, which I didn’t know why, and followed her.

“Well, Roooman!?” Rita said on the steps of the doorway. “Bye?”

“Bye,” I grinned and kissed her on the lips. Rita kissed me back lazily and without warmth.


After a couple of hours of sleep, I came to work with red eyes, an aching stomach, and a head that wasn’t thinking straight. When I came to my senses around noon, I said:

“We need to buy three chairs here and get the cabinet from the warehouse.”

“Why do we need three chairs when we already have two?” Sergey was surprised.

I said that the existing chair and stool were no good, it was not comfortable to sit on them. And we should not even buy chairs, but normal office chairs.

“The chair is fine. Vera sits on it, right, Verok? And the stool, you sit on it, isn’t it comfortable?” Sergey, who was standing by the door, looked at the stool under me.

“Is it!? I don’t feel comfortable!” I objected, not understanding the reason for Sergey’s stubbornness. “If you’re comfortable, then let the stool be yours and I’ll buy a normal chair! Agreed!?”

“Seryozha,” Vera said, grinning a little, “the chair is really not very good.”

“Well, all right, let’s buy some chairs!” He twitched nervously and crossed his arms over his chest. “We’ll get the money on Thursday and buy them.”

“Seryozha, maybe it’s better to pay by bank transfer?” his wife asked him cautiously.

“All right, Vera, we’ll buy them by bank transfer!” Sergey brushed her off.

“Then we have to register signatures,” Vera added reproachfully. “Actually, we should have done that a long time ago!”

“Fuck, these signatures!” Sergey covered his face with his hands and slowly brought them down to his mouth. “Are the documents ready at the bank or what do we have to do?”

“You just get together with Roma and write an application and fill out the necessary forms and that’s it,” Vera said at once.

“Ok, next week we will go to the bank,” Sergey looked at me. “Right, Roman?”

I nodded.


The next day, Tuesday, I came to work first. Senya showed up and Petya arrived, they had time to load the “GAZelle” and send Petya on his run, but Sergey and Vera were still missing. No sooner had I thought about the call than a dark ginger car pulled up under the office window in the front yard. Sergey got out. He slammed the driver’s door shut with a sweeping motion, took his briefcase out of the trunk, stuck out his chest and lifted his chin, and walked into the office. Vera followed him out of the car. “Bought the ‘Mazda’ after all?” I thought as the door to the office swung open and Sergey’s satisfied face was in front of me.  Vera came in after him with bright eyes.

“You bought a car?” I smiled.

“Yeees!” Vera said smiling.

Sergey froze in the middle of the room, staring at me intently through his glasses. The muscles in his face twitched, his lips wanted to curl into a satisfied smile, but he held himself back.

I congratulated my partner on his purchase, shook his hand, and added:

“Well, let’s go outside so you can start bragging!”

In the bright light of the July morning, the car shimmered and played with its reddish hue.

“Six hundred and twenty-sixth!” I looked at the plates and walked around the “Mazda”. The previous owner had obviously taken good care of the car. The interior looked new.

“What year is it, ninety-eight?” I looked at Sergey.

“Yes, ninety-eight,” he nodded and looked at me carefully.

“Well, for a seven year old, that is just perfect condition!” I exclaimed.

We were in and out of the car for another five minutes, I had a smoke, and then we went back to the office.

“Listen, you should call that inter-city friend of yours, huh?” I remembered.

“Yeah, I should,” Sergey nodded. “I’ll call her first thing tomorrow morning.”

The next day I arrived at work at eleven o’clock. After passing the “Mazda” parked in front of the building, I went in and greeted my partner in the office.

“Hi, Romych,” he muttered, lifting his head from his hands and resting his elbows on the table.

“Isn’t Vera here!?”

“She should be here soon.”

“So, what’s up? Did you call inter-city?” I plopped down on the chair in front of me.

“No, I haven’t called yet,” Sergey said.

“Why not!?” I stared at him.

The door opened and Vera walked in. I vacated her chair and stood by the cabinet.

“Hello, boys!” said Vera, bringing with her a charge of liveliness and joy, and a light scent of citrus perfume. “What are you up to?”

“Never mind,” said Sergey and began to rearrange the papers on the table.

“Seryoga, are you going to call your friend or what?” I said.

“Roman, why are you pestering me!?” He winced and stared at me irritably. “Do you know how many things I did while you were gone? Nineteen!”

Sergey paused, as if analyzing the effect, and seeing the bewilderment on my face, held out a sheet of paper and muttered: “Here! Look!”

I took it. The entire sheet was scribbled in lines of typed letters, point by point and slightly spaced out. I ran my eyes over them at random. “7. Called ‘WholeSale’ 11. Faxed to ‘Fort’ 3. Prepared the waybill for ‘Fort’ 17. Replaced the paper in the fax machine. 9. Took an order from ‘Temp’ 1. Bought printer paper on the way.”

“Why are you showing me this piece of paper!?” I looked at Sergey. “You are not an employee to make such reports. You drew them for Davidych, so he could see what a good worker you are. What do I need them for? You’re the owner now. You’re in Davidych’s place. You work for yourself. As they say, you reap what you sow! So, whether you write or not that you ‘put a piece of paper in the fax machine, picked up the phone three times and pressed the buttons seven times’, the profit will not appear. Sold a product – made money! Didn’t sell it – didn’t make money! That’s the truth! I don’t need this bureaucracy, there are only two of us here! So don’t surprise me with ‘nineteen things done’, because I could start doing that too, but there’s no point, there’s work to be done.”

I put the sheet on the table in front of Sergey with a chuckle. He was silent, his lips twisted and pushed out resentfully. I could even feel his resentment, which Sergey tried to leave unspoken. The room was tense for a while.


On Thursday morning, I met Sergey at the bank and executed the documents with two signatures, which made them legitimate. Sergey was constantly wiping the non-existent sweat from his forehead, his fingers were shaking, and he drew some sloppy signatures on the papers. The pen didn’t obey, as if it had accidentally appeared in Sergey’s thick fingers.

When we were done at the bank, we went to the office. There, as soon as we stepped inside and Sergey’s ass touched the stool, I dictated:

“Seryoga, go ahead, call your friend!”

“Yes, Roman, wait!” he reacted nervously.

The next few minutes were spent on current affairs. Noticing that Sergey was in no hurry to make the call, I reminded him again. Sighing heavily and nervously twisting the pen between his fingers, Sergey said in a sad voice, “Yes, I have to call her,” and dialed the right number on the fax machine.

“Hello, yes, hi!” he said into the receiver. “Yes, aha, it’s me, Seryoga, remember? Aha, yes, Davidych closed ‘Sasha’… I didn’t expect it myself. We were just working and then… Aha… Me? I work for myself now… Yes… My own company… Aha, yes, thank you… Heh-heh… Yes, it’s the same… I was just calling to talk to you about work… Maybe I can offer you something…”

While listening to the dialog, I suddenly realized that I was watching Sergey more. It came out by itself. Sergey was wiggling his feet under the table, twisting the pen in his hands, touching something on the table all the time, chewing his lips incessantly. As if he had never negotiated like this before. But he had. So he said. Sergey’s excessive nervousness was conspicuous and contradicted his image. But the conversation went well. The woman agreed to barter and said she would make the first order. And soon we got it.


On Friday we bought chairs, and the office became even more cramped. After placing the chair between the door and the cabinet, I sat in it, crossed my legs, and said: “Now that’s more like it!”


Saturday I met Rita and went to the market. My whole gut was against it, but I was determined to kill the day with what I thought was a useless activity. We wandered the aisles for two hours. Rita went first, and I waddled sullenly behind, trying to feign interest. The girl chose beige linen pants and a similar synthetic shirt with short sleeves and a zipper. The synthetic felt heavy and uncomfortable on my body as I tried it on. I paid for my purchase.

“See, you look so good!” Rita said, pleased with me.

“Yeah, I do,” I said.

“You should wear this, like a normal guy, not that junk!”

At home, after trying on the new clothes in the mirror, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad, but it was. My gut was clearly resisting the change. The irritation I’d been feeling for a long time suddenly turned into dissatisfaction with Rita. I was angry with her for everything. For what had happened, and even more for the fact that it hadn’t worked out. Our relationship was stuck at the first contradiction. I decided to overcome it that very evening – I put on the clothes I had bought and went downtown. After a walk with Vovka, we went to “Clear Skies”, had a drink, and at two in the morning we found ourselves in front of Vovka’s house.

“Motherfucker!!!” Vovka shouted, sticking the key in the locked front door.

“It won’t open?” I was surprised.

Vovka shouted again and explained that the “motherfucker” was an old man from the first floor who, in his opinion, had locked the door and deliberately turned the latch so that the key could not be opened from the outside.

After recovering from our astonishment, we decided to knock on the old man’s windows and walked around the house. It was so dark in there, and we could barely make out the features of the impenetrable front yard, that we immediately gave up the idea, went back to the front door, and began knocking on all the windows. A curtain twitched in one, and that was it.

“Motherfuckers!” Vovka barked.

A few meters above the door was a stairwell window between the first and second floors. Narrow as a loophole, the window was about thirty centimeters high and a meter and a half wide. One meter below the window there was a piece of pipe sticking out of the wall from which a light fixture had once hung. I offered to put out the glass, crawl into the entrance, and open the door from the inside.

“Fuck, Ramses, that’s an idea! But how do we get on it?” Vovka said, staring at the piece of pipe and the bare walls of the house. We needed some kind of footing.

“Let’s have a look!” I suggested, and we wandered around the yard in almost total darkness.

The thing we were looking for was in the trash – a bulky box that looked like an ancient trunk from a fairy tale, only it wasn’t wrought iron, so it was light. We picked it up by the handles and dragged it to the entrance. Standing on it, I easily reached the pipe. Standing on it, I took out the window bars in a minute and put out the glass. It was time to get inside. I looked at myself.

“Maybe you can get in, Vova?” I said. “My clothes are white, I’ll get dirty for sure!”

Vovka agreed. I jumped down. Grunting, Vovka climbed up and stuck his head in the window.

“Fuck, Ramses, I can’t get through!” he said with his belly stuck in the opening.

We changed places. I climbed through the window like a snake, went down to the front door, fumbled for the diagonal nut, turned it, and let Vovka in. As he stomped up the stairs to his apartment, he cursed and swore at the old man, promising to “piss on the door and shit under it.”

I got my clothes dirty after all.

“We’ll do the laundry, Ramses! What a problem! Take off your stuff!” said Vovka.

In the silence of the night, with the sound of the washing machine, we were in the kitchen and had dinner – sausage, cheese, tea. We talked about my relationship with Rita. I said we had a stupid relationship and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Vovka began to reassure me, saying that the relationship was normal, but that the girl’s job and her young age were spoiling it.

“She’s very young!” Vovka scratched his belly. “Mush for brains! But she’s nice, and she doesn’t seem to be stupid! You should do it… with her… And everything will work out! You’ll see!”

“You’re such a chump!” I said, and we both laughed.


When I got home the next day, I took off the clothes Rita wanted me to buy, threw them in the closet, and never wore them again.

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