Chapter 032

Throughout the holidays, I kept thinking about the money my father and I had in his bank account. Time passed, but there was no use for it. My hope that my father, having left Sergey and me, would invent some kind of business, take this money and start earning, was not justified. For six months he didn’t even try to start anything. And when my father came to the office, I realized that he was knocking about, not knowing what to do. His agreement to take over the detergent business made me happy – indirectly, but my father was close to me again. I ignored Sergey’s sarcasm. Yes, the direction was not easy and I shouldn’t expect quick results. But I believed in my father. “If he takes it on, the result will come,” I decided and calmed down. And I had to do something about the money.

“Dad, listen,” I started, sitting down on the sofa in my father’s room. “I was thinking, why should our money be in the bank, maybe we should buy an apartment with it, huh?”

My father looked at me blankly, rubbed his face with his hands, coughed and asked:


“Yes, apartment! Money is lying around anyway, and apartments are getting more expensive all the time! This way we invest in real estate, save money from inflation, and earn something!”

“Ahem…” My father put his hand under his chin and stared at the wall in front of him.

“Why don’t you say something?” I said after a pause.

“I’m thinking!” my father said and stood up. “I have to think!”

“Then let’s go into the kitchen and have some tea!” I suggested. “We’ll think about it at the same time.”

“That’s not a bad idea…” my father said in the kitchen. “We just have to figure out if we have enough money and for what kind of apartment…”

“We don’t have enough for a finished apartment!” I said at once. “I’ve already counted! Only enough for a co-funded construction, and that’s for a one-bedroom apartment!”

“You mean we invest the money and the apartment is still under construction?”

“Yes, shared construction! The prices are lower than for ready-made housing, and there is no other way!”

“Wait, don’t rabbit on!” my father put me in my place. “Let me think!”

“Think,” I muttered. “Who’s stopping you?”

My father poured coffee for himself and I poured tea.

“So!” My father crossed his legs and began to wiggle them gently, juggling the slipper on his toes. “So you’re offering to buy an apartment… I see… that’s an interesting idea!”

He stirred the sugar in the cup with a spoon, brought the spoon to his lips, blew on it, licked it, and carefully, measuring the parallelism of the table line, placed it next to the cup.

“But have you found out the prices yet? You have to find that out first! Find out which contractor, where and what they build, if they are reliable! It’s not as easy as you think!”

“Dad, you talk to me like I’m an idiot!” I stared at my father. “Of course we have to find out! I’m not suggesting that we take the money to the first mickey mouse company we see! We’ll find out everything, we’ll figure it out, and we’ll choose! I don’t see any problem with that!”

“You don’t see a problem anywhere!” My father stared at me with an attentive and displeased look and chuckled. “You’re too nimble, I see!”

“Why too nimble?” I was indignant. “The money is just sitting there in the bank! Inflation is eating it up! In two years it’ll be nothing! Is that what we earned it for!?”

I was mentally exhausted, silent. I was also physically tired.

“All right, all right, take it easy. I hear you. It’s just that this is a big step and we need to think it over. And we will do it without your ‘hustle and bustle’ crap.”

“Dad, let’s do whatever it takes, as long as it works,” I muttered.

“Well, then it’s decided, we’ll do it,” my father summarized. “We need to pick a time and go check out the construction offices.”


On January 5, I packed a bag and went to the school gym, which I had abandoned years ago and traded it for cigarettes, alcohol, and clubs. The amount I paid for the month was equal to what I’d downed in one night at a club. “How cheap it is to stay healthy and how expensive it is to ruin it,” I thought to myself in the locker room.

I barely lasted an hour. The barbell, even with a small weight, was incredibly heavy. When I did the bench press, I immediately started breathing heavily, sweating, my heart pounding, and my joints aching. I could only do three pull-ups, sadly remembering the times in the army when I could easily do fifteen reps without any special training. Panting, I climbed onto the bench for the press; with difficulty and noisy breathing, I bent my body ten times and my abs cramped. My own weakness made me angry at myself, and I was determined to look out for myself.


“Fuck, my whole body is fucking sore!” I groaned on Monday, January 9, as soon as I arrived at work and sat down in my chair. “So much for going to the gym, Roma!”

“Have you been working out or what!?” Sergey tore himself away from his papers and stared at me in confusion.

“Yeah, I decided to become an athlete!” I chuckled. “I quit drinking and smoking after all!”

“I don’t even recognize you!” smiled Vera.

Without taking his eyes off me, Sergey put the papers aside, sat up straight in his chair, shook his head in agreement, and exhaled:

“Right, Roman, by summer he’ll get buff! He’ll be unrecognizable!”

“Oh, come on!” I waved him off. “If I just fix myself up, that would be good!”


“I think Senya and Kholodov are drunk!” said Vera, squinting at the office door.

Thursday, January 12 – the first working week of the new year was coming to an end. Sergey was drinking tea by the door, I was at the table. Vera said what I had suspected for several days.

“Of course they’re drunk!” Sergey said, putting the cup back on the shelf. “It’s the third day they’ve been like this. They must be freshening the nip after the holidays. Senya walks around with glassy eyes and shaking hands. And Kholodov can’t say a word, swaying, holding on to the walls!”

I leaned back in my chair and thought.

“Fuck! This sucks!” I said after a few seconds. “We have to do something, Seryoga!”

“Yeah…” he mumbled, sitting relaxed in his chair.

Soon we called them both into the office and began the “interrogation”. After a few moments of sluggish bickering, they confessed and began loudly promising it wouldn’t happen again.

I said that the first time would be a warning, and if it happened again, a fine of a thousand rubles. Senya was indignant, splashing his hands and rocking on his feet beside Kholodov. He just mumbled something, kept his mouth shut and held on to the wall.

“That’s it, it’s a deal!” I summarized. “From now on, you will come to work sober.”

Senya was about to object, but changed his mind and turned to leave. Kholodov began to stomp on the spot, turning around aimlessly and groping for the door handle. Senya found it first, turned it, opened the door, and pushed the drunken loader out into the hall. For another half hour, their room was abuzz with conversation. Then Senya’s head poked through the office door and said guiltily: “Well, we’re done, goodbye…”

“Goodbye, Senya!” Sergey shouted, just wagging an eyebrow in his direction.

“Aha…” The storekeeper was completely confused and disappeared through the door.

I glanced at my partner, who was sitting there, frowning, arms crossed over his chest, staring sternly out the window. Vera was typing, occasionally casting furtive glances from the monitor, then at me, then at her husband. Suddenly, the images of Senya and Kholodov – goofy forty-year-old fools – came to mind. A merry laugh escaped my lips.

“There’s nothing funny about it, really!” Sergey frowned even more, flaring his nostrils significantly, giving his gaze even more severity. “Such things cannot be forgiven!”

“And who forgives?” I was surprised.

“Well, you spoke of some warnings…” Sergey jerked his knee. “I would have demanded the money right away, that’s all!”

“Seryoga, you can’t do that – right away! You should first announce the punishment and then administer it. A person should know in advance, not after the fact. Otherwise, instead of taking one thousand, you might take five at once! So as not to be petty… No, you can’t do that, people might leave.”

My partner was silent for a while, chewing his lip, jerking his knee, looking at me confusedly, and finally said: “Well, I don’t know! I would have fined them immediately!”


The following Monday, the storekeeper and the loader were tipsy again. As a result, Petya left with the goods in the back, loaded any old how.

“Roma!” he shouted as soon as he started unloading at the customer’s. “What should I do? It’s all fucked up! It’s not what’s on the waybill, and some of the boxes aren’t even here!”

“Petya, unload it as it is, tell them we’ll deliver the missing tomorrow. Take the excess back to the warehouse, don’t unload it, got it?” After gathering my thoughts, I decided.

“Got it, Roma! All right, bye!” he disconnected.

I put the phone on the table and looked at Sergey and Vera.

“We need to go to the warehouse,” I said after a pause, rising from my chair.

“They seem to be drinking somewhere in the warehouse,” Vera said.

“Yes, where else would they be drinking? Not here… under our very noses!” Sergey said.

“Let’s go! Let’s raid the warehouse! We have to find a stash!” I said, putting on my jacket.

Sergey got up next, put on his parka, and we went outside.

“Jerks!” Sergey said, pulling the hood over his head.

Our visit caused a commotion. Senya fidgeted and ran around the corners of the warehouse, eyes clouded. Kholodov, swaying, began to pretend to be busy.

“Senya, tell me, did you drink today or not?” I said as soon as I entered the warehouse.

He stammered on the spot, sniffed his nose and wiped it with his sleeve.

“Senya, why are you silent?” Sergey added.

“Seryozha, well… what can I say…” the storekeeper mumbled, hanging his head.

“Where did you drink, Senya? There, in your quarters, or here in the warehouse?” I continued.

“There, in the room! We had some… but it won’t happen again, Roma!”

“Of course it won’t!” Sergey said, standing in the middle of the warehouse with an annoyed look on his face.

“Seryozha, seriously…” Senya bowed his head guiltily. “This is the last time…”

I looked at Kholodov. I had a strong feeling that he was the one who had started the boozing. Senya had already proven himself to be a disciplined, intelligent and diligent worker. Kholodov, on the other hand, had a demoralizing effect on him.

“Senya, you can drink, we’ll just charge you a grand each and that’s it!” I said ruthlessly.

“Roma, I mean, maybe you shouldn’t, eh?” the storekeeper replied in a hushed voice.

“We should, Senya, we should!” Sergey said, walking up and down the aisles. “Where do you keep the vodka?”

“Seryozha, there is no vodka!” Senya perked up. “We’ve already… I mean… drunk it all…”

Sergey continued to walk around the warehouse, peering into various corners and sniffing. Kholodov stood still. Senya shifted his feet nervously. Sergey returned to the warehouse gate and walked to the left along the first row of pallets. He reached the end of the aisle, looked into the gap between the wall and the pillar of boxes, stuck his hand in and pulled out a half-full bottle of vodka.

“Senya, it’s a fine!” I said angrily, seething inside at the deception. “Let’s go, Seryoga!”

We poured the vodka into the snow and went to the office.

“Vera, write it down – to take a thousand from each of these…” I said, taking off my jacket.

“What, they were drinking after all, weren’t they?” she said, pulling the notebook from the table and making a note.

“We found vodka in the warehouse! They stashed the bottle on the wall behind the pallet!” Sergey said, shivering, and sat down in the chair by the door, crossing his arms over his chest and sniffing his nose. “Jerks!”


For the rest of the month, both workers were defiantly sober.

“They’re going to get off the wagon eventually anyway,” I said a week later.

“You think?” Vera looked at me.

“What is there to think about, Vera? The holidays are coming up, February 23rd, March 8th, they’ll be drunk, and then they’ll cool coppers here. I think it’s Kholodov. He’s a fucking influence on Senya. I think we should fire him.”

“Well, we fire Kholodov and Senya will work alone, is that it?” Sergey looked at me with a kind of frightened confusion.

“Why alone?” I was surprised. “We’ll advertise, find a replacement.”

“We have to find a replacement first, and then kick him out,” Sergey said.

“Why? Why leave this Kholod? So that he and Senya can get drunk again?”

“Then we must find a replacement quickly, so that Senya doesn’t have to carry the goods alone for long.”

“Seryoga, if there’s trouble, we’ll go and help Senya, what’s the big deal?”

He hesitated and said through his thoughts: “Well… I’d hate to… after all, we’re paying him for his work, but it turns out that we’re doing it for him!”

“Seryoga!” I looked at my partner reproachfully. “We won’t break down! If necessary, we’ll help!”

“Roman just wants to work!” Sergey snorted unhappily, looked at no one, rested his elbows on the armrests of his chair, locked his fingers and stared at the floor.


“Hello!!” I shouted through the closed window of the “Mazda”, nodding vigorously, catching the moment when the bespectacled janitor standing at the gatehouse looked into the car. She was smoking with her head uncovered, wrapped in a quilted jacket and holding a cigarette pretentiously with two fingers in her hand. Without answering the greeting, the janitor looked away.

Sergey and I left the factory.

“Fuck!” I swore, not wanting to hold back. “Why the fuck doesn’t she say hello!!? I almost broke my neck yelling hello!!! What the fuck does she need!!!?? Should I jump out of the car and dance for her and bow!!???”

“Roman!” Sergey laughed quietly, but clearly amused. “You got all worked up over a stupid woman! Come on! Do you need it?”

“Damn it, Seryoga!!! What the fuck, I ask you!!??” I just kept bubbling up inside. “I want to go out and punch her in the fucking face and say, “Why the fuck are you turning up your nose at me, bitch!!??”

Seryoga grinned and shook his head, laughing.

“Romych, what do you want from her? Look at her – she’s forty years old, no husband, no kids, sits in that stinking booth all day, and you want her to greet you? You’re thirty years old, you have your own company and your whole life ahead of you! And all she’s got is this booth…”

“I’m twenty-eight!” I said cheerfully, realizing that Sergey’s words were true and cooling down.

“Well, all the more so,” my partner smiled and looked at me, catching the change of heart.

I was silent for a few seconds, but finally I couldn’t help myself and screamed one last time:

“Fucking cunt!”

Sergey burst out laughing, stopped, looked at me, looked back at the road and said:

“They all are, Romych…”

The car climbed out of the snow onto the asphalt and accelerated.


Vovka was completely drowned in his courtship of Lera, and I even stopped calling him to drag him to the club, which I only went to on Saturdays and sometimes Fridays. My routine was different. Work during the day, gym in the evening every other day. On the last Saturday in January, I was lazily hanging out between the bar and the dance floor with a glass of whiskey and coke, when suddenly the blonde girl stood next to me. It was like an electric shock, I froze and watched her out of the corner of my eye. She was having a lively conversation with the pimply Polinka.

“Hi!” I approached both of them. “Hi, Polina!”

“Hiii!” The blonde broke into a smile, flashed at me, and lightly touched my elbow with her hand. “You’re here too?”

“Yeah, I thought I’d stop by,” I nodded, “It’s boring at home, but it’s more fun here. Did you just get here?”

“Yeah, I’m here to see Polinka! I left my key at her place, can you believe it?” said the blonde without coquetry and affectation, which made me like her immediately.

“What do you mean, what key?” I said, looking at Polinka.

“We live together,” she explained. “We rent an apartment, and Natashka left her key at my place!”

“Aha! I see!” I said. “So, you are Natasha? Nice to meet you! I’m Roma!”

The girl smiled again and held out her hand. I shook it gently, feeling the relaxing softness of her fingers and the warmth of her palm.

“Now we get to know each other better!” Natasha burst out with feminine interest.

“Did you know that Ritka doesn’t work here anymore?” Polinka’s voice came from the left.

“No, I didn’t,” I shrugged. “Why? Did she quit?”

“I thought you knew!” Polinka stressed the “you” part.

“Why should I know!?” I hastily interrupted her.

“Yes, she quit! She went to the guy she was having an affair with when you were dating her,” Polinka smiled pretentiously, revealing her nicotine-stained teeth.

“I wasn’t with her then, Polina!” I retorted, angry at the inappropriateness of what she had said. “Rita and I had a fight just before she left.”

“Oh man, never mind!” she splashed her hands. “Anyway, she went to see her fiancé…”

“Well…” I smiled and looked at Natasha, “Let’s wish Rita happiness and love!”

Polinka became apathetic.

“How long are you staying here tonight?” I turned to Natasha.

“I don’t know!” she said with a smile. “An hour, I think. Now that I’m here!”

Natasha waved her hands and smacked her thighs merrily.

“Then I’ll come over a little later, okay?”

“Of course!” Natasha replied, and with a flick of her hand she whipped up a mop of hair on her head. “I’ll be bored here without you! So come over!”

I stepped aside.

“I’ll be bored here without you,” I repeated in my head.

I waited until Polinka was busy with her work, and then I approached Natasha again.

So we started to see each other.


The “Epiphany frosts” were not cold at all, the temperature in the last decade of January dropped to eighteen degrees below zero and then returned to the usual ten degrees. February began. In the middle of the month we brought a large load of toilet water to the warehouse for the holidays. After unloading it, Kholodov was fired.


On the morning of February 22, I called Sergey and told him that I was going to be late and would come to work after stopping at a place on a personal matter. He replied immediately, saying that I could take my time, he and Vera would take care of things, and then added that I might not go to work at all because it was a day before the holiday, so it was a short day.

“Petya has only one run. We’ll load him up and go home early! What’s the point of driving an hour here when the workday is about to end?” he added.

I agreed and congratulated Sergey on the upcoming holiday.

“Thank you, Romych,” he replied cheerfully. “Happy holiday to you too! I wasn’t in the service, aha…. But you’re a real soldier… Vera here also congratulates you! She wishes you… aha.”

We said goodbye and I started to pull on my jeans.

“Aren’t you going to work?” my father appeared in the doorway of the room.

“No, Dad, I’m not… I’m going – I’m going to the construction company, about the apartment…”

“Well, all right, yes… Then you’ll come back and tell me what’s what… ahem…”

Half an hour later, I was standing in the middle of the construction company’s office, looking around.

“Hello, are you here to see me?” A petite woman with high stiletto heels walked briskly past me, entered the office behind a glass partition, and slid into an armchair.

“I guess…” I shrugged and followed her into the office. “It’s about the apartment.”

“That’s right!” She said, introducing herself as the business manager.

The construction company was relatively new on the market and therefore offered favorable conditions to buyers: an initial deposit of thirty percent, fixing the price per square meter until the first price increase and its subsequent increase by only two percent per month, regardless of the size of the price increase. In fact, the price of a square meter of housing increased regularly, and the clause in the contract regarding the fixed indexation of the price increase was a kind of protection against price increases. The buyer was free to pay the remaining amount under the contract in any installments until the end of the construction of the house.

Of the two houses under construction, one by the market and one by the forest, I was interested in the one by the forest. It was to be completed by the end of the seventh year. The smallest one-room apartment of 44 square meters cost 616 thousand, a “two-room” of 61 meters 854 thousand. “The money is just enough for a one-room apartment, I can buy it, and then I’ll pay off my father,” thoughts began to run feverishly in my head, “will I really have my own apartment? So unusual and… and most importantly, it’s real! Here it is, just hold out your hand! Unusual.”

My heart was pounding and I couldn’t organize my thoughts.

“Well, what have you decided? Which one did you choose? One-room, two-room?” the woman’s voice brought me back to reality. I said that the terms of the contract were clear, but I needed time to think.

“Yes, of course! Think! Discuss!” she agreed. “And come! But don’t delay, or we don’t know when the price of apartments will go up again!”

When I got home, I told my father everything.

“Well, ahem…” he said, made himself some coffee, stirred the sugar with a spoon, took it out, licked it, and carefully placed it on the table. This action showed all the quintessence of my father’s pedantry. I smiled; such thoroughness seemed excessive and therefore irritating. My father placed the cup on the table in the same measured manner, sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, tsked, and finally continued:

“Yes, their conditions are clear. But we need to visit or call a few more organizations, better visit, and then see from whom it is more profitable to buy an apartment…”

“Dad, of course!” I said, pacing the kitchen excitedly. “I think we should go to one or two of the biggest companies. See if they have deferments. The others, I have already checked, the conditions are worse – full payment in advance or half now and the rest later and without fixing the price! Then it’s only enough for one room!”

“Well, let’s buy you a one-room apartment. Fix it up, move in and live.”

“With conditions like those in this office, we could sign a contract for two rooms!” I parried. “I would pay for a two-room apartment with everything we have, and gradually bring the rest from the company’s earnings… the price is fixed! It’s very convenient and favorable!”

“Now! Take it easy!” my father urged me. “I see you’re ready to take the money! It’s not a little money! We’ve been earning it for six years! Not for you to just blow it all in one day!”

“Dad, what do you mean, blow it?” I was surprised. “I’m not going to take it and sneak it away from you somewhere, am I? You and I are sitting here discussing this!”

“Discuss then!” My father shook his foot in his slipper. “And don’t be in a hurry… Or we’ll take the money without thinking, and the house won’t be built, and then we’ll end up looking at the bricks! There are a lot of them now! They start to build and then abandon it, and then people are left without a home…”

“Dad, I understand!” I seethed inside, overcoming my father’s barriers of caution and doubt. “We’ll look at everything, think it over, and make a decision together!”

“That’s what we’ll do!” my father nodded. “And don’t make a fuss…”

“Okay, Dad, okay…” I nodded in relief, exhausted from the bickering.


“Did you do all your business there?” Sergey asked suddenly, taking his eyes off the sheet with the rest of the goods in “Fort”. The calendar read Friday, February 24th.

“Yes, everything is fine!” I nodded and crossed my legs like my partner usually did.

“Vera, why one sheet!?” Sergey said confusedly, twirling the sheet in his hands and staring unhappily at his wife. “Where is the second one? Didn’t you print it!?”

“Seryozha,” Vera looked at her husband calmly, moved forward and reached for the pile of papers under his elbows. “There were two, open your eyes…”

She deftly pulled the missing sheet out of the others with her fingers and handed it to Sergey.

“Oh, yes! Thank you, Verok!” He said fidgeting and staring at the sheet he had received, and after a few seconds he said to me, “So, where did you go?”

“It’s about an apartment…” I said.

“What apartment???” Sergey frowned playfully and looked at me intently.

“I just had an idea – to buy an apartment… My father and I have some money left over, well, from the time when we worked together… so I thought, why let it lie idle, we’d better buy an apartment! We don’t need it here and my father doesn’t need it. And apartments are getting more and more expensive…”

Sergey froze, looked at me thoughtfully for a few seconds, then came to life, perked up as if he’d shaken off his stupor, turned his head toward his wife and said emotionally:

“Verok, Roman is going to buy an apartment!”

“Well, he’s doing the right thing,” she shrugged. “Why should money just sit around in a bank somewhere? They are in a bank, aren’t they?”

Vera looked at me with that last sentence, and I nodded.

“There you go! And since that’s the case, I think Romka is doing the right thing…” said Vera.

“Well, in the bank you can get interest, after all – something will accumulate…” Sergey parried, obviously interested in the topic.

“Seryoga, that’s a ridiculous interest!” I snorted. “How much is it… fifteen?”

“Less!” Vera waved away.

“All the more!” I shifted my gaze from her to Sergey and spread my hands. “No point!”

“Well, and Anatoly Vasilievich…” he began a new thought. “Why doesn’t he want to take this money and go into business?”

“I don’t know…” I shrugged. “I haven’t really talked to him about it. He makes some money driving… And I think he’s going to make some money with cleaning products for companies…”

“With these?” Sergey cackled.

“Well, yes, with them…” I smiled, feeling a pang of discomfort at my partner’s words. He looked at me for a moment, wanting to say something, but the phone rang.

“Yes, I’m listening!” Vera replied, picking up the phone from the fax machine.

Senya from “Mercury” called. After a short conversation with him, Vera pressed the button and the fax machine printed the sheets with the next order.

“Vera, can you do it yourself or do I have to dictate it to you?” Sergey said irritably and reluctantly when the fax transmission was over.

“I’ll manage…” Vera said and held out her hand.

Sergey carelessly threw the sheets on her desk, leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms over his chest, turned to me and said:

“So, Romych, what kind of apartment do you want – a two-room or a one-room?”

“Seryoga, I don’t know yet…” I shrugged.

“How much money do you have? You could even buy a three-room apartment, I don’t know!”

“It’s not much money, six hundred thousand… Just enough for a one-room, they cost about that much in co-funded construction…”

“Have you decided to join the co-funded construction!?” my partner frowned.

“I don’t have enough to buy even a one-room apartment, Seryoga!” I waved my hands. “The finished apartments cost seven hundred or eight hundred thousand… So it’s either this or nothing!”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“Seryoga, it’s not a matter of ‘afraid’ or ‘not afraid’, I just need to choose the right construction company. A lot of people build apartments like this and it’s okay… Yes, it happens, construction stops and people lose money, but it’s usually some crooks or small companies who build one house any old how. I’m still thinking! But I like this option because there is a chance to buy an apartment! When else will I get that kind of money? If the money is in circulation, it will not be withdrawn immediately, it will take a year to collect it… Besides, apartment prices are going up! How much did you get yours for? How much was a meter?”

“I don’t remember, it was… what year, Verok, two thousand and what?” Sergey looked at his wife. She answered immediately: “Two thousand, Seryozha! We moved in in October!”

Vera looked at me, smiled at the memory, and added:

“Imagine, we moved into the bare walls! There was nothing at all! We slept on a mattress on the floor, not even dishes! The first day we woke up, I ran to the neighbors to get a pot to at least boil some eggs! We had nothing of our own!”

Vera’s eyes flashed with a memory. She brightened with a smile and looked at her husband.

“Yes, Verok went to ask for a pot!” he nodded. “We slept on the floor for the first year, didn’t we, Verok? Then we bought our own furniture, made repairs… I remember they brought us a kitchen… We ordered a good, expensive one, forty thousand back then, can you believe it?”

“Wow!” I was surprised. “So expensive!”

“Yeees, I made a good repair!” my partner exclaimed contentedly, leaning back more and stretching out in his chair, staring faintly at a vague point.

“Our eyes used to sparkle,” Vera said, looking at her husband, leaning back in her chair, crossing her arms like Sergey and smiling. “And now they don’t…”

“Vera, how long can they sparkle?” He fidgeted, sighed tiredly and looked at me. “Romych, you should visit us sometime…”

“Yes, by the way, come and visit us,” Vera supported. “You haven’t been to our house yet, so come! You’ll see how we live! You’ll see our nestlings! Lilka is already big, and Lyonka is also growing up…”

“That’s great! You already have two! How old are they?” I said and felt a pang of envy. Envy of such a wonderful quiet family life that Sergey and Vera had. They lived, having already found their sheltered, cozy cove. I was still wandering on the waves of relationships on my own ship, rushing from one extreme to the other.

“Lilka is four, she’ll be five this summer in August!” said Vera. “And Lyonka is only one year old, well, one and a half already, he just started walking, he’ll be two in June…”

“When did he start walking?” I was curious.

“Just recently, I don’t know…” Vera said, hesitating and starting to curl her fingers. “In the fall… Now he is one year and eight… That is, a year and three – a year and four.”

“It’s a little late…” I said, digging into my meager knowledge of children. “Kids usually start walking around nine months, I think…”

“No, Verok!” Sergey objected immediately. “Lyonka started walking earlier! He walked in the summer, remember?”

“When, Seryozha!?” she was genuinely surprised. “Lyonka didn’t walk in the summer…”

“He did!” Sergey waved his hand, a gesture that doesn’t tolerate objections. “Remember, I took him by the hands at the dacha!?”

“Seryozha, that doesn’t count!” Vera continued. “You just took him by the hands, and he just dangled with his legs a few meters in the air, touching the ground… and that’s it… He couldn’t walk. He could barely walk across the couch in the summer, remember?”

“Vera, don’t say if you don’t remember!” Sergey retorted. “That’s it!”

Vera froze in a daze. There was a pause. The office phone rang.

The conversation, which had drifted away from the discussion about the purchase of an apartment to the children, was interrupted after the phone call, and we switched to work.

“If I were you, I’d rather sign up for a two-room!” Sergey said an hour later.

“You think?” I said, mentally leaning towards that option for a long time.

“Really, Romych!” Sergey got up from the table, put the kettle on, and it made a lazy noise. “See for yourself…” Sergey took a ruler from the table and began to juggle with it. “… You take your six hundred thousand, sign for a two-room apartment and have it built! When is the completion date?”

“End of 2007,” I said.

“Another year and a half…” Sergey waved his ruler.

“It’s not even that long!” Vera interjected. “A year and a half will fly by before you know it!”

“Yes, right…” Sergey said. “A two-room apartment is worth about nine hundred thousand there, right?”

“Eight hundred and fifty,” I nodded.

“Even better!” Sergey started to turn the ruler in his hands. “You’ll only have to pay two hundred and fifty thousand for the apartment in two years, and that’s it… We’ll work, you’ll take money from the company and bring it to the apartment…”

The kettle bubbled, strained, and turned off. I poured the boiling water into three cups.

“Actually, you’re right…” I said. “I thought so from the beginning, I just need to consult with my father… half of his money is there, you know…”

“Come on!” Sergey hummed, threw the ruler back on the table and sat down in a chair with a cup of tea. “What kind of father doesn’t give his son money for an apartment? You build it, then give it to him, and that’s it! If he demands…”

“Come on!?” Vera stared at her husband in surprise. “Why should Anatoly Vasilievich demand the money back? He won’t! Everyone around builds apartments for their children themselves, or helps them if they earn good money! I don’t remember anyone lending money to their children! I’m sorry, this is nonsense…”

“Verok, you’re right,” Sergey sipped from his cup. “People are just different! We don’t know what kind of relationship Romka has with his father! Anatoly Vasilievich is a complicated man… It’s not easy to get along with him…”

“Yes, that’s also true…” Vera froze, thought for a second, looked at me and waved her hand. “Oh! They’ll figure it out themselves! Why are we interfering, right, Roma?”

“We will, Vera, we will…” I nodded and grinned.


The next day, my father and I went to the office of one of the biggest construction companies in town. But after getting stuck in a terrible traffic jam for a couple of hours, we turned around and went back. The conditions for buying apartments with this company were the worst – full payment in advance and a higher price per square meter. I found that out on the phone.

“Listen, Dad…” I said as soon as we got home. “I don’t see the point of going to other construction companies… All the big ones charge high prices. It makes sense to buy only from a company that is well established, but not big enough to dictate prices. Such a company deliberately keeps its prices lower than those of its competitors, otherwise it will not develop. And if it does develop, it will be the same… But as long as their conditions are good. I’m talking about the one I went to… And the house is brick… I think we should go to them…”

We were sitting in the kitchen drinking tea. My father was silent.

“What do you think, Dad?”

My father tore his absent gaze from one point, looked at me and said:

“Yes, let’s go! There’s really nowhere else to go, and we have to buy an apartment. You’re not going to live with us all your life. It’s time for you to separate… Yes! Let’s go, let’s go! When do you want to go there? How much money do you need for a down payment?”

“Thirty percent is enough… Should we buy a two-room or a one-room?” Remembering the unresolved moment, I added, “I think we should sign up for a two-room! Take six hundred thousand, and I’ll pay the rest myself from my earnings!”

“You’re so fast! Take six hundred thousand! It won’t take long!” My father looked at me unhappily. “We’ll take as much as we need for the first payment! The rest later…”

“Why keep it?” I said, but immediately realizing that I was getting back into the maze of empty verbal bickering, I hastily agreed. “Fine, let’s do it your way!”

“That’s more like it!” My father was pleased. “You’re always ready to take it away! I see there are many of you, takers! You and your mother! You just want to take things out of the house! You’ll learn to carry things into the house before you take them out! Smart asses…”

My mother immediately flew into the kitchen. It was as if she had been standing around the corner, waiting for a sentence or a word or half a word to argue with. She started screaming all at once, like she’d gone crazy:

“What – mother!!!? What have I taken out? I’ve done nothing but work all my life!!!! What haven’t I earned!!!? Half of this place was bought with my money!!!! The refrigerator was bought with my money!!! I bought the closet!!! I also gave you money for the washing machine!!!! You never would have bought it! You stinking miser! All your life you’ve been counting every kopeck! You never gave me anything! If I hadn’t given you the money for the washing machine, I would have done the washing with my hands. My hands hurt at night from doing laundry. Washing your stinking underwear and socks at night!!! You ungrateful bastard!!!”

My mother was standing in the middle of the kitchen, screaming. Lately I’ve only seen her like this. My mother would explode at every opportunity and scream uncontrollably at my father and me for a few minutes. After venting her anger and hatred, she would go to her room and after a while, the same day or the next day, it would happen again. And again. I understood that my mother had a critical condition where she could not control her emotions. The other thing that bothered me was that this condition had been going on for several years and was only getting worse.

My mother was never gentle. She could always insult me, call me rude names. Since I was a child, from the moment I started to remember myself, I had heard all sorts of things in my address. Sheep, idiot, bastard – these were the most common names my mother used to call me. And my father, too. He gave up trying to moderate my mother’s rudeness and got used to it. I couldn’t get used to it. Every time some insult went unanswered and spoiled my mood for a long time. And the most unpleasant thing was that every time my mother scolded me, my negative feelings towards her grew like a snowball. I knew that the moment was near when I would begin to hate my mother.

“And you’re growing up to be the same kind of bastard!!!” My mother gave me an angry look. “Daddy’s little boy!!! Running after your daddy!!! Licking his ass!!! Fucking monkey boy!!! You’re both assholes! You’re not men, you’re just… wusses!!! That’s it, I rest my case!!!”

My mother began to calm down, tired, exhausted.

“That’s it! I’m not going to work for you anymore!!! Do you like living like this? Go ahead! Do your own laundry! Cook your own food! That’s enough! I’ve cooked enough, I’ve done enough laundry! So much that my hands hurt! I’ve washed with my hands in cold water all my life! I washed so hard that they hurt at night from the cold water, and they still do! And you…”

My mother’s face trembled. The features broke and lost their shape in an instant. I knew what would happen next. I had seen it many times before. My mother wept and, unable to hold back the tears, sobbed uncontrollably.

“You!!!” she shouted. “You especially!!!” my mother jabbed her finger in my father’s direction and immediately moved it to me. “You too!!! Both of you!!! Ahhh! You ungrateful bastards, that’s what you are! Ahhh! Ah-hhh…”

“Mom, come on!” I could barely say, pinned to the chair by her words.

My mother wailed, waved us off, and ran out of the kitchen. The door to her room slammed loudly. There was a heavy silence in the apartment.

“Oh dear…” I said, looking at my father. He shook his head, got up, grabbed his cigarettes and lighter, threw on his jacket in the hallway, and went out on the balcony to smoke.

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