Chapter 033

At the very end of February, I signed a contract to participate in the construction of a two-room apartment of 60 square meters. I went with my father to formalize the deal. We were met by the same woman – the business manager. She opened the brochure of the building on the table in front of us, and I chose an apartment on the third floor.

“For whom do we make the contract?” the woman said, choosing between us with her eyes.

“For whom?” I looked at my father, confused.

“Do it in your name,” my father said, tweaking the corner of his mouth and turning away.

“For me,” I said.

After signing, we went to the bank, withdrew the advance payment – three hundred and eight thousand rubles – and brought it to the construction company’s cash desk. It was only after I left the office and went to the “GAZelle” that I realized that something important was happening in my life – the dream of my own place, which seemed impossible two years ago, was coming true! At the realization of this fact, I was shaken with excitement and euphoria. “My own apartment! A miracle! But how? How did we get this far?” I still did not believe in what was happening, mentally looked back – me and my father in an empty wholesale vegetable depot, my father gives two thousand rubles for the rent of the warehouse in advance for one month, we are left without money and start a risky beer business. Brrr! I shuddered at the memory. Would I do it again? I’m not sure! How much faith or excitement or even sheer stupidity did it take to pull this off? I realized that my father and I had performed a small miracle. Well done! I was not ashamed, mentally repeating to myself, “Well done!” and looked at my father. He was driving the car home with a poker face.

“Dad, this is great, right? Check it out! We bought an apartment!” I exclaimed. “Cool, huh?!”

“Well, let’s just say we haven’t bought it yet…” he met my euphoria with coldness.

I faltered. My emotions, as if I had stumbled over a rock and spread out, subsided.

“Dad, where do I put the contract?” I said at home, holding the folder with the documents in my hands.

“Put it anywhere. These are your documents! You decide where to put them.”

I turned the folder in my hands, put it in my desk drawer, and walked out the door.

“Have you done all your things?” Sergey said as soon as I entered the office.

“Yes! Everything is fine!” I nodded and fell shivering into the chair by the door.

“Well!” Sergey jerked his knee. “Tell me! You bought an apartment?”

I nodded vigorously and, unable to contain myself, broke into a smile.

“The one with two rooms?” Sergey clarified, smiling back at me.

I continued nodding with the look and state of a happy idiot.

“Roman rocks!” Sergey said, looking at his wife. “He bought an apartment!”

“So what?” said Vera. “You bought yours a long time ago! Romka bought one too!”

Vera looked at me warmly and said:

“Congratulations, Roma! Now you can get married with a clear conscience…”

“No, now he might as well not get married!” Sergey cackled, got up from the table, walked over to me and held out his hand. “Well done, Romych, congratulations!”

“Thank you, Seryoga,” I shook his hand, and all three of us plunged into our work.

It was almost noon, and Sergey and I went to the village to get something to eat.

“How many meters did you buy?” Sergey asked as soon as we left the factory. “How much did you pay?”

I told him everything as it was.

“Why didn’t you take all the money at once?” my partner was surprised.

“I don’t know, I offered my father to take it all at once, he didn’t want to…” I shrugged and became indignant. “I don’t understand, why keep it in the bank, dead weight! But basically, it is not very important now, even if there will be some price increase on meters, the rest of the apartment will only increase in price by two percent…”

“Well, two percent…” Sergey began to chew his lip, calculating in his head. “You took three hundred, and you had three hundred left, and two percent of three hundred is six thousand!”

“Well, yeah,” I nodded. “It’s not that much money after all…”

“What are you saying? It’s still money! Six thousand here, six thousand there – you can waste a lot of money that way! Little by little, a little becomes a lot, you know!”

“Seryoga,” I sighed, as if mentally squeezed between two walls – my father with his caution and my partner with his frugality, “I understand everything, but why are you teaching me? If it had been up to me, I would have taken the whole sum at once! I’ll ask my father at the end of the month to bring the rest of the money to the apartment…”

We passed the intersection in silence. The fat old woman, with a down scarf wrapped around her head, fur coat and felt boots, holding a yellow flag in her hand, looked at our car and walked dejectedly to the duty house.

“You bought a nice apartment…” my partner said as soon as the “Mazda” left the dirt road and hit the pavement. “My parents have a four-room apartment like this…”

“Wow! You have a four-room apartment!” I was surprised.

“Yes, when my father got it while he was still in the army, two families lived there – ours and another one,” Sergey nodded. “But when Romka was born, the apartment was left to us.”

“Cool,” I nodded.

“As for mine… I can’t remember exactly, but it’s even bigger than yours… sixty-eight or seventy-one… Seventy-one, I think!”

“A big one!” I nodded again.

“Yes!” Sergey smiled contentedly. “I have a whole penthouse there! The top floor! The view of the reservoir is amazing! And I have a big attic on top! I could even make some rooms there if I wanted to! I keep things there! Come visit me sometime, Romych, take a look!”

“Damn, Seryoga, you did well, you managed to buy an apartment at those ridiculous prices!” I said respectfully. “I remember, my friend just bought an apartment in the year ninety-nine or two thousand, so one meter then cost something like four and a half thousand, you know! He paid half of it off and the price jumped to nine grand. Can you believe that? That’s twice as much! He also bought a two-room apartment, but it was a panel house…”

“I’ve got the same one, paneled too!” Sergey said, parking the car at the market in the center of the village. “Only I had the whole sum…”

“Wow! You had the whole sum at once! Cool! I thought you also participated in the shared construction…” I said, getting out of the car and stretching.

The weather was beautiful – clear, just below zero. The bright sun was already warming.

“No, I had some money, but not enough for a two-room apartment!” Sergey explained, stepping out from his side of the car. “I only had enough for a one-room…”

The “Mazda” honked its alarm, we crossed the street to a fast-food kiosk.

“Davidych gave me money…” Sergey continued.

“What do you want?” I glanced at him, looking over the kiosk window.

We ordered food for us and Vera.

“Let’s have some coffee here too! The weather is great!” I suggested taking a table outside. “We’ll still have time to get to the office… Petya won’t be back for an hour anyway.”

“And two coffees with cream!” Sergey called through the kiosk window and came over to me. “And Davidych helped me then – he lent me money, and I bought a two-room apartment…”

Squinting contentedly at the brightness of the sun, I looked at Sergey.

“Otherwise I could only buy a one-room apartment! Got it?” he added.

“Got it, got it!” I replied, copying the intonation, looking up and noticing that the sky had already become spring – an invisible transition had been made, winter was over. It ended so pleasantly for me – with the purchase of an apartment. Spring was coming. “Every day will get warmer, and then it will be summer!” I thought, feeling within myself the awakening of a new life.

“Listen, Davidych is a nice guy!” I thought. “You’re lucky to have him! So the owner gave the employee half of the money for the apartment so easily…”

“Well, not half, but less!” Sergey interrupted. “And not gave, but lent…”

“Well, I understand that he lent it to you, that’s good!”

“Not really!” Sergey snapped rudely, his features hardening slightly. “I paid this debt to Davidych from my salary for a whole year…”

My partner’s features softened, and he added, almost conspiratorially, lowering his voice: “It’s true, though, that he raised my salary from fifteen to forty thousand so that I could pay him for the apartment. He increased my percentage of sales. But he did it quietly, the others didn’t know. I went to Davidych separately for bonuses.”

Sergey moved his hands under the table and counted invisible bills.

“Wow, it’s like he gave you this money as a gift! Awesome, first he lent you the money, and then he raised your salary! I wish someone would lend me money like that!” I hummed.

“Your order!” a woman shouted from the kiosk window, holding out a package of food.

We started drinking coffee. After we finished our drinks, we ducked into the “Mazda”, still talking about the same subject. The sun was warming up the cabin and I didn’t want to get out. Until summer for sure.

“Why did you take the paneled one?” I blurted out as soon as we turned around.

“What’s the difference?” Sergey said, putting on his sunglasses.

“The panel houses have a flaw – they have a lifespan of forty years according to the standards! Come to think of it! And brick and monolithic brick – from one hundred to three hundred,” I said.

“That’s a lot of nonsense!” Sergey muttered. “All houses are the same, there’s no difference!”

We went to the office.

“I’m telling you! I just found out! The panels last forty years and then the house is declared dangerous! Look at the panel buildings in my neighborhood, the ones that are twenty-five years old, they’re fucked up. In fifteen years, they’ll be dead for sure! And most of all, I don’t understand how the price of a paneled apartment is the same or higher than the price of companies that build in brick or monolithic brick!”

I told Sergey everything I’d learned about prices in the city before I bought the apartment.

“Well, maybe now!” He replied after a moment’s thought. “When I bought, the prices were okay! And what kind of building did you buy an apartment in, a brick one?”

“Yes, a brick one!” I nodded. “I was specifically looking for one like that…”

We passed the church in silence and drove down.

“The only thing that matters is that the house is built…” Sergey said. “Have you even seen the house?”

He looked at me through his glasses, which were as colorful as an insect’s eyes, cackled, satisfied with what he had said, and added, “Have they even started building it?”

“They have, yes, I’ve seen it,” I muttered, “they’ve already built four floors…”

“And how many floors is the house?”



“Hello there!” My father walked into the office holding a folder on the last day of winter.

The atmosphere in the room immediately became tense. I could almost physically feel how Sergey and Vera had controlled their actions and emotions. Since the day my father had returned to our business and taken over the products for the companies, our relations with him had improved a little. But with Sergey, he continued to communicate sparingly and received the same in return. My father was like a fifth wheel in the cart – it is a pity to throw it away, and why it is needed – it is not clear. My father rarely visited us, five times in the winter. I understood very well that Sergey tolerated these visits only because of me. When my father came, he stamped his feet at the door. I felt sorry for him, so I got up.

“Dad, sit down, would you like some tea?” I said.

My father was pleased and sat down in the chair by the door. I put the kettle on and leaned my back against the wall on the other side of the door – the only place I could stand without disturbing anyone.

My father began to talk at length about how he had gone to various companies with a business proposal and whom he had talked to. To be honest, everyone listened to him half-heartedly. Sergey, occasionally glancing at my father, picked at the papers on the table, nervously chewed his lip, wrinkled his nose. Vera, with her usual composure, leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms on her chest, and listened with obvious interest. I, who knew her well enough, understood that such behavior only meant innate tact.

And then I suddenly noticed a peculiarity of my father’s character – he could not communicate with people. I used to think the opposite. But now I realized what this inability was – my father didn’t talk, he broadcast! He wasn’t interested in the reaction of the listener. The person could get bored, lose interest in the subject, get tired of listening – anything! The problem was that my father didn’t notice. He didn’t think about the listener. My father could go on for hours about anything. The only decent way to interrupt my father’s endless monologue was to say there was something urgent going on and to run away under that pretext. But if the “running away” was not fast enough, my father could follow and continue droning on. Did he become tedious as he got older, or was he always like that? I don’t know.

I was tired of standing. My father took a few sips and held the cup of tea in his hands as if to warm them. I realized that the tea was probably almost cold and would never be finished.

“Dad!” I interrupted my father. “When did you say they were going to make an order?”

My father stopped and clapped his eyes.

“Well, when we invoice them, so they will pay!” he said in surprise.

“Listen, then let them give us their details, we’ll make a contract, invoice them, they’ll pay, and we’ll ship them the goods, okay?” I continued calmly leading the conversation to its conclusion.

My father was taken aback. He blinked in confusion, took a sip from his cup, thought for a few seconds, and then said: “Well, yes… what else could it be?”

“That’s it! It’s a deal!” I perked up and walked to the middle of the room, signaling the end of the conversation. “Then bring their details and we’ll make it quick! Right, Seryoga!?”

I looked at my partner. Having understood everything, he sighed gratefully, stopped fiddling with the papers and said: “Yes, we’ll do everything, of course! Anatoly Vasilievich will bring the details, Verok will print the contract, the invoice, and we’ll send these… what’s-their-name…”

My father looked between Sergey and me in confusion.

“That’s it, Dad, then it’s settled!” I waved my hands and stood still.

“Yes, it’s settled!” my father perked up, began to turn his head, wondering where to put the cup in his hands, put it on the nearest shelf, coughed, slapped his palms on the armrests of the chair and added, “Well, shall I go?”

As if conspiring, all three of us said at the same time: “Yes, all right, Dad! Goodbye! We have to work too, see you at home! Yes, we have to do the invoices! Goodbye, Anatoly Vasilievich! Goodbye! Bye, uh-huh!”

My father stood up, stomped awkwardly again, and held out his hand to Sergey. He sighed and shook it. I shook it next. My father coughed, put on his fur cap and walked out the door in an old man’s manner. Immediately, the tension in the office disappeared, and all three of us cheered up.


Perfume sales for the holidays were excellent. Sergey, who drove his “Mazda” to customers, would bring bundles of cash to the office. At the sight of so much money, his eyes burned feverishly and his hands shook as he counted it. Making money from a jump in prices was a success. And by mid-March, the insecticide season was already upon us.

My personal life continued in a measured way. I saw Natasha two or three times a week – at the movies, in cafes, even a few times at “Clear Skies”. In my relationship with her, there was not the same vagueness and turmoil as in my previous ones. It suited me. My thoughts became so calm and I tried them calmly on Natasha. I imagined our life, when we would start living together, how long we would live like this, and when we would get married. Thoughts floated in my head, I caught them and pedantically organized them in my brain.


The beginning of spring was foggy and slushy. The sky was thick with low clouds. Moisture hung in the air, making it warm but damp. The snow had turned to mush. It squelched underfoot and my boots kept getting soaked. The first sunny day came closer to the middle of March. Sergey and I drove from the city through the village to the factory. The sun shone so softly through the glass that our communication flowed lazily and complacently. We talked about current affairs, politics, women. The usual locker room talk.

“So, Romych!?” Sergey shouted suddenly. “Shall we shove dichlorvos to your Ilyukha!?”

“Why mine?” I parried.

“Well, you’re palsy-walsy with him after all!” my partner cackled.

“There’s no palsy-walsy, Seryoga!” I muttered, staring lazily at the landscape outside the window. The sun was mercilessly drowning the snow, and the wheels of the cars were helping – beating the melted mush into a muddy mess and driving out muddy streams of moisture. Water flowed from the broken asphalt down to the roadside and under the snowdrifts that lay in the shade of the trees. Spring exposed all the garbage under the snow. Wrappers, bottles, tin cans, bags – they all came out from under the snow. Nature was returning to civilization what people had generously thrown out of their car windows all winter.

“Ilyukha is a scumbag! You won’t get anywhere with him! He won’t take the dichlorvos, we’ll have to get past him somehow,” I added. “And we should stop by ‘Homeland’! Offer them some dichlorvos! “They won’t take ‘Luxchem,’ but they’ll barter dichlorvos for sure!”

I looked at Sergey. He was driving with his glasses on, and without turning his head, after thinking for a while, he mumbled: “Yeah, of course… But we shouldn’t leave the money there, we should take the goods immediately, because their director is a shady guy…”

“We’ll do it like this, we’ll collect something and immediately sell it to Senya at ‘Mercury’ or ‘Peresvet’ and let them sell it. We will need more barter goods in the summer.”

“Yes, who would have thought that ‘Homeland’ would become so popular!” Sergey said. “I remember their director came to us and offered us pads. And at that time nobody knew what pads were, they had just appeared on the market. He ran to all the companies and offered them for sale. Nobody wanted to buy them for money! And they were sold badly. He kept running around, everyone kicked him. And now they’re in every hole and they’re selling well!”

“Well, what did you expect? The man ran, broke through the market, now he’s getting high!” I said.

“Yeah, I know…” Sergey muttered.

We drove to the factory, ducked into the gate of the gatehouse and drove to the office building, near which we could see a dried-up thaw. Sergey drove the “Mazda” to it.

“Seryozha!! Roma!!” I heard over the roar of the engine and the rattle of the wheels.

I turned my head – no one.

“Seryozha!! Roma!!” came a woman’s voice again.

“She’s running,” my partner said, looking in the rear-view mirror, and turned off the car. I got out of the “Mazda” – the bespectacled janitor was trudging through the snow from the gatehouse to us in galoshes.

“Roma, Seryozha, hello!” she said, out of breath, panting.

“Hello!” I said, and Sergey reluctantly repeated after me, getting out of the “Mazda”.

“Roma, Seryozha!” The woman turned her head, not knowing whom to address. “Senya told me the other day that you were looking for a loader in the warehouse, right? Your loader quit, didn’t he?”

“Well, he didn’t quit, we fired him!” Sergey said, puffed up with pride.

“Good, but do you need a loader?” Still gulping air, she looked at me.

“We do!” I said. “Do you know anyone who is looking for such a job?”

“Roma, I have a nephew…” the woman breathed, fixing her glasses and wrapping herself more tightly in her down jacket. “He’s looking for a job right now and would go to work for you if you’d take him!”

“How old is he?” I asked.


“Well, is he all right?” Sergey blurted out. “Isn’t he drinking at least?”

“No, Seryozha, not at all!” the woman waved her hands. “He doesn’t even smoke!”

“Oh, well, then let him come!” I nodded.

“Let him come! We’ll talk!” Sergey said impatiently, half-turning.

“Aha, good!” the woman bleated respectfully. “I’ll tell him, he’ll come tomorrow!”

“All right, let him come,” I nodded and followed my partner into the office.

“Okay, thank you!” the janitor said to Sergey’s back, nodding, almost bowing, holding her glasses with her hands. “Thank you, Seryozha!”

The display of subservience made me cringe. At first, I took the janitor’s arrogant attitude as a challenge and an ability to maintain a high standard even in such a shabby place. The woman was always reading in her room in the factory gatehouse. I even noticed the cover of the book once – Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Poor Folk”. In my mind I formed a picture of a certain intellectual woman, brought to a miserable place by the will of fate, forced to jostle among the hard workers. The talk about her nephew led me to other thoughts, but I, who from the beginning was inclined to see only the best in every person, interpreted the change in her behavior as the woman’s decision to establish friendly relations with us. I was all for it.

“Wow! She said hello!” I said, catching up with Sergey. “It’s a miracle!”

“She has to get her nephew a job, so she said hello!” he hummed.

“Hmm, it’s possible!” I nodded, impressed by the simplicity of the conclusion.

“It’s not possible, it’s a fact,” Sergey added, as if he had encountered such a quality in people a million times. Moreover, it was the only one he had come across. There was a hint of disappointment in his voice.

“Oh, come on!” I waved and slipped into the building after my partner. “It doesn’t matter, as long as she brings us a loader, because Senya’s already fucking shocked in the warehouse! Like a biorobot!”

Our simultaneous laughter echoed through the empty floors of the building.


The janitor’s nephew showed up the next day. Gangly, as tall as me, skinny like all young men, the nephew turned out to be a pleasant brunette with an intelligent face and a challenging look. The youthful exuberance in his eyes said that the nephew was here temporarily, and as soon as he got a chance, he would go and conquer the heights of life. I didn’t mind, and the boy started work on Monday.

On Wednesday my father came to the office and brought the first order of detergents. It was small, only eight thousand rubles. We didn’t know what to do with it. The problem was to deliver the goods to our town, which was a thousand kilometers away. To reduce the cost of delivery, it was necessary to bring more goods. The surplus would have to be stored, and in two weeks we would have to pay for the goods. The amount was considerable – about thirty thousand. Even if we sold the ordered part and made a profit of about eight thousand, there would still be twenty thousand in the warehouse, almost dead weight.

“When are we going to sell it?” Sergey looked at me, standing against the wall by the door. My partner sat at the table, my father in the chair by the door, Vera in her seat.

“No idea, Seryoga!” I shrugged, not feeling the need to make something up. “Maybe this company will pick up another batch later, or maybe we’ll find another buyer. We will offer it to anyone. I think we can put a small batch in the warehouse so that the goods are always at hand. The amount is bearable, twenty won’t bother us at all…”

I looked at my partner’s sour, doubting face and realized that what we were doing had little promise. I didn’t believe in it myself. The only reason I wanted to bring this stuff in was for my father. He had spent the winter doing odd jobs, and I could see the confusion and depression in his eyes. The rock of contradiction didn’t dissolve as quickly as I would have liked, so our relationship remained cool. I saw my father’s arrival at the office as a step toward reconciliation, and I tried to help him in any way I could.

“Yes, I know, we’ll bring it and put it in the warehouse…” Sergey sighed, trying not to look at my father. “Those canisters will just sit there gathering dust…”

“Seryozha!” My father said in that tense tone I knew so well, the way he always kept his growing resentment in check. I could physically feel the mutual dislike between my father and Sergey. Both of them seemed to walk along an invisible line in their communication, like the boundaries of their respective territories, signaling their determination not to give up their positions. At the same time, they tactfully didn’t cross the line and communicated diplomatically. I looked at my father; he clenched his jaw and his gaze was fixed angrily on Sergey’s face. The office fell silent.

“Seryozha,” my father continued, “when we agreed that I would take care of this case, we decided that the first batch would have to be taken to the warehouse with a reserve and part of it left there! Now we’re ordering this batch and you’re trying to renegotiate! Why!?”

Sergey twitched slightly, a jab of precisely chosen words hitting the target. I looked at my partner with interest. Something inside me moved gloatingly. I was surprised. Perhaps for the first time, I realized that Sergey was antagonizing my father. Yes, I was angry with my father, but first, it was my father; second, it was our family business. Sergey’s opposition felt implicit, like something unpleasant. My thoughts swirled vaguely in my head. But I could not understand them. I realized one thing for sure: there was an immediate dislike between my father and Sergey, and their friction was not just commercial. My father’s departure raised new questions. I saw my father’s straightforwardness. Straightforwardness of action and judgment is our family trait. My father, like a knight with an open visor, charged at the enemy. Sergey dodged a frontal fight and said without looking up from the table: “Anatoly Vasilievich, I don’t deny it! We may have agreed on something, I don’t remember…”

“How can you not remember!???” My father flared up, leaning forward in his chair.

“Anatoly Vasilievich, don’t interrupt me, let me finish…” Sergey said tensely, but without raising his tone.

“We agreed, Seryozha, didn’t we!!?? That if there is a small first order, it’s okay – we’ll bring more with the stock in the warehouse, right!!??” my father pinned Sergey to the wall of facts with his “spear”.

“Maybe we agreed, I don’t remember very well, but if you say so, I know you’re an honest man, then that’s what happened…” Sergey said, as if his words flowed around my father’s outburst.

“Seryozha!!” my father almost choked and turned red.

“Anatoly Vasilievich, we’ll bring these detergents as you want, I don’t mind! But I’m not the only one who makes decisions here! If Romka agrees, there’s no problem! We make decisions together,” Sergey finally escaped my father’s attack, giving his face and posture the features of humility and undeservedly offended virtue.

I had no desire to escalate or inflame the argument. My father might say or do something harsh again. Then my efforts to bring him back to us would have been in vain. And the situation was stupid and not in my father’s favor – it turned out that he was aggressive, and Sergey was just defending himself.

“Dad, keep your shirt on,” I said soothingly. “That’s what we’ll do, we’ll bring the goods in reserve. It’s just that Seryoga doesn’t remember this conversation in detail. Right, that’s what we agreed…”

My father shifted to me with difficulty, the blood gone from his face.

“Give me your order, where is it?” I kept lowering the tension, not letting my father get a word in edgewise. “Here is the order. We’ll do everything…”

I took the papers that Vera, who had been silent during the whole conversation, had handed me.

“How long did you say it would take for us to deliver the order?” I looked at my father, who had almost completely calmed down and pulled himself together.

“We’ll bring it to them after payment, I said!” he said confusedly, running his eyes and trying to look anywhere but at Sergey.

“Good,” I nodded, “we invoice them, they pay, we immediately order the goods, receive them and ship their order…”

My father coughed and started to leave, rubbing his fur cap in his hand.

“Okay, Dad?” I finished the situation quickly. “Are you going home now?”

“Yes, home, where else!?” My father exhaled loudly, putting his irritation to rest, and stood up.

“Well, let’s go, I’ll walk you to the car,” I pressed the door handle and pulled it open.

“Goodbye, everyone,” my father said, tilting his head and putting on his cap so he wouldn’t meet Vera’s or Sergey’s eyes.

“Goodbye,” Vera said politely and neutrally.

“Goodbye,” Sergey muttered.

I let my father go and followed him out of the office.

“Your Seryozha, the sharpest tool in the shed!” my father said as soon as we were outside, following the path along the wall to the gatehouse. My father immediately lit a cigarette, he was nervous.

“Come on, Dad…” I gave a friendly chuckle. “Why? Well, he forgot what we agreed on, so what? We reminded him. No big deal…”

“He remembers everything perfectly well!” my father said, blowing out a puff of smoke.

We walked around the corner of the building, through the factory gate to the “GAZelle” standing on the side of the road. The snow squelched underfoot like a muddy, sandy, watery mess.

“Even if he remembers, so what?” I shrugged. “Maybe he just doesn’t want to bring the stuff in and mess with it. I understand him, actually. The goods are not the most popular, quite specific… It doesn’t matter, Dad! We’ll bring it in, sell it, put the rest in the warehouse and sell it too, don’t worry!”

We stopped. My father was finishing his cigarette, his face etched with suspicion and anger. He squinted toward the gatehouse, as if waiting for Sergey to appear.

“So how’s mom?” I changed the subject.

“What about her!?” My father took a greedy drag all the way to the filter, so that the cigarette sizzled and smoldered, and threw the butt into the snow. “As if you don’t know! Lying in her room, locked up…”

“I see…” I nodded and turned toward the gatehouse.

“All right!” my father exhaled.

“Yeah, see you, Dad!” I nodded.

My father held out his hand and I held out mine. My father shook mine too hard, even for him, as if he was taking out his anger on it. I went to the office. The “GAZelle” started up behind me and drove away.

Sergey didn’t resist the order any longer; the goods arrived a week later.

Petya took five canisters to the buyer. And two dozen were left to gather dust in the warehouse.

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