Fiction and Drama
“This is na-a-a-a-o!”
For Anna and Maria
How did it begin? Simply, like all that which is inevitable.
July 1980, a train from Simferopol to Moscow, 2:35 PM, a packed restaurant car, tomato sauce stains on the overstarched tablecloths, someone’s forgotten box of Lviv-brand matches, cigarette ash, bottles of Narzan tinkling in their metal cupholders by the window, a fluttering curtain, hyperboloids of thick sunbeams, Olya’s forearm peeling from a sunburn, Volodya’s faded polo shirt, two poppy heads embroidered on Vitka’s jean skirt.
The fat waiter rustled his greasy notepad. “Guys, please, hurry it up. I’ve got a line of people here to last me all the way to Moscow.”
“What do you have . . .” Volodya began to ask. But he was interrupted by a sudden torrent of words spewing from the waiter’s froggy lips.
“We’re out of salad and solyanka, but we’ve got kharcho, pike perch with mashed potatoes, and steak and eggs.”
“There’s no beer?”
“There is!” The waiter clapped with a sweaty bang. “Two? Three?”
“Four.” Volodya relaxed. “And we’ll all have the steak.”
“Do you have any ice cream?” Vitka put on her dark glasses.
“No.” The waiter scribbled his pencil on the pad and walked his portly, seal-like body over to the barmaid, who was watching over the line of people waiting. “One more over here, Lyuban!”
“Maybe we don’t neeeed one? Because we’re so cooommfy!” Olya sang, lighting her last cigarette, but there was a man already walking down the aisle, chocolatey with sunburn, dressed in white pants and a blue shirt.
“Hello.” The man gave the three of them a quick smile and sat down, looking each of them in the eyes. He had no defining characteristics other than being bald, and no visible age.
“A veterinarian,” Volodya decided, taking the cigarette from Olya.
“Dynin in the flesh,” Olya thought, remembering the character from Welcome, or No Trespassing, the Klimov film.