Vaska Solovyov, nicknamed “Cuckoo” because he stuttered whenever he said “coo-coo-could…,” was puzzled. And the puzzle was how to come up with the money he needed to throw a shindig. Which, for those who don’t know, has nothing to do with what’s below the knee or what you need a shovel for: it’s a big spread put on to celebrate something, and it has to have wine and vodka. This shindig would be to see Vaska’s grandson Sashka off to St. Petersburg. Sashka had worked the last nerve of everybody in the village. Who knows how much gas he’d siphoned from people’s cars and trucks, how many bicycles, spare parts, and other good stuff (hidden well away by a summer visitor from the city) he’d swiped? Sure, he’d been given a good beatdown right there on the spot any number of times, but that just toughened him up. Tough enough for the Army, he was. But they didn’t take the likes of him – no fools, they.
“He’s a %&*#, and that’s all,” the chief Army recruiter said. “He’d demolish all of the armed forces, and they’ve yet to come up with a war we could hustle that little brat off to without fearing for the enemy. No need to drop a bomb – he’d wreak havoc on their army single-handed. And he couldn’t be issued a weapon, either, let alone a tank. He’d sneak off to a dance in it, or worse.”
So Vaska had a word with Lenka, Sashka’s mother, and decided that the boy needed to go to the place they all called “Piter.” Country folk had been setting themselves up in Piter for forever and a day, and with good jobs too – some running excavators, some operating bulldozers – and every one of them was making great money. Besides, they were straight arrows, family men, so they wouldn’t put up with anybody’s nonsense, and there was nothing to steal. The kid wouldn’t bother them, not one bit. At least, that’s how Cuckoo figured it.
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