1 introducing the central character
Dmitri Ivanov sat alone in his flat. The furniture was mainly from charity shops. The dishes from the week were piled up in the sink and begining to smell. The low thud of a heavy metal base intermingled with the sounds of a baby crying.
Christ, so it had come to this. That a lieutenant colonel in the kgb should be reduced to such circumstances, what had the world come to? He had always believed in his pension, but what was that worth now? $120 per month - thats what!
Meanwhile the scum of the earth, the vultures feeding of the body of Mother Russia were buying English football clubs as childish playthings. The new world made him sick. He had grown up in the time of Stalin - just after the war - when the awful, horrendous sacrifices of the Russian people, including his own dear father, were still for a purpose: the advancement of a decent society of equal comrades working for each other in a spirit of national unity.
But all that pain and death had been for nothing. The mafia and plutocrats took all the profits and those who had given everything were left with nothing.
For a moment he considered using his kgb Makarov to blow the world away.
Instead he logged on to the new Dell computer his son had sent him from Canada
First of all he read the news in Russian. Everywhere in town Ukrainian was being forced on him. He felt like a foreigner speaking that perverted form of Russian.
He read the news. When i was done he both knew what he was going to do next and denied it was going to happen. The little voice inside his head said 'No harm opening the site. Its not as if you were going to take it any furher.'
So he opened the site.
'No harm clicking on a naked lady. Its not as if you were going to take it ..............'
And so on... until he had found himelf $100 out if pocket and deeply ashamed.
But this time something much much worse happened.
cant be ****** finishing this.
What could be much much worse? Are we to be left in suspense?
hmmm, if it does go on, my apologies to any Ukranians for ignorant mistakes.
He was particularly tempted by one view - he could not see her face, but what he could see was strangely reminiscent of his late wife Anna: the tiny waist, the generous bulge at the hips, the log muscular thighs.
'Hi' he typed excitedly.
'Hello, are you horny?' was the reply.
He ws about to reply when she turned around. The pouting face was one he knew - Anna! Not his wife , but his granddaughter.
He slammed shut the laptop and threw it across the room.
He would have to visit Katerina. He put in his jacket, weighed down in one side by his gun in the inside pocket. Hopefully she was still at the same address and not living in a cardboard box somewhere. How fast life passes. Perhaps his memory was going - compressing the past into a handful of fading stills . The clearest by far was the first time he had seen Anna.
It had been in an interrogation room, number six probably. A group of Nationalist students had become over-excited with events in Prague and had printed leaflets. As a large number of them were informants they had not been difficult to round up.
When he had entered the room she was sitting down and had looked over her shoulder, just as her grand-daughter had done a few minutes ago. Dmitri had stood still, staring like an idiot. He had ever seen anything in the world have as beautiful as that face - heart shaped, pale with big brown eyes glistening with tears. They had looked at him first with fear, then with confusion at the effect she was having on her interrogator.
There was a hint of the Mongolian in her face, perhaps the legacy of one of the uncountable invasions of the Scythian plains. Every molesting invader had left a little something behind - genes, religions, secret police.
'You are in big trouble - slandering the Motherland.' he said 'seven years imprisonment followed by exile to somewhere very cold and very unpleasant.'
She started to cry .
He took out a large folder from a desk drawer.
'This what you can expect.' He let her take her time looking through the photographs.
She got to the middle of the folder before she collapsed sobbing hysterically.
'But I will help you. I will save you.' She looked up at him desparate for a sliver of hope.
'You only have to do one thing.'
'Anything.' she whispered.
Katerina looked at herself in the mirror. The left side of her face was handsome, almost pretty. The right side was a horrendous mask, barely human. Every day she was reminded of falling in front of the police horse. The smell of the tarmac and horse droppings, the sight of the hoof raised above her head.
She lifted the cracked mug to the left hand side of her mouth. The vodka dribbled down her chin.
And behind those police, organising the resistance to freedom and progress, was her Father.
There was a knock at the door. She opened the door.
"think of the devil.'
'May I come in?'
"No.' She hated the way he looked at the carpet in her presence.
He came in anyway.
'How is Anna?'
'No question about how i am... but then i suppose that's obvious?'
She gulped the drink in her mug.
'How are you doing?'
She half smiled, the effect was gruesome.
'Lets talk about dear little Anna... last I heard she was a whore.'
She enjoyed the effect on her father.
'Do you have her address?'
Katerina scribbed something on an overdue electricity bill.
'Now **** off.'
He gave one last pitying look at the empty spirit bottles littered around the room and left.
As he walked through the down at heel neighbourhood with his hand on the pistol in his pocket, it occurred to him that he had a lot in common with Katerina - both had wasted their lives as sacrifices to a failed ideology - socialism for him, liberalism for her; both were disfigured, his disfigurment being of the soul; both were addicts. All the more reason to hate each other.
Anna's appartment was in a much better part of town. It even had a intercom.
He pressed Anna's number.
'Who is that?'
'Grandpa' There was a long silence.
'Come up.' the tone was not inviting.
He took the lift to the penthouse floor. A working lift! Dmitri was impressed.
The lift opened straight into the appartment's hall. The glass door to the sitting room opened.
Anna was as beatiful as ever, so reminiscent of his Anna that he nearly cried. Although her grandmother never dressed as a naughty schoolgirl. She let him into the room saying nothing.
A handsome semi-naked turkish-looking man sat near the window and the panoramic view across the city, unfortunately a very ugly city.
'Is that your pimp?' he asked? The man in the chair looked peeved. Dmitri surreptisiously undid the safety lock of the pistol. It would be a pleasure making an extra hole in him.
'Alex is my employee' she said. Alex did not look any more pleased.
'I thought you were studying to be a doctor... like your grandmother.'
'I am... but its better to study in the comfort of your own penthouse, don't you think.'
'First things first - I made over $200,000 last year.'
'Poverty is degrading, alcoholism is degrading, dying of radiation poisoning is degrading.'
Dmitri was shocked at the amount of money, but also at the reference to Anna's death.'
'Don't you dare talk about your grandmother...'
'But she was a whore too... she sold her body to you.'
Dmitri took out the semi-automatic and pointed it at Anna.
'Go on, ruin me like you ruined my mother and my grandmother.'
'isnt it obvious to you yet?' she continued, 'that it is those who prostitute themselves who win in this cursed country. It doesn't matter what the ideology is, the ruthless and corrupt will end up in power. If you don't grab your share then you will be ground down to dust. '
He could see the truth but didn't want to be told it.
'Your grandmother was a saint who gave her life for the people. You are an insult to her name.'
'She was a fool who believed the official lies. 'the radiation is contained', 'there is no need to evacuate the city', 'the hospital is safe for doctors' and you were part of that propaganda machine - you were a cog in the machine that killed grandma.'
He pulled the trigger.
'Impotent old goat!' she sneered.
He threw the useless weapon onto the floor. With a loud bang a bullet shattered the window beside the Turk.
Anna collapsed in laughter.
There was no way to make a dignified exit, so he made an undignified one to the accompaniment of laughter and turkish threats.
Outside the appartment he scurried off. He imagined he could still hear the laughter from the penthouse at the riduclous useless old man.
His wife was dead, his daughter hated him, his grandaughter despised him. Perhaps he could go to his son in Canada? But even if the let him in there were too many ghosts for him to leave behind.
Instead he found himself at the civic park and walked through the grand gateway. Past the duck pond and the japanese garden was the statue of Stalin, 'Uncle Joe' in the propoganda used in WW2. All that was left of him was up to his knees. The rest blown up by anti-Russian fascists (at least blowing up statues was better than synagogues). The communists were now fundraising to replace it. Then it would be blown up again.
The park looked confusingly alien, as if he had never been there before. It seemed to hace lost its meaning, its imposed symbolism. It was now nothing but plant, insects, grains of sand - the random deposits of a meaningless world.
Now he knew how Anna felt when he blackmailed her to give up her beliefs and become his wife, perhaps thats why she was so keen to risk her life in a radioactive hospital. How Katerina had felt finding that she had sacrificed herself so that politicians could get their snouts in the same trough as those they had replaced.
Perhaps young Anna was right - in a nation run by wolves only those who become wolves themselves get to feed.
He sat down on uncle Joe's plinth as the grey clouds rolled over the grey city.
He felt like a peasant waiting for the Mongol Horde. The sooner they got here the better.