Thursday, August 04, 2005

Excuse the language…

I just got back a couple of hours ago. It took me this long just to get over the shock of the last few days. And as Tatyana is using the couch to feed Anya, who is better by the way, I thought I would take a moment and do a little writing about what happened up at the farm.

It was interesting dealing with that tree. Such a disaster. But the remedy was maybe even more… interesting for lack of a better word. I guess where I left off was when I was on my way back to the village with a five liter jug of 92 gasoline tucked into my currier bag. The buying of this was one of the conditions that Misha had laid down for me as far as usage of his chain was concerned. I didn’t mind this investment so much really. Well, I think I am only speaking of not minding putting some extra gas into his hands for use in other projects- that I had to go all the way back to town, using two busses and carrying that jug was not in any way something I would ever do given a choice. But helpfulness breads helpfulness and that chainsaw was needed. I also had some other logs that have been needing to be cut down still from last year, so my thinking was that if I treated Misha well, he might kick in an extra hour or so an bring last years stuff down to chopping size for me.

I guess I should mention one thing though before I go on. And this is one of those “oh, wow things are going to be great but then you find out it is all shit” things. Just like my day as a whole, but this is getting ahead of myself. But on the bus back I saw a stork carrying a couple of twigs in its beak heading straight towards our village. This was such a happy sight for me but the thrill of the possibility of our eists rebuilding lasted only until I saw that the workers who had come to put the electrical wires back up had toppled over what was left of the nest.

“It fell over by itself!” the worker called down to me from his perch on top of the pole. He was using a come-a-long to restring the wire. My neighbors had hard, smiling faces that pretty much all Belarusians have when witnessing something repulsive. The nest itself was lying in a heap on the ground. “I didn’t touch it.” He had an earnest look on his face, the lineman did.

But I had my gas and as it was now getting towards 8:00 in the evening, I went straight over to Misha’s to see if we couldn’t get started. Yesterday, Tuesday, was a holiday- I just asked around and nobody here knows which one. And to be honest with you there are so many holidays that they celebrate out there in the village; Russian orthodox, Polish orthodox, catholic… Sometimes think they are just making it up. But then again, in a workers paradise you pretty much only have work to look forward to, so why not take ‘em where you can get ‘em? But of course, if Tuesday would be a holiday that would mean working on that day would be нельзя (nellzyah: a Russian word which means basically ‘against the rules’), for Misha and we would have to wait it out until at least Wednesday, which of course would really mean at least another week. So the time to do it would be now, but of course when I got to his house, Misha either having forgotten or just not giving a good goddamn had already begun his ritual after work drunk. Babushka greeted me when I came into the yard.

“He can’t work for you today because he is already drunk.”

“How can he be drunk? He just told me this morning to get him his gas. The tree is lying in the middle of the road.”

bzzz gofff ny bvvvv”…. No. This is not right. I should really try to give you a sense of what Misha sounds like when he is drunk. I am sure I have written about him before. He has a terrible slurring problem and is as mush-mouthed as anybody I have even met, which is odd because he still has his teeth. Well, most of them. But really he just sort of emits sounds that are a little like an oral shorthand. You can understand him, but you have to be listening really hard to the whole of the conversation.

(I have just been trying to write out our dialog in Russian, but it can’t be done; takes too long. And hey, none of my readers read Russian. So I will try and do this in English. If it was in English, it would have gone something like this-)

“Sha’ap mamma. ‘M here. Zhu Ghe t’ Gazlin?”

“Yes. I got it.”

“Wha’ Zhu go’?”

“I got the gas.”

“Ho’ mu’?”

“How much did I get or how much did it cost?”


“How much did I buy or how much did it cost?”

“Zhu bah mu’fucka gaz?”

“Yea, I bought the gas. 92 like you said.”

“Wha’ te’ Fu’?”

“I said I bought 92 octane. You said to buy 92 octane, so that’s what I bought.”

“Zhu boh’ te gaz?”

“I bought the gas.”

“Zhu be’ ha’ be’ boh’ mu’fu’ nih tu, li I say…”

“Yea, I bought the 92, just like you said. Do you think that maybe your mom was right? Maybe you are a little too drunk to work with the chain saw?”

“Bih! Mo’fu bih do know no fin’. Le ‘o. I wih…”

“You can’t go. You are too drunk.” This was babushka, Misha’s mom breaking in. Misha is in his fifties, though he looks at least 200. His mom is well into her seventies. Misha stands maybe 5’7” and weighs soaking wet perhaps 130 pounds. He had no shirt on and with the exception of something that might have been a tiny pot belly, did not have an ounce of fat showing anywhere on his person. He wears a mustache, has several scares, stooped shoulders, severely yellow stained fingers from smoking and a thick crop of salt and pepper hair on his head. I guess if I would have to pick someone to give a frame of reference, it might be a shorter, skinnier version of the bad guy Ramone from the Clint Eastwood movie “Fistful of Dollars”. His mom would have to stand on a rock to make 5 feet, but her voice can cut through anything Misha might be thinking, drunk or sober.

“O shi’ mo’fu. I be bvvv. Bu’ shi’ I do’ ne’ no nuh’…”

“You know Misha, maybe she is right? I mean, I do not want you to hurt yourself…’

“Bi’ mo’ fu’. I know wha’ I doi’. I be doi’ thi’ shi’ fo’ ma’ twe’ ye’. Do’ ta’ no’ shi’ na me. Yo wa smo?”

“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”

“Yu do’ smo’?”

“No. I never smoke.”

“Yu wa’ smo?”

“No, really I don’t.”

“Si do’. Yo ‘wa’ smo’?” So we sat down under his grape vine covered gazebo.

“Listen, one, I don’t smoke…”

“Yo wa’ smo’?”

“No, I really don’t want to smoke. But listen, maybe I could just borrow the chainsaw and cut up the tree myself?”

“Yo do’ no’ wa’ thi’ bo’ cha’ sa’.” He staggered up the steps and into his house. He came out a moment later with the chainsaw. “Yo’ no’ ho mu’ I pay fo’ da ‘cha’ sa?”

“Do I know how much you paid for the chainsaw? Yea, about a hundred bucks.”

“A hu’ bu’? Yo do’ no’ shi’.” He started to try and pull-start the machine, but it wouldn’t work. “Bi’! Mu’ fu’ hu’ bu’?”

“Maybe you need gas?”

“Fu’ yo mu’!” said my friend, with emphasis as he pulled with all his heart.”

“You’re telling me you paid more than a hundred bucks?” He kept ripping at the chord until eventually the machine started. I do not think I was ever so scared in my life.

“Tha’ mu’fu’ ri’ I pay’ mo’.” He gunned the motor, spinning the chain. He was weaving so much I was sure he was going to cut his leg off. “Yu no ha mu’ I pay’? I pay te’ hu’ twe’ do’ fo’ tha’ cha’ sa.”

“You paid $320 for that chain saw?”

“Wa’ yo say?” He couldn’t hear me over the noise of the engine.

“I said: You paid $320 for that chainsaw?”

“Tha’ wa’ I se’…” He had it going real good now and started looking around for something to cut. His eyes finally settled on one of the support poles for the gazebo. He took one menacing step towards the post but I shouted over the saw that it was not necessary. He smiled a lascivious smile at me and shut down the saw. He wasn’t really going to do it, right?

“You didn’t pay any $320 for that saw.”

“fu’ yo’ mu’ ah’ di’. I pay… I pay… se’ hu a’ fi’ tha’ ru’s.”

“You paid 750,000 rubles for that saw?”

“Th’s wha’ I pay…”

“Then you got robbed…” and so on and so forth. He finally convinced his mom that he was fit enough to cut up a tree with his beautiful, new million dollar chainsaw, though she demanded that he at least feed the pigs before he set off. He kept asking me to wait for him, and maybe, you know, if I was a better person I would have, but I couldn’t take the bullshit and told him I would be waiting for him over at my place and left. I don’t know why I thought that he might show up all by himself, but after about 40 minuets when the clock said that it was just about 9:00 and I could see the light outside taking on sort of a yellowish hue, I decided I had better go and get him myself. When I got over to his house I found him sitting on his heels in the doorway of the house where they prepare the crushed weeds, boil the potatoes, wheat porridge or white beets which they feed to the pigs. He was smoking a cigarette and talking to his mom.

“So, are we going?” Seeing me snapped him back into some work related mode, and he staggered to his feet, weaved once or twice and then saluted me. His mom started yelling at him for having had to stop work to smoke a cigarette when the pigs were all waiting to be fed. He said something regarding either his mother’s lineage or the pigs, I am not sure which, grabbled the bucket of slop and headed over to the pig house. He pried open the little guard fence outside and threw open the main door and two 80 pound, pink eyed pigs popped out and ran into the yard. The second one out stopped and sniffed at my leg a few times. I offered my hand and he sniffed at that too. Why not? Works for dogs. Misha poured his bucket of slop into the food trough in the pen and the sound brought the pigs running back in. As they stared to eat, he shut the door on them and then fought the gate, trying to get it back to where it was, finally settling for some compromise of an angle. Now he was ready. I followed him as he weaved over to the tool shed, and looking like a tightrope walker, began compiling what tools he needed to use his chainsaw. A bottle of oil to mix with the gas. A screw driver for opening the oil and fuel ports. And extra chain. A bottle for mixing the gas and the oil in and a bag to carry everything.

“We ready?”


“Alright, let’s do it.”

I guess I will tell all about the “show” next time. And I have not forgotten my episode with the drunk in the corridor. And, as he turned out to be a small part of this tree episode, I might even need to add a little something about old Yasha, my neighbor from across the street. I know I promised to finish his story months ago and never did. Maybe this is the time to do this. And also, I am going to have a talk with Vasilli Anaovich tomorrow morning, so I guess I will have to add this into the mix as well.

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More soon…


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