We rested on the open veranda drinking coffee and enjoying the picturesque panorama from the house on the hill.
“See the cottage there?” – Rita pointed to a tile roof across the street from Bukin’s future house. “Some moskvichi built it a few years ago. Built, and now they are selling it. They’re leaving Moscow, as many of them do now, applied – I heard – for permanent residency in the States… or in Israel – I don’t know for sure.”
The house was indeed pretty. I’ve seen cottages like this in Cyprus. Tile roof, little stucco ship on the mansard’s fronton.
In the meantime, Rita put her coffee cup on the table and briskly got up. The black SUV, which I had already seen, emerged from the bend in the street.
“Well, well, mister professor,” she chuckled, “seems like now it’s your turn to pass a test. So get ready, alright?”
This time the big black car brought not only Kolya Bukin, but also a glamorous-looking young lady, a head taller than him and twice as young. The Deputat introduced her as his secretary and assistant-translator. Wasting no time, the young lady got down to business and assailed me with questions in English, rather fluent alright, but still stuck somewhere at school level. By her appearance and manners, she didn’t make the impression of a mere secretary at all, acting with utmost confidence and, for the most part, never bothering to fully translate what I said to her boss. Inventing my story as I went along, I explained UNESCO’s plans to purchase this plot for the further archaeological excavations with the prospect of having a kind of popular tourist site here.
My young interlocutress very casually inquired about the funds I would employ for such a large-scale plan. I shrugged and put it all off with a jest that I was never going to pay for anything. As for the Copernicus Foundation, I continued, its funds were enough to buy not only Kolya in person but the whole city counsel of Kolyas as well. She smiled back in a labored manner, assuring me that she appreciated my subtle Texan humor. Still she didn’t translate this last phrase either – just wished us well and hurried back to the SUV along with her boss.
“Great job!” exclaimed Rita, watching the car drive away. “You did it, didn’t you, the university professor? For a moment even I believed that you were an American. If you want to know the truth, I didn’t understand even half of your words. As for that of Kolya’s… well, how do you find her? Not so good at English, is she?
“Community college plus couple of years’ practice in a school for juvenile delinquents – that seems to be it.”
“And you, where did you graduate from?”
“The Military Academy in Kiev. The Foreign Languages Department.”
“So why didn’t you stay in the military?”
“Was in the service, for four years. I’ve got a splinter in my leg… those sunny southern countries, you know. And after – a hospital, retirement and all that. Why do you ask – you prefer military men, don’t you?”
“Ah, that’s why you limp, I see,” – she obviously ducked my question, and then commented with a smile. “At first glance I thought you kind of grazed your foot with new shoes.”
Well, I too had a comment ready for her so I coughed, clearing my throat:
“There was lots of work with those frescoes, wasn’t there?”
“How do you… From where…?”
“Artemis the Huntress has your ring on her finger. You fool no one, dear miss! Forgery – is a fine art all right! Still, molded paperboard as fresco wall… deserves respect, for sure.”
Rita pretended to be utterly embarrassed:
“Are you, interpreter guys, all so observant?”
“No,” I said, “it’s the military service. You better tell me why on earth this man needs your plot of land, of all things? He obviously can afford to buy any adjacent property.”
“Which he already did. My idea is that he wants it for reasons of privacy. A person in his position doesn’t like it when there are too many eyes watching. Privacy’s the most important thing; that’s their rule of thumb. Or maybe he just wishes to have some extra profit from the opportunity that drops ripe into his hand – buy it from granddad on the cheap, and then sell it to you dear.”
“I am quite positive,” I said, adopting the official tone, “that UNESCO, whose interests I represent here, will not be interested in such proposal. Actually at the present moment, its representative is interested in quite another question –where is your mama?”
“Doing her work, together with my dad. In Africa. ‘Doctors Without Borders’ – heard about them?”
“Where exactly in Africa?”
She named the country.
“Okay, we will deal with that problem too.” I said. “By the way, I have some plans to go to the south coast of Crimea for a couple of days. To Sudak, to be exact. Have a friend, a major from my former unit, at the local military sanatorium. He receives medical treatment, that’s what they call it there. And on my return we’ll settle the issue with Africa and your mom. Or – want to go with me? It’s already high time for me to be gender incorrect and pay for gas… and for the treat.
“Sorry, Igor, but at the moment I can’t. I have some very pressing matters here.”
Rita called me on the third day:
“Dear Igor Pavlovich,” she pronounced solemnly, “my grandfather and I invite you to the ‘housewarming’ party. The matter is, we have bought that house – the one with the ship on the fronton, do you remember? I hope you have nothing against staying in mansards?
I have dreamed about this all of my life, to live in mansard with a stucco ship and a view of the sea. But I have news for you too — don’t shut off your phone today. My mom will call you soon.”
“What? Your mom?”
“Yep, I talked with her half an hour ago. And, if you want to know, she gave her consent. She seemed to like you on the phone. I hope you won’t disappoint her at the personal meeting.”
“What meeting? Where?”
“In Africa, as a matter of fact. She was invited to the Presidential Palace in the country’s capital, and the president gave me the most flattering account. After which we talked personally on the government line. Haven’t I told you that their president studied at our academy? In the parallel course? As a matter of fact, he is a crown prince, but his people elected him as the president, for greater legitimacy. He invites us to be his special guests. He sending his plane for us on Friday. But until Friday we still have free time.
She was silent for so long that I thought we got cut off.
“Hello? Rita? Can you hear me?… Are you serious about all this?”
“How could I not be? After all, you want to speak with my mom, don’t you?”
At last she laughed, and I heard relief in her words:
“You tell me! You want to speak with her terribly!”
In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)
Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey
January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan
February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan
March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez
April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis
May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko
June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas
July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk
August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido
September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández
October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino
November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake
December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva
Background – Context
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
More work by Gennady Bondarenko
What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Izmail, Ukraine – On the river – water fox (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed