In my mind I scrolled over where I could have blundered in my newspaper responsibilities last week to arouse the heightened interest of the editor. I had not done anything in particular to warrant such attention lately…
Okay. I composed myself. There’s probably some minor issue, and it would take at a maximum no more than ten minutes time.
The editor sat at his desk absorbed in reading the galley proofs. Glancing at me briefly, he silently nodded toward a chair. Without a word, I sat down and waited. The editor-in-chief finally looked up from the papers.
“Do you know what is happening in our city?” he began, but somehow not in a very confident tone, as if he himself was not yet sure whether this ‘happening’ was worthy of such an educational moment. “You work in our information department, don’t you?”
“Everything I am supposed to know, I know,” – I nodded assuredly, “and what I do not know, I am not supposed to. After all, our city is subject to nothing but the utmost military and state secrecy.”
“You’re right there, and no arguing with that, but here’s the thing: A film studio from America will be shooting here, in our city. Yes, no kidding – right from Hollywood, as chance would have it, and not just in Ukraine, but right here, in our Crimea. So, I suppose the fact that we now have a famous Hollywood actor, Jackie Chan, in our city is not a military secret for you?” – my editor could not resist a stinging remark.
I only shrugged and tried to interject, but he stopped me with a gesture.
“So the situation is clear to you, and we can cut the unnecessary introduction short. Take Nikolay, your photographer friend, and get a moment to talk with that Jackie Chan. Tomorrow, at the latest, have an interview with him on my desk, and five or six good photos!”
“What… tomorrow?” I was taken aback. “He just arrived! Needs some rest, needs to relax, and then, why me? I am the youngest in our editorial office, and this is a responsible business. Someone with more experience should be assigned to this.”
“That’s exactly why,” – the editor nodded. “You’re young and, as I’ve heard, fluent in English…”
“I appreciate your trust in me and my abilities,” I said. “But let me disagree. I don’t know English well!”
“And you’re sure Jackie Chan knows it well? Do you think all them Japanese speak English so fluently?’”
“He’s Chinese,” I corrected grimly. It looked like I had to drop the party at the Black Cat.
“Even more so!” the editor snapped back. “Everything has been arranged. Take your friend and go! Ask this artist why he’d decided to shoot here, what he expects from our city, and how he likes it here… well, why do I need to teach you this!”
“But he just arrived, you know! He hasn’t seen the city at all!”
“So show it to him!” – the editor raised his hands emphatically. “What did you learn English for? Take him on an orientation tour, have an informal interview over a cup of coffee …”
“Yeah, sure… and money for the coffee?” – I could not resist a sarcastic remark. “From that bonus we received recently for our… e-e-eh… hard work?”
The editor sighed, reached for the jacket hanging over the back of the office chair, and pulled out a few bills from his wallet. He handed me a couple of banknotes.
“Enough for coffee.”
I remained silent.
The editor chuckled, but added another one.
“By the way, any idea about the movie? At least what its genre might be – drama, comedy, historical film?” – I gave him the forgiving look of a movie aficionado.
“Well, you can’t go wrong telling that with Jackie Chan. Everything will be as usual – I mean, the typical movie with Jackie Chan. International mafia … or even the Russian mafia. Bad people mistreating good people. But they won’t get away with that because Jackie Chan comes. Then shooting, kung fu fights, and all that stuff. In a word, everything the audience loves. Long story short, good guys beating bad guys. As you see, you can retell the plot without even watching a movie.”
“And why here? We don’t have Russian mafia in our city,” I remarked, but not very convincingly.
“But we have beautiful vistas, mountains, the sea. It’s cheap here, and our people are energetic and curious. They would eagerly sign up for the crowd scenes.”
I still had to drop by the ‘Black Cat’ on my way, if only to see the birthday boy and tell him the news. Kolya was already there. When I came in, the fun was in full swing. People greeted me with cheers and immediately offered a shot of vodka. I sat down next to the party boy and briefly recounted the conversation with the editor. Kolya was already in such a mood that the news upset him in no way. On the contrary, he immediately agreed and was clearly welcoming the unexpected adventure. After a little pause, he declared publicly:
“Guys and gals,’ he said, “go on without us for awhile. We two will be back soon… and probably with a surprise!”
At the hotel reception, as it turned out, he had a friend, a girl named Katya, and she told us that Jackie Chan was indeed staying there.
“Only you won’t see him or get to his suite,” she added. “There are his…e-e-eh…guards!”
Kolya just grunted at that, “You go ahead and tell me what room it is. As for those guards…”
We went up to the third floor and at the end of the corridor saw two huge guys standing at the suite’s door. It was only when we came somewhat closer that we noticed the most unusual look they had. They wore gray officer’s trench coats with a major’s stars on their shoulders, blue buttonholes and emblems of the Air Force of the former USSR. At the same time, the trench coats were girded with golden ceremonial naval belts and cavalry broadswords with red lanyards hanging on the side. Each had a general’s Astrakhan hat on their head. The light of the neon lamps reflected on their polished high boots.
“What the…?!!” said a stunned Kolya.
“Hi, guys,” I addressed the sentries.– “Huv ar yoo?”
The guards stared at us in bewilderment.
“What do you want?” one of them asked in plain Russian. In addition to a broadsword, he had a naval officer’s dirk on his right side. Apparently he was the superior.
“Oh, so you are locals,” Kolya brightened up. “But why this masquerade?”
“May be a masquerade for you, pal,” answered the superior as he wiped the sweat that was seeping from his forehead under the general’s papakha. “But we are on duty. Guarding a Hollywood artist. What do you want?”
We introduced ourselves by showing our press cards. Recognizing locals in us, the guys softened up, in every sense of the word. It turned out that they were from the marines brigade. Apparently, the arrival of a Hollywood celebrity had drawn not only our editor’s interest. By all appearances their superiors chose the tallest marines and assigned them to the artist to portray the local police, at the same time entrusting them with the responsibility of guarding a visiting celebrity. As for those bizarre uniforms, that was the idea of a costume designer who came with Jackie Chan – so, he said that the local police would look much more authentic.
“As soon as they arrived…still in the Kiev airport,” said the other guy plaintively “he saw some lady in a fox fur hat. And immediately requested exactly the same, only with a red star – for their villain, as he explained. Somebody has already gone to look for it. Sure, there won’t be problem with the star in our city, but as for the fur hat …”
“Yes, in movies it’s always gotta be larger than life. And where is our movie star in the flesh?” I asked, “so we to have a chance to take a picture of him in that most authentic of headwear. I can imagine how delighted our readers will be!”
“We have our orders, pal: Don’t let anyone in,” the senior of the two answered wearily, the one with a naval dirk, “especially you, the press. And, between us, he is not in the room right now. Recently left. Maybe, in the hotel’s restaurant? If you need him so urgently, try to find out…. Good luck for now.” We headed to the hotel restaurant. Going down the hall, we almost ran into a short, sturdy Asian in a red nylon jacket. Under his arm he held a shaggy hat. No red star was visible in the fur’s curls, but apparently that was our man.
Our eyes met and I realized that our hour of glory had struck.
“My friend!” – it was Kolya getting ahead of me – happily opening his arms to meet the Chinese man. “Here we are, looking for you, searching high and low!”
We introduced ourselves again, showing our press credentials one more time. I greeted the guest to our city as best I could in English, “We are happy to host your film crew here in Crimea. Especially today, when my friend Nikolay has his birthday. And we would be happy, to the utmost, if Mr. Chan gave us at least half an hour for an interview over a cup of coffee in some nearby café.” All this while Kolya eagerly nodded, and when he heard the word ‘coffee’, he only smiled eloquently. Mr. Chan listened attentively, paused for a minute, then nodded too in agreement.
(…to be continued…)
Series – Evanescent
January: If Something Can Go Wrong…It Will – Jonay Quintero Hernández (Spain)
February: The Planet of Pleasure – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
March: Evening with Jackie Chan – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
April: Vuvuzelas, Walkie-Talkies and Madiba Magic – Sarah-Leah Pimentel (South Africa)
May: Remembering – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
June: 5-4-3-2-1 – Talia Stotts (America)
July: Getting Ready for Newborns – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
August: Regrets – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
September: A Hollow Pursuit – Diana Haidar (Syria)
October: The Test – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
November: The Writer’s Daughter – Lauren Voaden (United Kingdom)
December: Translation Perfect – Zhang Lu (China)
Special: Catching Water III – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
Background – Context
Transadaptation Volume 2: Conceived – Childhood Transadapted, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2021)
Transadaptation Volume 1: In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
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)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Crimea – Latticed beach – PhotoCrimea (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed