Hilarious relatives-in-law. Chapter 6


           Gorbachev's appointment as the First Secretary of the USSR Communist Party, and then the subsequent Chernobyl catastrophe are considered to be a point of the countdown, until the fall of the Soviet Union. From the shelves of shops gradually began to disappear one sort of goods after another. Intensive struggle against drunkenness led to a partial shortage of alcoholic supply and a rise in prices of alcoholic beverages. In small towns and villages sausage became a luxury item, or, rather, an invaluable commodity, for the purchase of which it was necessary to go to Moscow or Kyiv. People wondered where the soap, washing powder, tobacco products, sugar and the rest of the goods had got to? There were only salted sardines, canned fish, mineral water and bread on the sale. But people seemed to know the cause of it all, "Everything is rotting in warehouses, the government is creating a deficit on purpose." However, what kind of purpose such a large-scale deficit was being created for, no one knew.

And how could they understand it? Taking into consideration the fact that the villagers worked from morning till night in the fields and farms, they produced the same amount of agricultural products as before giving everything to the state. "Where does everything go to?" people kept repeating the same question time and again.

The biggest shock was the stoppage of payment of wages. Pensioners were the only ones, who with a long delay, but received at least scanty amounts of money. They became the richest inhabitants of the village, as the agricultural workers worked on the record. The delay in wages has reached up to five years. Then it became clear that the collective farm would not pay off its duty to the workers. Farms, created for decades, were dismantled for construction material and the arrears were repaid to a certain extent. Money had become as rare as the goods on which it could be spent. The alcohol took the place of the medium of exchange. Even teenagers knew in the village how much vodka one had to pay for a particular service. Either one worked for free, or took vodka for his help. Refusing to help was almost impossible - everybody was as close as a relative. They might take offence and spread rumours around the village, and a bad reputation is like pitch: it sticks easily, but is heavily washed away. In the local culture club there used to be art amateur groups and a choir. It's not a secret that the Ukrainians are a singing nation. They cannot live without songs, dancing and fun. On each holiday the local choir gave a performance, sometimes it took part in district town song competitions. On special occasions huge festivities were arranged by the local authorities, such as scenic performances, sports competitions, different contests in strength and dexterity. On the central square there was a tall pillar. One, who could climb on it and tear off a numbered token, won a prize. Such a person was considered the most agile one in the village and had a respect of local residents.

The village was able to live cheerfully. Every day a new film was shown in the cinema. A wedding ceremony and seeing off young recruits to the army was one after another - such holidays gathered dozens and even hundreds of guests. The tables were simply piled with food and alcohol. Having his fill of sumptuous dishes, drinking, singing, dancing a guest got tired, he needed to give a respite to his body. But how was it possible? A week later someone invited him to a party again. Yes, life was good, and it was fun to live. And where had that all gone to? While in the big cities only structural changes had occurred, and a number of cultural and entertainment establishments had only increased, which preserved cultural development, but for the village the collapse of the Soviet Union was, in a full sense of the word, a tragedy. There was happening the demise of public values. The village, from the position of a collective community, had shifted to a lower level of orientation to social values - to family ones; each family lived by their own rules. The goals and tasks that had united the workforce in a common pursuit of personal and public well-being were a thing of the past. Such changes disunited people, made them angry, hostile and desperate.

During the initial years after the proclamation of Ukraine an independent state, collective farmers continued to work in the former Soviet conditions. Money was not still paid for the work, but the length of work record was maintained, and the workers hoped that, at least in their old age, they would receive a pension. Armed clashes in other regions of the USSR forced some people, who had left the village when the Soviet Union was in its flourish, to return to their places of origin.

One of such refugees was Berdock`s family.

They left Azerbaijan, sold an apartment in Baku, and built a two-story house in their father's village which decorated by its unusual modern design the unattractive, dilapidated street. Berdock`s family included three more brothers, besides himself, and the father, who was a retired officer. Two elder brothers got married and left their family in a newly built house. They got jobs as mechanics in the local tractor facilities and seemed not to regret leaving Baku at all.

Burdock stayed to live with his father and a younger brother, who was soon recruited to serve in the army. The family began living a normal village life. They planted potatoes, bought a cow and equipped the house with furniture. Having received psychological stress from moving from another country, from urban conditions, they quickly restored, to some extent, the lost material wealth and adopted a rural way of life.
But as Comrade Lenin said, "Being forms consciousness." They could not keep their individual principles for a long time; the local society put new challenges before them. In a long run, they became the same as the rest of the inhabitants. The younger brother went to the army to repay his duty to the Motherland, Berdock married and brought his wife to his house. The girl's parents had already lost their meaning of life. And what would they have done if it had not been for alcohol? Every day the relatives-in-law went on a visit to their relative-in-law who had a decent pension after many years of service as an army officer. They supported him morally, helped him with his household, and kept him a company at a bottle of vodka: in general, they diversified the life of their relative-in-law adding some colourfulness to his gray existence. Over time, a number of visits increased; even a decent pension was not enough for booze anymore.

"We must do something about it," the relatives-in-law decided.
They saw Cardan walking confidently along the road. He was of a medium height man with a benevolent, sympathetic, and sincere expression on his face; he always inspired hope with his open eyes. Light gray eyes encountered an audacious look of any person without blinking; thin lips spoke encouraging and soothing words. His chest, constantly exposed forward, and his unbuttoned jacket inspired eagle boldness. It seemed that his whole look said, "You can rely on me."

"This is the man we need," the relatives-in-law agreed. "Hey, Cardan, help us out with a sale of a motorcycle. Petrol is expensive, repair parts cannot be found anywhere, you know, everything is deficit now. It only stands and rots in the garage."
"Motorcycle? No problem. Everything will be alright. I`ll manage with it. I'll find a buyer. It`s very bad that a good thing is perishing. Someone had better repair and ride it.”
"If you help us sell it, we will not leave you in trouble, we will pay you well."
Soon Cardan found a buyer, and the motorcycle "went from under the gavel."
Unfortunately, the money gained from its sale was soon squandered. And again the question arose: what was to be done next?
"Listen, relative," the relatives-in-law came to a conclusion, "for what purpose do you need the garage? By the way, it is always empty. You haven`t got neither a motorcycle, nor a car. Why do you need it in the yard, just stands there in vain? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, you`re right. It definitely sounds logical," he agreed wisely.

They dismantled it for building material, and Cardan helped them sell it. "What a good man Cardan is, he always comes to the rescue, he never refuses to give a hand," the relatives-in-law often talked to each other sitting at a drink. "What would we do without him? How quickly he reacts. How beautifully he can approach people. He can sell anything to anyone."

The money from the sale of the garage was spent, and the relatives-in-law bumped into the same question again: what was to be done next? Then they dismantled the iron fence and sold it to a scrap metal collector. While they were drinking and carousing, they did not notice how the summer flew by.
"Look, relative, why do you need a cow? There's no hey in your shed. What will you feed her with? We must sell her, or she will starve to death. Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, you`re right. It definitely sounds logical," he agreed sagely like a philosopher.

         They sold the cow. The whole winter they drank and caroused, and when spring came the relatives-in-law asked their relative-in-law, "Why do you need a cast iron stove top on the stove for summer?" Let's sell it, and when winter comes we will buy a new one? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, it does. You`re right again. It`s definitely according logic. I simply don`t need a stove in summer," the relative-in-law agreed.
"Cardan, can you find buyers for the cast iron stove top?" We will pay you well if you help us," they suggested.
"How can I find buyers for a second-hand stove top? Firstly, it must be shown, only then, maybe, someone will buy it."
"OK, you`re right. Take it. You'll find clients faster with it," the relatives-in-law agreed.
          Cardan loaded the stove top on a bicycle and went to look for buyers. On the way he conceived of a new plan. He hid the stove top in a bush and moved to the nearest house.
"Landlord," he called knocking at the gate," do you need a cast iron stove top on the stove?"

A minute later the owner of the house came out to Cardan.
"You tell a stove top. How much?"
"A liter of vodka."
"Where is it?"
"If you give me a liter, I'll bring it to you."
"Eh, Cardan," said the man, "I am not the one who can be fooled so easily. First, produce me the stove top, and then you will get a payment".
"Think about it logically," Cardan started explaining in a philosophical way taught from the relatives-in-law, "how can I take something from people if I do not pay for it?  Knowing my nature, they will send me back to you."
"Yes, you`re right, it sounds logical. I would not trust you either. Wait here."
The landlord went to the house and a few minutes later he came back with a liter of vodka.
"Don`t you try to deceive me! You know me! If I catch you lying to me, I`ll give you such a beating that you`ll never forget it!"
"I know, I know! If it weren`t you but someone else, then, maybe, I would deceive him. But I know that such tricks will not go with you".
"That's right, Cardan, I see that you know it," the landlord patted him satisfactorily on a shoulder.

Later, it happened quite according to the logical principles that never again neither the relatives-in-law, nor the landlord saw neither the bottle of vodka, nor the stove top anymore.

          The deceived landlord, seduced by an opportunity to purchase a necessary thing for his household for a meager price, a long time was beside himself with anger. How could that have happened to him? He couldn`t understand it. He had never received such merciless blows from his destiny in his life. Anger did not leave him neither at night, nor in the daytime. "Oh, bastard," he thought, "if you only get into my eyesight, I'll shake your soul out of you." He went running to look for Cardan in the village, but he simply disappeared like a ghost. "He seems to be very scared. Probably, he is sitting in a secluded place somewhere waiting for the trouble to pass by. That scoundrel knows that I will not leave it like that," he consoled his vanity.

A week passed, then another one, and the anger started laying down, gradually changing into a state of bitterness. He began to feel sorry for himself, to seek excuses. The deceived landlord could not accept the fact that he was not actually the smartest, the most wise person in the world. However, he found an excuse for his misfortune. As it turned out, he accidentally trusted Cardan, accidentally succumbed to the temptation, accidentally paid him before he received the stove top, and these things he did despite the fact that he was aware of Cardan`s tricks and deceptions, and knew what this man was capable of, therefore, he could not make a slip because of his foolishness, which means he made a mistake by accident.
         A month later, the landlord managed to meet his abuser. Cardan faced him with a confident and sincere look. Such an honest and childlike innocent expression on his face lit in him a spark of a benevolent disposition towards his offender. Over the past month, his anger, resentment, and desire for revenge had almost exhausted themselves, but in order to save his reputation, he pounced on a malicious deceiver. Cardan, gesticulating intensely and explaining expressively, managed to lay out in small detail why he had failed to bring the stove top and return the vodka, where he went to, who he spoke with, what prevented his actions, who prevented them: step by step, everything, as well as in the landlord himself was reduced to pure chance.

 "Cardan explained himself so clearly, put everything in order so beautifully that it was hard not to believe him. Of course, I felt with my heart that he was lying, but for some strange reason I wanted to accept his arguments," the landlord told his fellow villagers later in order to justify himself in their eyes. He forgave Cardan for his deception, because it turned out that everything happened by chance, and no one was to blame for anything.
           The relative-in-law together with the relatives-in-law went on to sell unnecessary things in the household.

Iron beds were sold to a scrap collector - it was more logical to sleep on the floor. Logic was not observed in the storage of food in the refrigerator - for that purpose was a cellar. In the newspapers are written the same news as are shown on television, so a TV set was unnecessary in the house. It was as comfortable to sit on chairs as in armchairs and on sofas, so they occupied useful space in the house.

In the end, the heart of the old officer could not stand such terrible illogicality, and he passed away to the "other world". The relatives-in-law moved to his house to live with their daughter and son-in-law. Everything, which was possible to sell, turned out to be unnecessary for the household. A couple of years later they passed away to the place of "eternal peace" where they were expected by their relative-in-law. One of the four brothers moved to Russia, where his wife was from. Soon his three brothers went to live to Russia as well.

Once they get together and decided, "Why do we need a house in a village in which no one lives? Let's dismantle it for building material and sell it? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes it does," all the brothers agreed in unison.

Now on the spot where a beautiful house decorated the entire street, only wind wanders. In bad weather it rushes over a hillock of the remaining debris of bricks and slate. As a rightful lord he felt his strength, grew stronger and rushed through the village sweeping away on its way dozens of rural homes. People did not know where everything had gone to, but the answer was extremely simple: it had been a fault of the evil wind of change.