Electricity inspector. Chapter 7

ELECTRICITY INSPECTOR

       "Cardan, I just cannot understand why people believe you? Even when you deceive them endlessly and, in the literal sense of the word, spin a yarn, they continue to catch on your tricks?" Gray wondered with an expression of perplexity on his face. "If you were elected to the government, you would squander the whole country." And how good it is, that you live in a godforsaken village and you do not have an opportunity to develop your adventurous talent. With such dexterity you can twist people around your little finger, that Ostap Bender himself would envy your skill".

"Believe me, Gray, there are con men who are much more agile than me. In my life I have learned a lot of tricks from them. A spade is a spade even in Africa!"
"You have to spin and always be on the move, and other things will be added unto you," Cardan gave his words a prophetic tone. "For example, you are sitting now complaining and doing nothing to improve your health, but the car, by the way, is being moved only when the driveshaft (cardan in Ukrainian) is spinning. This time you will take the lead in our next machination. We'll go to check the serviceability electricity meters. There are only few old women in the village who know you by sight; you are not native by birth here. As for me, even local dogs can recognize me easily".
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 They went to Gray`s house to get changed. They needed to create a uniform the would make him look like an inspector checking the electricity meters.

Cardan put a mink hat on Gray`s bending like wings ears for solidity, and a demi-season cloak gave him a touch of an intelligent working look. He stepped back, looked at Gray with an appraising look and concluded, "Something else is missing." Cardan opened a table drawer, carefully studied its contents trying to find something else for the full impressiveness of the businesslike appearance. His eyes were blurred: so many things were there: threads, needles, buttons, scissors, spoons, forks, knives, can openers, screwdrivers, pliers - a whole set of necessary small items for the house. Finally he said, "Yes, this is what we need!" and pulled out old glasses in a rough plastic frame from the drawer. Gently and carefully cleaning them from the age-old dust, he put them on Gray`s eyes adding the load to Gray's ears, encumbered by a huge hat, giving them a conspiratorial appearance. "Listen, Gray, If I didn`t know what you are, I would get scared of you myself," Cardan supported him with a compliment.

         From an old clerical journal they cut out pieces of paper that they intended to use as fine receipts. When an inspector comes in, people do not even look at what they are given because of a fright; since Soviet times they have become accustomed to preventive punishment.
   
         It was the last month of autumn. The nights were long and the days were short. It darkened early, and lighted windows of the neighboring houses became visible in the distance. A bright light shining from the window of the house of a lonely old woman beckoned to them. They approached the fence silently; the gate was locked.
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They climbed over the wooden fence and went to the house. Cardan knocked at the window with an appalling drumbeat. "Landlady, open the door," shouted Gray, and nearly frightened himself with his commanding voice. "We check electricity meters," he repeated authoritatively and once again knocked at the window. Cardan moved to the side to stay in shade, and Gray stepped onto an already illuminated porch and unceremoniously broke into the opening door pushing the old woman aside.

"Why did you not open the door immediately? Are you stealing electricity?"
A frightened old woman did not know what to respond. She began to stammer, "First, I heard you, then ran to the door, opened the lock - maybe hesitated a little. Sorry."
But the "inspector" did not want to hear her explanations.
"Where is an electric meter?" He asked threateningly.
The old woman led him into the house and pointed at a black box. Gray pretended to inspect it, spelled out a few figures and sat down taking hold of his head.
"Oh, goodness, it smells of prison," he whispered with the bulged eyes, startled by the seriousness of the violation.
"Oh, dear, what is to be done?  I haven`t touched it in my life. It must have broken," the old woman`s pleas for mercy poured like a summer shower.
"Okay. For the first time, I`ll write out a fine of 5 hryvnias (it was the price of a bottle of vodka in those days)." He wrote a declared figure with pen on a sheet of clerical paper and added, "and 5 hryvnias for repairing the meter. It's spinning too fast. Could you give me a screwdriver or a knife, please?"
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Gray demonstratively, with the appearance of an expert, began to pick in the measuring instrument. He put the tip of the knife in one slot, then into another, pushed on it, pulled at something, knocked on  the left side, then on the right one, slapped the top with his hand a couple of times, then put the knife back into the slot and applied some pressure again. He turned his face around, distorted from the laborious effort, to the old woman, and looked at the dial. "Everything is alright now, it`s spinning like new. Pay me 10 hryvnias."

The old woman was ready to part with a larger amount of money, but the guys knew when to stop. Cardan often repeated to Gray, "Better a little - but every day, than a lot - but once." Grabbing the money, Gray said goodbye to the old woman.
"Take care of the meter so that it doesn`t spin too fast again," he admonished her while leaving the house. Gray went straight to the lighted street. Excuses and words of gratitude were heard from the old woman behind his back.

          The gate was open, and Cardan awaited for his disciple impatiently. "Haven`t I told you that it’s important to spin and always be on the move, and other things will be added unto you," he repeated his unshakable motto again and patted Gray with his hand on his shoulder. "You are accepted into my team as an equal partner," he praised his smart apprentice for his dexterity.
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