Money for Tomfoolery?

«See what a smart grandson I have?» Egorich boasted with a warmth in his voice. «Curious, and skillful. Good job, Vasyatka. Someone needs to give him some money.»
The hint was clear, and I started getting out my money, but Vasyatka, emboldened by the praise, continued.
«I have to hear absolutely everything about the cosmonauts. Ours and the Americans. When I grow up I’m going to be a cosmonaut myself.»
«What’s that? What’s that you said?» Egorich was suddenly on his guard.
«When I grow up I’m going to be a cosmonaut.»
«Well, you won’t get any money from me for that kind of utter tomfoolery, Vasyatka.»
«It’s not tomfoolery at all to be a cosmonaut. Everybody likes cosmonauts. They’re heroes and they get shown on television. They’re flying around the Earth all the time in big old spaceships. They talk to all kinds of scientists directly from space.»
«And what good comes of their yammering? They’re flying there while there are fewer and fewer fish in the Ob.»
«Cosmonauts tell all the people about the weather. They know in advance what the weather’s going to be on the whole Earth tomorrow," Vasyatka continued to defend science.
«Big deal. You can go to granny Marfa. Ask granny Marfa and she’ll tell you the weather for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and next year. And she won’t take any money. What about your cosmonauts? Your cosmonauts are squandering Petka’s money. Your father’s money.»
«The state gives the cosmonauts lots of money.»
«And where is this state of yours getting the money? Where the hell does the state get it? From Petka, your father. That’s where the state gets the money. I caught fish and Petka sold it in town, and he wanted to be a smart businessman, but the state says to him, «Pay taxes, give us all your money, we have lots of expenses. And in the Duma they keep yammering, worse than women at a well. They thought it all up, made it all up, and they think they’re geniuses. They have all kinds of conveniences there, they use nice clean toilets, smart ones, but the water in the river keeps getting dirtier. You’re not getting any money, Vasyatka, until you air that tomfoolery from your head. And I’m not going anywhere anymore, I’m not going to make money for tomfoolery.»
It was probably the drink that made Egorich flare up so strongly that he nearly turned down the trip. Later, after he’d drunk some vodka straight from the bottle Sasha’d brought and lit a cigarette, he calmed down a little and we climbed into the launch. He never did give Vasyatka any money, and he was kept muttering something about tomfoolery under his breath the whole way.
The launch’s old motor rattled badly, making it hard to talk. We made our way in silence to an old fishing shack with just one small window. The first stars were appearing in the night sky.
Egorich, who had finished off the bottle of vodka started on the bank in the launch, muttered to his Sasha, «I’m off to sleep. Set up here by the fire or on the shack floor. Come dawn, take him to our spot.»
Egorich had already bent over to enter the shack’s tiny door, but he turned around and repeated sternly, «Ours! Under-s-stood, Sasha?»
«Understood," Sasha replied calmly.
When we were sitting by the fire and eating fish baked in the coals, I asked Sasha a question about what Egorich said that had put me on my guard.
«Alexander, can you tell me what this 'spot' of yours is where Egorich told you to take me?»
«Our spot is on the bank opposite the village, and from there you can get to Anastasia’s glade," Alexander answered me calmly.
«That’s great! You accept all that money and don’t take me where I need to go?»
«Yes, that’s what we do. That’s all we can do for Anastasia to make up for our guilt before her.»
«What guilt? And why did you admit this to me? How are you going to put me off at 'your spot' now?»
«I’ll moor the launch wherever you say. As for the money, I’ll give you back my share.»
«And why are you doing this for me?»
«I recognized you. I recognized you immediately, Vladimir Megre. I read your book and saw your photo on the cover. I’ll take you where you say. Only I have to tell you. . . You need to treat what I tell you calmly. Reasonably. You shouldn’t go into the taiga. You won’t make it. Anastasia’s gone. I think she went deep into the taiga. Or somewhere else we don’t know about. You won’t make it now. You’ll die yourself. Or hunters will shoot you. Hunters don’t take kindly to outsiders on their lands. They deal with outsiders at a distance so as not to subject themselves to excess danger.»
Outwardly Alexander was speaking almost calmly, only the stick he was using to stir the fire was shaking clumsily, and the sparks were shooting up like fireworks, disturbingly, into the night.
«Did something happen here? What? You recognized me, so tell me. What happened? Why did Anastasia leave?»
«I’d like to tell someone," Alexander replied in a subdued voice, «to tell someone who could understand. I don’t know where to start to make you understand or to make me understand.»
«Tell it simply, the way it was.»
«Simply? It’s true. It’s all very simple, so simple it will shock you. Listen calmly and, if you can, don’t interrupt.»
«I won’t. Get to the point. Don’t drag it out.»


Книга:  Volume III: The Dimention of Love