Chapter 62 of Silent Vector

Chapter 62, in which a couple of Soviet soldiers in Cuba contemplate their fate

CHAPTER 62

UNDER SAN CRISTOBAL’S MOON

Since their small, canvas, two-man shelters are too stifling for sleep, Dmitri Bogdonevitch and Yuri Belyavski lie on cots in the open air near Cuba’s recently constructed San Cristobal missile launch site. At a little past two in the morning Dmitri reaches for his shirt on the folding camp table next to his cot. Using only the light of the moon, he finds his cigarettes and matches in his shirt pocket. He pulls a cigarette out of the pack, lights it, and returns both items to his shirt pocket. He returns his shirt to the table, lies back on his cot, and smokes.

Moments later his lifelong friend speaks up.

“Smoking in bed in dangerous, Dmitri.”

“You mean to tell me that what I’m doing might cause my sudden, violent death?”

“If you wish to put it that way.”

“Smoking in bed is not so different from putting missiles in Cuba.”

“Your counterrevolutionary attitudes are troubling.”

“I’m not a counterrevolutionary. I’m a realist.”

“You’re a defeatist, which I’m told is just as bad as a counterrevolutionary, although I’m not entirely clear on the distinction.”

“Then tell me, Yuri, what do you suppose is going to happen over the next few days?”

“We’ll finish our work and then return home as heroes.”

“You listen too closely at those awful political meetings.”

“Another defeatist attitude. How will you learn without listening?”

“I listen, but what I listen to tells me more than I’ll learn at any political meeting.”

“What do you listen to?”

“Lately, I’ve been listening to the sounds of our own work. These sounds tell me the end is near.”

“Another defeatist attitude. That’s three by my count. You should stop talking so much, especially when you should be sleeping. Besides, when you talk I can’t sleep.”

“I don’t want to waste my last days on earth sleeping.”

“A clearly counterrevolutionary statement, I think. I’ll have to report you to the Zampolit.”

“Go ahead. Perhaps they’ll ship me to Siberia before the shooting starts. It may be my only chance.”

“You think the Americans will fire on us?”

“Why would they not?”

“Perhaps you should give me a cigarette.”

“Is it no longer dangerous to smoke in bed?”

“One end is as good as the next, I suppose.”

“Now it is you who utters defeatist propaganda.”

“Then with luck we’ll both be sent to Siberia before the Americans start a war.”

Dmitri fishes another cigarette out of his pack, hands it to Yuri and tosses the pack of matches to him.

“Strange what passes for luck these days.”