Chapter 13 of Silent Vector, in which the Soviet thorn in the American side goes nuclear
BIGGER BANG FOR YOUR RUBLE
Yevgeny Karaspanov sits at the kitchen table of his cramped Moscow apartment staring out of the room’s small open window. Although he is a rising star in the Communist Party, he knows that his living accommodations are almost claustrophobic by western standards. Kasparanov also knows that as he continues to rise through the ranks of the Party elite he will be rewarded with more and more of the creature comforts true socialists are supposed to eschew. It is a fact of life in the Soviet Union that the more power one has within the ruling apparatus of this purportedly collectivist nation, the more personal perquisites one enjoys. It is also a fact of life that at any moment the modest degree of comfort that Kasparanov has built for himself and his young family can be snatched away by the sort of fierce internal politics that has characterized his country since at least 1917.
His wife, Zenaida, dries the last of their dinner dishes and joins him at the table. Tatyana, their three-year-old daughter, has been asleep for an hour.
“Vodka?” she asks him.
“Of course,” is his almost autonomic response.
Zenaida dries her hands on her apron. With one hand she takes two shot glasses from the white, metal cabinet above the kitchen sink; with the other hand she pulls a nearly empty bottle of the national beverage from the same cabinet. She closes the door, places the two shot glasses on the table, and pours.
“Your daughter does not like it when her father is so glum, so stern. Neither does your wife.”
“Forgive me. I should pay more attention to the two of you. I have too much on my mind lately.”
Zenaida laughs and lights a cigarette which she hands to her husband.
“Isn’t your job to make the Americans worry about us?”
“More so than ever.”
“Then what worries them the most?”
“The same thing that worries us. Nuclear war.”
Zenaida laughs again.
“You politicians. You worry about something that will never happen.”
“Your confidence, I’m afraid, is not shared.”
“By who? Ask a Muscovite, and not some Party apparatchik. He’ll tell you. Both sides are so afraid of the possibilities that neither side will ever use these weapons. You can bet the average American knows in his heart what I already know. These weapons are useless except for blustering politicians to frighten each other with.”
Kasparanov nods, his eyes growing wider as he does. He takes the shot glass, drains it and places it on the table. He pours another shot. Zenaida picks up her shot glass and sips the vodka, savoring it rather than gulping it.
“But if we can convince them we’re not afraid of starting such a war?” Yevgeny asks.
“Well, then you’d certainly get their attention. And not just the government. The people. You’d get their attention too. But, at least for the sake of your daughter, perhaps we should not do such a thing.”
“Yes. We would certainly get their attention. Zenaida, you’re a genius. And to think I married you for your beauty.”
“You married me because I was pregnant.”
“A circumstance caused primarily by your beauty!”
They both laugh lightly. She reaches for his free hand and takes it in hers. They lean towards each other until their foreheads are touching. The attraction has always been deeply mutual, and here in the half-light of a summer evening, it is as strong as ever.