Chapter 63, in which an apparatchik ponders his future
The apartment of Yevgeny and Zenaida Kasparanov is buttoned up against a cold October dawn. Cigarette smoke and steam from a boiling tea kettle make the cramped apartment seem even smaller. The first hints of a long Moscow winter are greeted with resigned familiarity by the young couple.
“Yevgeny, the kitchen window still leaks. Maybe we can get it fixed this year?”
“I like to think of it as our only source of fresh air for the next six months.”
“That way I don’t see it as broken.”
“You need a vacation. When do you get a vacation?”
“When I lose my job.”
“I just realized this morning that it’s been more than a year since we spent any time out of Moscow.”
“There are worse places, believe me.”
“What good is it being a big shot in the government if you have to work like a dog?”
“I’m not a big shot yet.”
“The next few days are critical. Either I’ll be the big shot you dream about, or . . . or I don’t know what I’ll be.”
They sit silently smoking, sipping their tea until they hear their daughter call.
Their mood changes instantly, both of them delighted to hear Tatyana’s sweet musical voice.
“Tatyana’s up. Go get her out of bed. She doesn’t get to see her father enough.”
Yevgeny puts out his cigarette and heads for the apartment’s lone bedroom. His daughter, sitting on her bed, squeals with delight when she sees him.
“Papa! Pick me up! Pick me up!”
Yevgeny Kasparanov, who like most fathers cannot resist the commands of this beautiful three-year-old, bends down, picks her up, and hugs her tightly.
“Shall we go see Mama?”
Tatyana looks at her father and simply nods before she hugs him tightly around the neck again.
Yevgeny, nearly in tears, carries his daughter to the kitchen.
“We are ready for our breakfast,” he announces.
“I’ll help Mama!”
Yevgeny puts his daughter down. She runs to her mother and hugs her, wrapping her arms around her mother’s legs.
The phone in the living area rings. Zenaida looks impatiently at Yevgeny. He goes to answer it.
“Yes. . . Yes, of course. I’m about to finish my breakfast and I’ll be there as soon as I’m done. . . Yes, please let him know. Thank you.”
He returns to the kitchen and sits at the table.
“Shouldn’t you go?”
“Soon. First, I want to spend some time with my two favorite girls.”
Zenaida walks up behind him and kisses him on top of his head.
“I’ll get breakfast started for the three of us. You can think about the rest of the world later.”