We are taking a ride on the train. We aren’t bothering anyone. We’re just laying down on the top bunk of the sleeper car.
In Irkutsk, a plump older woman, approaching retirement age, sits in coach and is speaking with someone on the phone. She starts to frantically respond, and pandemonium spreads throughout the car.
“Lena, World War III has begun! Leshka has sounded the alarm, and American planes are flying at us!” Her bunkmate below immediately calls home and screams, “Vera, turn on the TV! Get on the internet! A woman on the train says that World War III has begun! If it’s true, I’m hopping off at Angarsk and coming back.” After speaking anxiously on the phone for some time, she then declares to her companions-in-distress, “Look at what Ukraine has done!”
The car froze in nervous anticipation while they passed through a cellular dead zone. Then, once it became clear that a world war had not been declared (at least temporarily), the passengers ceased writing their wills, and the purchase of water and rations abruptly fell off.
During the peaceful silence, a friend of mine turned to me and said in a low voice, “We need to take whoever is spreading these alarmist rumors and have them publicly shot at the next station!”. I replied that we’re in luck, because I have some ammunition right here in my pocket, so I’ll just go ask the conductor for his approval. Dejected, he got up and went to the back of the car to smoke (where virtually everyone was now smoking).
Those good-hearted women sat in silence for the remainder of their life on the railway, and when their cellphones would ring they’d answer tersely, “I’ll call you back.” And the sad, gloomy railcar continued on into the distance.
Text: Mikhail Lebedev
Translation: Richard Crenwelge
Artist: Roman Genn
100% oil painting
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