I turned up at the personnel department, showed them my reference saying I was a really great, promising welder and they told me to go to Moscow and study as a welding engineer. There’s your reference, there’s your degree with honors. They wouldn’t even talk to me at the personnel department. I grabbed some woman in the corridor and asked what I could do. Make an appointment with Mr. Pudin. Pudin said times had changed and sent me to the head of the workers’ department.

The head of the workers’ department offered me a tea and a job as a welder—if you’re wise you’ll come to understand, if you’re a fool it’s forever.

I took the welding job, and at a grade lower than before I started the institute. I worked there two months before my frustration was roused. I took a vacation in Moscow, drank for a month and came back. I was on a downward path, I went from woman to woman, and the most drunken women, women older than me, nine months went by like this.

I was welding a storage tank with Alexander on the night shift, a container the size of a three-story house. I’m welding on one side and Alexander on the other. “Shall we go for a smoke?" Outside it was February, a blizzard, snow, I had on a rabbit fur hat, snow was blowing all over the fur. The snow melted as we smoked and my hat became soaked through. I put the hat on over my mask and went back to welding. The mask wouldn’t go down as it was frozen to the hat, and I couldn’t take the hat off as it was frozen to my hair. I went to a cabin to get warm, finished the shift and then went to the trust and resigned. The manager, Mr. Mazepa, asked, “What made you decide to quit?” I said I’d get a job as an engineer somewhere, I hadn’t studied six years for my hat to freeze to my hair. I didn’t have further education before, there were no opportunities, I had to be patient, but now I had a degree, so to hell with it, did I have to play democracy? Mr. Mazepa said, “Go take a vacation, don’t resign.”

After three weeks I got a telegram: “You have been offered the position of engineer at FTL.” What this was, I didn’t know. It turned out to mean “Field Test Laboratory.”

I arrive at the FTL, where half of them are blind drunk and the other half only half-drunk. The boss, Zhilkin, is sitting at an empty table, takes out a liter bottle of vodka with a third left in it. He necks the remaining third straight from the bottle and asks if I can see any sugar-free Orbit on his table. I found it, gave it to him, and he went home for the rest of the day. The next day, the same thing happened.

The deputy, Shudra, then flies in and he starts bugging me for some reason, and when he takes out his hand to say hello his hand is like a toad. So this is where I am, well okay, let’s give it a year and then we’ll see.

This beautiful woman comes in, eight years older than me, her name is Nadia. I take one look at her and see that she’s as slippery as an eel.

Sevryuga, the chief welder, calls me over and starts harping on about how the FTL has got out of hand, the boss drinks like a bastard, the deputy just is a bastard, the workers drink round the clock and stagger about the town and there’s no order. I can that see he’s the ornery type, he has some sort of dastardly game, and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. He makes a deal with me, like he’ll help me become boss, then I’ll be at his command, along with the whole laboratory. Well I wasn’t completely against the idea, because my salary was twenty thousand and the boss’s was a hundred.

As if in passing he asks me about Nadia—do I like her or what? I say she’s beautiful beyond words, but doesn’t she live with Chernyuk, the managing director? “I know this Chernyuk, he’s no director, he’s a cissy.” He says he’ll work on Nadia and she’ll get with me. Okay, agreed, I’ll play your game, why not?

Some time goes by and then I’m sitting in this bar when Nadia is handed to me, drunk. Only you can be entrusted with a treasure like this. Tomorrow is Sunday, she doesn’t need to work, let her drink, but you must get her back home or she’ll freeze, it’s cold outside. I proceeded, of course, and the lady turned out to have form. For instance, I had only to think of her going off in her short little skirt to pour me a half glass of brandy and off she’d go!

Strangers began calling me, warning that they knew all about Nadia, and as soon as her husband died of cancer she had got with another man. Others said they were calling out of respect for my mother and wanted to warn me that Nadia was such trash I couldn’t even imagine. Alright, I would figure it out myself, without the well-wishers.

I had to fly to Moscow on business. To begin with they wouldn’t give me any money because Nadia had told the accountant not to give me any, and then I had a drink and after that found out in passing that I’d be getting married in October. But no one had asked me whether I wanted to or not. She had already agreed with the administration that they would register us right there in Yamburg. I asked Nadia and she said she wanted to surprise me. She had a private dentist and a private hairdresser. I got to be famous all over thanks to her, but I’d be damned if I wanted any of this.

I flew to Moscow on business with two of the lab workers. We had to go to the welding institute to get our certificates of accreditation and we were sitting there at the airport in Yamburg. Nikifor, fifty-ish, six foot two and broad-shouldered, was dressed in a suit. Anton, forty-ish, five foot nothing and fat, a hundred twenty kilos, wore a t-shirt. We’re sitting in the lounge drinking vodka, the plane has been delayed. Anton is stuffing his face with salad; ketchup and mayonnaise fall onto his t-shirt. The boarding call comes and we run. We arrive in Moscow, it’s raining outside and we’re standing on the stairway getting wet. I’m wearing a leather raincoat, Nikifor’s suit gets soaked through, and orange splodges spread across Anton’s t-shirt from the ketchup.

We got to the Izmaylovskaya Hotel that evening around seven o'clock. I went to resolve the matter of divorcing my wife, by then long overdue, while the other two stayed in the room. At a bar I spent a long time listening to my wife’s hysterics, then—okay stop it, I’m tired of this, I don’t want to live with you and I won’t do it. I get back to the room at eleven. The door doesn’t open for all the bottles piled up, there are two naked prostitutes in the room. Anton is sleeping in the bath in his stained t-shirt, Nikifor is walking about in his underpants, drunk. I got rid of the prostitutes and said, “Nikifor, let’s get some sleep, we’re going to see the professor at the institute tomorrow and study. Anton can sleep in his bath.” 

“Shall we have a drink?” 

“Go on then, pour out the last of it.”

The next morning at seven I wake Nikifor, he more or less wakes up and immediately begins drinking to ward off the hangover. My head is also splitting. “Pour us a drink and go wake up Anton.” It turns out Anton can’t change his t-shirt because he’s left his bags at Yamburg airport. Nikifor takes his suit out from under the mattress, all wrinkled up like an asshole. I ask him, “Why the hell would you put it under the mattress when it got wet yesterday?” He says, “I had to hide the money there, from the prostitutes.”

Outside, Anton has disappeared—we see him later on walking along drunk with a string bag, one of those mesh nets full of beer, he’s found a taxi, he says, for a hundred rubles. We go to the taxi and it turns out to be an Oka. “How are we all going to fit in your Oka?” I ask the driver. “Just give me the money,” he says. “Let’s go.” We drive in silence, drinking beer. Anton says, “So now we drink up the beer, throw out the bottles, and we’ll get lighter. The car will lift up.” Okay, dream on—you think it’s going to lift up? The beer’s still inside us.

There is a manhole leaking at VDNKh and there’s shit running all along the street in one great puddle. We get stuck in it, the car stinks inside, the water splashing under our feet, the driver says we’ll have to push. We start pushing, up to our knees in shit.

We get to the institute and the professor goes nuts when he sees us. “Who’s in charge here?” he says. “Let’s have a talk.” He asks, “Why is Nikifor all wrinkled up like an asshole?”

“Because it rained yesterday and he got soaked through, then he hid his suit under the mattress from some prostitutes so they wouldn’t steal his money.”

“And why is Anton all covered in stains?” 

“Because he was stuffing his face with salad at Yamburg and ketchup fell on his t-shirt, then he left his bags at the airport, spent the night in the bathtub, and he had nothing to change into.”

“And what’s with the beer in the string bag?”

“We had to drink to ward off the hangover so we wouldn’t die, now, during the trip.”

“And why does it stink of shit and your trousers are all wet?” Well, my dear professor, because we drove here in an Oka and it got stuck in a puddle at VDNKh, where there was a manhole leaking, and we had to get out and push.

The professor says, 

“Give me the documents, I’ll write up the certificates for you and you can go. Aren’t you going to study?”

“Professor, you do the certificates and we’ll wait here.” Half an hour later he came back out with the finished certificates.

A month later I called the professor: “I’ve got thirty men to send over to study with you.” He said we didn’t need to send all thirty, only one person needed to go and he’d give him exactly thirty certificates.

I return from the trip and it turns out Nadia has moved me into her apartment and discharged me from where I was staying before. All my things are hanging up in cupboards in her room. “Yeah,” I think, “I’m really stuck with this woman. And you can’t get rid of her, it’s as if through her good intentions she’s paving a path for me straight to hell. What do they do in cases like this? Right, I have to make it so she gets rid of me. Well, I know how to do that.” I got drunk as a swine and I don’t remember but I think I gave her one in the side; I fell asleep on her bed in my raincoat and boots.

I wake up, Nadia is nowhere to be seen, and neither are my things. There is brandy on the table, the bottle pointing in the direction of the other room. So then I left, since everything seemed to have been so neatly resolved, taking the bottle of brandy with me.

Sevryuga, the chief welder, didn’t know we had split up and said she was an old bat—I should open my eyes and take a look at her ass and her teeth. I didn’t understand this game—he was the one who had set me up with this woman, and her with me.

There was a guy named Andrei working in Sevryuga’s department, I moved in with him and he explained to me the essence of this sophisticated political game. I’d got out of welding and no one knew who I was. To earn popularity through honest labor you had to work for ten years—if that was even possible.

Sevryuga made it so that within a month everyone in Yamburg knew all about me. Sevryuga wanted to get rid of my boss and push me into his place. I asked, “Then why did he have to make it so that Nadia and I would split up, what damn kind of difference is it to him?”

“Because Abbas, the chief engineer, was looking for Nadia today but couldn’t find her anywhere, and he asked sarcastically, ‘Where’s the fuckin’ bride?’” 

Sevryuga had twigged that Abbas didn’t have a lot of respect for her.

Nadia went back to Chernyuk. On Builders’ Day they organized a booze-up in the tundra, she was very beautiful, all dressed in white. Chernyuk took care of her like a real gentleman. Maybe you should try getting her back? Forget it, to hell with her.

It seems, all you decent gentlemen, that you are all mired in shit, your whole rotten life is stinking and rotten. The people I met in prison were far more honest and more honorable than you.

Zhilkin, my boss, asked me to go to Irkutsk with him to help him buy a Toyota. They were cheap there and came directly from Japan. We scheduled our vacations so that we could take a month off together. We decided we’d meet in Moscow and fly to Irkutsk. This was doomed from the get-go because Zhilkin was drunk when he flew in, and I was drunk, and we decided to sober up and meet in Moscow in a week. Finally, we flew to Irkutsk sober a week later. I say, “I picked up a half liter—anyway, if you don’t want any I’ll drink it all myself.”

“Go ahead and pour it,” and Zhilkin takes out a liter bottle of Kuzmich vodka.

Irkutsk started with prostitutes. I’d never used their services before, while for Zhilkin it was the other way around—he only ever used them. “Go on,” he says, “and find some, bring some back.” I found a blonde and a brunette, it was his choice, and he pushed the other one to me. I was still sober, I was embarrassed, then I got hammered and got on with it. We spent the whole time picking up girls, driving to Baikal, I would go swimming there in the icy waters at night, we stayed at a resort, and hell knows what we got up to. Back at the resort, Zhilkin put a pack of Doshirak ramen on the stove inside the plastic packaging and the fire brigade paid us a visit.

Everything came to an end when a girl robbed Zhilkin of all the money he had set aside to buy the Toyota. “Well, to hell with them, pour me another, nothing’s changed.”

I fell in love there with Oksana, a beautiful young girl who had just recently started her career. She fell in love with me too, and for four days we were together. I told her I’d take her away with me, she should quit. I don’t know—why did I ask other people’s advice? Everyone thought that I would come undone and persuaded me against it. Oksana called and said she’d quit—she was waiting for me. Some woman later called wanting to squeeze me for money for Oksana—I told her they could all go to hell and never went.

I was in Irkutsk some years later and was told that Oksana was working back at the same place, she wasn’t so pretty anymore—she was on the needle. I had this sense of guilt that I never took her with me like I promised.

Zhilkin got a paper from the court ordering him to pay out thirty-three percent in alimony. He decided he wouldn’t pay anything, quit and retired.

I was made boss, and I started to understand what it meant to work with people. I had no experience in management, no connections, no support. People with their jealousy and greed come to you and they report back to their friends, everyone wants nights, overtime, vacations in summer, and on the other side you’ve got the higher-ups making constant demands.

The first shitty thing: when Shudra, my deputy, began running about yelling how they’d put me in charge and not him. He wrote to the Health Ministry claiming I was overexposing people and didn’t monitor the radiation levels, and another to the FSB saying I was transporting radioactive sources in violation of regulations. It took me two years to get all those commissions off my back. The second shitty thing: When the higher-ups ordered me to sack one of the workers who’d been drinking for several months. This worker turned out to have been a hero of the Afghan war—he threw his knife at the wall. The third shitty thing: when I sacked this worker I had to give his grade six welder’s job to a different worker who’d been working as a grade five. The fourth shitty thing: when one worker came up to another with a knife, and he complained to the police. After that I stopped counting the shit, because it was everywhere, and every day.

I had to send radioactive sources by plane from Yamburg to Tyumen. The plane was an ordinary passenger jet, I brought the radioactive sources to the airport and put them on the plane so no one would see them. The ladies at the airport signed my documents for me and I went to see the manager. The airport manager said I could go to hell and he wouldn’t sign a thing. I explained that it was all above board, but he didn’t want to hear it and said the aircraft commander wouldn’t sign it either. I called Abbas, who called Mr. Kelin, and the plane was delayed. The boxes with the radioactive sources were dragged off the plane onto the apron and all the passengers flipped. People are coming up to me and spitting at my feet. “I thought you were a normal guy, but you’re a piece of shit, I’ll never lend you a hand again!” To hell with your hand, I don’t have time for you now, you can shove it up your ass! Abbas called me, and we went to see Mr. Kelin. He in turn calls the director of Gazpromavia in Moscow. Dismiss the airport manager, he says, and appoint a new one to get those documents signed urgently. And send a new crew. I arrive at the airport, the airport manager is miserable, sitting with a fax in front of him telling him he’s fired. I went to the deputy manager, who signed all the documents in silence. A new crew arrived by plane and the commander put his signature on the documents. The ladies at the airport told me I was a bastard—their manager had been given a medal by Brezhnev himself for exploring the Arctic.

My boxes took off in the plane and I breathed a sigh of relief—too early, as it turned out. A week later I got a call from Tyumen airport saying there was no agreement between Yamburg and Tyumen and therefore the radioactive sources would be flown to Novy Urengoy. I travel the three hundred kilometers, wait for the radioactive sources, and then they don’t give them to me because all the paperwork refers to Yamburg. By hook or by crook, I managed to get hold of them. I travel by Bukhanka van with the radioactive sources, getting maximum exposure, the dosimeter won’t quit. The Yamburg security service stops me and everything starts over again. It’s three in the morning, I have yet to reload the radioactive sources onto a plane and once again I’m exposed to radiation—later that morning I have to report to the trust. I am drunk, because the radiation is easier to handle when drunk, but who do you explain that to?

The deputy manager calls and says everyone’s looking at me now, and I should be presentable, don’t get hammered in public, don’t go around screwing every woman you meet. Find one woman and live with her, write down a declaration that one day you’ll get married and I’ll give you your own room. It’s easy to say find someone, but where should I find her when all the ones around here are whores?

Tamara came over to me on a Saturday night. She says, “I want you, I’ve come to you alone.” How could I turn the girl down? She used to screw my roommate Andrei, it’s true, but now she’d decided to screw me. “Come in, I’ve got loads of beer, vodka, my roommate’s on vacation, only there’s nothing to eat, we can sleep tomorrow, it’s the weekend.” She made us something to eat, cooked fish, potatoes, and there was something else, and it all tasted so good. The sex we had was so incredible I’d never seen anything like it and never even knew it existed. I wake up with a splitting headache, hungover, there’s a note on the table—here’s some porridge for your breakfast, there’s lunch in the kitchen, I’ll come and cook dinner myself. She and I write the declaration for that single room together.

We hold a house-warming party, I’d bought a music center, the music’s blaring, a bunch of old girlfriends come over and they all wish us well. At two in the morning Tamara takes off a shoe and throws it in my face. The heel hits me in the face, blood everywhere, black eye. I put on sunglasses and go to a meeting. Abbas says, “Take the glasses off, what are they glued on or something?” I take them off, the black eye comes to light and you can smell the alcohol fumes thirty feet away.

I flew to Moscow and picked up the divorce papers from the registry office. My ex-wife, Ksenia, is yelling and hysterical. That face of hers is so repulsive, that malevolent grin, I was horrified—how had I ever lived with her? Eight years had gone by since we got married, and I had loved her once! How does Nature allow this? What kind of love goggles had I had to wear, what sort of hormones had I been force-fed that I should love this woman? “Oh go to hell you idiotic woman, stop yelling or I’ll knock you out.” But she goes on yelling and doesn’t shut up, like, “I’ve been screwing this guy here the whole time, so intelligent, he’s a doctor, and his dick is bigger than yours.”

“Alright then get out of here already, I’ve had enough of you, you bitch. I’ll go off somewhere alone so I’ll never see you or hear you again.” Only I didn’t have any money, they hadn’t transferred my wages.

For a start I went to the bank and put in a request for the ten thousand Canadian dollars I had in my Austrian bank account. They said it would come through in a few days. With all that was left I bought some vodka and went over to a bench in some courtyard. There was a woman sitting there, she ran off when I started getting shit-faced. I went to the train station to sleep, on Komsomolskaya, met some guy there, some sort of local hoodlum. We walked together, finished the vodka, then picked up some more somewhere, and some more. I woke up on a train at four in the morning. My head was splitting, it had a bump on top, I had no money, my gold signet ring was also missing. Ah, to hell with him and everyone else, but where was I going to get something to cure this hangover? I walked some way, found a bunch of homeless people, drank some rotten liquor with them and slept on a lawn somewhere.

I tramped around like this for several days—and then I see my ex-wife walking along. 

“What the hell are you doing here?” 

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t myself, that’s just how it is, let’s go home.”

“You go—go back to your doctor, the intellectual with the big dick.”

“Okay. The bank called—your money has arrived from Austria.”

I went and withdrew all the money, booked myself into a hotel, had a wash, drank some good vodka and bought a model six Zhiguli and my first ever cell phone. I wasn’t a great driver, so I drove the car to a friend’s garage.

Papers arrived from Austria, from the Canadian embassy, inviting me to fly over for an interview. I flew to Vienna for a few days, had the interview, and they said, “Wait for your forms and then go get a medical.”

I flew to Moscow with Tamara, my ex sent me some of my things, her new man, the doctor with the big dick, brought a bag and flung it at me in the subway. Why’d you have to fling it at me like that? Have I done something to you? Take my ex-wife for yourself, she’s well educated now, but if you’d known her before, she was an idiot. My ex-wife handed over my documents and the keys to the car.

We got in the model six and somehow I got it started. We got a music system and an alarm fitted at some garage and drove to Saint Petersburg. Tamara turned out to be a wonderful friend, traveling companion and bride, there were no issues. I was glad and felt happy to have her.

We decided to take the car from Petersburg to Novy Urengoy. We drove through Mordovia, the car flipped over and landed in a swamp. It’s night, I pull Tamara out of the car, carry her to the roadside, then I plunge into the swamp a couple of times, get our money, everything’s floating in and around the car. I stop a KAMAZ truck, ask them to take us to a nearby bar, everyone there turns up their nose at us.

You can all go to hell, upstanding people of this rotten society, what is this shit? It seems like there are only bandits in this world—who can you speak to as a human being? Well what do you expect from people, and why? I would help someone in a situation like this whatever way I could.

I went over to some local fellas and they agreed to help us out without any great fuss. I bought brandy and drank it from the bottle as we drove along.

The fellas took us to the hospital, where my wife was given an x-ray and her leg put in plaster. Then they found us a hotel and I left Tamara there. We went back to the scene of the accident, the cops were already there and they began laying into me, saying I was drunk.

“I was sober when I was driving—after swimming in a swamp of course I’m drunk. What, do you want me to catch pneumonia?”

“Take a breathalyzer, give us a blood sample, she’s not your wife, it’s a criminal case for causing injury.”

“You can all go to hell, here you go, here’s five thousand rubles, just get off my back.”

I drove the clapped-out model six to the fellas’ garage, then I took a look at it and they took me over to the hotel. In the morning my wife and I took a taxi to Vnukovo airport and flew to Novy Urengoy.

The papers arrived from Austria, from the Canadian Embassy, ​​telling me to go for my medical. I flew to Moscow, took the medical and sent the results on to Vienna.

My mother had got an apartment in the Moscow suburbs and was getting ready to retire there. Next vacation I decided to fly to her first, and then to Tamara, who was also on vacation.

This time, something happened to me. I flew over to my mother’s and I started feeling unwell, although I’d only had two beers. My mother called for a private ambulance and I was taken into hospital. This was a private nuthouse that cost five thousand rubles a day. I opened my eyes and saw that I was hooked up to a drip and there was a beautiful woman sitting on my bed.

“Who are you? Where am I?”

“You’re in a hospital. I’m your neighbor, I’m in the ward next door.”

I was there for two weeks and after that I programmed myself off booze for a year.

A chat with the psychiatrist revealed that I had plenty of psychiatric issues typical of an adult, along with plenty of others more typical of a teenager. Well yes, I’m abnormal.

The psychiatrist discouraged me from that lady neighbor, saying something like she’s not a good match for you. Why did I listen to him? I don’t get it. Why was I listening to other people at all?

Programming is bullshit, two months later I was getting hammered ten times as much.

Papers arrived from Austria asking me to take an additional medical, to take tests for HIV and Hepatitis C, because I smoked and had tattoos—I took them all and sent them off.

I flew back to figure out what was wrong with my car. In Ryazan I found a mechanic at a garage, told him about the accident and asked what it would cost to repair it. The mechanic says for an accident like that it’s going to cost eighty thousand for the repairs, plus the tow-truck. A new model six cost a hundred five thousand—there was no sense getting the repairs done. I decided to leave the car with those fellas.

So I’m sitting in Ryazan in a park with two prostitutes. Some old lady walks by with a mad look about her, starts yelling to the whole park—she sees such a blight on me, and only Archimandrite Father Polycarp can remove it. She can also remove such things, but not when they’re the size of the one I have. I ask the old lady, “Where does Father Polycarp live? How do I find him?” She gave me the address, I committed it to memory. I’d have to go on Saturday morning, he would be holding a service for the sick.

I went back to Yamburg. I’m drinking like crazy, sick of it all, my frustration progressing. I take a look out the window, out there is the tundra, there’s snow, and not a single tree. In winter it’s dark all the time, the sun comes up and sets an hour later.

Tamara and I took a vacation, I wanted to marry her. I went to the registry office, but they didn’t accept my application because it was Wednesday—their day off. I hit the roof, spat on the floor and told the staff to go to hell. The house of the district police inspector awaited me and I spent fifteen days there.

I wanted to marry Tamara a second time in her city. While preparations were being made for the wedding, she called me by a different name. I smashed up everything, hurled the dress into a puddle, flipped the table over, got into a fight with her relatives, the wedding was off.

I calmed down a little and made up with Tamara, we sat in the hotel in silence drinking sherry. “Let’s go and get married in Irkutsk, we’ve got to get lucky third time round.” We went, calmly, quietly, the wedding went ahead, there was only my uncle and his lady there. I now had a third wife, and she was a perfect ten out of ten.

More papers arrived from Austria, from the Canadian embassy, telling me to take my medical all over again as a year had gone by since the first one. I would have to change my passport because it was ending soon, I weighed up all the pros and cons and didn’t go.

I wouldn’t be able to take Tamara to Canada. What damn good was Canada to me without my Tamara? What would I do there? Fill up people’s cars at the petrol station or cleaning at some supermarket? I’d get paid one and a half thousand dollars when I was already getting three and half. To hell with you, Canada, and Austria too, better I go for a drink.

The trust manager, whom I respected, took honorable retirement. Abbas, the former chief engineer, would now be manager, while Gniliuk would take his place, and they were both creeps.

I got a call at work one day from a clinic in Yamburg. “Your wife has been diagnosed with HIV.”

Oh fuck!

I’d never had any kind of shit like this before. “According to our rules you will also have to take tests.” To hell with that, I’ll take the tests when I’m on vacation in Moscow and bring them over. Everyone knows each other in Yamburg, and I got the feeling they’d all start looking at me differently—I’d have to quit. I take the tests in Moscow, I know I don’t have HIV, I live an ordinary life with my wife, I don’t use protection, I just wanted to spit on everything and on my own life too.

Tamara and I flew to Anapa to take a break, five-star hotel, everything was perfect. I started drinking heavily, and our neighbors began complaining. We were moved to another room, and then another, then another, and then in the end they gave us our own villa so we couldn’t bother anyone. I ended up in a nuthouse in Anapa for a night, I drank too much and got really ill. Next morning the girls at the nuthouse told me my blanket kept falling down in the night and they put it back for me.

I got myself out of this nuthouse with the girls and ended up in the cooler. What was all this that was starting to happen in my life? And this wasn’t even the start! I bought a yellow Volga in Anapa, drove it to Moscow, and it fell apart.

I would have to go two weeks without Tamara—she was traveling to a clinic for HIV patients in Noyabrsk for a full examination.

For my vacation I arranged to go fishing and drinking with my colleagues from the lab on the Gulf of Ob. We were driving back from our booze-up and my company car got stuck in the sand. I called the emergency breakdown service and they said they’d help get any people out of there but the rest was my problem.

One of the lab workers volunteered to help me out, he was ex-military, I hadn’t even noticed him before, but as it turns out he was a stand-up guy. We tried using a tractor to pull the car out and it didn’t work—we tried with another, and it worked.

My driver got injured as the car was being pulled out and I took him to hospital. We washed the car, drove it to the garage, the driver would live. On Monday all the higher-ups had turned against me.

Gniliuk issued a decree: “For using a company vehicle for personal errands, you are to be deprived of your annual bonus, and all bonuses for the next three years.” What the hell is that? Are you saying you don’t use company vehicles for personal errands?

They’re all chipping away at me at work, they all want something from me, and I don’t want anything from any of them, get off my back, I’m going to quit soon so I don’t have to see or hear you again!

I’m a little stressed about getting a new job, will I be able to find one when I quit? One of my workers told me a saying: “The clever spend all their lives earning, the beautiful spend all their lives screwing and the fools spend all their lives working.” I realized I was a fool and I would spend all my life working.

I would start drinking dead on 18:30 as soon as the working day was done. I once had a drink at 18:00 and Gniliuk called me up immediately.

“Come over here, what’s this, have you started drinking half an hour early?”

“How did you know?”

“I have people everywhere.”

So obviously some shithead from my lab reported me to him. Almost everyone there was a shithead now, while before, apparently, they’d just managed to hide it.

“I can’t come, I don’t have a car.”

“I’ll send you my car now.”

So I go, I take my time, I have half an hour to kill and then I’ll quit in person, and I won’t do it by the book. You won’t find a job after if you do things by the book.

“Write your explanation.” 

“What do I write?” 

“Write whatever it is.” 

“Okay, and who do I write it to?” 

“You write it to me.” 

“This paper is spoiled, give me another... I find myself in a state of insobriety at 18:35.”

Gniliuk asks, “What do you want?” 

“I want to quit Yamburg.” 

“Perhaps you should give this some thought?” 

“No, I’m tired of your shit already.” 

“Write a statement.” 

“Here’s your statement.” 

“You’ll need to go on working for another two weeks.” 

“Okay… I have a request for you, I recently got accreditation from the Gazprom committee, they concluded that I am a competent specialist, fully compliant with my current position, I got all thirty signatures. Could you make me a copy?” 

I had hit a brick wall.

“I don’t understand, did I do something to harm you personally? Have I done any such thing? What’s wrong with you, you rotten swine—all this time you’ve been chipping away at me, drop dead you prick!”

And Gniliuk did drop dead—a few months later he was crushed like a soft-boiled egg in a car accident. 

Abbas dropped dead of a stroke. 

Sevryuga dropped dead from thrombosis.

Chernyuk died of a heart attack.