M and I meander down the boot-packed snow and ice sidewalks of St. Petersburg. He slips on a step, plays the part of a ballerina for a moment, then finds his bearings. This has become such a common occurrence that it doesn’t merit a “woah that was close”. Instead M says
“You know that thing about Eskimos having a hundred words for snow and how Ancient Egyptians had a hundred words for sand?”
“Well, St. Petersburg-ians?”
“Probably not Petersburgers.”
“No, probably not.”
“Anyway, people in Saint Peters should have 100 words for overcast.”
We both look up at the gray and agree. We walk past a pair of police and stare straight ahead, silent. One of them is a dwarf, the other has the head of a Pigeon. We dodge around them; the dwarf is squawking up at Pigeon-Head in a dialect neither M nor I recognize. Pigeon-Head watches us with one eye as we past, intentionally or not, it’s hard to tell.
When we find ourselves out of earshot I say, “Lot of them around here lately.”
“Yeah, don’t think they’re looking for us though.”
“Probably not, can’t be too careful though. Best not to talk within earshot and give them a reason to harass us.”
A short round boulder, covered in the fur of dead things, with squat little arms and legs comes rolling through us. We nearly fall over each other dancing out of the way.
“Damn Babushkas.” M grumbles. He turns and watches her blunder down the sidewalk.
“I mean look; she doesn’t even care about the police.”
It was true, the Babushka tumbled into the Pigeon-Headed police officer forcing him to choke mid-squawk and pirouette to safety.
M and I shake our heads and walk on.
“Why don’t we have Babushkas in America?” I ask.
“Well, we have Grandmas, but you’re right, it’s not like we call all old people Grandma and very few of them turn to stone like that.” He jerks his thumb in the direction of the Babushka. I nod in agreement.
“Russia is weird.” I say, quietly.
“In the best possible way.” M says, beaming up at the sky and trying not to smile; you never know when the Police might be watching.