I agreed to meet my friend at the Faberge Egg museum.
I am early. I light a cigarette outside the entrance. I lean against the wall, it’s dry, for once. I’m satisfied. A man walks by me holding a beer. He stops, he turns. He has one arm.
“Cigarette?” he asks, in Russian. I nod. I take my cigarettes out of my pocket. I dig in my pack for one and look up. I hold it out to the man. He looks at his beer. Then he looks at the cigarette. He shrugs, and opens his mouth. I place the cigarette between his lips. I pull my hand away.
“Thank you,” he mumbles, and walks off, cigarette unlit.
“Weird folks around these parts,” a croaking voice says from beneath my elbow. I look down. A face peers up at me from beneath a bundle of rags. It is a goose. She has big gray eyes and a fat mouth. I nod, stepping a bit back.
“Here for the museum?” she asks. Her accent is strong. Not Russian. Something, Mediterranean. I nod.
“Monster,” she says, spitting on the ground. I frown at her.
“Oh not you dear, Mr. Faberge.” She says, her eyes dark.
“Faberge was a guy?” I ask.
She frowns up at me, “of course, you didn’t know?”
I shrug. “I don’t know much about much.”
The old Goose nods, “I see, what are you doing here then?”
“My friend invited me,” I tell her.
“Ah, well, you should know that this is an evil place, profiteers of slavery, I tell you. Faberge kept my grandmother locked up for decades. My mother was born into it. I—I am a freak. They cast me out soon after I was born.”
The Old goose looks about to cry. I hold my hand out awkwardly. She takes it in her wings. She pats it, gently.
“Why?” I ask.
She sniffs the cold air. “Lead eggs, I only produce lead eggs. Not good enough for Old Faberge, not good enough, he said. Threw me right out. Condemned to die.”
“It’s okay, when the war began I made my living in the factories. Everyone needed lead back then. My golden years. And Mr. Faberge died in destitution.”
The Old Goose looked prideful as she said it. It turned to a soft, sad smile.
“I’m sorry for boring you. I never got the hang of Russian and you just looked so,” The Old Goose paused, “empty.”
“You’re welcome. Don’t go into this place.”
“I promised my friend, he already bought tickets,” I say, feeling uncomfortable.
“Oh, oh, well, if you’ve already bought tickets I suppose it can’t be helped.”
The Old Goose turns and waddles off. I watch her go. A hand taps me on my shoulder. I turn. My friend is smiling.
“Ready?” he asks.
I look back at the fading silhouette of the old goose. I shrug.
We go inside.