Free Beer

babushkas

In Moscow it is January. It is cold.

V looks up at me from the grocery cart. Her tail is flopped over the side. She’s started using a heavy-duty trash bag so the water won’t leak out. She is staring at the bags of frozen fish.

“Do you know matryoshka dolls?” she asks me.

I nod.

“Do you ever feel like the smallest matryoshka doll?”

I nod again, “insignificant?”

She shakes her head.

“No. Empty.”

I push us faster, past the seafood section.

“Do we need anything else?” I ask.

She looks down at her lap full of beer.

“No.”

We head for the check-out. I can feel something wrong before we get close. A change in the wind, but not. V feels it, too. She is looking toward the check out. We approach, cautious. There is a crunching sound. People are fleeing. My heart stops. Two babushkas stand, head-to-head. Their grocery carts banging into each other.

The cashier is stricken, backed into the liquor shelf. The Babushkas are screeching at one another.

One, in a floral bonnet, lifts her cart and smashes it over the head of the other. Boxes of table wine explode. The cart turns to a heap of metal twigs. Then, they are on each other. Their faces close, noses kissing. They are hollering. It is so loud, my ears hurt. Bags of chips and candy bars rain to the floor around them, blown to bits.

They circle each other. The cashier sees her moment. She tries to run. One of the babushkas turns. Her screech hits the cashier. The cashier explodes, becoming indecipherable from the blanket of red wine. A finger lands in the cart next to V.

The Babushka’s continue their manic dance of death.

“We need to go,” V says. I pick her up. We go back through the entry-way. It beeps, V is still holding the beer. We get outside just in time. The roof of the grocery store caves in. I run. We make it back to V’s apartment. I’m out of breath.

“What the shit was that about!”

V rolls her eyes.

“The one in the floral bonnet was trying to pay her whole bill with one ruble coins.”

She opens a beer. Hands me one. “But,” she smiles, “free beer.”

I take it, open it.

“Okay, then.”

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