The Nevsky Wall
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Chapter 2   -  Black Raven, I'm Not Dead

Three rounds in, and the toasts and insults came with equal measure, primarily at Lev’s expense. “To our brother Lev! The girls in Ukraine have never met him. If he begs enough, they just might let him. When he drops his pants, they’ll soon forget him.” His response was a succinct, “Fuck you, one and all!”

Kirill pitched in, “Let’s raise a glass to our brother Viktor and the brave, brave men of the fire brigade!” There was loud laughter and whistling from the table. “No, I’m serious, a man could get hurt tripping over his own hose, isn’t that right Viktor?” Viktor laughed loudest of them all, but there was a sting to Kirill’s words. Soldiers respect their own, and since his medical discharge from the army, Viktor felt himself more and more outside the world of the battalion and his friends. Against all reason, he found himself missing the army life – the intensity of the firing line, the brotherhood of the trenches, and the sense of a common fate. Memories like these were like shrapnel burning close to the heart. Driving a ladder truck for the fire brigade simply could not compare.

The hall quickly filled to capacity, and some men were forced to wait outside for a spot to open up at the tables. This caused ill feelings that the application of alcohol would only inflame. Stout-armed waitresses moved through the aisles with trays full of tall glasses of beer, and the men drank as fast as it could be delivered. A member of Viktor’s group had smuggled in two bottles of samogon, a type of potent home-brew he had gotten ‘on the left’. It was top quality pervach, not the usual backwoods variety that could blind a cart-horse. The bottle and a glass made the rounds under the table as the night wore on and the voices in the hall grew louder. Up on the bandstand, a trio of musicians began to tune their instruments.

Viktor raised a glass to Lev, “You know, my old friend, part of me wishes that I was going with you.”

“No, you don’t mean that, big man. Don’t let these idiots fool you with their jokes – there isn’t one of them who wouldn’t trade places with you if they had the chance. What you have, my friend … how’s your little soldier these days?”

Viktor pulled a photo of Vasha from his pocket. “He’s good … wants to be a pilot.” He held up the picture so all could see.

“Smart lad. Stay above the shit, it’s safer that way. To the little one!” Lev shot back a glass of the samogon and passed the bottle to Viktor, who poured one for himself.

“Here’s to staying above the shit!” said Viktor as he downed another glass. “Let’s hope it never happens … let’s hope we’re always ready!” He sat back unsteadily and looked over the faces of the men at the table – men who had fought and bled with him, men who had dragged him, barely alive, from the frozen marshes. He thought of those who were missing – Valerie, Sergei, Lieutenant Tihkvin, and many more – buried in unmarked graves somewhere in the north. Through the pervach haze, he saw their hollow faces, their shattered, shrieking bodies, and the red blood turning black in the snow. He poured another drink.

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Chapter 2   -  Black Raven, I'm Not Dead

One Response to “Chapter 2”

  1. Subin says:

    pratix mnogo dalag sms,nadiavam se niakoi da go pro4ete.Edinstveno ne moga da rabreza za6to e nujdo da e v kletka,kato toi e paraliziran taka ili ina4e ne moje da se dviji ..choveshkata jestokost e bezkraina,no nie 6te se borim za tova .LETb4S ADOPT nie xorata obichasti jivotni sme s vas i hi4 ne sme malko!!!

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