Grisha Bolotin was a handsome 17 year old boy who lived in a small village west of Moscow. He had auburn hair, a strawberry and cream complexion, and white shining teeth. Of all of his physical attributes, the most unusual were his eyes. While his left eye was blue, his right eye had brown specks floating in the most beautiful shade of gold. However, not all of this was recognizable. Grisha Bolotin’s battered corpse was now lying on a melting snowbank in a birch forest a few miles west of the dacha of a government official in Novo-Ogaryovo. It was discovered when the official came across it while walking his dog. The only way that his body could be identified was when the police came and found his ID card ripped in half and stuffed into his mouth.
When he was born, his mother called for a priest to come to her hospital room. When Father Afimov got to the room, Grisha’s mother asked the priest if her son’s golden colored eye was a mark of God or Satan. Father Afimov, who was a little drunk at the time, told the superstitious woman that as far as he could tell, the golden eye was neither. It was just a slight mutation. Grisha’s mother was not totally satisfied with the priest’s answer and so from that day onward, his mother kept the child at arm’s length. Grisha’s mother had graduated from high school but she had grown up with parents who had been raised to be suspicious of anything out of the normal. It was because of her child’s golden eye, that she refused to have any more children out of fear that they would have this same mutation. Grisha’s father, who was a steward on the TransSiberian Railroad, was not exactly happy with his wife’s decision, but because he had a college education, he reluctantly agreed to abide by her decision.
Grisha’s father, on the other hand, was grateful to have a healthy son and loved the boy with all of his heart. Whenever Grisha’s father returned home from his round-trip journeys, he would pick his son up and give his a loud kiss on each cheek. He always brought a znachok for his son from his trip. When he put the boy down on the floor or in his playpen, only then would he give his wife a kiss on one of her cheeks. When the boy was older, he always brought some znachki for his son from his trip. The mother bore her husband’s coolness towards her in patience but she would say to herself when she was alone, “He cares more for the child then he does me. Well, let’s see if he feels the same when the boy grows up to be a felon or the AntiChrist.” Grisha’s mother never believed that the boy would amount to anything and so she decided that when it would be time for little Grisha to go to school, that she would use any trouble that the child got into as a reason for her husband to see his wife’s suffering and switch his love back to her.
One day, when Grisha was eleven years old, he walked into the house with a black eye and a torn jacket. When his mother asked him what had happened, at first he was reluctant to tell her. Finally, after she managed to calm him down enough, Grisha told her in a melancholy tone that some boys at school had beat him up.
“Well, why did they beat you up? Was it something that you had done?”
“No, mama, I was just going to class, when three boys stopped me in the hallway and started making fun of me.”
“What were they making fun of?”
“They started calling me names because of my eye.”
“Did not any of the teachers or authorities try to stop them?”
Grisha shuffled his foot on the floor and grew silent.
“Well? Answer me!”
“No. No one tried to stop them until it was over. Miss Vlasov, the math teacher whose class was near by, came out after they finished beating me up and told them to get to their classes. They just walked away, laughing at her.”
“Do you know who these boys are? Did this Miss Vlasov take you to the nurse’s station?”
“Yes, she did mama, and yes, I sort of know the boys who beat me up.”
“Well, did you report them to the principal?”
“Because they said that they would beat me up again if I told on them.”
“Wait, you said that the math teacher sent them to their classrooms. She could have reported them to the principal.”
“I asked her not to.”
“Oh! You are a fool! You will discuss this with your father when he gets home.”
Grisha’s father returned to the town two days after the incident at school. Grisha’s mother told him about the incident and that he had better talk to his son about standing up for himself. Since it was nine at night when Igor Gregorievich, Grisha’s father, got home, he told her that he would talk to his son the next morning since that would be a Saturday. His wife scowled at him, said “you better” and went to the kitchen to fix her husband a late dinner.
The next morning, when Grisha was eating his breakfast, his father entered the kitchen. He poured himself a cup of tea, grabbed a chunk of bread, and sat down at the table with his son. Before speaking to his son about the incident at school, he took an object out of his pants pocket and put it in front of his son. Grisha saw that it was a small plastic packet which, he knew, contained some znachki for his collection.
“Thank you, papa.”
“It is nothing. Now, what is this that I hear from your mother about a beating at school?”
Grisha looked at his father and said, “it was just some kids who didn’t like me.”
“And why do they not like you?”
“Because of my eye. They said that I was a demon.”
“A demon!? Grisha, if you were a demon, don’t you think that they would have been the ones who got beaten? Think about it! A demon! What ignorant nonsense!”
After thinking about what his father had said, Grisha smiled and nodded his head. Having settled the notion in his head, Grisha went back to eating his breakfast, but his father brought up another subject.
“Your mother seems to think that I should show you how to defend yourself. What do you think? Care for a boxing lesson after breakfast?”
Grisha thought about it for a moment and then shook his head in agreement.
“Then it’s settled! I will teach you how to fight back against your bullies.”
That morning, Grisha’s father taught his son everything that he knew about boxing. Granted, this wasn’t much, and Grisha went away from these lessons with a basic understanding of how to defend himself. The next day at school, when Grisha’s main bully was alone, Grisha let loose with an upper cut to the boy’s chin and walked away with a smile on his face. After this incident, and without any consequences from the school authorities, Grisha made friends with the boy and his clique. Grisha also, after this, did not need to use the lessons that his father had taught him.
When Grisha was sixteen years old, he began to have sexual urges. A year earlier, he had kissed a girl in his class as part of a play that they were in, but he did not feel anything romantic afterwards. He talked to a friend, Petr, about these feelings without understanding anything about them. Grisha was confused and, even though at the back of his mind, he felt that he should discuss his feelings with his father, every time that he determined that he would, his father misunderstood him. Grisha had known Petr since the incident with the bully (Petr had been one of the boys who had beat Grisha up) and he felt comfortable with him. Petr, however, had never been taught by his parents, and since the school did not provide sex education classes, Petr’s clumsy explanations were of little use to Grisha. Grisha finally gave up on Petr’s attempts to explain life and suggested that they head to the forest and go swimming in a pond that they knew about.
The summer air was hot but not overly humid. When Grisha and Petr got to the pond, they went behind separate rocks and took off all of their clothes. The two boys ran into the water and, when they were deep enough, they started to splash each other. They did this for a few minutes and then Petr challenged Grisha to a race. In the middle of the pond, a platform had been set up which could be used either as a diving board or a place to lie under the sun and catch a nap. Grisha agreed to Petr’s challenge and both boys took off. Grisha knew that he would have to swim harder than Petr because his friend had a slight lead over him. Petr, on the other hand, felt that he did not have to try so hard since this was his first year on the high school swim team. Every time that Grisha lifted his head to take in a gasp of air, he would see Petr’s flaming red hair still ahead of him and started to redouble his efforts. Petr finally made it to the platform with Grisha only a yard behind him. Grisha saw Petr hold on to the side of the platform and lifted himself up on it. Grisha stopped his swim when he saw a beam of sunlight flash on Petr’s creamy white bottom, but tossed it out of his head and finished swimming. Grisha pulled himself up on to the platform and saw Petr performing a little victory dance. For a minute, Grisha bent at his waist to catch his breath and Petr walked over to gloat. Grisha straightened up quickly when Petr came up to him because, while he was bent over, Petr’s penis was swinging back and forth in front of his face and Grisha felt this strange feeling again. He wasn’t repulsed by Petr’s penis, in fact Grisha wanted to hold it so that it would stop swinging. When Grisha pictured in his head what would happen if he did this, the outcome did not seem positive. The two boys then decided to sun themselves before getting back into the water. Just as Petr was just about to kid Grisha about being such a slow swimmer, a crow flew out of a birch tree. Petr hated crows and got up on his knees to see if anyone had left a rock on the platform for him to throw at the ill-omened bird. Grisha, who cared less about crows, was distracted from at least helping Petr find any stones by his friend’s pale and glittering body. For some reason that he did not understand, Grisha noticed that his own penis was starting to stiffen. Grisha became afraid that if Petr saw his erection that he would beat him up, so Grisha also got on his knees and searched the other side of the platform. In fact, while Grisha was near the edge of the platform, he came up with an idea on how to get rid of his erection; he would pretend to accidentally fall back into the water. When Petr heard Grisha’s yelp and splash into the water, he totally forgot about looking for something to throw at the crow. Petr laughed at Grisha and said, “Grisha, how could you be so clumsy?” Grisha just gave Petr an embarrassed smile, and climbed back up onto the platform with his problem taken care of by the cool water. The two boys then spent the next couple hours laying on the platform under the warm rays of the sun.
Around two o’clock, Grisha woke up from sleep and looked over at his friend who was still sleeping. Grisha turned over on his side, with his hand resting on his cheek, and stared at the sunlight as it played along Petr’s nude body. A thought came into Grisha’s head, but he was unsure whether he should act on it or not. He finally decided that he would slowly move closer to Petr without waking him up and run his hand just above his friend’s body. As he was doing this, a slight breeze blew across the platform and rustled Petr’s red hair. Grisha was fascinated by Petr’s creamy white face and strawberry red cheeks. He was so taken by his friend’s face, that he forgot that he was running his hand down above the boy’s body. Suddenly, Grisha’s hand felt a bump and he looked down where his hand was and saw that Petr must have been dreaming because Grisha’s hand had bumped in Petr’s erection. Grisha became frightened and quickly looked back at Petr’s face. Petr had felt Grisha’s hand bump into his erection and his eyes flew open, looking straight into Grisha’s frightened face. Petr quickly sat up and yelled, “What the hell are you doing, dude?” Grisha fell on his back, quickly jumped up, and stuttered that he wasn’t doing anything. Petr became furious, rose up, then ran to the edge of the platform and dived into the water. A moment later, when Grisha had recovered from his embarrassment, he tried to call out to Petr to wait for him, and not receiving any reply, also jumped into the water and swam after his friend. By the time that Grisha got to the riverbank, Petr had gotten dressed and was storming back to the pathway. Grisha grabbed his shirt and pants, got dressed, and ran after Petr. When he finally caught up to Petr, he said, “Petr, wait! Let’s talk!” Petr stopped, turned towards Grisha and said, “About what? That you’re a fag!? What were you going to do, suck my cock?” Grisha stopped in his tracks and replied, “No! I don’t even know why you would say such a thing! We’re friends still, aren’t we?” Petr’s face turned red and he yelled, “Are you kidding? Why would I be friends with a faggot?” And before Grisha could even reply to this question, Petr swung back his fist and punched Grisha in the mouth. Grisha was so shocked by his friend’s violent reaction that he didn’t even see the punch coming. The blow knocked him backwards and he fell on his rear. Grisha looked up from the path and saw Petr looking down at him with both fists clenched. “You stay the hell away from me, you hear!?” With that said, Petr kicked Grisha in his ribs, turned around, and started jogging away from him. Grisha slowly got up from the dirt path, winced at the pain in his side, and slowly walked home. Overhead in the trees, a crow cawed.
By the time that Grisha returned home, the sun had already set. The battered boy tried to sneak into the house without alerting his parents, but failed. Grisha had just quietly closed the front door, turned around to go upstairs to his room, and had just set foot on the first step when his mother came out of the kitchen and saw him.
“So, you’ve finally come home! Where have you been?”
Grisha turned to answer his mother’s questions but he was stopped when she noticed his bruises and cuts and said,
“Oh! What have you gotten yourself into now? Why are you all cut up and bruised? Answer me!” At that moment, Grisha’s father came into the house with a bag of groceries and stopped to find out what had upset his wife. “It’s nothing. I was walking through the woods and tripped and fell, that’s all.”
Grisha could see by the look on his parents’ faces that they didn’t believe him, nevertheless, his mother told him to go to the bathroom and she would be up to clean his wounds. Grisha slowly dragged his feet upstairs to wait for his mother and dreading the further grilling that she would put him under. Grisha walked into the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror. There was the beginning of a black eye forming around the eye that had the gold iris, a couple bruises along his chin, and a small cut on his forehead. Grisha turned on the cold water in the sink and washed the dried blood off of his face. He lifted his shirt to check for any tell-tale injuries on his body. A large bruise was forming on the right side of his ribcage and a smaller one on his left side. He didn’t think that Petr had broken any of his ribs since the boy had been carrying his shoes when he attacked Grisha. Grisha had just pulled his shirt back down, when his mother stormed into the bathroom. Surprisingly she did not say anything when she walked in. She merely opened the medicine cabinet and took out a bottle of iodine. She told Grisha to hold still while she applied the iodine on his cut, then asked him if he had anymore cuts. Grisha told her that he didn’t and she put the iodine away. She then stared at his bruises, looking the longest at the black eye forming around his gold eye. She finally quit staring and told him to finish cleaning up and come down for dinner.
The next morning, Grisha woke up and went into the bathroom. He looked in the mirror and saw the purple bruise around his eye. The bruise seemed to make the gold iris glow brighter than he had ever seen it before. He took his bath, got dressed, and went down stairs for breakfast. Before he got to the dining room, however, Grisha felt a heaviness in the air. Standing at the doorway were his parents and Petr’s father. Grisha stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the trio who were watching him. His mother’s face was aglow with malice, while his father looked stunned. Petr’s father merely said a quick good-bye and left. Grisha’s mother started yelling as soon as Petr’s father closed the door.
“I knew you were evil the day that I gave birth to you! Sinner! Paedophile! Sodomite! You are to leave this house immediately! I do not want to hear one word from your lying mouth!” She then turned her back on him and left the room.
Grisha looked to his father for some understanding, maybe even a drop of compassion, but all that the boy saw was a broken man. Grisha went back upstairs, packed some clothes in a knapsack, then went back downstairs. He was stopped at the door by his father who handed him a 1000 rubles, then walked away. Grisha put the money in his pants pocket and walked out the door without saying a word of thanks to his father. When he got to the street, Grisha went to the nearest tram stop and rode it to the bus station. When he arrived at the bus station, he bought a one-way ticket to Moscow. Afterwards, he went up to a small cafe and had breakfast. An hour later, the bus for Moscow arrived and he got on it. He went to the back of the bus, hoping to have a little privacy while thinking about what he would do once he got to the city. He didn’t have any family in Moscow, and even if he did, Grisha was sure that his mother would alert them about her son’s banishment.
The bus had pulled out of the station and Grisha sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. He had not intended to fall asleep, but the stress from his banishment overcame him. He woke up an hour later, when the bus stopped at a small town. Grisha looked out of the window and saw a group of teenagers in what looked like uniforms. He was particularly stricken by the blond hair of one of the guys who looked like he was in control of the group. When the group started to get on the bus, Grisha picked up his back pack and took out a pair of sunglasses. Although the morning was not bright and sunny, Grisha put the sunglasses on as a way of hiding his bruised eye. He was afraid that if one of the group sat close to him, they might start talking to him and ask what had happened to his eye. Grisha was not in the mood to discuss it. Just as he set his back pack back down on the floor, he had a male voice ask him if the seat next to him was occupied. Grisha looked up and saw the blond boy looking at him and smiling.
“No, no it’s not occupied. Have a seat.”
“Thank you. My name is Alexander; what is yours?”
“Um, I’m Grisha.”
“Hello Grisha. So where are you off to?”
“I’m on my way to Moscow.”
“Really? So are we. Are you going to the demonstration?”
“No. What demonstration?”
“There is going to be a bunch of faggots marching to protest President Putin’s new law against homosexual propaganda. Me and my friends are members of the “Stal” organization and we plan to bust a few heads.”
Grisha didn’t know what to say about this, so he was silent. He started to feel a few beads of sweat forming on his forehead, so he decided to try to change the subject.
“Do you know any good youth hostels in Moscow?”
“Yes. When we get to Moscow, there will be a shuttle waiting for us and it will take us to a hostel near Red Square. Would you like to join us?”
Grisha’s heart started to pound in his chest. If he said no to Alexander, the boy might become suspicious and if he said yes, he felt like he would be putting himself in the lion’s den. He compromised and told Alexander that he would think about it, since he was not a member of “Stal”. Alexander accepted Grisha’s answer and reassured him the offer still stood if he changed his mind. Grisha thanked him, then asked:
“So what is Stal? I’ve never heard of it.”
“Ah! It is a patriotic group of teenagers who have dedicated their lives to keeping the Motherland pure of Western degeneracy. Many foreign countries are trying to make Russia a slave to the paedophiles and homosexuals. We are an organization which is backed by the government and the Orthodox Church and charged with making sure that other young people are not corrupted by these imperialistic perverts.”
“How do you do that?”
“Well, normally we just outshout the fags and carry anti-fag signs. If there are no police around, which, I admit, there usually are, but when they are not looking we drag one of them out of sight and beat them up.”
“Isn’t that kind of risky? Won’t the police arrest you for public disturbance or something?”
“No. You see, it’s like this: “Stal” is alerted to these sort of demonstrations by a local leader, who arranges for the closest branches to travel to whichever city needs us. The police have to pretend to be there to protect the demonstrators, but once we arrive, they turn their backs. Once an officer decides that they need to break up the beating, they come over, we back away, and they have an ambulance take the fag away. We try not to kill the person; just teach them a lesson.”
“I see. I did hear about one guy in Novo-Sibersk who was kidnapped, beaten up, and videotaped. Was “Stal” involved with that?”
“No, that was just a bunch of bored hooligans who didn’t have anything better to do. “Stal” wasn’t involved, but we didn’t actually say anything negative about what those guys did, since they also claimed that they did it in order to preserve the Motherland.”
Grisha shuddered when he heard Alexander glorify what “Stal” was intended for and his faint praise for the thugs in Siberia. Grisha was trying to think of a way to get out of any further discussion with Alexander, when a girl with pigtails walked over to their seats.
“Alyosha, Dmitri wants to know if you have the “Activities List” with you. If you do, he wants to talk to you about it.”
“Oh, yeah, I do. Thanks Katya, tell Dmitri that I’ll be there in a minute.”
The girl turned around and walked up to the front of the bus and said something to someone, presumably Dimitri, then sat down across from him. Alexander picked up his backpack, unzipped it, and looked in it. Satisfied that he did have the List, Alexander got up, gave a small wave to Grisha, and walked up the bus aisle. Grisha was thankful for the interruption and tried to think of a way to gracefully ignore Alexander when he returned. It would be at least another hour before the bus reached the outskirts of Moscow and Grisha had forgotten to bring anything to read when he had been packing after being thrown out of the house. The only thing of a personal remembrance that he had taken was his collection of znachki. He pulled the album out of his backpack and slowly turned the pages, remembering the happiness he felt when his father returned home and gave them to him. Soon he felt a tear forming in his bruised eye and he quickly wiped it away. Before he had a chance to put the album away, Alexander came back to his seat. He saw the album and asked Grisha what it was. Grisha told him and explained that his father was an attendant on the Trans-Siberian Railroad and than whenever he returned home, he would bring a couple znachki for his collection. Alexander asked Grisha if he could look at his collection and Grisha handed the boy the album. Alexander was impressed with the collection and let Grisha know that he thought that it was very generous of his father to do this for his son. Grisha, when he heard this, said nothing.
Soon, the bus pulled into the station and as Alexander was collecting his backpack, he, gave Grisha the address of the youth hostel that he and his fellow “Stal” members would be staying at in case Grisha decided to join them. Grisha once again thanked Alexander and told him that he just might take him up on his offer. When Grisha got off of the bus, he looked around to see if he could either find a city map or an Information kiosk. Fortunately, it didn’t take him long to find the kiosk and the badly-dyed blond woman behind the glass window was very helpful. Grisha took the map that the woman gave him, walked over to a bench, and studied the city map for a few minutes. Grisha was amazed at the size of the capital and became a bit confused by some of the local bus and Metro routes. He finally decided that since there was a Metro line close to the bus terminal, that he would get on it and ride around in order to get acquainted with the city. He collected his luggage and headed out of the terminal. He located the stairs leading down to the Metro and waited on the platform for the next train. While he was waiting for the train, a young man, in a leather jacket, bright yellow tee shirt, tight jeans, and a pair of Keds walked up to him and asked Grisha if he had a spare cigarette. Grisha told the young man that he didn’t smoke, so the young man shrugged his shoulders, then said, “do you want a date?”. Grisha did not know what to make of this statement and said, “What do you mean?” The young man, who was a year younger than Grisha, he later found out, explained that he had to earn some money in order to survive and that, usually, this required him to offer to perform sexual activities to strangers. “You mean that you’re a prostitute?” Grisha said in shock. “Yeah, what’d you think I was?” “I don’t know, but I never thought that someone would be so open about it.” “Where are you from? Moscow is not a cheap place to live so people got to do what they got to do to survive.” Grisha quickly got over his shock and asked the young man if he wanted to get a cup of coffee. He didn’t ask because he wanted to have sex; he asked because he was aware that his money was running low and Grisha decided that the guy might be helpful.
“Well, I really should be working, but yeah, I guess a cup of coffee won’t hurt. Business is sort of slow right now.”
“So, what is your name?”
“I’m Yuri Kropotkin. What’s yours?”
“I’m Gregori Bolotin, but you can call me Grisha.”
“OK, Grisha. So, what’s the deal with the sunglasses? You don’t need them underground you know.”
“Oh, I forgot about them.” Grisha took his sunglasses off and when he did, Yuri gave a low whistle. He was also fascinated with Grisha’s golden eye.
“So, who beat you up?”
“A guy I knew back in my town.”
“What’d you do to get yourself walloped on?”
“It’s a long story. Let’s just say that he called me a faggot and beat me up. My parents found out and kicked me out of the house.”
“Yeah, I’ve met plenty of guys that that’s happened to. So, you got a place to stay?”
“Not yet. I just got into Moscow about twenty minutes ago and I’m not really orientated yet.”
Yuri didn’t say anything for a minute, but when he did, he said,
“Well, if you can’t find a place you can afford…by the way, how much do you have?”
“About 200 rubles out of a thousand. Why?”
“200 rubles? That won’t get you a room at the sleaziest hostel, let alone a decent one. You’ll have to find a bench in a park for sleeping; it costs nothing except the police might come around and harass you. The only other thing that I can suggest is that you join the “profession”. Once your bruised eye clears up, you should be able to make some good money. You’re decent looking, young, and that gold/blue eye thing could make you real popular around here. What do you say?”
“Well, what do I do with my back pack and suitcase?”
“Don’t worry about that! Shall I show you the ropes?”
“The ropes? Oh, you mean…yeah, I guess that I have no other option, unless I go to the hostel where the “Stal” members are staying.”
“Stal”!!! Why would you want to hang around with those assholes for? If you want to survive, you avoid those shits! They kill ya and chop you up and then laugh about it. How do you know somebody in “Stal”?”
“I met some on the bus. Their leader offered to set me up with a room at their hostel.”
“Hmmm, so it is true, then. There is going to be a demo for Gay Rights tomorrow at Red Square, so there’s definitely going to be some bashed heads.”
“I suppose. Alexander said that they would be protesting against the gays.”
“Protesting? Oh, my dear, “Stal” is like a predator in the jungle. They will look for the weakest protester and, with the cops’ help, separate him from the rest of the herd and beat the shit out of him. I strongly suggest that you don’t have anything to do with this leader and his friends unless you want to be the weak member.”
“Okay, then what do I have to do?”
“Come with me.” Yuri finished his coffee, pushed himself away from the counter, and started walking back to the platform. Grisha quickly followed. Within an hour, Yuri and Grisha were getting off the Metro and walking towards a yellow building which looked like it had seen better days. Yuri pushed open the door and took Grisha up to an apartment on the third floor. Yuri knocked on the door and after a minute passed, the door opened a crack and a boy’s voice asked who was knocking.
“It’s me, Misha, open up! I have someone who needs help.”
“Oh, it’s you Yuri. Come in”
The door opened and Grisha saw a boy who looked like he was 12 or 13 years old. He was wearing a tee shirt with a cartoon character on it and short dark blue pants. When he saw Grisha’s bruised eye, he stared at Grisha but didn’t say anything.
“Is Robert here?”
“Yeah, he’s in the living room. Go on in.” Once Misha completed his duty, he walked away and went into what Grisha assumed was a bedroom. Grisha followed Yuri into a slightly smoky room with a television blaring out a news report. Sitting on a beaten up looking green sofa was an unshaven man dressed in a dirty white tee shirt and underwear. He barely acknowledged Yuri when Yuri spoke to him, but when a commercial come on the TV, he turned his baggy grey eyes to the two boys.
“What do you want, Yuri? And who is this with you?”
“His name is Grisha and his parents kicked him out of the house for being gay. He needs a place to stay, can you help him?”
Robert stood up from the sofa, walked over to Grisha and walked around him. He grunted when he saw the boy’s bruised eye, then rubbed his unshaven chin.
“Well, I can’t put him on the street right now, since he has that bruised eye. I know some people might find that sexy, but with the demonstration going on tomorrow and, I’m sure there will be trouble from the “purists”, it’s too risky. I suppose that I can put him up for two days; do you have any money, boy?”
“Yes, but it’s only 200 rubles.”
“200? Yuri, for that amount, you should just have him go to a hospital. They can take better care of him than I can.”
“I know, Robert, but the doctor might have asked him how he got the black eye and if they find out that he’s gay, they won’t help him.”
“Yes, you’re right. He can stay in your room, but you tell him what is expected of him. If he refuses to do what he’s told, I’ll kick his ass out on the street and leave him for the dogs. Understood?”
“Yes, Robert, I understand.”
With this bit of business taken care of, Yuri led Grisha down the short hallway and opened a door next to the one that the boy Misha had gone into. Yuri told Grisha to put his bags down under a twin-size bed, then sat in a chair by a desk and said,
“OK, here’s what you’re going to have to learn…”
Grisha had been torn between shocked and fascinated by what Yuri had taught him. When Yuri offered to stay near Grisha on his first night “working”, Grisha said “yes”. The idea of having sex for money was something that he had never thought about, but now that he was in a situation that was important for his survival, Grisha decided that, at that moment, he didn’t have any other option. Yuri had loaned him some clothes which would make him more attractive to potential clients, and had managed to find some makeup which helped to cover the purplish bruise around his eye. By the time that the sun had set, the two boys were ready to go out and make some money.
“Now, the first place that we’ll go to is the park. Some times you’ll come across a worker who is just getting off of work. He might not have a lot of money, but they are usually satisfied with a blow job, since it’s the least expensive option. The only problem that you might have with them is that they’ll probably push you down and curse at you afterwards, but that’s par for the course. Another type that you might find in the park are students.”
“How will I be able to tell if someone is a student?”
“They usually carry a backpack and will sit on a bench, pretending to read a book. If they are looking for sex, they’ll usually give you a furtive glance. If you play it cool, they’ll come up and start talking to you about some stupid subject, but, eventually they’ll get to the point. The police will occasionally stroll through the park to make sure nothing is going on, so if you see them, act as if you are asking the student how to get somewhere, say Red Square. Once they’re safely out of sight, carry on with your business. I’ll be over at that bench keeping an eye on you. If I see someone that looks suspicious, like an undercover cop, I’ll start whistling. When you hear that, thank the person that you’re talking to and calmly walk away. Got it?”
“Yeah, I got it.”
“Good. Now, we’ll just stay here for an hour or so, then we’ll move on. We don’t want to attract too much attention.”
With these instructions absorbed, Grisha broke off from Yuri and slowly strolled through the park until he found a bench which was in an area with thick bushes. If Grisha managed to pick up a trick, it would be easy to hide there quickly. Unfortunately, the park was slow that night, so Yuri and Grisha headed for the Metro.
“So, where should we go now?” Gisha asked.
“Well, normally I wait until its a bit later, but we’ll head over to the tourist hotels. Foreign tourists are usually nicer and pay more than Russians.”
“Alright, I suppose that does make sense.”
Fifteen minutes later, the two boys were riding the escalator up to the street. On the down escalator, there was a group of guys who looked like trouble, but since they were going down and he and Yuri were going up, Grisha didn’t pay close attention to them. That was his mistake, because one of the guys happened to be Alexander and he recognized Grisha by his gold eye. Alexander didn’t say anything to Grisha because he was suspicious of the guy that Grisha was talking to. Alexander got his cellphone out and made a short call.
When Yuri and Grisha got out on to the street, Grisha was amazed at all of the neon lights, traffic, and well-dressed people. He had only seen this sort of wonder on TV and movies. He was particularly fascinated with the beauty of the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral. He didn’t have much time to take all of the beauty of the Cathedral in, when Yuri tugged on his sleeve and told him to move it. Soon, Grisha found himself behind the colorful monument and headed towards a tall building seemingly covered in glass. The neon sign at the top of the building said “Rossiya” and occasionally blinked a red eye at Grisha. At the entrance to this wonder stood a man in his forties dressed in what Grisha thought was a military uniform. Yuri explained that the man was the doorman and that it was his job to check the papers of anyone who wanted to enter the hotel.
“You did bring your papers, right?” Yuri looked expectantly at Grisha.
“Of course.” Grisha put his hand in his right rear pocket and fished out the necessary documents.
“Good. What we’ll do is casually walk in and stroll over to the hotel’s bar. We’ll order a drink, I suggest a beer because it won’t hit you so hard, then we’ll grab a table and see what we catch.”
They walked up to the entrance of the hotel, behaving as if they had a room there and, after slipping the doorman a tip when he started to look at Grisha suspiciously, they went in. Grisha tried to keep from staring at the crystal chandeliers and marble walls, and if it hadn’t been for Yuri, Grisha might have bumped into a large bronze flowerpot with plastic bamboo shoots planted in it. Soon, they were in the bar, ordered their drinks, and seated at a table that gave them a good view of any potential customers. Within half-an-hour, a couple Finnish business men walked up to the bar, put in their drink order and casually looked at the room by way of the mirror behind the bar. Once the bartender gave them their drinks, one of the men leaned over to his companion and said a few words. His companion nodded, then the men picked up their drinks and started to walk over to the table that Yuri and Grisha were sitting at.
“Pozhalusta, may we sit with you?”
Yuri smiled and indicated to them the two empty chairs. The duo sat down and the tall blond one who had spoken to his friend at the bar said,
“Thank you…spasibo, yes?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Ten minutes later, all four of the men were leaving the bar. The blond had said something to his friend in Finnish and they both laughed while Yuri just looked at Grisha, shrugged his shoulders, and walked over to the elevator.
Two hours later, the two young men got off of the elevator and walked back into the bar to see if there were any more “customers”. When they got to the bar, the bartender leaned over to them and said, “You guys better split. That guy over there is an undercover cop.” Grisha and Yuri looked over at the person that the bartender was referring to; they saw a grey-skinned, thin brown haired, middle aged man whose serpentine eyes seemed to be staring them down. Yuri thanked the bartender, slipped him a fifty, then he and Grisha left the hotel. Just as they were trying to decide where to go next, two menacing black Humvees sped up to the front of the hotel. The doors of the vehicles flew open and several people in black balaclavas jumped out and rushed at the two young men. Grisha noticed that they weren’t armed, but when two of them grabbed him and another two grabbed Yuri, Grisha tried to struggle in order to get away. Neither he nor Yuri succeeded. Grisha and Yuri were rushed into separate cars. The cars sped off, but Grisha, who didn’t know the city, was not sure where they were going. His vision was blackened when one of his kidnappers tied a bandanna around his eyes. Grisha was about to ask who these people were but his mouth was quickly taped over. The only thing that Grisha heard his kidnappers say was “Geni, radio Sasha and tell him to met us at Novo-Ogaryovo”. The message was passed on to the other car (Grisha assumed) and received confirmation. For the rest of the journey, Grisha’s abductors said nothing. When the vehicle finally came to a stop, Grisha’s sense of time was lost. He heard a car door open, then another, and then he was yanked out of the vehicle.
“Take the bandannas off of them.” a gruff voice said.
It took a minute for Grisha to get a good look at his abductors, and his blood froze when he recognized Alexander from the bus. About ten feet away was another trio of men in black holding on to Yuri. Around the abductors’ arms were red and white armbands that Grisha had not seen when he and Yuri had been kidnapped. He didn’t know the armbands’ significance but he knew that it didn’t portend anything good. At that moment, Alexander stood in front of Grisha, sneered, then said,
“So. Little “golden eye” is a faggot. I should have realized it when you were less than excited to take me up on my offer for a place to stay. On the other hand, it’s a good thing that you didn’t; I wouldn’t want to be contaminated by a western faggot spy.” Alexander then looked at his comrades and said, “Well, boys, what should we do with these faggots?” One of the guys holding on to Yuri said,
“Let’s beat them up, then shoot them, and leave their bodies here.”
Alexander looked at the others, who were nodding their heads in agreement, and said,
“Alright then. Start with yours. I want to save “golden eye” for last.”
At this signal, the three guys holding on to Yuri took turns holding on to him while one of them started swinging. Grisha started shaking and would have fainted except for Alexander holding hard onto his face and making him watch Yuri being beat senseless.
“Careful, boys! You don’t want to get AIDS. Get the bottled water out of the car and wash up after you kill him.”
One of the trio said, “Which one of us gets to kill him?”
Alexander said, “Drop him and draw straws or flip a coin, I don’t really care.”
Since Yuri, at this time was unconscious, the guys holding onto him let him drop to the ground. The boy who had asked which one of them would get the honor of killing Yuri, put a hand in his pants pocket and drew out a coin. First, the other two guys called it, and when the loser was determined, the winner and the boy whose coin it was, flipped it. The loser of the toss said “Damn!” when he knew that the other boy had won. Geni, the boy who had won, and whose coin had determined Yuri’s assassin, walked over to the Humvee, opened the right hand passenger door and took out a gun from the glove compartment. Geni walked back to Yuri’s limp body, knelt by it, said “Nite,Nite”, aimed at Yuri’s head and fired.
“OK, let’s go.” Alexander said to the other guys.
“Where? Aren’t you going to do him here?” Geni asked.
“No. I know a better place to leave this one. Get in the car and follow me.” Alexander then roughly shoved Grisha towards the other vehicle. When everyone was settled, the driver followed Alexander’s directions. It was only a ten minute drive and when Alexander told the driver to stop, he said, “ This is as close as we can get without being caught by the guards. Everyone out! But quietly.”
The six kidnappers got out of their vehicles. Two of them held Grisha’s arms behind his back, while the rest faced Grisha. Without saying a word, Alexander signaled one of the other guys forward.
The guy had slight Mongolian features and Grisha thought that he looked fairly stupid. The boy may have been a bit slow, but he was strong and Grisha discovered this when he felt the boy’s first blow in his stomach. This one stepped back while another one came forward and delivered his blow. By the time that Alexander stepped up, Grisha felt dizzy and also a trickle of blood running down his face. Alexander spit in his face twice, then swung his right arm back and landed his blow on Grisha’s healing gold eye. In between the time that the blow had been struck and the time that Grisha saw Alexander point the gun at his head, Grisha forced his memory back to the good times that he had had with his father. He saw himself again as an innocent and happy child, asking his father what had he brought him from his travels. Just as the image of his first znachok (it was Winnie-the-Pooh) caught his mind’s eye, the shot rang out.
The sun’s light played hide-and-seek through the woods. There was a slight chill in the morning air, but not enough to bring about frost. Some wrens that had been greeting the morning with their song were interrupted by a loud crow caw. There was a shuffling among the leaves and a barking that sent the crow flying away. The dog’s barking stopped. The dog started sniffing around his discovery and was so involved in trying to figure out what he had found, that he did not hear his master’s voice calling him. More leaves shuffled, then the sound of boots stopped. A voice said, “Damn!” then the musical notes of a cell phone being used was heard.
“This is Milonov. I found a body. I’m just 500 meters west of my house.”
The wrens started to take up their song again, but with a more melancholy tone, as if in respect for the dead boy.
Sept.18-Nov. 19, 2013