He caught my eye not far from the traffic light. A gloomy, not childishly serious face, a tired lifeless look, dirty shabby clothes. And around the pre-holiday bustle and crowds of indifferent passers-by with bags full of gifts, alcohol and food.
Without thinking twice, I turned around, stopped the car at the hypermarket and quietly approached the bench.
– Hey, move over, I’ll sit down too!
– What, uncle, are you tired? – he answered in a voice hoarse from a cold.
– No, I just want to talk. I noticed you from the car.
– Well, you know, I’ll probably go. I just didn’t have enough faggots,” and he frowned even more.
– Yes, calm down. Everything is fine with me. Beloved wife, son. In general, everything is in order,” I said and reached for cigarettes.
– Wow, Parliament, not bad, so you live! Let me smoke, too.
– Here, – I readily handed him a pack and immediately added, – maybe you want to eat?
– Of course! Are you still in doubt? he sighed and smiled bitterly.
“Then follow me,” I answered cheerfully and got up from the bench.
When he saw the Ford, he drawled in disappointment:
– Yes, you’re not so cool. Your car is shit!
– So it’s not mine, I rented it, – I said, a little offended.
– So the rental is shitty. There would be at least a Lexus, but it would be better to have an Infiniti. That’s what I understand! and he waved his hand dismissively in the direction of my car.
– Okay, sit down and let’s move! By the way, what’s your name?
– Mikhail Sergeyevich, – he introduced himself importantly, – but you can call me Mishka.
– Mikhail Sergeyevich! – I burst out laughing merrily, – I hope, at least not Gorbachev?
– No, Saveliev, why?
– Nothing, nothing. It’s just that we had such a president once.
–Maybe stop laughing at last,– Mishka said resentfully.
– Well, okay, okay, never mind. I’m Anatoly. You can just Tolik. Let’s go!
We drove in silence for several minutes. Outside the window, the lights of the evening city flashed by, elegant people flashed by. Suddenly Mishka said:
“Why don’t you ask me anything?”
– What do you mean?
– Well, about the parents?
– You know, I’m here for a while, passing through. And I don’t want to dig into your family affairs. I’m not up to it, you know. Besides, is everything clear as it is?
– What is clear? Is nothing clear to you? Mishka shouted desperately and banged his fist on the window.
– Calm down, Mishanya, calm down. Come on, if you want, tell me. Maybe I can help you with something!
– Will you help? How will you help? Will you get your mom out of the grave? Or will you pull your father out of the zone?
– Come on, don’t cry. With mom, why did it turn out this way?
– The car hit her. And the folder was washed down with grief. Once I got into a drunken fight. Yes, not with anyone, but with a cop. So he thundered for five years.
At this time we just drove up to the Subway. I ordered a pepsi, some sandwiches and we drove on.
Mishka ate with an appetite, but carefully, trying not to drop crumbs. I smoked in silence, sticking my head out of the window. After hearing how, along with the last drops of the drink, he draws air through the tube, I finally asked:
– What about boarding school?
–I ran away,” he answered shortly and reached for a paper napkin.
– And where you sleep.
“On the heating main,” Mishka snapped and asked for a cigarette again.
I handed him a pack, and everyone was lost in their own thoughts. So five minutes passed. Then I looked at him carefully and said,
“You know what? Did you go to my place, perhaps?
“What’s that for?” There was disbelief in his hoarse voice again.
– Take a shower, but at least sleep, like all people.
The tired Bear sighed, nodded slightly, and we drove to the hotel.
– Who is this? The guard barked menacingly.
“He’s with me, let him through,– I replied politely.
– One minute, – the guard grabbed the radio and called the administrator.
She immediately jumped out on the porch, smiled pleasantly and said:
– I’m sorry, Anatoly Vitalievich, but is he banned from entering?
– It’s not supposed to. These are our rules of residence,” the woman replied sweetly, and carefully adjusted her hairstyle, trying not to catch her hair with long manicured nails.
At that moment I wanted to hit her. I looked at her, gritting my teeth, then said:
– What’s wrong with the rules? I live here, this is my guest, Mikhail, – then it finally dawned on me and, laughing, I added, – make out another room.
– Only with the written permission of the parents, – the administrator answered just as sweetly.
And then my patience snapped.
– That’s enough, write me out, you will send things to the address of the registration. Mishanya, let’s get out of here.
Meanwhile, it was already quite dark. Mishka plopped down on the asphalt and muttered with annoyance:
– That bastard.
– That’s not the word, what a reptile. Okay, let’s go. Get up, or your ass will freeze. Let’s go, to whom I say!
– Where to? Mishka asked in bewilderment.
– I have a good friend. I wanted to go to him tomorrow, together with you. Well, let’s go now.
My call was not answered for a long time. Then the sleepy woman asked:
– Hello, who is this?
– Yes, I didn’t find out, did I, Aunt Tat?
– Tolka, hello! – the interlocutor was sincerely delighted, – and where are you now?
– I’m hanging out with a buddy on the street. They kicked us out of the hotel,” I said, winking at Mikhail.
– Stop wandering the streets. Let’s come to us soon, Leninsky Prospekt, house four. Just opposite the monument. Second entrance, third floor. The apartment doesn’t matter. Call wherever you like. Eugene bought my entire floor. Only for whom, it is unclear.
– Wait, we’ll be there soon. Don’t forget to set the table!
– OK. No need for gifts! The refrigerator is already bursting. There’s booze, too. So don’t throw money away,” Tatiana cautioned carefully.
– I’m listening! – I answered, hung up the phone and took Mikhail to the supermarket.
But there were problems here too.
– You know what, let the kid wait for you on the street, – the guard said uncertainly and looked suspiciously at the Bear.
– You have no right to stop customers, – I answered sharply, grabbed Mishka by the hand and dragged him into the store.
For several minutes we wandered around the trading floor in confusion in search of children’s clothes. Finally, we saw the right department, but we didn’t have time to reach it.
– Stop! – someone’s voice roared in a menacing bass, and a square-bellied man appeared in front of us. On his chest was a badge with the inscription “chief of security”.
– Fuck off! I reacted angrily.
– No matter how your friend steals anything from us.
The frightened Bear wanted to take me away, but it was already too late. In a fit of rage, I called the guard an asshole and tried to push him away. He laughed nervously and threatened to call the police.
– Yes, I don’t care, call whoever you want.
–Maybe you’ll clean up after all in a good way,” the angry guard barked, baring his small crooked teeth. – Come on, get out of here while I’m still kind.
– You won’t wait, – I answered coldly and with an unexpected sharp movement I swept several bottles of whiskey to the floor.
“Tolik, let’s get out of here, please, I don’t need any clothes,” poor Mishka howled plaintively.
But I was already grappling with a security guard, and employees were scurrying around in fright. Finally, a pretty, fragile girl ran up and introduced herself as the main manager of the store. Seeing her fright, I tried to pull myself together.
– Don’t worry, I’ll pay for everything, name the amount of damage. Just let the kid get dressed! Please, it’s very necessary,” I said, showing the confused woman my gold card.
–Yes, yes, of course, don’t worry, it’s all in the lock,” she murmured softly.
But everything turned out to be wrong. We spent the rest of the night in the police station. And only in the morning Aunt Tanya and Uncle Zhenya pulled us out of there.
– Well, are you glad to have guests? I asked cheerfully, finally finding myself in the apartment.
– Of course, we are glad, – Tanya replied warmly, paused for a while and added:
– First breakfast, and then a shower. Or maybe vice versa?
“It’s better the other way around,” Mikhail said and quickly stomped into the bathroom.
A day later, my business trip ended. The plane took off very early. That’s why I didn’t even go to bed. I was sitting and smoking on the balcony.
– Do you hear, Tolik, – Mishka called softly, looking in from the room, – are you here?
– Here. Why aren’t you sleeping?
– I want to smoke, but they don’t allow it.
Another light flashed in the dark, Mishka took a drag and asked sadly:
– Why are you leaving so quickly?
– What to do. I have a family, they’ve been waiting for me. I just grew up here, but I live there.
– What am I going to do?
– How is that?
– Yes, that’s it. Take it and stay. They will be happy, they are good, kind. Don’t be surprised, you’re just lucky.
– But what about the boarding school, the school?
– Don’t worry. For Uncle Zhenya, these are trifles. He’ll sort it out.
– And why did you decide to leave me with them? Mishka asked curiously.
– You know, once I took away their son, the only one. Forever.
– I don’t understand where you took him? – he muttered in confusion.
– To the war.
– That is, you are returning me as a debt, – there were notes of resentment in Mishka’s quiet voice.
–No,” I hastened to reassure him. – I want everyone to be happy. You will have a chance for a new life. And they are happy to take care of someone, to avoid lonely old age.
– And what about my father? Misha asked excitedly.
– And you talk to them about this, talk to them for sure.
And here I am again in the arrivals hall, having just left the plane. There were people waiting for me at the counter – Aunt Tanya, Uncle Zhenya, a noticeably cheerful Bear and an unfamiliar thin man.
It turned out that this was the same Sergei, Mikhail’s father who was sitting. As we approached the car, he smiled and said softly:
– Tolik, I am very grateful to you… for saving my son and me….