Chapter Three: Saving Ivan at School from Grandpa?
Galina is a language tutor, so she can take time off between sessions. Grandma and Galina go to an appointment with Mrs. Ivanova.
Mrs. Ivanova is as beautiful as Ivan says. She meets them in an office, so they can have privacy. Tea and cookies are served.
Galina begins. “Mrs. Ivanova, how can we help keep my father out of your hair?”
Mrs. Ivanova sighed the sigh that’s been sighed for centuries in Russia. It is one of world weariness and hardship. “If only it were that easy.”
“True,” Natasha said with the same sigh. “In Russia, there is always something. The security guard has already told us how much he likes Grandpa.”
“The principal likes him too, they are Afghan veterans,” Mrs. Ivanova sighed.
“So to quote Lenin, what is to be done?” Galina asks sadly.
“Let me think about it. I can’t ban him, yet. The principal likes him, but maybe if interferes enough, and it can be proved, the advancement of the children is suffering. Let me think about this and I will be in touch.”
When Galina and Natasha got outside, Natasha muttered. “We need to do something about the old fool, but what? He has friends in low and high places.”
“Mom, I think I may have an idea. Let me think it through.”
Chapter Four: Grandpa Takes Ivan on a Walk.
Ivan is being well treated by Grandpa on their walk. Ice cream, a walk in the woods. Ivan still respects Grandpa as an elder, but is beginning to wonder about him. He wonders if he’s learning what not to do.
They come to a building. The writing says Veterans Club. Ivan is curious, but wondering what Grandpa is up to.
Both Grandpa and Ivan are greeted warmly. It’s a large room full of cigarette smoke, sweat, and vodka.
The veterans rarely have young people in their midst. Ivan has his cheek pinched and is picked up and carried about the room.
Ivan asks Grandpa for a Coke. “We don’t have that American swill here, you will get juice and vodka”
Ivan has never had vodka, but is curious. He is given juice then shots of vodka. Ivan feels important with the old men. He’s feeling the warmth of the vodka, when Grandpa takes Ivan over to an older man seated in the corner.
“Boy this is Mr. Kirilenko. He’s ninety-four years old and fought in the Great Patriotic War. Like your great-grandpa he went all the way to Germany. Sasha, we need to make sure Ivan grows up a strong Russian. There are some bad influences.”
“Come, boy,” Sasha said. Ivan sat next to him and began his story.
“I’d just graduated from secondary school, and was about to start a factory job, when the Germans crossed into Russia. They were just one of many. Germans have been trying to conquer and undermine us for eight hundred years!
Well, as with Napoleon, we left him an empty Moscow, plus we of course can handle winter better. So arrogant, those Germans. They thought they were going to wipe us out and settle in our Motherland! More fools they!
I fought in all the major battles. Stalingrad was the hardest. Once the cowards surrendered there, we were on our way. There was much hardship, but General Zhukov and Stalin led us to victory!”
Ivan had questions. “Why didn’t the Red Army save Warsaw from the Germans blowing it up?”
“So the Poles would be demoralized. The Poles need to be kept in place! Always making trouble. They think they’re better than us. So do the damn Czechs! Russia is the protector of all Slavs.”
Ivan laughed. “We hear the Czechs are rich.”
“Because they sold their souls to that bum Vaclav Havel. Poland had that Catholic, they called him John Paul, who helped the Poles be rebellious again. All those centuries, they never stop and they look down on us? Anyway, before you so rudely interrupted, we liberated concentration camps and arrived in the heart of darkness, Berlin! We got our revenge, and taught those nasty Germans what real Russians were like!”
Like Grandpa, he busily got himself all worked up. Ivan wondered if he would do that, when he was their age. Ivan wondered if men’s intelligence declined with age. Mom and Grandma kept their intelligence. Then he made the connection. The vodka. The shots were already getting to him. So that’s where old men got their courage and bravado.
Mr. Kirilenko snapped Ivan back to reality. “Boy this is why, Russia lives! We are strong, and President Putin will keep us that way! Now go home, stop the foolishness your Grandpa Zhenya has told us about, and be a real Russian man!
Grandpa was happier than he’d been in a long time. He held Ivan’s hand and sang as they walked back. Grandma and Galina greeted him at the door. No amount of juice could cover the vodka.
“YOU GOT MY SON DRUNK!”
Galina’s yelling brought Grandma to the front door from the kitchen. She smelled the vodka. “You old fool, have you finally gone mad? Where did you take him?”
“To my veterans club! They enjoyed meeting Ivan. Mr. Kirilenko enforced my Russian history lesson.”
“That fool?!” He’s worse than you are! I’ll make sure to kill you, long before you make ninety years old, if the booze doesn’t do it first.”
“Dad, Anton is already angry about what you did to Sergei. Only some fast talking on his part kept Sergei’s parents from pressing charges. Any more bad attitude toward Sergei, we will press charges with them. Understand?”
All Grandpa could manage was a belch. “A belch works, you old fool. You took my grandson to be with those morons. I’d like to say I don’t believe it, but I do. What’s to be done with you. I know, another night in your room.”
Chapter Five: A Call from Mrs. Ivanova
Galina’s phone rang. “Mrs. Ivanova, always a pleasure. A debate? The students and the veterans? Sounds interesting. Let me know. Thank you, bye.”
“What was Mrs. Ivanova saying about a debate?”
“She wants the children to debate the veterans.”
Grandma responded with a sly smile. “The kids will win.”