Boomerang of Happiness - 17
They were both good people, just bad for each other
The job prospect for Anna was by no means a happy coincidence. Colonel Grushevsky, even being on a solid border guard career path, was a tech nerd. He was interested in all new technologies, including computers and robotics. When he’d found out about Alex and his new project, Grushevsky made every effort to learn about it as much as possible. He arranged for Alex and Anna to get the apartment in the Border Guard housing and made sure everything was ready for them.
Grushevsky introduced himself by coming up to the station on Alex’s first day at work and making sure Alex had everything he needed there. He befriended Alex by solving his problems like making the apartment phone work and getting much-needed supplies for the station. Even though he didn’t have the appropriate clearance for the project secrets, thanks to his commander status with the Border Guards, he had an easy access. He would take his military Lada (a rough equivalent of the Jeep), drive it up to the station and hang out there for several hours every day. At first, Alex was cautious with Grushevsky, not knowing what his deal was, but then he figured the guy was not really interested in the secret project components, just the mechanical part of it. So he let his guard down on the border guard.
“Isn’t the border like 25 miles away in the other direction?” Alex would ask him when they became friends and Alex felt he could engage him in a harmless banter. “Aren’t you supposed to guard the state border instead of hanging out here with me?”
“I’m guarding the most precious asset we have here, your brain,” Grushevsky would respond and then ask Alex something incredibly insightful about his work. A couple of times, he even helped Alex out, coming up with solutions for leaky batteries or electrical wire connections that Alex couldn’t figure out.
“Where did you learn all this stuff? I sometimes feel inadequate around you,” Alex once told him. “It’s almost like you went to an engineering school instead of me.”
“C’mon, don’t sweat it. Two heads, as they say, are always better than one,” Grushevsky would respond, laughing. “I’m just curious by nature, I guess. As a kid, I really loved to take apart anything mechanical, just to see how it worked and then put everything back together. A lot of times, I ended up with some extra parts but the thing still worked!”
“Ah, so you are like Kulibin,” Alex said, referring to a famous Russian innovator who had no formal education but was known for coming up with genius technical solutions using whatever materials he had on hand, so simple and genuine no one could believe they worked.
“Maybe,” Grushevsky responded seriously. “I actually read up a lot about him and found that our minds indeed work in similar ways.”
“Looks like you are in the wrong profession,” Alex teased. “How did you end up with the military?”
“Umm, I really had no choice. My father is in the military, with his two brothers. It all started with my grandfather, who was a career officer and went through the entire war. Started in Kiev in June 1941 and ended in Vienna in May 1945. He’d lost four of his brothers and a sister in the war, the only sibling survivor. Grandpa and his sons wanted to build an entire military dynasty: My two brothers are in the navy and air force, and I have four cousins who are in the military as well. I was the only one who wiggled out and went into border patrol, even though I aced the military boarding school in Moscow that I had been sent to at 14. My grandpa had pulled some strings to get me in there, and my brothers and cousins. I’m pretty sure they all think of me as a pussy,” Grushevsky laughed.
“Wow, I wish all pussies were like you,” Alex whistled, measuring Grushevsky with his eye. A full head taller than Alex, colonel was broad-shouldered, handsome, lean and strong. Nothing like his beer-bellied comrades in their late 30s-early 40s, who sat around in their offices all day long. Grushevsky jogged 10 miles along the border every morning, rain or shine, and put his body through strenuous routines to which he subjected his drafted soldiers. “I should be able to do what I order them to do. The day I can’t keep up with them, I’ll retire,” he’d say to his wife who often asked him why he was doing this to his body. “You mean I’ll have to tumble-weed with you from one military base to another until I’m like 75?” his wife would say, laughing and admiring her husband’s physique. She was quite a show-stopper herself, an attractive brunette who kept herself in shape with hard work around the house and keeping up with their three children aged 8, 5, and 2.
“I guess this is where this particular line of the Grushevsky military dynasty will end,” Alex pointed out jokingly when he learned all the colonel’s kids were girls.
“You wish,” Grushevsky shook his head. “For our summer vacation this year, we all went to visit grandpa at his dacha near Moscow. The first thing he did after dinner on the day we arrived was sitting my 8-year-old in his lap like he was going to read her a story, pulling out some military brochures, and telling her about many different positions women take in the military nowadays.”
“Oh wow, he really wants to hook them in when they are young, doesn’t he?” Alex laughed.
“Oh yeah, and then he also asked my wife when she was going to finally give him a great-grandson. He already has four!” colonel said, smiling warmly at the memory of his grandpa.
It was during one of those friendly conversations when Alex mentioned to Grushevsky that he didn’t know what to do about Anna’s unhappiness and idleness. Colonel asked Alex about Anna’s profession and happily slapped his hands on his thighs when Alex said she was an accountant.
“You are in luck!” he said, “Our accountant, who is pregnant, just told me she’d take several months off work before and after the child is born. It’ll be temporary, but at least Anna would be occupied for some time. And then, who knows, something else might come up.”
Had Anna known about this conversation, she’d be quite impressed with Alex’s acting skills. He didn’t like telling her that he had nothing to do with this plan, but at that point it seemed to him it was the easiest way to get her to work and out of the apartment. It wasn’t a lie when you do something out of love and care, he kept telling himself.