Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"What, you can't hear this accent?" Igor snapped at the bartender, who rolled his tired eyes and went for the Vodka bottle.

"Tough day?" I asked, finishing off my Margarita and signaling for another.

"Gospodi," Igor groaned, getting up on the barstool next to me. 

We met every Friday, here at the Ebbit. Me, out of sheer curiosity; him, out of the need for a pressure valve on his high-stakes job translating classified communications for some underground Washington troublemakers.

I made a come-on gesture at him with my fingers.

"So some bigshot American businessman is talking to a red-phone number in Moscow, right?" Igor said, pulling the vodka shot over across the shiny wood bar. "And this American guy, he's kvetching about China, how they're screwing him up the ass, and the Russian, he's joining right in, and then this American so-and-so, he starts talking about starting a war."

Igor paused to take a gulp of his vodka, and half-turned on his stool so as to look me in the eye while repeating, "A war!"

"What, like a price war?" I said, frowning. "I doubt we can beat the Chinese at that."

"No, the real thing!" Igor lifted and dropped his bony shoulders under the perma-press dress shirt. "Bombs, guns, all that derrmo. And not just, American guy buys some tanks and hires a few mercenaries." Igor lowered his head and widened his ice-blue eyes with a merry twinkle. "He says, I'll run for president of the U.S."

I started to laugh. "Man, if every sour-grapes capitalist in the states could get elected president, neither of of us would be sitting here right now."

"OK, but this Russian he's talking to, I'm figuring out, this is a very big guy," Igor said, his bushy eyebrows lifting. "Very big."

"Russians," I sneered, raising my Margarita. "You guys are over, man. It's ISIS and the Chinese now."

Igor put his elbows back on the bar and snickered down into his vodka, shaking his head. "OK but listen. This guy, this American. He's a fucking madman. I'm telling you."

I took a drink and waited.

"He's got this other guy, a prospective running-mate, OK? The running-mate is one of these Prophecy Christians, he's foaming at the mouth for a holy war with the Muslims, and if he's got a platform, he can whip it up like that." Igor snapped his fingers. "So the American, he goes to the Russian, 'You get me the White House, I'll take China off both our plates.' Russian is like, 'Oh yeah, and how are you gonna do that?' And American is like, 'How hard would it be to get China involved in an American shooting war with ISIS?'"

I laughed, stared at him, stopped. Thought about it a minute, then said, "That's the craziest thing I've ever heard."

Igor huffed an annoyed half-chuckle, half-sigh. "And you wonder why I drink."

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