My new neighbors had invited me for a small get together. We had received six inches of snow. This winter has been unusually warm with some occasional precipitation. There was the time when we had consecutive days of snow. Now, it would snow a day in weeks but heavily, as if we were receiving the past quota. It just happened that my new neighbors decided to move on the day, when the snow was heavy. I assisted them with their relocation, after the accumulation was complete.
They had invited few friends of theirs along with me. As we settled, their three year old Vlad started asking me, “Vater....Vodka...Vater...Vodka?”
I replied water. Despite, he continued to ask. I looked at their parents for translation.
“Don't worry Jay, he is offering you water to drink,” said the mother.
I still could not understand why he added Vodka to it.
“Oh...that is because for us Vodka is water....Ha...Ha...Ha,” and they all drowned in mirth.
So, did the Vlad, and he started running in the room, repeating “Vater...Vodka...Vater...Vodka...”
I expressed amazement to Oleg, my neighbor, for Vlad's memory.
“Oh that is nothing Jay...see this...” and he called Vlad. Little kid rushed in with enthusiasm. Looking at me and then looking at her mother, who was serving snacks.
Oleg repeated some Russian word.
“House,” said Vlad.
Then his mother said another Russian word.
“Potatoes,” said Vlad.
The game went on for a while. I could not understand the Russian syllables; however, it was clear that Vlad was a version of concise Oxford Russian to English Dictionary.
I complimented the parents for such a brilliant son. I then asked how did they train Vlad.
“At the night time, when most parents read the story to their kids, we read him Russian to English translations,” replied Oleg, the proud father.
“We have been reciting him since he was born,” added Olga, the proud mother.
I wondered, when the kid would grow up, perhaps he would reply everything twice. Once in Russian and then in English. His brain would have been wired to translate twice for every conversation.
The snacks were laid in front of us, with some shots of Russian water. Mikhail, a family friend of our neighbors, sipped the holy water in. He was short, heavy built, with his cheeks redder than the rose from my backyard. When he laughed, it appeared as if he were performing it inside out. His inner body shook with tremendous vibrations while his vocal chord only produced low pitched snorts.
“Jay!...Mikhail here had recently won the lottery,” introduced Oleg.
I congratulated Mikhail. I had read about people winning the lottery, however, had never met anyone personally.
“How much did you win?” I asked.
All the Russian men started looking at each other. They felt destitute with words for failing to ascertain their accented English to me. I explained them that they were not to blame. For the word lottery was assigned to Powerball game in my memory banks. They felt relieved and slipped another shot of Russian water inside them.
“No, not the money lottery...the green card lottery!” cried Petrov, a bachelor friend of theirs.
However, I did not find Mikhail in a happy mood. After every laugh, he would go in the depression zone, staring at the vodka shots.
“I did win the lottery, but, I could not get my family here. They would not give my family a visa...”, and he shook his head with disappointment.
I felt sorry for him, but could not understand the reason. Usually, the entire family gets the green card.
“Jay! Mikhail was not married when he filed for the papers. By the time, it got approved, he had married Sasha and was expecting a baby girl. Sasha is thirty years younger to him. So, the immigrant officer took that as a fraud, and he denied the visa,” explained Petrov.
We started discussing the pains of immigration. We felt how life offered chances, but then always took something precious in return.
My neighbor said, “Life is such a b....”, when his wife echoed in the room something in Russian.
At which, the little Vlad beguiled, “Beware...no dirty vords...”, and then disappeared into another room.
“Okay..Okay...I can say...like...Life is such a...”, again his wife shouted this time in English, “I said watch your language...kids are playing here...”
Their eldest seven year old, dragged three year old Vlad in, who was translating her mother in Russian.
My neighbor then shouted back in Russian and then turned to me, “Okay..Okay...I can say...like...Life is such a female dog!”
All of us laughed. But, Vlad heard it and sneaked in shouting, “Vitch...Vitch...Vitch...”
Oleg's wife stormed in the room. Apoplectic, her face was redder than Mikhail's cheeks. Her eyes burnished with rage. She turned towards her husband and delivered a one minute drill of Russian sermon. I felt I would be witnessing a Russian cold war soon.
A minute later, she turned towards me, with most humblest face, amicably, “Jay, try these mashed potatoes! They are home made.”
I was stunned by the reversal of her countenance. If she were an actress, she would get Academy Award. What an excellent exhibition of emotional transformation. No doubts on how this woman can manage two very animated boys. When she left the room, there was a silence. Even the boys did not roar out of their rooms.
“Are you going to drink?” asked Mikhail pointing towards the shot of vodka in front of me.
I nodded negatively, and he immediately gulped it inside his throat. So did the rest of them, and they all started singing some Russian melody. Kids returned to their humdrum.
“If life were a...a...(thinking and watching where his wife is)...female werewolf, then I would be a male werewolf,” commented Oleg, “...I would reign her as a man should reign a woman.”
Petrov started laughing, “...Like you have had her in control...”, reflecting to Oleg's wife.
Oleg shrugged his shoulders, “After so many years, they get used to it...Ha...Ha..Ha...!”
“If life were a werewolf, I would hunt her down and kill it,” interrupted Mikhail.
“Oh...no...not again! Mikhail you are again talking of death and killing...hear yourself...what are you saying,” said Petrov.
Mikhail quietly administered another shot of vodka in him.
“He is drunk...He is not in his sense...excuse him Jay,” added Oleg, my neighbor.
I assured them that there was no harm done. We should just enjoy the evening. They all agreed and poured another shot in themselves.
“Well, Jay...if life were a...(whispering)...female dog, I would pet her...yes pet her...put a collar on her neck...take her out for a morning walk...in a park...I would pet her...Jay...yes I would...” spoke Petrov.
He was supported by Mikhail and Oleg. Clearly, their eyes were sinking. Their tongue were limping.
I decided to take a leave. Vlad came to bid good bye, repeating consistently “Vitch...Vitch...Vitch...”
Mikhail stopped me, “One question for you Jay....listen...listen...what would you do...(whispering)...if life were a female dog...”
I replied, “I do not have any experience with pets, I would probably donate her to animal shelter...”