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In search of the niche

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  • Аннотация:
    Everybody looking for the good job, where you not suppose to work too hard. For good salary, good partner, good health - practically looking for the niche.

  In search of a niche.
  1
  Leo Koifman met Nikolay Grechko on his first working day in the new place. As usual, for all big companies, the first working day every newcomer has to spend on filling out different forms, listening to online safety training and other rubbish. Somewhere around lunch time, after filling out all questionnaires, in which Koifman honestly promised not to climb where it is not necessary, do not put various parts of his body into rotating mechanisms, do not solicit employees during working hours and do not steal secret documents, he decided to take a short coffee break. In the kitchen, near the microwave, a huge bearded man was busy with some food boxes. The guy looked like typical Russian man. In Canada, many immigrants from the post-Soviet republics, especially Ukrainians, who immigrated more than hundred years ago. However, all these children of former immigrants almost lost their language, so Leo decided do not ask man in the kitchen a straight questions, despite the fact that on 95% was sure that he speaks Russian. The man was unusual and the newcomer unwittingly began to scrutinize him. The man looked clearly not ordinary. The height was about two meters, high temples on the forehead, a short haircut, thick heavy beard, a big ears sticking out perpendicular to the head, crumpled dirty pants, soft smeared with moccasins, a big belly and long loose shirt. If Leo would meet him in Russia, he will think that this is a Pope from Siberia which forgot to wear his cassock. The big man blocked access to coffee machine, to a sink and to a microwave at the same time. Leo, after full inspection, politely sad "Excuse me" and the "pope" turned around. The man looked at Koifman from his two meters height with a heavy glance of "taiga-cannibal yeti", but after 10 seconds suddenly smiled as a child.
  - Do you speak Russian? - Nikolay began without forewords.
  - Are you also Russian speaking? - Leo pretended to be surprised.
  - Have you been working here for a long time? - simply asked Nikolay, firmly holding Leo"s hand.
  - Today is the first day.
  - Where are you sitting?
  - Over there, in that corner office.
  - Oh, are you a manager?
  - Well, yes, but very small.
  - Hm-m, well, but if you have your own office, it's already serious. I'm seating there, in the open space, with another designers. So if you will have a second, don"t be shy, please come over. By the way, my name is Nikolay.
   - And I"m Leo. When you are planning to free the microwave? I'd like to warm up the coffee.
   - Yes-yes-yes... I'm just warming up soup, then bread and porridge...
   - Wow! I see you brought a lot, kind of seriously prepared.
   - Well, dinner is a holy thing, - Grechko smiled shyly.
  - Okay, come to my office. We could have lunch together, - Koifman realized that heating process will take a long time, therefore decided do not waste his time.
   Nikolay came to his office in about twenty minutes with five different boxes, which he neatly laid out around him and pausing a while thoughtful:
   - Probably I'll start with a soup.
   - And all of these five boxes for lunch? - Koifman was more than surprised.
   -Well, what's wrong? You should eat well, otherwise how you will go to shit, - Nikolay looked seriously at Leo and added, - and if you didn"t eat on time, you didn"t shit on time and here you are - cancer of the rectum! Not funny!
   Leo, who used to take just one box, began to observe with high interest the new acquaintance. When soup was finished, Grechko started the salad. He opened a box of sliced vegetables and pulled out from the depth two small jars. One was with olive oil, the other with balsamic vinegar. After pouring the contents of both cans into the salad, Nikolay began slowly to stir all components.
   - Could you mix the salad at home? - Koifman was surprised. - Are you have nothing to do? Stir your salad at home, and no need to drag bunch of jars down here.
   - Ha... Well, it's not so delicious if I would prepare it at home. I always prefer fresh, - Grechko laughed in a paternal way. He was amazed that such elementary things should be explained to someone.
   Slowly having dealt with five boxes, Nicholay folded his entire household in a cloth bag, burped with a pleasure and simply said:
   -Do not go away. I brewed a tea there, about half an hour ago, it"s probably ready.
   Grechko appeared in a few minutes with a half-liter teapot and another box, containing chocolate and nuts. Since the beginning of the lunch, it has been no less than forty minutes, not counting the half an hour which he spent for all preparation process. Koifman ate his salad in the first seven minutes. A new acquaintance, with some kind of not healthy pleasure, started sipping the tea and take all sorts of sweets out of the box. In another twenty minutes, Grechko finished long lunch and went to his room. Leo glanced at his watch. Lunch with a new friend lasted more than an hour. Koifman waited a few minutes and went to the washroom. However, after walking a few meters, he was again surprised to find Grechko sitting next to some young Indian designer and talking animatedly about something. It was evidently that Nikolay did not come for a second, but for a long time. Further, during the working day Koifman saw Grechko in the kitchen and with different people, but he never found him in the workplace. What and when Nikolay work for this company also remained a mystery to him. The next day the situation almost completely repeated. Nikolay was walking from one to another, asked how things were yesterday, talked about his problems, politics, complained about his health, gave someone to rewrite movies or mixed martial arts shows, warmed up the dinner... And everyone was happy to see him and to share their family problems with him. The workplace was used as a base for storing lunch boxes, filling the timesheet and printing out variety documents that he then exchanged with a pleasure with his colleagues. In two weeks Koifman was so interested to understand what going on - he even started to spy after a new friend. Having worked 5 years in the former USSR, after 11 years in Israel and 14 years in Canada, he never saw that somebody worked no more than one or two hours a day. And Grechko was neither the owner nor the husband of the general manager, and he even wasn"t a small boss. In the process of communication and constant observation, Koifman slowly began to develop a portrait of Mr. Grechko. For the present day, Nikolay was married, had a son and a daughter who already grew up and lived separately. Also in the house there were three Dachshunds, which he was fully in love with, and could talk about them for hours, sincerely experiencing and laughing at the habits of his pets. His wife had not worked for the last five years and was enjoying housework. All the attempts to teach her at least some computer program always ended in tears and Nikolay paused the process for some time, and finally calmed down. However, let's start everything from the beginning.
   Nikolay was born in the small industrial town, located more than thousand kilometers from Moscow. When he born, his parents were about 20 years old and didn"t have time to pray on the new family member, in comparison with a modern generation. They immediately went somewhere for high pay work and left their child in the care of their parents. His childhood was regular, however he considered himself the happiest child on earth. The matter is that the grandmother and grandfather lived in the downtown across to the central toy shop. About fifty years ago, children still sincerely believed in communism, although not only children... The government promised communism in 5-10 years and asked all citizens to tighten up belts and accelerate their efforts in order to speed up a bright future arrival. Grandfather spoke in detail about life under the communism and young Grechko had the impression that his grandfather had already lived there and knew exactly how it will work. For five-year-old child it was still hard to understand the adult words "supply according to need," "work by the ability", but what he understood very clearly - it will be no money! Each person can take everything what he wants. Every morning Nikolay woke up with his grandfather at 6-00a.m. and turned the radio on. The government had to announce the beginning of communism early. And if communism has come, then he only needs one minute to dress and run to the store across the street. Well, in any situation he will be there at 6-05a.m. But all another children never show up prior to 7a.m. And he will be the first to choose whatever toys he wants and how many he can bring at home. And the little Grechko already figured out that he can make more than one run and until seven in the morning, until everybody arrived, it will be possible to go back and forth seven or eight times. So, in happiness anticipation few more years slowly passed. When his parents returned from another city with money. They bought a new condo far away from the city center. Nikolay didn"t want to lose such a "strategic" place and categorically refused to move. All the arguments that the store opens at 9a.m. and in case if communism will come, they still will be able to arrive before the toy shop opening, didn"t work out. Relocation process was delayed. At some point, his father, which just quietly observed at this advanced educational procedure, lost his patience and hit Grechko-junior with a heavy slap. Then he slowly dropped: Ten minutes to tidy up, otherwise you never see your communism!
  So Nikolay Grechko came to the edge of a small, god-forgotten town, on the edge of the empire, far from the central toy store and without any enthusiasm for the coming communism.
   Entertainment or cultural activities, in those years was close to zero, even in Moscow. But what you can expect from a small provincial city with a population less than 100 thousands. Well, all entertainment: soccer, basketball or ride on the bike. A theater or a concert - two or three times a year, and you have to be lucky to get the tickets. The people around are half criminals, and their children are no better. Habitat - bad ecology, knocking down wind, aggressive and angry population, alcohol, street fights and other similar "delights". So, in order to be busy Grechko began to read. And he read practically everything, which you can find in the library of his small town. At seventeen he had already read almost all the classics, read many books on history, thriller stories, and adventures, and we can objectively say that he became almost a local intellectual. Nikolay spoke smoothly, without swearing and not stuttering to find the right word. Tall, thin, with a smart look, not aggressive - really nice fellow. And he knew how to tell interesting stories. 30-40 years ago it was no Internet. Go, check if it"s true. And who will go? What, people have nothing to do? After school he went to university in Samara. The city is more than a million, there are thousands of such "smart" and knowledgeable young men. Once his class gathered in the student dormitory to celebrate some holiday. The boys were full of energy, funny and cheerful: somebody plays on the guitar, somebody sings, somebody reads his poetry, somebody discusses technical ideas, somebody jokes... and the girls are all beautiful. Grechko sat and waited, but from no reason the girls did not paid attention. He already walked a couple of times to show his height, and smiled to some of them, but nothing happened. He also began telling all kinds of stories. But only he will start, and one of the boys cuts him off: Nikolay, I was read this story last year in the magazine "Youth". Okay... then here another story, which happened during Queen Catherine Second era. Guys started to listen, but after a couple of minutes someone again cuts him: Where did you read this? Something doesn"t work out here. Queen's education reforms already started before slavery was canceled. And why queen will fight against her own initiative? Well, what can you do about it! Very difficult to show off. Hmmm... not like it was in his hometown. And another guys are discussing the stand-up comedy for the New Year. What a sketch we'll prepare, what song we'll sing ... Nikolay got upset. He felt like a stranger in this party and went to his room.
   After the university he went back to his home town, got married... A son was born, then a daughter. Women again began to pay attention. Life again turned face to him. But then the glorious nineties burst forth. Everything flew backwards. People lost a lot. While he got up off his knees, established some "shuttle" business, while began to make some money... And then the default came - money turned into a paper... And he realized that he needs to start all from the beginning.
   Grechko thought hard. He clearly realized that it was not the last default and that his whole life would be the same torn stripe - from default to default. And probably he never get out from the low social level, will grow old and nothing will see in his life. And he is already 34... Grechko decided to take a risk and went to Moscow, drove to the Canadian Embassy, took forms to complete and return back home. He translated everything in a hurry, filled everything and sat down to study English. A year later he was interviewed "in an enemy language", and in half year sold everything that he had and came to Canada.
  
  2
   From the beginning the Canadian life didn"t start very well. He didn"t have a real profession, wasn"t a businessman and definitely had no connections. In Canada it is not like in Russia, where if you are friend with an owner, you can get a good position and high salary. Here people have different minds set. If your salary less than market price - you and owner are the best friend. But if you milked a little bit higher salary than average market price, it's better not to get caught by the owner! He went from one family business to another, but everywhere it was a same. The salary was slightly higher than a minimum wage - enough to eat, but not enough for good life. By Russian standards, looks like everything is cool, but for Canadian life - low level. Once again when he was laid off and went to unemployment, Nikolay decided to summarize and think about a path forward. Eight years of Canadian life had flown by, and he, except of spoken English, hasn"t progressed anywhere. It was absolutely clear that he had to do something urgently. After long and hard debates and doubts, it was decided to go and study three-dimensional computer design in a college near the house. The training is exactly for one year. The government, as part of the re-qualification program, will pay almost everything, in case if you will pass all the exams and receive a diploma. Grechko took up his studies very seriously, fully understanding that it could be his last chance. He bought a powerful computer, with intend to consolidate what he learned during the day after the study. In the same time, Nikolay started a tight friendship with more advanced students, in order to learn extra tricks. He even tried to make romantic relations with the teacher, with hope to get "private" lessons... Shortly speaking, he did everything he could. And luck did not keep him waiting. After graduating from college, Mr. Grechko was employed in a large engineering company as a draftsman in the mechanical department. He was paid exactly double salary, in comparison to his last job, in spite of Nikolay would agree even to a minimum wage. After half a year he bought a new car. The old car he generously gave to his wife and, embracing her with a fatherly hag, added: "We are not a poor people to commute on the buses". A year later, having saved up enough money for down payment, the Grechko family bought a house. The house was far away, pretty small, but it was their house! Life again began to accelerate the motion.
   Nikolay certainly understood what his department was doing, but on very high level. Especially he had no clue why it was necessary to do this way, and not otherwise. He tried not to ask any questions, in order do not draw a special attention to himself. When more experienced colleagues argued with each other, to prove that some specific coefficient should be used in this calculations, Grechko always tried to pretend that he is very busy and do not have time for discussion. And if someone insisted to hear Grechko"s opinion, kind of trying to pull him to his side, Nikolay usually tried to laugh off, throwing some neutral meaningless phrases like: "In Russia, this coefficient has always low, and now I eventually realized why USSR broke apart." He didn"t fight, didn"t pretend to leadership or career growth, he just wanted this job! And he wanted this forever. He dreamed to be forgotten and just receive this big salary.
   The project, for which Grechko was taken, was slowly unfolding and the mechanical department was not too busy, because detailed design hasn"t begun yet. If the boss was needed something, he was coming out of the office, caught the first seeing designer and asked him to check some "problematic" place. Just like it was in the Soviet Army. Grechko, as an experienced soldier, immediately understood how the system works and simply tried to avoid the boss and not to appear in the workplace. If the task was a bit more complicated, i.e. not just an ordinary redrawing, but required at least some sort of qualification, then Nikolay began to ask a lot of additional questions, clarified all sorts of unimportant things... At the same time he was nodding seriously and added amicably: "Oh, now this is different story! You didn"t mentioned it from the beginning. I don"t want to guess." Having received all the necessary explanations, he sincerely thanked the person who gave him the assignment (usually the lead designer) and returned to his workplace. When in 2-3 hours he was asked to show some results, he looked faithfully into lead engineer"s eyes and, seriously replied: "Yes, yes, yes, of course, of course. I"m working on it and I'll try to finish by the end of the day. "
  At the end of the day, of course, nothing was ready. Realistically for average designer this scope of work takes no more than an hour, but not for Nikolay. The hour only was spent for clarifications and amplifications. Two days later everything was as before (i.e. nothing happened), but Grechko continued to ask additional questions, and nodded with a smart face, listening to the answers. The "lead designer" which already lost all his patience, started yelling with a red face that he would have done it by himself in maximum an hour and already would forget about it. And he spent only for an explanation at least a two hours, and lost a lot of time and nerves! And that he also has a boss and a schedule! And he has been working for more than 30 years as a designer, and never saw clowns like that! Nikolay stood with a guilty look, looking frightened from side to side and repeating with a stubby tongue: "Excuse me, I had all sorts of problems with the computer there... Sorry, I apologize...". Screaming in such a respectable engineering firm was pretty rare notion and usually everyone around stopped the work and began to listen. No one knew the prehistory of the conflict, but from the side everything looked very ugly. Poor immigrant, harmless draftsman was intimidated by "lead engineer". And poor guy just tried to defend himself... And this poor Nikolay, he is a nice guy! What this lead engineer wants?! When the unpleasant scene was over, Grechko almost cried like a battered dog. He went away somewhere, with a sad face of undeservedly humiliated person.
   After 20 minutes he returned and sat down at his workplace, looking with a sad eyes on the screen, but without touching the keyboard. It was so painful to look at it... Humiliated in public, a 50-year-old man, grief-stricken and deeply experiencing his shame. Someone from colleagues can"t stand and came to pity him, expressing sincere sympathy.
   And then came the second part of the beautifully rehearsed performance, which Grechko held tightly under control. With a dull look, listening to the advice not to take everything that happened closely to the heart, "humiliated and insulted" with frozen tears in his eyes, he looked at the interlocutor insanely and said in a half-whisper: "I do not know how I will live with all this... this... I have never... never been so humiliated in my life...".
  The compassionate colleague asked him to calm down, and went to Nikolay's "offender" to convey a "terrible" conversation. After five to ten minutes, the "lead designer", who already was not so "hot", and well understanding all the potential consequences, came to Grechko to make a peace. After many apologies, the "offender" returned to his workplace and never touched the "offended". The main idea of this tactic was that the conflict never went to the head of the department, and faded at the initial stage. Everyone was happy with this result. Grechko never received any skilled work, only a purely drafting. Lead designer no longer gave him anything more or less serious. This way he tried not to lose his temper again, and don"t lose his job. Koifman understood all this not right away, but when the "puzzle" was finished, he even started to respect his new friend. Without connections, without any knowledge, without even good English... practically without anything, Grechko managed to stay in a serious firm, on a good salary, with a title "mechanical designer".
   The changes happened unexpectedly. It turned out that the mechanical department lagged behind, puffed at the end of the schedule, didn"t order more than half of what was due and so on. What exactly happened Nikolay did not understand, but to be honest, he even didn"t try. On Monday morning, to mechanical department, without any explanations, was announced that they have a new boss. Also, along with the new head of department, another new lead engineer was presented. The Project Director expressed the hope that these changes will help to catch up the schedule and that the new people will help to push entire team of mechanics.
  - I don"t care about all their personnel reshuffles. I'm a small guy and not pretending for anything, -Grechko philosophically shared his thoughts with Koifman. The dinner was long over, and Nikolay did not even finish the fourth box.
   - I wouldn"t be so sure, - Leo raised his finger and shacked.
   - Oh, come on. And what will they do to me?
   -They can remove you from the project...
   -So what? I will be transferred to another project. Not a big deal.
   -You will not just be transferred. If your boss complains, then maybe for the first time only they will move you. And if it will be complains from the second project? Or you believe they will move you again?
   -Come on. Why they can"t send me to the next project again? It is seven-eight projects right now.
   -Hm-m... This is Canada, but not USSR. They are nice, but everything has limits.
  - What do you mean?
  - They can laid you off.
   -Leo, stop frightening me! I've been here almost three years and while everyone was happy, - Grechko looked at Koifman with uncertainty.
   -Now the situation on the project is not so good and when the real pressure begins, then no one will not play with you in political correctness. I hope, you understand that all these democratic games are played for the time being.
   -Well, and what do you suggest?
   -Start to pull your connections in order to jump to another project.
   -What kind of connections do I have?
   -Well, you talk with people three quarters of your working time, exchange movies, technical literature...
   -Well, they are not managers.
   -So? Sometimes a little person can help more than any big boss.
   -Okay, Leo. I'll go. You finally scared me.
   -Where are you going? On another project?
   -No. I'm going to work.
   -Wow... What's wrong with you? And how about your traditional tea ceremony?
   -You know that, stop puffing me! I do not want to go anywhere! I"m just fine here, - with these words, the exasperated Grechko left Koifman"s office, even with not finished lunch.
   The next day, Leo went on a business trip for several days. After his return, they were a lot of questions and problems, which were pretty urgent. During the dinner time, Nikolay didn"t show up. Koifman was even delighted, because he wanted to scatter the questions that had accumulated in his absence. However, the next day Grechko did not appear again. Leo didn"t see him in the kitchen, not among his fellow-colleagues... Leo went to Nikolay's workplace, and was surprised to find that Grechko was sitting at the computer and actively drawing something.
   -Where did you disappear? Not coming for lunch, - Koifman began cheerfully.
   -This is a new lead engineer, he asked me urgently to draw some stuff.
   -Urgently?! Why? Since when did it bother you?
   -Yes, he's a bastard, every half an hour comes and asks. He almost checks the quantity of lines.
   -Well, but does he shouted at you?
   -Unfortunately not... Speaks politely and with respect. And he smiles all the time. This smile as a mask on his face. Anyway, I hope to finish it till the end of the day.
   -OK, not bothering you.
   - I'll come for lunch tomorrow.
   -No problems, just don"t forget go to the washroom. As you told me, didn"t poo in time - cancer of the rectum! - Koifman smiled maliciously and returned to his room.
   Grechko appeared in Koifman's office only next day. He looked far from relaxed and even slightly tired.
  - I barely managed to escape, I didn"t even have time to warm up my dinner, - shortly explained he, setting legendary five boxes, - This guy drives me nuts. He will soon begin to follow me to the washroom with a stopwatch.
   -Why did he start with you? There are also 15 people.
   -How do I know? Maybe someone has snitched...
   - Why does he stick around you all day? What, he has nothing to do?
  - Do I know? He always says that I work slowly.
   - So work faster.
   -Leo, really! I'm literally work like a dog! I'm afraid to go to the washroom. I already have arthritis on my fingers and my eyes are watering. I have to go to the doctor.
   -Well, if you work so hard, then why is he not happy? I know him pretty well. We worked together about five years ago. Absolutely adequate person.
   -O yeah! Adequate! We are changing everything 3-4 times!
   -Now at least I understand why everything in slowly motion mode...
   -What's wrong with you?! Damn it! Are you on his side?! He told me - I drew. He looked and began: Why did you go on the left side? What, you didn"t see that your duct blocks access to the service door. And why here chute went up? You cross straight through the passage. How will people walk?
   -And what, you didn"t see where your chute is going?
   - I do not care who goes and where! Draw me with a pencil, and then I'll bring all of it to the model. I can"t get into his head. He is a lead engineer! And I just a regular designer.
   -Well, he can"t get into your head either. He not supposed to tell you the basic things. It's like ignite a car first and then driving. There are things that you can explain till five years, and after it starts to be annoying.
   -So what, are you on his side?! I'm working as a slave here, with outstretched eyes. I chained to my chair and even not go anywhere..., even in washroom! I'm probably going to have heart attack soon, and you still pinching me!
   -Me?! I have worked like that all my life...
   -Oh Leo, it is something disgusting in my soul, - Grechko changed his tone dramatically, realizing that he is not going to get any compassion. After that he looked at his watch and added, - I will go... This "condom" probably came three-four times with a stopwatch...
   -So what? You still have five more minutes of an official dinner...
   -Okay... You know..., I'm afraid ... We bought a new car, furniture, we have a mortgage... By the way, we still didn"t pay for the last vacation... If I get fired, then I will be impossible for us to live for half the salary that I have now.
   - Well, push your wife go to work.
   -Yes, she is looking for job, but so far nothing good. I've been thinking - maybe I'll get sick for 3-4 weeks, and then maybe situation will dissolve... What do you think?
   -And how exactly it will be resolved?
   -This "condom" will get a new designer and when I return, I will be transferred to another lead engineer.
   -But another lead will start to run into you again. Now the mechanical department is not just behind the schedule. At each meeting the management talking only about mechanical department. They finally realized that you, guys, fuck around for a year. You all came here as to the gentlemen club.
   - Oh, come on. I'm not the only one. The entire department was fooled around. And I'm just a little man... Tell me to draw here - I'll draw, tell me to move there - sure, please. And it turns out that everybody scratched his balls, but they only run into me.
   -Situation changed completely. They started to push everyone.
   -Oh, I have to run. I'm sorry, - Nikolay literally ran out of Leo's office frightened glancing at his watch.
  
  3
   The next morning, Koifman again went on a business trip. Returning after the weekend, he was usually more busy than usual, so he was glad that Nikolay did not come to the lunch. The next day, Leo again had a lunch alone. After lunch he decided to check on Grechko. However, in the mechanical department, he was told that Grechko broke his leg and now located in the hospital. It was also said that the fracture is somehow horrible and that he will be back just in 6 weeks. Rummaging through his papers, Koifman found the number of the mobile phone of the injured friend and immediately called.
   -Hello, - the voice on the other end was almost like from the grave.
   - Is it you, lazy slack? - started Leo's cheerfully.
   -Oh, hello! - Grechko"s voice immediately became regular, - I just see that somebody are calling me from work... Didn"t realized that it was you.
   -Therefore you are playing as after contusion. Okay, tell me, are you really broke your leg? Or this is part of your plan to be sick for a month?
   -What are you talking about?! I did not plan anything! Don"t start! We went to the forest with my wife, I collected firewood, go back to the camping tent, and stones were slippery...
   -Clear. Slipped, woke up - plaster.
   -Well yes. Only this is an open fracture... Thanks God ambulance arrived on time, otherwise I would die.
   -Well, what do the doctors say? When you back to work?
   -Said that if everything is good, then in 10 weeks it will be possible to return.
   - So, your colleagues in mechanical department told me that you'll be back in six weeks.
   -Well, I did it on purpose. Otherwise they can remove me from the project. If they will hear that I'm left on a temporary disability, for a three months, then they will immediately take someone else.
   -But anyway someone needs to work and meet the schedule. No one will wait for you for three months.
   - That's exactly what I'm talking about. I'll call in six weeks and say that doctor took an X-ray and demanded another two weeks. In two weeks I will call again. And this way I could sit quietly on my temporary disability for 3 months. The insurance covers 75% of the average earnings, which is not so bad. Honestly, I need some time for rest. I'm so tired of all this pressing.
   -You was under the pressure even less than two weeks. I thought you were rested enough over a three years. Or you expected this beautiful life will be forever?
   -Why are you tease me all the time?! I told you everything as to friend, honestly, didn"t hide anything, and instead of compassion you...
   -Sorry, I'm silent. What leg did you break? I hope this is not a right leg?
   -No. Luckily. I broke the left one. I mean, I can drive a car.
   -So what's the problem? After six weeks, go to work. No one will start push poor semi-disabled man.
   -Why do I need this? I have already calculated everything: taking into account price of gasoline, amortization of the car, time in transit, etc., I will earn almost the same money in the end.
   -OK, I got it. You want not to work for 3 months, but stay on the project.
   -Yes. Eventually you got it.
   - Hm-mm. It's certainly not my business, but all of it somehow stinks. Once you certainly can play this card, but the second time they will crack you down and you will be thrown out. I would do it.
   -But I'll say - it's a doctor. I wanted to return, but doctor do not allow me.
   -Brilliantly, as in the fifth grade. Only I wouldn"t play this game. Maybe one time you can do it, but no more. People not stupid.
   Six weeks flew very fast. Nobody was taken to mechanical department. From time to time Grechko called Koifman and asked him to go to the mechanical department and tell people how hard he is living with a broken leg, how he takes morphine, does not sleep at night, but his heart with his colleagues. In parallel, he phoned his colleagues directly and told the same stories, but with much more details. At the same time he scolded "stubborn" doctors who did not allow him to return.
  The day before the end of the glorious six weeks, Nilolay, as was planned, called to the head of the mechanical department and said that he needs two more weeks. Boss, who by that time barely coped with the accumulated volume of work and had already planned something for the missing designer, squeezed his teeth and told a neutral OK, and hung up with a big disappointment.
   Two weeks later the situation was completely repeated, with the only one difference - the head of the department asked Grechko to send him an official e-mail, which he joyfully did.
   At the end of the working day Nikolay"s boss came to Koifman"s office and without even saying "hello", exasperatedly asked:
   -Nick Grechko, your friend, is he a "smart-ass", man with protection or just an idiot?
   -What happened? I hope he didn"t solicit you or asked for the date? - Leo, who knew Mechanical Department Manager for many years from his previous job, tried to laugh it off.
   -Leo, listen, I'm serious. A man is over fifty, and he behaves like a kid. What kind of games he is playing here?! He thinks that I do not understand that he wants to stay on temporary disability as maximum as possible? Or does he think that he's so clever and all the fools around?
   -What can I say? I told him... And he just plays down. Oh, I feel so bad, oh I'm taking morphine, oh, doctors do not allow me...
   - You understand, he is really weak designer, but he even doesn"t want to work. Anyway, if I understand correctly, your friend wants to sit at home for 3 months, until he will receive temporary disability.
   -How do I know? I told him my humble opinion three times already, but he still cries how he feels bad.
   -OK, don"t be offended, but I will take your friend off the project. Management will transfer him to another project, but I"m not interested in this guy at all.
   Koiftman decided not to tell anything so "sick on his leg" man. Maybe management will not be able to find a person to replace, maybe another big project will start, or maybe the boss will change his mind... or maybe another miracle will happened.
   Grechko continued to call every two weeks and sing the same song. However, in all subsequent times the boss was very kind to him and always wished him a speedy recovery. And in the mechanical department a new designer already started to work.
   Pain, morphine intake and permission of the doctor ended for Nikolay exactly the day before the end of temporary disability, i.e. in three months sharp.
   Grechko appeared at work with a wand and a mournful expression on his face. Putting five boxes in the fridge and turning on the computer, finally returned "disabled", began a leisurely round of all colleagues. Strongly lame he approached everyone, and slowly, in details began to tell how everything happened. How he slipped on the slippery stones and how did he hear the crunch that still hangs in his ears... How he was transported by ambulance, and how was he sure that he would not survive. How he recalled the children and the colleagues... Everybody expressed full compassion, asked additional questions, which he was even more than pleased to answer, recalling more and more details.
   Having finished in his department, Grechko smoothly continued to visit other departments. At last, somewhere before lunch, he came to visit Koifman.
   -Oh! Look at you... Almost a Jesus came from the sky. I thought you would not appear at all... You look good, lost weight...
   -Ha, lost weight there. I scored another 7 kilos.
   -It was a joke. I saw that you added to your superfluous 30 kg, another 10 kg. If I would in your place, I would begin to lose weight, because all this extra weight falls on your injured leg.
   -Yes, you are right, but I'm not too limping. Tomorrow probably I will be without a stick.
   -Well, have you already been given a job? - The owner of the office asked cautiously.
   -Not yet. The head of the department is not in place, so I've talked to the people so far.
   -There, at mechanical department, one more man was taken, - again from a far began Leo.
   -Yes, I saw. Pleasant guy. By the way, he broke his leg three years ago. Do you know what happened?
  At this time the telephone rang and Nikolay, waving goodbye, left the room. However, in ten minutes he returned without a stick and without a smile of happiness on his face.
   -Listen Leo, I turned on the computer, but I have no access to the project's folders or drawings. And what I suppose to do? - he asked nervously without preamble.
   - Check your internal mail, maybe some notification has been sent to you.
   -Precisely, I completely forgot, - Grechko quickly went back.
   Nikolay appeared at the end of the day and fell wearily into the chair across Koifman.
   -You will not believe, I have not been on this project for over a month.
   -What do you mean? - Leo pretended to be surprised.
   -I mean exactly what I told, damn it! And no one even told me a word! And this boss, shit! After he threw me out of the project, I talked with him at least three times. What, it was so difficult to inform me?!
   -But how you figure it out?
   -He sent the message to the entire mechanical department that another man starts instead of me.
   -Ah, is that one who broke his leg too? Kind of good guy.
   -Yes, him.
   - By the way, you started telling me that something funny happened to him...
   - I don"t care what happened to him!
   -Well, you have friends... And you shared the literature with them, discussed family problems, - Koifman put on a sympathetic grimace.
   -I can understand everything, but without hesitation lie in your eyes! And this son of bitch, with his gentle talk: "Nick, do not worry, feel well... take your time". And he already threw me out!
   -Yes, you right. Lie to people not fair, - Leo smiled wickedly. - You are honest with people, open your heart, and they are just waiting to return you a dirty trick. Anyway, I told you do not play your two weeks game. I understand that you upset, because not just you lie...
   -What?! Was I deceiving someone?! You know that I felt bad!! Have you ever took a morphine?! The pain is such unbearable that at night you ready to climb on the walls. And he... nit, immediately threw me out, like a used napkin.
   -Yeah... Not funny... And now what? What are your plans?
   -I really didn"t understand. I went to the HR department. And there is a young girl, who is younger than my daughter, and so tenderly asks me: Nikolay, why you didn"t come to us in the morning?
   -What did you answer?
   -Well, I tell her that it was necessary to urgently help my colleagues, then I wanted to talk to my boss, maybe he'll change his mind... Whatever, I blew some fog on her.
  -And you definitely told her a truth.
  -You know what... Stop your jokes! Not funny at all!
   -Sorry. But something I didn"t understand. Are you will be transferred to a new project or not?
   -God knows. They said that one guy from the marketing department needs designer for a week or two. And then looks like a big project begins in Brazil pretty soon. They still didn"t finish some financial details. And if it starts, then I'm sort of safe...
   -And if it doesn"t start?
   -Exactly! Well, what I can tell... I don"t know. I don"t know! I have some disgusting feelings on my heart, and feel awful... Okay, I'll go. I'm really tired from all these terrible developments...
  
  
  4
   Grechko was relocated in a new place and got access to another project. The project was small, or rather it was not a project, just conceptual design for a future project. The new manager sketched sketches, and Grechko simply redrawn them into three-dimensional models. He really liked a new job, in spite of high pace. But more important - he did a simple work, had no responsibility and nobody challenged his qualification. The new boss also approached him every 2-3 hours, though without any claims. Joint lunches in Koifman"s office became much shorter and lasted no more than half an hour. Nikolay, as usual, complained of health, fatigue, weather, children, wife, neighbors and his excess weight. However, he did not even try to go on a diet or work out in a fitness. Leo still teased him, but Grechko didn"t take any offense. Deep in his heart he was realizing that his friend was right. If Koifman had time, he explained to Nikolay the basic things, otherwise it was almost impossible properly to draw any equipment. Grechko just wanted to join the Brazilian project. There were rumors that if the project starts, then in half a year, about a third of the designers will have to move to Brazil for 2-3 years. And it will be a turn arounds: three weeks in Brazil and a week at home. The company paid all expenses, except food. For the food was given 2 thousand dollars in cash every month, and then you can spend these money as you want. If you want to eat three times a day in a restaurant - go ahead! And if you want you cook at home by yourself and save good bucks. Almost all prepared food by themselves and saved about fourteen-fifteen hundreds a month. Most important, it was not taxable money, which you can simply put into your pocket. Nikolay managed to make friends with people who already worked in Brazil on previous projects and with native Brazilians, who (like him) were former immigrants.
   -I already dream of Brazil at nights, - Grechko dreamily rolled his eyes and broke into a smile. - I talked with different people and was told that the girls are very cheap there... And all are sexy, swarthy, with a solid big butt, with smooth skin, without cellulite... Just for 10 dollars, you can have sex with a beautiful hot mulatto... And for 15 bucks you can find the beauty queen.
   -Are you so hungry?! I see saliva already dripping from your mouth. Don"t be over exited, otherwise you will clean-up in my office...
   -And the people are hot there, - Grechko continued, ignoring Leo's comment, - for them sex it is a natural process, as a breakfast in the morning. A bottle of good wine cost maximum five bucks. The sun, the sea, exotic fruits... Oh, I just pray for this opportunity.
   -How you will pay for the girls? You spouse almost every day checks the bank account.
   -I already thought of everything. She doesn"t know how much everything cost there. I, for example, will spend $400 a month, and I'll tell her that everything in supermarket very expensive. To save money it is necessary to go to the farm market. And in the market, you have to pay in cash. I will take thousand bucks once a month. And how she will check how much I spent? I'll have a hotel from company, so everything seems to be going well. I can easy save $600 a month for girls.
   - Nikolay, what wrong with you? You steal from the family budget $600 for 60 romantic contacts a month. I based on your rates - 10$ per romantic date. That means, total two times a day. Do you have enough health for this kind of activities?
   -Well, $10 probably will be not enough. You still need to buy wine, fruit, condoms... so it easy could come to 20$. Overall once a day.
   - Oh boy! So you, my dear friend, already thought of everything.
   -Well, what wrong with this? You always have to keep different options in your head.
   -You'd better think about what you're drawing... - Koifman chuckled sarcastically.
   -One dude, Spanish speaking, said: If we will go there, then don"t worry. I'll tell you where to go, what to say and explain how it works...
   -My dear friend, hard to believe that you will spend $400 a month for food. You eat five boxes of food only during the lunch... With your appetite it will cost you minimum $800. And it is hard to believe that this sexual event will costs less than $20. Today this type of service even in Ukraine will cost you more. Maybe somewhere in a remote village, in a dirty barn or cowshed. If you want my humble opinion - you will have enough money maximum for three romantic meetings a month.
   -What kind of person are you?! Do I have a right even to dream?!
   - Your dreams, like a high school student during puberty...
   -You know what! Go to hell. You always spoil my mood, - Grechko waved his hand and left the office.
   A week later, Grechko came to Koifman"s office with a smile of happiness on a bearded face. His perpendicular to the head ears, were glowing.
   - What, you was transferred to the Brazilian project?
   -Yes! I received a notification that in two weeks I'm starting. So Leo, I'll be sitting in another building. Are you going to miss me? Or maybe you will ask management to join this project?
   -My sexual life not so problematic. I mean, why I would travel to Brazil?
   -No one will go to Brazil from the first day. It could take half year or more, until people will be relocated.
   -Whatever. And what about you? Are you going to learn Portuguese, have a diet - in order train your body to spend at least $500 a month... By the way, I heard people in Brasil don"t know English. How you'll negotiate with the girls?
   -I have already downloaded audio guide for people who wants to learn Portuguese! I'll start tomorrow when I drive to work and back. You know, it's very convenient. Instead of listen to the empty news I'll learn one more language.
  -I'm happy for you. It's very nice when an individual has a goal in life...
  - Listen, Leo, I've talked to another designer, Francisco. He is also will join this project, because he is Spanish-speaking. He told me that he had already traveled to Brazil twice and every time came back with a new wife. Wow, like in the soap opera. Well done!
   - Is he a Muslim?
   -Of cause not. He divorced with previous and made sponsorship for the new one. A man approximately of our age, about 50. He divorced four times, now he is married for the fifth time. From each wife has a child. Well done!
   -What exactly in his life you found so exciting? He pays alimony to all children and probably spouse support. All these families in Canada. Not sure how he handles his finances.
   -Of cause he pays alimony. But the last wife is 25 years younger. He showed me the photo - she is a sex bomb! - Grechko rolled his eyes dreamily and fell silent, thinking about his lost opportunities. After that he had a deep sigh and slowly began to collect the lunch boxes. A wandering smile froze on his bearded face, and his protruding ears blushed.
  - You know what, hmm... Do not worry. I mean, in half year maybe you will find a young woman, - Koifman felt sorry for this big fat man, who probably had a Shakespearian passions in the head.
   -Life somehow passes not interesting. Everything is monotonous, gray, sluggish... Sex is not emotional anymore... Every day the same thing. If I wouldn"t have the dogs, I probably would have fallen into depression for a long time. We've been thinking about changing the old car, so the wife does not want to buy a new one, says there is no money... But if you'll buy from the second hand, then you can find such not funny adventures on your ass that it eventually will be even more expensive at the end. And I explained already hundreds times - there will never be any money. But she push back - let's pay the debts first. Well, but now... I"m finally transferring to another project, so maybe I'll convince her. And because I was hanged in the air, she even want to discuss...
   - Well, your wife tells you the right thing. I also want a lot, like everybody, but we are adults! And I do not believe your new polygamy friend"s stories. If he did not learn how to fasten his pants at the age of 50, he obviously had something wrong with his head. The new wife just saw his Canadian passport, and when she will get all immigration documents, she will send him to the hell. Everything he earns, goes on the alimony. And the emotional sex he had with her before the sponsorship. And now, I'm almost sure, he just tells folk-tails. Well, do you believe that it is so cool for a 25-year-old beauty queen have sex with 50-year-old fat man?!
   -What am I? I just told you what he told me.
   - You have not seen yourself from the side.
   -In general, if I don"t change my wife, then at least I'll buy a new car. - Nikolay again had a deep sadly sigh and slowly went from the office.
   -To buy a car - you not supposed to be a smart. You better would have lost weight. Then maybe emotional sex will wake up, - loudly told Koifman, but Grechko did not hear him anymore.
  
  
  5
   Two weeks passed very quickly. During lunch, friends discussed the brands of cars, gasoline consumption, reliability, safety and other characteristics, which in such cases are discussed by men.
  -That it. We bought the car yesterday, - Grechko smiled happily, - even my wife agreed. Car as a pink dream! Subaru with four wheel drive. Super car. And then we got so lucky... They sell a one-year-old car, on which their chief accountant drove. We got discount 25%. And for Japanese cars one year it is nothing! In general, yesterday the deposit was given, and the remaining part was broken up into 48 payments. After a week we can take it. They only have to install winter tires for a slippery season. You know what kind of roads we have during the winter. I never felt safety. And now, the four wheel drive - another thing! By the way, we first came to another dealership. We sat and talked. Got a good price - almost 48 thousand after all taxes and fees. They even broke down 48 thousand for 60 interest-free monthly payments. Well, I just automatically pick up my calculator and multiplied 900 dollars for 60 payments... and got 54 thousand. OK. I told them - guys, it's probably typo. And they are smiling and saying: everything fine. You just sign here. In short, word for word, the supervisor came out with a mafia face and started threatening me...
  -You?! You almost 6.5 feet tall with 150kg of weight...
  - Yes threatened me. And my wife. They told me - if you are not sign right now, then we will call to all dealerships and no one will ever sell you anything.
  -Wait, I did not understand. Even in Russia salesman do not behave like that. They wanted to deceive you at 6 thousand, got caught and instead of to say sorry, they push you?!
  -Well, this is what I'm talking about! And you would have seen this salesman. He has thousand dollars shoes.
  -And how you figured it out? You never bought a shoes for more than 80 dollars.
  -I can see that it kind of in fashion, some high quality. Well, maybe for 950 dollars. He didn't show me the price tag. In short, barely escaped. Well, in the second shop everything was normal. We trade-in the old car for 12 thousand, and the new car costs 60 thousand. Deduct 12 thousand - so we paid total approximately 48 thousand.
  -Wait. You had an old car in a serious accident...
  -Well... But we repaired it.
  -Why are you playing an idiot? Car after accident loose half of the price. You told me by yourself how you paid for the car history and refused to buy machine even with a huge discount. You probably did not tell them that your car was in an accident, this is why you got 12 thousand off. And afterthey checked this car in the database, and they gave you half price.
  -What are you talking about?! I told you, a dude's shoes cost $1,000.
  -So what? I mean, does he automatically become a crook if he has expensive shoes?
  -Well, yes. And how can an honest man buy a shoes for $1,000?
  -It's very logical. You have shoes for $ 80 and you openly stated that your car had a serious accident...
  -Why do I have to scream about it on every corner? Let them to check. Whatever... I'll go.
   The new project was in an adjacent building. After Grechko left, Leo sometimes visited him. Several people have already moved to Brazil to resolve organizational issues. It was necessary to rent a hotel with good security, as well as to find a new working space in which all engineering team from Canada will be settled. Grechko has already begun to prepare his wife, about potential relocation.
   - What I didn"t see there, in this Brazil? - Nikolay told her as indifferently as possible, letting her know that he was not interested at all, - but if they push me, we have no choice... Now this is the only project, which company has... besides, from which I was removed because of a broken leg. You know how much debts we have. And you not really interested to find the work, so I'll have to suffer... far from home... M-yes. Well, okay, I"m not complaining, but if they tell me to go there, I'll go.
   Thunder, as usual, stroked unpredictably. Via internal mail everybody received a short notice that the Brazilian project, unfortunately, is being closed. The company changed the owner and the new management, after reviewing the budget, came to conclusion that project will be canceled. Engineering company has to archive all drawings and documents in 3 days. All employees, working on the project, will be called to the central office for further transfer to other projects. Since there were no other projects, the people were very nervous. Everyone tried to pull any connection internally, began to look for work outside the company. But most people realized that pretty soon they will find themselves on the street.
  Grechko stop-by in Koifman office the next day with an expression of world sorrow on his face.
   -Well, did they call you to HR?
   -Called already... Just returned.
   -So how is it?
   -Nothing. They have no job. They asked to take vacation days and use all overtime hours, which I accumulated till now.
   -And what's next?
   -I don"t know. I have four weeks of vacation and two weeks of time off, which I must use and then to contact HR department again. Well, they said that if something pops up, they will contact me right away.
   -Well, and after 6 weeks what?
   -I was told that if in 6 weeks nothing poping up, then they will sent me for the temporary unemployment for a two months. Well, and if then nothing will come over - welcome to the street.
   -Oh poor Nikolay, who will caress your mulattoes there? And to whom do you give your unspent tenderness?
   - I will give it to my dogs. And local machos and cavaliers will figure it out.
  - And what about emotional sex? So you'll stay again on a starvation ration?
   - Yes, Brazil now out of agenda... Well, what can I say? Without emotional sex is certainly bad, but you can live. But I can"t live on my previous salary... With all our debts...
   -Well, you know... do not bury yourself alive. Start looking around, 6 weeks probably will be enough to find something. I wouldn"t wait for the next project.
   -Yeah, you right. By the way, Francisco promised that maybe he will help me with Panama project. This job in another company. If they will call me, I will quit. In any case, Panama even better than Brazil. No crime, good climate...
   -Well, but girls are more expensive.
   -You right. But, it is in the tourist zone. Of cause it will be more expensive. And Francisco already worked in this place about ten years ago and knows all the "hot" places. There, literally 30-40 kilometers from the big city, and prices for the girls fall in three-four times, - Grechko smiled with a carnivorous smile.
   -OK. I understand you. But why Francisco need these girls? His last wife is much younger. If he wants to run after prostitutes, why he again got married? Moreover, he already had four children from the previous four wives.
   -Maybe he liked her very much, got overexcited, he didn"t use his brain... People like us can"t understand these Spaniards. They live in soap operas... Or love till diarrhea, jealous till heart attack, or killing each other. Nothing in between. The people are too hot ... Today I fell in love and ready to sacrifice my live for her, and tomorrow I went to another girl with bigger butt. Okay, I'll go. I was paid for today already, so keep in the loop.
   - Okay, be in touch.
   Leo called to Nikolay about twice a week. Company still had no work. Grechko was slowly searching, with hope that at least something will come to his firm. He told to Koifman different stories, how recruiters invited him for a thousand kilometers from home, how they try to convince him to be a general labour and so on. They exchanged news about the family, discussed the events in their former homeland, advised to each other what movie to watch and what book to read. Six weeks flew by unnoticed and Nikolay received from the office an official package of documents, where he was notified that he was temporarily laid off. One week changed on another week, and the new work didn"t appear. Finally Grechko was permanently laid off and went to receive unemployment. Nikolay obviously was sad and began nervous. And despite the fact that sometimes recruiters called him, but he was never called on an interview.
   Once he called Koifman and without an introduction asked:
   -Listen, Leo, somebody advised me to file lawsuit against my employer.
   -For what? Unless it's a secret.
   - They, you know, they were very disgraceful to me.
   -In what sense? Because they fired you?
   -Yes.
   -And what? Disgraceful, this is not a reason to sue the company. Did they break the law?
   - I don"t know. Maybe. But let the lawyer to figure it out.
   -Are you going to pay him?
  -I know they work on commission. I have nothing to lose. If I get it - fine. If not - then not.
   - It's not even a matter of compensation, which you still not going to get. Firstly, after you file a suit with the firm, you will not return here anymore. Secondly, you will be asked for recommendations. They will call here and HR will recommend you as a man who is suing everyone.
   -And why you are saying "everyone"?
   -Who will go to investigate?
   -That means not to sue? Just swallow all this shit and forget. Forget that they wiped off their feet on you!
   -What are you talking about? What feet, what court!? With whom you talked? Who heat you up?! The company has no job, and almost 400 people were laid off. And your new adviser, is he at least once tried to sue the company?
   - I do not know... I didn"t ask. Why you're boiling? I just called for consultation.
   -I understand that you lost girls opportunity, but the firm has nothing to do with it. OK, bye. I still have a lot of work to do.
   They continue to call to each other twice a week. Koifman tried to support his unlucky friend as he could. He sent his resume to several acquaintances, made several recommendations and so on. However, the employment issue did not move.
   Once, Grechko called Koifman and almost shouted:
   -Leo, you will not believe, I just went after an interview for the Panama project!
   -Wow! Congratulations. And how did you get there?
   -How, how? Francisco helped, as promised. Who needs me? In spite of your criticism, I did not lose contact with him. I called him two or three times a month.
   -Wow! What a great news! When do you start?
   - From next Monday. I have already signed everything. Francisco vouched for me.
   -Well done, well done. And when are you going to Panama?
   -They told me after two or three months. They have a different drafting program. It will be necessary to receive the training, to get familiar with the project, and some little things. But they have different arrangement for a business trips. I mean, different schedule, not as we had. They have six weeks in Panama and two weeks at home. Well, two weeks is not bad - like mini vacation.
   - Six weeks without wife, of course, a bit tough. But from another side you maybe find girls there.
   - Okay, you always have to pin me up. How all what we discussed connected to the girls? Why do you think that I"m so sexually anxious?
  - I meant who will wash your laundry during these six weeks?
   -Oh, I see. You like a snake, always will find the way out. Hey, Leo, maybe you want to join to this project?
   -Me?! And what I didn"t see there?
   -Well, it's more fun together. And it's warm in Panama, same as in your Israel. In Canada 3 feet deep snow, and there you have sun and sea...
   - And the girls in the bikini.
   -Yes, girls. And what's wrong with that?! I"m not talking about boys. Ha-ha-ha.
   -Thank you, Nikolay that you do not forget about your friends, but I feel better at home.
   Two months later Grechko flew to Panama, strongly promising to Koifman be in touch and continue to communicate through e-mail.
  
  
  6
   A message from Nicholay came already on the second day.
   "Leo greetings! Flew well, we have here +26C in the shade. The sun, palm trees, fruit etc. We are located from the sea approximately 40 km, I've already looked at the map. I'll go for a swim on the weekend. The people calling to Toronto ten times a day. I will call when understand how it works. Nikolay." Also to the message was attached a photo with an exotic flowerbed on the background of a mountain, covered with green weeds. Koifman smirked and wrote the answer: "Why you sent me a flowerbed? Did you get pictures of girls and price list? Leo. "
   Next day Grechko actually called. His voice, saturated in Panama sun rays, sounded fresh and cheerful.
   - Hey, Leo, is it you? Ha-ha-ha. Do you recognize old friends, or your ears have frozen there? Ha-ha-ha. You probably have -15C there?
   -Nick?! - Koifman sincerely was delighted to hear his voice, - well, I didn"t expect. Yes, we only have minus 14C, so not so bad. And how are you there? Do not sweat?
   -Here, the weather is just super! It was +23C in the morning - in a shade, and in general - the temperature very comfortable. The plant is located not far from the sea. Around 40 kilometers. The roads, however, are smashed into the smoke, and mostly no asphalt, just compacted clay. Well, I mean, if it is rain you can use just horses. Although if it"s a rain, why go to the sea? To the Panama Canal somewhere same 40 km. To Costa Rica about 280-300 km, so in some weekend I will drive there and stay overnight.
   -OK, and how you settled there?
   -Close to the plant they have a mini village. They placed about hundred mobile houses here, like a trailers. In each house can live for three people. As you enter, right in the center of the house, a common kitchen, a shower, a toilet and a washer / dryer. And there are three separate rooms. Everyone in the room has a bed, desk, internet, TV and a large walking closet. In general it is quite normal.
   -So you do not live in the city?
   -Yes. When it rains, how you will get to work? To the nearest small town somewhere 20-25 km. Sounds like close, but the roads simply awful. And about eight years ago they decided to build such a mini-town.
   -Wait, I didn"t understand. Do you have a car?
   -Car? From where? Why?
   -And how are you going to go to the sea? Not to mention Costa Rica.
   -Well, I don"t know. Probably it is possible to rent somehow..., - Nikolay answered uncertainly.
   -So where are you going to take a car? You just said that to the nearest village 20-25 km and during the rain, almost impossible to drive. Especially it"s no guarantee that in the village they have car rental service.
   -Well... H-mm, yes... Leo, what kind of asshole you are!
   -In terms of?
   -I called you in a good mood, and in 5 minutes the mood was spoiled. And everything was..., damn was so good!
   -So, how I spoiled it?
   -Whatever! Okay, I'll call you again tomorrow.
   After hanging up, Koifman shrugged and looked out the window. It was snowing in Toronto. For the second consecutive day. From the window he saw his car, which stood under a twenty-centimeter snow "blanket" and thought sadly: "After work I need again to clean the car, then two hours be in traffic, in order to get home, and after that to remove the snow from the driveway... Hmm... Oh, maybe it would be better go to Panama! "
   The next day, Grechko didn"t call and Leo sent him a short e-mail: "Where did you disappear? I'm worried!"
   Grechko called back at the end of the next day. His voice was again alert and confident.
   -Leo, sorry, could not call in the morning. I figured out what's wrong with the car.
   -I thought you were working, - Koifman joked roughly.
   - You are a joker, señor.
   -Sorry, didn"t want to offend. So what about the car?
   -Then it turns out that in the morning and in the evening a bus arrives to the plant. This bus takes you to the village. About an hour drive.
   -Wow! 25 km they are driving for an hour?!
   -Well, there are dangerous roads, along the mountains, winding. In general, this is what they told me. Maybe 55 minutes. In short, in the village there is another bus, which travels about 15 km to the larger city. And there, in this town, they have cars for rent.
   - So you'll rent the car for six weeks?
   -Probably. Without a car you got nowhere. How am I going to get to the sea?
   -Well, and to the girls, too. 25 km to the nearest village it is not fun.
   - Well, yes, well... Not fun, and far. Who knew that plant will be so far from civilization?
   - Did you think that a metallurgical plant will be built in the center of the city, and around fashion boutiques and fine food restaurants with girls?
   -Well, not in the center of course... But at least... you know, kind of... within the city boarders. Same as we have in my city in Russia.
   -This is why girls in your city do not have very smooth skin.
   -You are right. No, not smooth skin at all... No question about it. Ecology was below water line.
   -So, will you go with your new friend? I mean, with Francisco?
  -Well, no...
   -What?! I don"t understand. And how you will communicate without the Spanish? Nikolay, what wrong with you? Imagine, you are local auto dealer and sitting in some small Russian village "Little Diarrhea". You just half year out of prison and you are reading newspaper, section "dating for adults". Even you know that in your village a dozen not married women, and with each of them he has already met from five to seven times. Suddenly some birded dude comes in and mumbles something to him in English. He even doesn"t understand Spanish if an intelligent person will talks to him.
   -Well... I'll figure it out.
   -Something smells here. I thought that you would take one car for both... Ride to the sea, for girls...
   -I thought the same way, but he even doesn"t want to live with me in the same house.
   -Wow... Looks like he afraid that if you don"t find the girls, then you'll start harass him.
   -Ha. It's funny. H-m-mm...
   -Well, come on, open up! What happened?
   -He settled with his Spanish speaking guys in the same house. They planned it before departure, bitches. I mean, they agreed to live together. And they will take one car for three. Bitches!
   -Make sense. When they find girls they not supposed to translate...
   -I understand!
   -By the way, Nikolay, you know what, take Francisco to court.
   -For what?
   - For his disgusting behavior. Like you wanted to take to the court the previous employer. Ha-ha-ha.
   -You know, this is not a bad idea.
   -Are you serious? Or you fool? I'm joking.
   -No, you didn"t understand. I'll sue you for constant harassment.
   -Sorry, Nikolay. I'm sorry. Sometimes I lose my breaks.
   -Last time you lose your breaks very often. But I'm already used to... In short, what should I do?
   -Well, first of all I would talk with the men with whom you settled in the same trailer. You can paint it colorfully as you go for a drive on the sea, go for beer and girls to the village. Everyone still has a weak points, it is only necessary to find them. Your weak points: food and girls, and somebody loves sea and historical sights, some likes alcohol and marijuana, another gambling... By the way, I have a couple of friends who is crazy about sport, and they are much more interesting in tennis court than all of the above.
   -Let"s say I found their weak points, and then what?
   -And then bring them all to the common ground. I mean - if today they went with you to the girls, then tomorrow you will drink with them, and the day after you will play soccer. I understand that this is not exactly your style. You're used to only benefit yourself. But sometimes in life you have to compromise.
   -Okay thank you. The idea is certainly interesting. I will check their weak points.
   -Just do not mix it up with the erogenous ones, - sneered Koifman.
  
  
  7
   During the weekend it was a snow fall in Toronto. Not much, but not all roads have been properly plowed, which naturally affected the traffic. The drive from shop to home for Koifman took extra half an hour. Returning after shopping, Leo noted with irritation that the snow from the snowplow truck had blocked the parking lot in front of the house. Snow was cling to shovel and it took extra efforts to clean it up. Finally all snow was out of driveway. Sweaty and tired Leo came home. Taking his boots off, with frozen hands, he scratched his finger badly.
   -What a shit! - Koifman shouted with disappointment. Blood started to drop on the floor.
   - Do you want a plaster? - wife asked him with compassion.
   - No, I want to Panama, - he answered wearily and went swimming.
   Grechko called on Tuesday morning.
   - What about the car? - began Leo without an introduction.
   - With the car... With the car - deep ass! - same short way answered Nikolay.
   - Come on, talk to me!
   -What to tell?! I talked to these men. First man is real alcoholic. This is the reason why he agreed go to Panama - just to drink without any control. His wife at home not allow him even glass of wine. We are fed three times a day for free, but alcohol is officially banned on the territory of the camp. Although almost everyone drinks. Somehow they found the way and from a neighboring village they are buying beer, wine and tequila. Another man, a new immigrant from Romania. He even doesn"t have citizenship yet. He grew in some Romanian small town and never visited Bucharest. He found here all sorts of parks, mountains... Kind of tourist... But he doesn"t interested to spend any money on the car. I certainly understand him. I was in his shoos fifteen years ago. And he is afraid that if something happens, he will be deported back to Romania. He even not a "chicken", he is a real coward.
   -Be more careful with Romanians. He can easy steal something.
   -No worries, he looks like a normal guy, just afraid of his own shadow. So, now the story. We took the bus on Saturday morning and hit the road. The road is absolutely awful - winding, broken, dusty... But in an hour we finally got there. We walked around about twenty minutes in order to explore this village and found the place where you can rent cars. The dealership almost museum. I mean, everything old and nobody there. There is an old "Chevrolet" since the last century and two barely alive "Fords". The owner, local Indian guy, maybe four feet tall if you will measure him with a hat and on skating. He know English almost the same as I know mechanical design. Well, we began to explain him with gestures what we want. We explained, he nodded, seems like understood. In general, he says, for the month it will cost us 600 bucks. We're were just speechless! I told him right away - you have Canadian prices! Only in Canada cars are the new, and you have piece of junk. Are you think that we are suckers? You think because we don"t know Spanish, you can rip us off! But he stands there, smiles and shrugs his shoulders. Do not like it, he says, go to a neighboring city. Only there the prices are the same. Well, Romanians immediately crawled into the bushes. Started to cry how it is difficult in Canada, and he doesn"t have a car, and his children are hungry at home, he is a new immigrant, oh, how hard! Oh I"m so poor!
   -Well, what about alcoholic? Also hides in the bushes?
   -Something like that. He said that he found somebody, who will bring him alcohol from the adjacent village for ten bucks a week. By the way, he bought four bottles of some suspicion tequila for nine bucks a bottle after arriving to Panama. I mean, close to airport. It looks like a Russian moonshine. I checked the wine here, you know, the prices are the same as in Toronto. In general, I bought two boxes of their "Corona" to taste it. And you know, surprise-surprise - beer is not bad. I relaxed yesterday so pleasantly... I drank two boxes at once. But you know, with such pleasure...
   -Hey! I hope you know when to stop? Especially your next room partner can help you.
   -Well, yes... What are you saying? I didn"t hear. Something with connection.
   - I having sad, don"t drink too much alcoholic there. Your goal is higher.
   -Yes, higher... Honestly, it's not like I saw it originally...
   - And what about your friend Francisco?
   - I event don"t want to talk about this condom! He became so important, kind of doing me a favor if talk to me. I asked him openly: Where are all these girls that you told me?
   -And what he is saying?
   -Never mind. He kind of got offended! Answer me through the teeth: ten years ago everything was different here. Trust me, I was surprised by myself.
   -He is douchebag! I told you that all these Spanish men pathological crooks. I told you from the beginning that he is baboon! And you argued with me... Why should he cheat? Because!
   -Yes, he told me...
   - By the way, I think that he married five times because otherwise nobody agreed to have sex with him.
   -Maybe... In general, you can"t save money, can"t travel around and... I mean, nothing exciting. A food is just nasty. My stomach started to hurt.
   -You would eat less there. You probably eat twice as usual.
   -Why twice? Maybe a little bit... Anyway, nothing to do here... The first week maybe I ate too much, because it was unusual food. And now I mostly eat fruits. Just to shit properly.
   -What going on at work? It is already the third week has gone. Have you done something?
   -Yeah... Do some small stuff here and there. But you know, I have absolutely no mood. Francisco sent me to a kiln area for measurements. And near the smelting furnace, the heat is wild. I sweated in three minutes! A real sauna.
   - Poor little Nikolay! You got sweat. I hope it was no wind draft there?
   -What's so funny?! Yesterday I didn"t get sick, but tomorrow or after tomorrow I will. And the lungs inflammation not have been canceled yet. And you know, I have antibiotic allergy. If something happened, I can"t reach Canada.
  
  
  8
   Next time Nikolay phoned in about a week.
   -Well, Mr. Grechko, tell me. How is Panama doing?
   -What you want me to tell? I'll probably wait another two weeks, go back home, and then I'll quit. I'll start to look for a normal job in Toronto. I"m so tired.
   -Oh boy... Have you already gave up in a four weeks?!
   -Yes somehow everything is sour and bitter here. I hate this glowing sun! I'm probably allergic to this sun. Something happened to my body - it"s began to itch.
   -May be it"s itchy because of women absence?
   -Hm-m, I guess. Hmmm... I have one story to tell... Well, I went the other night in this adjacent village. There they have a bar and there's a kind of dancing. One guy from locals explained me how to get there from the bus stop. It is really not too far - about 10 minutes to walk. The village is small, maybe 10 thousand people. And I run out of beer, so I decided to combine these two businesses.
   -Kind of - if I do not find the girls, so at least I'll warm up.
   -Yes. If I don"t find a girl, then at least I'll buy a beer. I got there about 8 p.m., and the last bus to the plant goes at 10p.m.
   -Well okay. You just got an hour and a half to find the girl, five minutes to get behind the barn for emotional sex, buy the beer and run back to the bus stop.
   -Koifman, I immediately feel that I"m talking to project engineer. Everything calculated by the minute, as in the work schedule. Ha-ha-ha. In short, I came to this local "night club"...
   -Are you went there alone?
   -Of cause alone. You refused go with me.
   -Oh yeah! Otherwise we would shake this village upside down. The population would increase in three times in this village...
   -You better listen further. I tried to convince people, nobody agreed. One neighbor is already was drunk in the smoke. Romanian, in my opinion, even afraid go to the toilet. He probably believes that still leaves under communism regime and shaking.
   -And what your Spanish speaking friends?
   -They are morons! Not kidding. In the evenings they sit in their house, put drawings on the table, and something discuss in Spanish. From their conversation I just can pick up some international words, like: a conveyor belt, a bolt, and, more briefly, something related to the job. I thought they are "hot machos"...
   -And they are cold engineers.
   -Well yes. More legends about these Spanish machos. Now listen further... Well, came to the night club. Just for you to understand - the village club in Siberia in comparison with this barn, this is like a Kremlin Palace in comparison with your house. It's dark, noisy and dirty. Sits a dozen local machos. All small, like children. Leo, absolutely honestly, everybody with difficulties maximum can reach to my navel. Well, women, even lower! One foot lower than local machos and age can"t be determined at all. If I would meet her in Toronto I will be sure that she is twelve years old. Well, a maximum of thirteen. Okay, came already to this children garden. I sat down at the table, took a beer and smile to people around. They looked at me from the beginning with interest, and then got used to it. I sat for half an hour, sucked already two beers, but no one came up. Okay, I took a third beer. And time goes by. And beer cost five bucks! In an hour the bus departs. Literally, I"m running out of time. Not funny. Then it seemed to me that one of these "teenagers" looking at me and smiling. I winked at her and showed her a glass of beer. She kind of nods and smiles. Coming over. Well, I took her a beer and ask: Como estaz siniora?
   -Wow. Sounds strong. Do you know Spanish?
   -From where? But in critical situations, I probably can speak Chinese. She started mumbling something in Spanish, and I with an intelligent look answer: "Si siniora, si." And she laughs loudly.
   -So maybe she asked you: Nikolay, are you an idiot? And when you answered: "Si, Si" she laugh...
  -I don"t care who asked and what. I would like come to my business as soon as possible, especially only 30 minutes left before the bus departure. Then she again told me something and went to the exit. Well, I understand that she kind of hints me. I quickly finished the beer and followed her. Well, we are going somewhere. Dark. Strange. She tells me something, and I just repeat "si-si seniora". And she laughs all the time. Well, I'm thinking to myself: "the bus has only 15 minutes to leave. So... If right now I'll run to the bus stop, and even during my way back I don"t get lost, then maybe I'll be in time. And on the other hand tomorrow it is Saturday, so if she leads me to her place, then I can easily spend the night with her". Finally we approached a crooked cabin from the wooden shields. She went inside, and I remained standing outside. She didn"t show to me that she invites me to come in. I'm waiting. It is already too late run to the bus stop. About ten minutes later the door opens and some aboriginal guys with little children came out. They saw me and told me something in Spanish, and after that they started to laugh, but not aggressively. I would say friendly.
  -Of cause, not every day clowns from Canada performs acrobatic focus "si-si senior", - evil joked Leo.
  - Anyway, I got completely confused. What exactly going on...They probably thought I was kind of potential groom? In short, I told them: "si, si senioras", and slowly started to move aside. After that just run away from this place.
   -I got confused as well... Are they her parents? Or maybe she is a prostitute and they came to protect her from problematic client?
   -This is what I"m talking about! I have no clue what it was, who against whom and didn"t understand at all what exactly happened. Whatever. It's cold at night, so I would not want to sleep on the street. In general, I went to a bus stop. I hoped maybe I'll catch a taxi to the factory. And then Leo, you will not believe - I got lucky! From liquor store one guy from our factory is coming out! I jumped on him, almost hugged. In general, I happily bought five boxes of beer and we went back to the factory.
   -It"s hell of the story... Lucky you, so lucky. Say thanks to God for not be beaten. You could find much more problematic adventures on your ass.
   -Absolutely. No doubts, it could be much more painful. They could get out a machete and check my guts.
   -Okay, with hard emotional sex, I hope, you're done. And how at work?
   - Oh boy. This Francisco picking on me, and honestly, I don"t even understand what he wants. He really got me... He yells on me like I"m a boy.
   - Wow! I thought you're friends... He recommended you.
   - He is a "condom"! Leo, just look... Two days ago he sent me again to the smelter for some measurement. And my leg this day was in real pain. I explained it to Francisco in details and said that I"m sorry, but today I can"t go.
   -And the next day you already run after the girls without any hurt?
   -Again?! Why do you start?! I'm telling you how it was. Well, what the hell am I going to do there, in this hell, especially with a broken leg? They even don"t have there any basic dust-cleaning system! Dust like a fog, and so hot... You will go there five-six times to take a measurement and your lungs will fall off.
   -And how do the others work there?
   -I somehow don"t care! They will work like this for five years, and in age 50 will move to the cemetery.
   -Well, did you draw at least one drawing? I know, just for fun.
   - If they give me something I will draw. Don"t start with your sarcasm!
   - Listen, Nikolay, maybe you need to look for an emotional job?
   -Stop to pin me up! Not funny already! I'm here so far from the family, from the children, under this killing sun, in this ecological hell...
   -In which you refused to go.
   - What do you want from me?! There are some dudes there who are doing nothing. Anyway, I'm tired of all this shit. And in my soul is somehow ugly, disgusting... In short, I'll come to Toronto and say that I will not go to Panama anymore. Ask them to find me something in the office.
   -But you got this job just because you have to go to Panama.
   -And here you go. I went once. And now let others to work hard here, who are younger... It has to be some turn. Or they thought that they are smart. I mean, smart-asses who seats in the offices!
   -So you'll be fired immediately.
   -Who knows? Or maybe not get fired. Well, if I get fired, then maybe it is for better. I'll find a normal job.
   -So you, what... When you will arrive, you will call to the HR department?
   -No. I'll wait calmly for two weeks, and on the flight day I'll call and say that I'm sick. I didn"t have time to use all my benefits. My wife already used her part and in two weeks I just will finish all my part. And I don"t think that I get fired immediately. Big company, long stories...They will call me to discuss... And they have many procedures... And maybe they transfer me to another project in Toronto. OK, bye. I'll go to drink coffee. I'm tired today. I have arthritis on my wrists again. Difficult to hold mouse in the hand.
  
  
  9
   Grechko had many guests in a house. Nikolay gave a banquet in honor of his return. Koifman with his wife a little delayed, because got into a traffic jam. This turned out to be very useful, since Nikolay had already begun to tell to the guests about the scary working conditions in Panama. The absence of any safety standards, nor the professionalism of local people, etc. And if he wouldn"t have responsibility to the family, he would never have gone there. Someone jokingly asked: "What about local women? Are there any cute ones?"
   - Ha, you never can say that they are women. They are so short - all up to my belt. So you can see only the top of the head. And guys, you will not believe, they are all so small, as a children. And I"m not a pedophile. Ha-ha-ha.
   Finally Koifman appeared and all amicably sat down at the table. Glasses were full with wine. Someone even shouted: "For the return!" But Grechko vigorously stood up and solemnly raised his glass.
   -Dear friends. I do not often say a toasts, but today I would like to say something short and important from the bottom of my heart.
   I've been married more than twenty-five years... And every year I love my wife more and more. It's even scary to imagine how I'll love her when we will retire. These six weeks, which I spent without her, just prove me once again about my lucky choice. This choice I did many years ago without any doubts. I'm not just bored there, I just counted minutes...
   -Ooo, - all the women breathed out at once and looked with envy at Nikolay's wife.
   -And as soon as I saw her, I immediately understood... Whatever money they will paid there, I will not leave the house anymore. And it doesn"t matter that I'm probably to be fired, but... But I'll start looking for work here, next to the house, and next to my beautiful wife. For you my dear!
   -Ooo, - all women exhaled again and looked at Nikolay's wife with moistened eyes. She blushed and modestly waved her hand.
   After a dense dinner, before dessert, men with glasses of rum, which Grechko brought from Panama, gathered near the fireplace. In the distance, women helped the hostess to clean the table and arrange clean dishes. Nikolay, relaxed lying on the couch and talked about Panama in detail: exotic fruits, jungle, high mountains, sticking out of the morning mist, bloody sunsets and the beauty of the Panama Canal.
   - Listen, Nikolay, if seriously... How are the local women?
   - It's better for you not to know about this, - the host smiled graciously, - Some girls are so... Big ass, bronze skin, temperament... Oh, better even don"t recall. I'm not going to share details, but as the classic said: there are girls in Panamanian villages! It's like explaining the taste of strawberries to a person who has never eaten it. And in general, the people are very friendly, - Grechko looked timidly at Koifman.
   Leo slowly sipped rum, without interfering with Nikolay"s press conference.
   In the evening, returning home, Koifman's wife sternly looked at Leo and philosophically asked:
   -Could you give up a well-paid job because of love?
   -Yes, easily. I would be at home, love you, and you will work instead of me.
   -What kind of person are you?! - Koifman's wife sniffed, - you are telling me about Nikolay all sorts of derogatory things... that he, kind of fool, weak designer and doesn"t understand what he's drafting... But look how he loves his wife! You'd better take an example from him!
   - Well, I love you too. Or I suppose to walk around with big placate: "I love my wife!"
   -Yah... You always with your jokes... I'm serious...
   -Nikolay is a good fellow, of course. Otherwise we wouldn"t be friends. Honestly, his toast was well said. He probably was preparing it all these six weeks in Panama.
   -Okay, drive the car careful. The snow has not really been removed. It is slippery.
   Koifman took a napkin and with pleasure blew his nose.
   And somewhere far away in sunny Panama, on the sunny beaches of the ocean, the short machos sat in luxurious bars, drank a bluish tequila and stroked big-ass girls on their bronze skin.
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