The Heat Of Arkhangelsk. Part 1. Chapter 3.

That memorable summer of the golden mid-2000s, when the dollar cost only twenty-some roubles, the unemployment rate in Russia was low, and the quality of life was steadily improving, yet the never fully satisfied people roundly criticized Putin, an all-time heat unwonted for the Northerners came to Arkhangelsk.
The thermometer had risen to above thirty, flocks of unsunned people lay on the beaches of Yagri and The North Dvina lapping up the warm sunshine so rare for the region. The town itself was as quiet as the grave: in the deserted courtyards overrun with nettles there was not a living soul seen; just vague clatter of dishes was heard from some first-floor windows, and a soft breeze flapped bedsheets and linen hanging up to dry outside the houses.
The streets and avenues of Arkhangelsk were far from busy as well. Just a wistful cry of a seagull would come from down the river, and the сlatter of some lady’s heels on a board walk would become audible before the ledy herself in a light summer frock turned up in the whirl of cottonwood fluff and disappeared in the doorway of “Daisy”, a small grocery shop which at a later date came to be known as “Five Steps”. Therein it smelt a bit musty but felt cooler than in the outside. Yet the saleswoman fanning herself with an ostentatiously languid air displayed suffering from the intolerably hot weather.
“Hey, Masha, gimme a… soda, that one…” – the customer would point at the coke refrigerator, “And an ice cream. In a cone,” she would add pronouncing the cone word with a strong Northern accent.
“Too hot,” the languorous saleswoman would chime in, “They said on the tube today, this heat’s gonna last for another week or so. The other year it was just as hot, you know. Global warming, they say.”
“Yeah, the antarctic ice is melting. It’s getting on for a big flood over here, isn’t it… Otherwise we’re gonna grow bananas and coconuts. Won’t have to go down South, eh?”
Not all Arkhangelsk citizens, however, greeted that summer heat just as optimistically. Many grunted and groaned for a rain, being unused to such weather. Among the latter was a twenty-year old inhabitant of the western part of town, a four-year student of engineering, working part-time as a chief editor of the AGTU students’ forums Andrew Saltikov.
On the aforementioned hot July day Andrew Saltikov wolke up pretty late. He felt too lazy to get out of bed, if it wasn’t for the sunshine in his eyes he could have probably not be bothered to rise. Even though it was already past midday, he felt tired and sort of down, also suffering from a splitting headache. He recalled some cheap party at Sparkle he had attended last night and been disappointed in. Then he and Bessert had had a few beers. Blah. There hadn’t even been a hooker for a change. Sure, the town was deserted, it was summer and everbody had left. Even his parents had gone to their country residence. He had refused to join them pleading the headache for he had really nothing to do over there. Everything was just the same: seed and weed. Mother had planted some pumpkins and now was all over them. Saltikov couldn’t conceive why plant things over there if nothing grows anyway. Yet he visited his dacha occasionally evn though it bored him to death: there was not a single young person around there. Summer seemed to him the most boring season of the year: everybody was gone, and the hot weather gave him headache. He considered to quit smoking, but the very thought of it made him sad and he reached instinctively for his cigarettes.
He came out on the balcony wearing nothing but pants, smoked a cigarette. The sunshine struck his eyes making him squint. With a habitual gesture he ran his hand over his dishevelled fair hair. His hair was a real mess, he thought, he ought to go to the barber’s. Actually he had long been planning to have his hair cut, but he had never got round to it.
His reflections were soon interrupted by a phone call. Having just heard the familiar electrical sound he instantly spunked up and rushed inside for his cell phone.
“Hey, Dima Negodyaev!” he answered and some note of imperiousness entered his voice, “Yeah! Have you got it all settled with Chirkov? Yeah, the cinder blocks!”
A dry, monotonous male voice on the phone was trying to explain something. Saltikov interrupted him.
“Fuck you, Negodyaev, what the hell is going on with you? Didn’t I ask you for it yesterday! What?..”
Negodyaev, with a slight stutter, went on with his monotonous speech. Saltikov interrupted him again:
“What the fuck next week? I fucking need it tomorrow! What?.. Fuck that asshole, then! What? Hey! Hey!..”
“Hang up,” flitted through Saltikov’s mind. He flung the cell phone aside angrily. His disposition ruffled completely: another lucrative deal had gone south. Had been going to make some extra money on it but no such luck. “No, there’s no getting anywhere with that dolt”, he thought of Negodyaev.
Saltikov came back out, smoked another cigarette unwillingly and once more looked around the dreary view from the balcony. Nothing seemed to have changed since the USSR times: just the same grey little blocks, low span-roof houses; the same anchient gas bottles scaly with rust that were sticking out of the high grass; the same bedsheets swinging on the clothesline down in the yard. The air itself coming either from the river constantly polluted with the waste of the pulp and paper mill, or from down the thick decaying grass with the rusty gas bottles had a smack of something rotten. Saltikov had breathed this air since his birthday and he could have given no notice to it now, but he scrunched his nose and the expression of his plain sleepy-eyed face became as sour as verjuice.
“Hi! How was your party in M33?”
Saltikov started. On the next balcony separated from him with a thin divide wall stood and also smoked his neighbour and old mate Paul Mochalych also known as Pavlya by their common friends.
“Not up to much,” Saltikov gave a yawn and rubbed his square face with the back of his hand, “Got a fucking headache. Feel like shit…”
“No wonder, boozin’ like you…”
“One can’t help boozing in this dump,” Saltikov said bitterly, “Wish I was living in a big city… Moscow, or, say, Saint Petersburg…”
“Speaking of Moscow,” Pavlya interrupted him, “Have you checked Agtustud today?”
“No, why?”
“Pop on the forums, have a look. There’s a Moskee registered.”
Saltikov goggled at his mate as though the last was a Marsian.
“Fuck you! A Moskee on Agtustud?! You must be kidding me!”
“Go figure… I’ve checked her IP.”
And the guys disappeared from the balconies as one man, each in his own door.

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