This weekend, in the middle of a heated debate over whether or not he would remain mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov fled back to Austria, it of the “cows with bells, girls with tits.” Ostensibly, he is there to relax, spend his 74th birthday (tomorrow) with his family, and, you know, think over the wording of his inevitable resignation. (Russia’s favorite hoodlum, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, however, has posited that Luzhkov has fled for good, never to return from Titsreich. Luzhkov responded with mockery.)
Anyway. Tonight, Moskovsky Komsomolets, the lone pro-Luzhkov voice in the raging media shitshow, publishes — along with its scraping birthday salutations to the Mayor — one of Luzhkov’s short stories. This one is called “And the Sky Looks at Us.”
How to describe this chef d’oeuvre? In a style that evokes Maxim Gorky at his worst and a transcript of a bar-room tale gone on for too long on the wrong side of 3 a.m., Luzhkov’s tale takes us back to his sweet days spent brawling in a Moscow yard in the hard days after the War.
But Luzhkov, you see, was not a just a thug. No, no. He spent the fury of his fists defending a boy named Sergei, an invalid whose mother would bring him down into the yard every day and mercifully plant him on a bench — and in the middle of a swarm of mean little boys. Helpless, he would sometimes topple over and lie there staring up at the sky and listening to one boy, Kolya Faronkin, taunt him about how he’ll never be able to mount a woman.
Apparently, Luzhkov — who would later come to rule over a fiefdom where disabled serfs are locked in high-floor apartments without working elevators and where there are, like, zero wheelchair ramps — took this really, really, really hard. Kolya, Luzhkov says, was “a moral freak,” which is why they called him the Fascist. And why Luzhkov got into lots of fights with him — to defend not his own sense of inadequacy, but Sergei. “He was stronger than I was, but that meant exactly nothing,” Luzhkov writes, “because I hated him, and he underestimated me.”
Like I said, all about the honor of the paraplegic nerd on the bench.
So guess what happens next? In the course of challenging Sergei to a tree-climbing contest — which Sergei duly wins (of course) — the Fascist falls off the branch and onto the bench. “The crack of his spine was horrific,” writes Luzhkov.
Tuhn tuhn tuuuuuuhn.
Fast forward a few decades. Luzhkov has become a well-known, er, engineer? And Sergei is now a world-famous surgeon who works miracles on spinal-cord injuries (of course). Being big of heart (of course) he also restored the Fascist to almost as good as new after his ironic fall (of course) so that the Fascist becomes — this one surprised me. Okay, it didn’t. — a masseuse who, with the magic of his hands, restores the ability to walk to invalids (of course). He works side by side with Sergei until, tortured by guilt over his childhood fascism, he resigns. Of course.
But that’s not the best part.
The best part is that, a year after hearing this story from Sergei over some “inexpensive cognac” (of course), Luzhkov is moved by “a swelling of the soul” and decides to revisit the yard where the cliches of his youth were first planted.
To his surprise, “there was the yard, but I could find neither the bench, nor the branch.” His old home had been replaced with new high-rises.
Probably built by Elena Baturina.