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COUP DE SEXE /Michael Beres THE AFTERNOON WAS appropriate for a clandestine mission, the sky obUterated by a vast grey cloud, farmyards empty, not an animal or a chUd at play to be seen. A bleak afternoon indeed when one faUed to see even a nosey babushka on a stoop with broom in hand pretending to sweep whUe gathering gossip for a meeting of crones at tomorrow morning's church service, or a meeting at the cemetery where worked-to-death husbands lay with hands folded upon their chests. Was it the prospect of being worked to death by a wife that had kept him a bachelor aU these years? Or was it something else? Perhaps his sense of duty to the union had kept him a bachelor. Or, better yet, perhaps his awareness of a man's shorter life span had caused him to seek out life's pleasures in less traditional but more aggressive ways. Perhaps that was why he embarked upon this afternoon's mission in such cold and dismal weather. As Grigor Dich Kovlenko drove his fifteen-year-old Zhiguh down the country lane of his district he glanced at the duU hood of the car. The ZhiguU's paint had faded long ago, its once bright green turned to the color of goose turds. I am driving a car that resembles goose turds, thought Kovlenko, as he waved to the first Uving soul he had seen since leaving his apartment. It was old Simonov chasing his geese off the road so the ZhiguU could pass. No, thought Kovlenko, as he shifted the sputtering ZhiguU to a lower gear, I am actuaUy driving a goose turd, a turd deposited onto the road by a mutant made huge years earUer because of Chernobyl radiation. When he looked in the rearview mirror, Kovlenko could see trailing steam caused by mud puddles splashing onto the leaky exhaust of the ZhiguU and he remembered a simUar cold and misty day in his youth when he reaUy had seen steam coming from the deposits of a gaggle of geese that had recently crossed the road. The coincidence was comical to Kovlenko and he laughed aloud within the confines of his ZhiguU, not certain whether the tears In his eyes were because of the laughter or because of lost youth. When Kovlenko was a boy he often walked along this lane to school and, when he was not in school, to the fields of the Kalinin CoUective. The Great Patriotic War had been in progress, most of the men at the front, and he remembered searching for a faUen 276 · The Missouri Review branch in that group of trees to the left, a branch the size of a rifle so he could advance down the road with it held before him and imagine himself marching off to save the motherland from fascism. On the way back from the fields in the evening he would march with his rifle on his shoulder, march home from the front to receive hugs and kisses from aU the girls. Oh, how times have changed, thought Kovlenko, as he gripped the ZhiguU's steering wheel whUe traversing a particularly bumpy section of road. When he was a boy he had been consumed with such innocent thoughts, kisses and hugs and a flower in his uniform cap. But as time passed and the war ended and he grew older, he, Uke aU young men, had succumbed to his hormones, filüng his brain with countless imagined scenes beyond the hug and the kiss, scenes which he would soon be able to view in the privacy of his apartment once his mission on this cold, grey afternoon had been accompUshed. Nikolskaia, Kovlenko's deputy when Kovlenko was stiU chairman of the coUective—indeed, when there were such things as coUectives —had confided to him last week that the new black market video tapes made here in the homeland would be avaUable today. Nikolskaia had said that these tapes would far surpass the thirdrate western European and American tapes shoveled into the black market. These new tapes, said Nikolskaia, would contain famUiar locales and intimate scenes involving Russian men and...


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pp. 176-196
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