13 September 2009

A Funny Story From a Former Soviet State

A man was working late one dark winter night. His boss comes up and says, ‘I’m sorry, but we’re closing the factory. Don’t come back.’ and the boss gives him some tires (that’s what they made at the factory) instead of severance pay.

The man takes his two tires and leaves the factory. Sadly, outside, there is a power outage and the streets are dark. Recently, thieves have begun to steal all sorts of metal to sell for scrap and have removed all sorts of metal objects from the public landscape toward that end. Soon, the man stumbling through the darkness stumbles into an open manhole that, once upon a more prosperous time, had been covered by a thick metal disc now purloined and sold to a dealer in such dubious items. And the man breaks his leg. Attracted by his screams, local ruffians from the adjacent apartment block pour forth to kick the man in the face, break his nose, laugh at him, spit and piss on him, steal his hat, and roll his tires away down the ink-black street (careful to avoid similarly gaping holes in the street).

Eventually, a taxi comes and the driver takes the last few crumpled hvrina
the man had secreted about his person, his belt, his shoes, and his watch. The driver then actually takes the man to a clinic and, driving back into the pitch-blackness with his headlights off, wishes him well and good luck.

There are many sick and wounded people at the hospital waiting to see the one doctor visible who seems content to merely sit and smoke cigarettes while picking at the crusts formed upon his white coat, ignoring the low moans from those waiting to see him. After several hours, a woman who seems like a nurse gives the man a pill, a cold cloth for washing, and tells him it might be best to return at another time.

The man begins to limp home. Finally, he arrives at his apartment block and, since the elevator has not worked since the mid-1990s, he crawls up the ten flights of stairs to his apartment.

Inside, he finds his best friend and his wife waiting for him.

“We love each other,” they tell him. “We have taken everything and we are leaving. We are going to live in the mountains and chop wood together.”

And they leave the man, broken-legged, broken-nosed, beaten, pissed upon, robbed, and drugged in an empty apartment. The man crawls into the kitchen, takes off his belt, climbs up onto the small refrigerator and loops his belt over a pipe in the ceiling. He slips his head into the loop and tries to jump off the refrigerator to hang himself. Instead, the pipe breaks, he tumbles to the floor, the refrigerator falls on top of him, breaks several of his ribs, and ice-cold water begins to pour from the broken pipe to soak him.

However, when the door of the refrigerator pops open during the fall, a half-full bottle of vodka that the wife had forgotten to take comes rolling across the filthy, rotten floor to within inches of his snot-filled, blood-crusted nose. The man lay there with his broken ribs, broken leg, broke, in an empty apartment covered in ice-cold water. He reaches for the bottle.

“Hey,” he says to no one in particular. “Today turned out to be a pretty good day.”

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