Heavy Load – 15
March 28, 2022
A phone rings on the desk in his Kremlin office and he answers and says, “Hello, sweetheart.”
“Have you seen that interview?” she asks.
“The one from Ukraine.”
“You’re not supposed to watch foreign propaganda.”
“You need to see it.”
He exhales hard and asks, “Why?”
“Because I can feel it’s true.”
“I guarantee it’s a lie.”
Looking over gray Moscow through a floor to ceiling window in her penthouse, she raises her voice. “Watch the interview. It’s horrible. A Ukrainian speaking Russian says he can’t open the back of a huge truck because there are four or five hundred dead guys in there, and it wouldn’t be right.”
“Don’t listen to Ukrainians.”
“He’s worried warmer weather will soon create an overwhelming odor. They plan to take the bodies to Kyiv and, if you’ll let them, send the bodies home.”
He doesn’t respond.
“Did you hear me?” she asks.
“They deserve to come home in flag-draped coffins and be formally greeted by you at the airport.”
“I can’t do that,” he says.
“It would make me look bad.”
“Not paying your respects makes you look worse.”
He rises from his desk, phone in hand, and walks hard around the office. “I’ve always told you to stay out of politics.”
“I can’t help thinking of them piled and rotting in that truck. They’re somebody’s children. They could be ours.”
“I’m fighting to save Russia.”
“From Ukraine, from the United States, from NATO.”
“They’re not going to attack. You have too many nuclear weapons.”
“You don’t understand politics.”
“The man in Ukraine said they have many trucks loaded with Russians. I’m hearing reports they’ve killed ten to fifteen thousand.”
He stops walking and says, “They’re exaggerating. They haven’t killed more than fifteen hundred.”
“They may be overstating our casualties, but you’re probably understating them.”
“Don’t question my integrity.”
“All right. Give another patriotic speech right away, tonight, and ask Ukraine to return all our dead soldiers. Let’s see how many trucks they send. You owe it to the young men and their families.”
“I’m very busy. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Not tonight. I don’t feel well.”
“When can I come?” he asks.
“I’ll let you know.”
“I own that place.”
“Perhaps I should move out,” she says, and hangs up.
He steps to a wall and punches it with his empty hand. Then he calls a general and says, “I told you we’ve got to get rid of the bodies quickly and inconspicuously.”
“It’s often impossible to reclaim all our fallen soldiers during battle,” says the general.
“We need more mobile crematoriums.”
The general says, “Fine, but we still won’t be able to retrieve all the bodies for incineration.”
“You and the others have screwed up this whole operation, which should’ve been completed long ago.”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t have undertaken this operation at all,” says the general.
“Don’t ever say that again, even in private.”