Any good expedition has its lighter moments. We have collected nine such scenes from recent days into a one-act play for your enjoyment. Be warned that an oversized container of Chekhov Ale (cherry flavored) influenced the writing of this play. Performance rights are not available for licensing.
Kolomna. Paul and Misha are walking to the kremlin to see the sights.
PAUL: You’re wearing shorts. You won’t be able to go inside the churches.
MISHA: I’m a man, of course they will let me in.
Time passes. Things are observed. The disparately-clad travelers approach the church.
BABUSHKA: Young man, your shorts are too short.
MISHA: I am just going to go in and look at the church.
BABUSHKA: You can’t go in there with naked knees.
Babushka leads Misha offstage, where she offers an assortment of skirts.
MISHA: I’ll take the longest one you have.
* * *
Tarusa. In the middle of our interview with Marina Goncharova, Misha checks the record button of the camera, gets up and leaves the room. He is gone for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20. We take a break and Nadya turns to our host, Marina.
NADYA: Where did Misha go?
MARINA: He is napping in the kitchen. Between two stools. By the time I came back to give him a pillow, he was already asleep.
Moscow. Misha goes out at the end of the day to deliver a hard disk to our film editor, so she can start work on the movie. Shortly after he leaves the apartment, a torrential rain rocks the capital. It goes on for 15 minutes before Nadya finally decides to call and check up on him.
NADYA: Misha, where are you, are you ok? Did you get caught in the rain?
MISHA: What rain? I don’t see any rain. But the underpass I am standing in is filling up with water.
* * *
Samara. The restaurant known as Meat.
Paul orders a burger and a beer. When it comes, he proceeds to pick it up.
WAITER: You may use the gloves that we gave you to eat your burger.
PAUL (sotto voce): You don’t need to teach an American how to eat a burger.
Samara. After the social worker, Nadezhda, takes Vera Yefimova’s blood pressure, she asks if anyone else wants theirs taken. Paul volunteers. It registers 133 over 80.
NADEZHDA: That’s not so bad. A bit high for someone your age.
PAUL: That’s interesting. And just what would you say my age is?
The social worker stares long and hard, realizing she has put herself into a sticky spot.
NADEZHDA: Oh, I would say about 33?
Paul stands up and gives a long hug to the charitable social worker who has just given him back 20 years of his life.
Moscow. The interview with Galina Grebneva has wrapped up. Misha starts taking pictures and gives Galina some direction.
MISHA: Galina Valerianovna, look at Paul.
Galina looks toward the floor.
(In Russian, “Paul” is pronounced “pol”, which is the word for floor.)
Nizhegorodskaya oblast. Our heroes drive to an appointed meeting with Yelizaveta Lakeyeva, in the village of Konyovo. They arrive in the village at the specified house. The unpainted, wooden building is in awful condition. It is falling down, the roof has caved in, the windows are broken, and the inside appears to be charred from a fire. Misha gets on the phone to the social worker, Valentina, who looks after Yelizaveta.
MISHA: We are standing in front of your house. It is abandoned and destroyed.
VALENTINA: No, everything is fine with our house. We are waiting for you. When you drove over the river, did you turn left or right?
MISHA: What river? There was no river.
VALENTINA: What Konyovo are you in?
MISHA: We are in Konyovo, Balakhninsky rayon.
VALENTINA: You went to the wrong Konyovo. We are in Konyovo, Gorodetsky rayon.
A dimly lit kitchen outside Moscow. Late morning. Misha has been sneezing at every session, apparently due to the dust amid old photos and documents. As a prophylactic, before setting out in the morning, Paul gave Misha a Benadryl from his travel survival pack.
PAUL: How is the antihistamine working?
MISHA: It’s great. I haven’t sneezed once.
PAUL: Good to hear. The first pill is free. The next one is $10.
Moscow. Outside the store Smeshnie Tseny (Hilarious Prices). Paul sends a boasting text to his daughter, far away.
PAUL: Picked up a deal on some Nike Frees for $14. Pretty sure they are 100% legit.
DAUGHTER: Haha. Probably.
Paul changes into the shoes. A faint ripping sound is heard as Paul laces the second shoe onto his sea-ferry sized feet.
MISHA (smiling): What are they, special, single-use Nikes?
PAUL: That’s just the sound of your envy. They only need to last to Irkutsk.
Two days and three wearings later.
NADYA: Paul, why aren’t you wearing your new Nikes?
PAUL: I threw them out.
NADYA: What? You threw away your new shoes? That’s ridiculous. Why?
PAUL: I could not in good conscience wear shoes that made my feet scream in pain.
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