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the first

The yarmarka (farmer's market) is about to close. Some of the people are already packing up, offering their last bruised tomatoes at half-price to anyone walking past them.  I am wandering, staring at bunches of herbs, at the same old options - cabbage, pepper, potato, garlic, apple, cucumber. But then I see a pile of peas. The season must have come early this year. I buy a kilo, and some mint. I know what is for dinner. We have not had it in eleven months.

At home, I rip the bag open, showing them to V. She stands by the kitchen table, eyes wide. I crack one open, showing her the little rounds inside. She plucks one out, her pinky pointing to the ceiling.
"Try it." I tell her.
She does, but she does not like it.

I pull out a bowl for them. She jumps up and down a few times. V always wants to help in the kitchen. I pull her to my lap, and we begin pulling them out from the shells. She learns quickly, tossing them with a flourish into the bowl, a few cascading to the flo…

the visitor

There is a knock on the door. It is the middle of the afternoon, and salesmen normally ring all of the doorbells in the morning. Through the peephole, I see a small man in overalls. He knocks again, and for some reason I decide to open the door. He waves a paper in the air, something about a mark, something about the pipes. I tell him, sure ok I will sign it and he gestures inside.

I stare at his thick, wet black hair and his tiny hands. He is polite, pushing his shoes off at the doormat and tiptoeing in. He asks to look in the bathroom, and I wave him on. E wanders to the living room door, head craning.
"He needs to check the pipes or something." I tell her, quietly.
She shrugs her shoulders and goes back to her homework.

The man peers and squints at the pipes behind a crooked panel that swings open in the bathroom. He scribbles numbers down, squints again. He seems to be taking a long time and I wonder if he can see very well. His flashlight dances around, and eventually he is done. For some reason, I do not sign any papers. His head bows a little as he leaves. Thank you, thank you.

I did not even think to call N and ask her what to do.

Later, I mention this visit to her and her eyes roll. No one ever comes to check the pipes, it is no job, no position. This man is not who he pretended to be. He was a spy, an imposter, maybe looking for some other information. But no one has ever come to check the pipes in Moscow.









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