EPISODE 1: A Dinky Bar on the Lower East Side
It’s around 8:00 PM and it’s another loud, busy Saturday evening at the bar. With so few available seats left, Joel makes his way through the main room of the bar, searching for a narrow space to sit. After a few minutes of searching, he manages to find a small space next to an almost comically large man.
Sighing, Joel makes his way towards the man and sits next to him. He downs his last glass of red wine.
Seated in an almost precarious position, the intimidatingly large man, a broad-shouldered and broad-chested sort of brute, downs a glass of liquor intensely. He slams the glass down on the bar counter and gives a sigh that borders more on a guttural growl.
The man is a foreigner, but alcohol is universal- the universal language. Even more than music, you can argue! He knows his booze and he likes the hard stuff. The man glances aside, to the slim youth beside him- he eyes the glass of red wine with a raised eyebrow of questioning disbelief. Encouraged to rouse the youth, the towering man taps his seated companion firmly on the youth’s shoulders.
Andrei: *in heavy but not straining accent, Russian, carefully putting words together* Hey- you! *taps the young man on the shoulder.* What is this? Red wine, eh?
Joel: *raises his eyebrows, surprised that the man is talking to him* Yes, it is. What of it?
Andrei: That’s such sad stuff! *voices is gruff but sincere* What are you doing- pinning (he meant “pining”) over a girl, then? You need to drink something for a man! Something that will put a fire in your stomach, that’s what! I’ll order you something real!
*taps Joel again on the shoulder and then taps the table loudly*
Hey! *calls for the bartender, a burly but normal-sized man with a bent brow* Marco- give this kid something real! What I ordered!
Joel: What is this “real” drink you speak of? Vodka? *he gives a small smirk* A girl? *his voice becomes slightly soft, and then becomes hoarser and harder* What nonsense - of course not. Why would you think that?
Joel crosses his arms and scans Andrei with his piercing dark eyes. Who is this man, he wonders? He was clearly from a foreign country. Which one - Russia, maybe? His accent was definitely Slavic in origin.
Andrei: *laughs, tossing his head back slightly* Ah! What a- what a- what do you call it? A novice! What a novice you are! Vodka- that’s what we have back home, and it’s not good like it was. No! You’re lucky! In the country, you have Wheeskay! (He meant to say “Whiskey”).
That’s the stuff that burns into a man, give him some fire to sharpen his teeth- maybe… maybe… how do you say it? Put hair on the chest!
*Points a well-meaning gesture of a finger tap on Joel’s chest while the bartender uncorks the very large whiskey bottle Andrei favors- it’s that hard yet smooth Kentucky stuff.*
Joel: *sniffs the bottle and makes a face* This looks quite disgusting, to be honest. I’m not taking that. Look - I appreciate you getting this drink for me, but I’m not sure if I have the right taste buds for it.
*sighs and wonders what he got himself into*
Andrei: *waves his hand in a “no” answer* Disgusting! What sort of shaking little rabbit, are you? Who needs taste bid- I means buds?
Hah! You must be a soft little thing to turn your nose at good whiskey!
Still, I’m curious, like the cat- so are you pinning (“pining”) over some little devushka? Ah, did she fly away from your arms, then?
Or you two had a fight, eh?*pours the whiskey from the bottle into a clean shot glass the bartender slammed on the counter, Andrei smirks as he balances the small glass in his large palm and hands it to Joel*
You better beg her forgiveness, even if it’s her fault- women will not surrender- they’re harder than us men!
Hmm! *eyes Joel in thoughtful questioning.* If I am buying a drink for you, then what is your name?
Joel eyes the glass of whiskey with suspicion but downs it anyways, not wanting to displease Andrei. After all, Andrei had bought him the drink, so he had to drink it, regardless of how he truly felt about the situation. It was the right thing to do.
Joel: My name is Joel Farber. And yours? Also, I don’t think it’s very nice of you to make so many assumptions about me. What makes you think I’m doing all of those things that you claim I am doing? Do I look like the type to be so emotional about love?
*lowering his voice, he smirks at Andrei as he leans closer to him* I’m not. I’m sorry to tell you, stranger, but I’m not. I’m as heartless as they get. Besides, I’m too busy to care about these fickle feelings. I only care about putting bread on the table and making sure my family’s well fed.
Andrei: *slaps him hard, with a hollow crack, on the youth’s shoulders and gives a hearty laugh* Now there! That will put some fire in your stomach, some steel in your bones! That’s what men need and the women want!
Heh! *Observes Joel after he downs the glass.*
Eh? What’s this? All this talk of heartlessness! What are you? A machine? Do you have blood in your veins, or ice-water? It’s good you care for your family- wait! You don’t love your family? Ah! Your wife and kids must be sad! Don’t be like that now! *Andrei’s dark, broad brows dip in disapproving reproach*
Joel raises his eyebrows in surprise. That was not what he meant at all, but it seemed like the man - whose name he still didn’t know - thought he meant that he had a wife and children.
Joel: I meant my parents. That’s the extent of my family. I do care about my family. They’re great people and I respect them for all that they’ve done for me.
*sigh* Hey, I’m sorry. I’ve just not been in the proper headspace this past weekend. What’s your name again?
*Joel places the empty glass on the bar table*
Andrei: * nods in surprised realization* Ah! Forgive me- that’s your family! Good you take care of your people- yes, take good care of them! Ah, if I had mine back- poor them.
Things are bad now, so perhaps it’s better they’re with God and all. If He’s there. He better be. *Blinks twice, then eyes widen in realization again- he hadn’t given his name yet!*
Damn! What piss-poor manners I have! My name *he ponders for a second, for a pronunciation* Ah… Callelnal? (He meant “colonel”) Andrei Danilovich Novokshonov!
*The bartender, Marco, bends between and interrupts, “Hey- Andy- it’s pronounced, “KERNUL”!*
Andrei: You mean like in French?
Marco: Yeah, French- whatever! That’s how it sounds! Shit, Andy! *shakes his head and goes back to wiping down glasses with his towel*
Joel: Yeah, that’s right. I see, so you’re from the army. Are you from Russia? What are you doing all the way here? *his voice is a lot lighter now, since he’s now curious about who Andrei is and why he’s in the US*
Andrei: Yes- from Russia, Soviet Union- whatever you call it now, they call it! *chugs another glass down and slams it down*
Hah. How do I explain this? Why I’m here? Eh… it’s a sort of diplomatic… how? Gesture!
So where I’m from, yes, I am in the army, a COLONEL *pronounces it more like French than English, but it sounds relatively the same*. But my country put me into sports- boxing.
So for something like… something like an athlete diplomacy, they send me here to prove Soviet sportsmanship, a bit of friendly diplomacy between our countries, since I have to be in a few matches with your country’s boxers, too. It’s all diplomacy- I’m not a spy, for god’s sakes. *he snorts resentfully and lingers with his last glass Marco begrudgingly pours him*
Marco: Last one, Big Andy- or else you’ll have to get your big buddy to haul your ass outta here. *sounds reproachful, but hides his concern.*
Joel: I see, that’s very interesting. So when’s your next match and who are you up against? I don’t really follow these things, but it’d be interesting to know.
*thinks about what Marco said* Big buddy to haul you out of here? What do you mean? *wonders if Andrei is part of a gang, since ‘big buddy’ sounds like a nickname for a mafia member, at least to him*
Andrei: Some bastard named Sullivan- he’s - what’s that word, Marco?
Marco: A *****ing asshole, that’s what.
Andrei: Right, what he said. Huh? What do you mean, ‘What do you mean?’
Ah! Well, being this is all political, I have my own guard- more like a damn hawk watching every move I make and breath I take. My one isn’t too bad- he’s actually my friend from the army, ol’ Tonchenka.
The other one they assigned to me, to make sure I am a proper Soviet Citizen representing our precious motherland, is this miserable shit, Fosya, well, call him Smirnov.
He’s a sour dog, damn young, maybe younger than you, and he’s a real shit for the rules, like an old woman in church!
Joel: I see. It seems like you have a lot on your plate, quite literally. Well, I’d like to see you at one of the upcoming matches. I’m sort of interested in boxing myself, you know. *finishes his drink and places the glass on the table*
Andrei: Hmm! *holds the glass and shakes it slightly, in an offering gesture* Another? Then? Ah, no? All right! Can’t be helped. I suppose one was enough, eh? I think I like you, Joel *pronounces Joel, like “Youl”, due to the absent “j” sound”* Farber! Well, then, you are interested in the sport, too? Do you box, or just a spectator now? *keenly interested and awaiting Joel’s response*
Joel: I’m both, I guess. I haven’t actually faced anyone, but I have practiced. *gives a small, confident grin* But I’ll be a spectator this time. I’ll watch you fight Sullivan. *crosses arms* So when’s the match?
Andrei: *returns Joel’s grin with one of knowing and slight mischief, as though he found a welcomed comrade in sport and eagerness for social events* Both, eh? You practice much? Hmm. *examines Joel with a nod and look, as though assessing Joel’s physical formidability* You look like you’ve practiced a bit- that’s good! Ah, the match? Don’t know yet! But I’ll let you know, you’ll be one of the first!
Joel: Sounds good. *nods* I’ll be keeping an eye out for the match, then. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go now. Got an errand to run early tomorrow morning, so have to go to bed early today. See you sometime soon, Andrei. Perhaps we’ll bump into each other at the Lower East Side Fighting Club! I go there often, actually. *nods, gets up, and puts on his jacket and hat* See you!