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    Kirsty Fitzmauice
    In the quiet carriage
    The Rocks Bar
    Smooth Seas
    Shashlik
      Galvanise. I wanted to write. Do you prefer Mozart or Chuck Berry?

It was raining. We drove. It was in Nodar's car this time, to a local supermarket on the outskirts of town. We bought salad, rolls, potatoes, onions, beer, firebricks, pork and a chemical accelerant. Nodar already had silver metal rods. I bought coffee, a woman in the shop was interested in the coffee, and by the funny looks in Nick's and Veronica's eyes, in me also. "Do you prefer Mozart or Chuck Berry?" she might have said. I didn't know of course. We packed the shopping into the car and piled in.

It was still raining. We dove again. Out past Vladivostok's streets and into the wilderness. We went a long way, along a quiet country road. Nodar knew the way. Nick may have known the way too, but he didn't let on and he and Veronica just exchanged glances. The thunder roared. Great sheets of lightning cracked and splintered over the road. Such is the weather in the Far East. We went into the hinterland, to where the old military airport used to be. It was an abandoned air force base, a place now only for ghosts and miscreants like us, just the tarmac remained for the landing strip, and that too was potholed. They say, in Russia, if you drive straight on their normal roads that you must be drunk at the wheel. It's their test. All the sober drivers go every which way, zig-zagging here and there, to avoid the potholes.

We drove and drove. The evening closed in and eventually the rain stopped. We found a picnic spot. A rustic place in the bush with a table embedded in a concrete base, tilting in the sandy soil. The bench seats fixed to it tilted also. There was a fireplace there. It was a large, metal box, like a heater, with a wind shield at one end, standing on legs. Nodar, the fire expert, took over. We watched as he laid the fire bricks down. Anya and Veronica made salad and threaded the large pieces of pork onto the metal skewers. We drank the beer. We spoke a funny mixture of language with Nick, half English, half Russian. Neither well spoken. We leaned their best words and they learned our worst, but they knew most of them already. They said "When you meet a woman you should say this..." but I don't know why they were laughing. We galvanised. When Veronica stepped backwards, off the concrete slab. She stumbled. "Are you OK" I said. "Yes, of course. I am Russian".

Nodar placed the skewers of pork across the BBQ. The fire started to wane. Out came the accelerant. He squirted the liquid and the flames fired. Soon the whole thing was alight and cooking and soon the shashlik was done. We ate it, straight from the skewers. We talked. The two brothers, Nodar and Nick. Two women, Anya and Veronica. Two of us in a strange place in the forest near an abandoned military base, at night. It started to storm and rain again and I wanted to write.

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