She had a beautiful Russian name: Anfisa. On the basketball court, her teammates called her “Fisa”: she studied at a local institute and was fond of sports. I served in the “Stars Town,” a well-known military unit in Ulan-Ude, and was a bachelor.

I wanted to get to know her, but I never got a chance, although sometimes it was possible to judge the matches of local teams. Buryatia is a small republic near Lake Baikal. All sports teams participated in the competition. The team of our unit met with the male team of her institute, but we did not exhibit the female team, and it was impossible to name our sporting meetings fully. Anfisa sometimes threw me interested looks. She had a slender, tall figure, but she was not long and did not slouch, which basketball players usually suffer from. I anticipated how I would appear with her at some solemn event in the House of Officers, and my soul languished from longing.

As time went on, spring came and the frost stopped. My friends took out their iron horses, and we from Stars Town began to ride our motorcycles in Ulan-Ude. Lyoshka Lekontsev and Vitya Dymov studied at the University of Marxism-Leninism, Mishka Alekseev participated in motocross competitions from the Buryatia national team, and Vova Kolesnikov drove just like that; to see how I played basketball or how Mishka got on a moto. Getting back on motorcycles was much more convenient than pushing into the last crowded bus.

I was usually taken away, after all: the games in the sports complex continued until late in the evening. My friends noticed my interest in Anfisa and mildly made fun of my passion. Every time, waiting for the girl at the exit, I tried to take a moment to explain myself. My friends patiently treaded on the sidelines, waiting for a denouement. But Anfisa was usually met by her father, and they got into his car and drove away. This happened every time, and I realized that I risked delaying making her acquaintance until autumn.

The proposal was made by Mishka. He contacted his Buryat friends to find out the home address of Anfisa and suggested trying to meet her near the house. I liked the idea. Hothead Alekseev suggested that our friends put on shabby civilian clothes to pose as hooligans. I had to play the role of savior, to rescue a girl from their vile paws, and take advantage of the situation to take hold of the girl’s heart.

The plan was the best possible way. A few days later, Lech brought me a piece of paper with the address. Mishka and Vovka began to spot the girl’s route to the bus stop and back, and I went to determine the most favorable moment for the operation, which we, of course, called “Operation Y.”*

We noticed that on Wednesdays the girl was delayed leaving the institute and her father did not meet her after she was done. And this day has come.

My friends hid their motorcycles in the yard of one of the houses and looked out from around the corner, waiting for the appearance of the lady of my heart. For authenticity, they soiled their hands in the dust, smeared dirt over their cheeks, and ruffled their hair. Although their short hairstyles betrayed their identities as military personnel, their old working clothes, along with their dirty faces, made an impression of being inveterate hooligans, and my friends, seeing Anfisa, amicably followed her, singing a thug song. Anfisa began to look around in dismay and quickened her pace. She was far away. We hoped to intercept her in the alley leading from the main street to her home, but Anfisa did what we didn’t expect her to do: she ran. She rushed past me while I was standing in the bushes and did not notice my presence. My friends ran after her, and although they were excellent in combat and political training, the athletes, including the basketball player Anfisa, were almost as good as them, and the distance between them only narrowed slightly. I was in the worst position of all: I had to get ahead of the cavalcade and jump out towards the runners so that the girl could appreciate my heroism and pay attention to her defender.

I rushed down the main street by leaps and bounds. The spectacle of a two-meter-old man running at full speed puzzled passersby; they shied away from me in different directions and looked around in dismay. After a few seconds, I realized that I was ahead of Anfisa and my friends and turned into the nearest alley that was going to cross their path.

I do not understand where the police cars came from. But one of them drove out of the same alley through which my friends ran a few seconds ago, and the second appeared at the beginning of the street and drove towards them. The “hooligans” were squeezed between two cars and the patrolmen forced them to stop, putting them in cages—with Anfisa in the front seat—and were taken to the police department. The guardians did not notice me.

When I arrived at the police department, the duty officer looked at the documents of my friends. Although their appearance was more consistent with hooliganism, the similarity with the photos in the identity cards and driving license was undeniable. My friends were delighted with my arrival, and I confirmed everything they told about this situation.

“What to do?” The attendant thoughtfully scratched his eyebrow, squinting at us. “I will go, I will consult with the chief.”

His assistant sat down at the control console as he disappeared into the depths of the building. He did not return for quite some time. Finally, the duty officer came back. Going through the documents, he summoned my friends, returned their IDs to them, and said that they were free to go. I was left alone. The officer looked into my eyes and said:

“You must go to the office of the deputy chief of the department, Major Solovyov. Second floor, room number 25.”

I got up and went to the indicated room. When I found the room, I knocked, opened the door, and froze in surprise: Anfisa was sitting in the corner. In the center of the office, at the table, in the form of a police major, was her father. He looked at me scornfully and said:

“Do not come near Anfisa. I will not warn you a second time. If you come near her, I will imprison you.”

In Soviet times, a simple army officer was defenseless, even in front of an ordinary police officer. Catching an officer on anything and then handing him over to the military commander’s office was considered chic among police punks. For a police major, trampling on some kind of army starlie** was great fun. The army authorities not only did not protect their subordinates, but they allowed the political commanders of various stripes and lackeys to fray them at all sorts of meetings and conferences. To get to the police for an ordinary officer meant to substitute his head for slaps and humiliations. I had no doubt that the major would fulfill his threat and presented his political officer, who was scolding me at the official meeting. Then I remembered the story “After the Ball” by Leo Tolstoy. My love for Anfisa instantly faded away, leaving a bitter residue of regret in my chest…


A week later, the commander of the unit received a letter from the police in which the malicious hooliganism of my friends was described in detail, telling of how we attacked the defenseless girl and sexually harassed her. Everyone in our military unit laughed at us. But no joke-jokes helped: at the next service meeting, my friends received their punishments. However, my name was absent in the letter, and this joy passed me by. I realized that this way, the major decided to embroil me with my friends.

Spring came to an end, and with it ended the basketball competition. I almost did not see Anfisa, but even if I came face to face with her, we pretended not to notice each other. At such moments, I transposed her into the arms of an elderly police major; she became disgusting to me.

Alekseev was summoned to the motorcycle racers’ gatherings; he left to prepare for the championship of Siberia and the Far East. A few days later, on a Saturday evening, we decided to visit him and went to the camp site. Mishka told us that the national team of Buryatia was placed for training on the basis of “Maksimikha.” She was far from Ulan-Ude, on the shores of Lake Baikal, almost near the Holy Nose peninsula. But there it was a track on which motorcyclists drove along the cinder tracks, as well as the forest, where they rode cross-country terrain. When we arrived, it was already dark. The guys had dinner, but as they say, we had it with us. We gathered in the gazebo on the beach. A cold wind blew from Baikal; the lake had just recently been freed of ice. We discussed our affairs, told jokes, but I felt some tension in Mishkin’s gaze, and finally, with a nod, he suggested that I step aside. The conversation intrigued me, but Mishkin intrigued me even more.

“You will not be nervous if I tell you something?”

“No. Do I look like a neurasthenic?” I answered the question with a question.

“Well, now, your Anfisa…” Alekseev faltered. “In general, the police major is not her father, and she is not his daughter…”

“Who is she, then?” I asked.

“His lover,” Mishka sympathetically looked into my eyes and repeated himself: lover.
I shrugged and grinned.

“Well, why should I be nervous? It happens…”

We returned to the gazebo.

A week later, an urgent request came to the unit for an officer who wanted to serve in Kamchatka. I went through all the requirements and wrote a report about the transfer.


* Operation Y: a popular Soviet comedy movie.

** Starlie: slang for the military rank of senior lieutenant.