Children have flocked to beer, to be more European, and more modern. Men still drink vodka. What is the saying? Drinking beer without vodka is like throwing money into the wind. Now this is more so, because taxes on vodka are low, but on beer they are high.
The government estimates one in four bottle of vodka are poisonous, bootlegged from industrial alcohols. One hundred people die a day from it, they say. We die at 60 anyway, because we drink too much, over 15 liters per year.
The revolver is not a Kalashnikov, but it reminds me that the General has his own vodka now. At 82 proof it is called ‘military strength,’ but the dull growl of charcoal and cold menthol bite lack the simple beauty of the burning kiss of his weapon.
But my bottle cost nothing near 650 rubles. It’s samogon, home-made vodka. I tease it with a match and it belches fire. Vodka and pepper have a long history of use as a folk-remedy for ails from cough to baldness. I doubt there is enough pepper in all of Russia.
The candle flame dances right to left, casting shadows across the revolver and the bottle in turn. The air is cold, and my bones were never warm. My fingers touch the cylinder and I pull back, because the metal is colder even than my skin. The bottle is warmer to touch, but I doubt the liquor is so kind.
The bullet is jacketed with a hollow cavity, for minimum penetration and maximum effective diameter. One round in the chamber- one in six. The bottle could contain methanol, which causes blindness, severe abdominal pain, eventually death- one in four. I pour a shot, drink it down. I spin the chamber, smile, set the gun back on the table, and pour another. The gun might be quicker, but it isn’t any fun.