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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Extra Month's Salary Is Almost Good as Gold

My neighbor, who works as a researcher at one of our once-famous defense industry plants, was over for tea and told me this story.

It all began when he unexpectedly received a bonus at work — a whole extra month’s salary of 1,200 rubles. He couldn’t believe his luck. Without a second thought, he decided not to tell his wife, Natasha, but instead to spend the entire sum on a gift for her.

After all, he said, in 25 years of married life, she had never said the words "I want …" or "Buy me…". He told me that a friend of his named Nikolai and Nikolai’s wife, Yelena, had been over recently to visit. Although my friend and Nikolai served together in the army, Nikolai had since moved on to better things and was now a "new Russian." Judging from the fancy cake they brought with them and their expensive clothes, they weren’t hurting much for money. Both Nikolai and Yelena spoke and moved with a haughty confidence that they had never had before.

My friend and his wife are not envious people. But this time, my friend noticed that Natasha simply couldn’t take her eyes off the finely woven golden chain around Yelena’s neck. "At that moment," my friend said, "I saw something in Natasha that I’d never seen before — jealousy, desire, pain …".

Yelena noticed it, too. "Do you like it? Kolya gave it to me. It cost just 500…" she paused for effect, "…dollars, of course." Just? My friend earns 1,200 rubles a month, and Natasha, a kindergarten teacher, gets 900 rubles. Together, that’s less than $80.

While my friend was adding this up, Yelena slipped the necklace off and, like a snake, it slithered into Natasha’s hand. "Try it on."

This incident was all my friend could think of when he received his unexpected bonus. He knew that he couldn’t buy the same necklace with his paltry 1,200 rubles, but hoped he would be able to find something nice.

A bell rang as he entered the store and a security guard looked him up and down. My friend did his best to look like he belonged there. "After all," he thought, "even rich people sometimes wear modest clothes." The jewelry in the case glittered and sparkled, but my friend was even more dazzled by the outrageous figures on the price tags.

When he was almost about to completely despair of finding anything to buy, he spotted a gold chain. It was exactly like Yelena’s. The very one. And the price was 1150 rubles.

"It isn’t real gold," the saleswoman said, noticing what he was looking at. "But it is quite pretty and looks like the real thing."

"Yes, it does," said my friend. "It looks just like the real thing." And he left.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and a freelance journalist living in Moscow.