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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fried Chicken That Igor Will Never Forget

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Igor didn't look too well after downing a heaping plateful of my fried chicken. And he didn't look any better when I saw him next, peering down from a third-story hospital window.

Igor, the 14-year-old son of my friend Sergei, promptly threw up the chicken after dinner. Sergei told him to drink a glass of hot milk with honey. That came up a few minutes later.

"I'm never eating chicken again," he declared, moaning.

Sergei called the next day to announce that his ex-wife had taken Igor to the hospital with "dirty hand disease," otherwise known as hepatitis. Igor had caught the sickness a few days earlier after sharing lunch with an infected classmate.

Sergei and I quickly got examined by a doctor and were given a clean bill of health. The doctor noticed my self-consciousness and enthusiastically reassured me that thousands of Muscovites come down with hepatitis every year.

The weekend rolled around and Sergei called again. "Let's go visit Igor in the hospital and get him something to eat," he said. "I'm sure he's as hungry as a dog." Not to mention dissatisfied with the hospital's rations of kasha and soup, I later learned.

After 45 minutes by metro and 1 1/2 hours by bus, we found ourselves standing by a row of kiosks in a forested corner of the city. Behind the shops, a rocky path led to a crumbling hospital building.

"We'll first ask Igor what he wants," said Sergei, who hadn't yet paid his son a visit.

The nurse behind the glass window consulted a dog-eared ledger. "Igor is on the third floor. Go to the back and call for him."

We exited the building, walked around to the back and looked up at the tightly locked windows. Some had signs reading "Vova," "Shura" and "Misha."

A lone woman was smiling and waving up at one window.

A chunky, white-coated woman with a large cyst on her neck stood at an open service entrance, puffing on a cigarette.

"How do we find out where my son is?" Sergei asked her.

She shrugged. "Yell."

"Igor!" Sergei roared. Curious heads popped up in the windows.

A few yells later Igor's forlorn face appeared. The boy waved and made elaborate, sweeping motions with his hands. Sergei mimicked the motions and nodded. "He wants us to go around to the front," he explained.

We found Igor standing at the bathroom window, the upper corner of which opened.

Sergei whipped out a notebook and a marker and wrote "Hi!"

He held up the paper. Igor nodded and bent down. Seconds later he resurfaced with a paper reading "Hi!!"

"What do you need?" Sergei wrote.

"One minute," Igor signaled with a finger.

He shoved a hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. Standing on his toes on the window sill, he tossed out the paper.

It was a carefully prepared list of what he wanted. "Borzhomi mineral water, light honey, pears, bananas, (NO ORANGES), hard candy (NO CHOCOLATE), sukhariki, bubliki ..." and so on.

Sergei grinned and flashed his notebook at Igor. "No chicken?"

Igor wrinkled his nose.

"Are you OK?"

"Fine."

Igor wrote on another paper. "Bored."

Abruptly, a light rain began to fall. We waved goodbye and ran to the kiosks -- which helpfully had every item on Igor's list.

Back in the hospital, the nurse's glass window was firmly closed. A new sign posted on the glass read: "Visiting hours end at 5:30 p.m."

It was 5:32.

"I'll come back tomorrow," Sergei said with a sigh. "He'll be here for another month anyway."

Andrew McChesney is deputy editor of The Moscow Times.