One otherwise unremarkable July day, Nikifor Alexandrovich Rosanov, the highest ranking janitor of Lenin’s Mausoleum and hence of the entire Russian Republic, quit his job. Though he quit voluntarily, he told everyone he was laid off. As a member of a persecuted religious sect, he planned to apply for an American visa, and the loss of job would strengthen his case. Actually, only his wife Praskovia was a Niece of the Savior, but as her husband, he qualified for American compassion as well.
He wasn’t exactly sure why he wanted to emigrate. Doubtless, things were way too sour in today’s Russia, but this was his home. He kept telling Praskovia the joke about the intestinal worm and her daughter sticking their heads out of the asshole.
“Mommy, look! Green grass! Sunshine! Fresh air! Can we crawl out and live there?”
“No, dear. Asshole is our motherland.”
But everybody else he knew either had already emigrated or tried to emigrate and was Nikifor worse than the rest? He knew that America’s borders were besieged by the tide of prospective immigrants, and he always drew praises from his friends for his ability to push himself through the crowd.
He imagined the immigrants storming in, like a mob of would-be passengers assailing the Moscow city bus at peak hours. Mexicans in giant straw hats with guitars over their backs. Latin Americans in tight suits of Flamenco dancers. Chinese in black and white pajamas. Englishmen in checkered caps, lit pipes in their yellow teeth. Frenchmen in berets, carrying baskets of croissants and live frogs. Albanians with AK-47s. Iranians with bombs and folded carpets. Africans with leopards in tow. Greeks with ancient vases under their arms. And of course Russians with suitcases, icons on their necks, grandparents, and crying babies.
The night before his interview at the American embassy, Nikifor dreamed of two Chechens in fur ushanka hats and pinstriped pants at the back steps of the Mausoleum. Their unbuttoned shirts displayed jewelry worth enough to feed a whole nursing home in central Russia for a year.
“Come on, sweet soul,” the older one said with a throaty accent, touching Nikifor’s sleeve with his clawed hand. His eyes were small and round, two worn copper kopecks. “We are leaving home tomorrow. We must see Him. What if they shall bury Him soon?”
“Told you, boys. Too late. The Mausoleum’s closed for the day,” Nikifor replied firmly.
“Here, dear soul,” the younger one said and handed Nikifor a thousand dollar bill. Nikifor had never seen such a bill before, but this one had to be genuine. It carried a clear sign in grammatically correct Russian: “1000 amerikanskih dolarov” as well as a portrait of the former president Klinton and his new wife, Monika Levinskaya. It was the right color, gray-green, like Nikifor’s own face in the morning following a party the night before. Even the size was right—two thirds of a standard pillowcase.
“Do us a favor,” the younger Chechen said. His teeth were long canine incisors. “We shall be much obliged. We are just about worshipping Him.”
“All right, boys,” Nikifor said and led them to the back door. “You’re good guys. I’ll grant you an exception.”
He was afraid that the object of his caretaking—the body of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin—was presently alive to lecture him. Lenin had a habit of doing that in Nikifor’s dreams. But fortunately the Leader was dead at this point. While the Chechens were ogling and conversing in their barbaric tongue, Nikifor swept the clean floors again, just in case.
“Don’t!” he cried when the younger one attempted to cut off Lenin’s medal of the Red Banner with a cutting tool that looked like a cross between a Swiss Army knife and a Caucasian Mountains dagger—kinjal. But it was too late. Lenin sat bolt straight, opened his mouth, bigger than Nikifor’s head, and cried out, “Aaaaah!”
Nikifor awoke. His armpits streamed under his imported pajama top and his face was wet. The alarm clock next to his side of the bed kept crying in Lenin’s angry voice, “Aaaaah!”
Two hours later, Nikifor and his wife Praskovia sat in the soft chairs facing an American embassy official. He was big, even bigger than Nikifor’s two meters and hundred kilos. His blond mustache was trimmed neater than Nikifor’s. His tie was the color of a $1000 bill.
“Why do you claim you were persecuted, Mr. Rosanov?” he asked in fluent Russian.
“I lost my job at the Mausoleum when my wife converted to the Nieces and Nephews of the Savior persecuted church,” Nikifor said in a well-rehearsed voice, laying down his ace card. He wore his best wool suit and a somber tie. His 12-year-old son Petka stood behind him, probably chewing gum in spite of Nikifor and Praskovia’s strong warning against it. “I’m currently unemployed and my family suffers great hardship.”
“How can you prove that you lost your job because of the religious persecution? Maybe you were laid off as a result of your government’s anti-drinking campaign?”
That question Nikifor had not anticipated. He glanced at Praskovia who was staring at the finger scanning machine with a grimace of naked horror. Some of her parishioners claimed that this machine, which had recently replaced the conventional ink fingerprinting, was the spawn of the devil. They said it inserted a microchip under a person’s skin. That microchip supposedly allowed the authorities to trace the subject and therefore to make Satan’s control easier in his upcoming kingdom.
“Well?” the official said. “Maybe you can produce a witness?”
“I. . . I don’t know.”
“You have to produce a witness in 48 hours or your application will be denied.”
At home, in his two-room apartment, Nikifor slapped Petka on the face with the back of his hand. A couple of years earlier, he would slap Praskovia too, to calm his nerves and to enjoy her ineffective resistance. But lately she would just stare in his face, like a martyr from a Byzantine icon, making slapping her a dull exercise in brutality. Moreover, he was slightly afraid of her now. What if God really existed and was on her side?
Later that night, Nikifor had a glass of vodka while Praskovia was praying. Then he fell asleep and dreamed again.
In that dream, he mounted the steps of the Mausoleum, carrying his lunch box, as he did every working day before his layoff, and entered the room with walls glowing as if covered by jewels. Once inside, he saw Lenin sitting on his resting place and shaking his finger at Nikifor.
“Didn’t I tell you not to bring vodka in here?” Lenin said. Then he jumped off his pedestal, throwing away the blanket that covered the lower parts of his body, grabbed Nikifor’s shoulder with inhuman force, and shouted right in his ear, “Didn’t I?”
“Sorry, Vladimir Ilyich. Won’t do it again. Just help me to get the American visa.”
“Sweet Savior, no more vodka!”
At this point Nikifor awoke. Instead of Lenin, Praskovia was shaking his shoulder. In her other hand, she held an almost empty half-liter bottle of Moscovskaya. The morning sun made her ears red.
“No more vodka, Nikifor,” she cried again. “If the Americans smell vodka on your breath, they will never grant us visas. How many times should I tell you this?”
An hour later, Nikifor sat on the bench outside his apartment house, next to his friend the Arbuzman. The friend’s real name was Vasiliev, but everybody called him the Arbuzman because, in addition to being a junior Mausoleum janitor, he also sold watermelons, arbuzes, and because the English word “man” was in high fashion among some Muscovites. The Arbuzman held an unopened bottle of Moscovskaya and Nikifor held three peeled cucumbers wrapped in yesterday’s issue of Izvestia.
“Where the hell is Mitya?” Nikifor said. “I’ll wait another five minutes and not a second more.”
“But he gave money,” the Arbuzman said. He was even bigger than the American official. His bald head shone. “We can’t cut him off now.”
“I dreamt of Lenin again,” Nikifor said. “He was pissed.”
“I would be pissed too, if I were him. I’m pissed even in my present in-carna-tion,” the Arbuzman stuck out his tongue, struggling with a difficult word. “Everything goes to hell. And we, the Russian intelligentsia, suffer the most.”
“We sure do.”
“We’re not proud any more,” the Arbuzman continued. “Remember what the poet Mayakovsky said? “Look and envy—I’m the citizen of the Soviet Union.”“
“Envy my ass.”
They sat silently for a few minutes, watching their neighbor Ivan Dyatlov, a New Russian, climbing into his Jeep Cherokee Laredo. Ivan was wide in the hips but thin in the shoulders. He wore a knee-length leather jacket, like the Mafia goons. His leather boots shone brighter than the Arbuzman’s head.
“The other day them Mafia came to the Grushins’,” Nikifor said. “Brought their own notary public. Shoved a gun into Nikolai’s face. Forced him to sign the bill of sale. Now the Mafia goon owns the apartment and the Grushins are his renters.”
“I wish I were in your shoes,” the Arbuzman said. “To get the American visas soon. It makes me wanting that my wife would convert to Nieces of the Savior, too. I don’t mind being persecuted for a few months for that. This is not the KGB we are talking about.”
“No way, buddy,” Nikifor said. “You don’t want a Niece of the Savior wife. Take my word.”
“What, praying too much?”
“If only that. She’s honest now. And she wants me to be honest, too. Why, the other day Dyatlov’s son Boriska forgot his Walkman on the bench. I brought it home. She goes, “Give it back.” I go, “No way, Jose.” She goes, “Give it back. It’s not yours. It’s a sin to keep it.” I got seared. Is a sin like a curse? You tell me. I gave it back.”
“Sounds like trouble.”
“Worse yet, what if she is still honest in America? That’s what hurts me the most.”
“Yeah, buddy. I hear you. Everything is balanced.”
“You tell me. But mind you, we don’t have the visas yet. And I might need your help.”
They sat silently for a while, chewing on the cucumbers. Kids ran around, playing Ours and the Germans.
“Mitya’s not coming,” Nikifor finally said. “Let’s kill it.”
They killed the bottle.
“Listen, Arbuzman, I need a witness. To prove that I was laid off because of my wife’s religion. Will you testify?”
The Arbuzman swallowed the last mouthful of cucumbers. “This apartment building is a lucky one. The Grinbergs immigrated to Israel. The Mullers left for Germany. Professor Koltsov is teaching biology at SUNY Binghamton, and I hear he’s about to get his Green Card.”
“You forgot Vera the orphan, the one who married an American millionaire. Rumor has it she lives like a queen in Las Vegas.”
“Oh, yeah. Her Godfather Boris showed me pictures. Her—next to Caesar and her—next to a pyramid.”
“So, will you help?” Nikifor asked again.
“Sure,” the Arbuzman said, “sure, pal. Everything for my buddy.” He raised the bottle to the light. It was totally empty. The Arbuzman sighed.
“Sure,” he said. “I will testify. Will cost you a thousand dollars.”
Nikifor felt blood flowing to his cheeks—a sure sign of an impending fight. Yet he understood that under the circumstances beating the Arbuzman up, even if he could manage it, wouldn’t help Nikifor a bit.
“I don’t have a thousand dollars,” he said evenly. “First, The Second Citizen went belly up. Remember them? Then my layoff. We have nothing left.”
The Arbuzman shook the empty bottle over his own eager mouth. Not a single drop came out. “I hear you. I lost my savings too when my bank collapsed. Workers Savings.” He placed the bottle in the pocket of his windbreaker. Twenty empty bottles returned—one full bottle gained. That was his motto.
“That’s good,” the Arbuzman said. “It seems to me, I will have the pleasure of your company for years to come.”
Nikifor went home. He tiptoed past praying Praskovia, slid under the blanket and turned away from her side of the bed. A few minutes later, he was snoring louder than the Spassky Tower clock striking the hour.
He entered the Mausoleum. Lenin was walking around the big room, his hands behind his back. Nikifor noticed that while his jacket was clean, his pants needed dusting. Arbuzman, buddy, he thought. Where the hell is your work ethic?
“Vladimir Ilyich, I need your help,” he said aloud.
Lenin kept pacing, like a drunk in one of Moscow’s many sobering houses.
“Comrade Lenin, please ask the Arbuzman to be my witness.”
“Why would I want you to go to America?” Lenin asked, looking at Nikifor out of the corner of his yellow eye. “Because your bank collapsed? Because you are afraid of the Mafia? Because you fear for you son’s future? Not good enough. Your sufferings are just collateral damage. . . . How will your immigration serve the Proletarians of the World?”
“Because I will join their Communist Party and will bring Your Word to the American working class.” He thought for a moment and added the words he remembered from his Young Pioneers’ times. “Honest to Lenin.”
“I shall see about that,” Lenin said and lay down on the pedestal. “Leave me alone now.”
Nikifor awoke from his nap and came to the bench again. The Arbuzman was either already there or still there. They sat silently for a while.
“So, will you testify?” Nikifor asked.
“Will you pay me a thousand dollars?”
“Listen, we’ve worked together for 11 years. Do me a favor, will you? Please.”
The Arbuzman looked Nikifor straight in his sad eyes. A tear rolled down Nikifor’s cheek. The Arbuzman hugged him. “Sure, buddy, I will do it. For a mere five hundred.”
A month later, on the plane to New York, Nikifor fell asleep and dreamt.
Lenin stood on the top of the Mausoleum giving a speech, as he used to do back in the 20’s. Except he had only three people for the audience—Nikifor, the Arbuzman and Mitya. The rest of Red Square was utterly empty. Lenin talked long and loud, but Nikifor understood not a single word. He woke up. The loudspeaker was blabbering in English. A ray of sunshine hit Nikifor’s face. In the next seat, Petka grinned widely over a glossy magazine with a woman in a bathing suit. Praskovia took Nikifor’s hand. She looked happy. After her crying on her knees, the Americans had taken her fingerprints the old-fashioned way.
“America,” Praskovia said, smiling and pointing to the window that showed nothing but white clouds. “We’re coming to the land of freedom. We are coming home, Nikifor.”
“Home my ass,” Nikifor said through his teeth.
He looked forward to trying some whisky. Tene-see Sippin’ whiskey sounded particularly interesting. Or was it Ken-tuki? He imagined the Arbuzman and Mitya sipping run-of-the-mill vodka and he laughed. He might send them a bottle. Or he might not. The possibilities for him, now a proud American, were endless. Because freedom meant just that. Possibilities and opportunities. Such as the possibility of following a promise, or opportunity to disregard it. As the poet Mayakovsky said, “Reality’s now, and dreams are—behind.”
“Home my ass,” he repeated and wiped off a tear with a tissue.
A year later, Nikifor fought against insomnia every night. He couldn’t fall asleep for hours, kept waking up, and even when he slept, his sleep was dreamless. The last time he dreamt, during his first night in America, he’d seen Lenin delivering a speech from the top of his resting place, the Mausoleum.
During that speech, Nikifor and his Moscow drinking buddies, the Arbuzman and Mitya, stood in their terrycloth bathrobes at attention while Lenin was speaking in tongues, just like Praskovia did during church services. Red Square was utterly empty save for Lenin and his three listeners.
Nikifor had grown used to Lenin dreams, like a drunkard grows used to headaches and nausea.
Now the dreams were gone and so was Lenin. Nikifor wanted both back. He felt empty without them, like an eggshell without a yolk. He would give up just about anything for their return, except his green card, refugee assistance benefits, and help from the church.
In the morning after one of those restless, Lenin-less nights, Nikifor came to a bench outside of his Binghamton, New York apartment. His new friend, Aron Zlatkin, who had emigrated to the States six months before Nikifor, sat there already, smoking his morning cigarette. On the next bench, Petka chatted with two Nieces of the Savior girls dressed, in spite of the heat, in ankle-length skirts and long-sleeved blouses. The girls shot disapproving glances at Aron’s cigarette and his Grateful Dead T-shirt with a skull, but he paid no attention to them.
“How are you, Aron?” Nikifor sat down next to his friend. He was a nonsmoker, but smoke didn’t bother him.
“So, did you sleep well?”
“Nope. I slept maybe for four hours, on and off. And no dreams. I bet you it’s because I stopped drinking. I used to get a half a glass of vodka before the bed. Slept like a baby. If not for Praskovia. . . .”
“Let me give you an advice.” Aron exhaled a ring of smoke and watched it rising toward the morning skies for a while. His long, curly-blond hair flew around his head, which reminded Nikifor of an ancient prophet from a Hollywood movie. “You need to exercise, my friend.”
Back in Moscow, Nikifor had stayed away from Jews. He had nothing against them personally, but Mitya, his former drinking buddy, had joined Zhirinovski’s party and Nikifor stayed away from Jews for Mitya’s sake.
“They control everything,” Mitya had said shortly after joining. “They rule the world.”
“If they do, why don’t you convert to Judaism?” Nikifor had said.
“You see! Even you are already under their influence.”
Here, in Binghamton’s Sanderson Park Apartments, the only Russian speakers were a handful of Jews, several hundred Nieces and Nephews of the Savior and a smattering of various others, all refugees from the former Soviet Union. The Nieces and Nephews were nondrinkers, nonsmokers, and constantly praying people. Worse still, instead of discussing politics, sports, and women, they just talked about miracles, and the upcoming battle between the Savior and AntiSavior. Therefore, they couldn’t be considered true Russian intelligentsia and belong to the circle of Nikifor’s friends.
“You’re right, buddy,” Nikifor said now. “Exercise is good.”
“How about getting exercise and making some money along the way? I know a rich engineer in the area. His name’s Arutyan and he speaks Russian. He needs people to mow his lawn and he pays cash, hush-hush. I was considering to go by myself, but Luba takes the car to work and a bus ride is too darn long. How about us going together?”
Nikifor had made an extra buck in America only once so far, when he was collecting parking fees at his wife’s church parking lot. There was a visiting Broadway show Oh, Calcutta! in the theater across the street from the church, and the volunteer parishioners were divided in two groups. A smaller one collected parking fees and the bigger one picketed the show with placards “You will burn in hell” and “Would you watch your Mom dancing naked?”
“Sounds like a deal,” Nikifor said presently. “I’ll take my Phew-Ick.”
“No, Johnny said Phew-Ick.”
Aron got up and pointed to the car’s grill. “B-u-i-c-k. See? Buick!”
“Look who is talking. Don’t you know how complicated the English spelling is?”
“Big deal English. Aren’t you guys supposed to be speaking in tongues?”
“Tongues my ass,” Nikifor said. “I don’t believe in this shit. But without Praskovia, I would still be back in Russia with no money, no future, and with the Mafia walking all over me.”
Aron sighed. “Do you owe the Mafia?”
“No, but they walk all over everybody.”
They sat silently for a while.
“Did you hear what happened in Kosovo?” Nikifor said. “The Albanians killed a whole bunch of Serbs again. But nobody reports it. Everything is hush-hush.”
“They are only paid to report the Serbs’ atrocities,” Aron said. “By the way, do you know how much a Time journalist gets?”
Nikifor thought about it. Between the welfare and the Nieces and Nephews of the Savior’s church assistance he was making $700 a month. Since the journalists probably didn’t get Nieces and Nephews assistance . . .
“$2100 a month?” he ventured.
“Nikifor, Nikifor! $2100 a month? I smell a new arrival again! I know it on a good authority that an experienced Time journalist makes $4000 a month.”
They paused again, watching two squirrels chasing each other.
“The only squirrels I saw back home were on the hats of the New Russians,” Aron said.
“Big deal, squirrels! I watched “Discovery Wild” the other day,” Nikifor said. “I saw a lioness catching a zebra. That was cool.”
The next day, they were sweating in Nikifor’s Phew-Ick, driving toward the rich engineer’s house. The air conditioner whined but produced no cold air. Nikifor had a half of a glass of whiskey earlier in the morning and now his head hurt. The whiskey turned out to be undiluted shit compared with vodka, and American pickles were too sweet for his taste. Yet he couldn’t afford imported vodka and he was suspicious of local brands.
“Purrs like a kitten,” Nikifor said in English. A Vietnamese fellow taught this phrase to him in their English As A Second Language class. Truth was, if the sound the car’s engine produced was to be called purring, then it purred louder than a family of tigers with a bad cold. But Nikifor liked the phrase. And he liked the salesman who sold him the car, too.
That was just a week ago. Aron had taken him to the dealership.
“I’m Johnny,” the salesman had said, shaking Nikifor’s hand vigorously. “Nice to meet you.”
He was dressed in a shiny suit, green like the scum on the surface of a bog, and he wore a yellow shirt and a purple tie. His breath smelled of beer and Nikifor liked that.
“This Phew-Ick’s asking price is two grand,” Johnny said. “But you guys look like decent folks. Besides, it’s my company’s policy to give discounts to people like you. The other day we gave a big discount to a nun. Since you are Russian immigrants,” he paused for effect. “Since you are Russian immigrants, I will sell you this car for $1900. If you pay right now, cash.”
“We shall be offering you $1850,” Aron said. “And not a penis more.”
Johnny frowned. “I have to check with my manager. Be right back.”
“Why did you do that?” Nikifor hissed when Johnny left. “What if the manager says no?”
“Well, if you don’t risk, you don’t eat sweet pies,” Aron said in a voice less steady than usual. Sweat ran down his face like the waters of the Deluge.
Ten minutes later, Johnny came. His grin was wider than the Grand Canyon and his eyes shone like uncirculated silver dollars. “Congratulations, gentlemen. The manager has approved the price!”
Now, a week later, Nikifor pulled his Phew-Ick into the rich engineer’s driveway, next to a shiny gray car.
“Ford Taurus,” Aron said, his voice full of awe. “He bought it almost brand new.”
Arutyan came out of his split-level house, wearing dirty white sneakers and a jogging suit, stained at the armpits. He was considerably shorter than Nikifor’s two meters but wider, except for the neck and shoulders.
“Hello,” he said in Russian. He had an accent not unlike the Chechens’ from Nikifor’s dreams back home.
The rich engineer led Nikifor and Aron to the back of his house. “Here’s my garden,” he said, pointing to the overgrown back yard. “I like to sit on the deck watching it. It’s very relaxing. Sometimes I even sleep here in that hammock. And here is the lawnmower. You can take turns. I’ll pay you a flat rate of $10 each. But please move your car. It’s leaking oil all over my driveway.”
Nikifor and Aron took turns. It was hot, at least 35 degrees Celsius and humid. Small American insects buzzed around Nikifor’s wet face and crawled into his body’s orifices. He didn’t remember Russian insects being that enterprising. Nikifor hadn’t worked this hard for a long time, and his heart was kicking his ribs from the inside, perhaps like a baby inside a womb, and his head was heavy as if he wore a lead helmet.
A full-bodied woman, probably Arutyan’s wife, came from the house with two clear plastic cups of water. She was dressed in a flower-patterned sun dress, but Nikifor was so uncomfortable that he didn’t even think of appraising her generously exposed legs and breasts. His head felt even worse now, as if one of the insects had succeeded in crawling into his brain and was building an apartment house in there.
Nikifor drank his water and took the cup back to his Phew-Ick. He still couldn’t get used to the American habit of throwing out good things. He unlocked the trunk. My head, he thought. My head. Then he saw exploding stars and then darkness covered all.
He came to in the hospital. Praskovia, Petka and Aron sat next to his bed.
“What happened?” Nikifor croaked.
“You had a sun stroke,” Praskovia said, smoothing her long skirt with her arthritic hands. “I will pray for you. Petka and I will pray for you.”
Petka sighed. Nikifor closed his eyes. He felt like his brain wanted to jump out of his head and climb into a fridge.
“You’ll be fine, buddy,” boomed Aron. “The doctor said so. It’s a good Jewish doctor.”
Later that night, the nurse gave Nikifor a pill. He fell asleep and finally he had a dream. In his dream, he was back in the Mausoleum facing Lenin, who sat on his resting place with his hands crossed on his chest. With sadness of heart, Nikifor noticed that the Leader’s suit was in need of cleaning.
“I thought you would join the American Communist Party,” Lenin said. “I counted on you. Why did you fail me?”
“I’m sorry, Vladimir Ilyich, but there are no Communists in Binghamton. We are four hours drive from New York City. The people here are conservative. They vote Republican.”
“No Communists?” Lenin swallowed hard. “You have to move, then. To New York or Chicago.”
Then Nikifor had another dream. He drove his Phew-Ick along a wide highway, came to the fork in the road and stopped.
On the right side there was a house, even bigger than Arutyan’s. Two brand-new Tauruses were parked in the driveway. The house was surrounded by a garden. Under every tree stood a plastic garbage bag with a stenciled sign, “One Million Dollars.” Men in pajamas slept in hammocks, smiling in their sleep.
On the left side stood a suited gentleman with a red banner in his hands. The sign on the flag said, “Welfare recipients of the world, unite!” The gentleman looked much like Johnny the car salesman, just older. His smile reminded Nikifor of the lioness tearing the balls off the zebra on the Discovery channel. On the other hand, the garbage bags looked like the ones he used to store empty vodka bottles back home. Fifty empty bottles brought a full one.
Nikifor got out of the car and walked on foot. He saw a tall ladder, all the way to the skies. A muscled man in a top hat, striped pants and a goatee was holding it while people elbowed each other to climb up. Nikifor circled the group, then mounted the shoulders of the man in a top hat from behind, stepped from there onto the back side of the ladder and climbed up ahead of the crowd.
He awoke. It was dark. Somebody snored behind a curtain, nurses were laughing at their station and the intercom was calling for Dr. Luu-eees or a similar incomprehensible name. Nikifor came to the window overlooking a parking lot. He had never seen so many different cars in one place.
He knew what to do now. He’d move to New York or Chicago after all. Big cities have many ladders to mount, too steep for the natives.
“America,” he said, flattening his pudgy nose against the window. “The land of dreams. Dreams my ass.”