'One,two,three...we have about three thousand rubles left.'
Chaplin reached across the bar for another shot of vodka. Even he couldn't resist the wince as it went down.
'That's not bad, right?'
'That's about a hundred dollars.'
I followed his lead with another shot, the hot after burn churning my stomach and the barman took no time in filling up our shot glasses. If it was one thing the Russian could do, it was drink. Most likely, it was the only thing keeping the winter chill from their bones.
'Well maybe we should stop drinking it away then?'
Our shot glasses hit the table and another round was poured. My blinking was slowing down rapidly as the world became less solid and more water based.
'Ever the voice of reason little Wren.'
'Well then what do you suggest?'
The barman grinned this time when he poured out the vodka. Shaking his head, another drunkard resting his head on the sticky bar top responded to his guttural voice. They were both laughing, no doubt at our expense. Stupid foreigners.
'We get a job.'
'Well, we can't survive on vodka forever.'
'Why not, it's all warm and fuzzy.'
His fingers lifted my chin and I found myself squinting up at him. His breath smelt of hot vodka burn and cigarettes.
'Why Birdy, are you drunk already?'
'Shudup, you can't be too far off either.'
His head titled back and I saw his adam's apple quiver, trying to stop the vodka going down. His skin was a little filmy with sweat and his hands shook.
'I think we should get something.'
Trying to unscrew his face, he gasped out his words. Hand wiping at his mouth.
'A momento, you know, something to remember this by.'
He looked round the empty bar, taking in the dark light and drunk air.
I swiped at his arm, nearly falling off the stool.
'No dickhead, stop being such a smart ass. I mean this as in us, on the road.'
'Like a tattoo?'
He was wiggling his eyebrows, fingers curling round his lips as he watched me take another shot.
'No, nothing like a tattoo.'
He was silent, watching me struggle with the last shot. My fingers were digging into the table top and my stomach was burning now. Between us was my heavy breathing and swaying body. I could hear my own head spinning.
'Let's make a bet.'
He tugged at the barman's arm and did some weird half sign language talk. I tried clamping my teeth down hard to alleviate the numbness. Three shiny new shot glasses were placed in front of me each filled with clear liquid.
'little bird, may I present to you; Russian Roulette.'
'Where's the gun, I see no gun.'
I swayed again and Chaplin's arm pulled taut on my waist and tightened when he started up his sentence again.
'Two of these glasses are filled with water, one with vodka. You guess, you drink, you win or you lose.'
I blinked at the glasses then back at him.
'What if I win?'
'Then I will get a job to replenish our funds.'
His fingers brushed down the knots of my spine, toying with each one.
'And if I lose?'
His hand stopped at the base of my spine and a shiver ran through me.
'You'll get a tattoo of my choosing right here.'
He pressed his clammy hand right into the curve of my back.
'What? Why is it you get a cool, life changing win and all I get is a crappy, responsible one?'
'Because I make better life choices than you do, now –'
He pushed the shot glasses towards me,
'Choose one, and nosniffing.'
Propelled forward by his hand, I reluctantly picked up the middle glass, examining its contents. I brought it closer to my lips.
'This hardly seems fair.'
With no smart ass comment from Chaplin, I closed my eyes and downed the liquid. Only to cough and splutter the burning hot vodka back up. Chaplin laughed, rich and throaty, hands slamming on the table as he wheezed his way through on last laugh.
Regaining myself, I signalled to the barman to bring us three more glasses.
'Best out of schixteen.'
Chaplin's untameable pride in his win making it impossible to stop.