Excuse me, Miss Bennett, I know you’re running to file a story with your newspaper, but do you have a minute to chat?
I get to be on the receiving end of an interview? You bet.
Thanks. Here, drinks are on me — let’s get two vodkas. Now, tell me, how long have you been in Moscow?
Swell stuff, this vodka. I showed up here at the beginning of this year. February. So it’s been six months now.
What do you make of Russia?
For starters, the winter is way too long. They were still chipping ice out of the river in June, and the building I’m living in only turns the heat on every other day. Though these white nights in summer are to die for. Not that I’m complaining. It’s hard work building a new kind of life here, and I’m glad I get to watch the rooskies try. I love their sense of humor and adventure — I think they have a lot in common with us Americans.
Miss Bennett, you’ve been married before, but aren’t attached at the moment. Is that right?
Ah, Mike Mitchell, that was my first husband. A swell guy, but we weren’t cut out for marriage. Or he wasn’t.
But are you seeing anyone now?
Well, there is one young man. He’s an actor in the opera and he says he used to live in a palace when he was a kid (don’t tell the secret police about his class history). We do like to go on long walks around the city.
What do you want to accomplish in your time in Moscow?
Look, my friends back in San Francisco tell me that everything there is washed up. The Depression is eating them alive. I came here … for personal reasons but also because I wanted to see if the Soviets could find another way to do right by the little guy. I’m not sure they can, but I’m here to write some stories about how they’re trying. And maybe I’ll help the English-speaking workers here feel a little more at home.
There are English-speaking workers in Moscow?
Sure there are! The Bolsheviks have invited all sorts of foreigners in to help them learn the things that Russians couldn’t learn while stuck in feudalism. They’re industrializing, and it’s pretty swell to watch.
What do you do for fun?
You’d think with all the writing I do for work that I’d be sick of my typewriter, but an unanswered letter bothers me like a cherry stone under a saucer. And I do love keeping up with my friends back home, so I write a lot of letters. The lady I’m staying with is also one of the editors at the newspaper I’m working at, so she doesn’t have much time for socializing. But I think I’m meeting some new people to go to parties with. I hope.
And there’s that former palace-dweller of yours.
I’m not sure he’s mine! Though he is handsome.
What advice do you have for anyone thinking of coming to Russia?
Bring a warm coat! And an open mind. I see so many high-minded people strutting through here who have already decided what we’re about before they even see Moscow. This city’s always changing, and you never know what you’re going to find.
We’re excited to see what you find, Milly! Now go file that story, and we can’t wait to read what you do next.
Carrie Callaghan is the author of “Salt the Snow,” (Amberjack, Feb. 4, 2020), her second novel. She lives in Maryland with her family, where she drinks altogether too much tea. She’d love to hear from you on Twitteror Facebook.