After the fiasco at the farm, Rimka had to go home, of course, but, secretly, she was thrilled by her adventure. In Moscow, she continued to volunteer whenever she could. When the Germans started to throw the fire bugs, the devices that ignited on contact, from their planes, she ran with a group of her friends on the roofs of the Russian Capital, pushing the missiles off to the streets below. Then she was drafted to work at the munitions' factory. She worked so hard that the other women began to complain: because of her the quotas were getting higher. That discouraged Rimka so much, she became depressed again. Women had to live in the dormitories; they worked for many hours without much rest. One day, Rimka hid to get some sleep during her shift. She was found, humiliated and almost court-martialed for abandoning her post during the war. Her age saved her, as well as the fact that, she was her sick Grandmother Velya's only caregiver.
Meyer and Wolfzon helped each other pick up their loads and set off walking again. While Meyer prayed to God in whom he didn't believe, Wolfzon was getting quietly high. In addition to smoking pot, he also dug out a bottle of hooch, and Meyer heard the musical sounds of the alcohol pouring into Wolfzon's mouth. No one could find drugs or booze better then Wolfzon. No matter, where the telephone unit was: how far in the countryside or in the most ransacked city; Wolfzon would lay his hands on anything he could sniff, snort, take, drink or cook to bring him the desired oblivion. It was a testament to the desperation of the Soviet government that a known drug addict and a flat-footed 18 year old boy were drafted at all.
Twenty minutes later, and Wolfzon crushed to the ground again. He sat in the middle of the road, laughing and slapping the mud on his face and uniform. Meyer sighed and dropped the spool. He yelled to Serov to catch up with them quickly. Serov approached, swearing. When Meyer explained his idea, he calmed down, though, and his eyes took on a sly expression. A young soldier would walk by himself, laying the wire on the ground and come back for them after he reached their destination and left the empty spool there. They would then be able to manage Wolfzon and the things he carried and set the poles for the wire which Meyer had laid earlier, so that it would be out of the way of the traffic. The lieutenant, obviously, thought that Meyer might get blown up anyway! If otherwise, they'll still be able to complete their task.
As Meyer walked off, he heard the sound of lieutenant's fists smacking into Wolfzon. Wolfzon just grunted and giggled in response to the blows.
The night became darker. Walking backwards with a heavy spool and unreeling the wire was hard work. Even so, from time to time Meyer looked up at the stars and mouthed prayers, taught to him by his grandfather.
His mind went from praying to thinking of his family. His parents emigrated to Russia from Poland sometime after the World War I. His mother was an orphan, but she made a life for herself by taking on the cleaning and sewing jobs. She had more money than her groom and even bought him a suit for the wedding! Jacob was a happy man once, a loving husband and father. He often played violin for his family and the guests. Anyone in need, even if they were complete strangers, were always welcome in his home for a meal or the shelter. Life beat the happiness out of him, but could not take away his charitable heart or the unique creativity with which he approached every task. Meyer moaned, thinking of how he wasn't allowed to go home to say goodbye to his dying father. A few months after that he received a notice of his brother, Samuel, missing in action. Meyer shuddered to think, what his starry-eyed poet and a bookworm brother went through in the war, before he disappeared somewhere in the bogs near Leningrad! At least Lev, his other sibling, was out of danger. He had a cushy posting in the supply corps. Meyer's mother lived in Moscow with her only daughter and the grandchildren. Meyer's mind flinched away from thinking about them. It was too painful: he couldn't help or protect them.
As he worked, the fear gradually dissipated. The spool was getting lighter. Meyer saw a crumbling wall of the abandoned village. He took a short rest in the club building, left everything he wouldn't need on the way back there and set out to help Wolfzon and Serov. They had to drug Wolfzon between them, while Serov kept on a steady stream of dire threats and racial slurs. He insisted on putting unconscious Wolfzon in a separate hut for the few hours before the dawn.
When they went to fetch him in the morning, he wasn't there. Usually, after drinking and doing drugs Wolfzon would be miserable and limp as a noodle, in withdrawal. They went out of the hut and looked around. The morning was quiet and ordinary. They saw Wolfzon, moseying toward them through a small apple orchard, chewing on an apple. He was weak but unharmed. Wolfzon finished the apple, spat the seeds and threw the uneaten core back into the trees.
The blast of the explosion flung all of them to the ground, the earth clods and the pieces of the tree pelting them as they writhed in mortal fear. Afterwards, they sat there, digging the dirt from their eyes and trying to hear through the ringing in their ears. Wolfzon was pointing at what used to be an orchard and stuttering: "I w-w-walked through there j-just n-now!" Serov's pants were wet and sagging in the back, and he smelled like shit.