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 bellow. She was drafted to work at the munitions' factory. She worked so hard that the other women began to complain that because of her the quotas were getting higher. That discouraged Rimka so much that 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 and the fact that she was her sick Grandmother Velya's only caregiver.
Meyer and Wolfzon helped each other to pick up their loads and set off walking again, Meyer praying to God in whom he didn't believe and Wolfzon 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 that he could sniff, snort, take, drink or cook that would 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, chronically suffering from severe sinus infections, were drafted at all.
Twenty minutes later, and Wolfzon crushed to the ground again. He sat in the middle of the road, laughing and smearing 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. He calmed down though and his eyes took on a sly expression, when Meyer explained his idea. He 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 that 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, and, if otherwise, they'll 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 that his grandfather taught him.
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 then her groom and even bought him a suit for the wedding! He was a happy man once, a loving husband and father. He often played violin for his family and 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 good bye to his dying father. A few months after that, he received a notice that his brother, Samuel, was 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 brother, 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 do anything to help or protect them.
As he worked, the fear gradually dissipated. The spool was getting lighter. Meyer saw a crumbling wall of an abandoned village. He took a short rest in the club building, left everything there that he wouldn't need on the way back 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, earth clods and 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.