Thank you!

               Australia is an amazing country.
               And the most amazing things of all here are the nature-strips.
               
               As soon as I came here from Russia, I began looking for job. By the way, Id been a builder, not a bad one at that. Its true, my youth waved me with its hand a long ago, but I would still wear my working boots out quicker then my slippers. It's true, I am at variance with English, but you build a house not with your tongue.
               
               I grabbed my schoolboy son, who'd got a holds of English while still in Russia, and we headed off to a building company. There we were greeted as through we were the answer to their prayers.
               And when I announced that I could raise a house all by myself from the first stone right to the last nail, their faces shone with smiles.
               They squeezed my hand and told me call you.
               Its under control, I thought to myself, and answered them with dignity, Thank you.
               Just in case, we were round to a few other businesses. Everywhere we got the same reception.
               A good builders got it made anywhere, I told my son.
               I waited for a week, then another one... but not a peep.
               We went back. They smiled as if nothing had happened. Again they said their call you. And I replied my thank you.
               In short, things started spinning like a squeaky wheel: call you - thank you - call you - thank you...
               I wanted to have a heart to heart with them the Russian way but I couldnt bring myself to - they really were smiling too nicely.
               
               I would have kept waiting for their calls until someones Easter, if not for Tim, my compatriot. Actually its Timophey, but here he became a Tim.
               Id have to say hes a solid bloke. One bright guy! He came here only nine months earlier than me, but he has started talking in their language and got as much local knowledge as Id be happy with after a lifetime here.
               He offered me to deliver pamphlets together, saying, Everyone starts this way.
               This little work, I have to say, was for walking pensioners. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the flowers were flowering and we were shoving pamphlets in letter boxes.
               Something was written on some of them. The only one I could make out, was thank you. It turned out, that Australians thanked me for my service. They thanked me beforehand! 
              What a culture! I thought. How should I answer? I began to shove two ads in each letter box with thank you.
              The next day Tim said that the clients had complained that wed heaped them up with rubbish. Here you are!  I really tried my best.
             
              One day, after work, Tim and I were wandering along and saw a refrigerator on the native strip. All clean and white, it stood alone on the green grass with the look of a bride, whod just been abandoned by her groom. It looked lost. There wasnt soul around, and the houses were a good distance away. Strange!
              Who the hell would have left this poor bugger here? I asked.
              They mustve thrown it out, joked Tim. He would enjoy joking.
              I laughed with understanding.
              I'm not joking, he said, something is wrong with it and the owners put it out on the nature strip. Perhaps, hes bought a new one.
              And whats about this one?
              Whats what? If you want it, take it. You still havent got a fridge.
              Are you fooling around again?
              Im repeating for the last wave of emigration, Tim said seriously, there is such a custom in Australia, if something breaks, they thrown straight out onto the nature-strip and whoever wants it takes it. Australians reckon that buying new one works out cheaper then fixing the old one. Do you understand?.
               How the hell do I take it away? I worried, still not believing my luck.
               No problem, Tim showed off his English. You guard the fridge and Ill run home and my trolley.
               I stood and waited. This was a brand new fridge.
               I hoped the owner wouldnt change his mind and come back for it. But no one came. Thank you, I told my unknown benefactor.
               
               Just then Tim arrived with the trolley. We loaded up the fridge and headed off. The trolley floated along like a little boat across the water.
               A top-notch trolley, I complimented him. Whatd it cost?
               Free, he answered in English.
               What?
               For free, Tim said in Russian and smiled. I found it on the nature-strip, it just needed one wheel fixed up.
               You find things easy, I said.
               At home, Tim gave the fridge a look over and said, Congratulations, Sir! You fridge is in good order. Only the gas has run out. But I know where to buy it. Go grab forty bucks.
               So a good fridge, and only for forty roubles, I rejoiced.
               Not roubles, dollars, corrected Tim. Forget about roubles, will you?
               I scraped thirty dollars, and Tim lent me ten bucks.
               We bought a gas cylinder and returned.
               
               Suddenly I spied four large boxes of furniture on a native strip not far from my house. I rubbed my eyes. The boxes were still there.
               Lets get the trolley! I yelled.
               We dragged the boxes home, unboxed them and...
               O, sky strengths! A stylish suite of imitation black marble furniture. What luck! To get in one day both a fridge and new future.
               Therell be even more I sang a popular Russian song.
               Now look whos finding things easy, said Tim.
               It took us a good three hours to assemble and arrange he furniture. Our old furniture was in the way. Tim kicked an old cough, which we got from the Salvation Army, and commanded, Lets chuck it on the native strip.
               Are you, Tim, mad? I said, furious.
       It really spoil the whole interior, said Tim and he helped me understand what he meant by this word interior.
               In short, his interior convinced me. We dragged all the ramshackle furniture out onto the nature-strip. Let whoever wanted it have it.
               
               Soon after, my wife turned up. She looked around wildly for a couple of minutes, then hit us with Whats this? Whered you get it? How much did you fork out?
               Free, I answered, from the native strip.
               From where?
               From the nature-strip, I repeated. They left them, and we took them.
               What, did you pinch them? whispered my wife and clasped her hands in dismay.
                Tim and I exchanged condescending grins. Then Tim began enlightening her about Australian customs, while I just echoed yes.
                For a long time my wife couldnt get how this new things came to be lying about on the native strips. But my friend was logical and patient.
                Tim tried to make her understand prosperity of Australia, but she was continuing her own, saying: I understand, that Australia is a rich country, but not so rich to throw expansive furniture about.
                But Tim clear sorted all things out, and finally my wife put a relevant question:
                You didnt see, by any chance, a washing machine on the native strip? Im already really stuffed from running back and forth to the laundromat.
                Youll get, my dear, a washing machine, a whistle even, I promised her.
                Our interior design, of course, wasnt to her liking, and she made us move the furniture. To argue with her would be just wasting time. We spent another solid hour under her watchful supervision. She felt so at home in her role as commander, all she needed was that whistle.
                Suddenly she noticed our old furniture was gone. Tim was about to explain what an interior was, but she waved off and ran out to the native strip. She came back with a happy smile on her face and two old stools in her hands.
                Our furniture is still there, she informed us, and these stools will come in handy for unexpected guests.
                Really, do you plan to sit quests on those stumps? I muttered.
                I wanted to chuck out those lumps of wood, but gave up. Let it pass! At least, they wouldnt spoil our interior.
               
                At last the time came to, as Russians say, wash (drink) our acquisitions. My wife laid a new tablecloth on the new table and put out some nibbles. From the new fridge I got a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka, which we brought over with us for special occasion.
                Let this day be the worst day of our lives! Tim really entered into the spirit of things and made an emotional toast to Australias prosperity.
                We joined him with the greatest pleasure, looking on at our interior. My wife even shed a few tears.
                Then she remembered shed promised to visit a friend and ran off out the door. Of course, she couldnt wait to boast.
                We continued.
               
                Some time after third or forth toast to the health and generosity of Australians, the doorbell rang. I opened the door wide. An Australian stood, mumbling something in their language and trying to peep inside the flat. Apparently, hed heard about our acquisitions and come to congratulate us.
                You are welcome to join us, with a grand gesture I invited him in. Youll be our first Australian guest!
                He entered and went straight to the furniture. He felt it, gasped and swung his arms around. In short, he expressed his delight, sharing our joy.
                Thank you! I said in English bowing with thanks.
                He kept on admiring the furniture.
                Thank you, I repeated and made another bow.
                The Australian suddenly waved his forefinger under my nose and yelled,
                No thank you.
                I was really taken aback.
                It seems hes the one whose the furniture it was. Hes hinting that just a thank you wont be enough to get rid of him, guessed Tim and gave me a wink. Pour him a late-comers drink, in our style.
                Why not? I said with joy and I poured him one up to the brim, as it should be.
                I offered our guest a seat and held out the glass. He declined to sit, but took the glass. He drained it in one go and even didnt make a wry face. He didnt even touch the appetisers!
                Woah! Russian style! A top bloke! exclaimed Tim.
                I was too full of respect. You could see he was one of us.
                He again went on in English, pointing to the furniture.
                Repeat it! Tim raised his hand and snapped his fingers.
        You can see he likes our vodka. He knows whats good for him, I said with approval, being happy that Id satisfied him, and poured for all of us. 
        But however much we persuaded him, he still flatly refused. He began jabbing his forefinger at the table and then at his chest and then he pointed to the door. We stared at him puzzled. Finally Tim twigged.
                Hes calling us over to his place, he also wants to bath the furniture.
                I wasnt in the mood to go anywhere. I wouldve liked to sit on my own and admire the interior. But I couldnt insult the Australian. He really did it with all his heart.
                Thank you, I and Tim said and we stood up.
                We walked to the door and waited politely for our quest.
                But he started to wave his arms around more then before.
                Tim guessed that this custom was different in Australia, that owners left after their guests. We decided to check it. We went outside and waited.
                But our guest didnt look like leaving. He ran from the table to the sideboard and back, slapping them, then grabbed a chair and started yelling.
                Whats wrong with him? Did he get blind after one glass or what? I laughed.
                But Tim suddenly changed countenance. I saw he wasnt in a joking mood.
                Somethings wrong here, he said, thoughtfully looking at our enraged guest. Looks like weve got ourselves in a bit of strife. Lets call Totosha.
                Totosha was Tims distant relative, he had already been living here for five years.
               
                I phoned Totosha and told him about our new furniture and about our strange guest, who wouldnt sit at the table, didnt want to leave our flat, and we had no idea what to do with him.
                Totosha interrupted with questions of his own: What furniture? Who made it? Oak? Pine? Whereve you got it? How much? 
               Free, from the nature-strip, I answered. Stop hassling and help us work things out with this drunk guy.
               But Totosha wouldnt calm down.
               Why didnt you invite me? I wouldve bring some booze and bathed your furniture too, let me live like this.
               Well bath it, no back-talk. Do me a favour, and find out first what he wants? I pleaded.
               Okay. Give your Australian to me, Totosha finally took pity on me.
               I handed the phone to our guest. He chatted a bit then gave it back. I heard Totoshas laughter.
               Whats so funny? I asked.
Totosha kept laughing merrily.
               Why are you giving a neighing laugh?! I lost my temper.
               Sorry, sorry... Totosha squeezed out in apology through the laughter.
                I already wanted to hang the phone, but Totosha calmed a bit down and said: Sorry old man, I have to disappoint you. Its his furniture, he bought it this morning. He's asking you to give it back to him..
                What?!
                It's his furniture and you must return it. Immediatly! You understand, old man? Totosha said slowly.
Wait, wait, I didn't gave up, So why did he leave it on the nature-strip? I hope, youve heard about the Australian custom.
                Whats the custom?
                Here it is! What come to the nature-stripe, itd gone.
                Here you are! Totosha surprised. He even stopped laughing.
                Youve kill me with your knowledge of Australian customs, old man. Where did you pick it up? There is the Tims school, I guess. He must be one whove taken a hand for your social education, is he?
                Whats the difference, who it is? I replied getting irritable.
                There is the big difference... said Totosha with meaning. And now listen here. This Australian didnt leave the furniture. He bought it home delivery. The furniture here would be delivered and arranged at the customers will. Apparently, some discrepancy happened, and they left the furniture outside. They didnt trow it out, they left it, do you understand? And there you are. Do you get the smell of it, old man? Just say thank you to him for not setting the police on you.
                We told him thank you many times, should we do it again?  I said in a dissapointed voice. Pity about the furniture, is all. Its imitation black marble, you see.
                Dont be upset. Our day will come, Totosha consoled me and burst out laughing once more. And dont forget to say sorry to your Australian, you wouldnt make mistake with Australian customs in this case.
                Go get stuffed, I muttered.
               
                We carried the furniture over to the Australians place until late into the night. We could barely stand up.
                As well, along came my wife. Shed come back and now stood on the nature-strip, watching over our old furniture so that people who found things easy like us, didnt take it.
                She squealed, I told you... I asked you... You got me with your damned interior.
                She made us drag the old furniture back home.
                We would have done it anyway without her urging on. You cant squawk around like a poor cuckoo in an empty flat.
                By the way, the Australian really turned out to be a good bloke. He helped to carry the furniture and in the end treated us to some of his brandy. Of course, brandy is not Russian vodka, but its not too bad. We became friends with the guy.
                For a long time afterward I expected someone to turn up for the fridge. But no one came.
                Ever since thin, whenever I see something on the nature-strip I give it a wide berth. There is no fools here.
                Thank you!
               


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