I read Khrushchev's memoirs and he goes into great detail about these gatherings, and I always found his accounts of Stalin's mean girl antics amusing in a macabre sort of way. Since writing, historical fiction would have required me to go look up relevant names and dates, and I figured it would be more fun just to write a very loosely based depiction that I hope you enjoyed.
Bojanko lit a cigarette and sunk his head into the collar of his long winter coat. He was the only one standing on the windswept street. A cruel and persistent winter left the city feeling as desolate and empty as the starless night. Bojanko held the smoke in his lungs until he could feel his head begin to lighten. He puffed a small cloud of smoke and a plume of freezing breath. The air suddenly exploded into an icy gale that touched the flesh with the sensation of a thousand burning needles. He looked at his watch it was 1:37 a.m.
“Hurry up goddamnit,” Bojanko shuddered.
Two headlights appeared just beyond the far corner. The beams crawled along the road as the car slowly pulled up to Bojanko. He opened the rear door and briskly greeted the other passengers before jumping out of the cold.
The long car was designed to accommodate four passengers in the back. Bojanko was seated next to General Vasilli a giant of a man whose looming posture and bushy black beard made him resemble a bear.
Across from them was Secretary Seban. A broody figure with hollow black eyes and thin, pale cheeks. The seat next to him was empty.
When they arrived at the presidential palace, they were left waiting. General Vasiliy didn’t seem to mind. His brandy rich blood made the old warhorse surprisingly easy going at times. As for Seban, he wasn’t much for chatting. Bojanko continuously glanced at his watch internally lamenting the dwindling hours he had for sleep.
It was nearly 2 am by the time President Horvat appeared. He was a stocky man of medium height. His eyes were adorned with salt and pepper brows, the hairs pointing out in every which direction reminded Bojanko of the legs of a caterpillar. He was fond of wearing his marshals uniform. For a man who had actually never served in the military of the country, he ruled he was sensible in the number of medals he pinned to his chest.
“Gentleman my sincerest apologies for the delay,” Horvat said jovially.
“Not at all President Horvat!” said Vasilliy.
Bonjanko and Seban concurred that none this was any trouble, any trouble at all.
“Marshall President Horvat you have a call.” An aide announced.
“At this hour?” Horvat replied. “Who is it?”
“Secretary Kovak Marshall President. He says it’s a matter of great urgency.”
“Kovak?” Horvat repeated with some confoundment.
“Did any of you tell him you were coming here?”
“No Marshall President,” they acquiesced one by one.
“Seban, I told you specifically to make sure he didn’t get invited.” Horvat snapped.
“I didn’t say a word Marshall President,” Seban answered cooly.
“So it is,” Horvat sighed. “Gentleman please excuse me.”
“Duty calls when it calls!” Vasili said before swallowing another goblet of viscous brown liquid.
Seban sat down and lit another cigarette. Bojanko checked his watch.
Fortunately, the call didn’t take long. They followed Horvat into the private cinema he had installed in the national palace. Once they had all filed in and taken their proper seats, Horvat announced the title of the feature.
“This is a German film called Nosferatu. It’s about a uh," Horvat squinted his eyes while he strained to think of the word. "What they call an izacacus, an uh Alukah, to the Hebrews” Horvat explained
They took their usual seats in the row. Horvat sat in the center seat. Seban was at the first seat to his left, the next seat, which was usually Kovak’s seat was empty. Then there was Vasiliy then at the very end Bojanko.
Horvat peered down the row. “Vasiliy, move down a seat next to Seban,” suggested Horvat.
“Of course Marshall,” Vasiliy happily complied. Vassiliy dug his fingers into the seat in front of his, and with some considerable effort, the general managed to pull his giant from the chair.
“Bojanko, you can take Vasiliy’s seat now,” said Horvat.
That being settled the lights dimmed and the projector started to roll.
It was 2:22 by the time the movie started. Bojanko stared at the flickering light. He could see tendrils of cigarette smoke coiling in the air around him. He sank into his chair. His eyelids fluttered and fell shut.
Bojanko was jolted away by the booming voice of Vasiliy
“No! Don’t get in that carriage!” Vasiliy warned the picture.
Bojanko immediately sat up and forced his eyes open hoping no one noticed him sleeping. It was a futile effort. Even the menacing vampire wasn’t enough to keep Bojanko awake, and he slipped away again.
“He has to sleep during the day?! How do you not understand the implications of that?!” Vasiliy shouted.
Bojanko was once again startled awake by the drunken general. Bojanko sat back in his seat and rubbed his weary eyes. While Vasiliy continued to chastise the characters for what he perceived as “profound stupidity.”
The rambling Vasiliy hadn’t noticed, but Bojanko could see Horvat and Seban glaring at Vasiliy. Horvat’s eyes met Bojanko’s. Horvat looked over at Vasiliy and back Bojanko and shook his head grimly.
The sun was rising by the time Bojanko made it home. His wife was waiting for him at the breakfast table with the news that Kovak had been found dead in his bathroom.
Bojanko was shaken by the news, but by now mysterious deaths had just become another facet of state affairs and as such he soldiered on. Bojanko was looking forward to going to bed early that evening. He made it into the sheets by 8:24 and was asleep within moments.
Yet again his goal to have a full nights sleep was to be thwarted when the phone rang at 12:41 AM.
“Bojanko it’s Seban. President Marshall Horvat has summoned us to the palace on urgent business. He also says he has a new Chaplin film.”
“Seban, I’m exhausted is this nothing that can wait till morning?” Bojanko asked.
There was a moment of silence.
“Did you hear about Kovat?” Seban asked suddenly
“Yes,” sighed Bojanko.
“Can you be ready in 20 minutes?” Seban asked.
“Yes,” said Bojanko.
“Oh, and don’t tell Vasiliy,” Seban snapped.
Bojanko hung up the phone and got himself ready to wait in the cold dark night for Seban.
Horvat was in a cheery mood, and thankfully for Bojanko, they managed to get the film playing by 1:24. They took their seats. Seban directly next to Horvat, Vasiliy's vacant seat to Seban’s left and then there was Bojanko.
“Bojanko, why do you take Vasiliy’s seat,” offered Horvat, and with that Bojanko moved a little further up the row just a little bit closer to Horvat.
After the movie ended Bojanko returned home under the pink and orange-hued dawn sky. Just like yesterday, there was another piece of bad news waiting for him. Vasiliy was dead. His car had accidentally run off the road and exploded…several times.
Even though as a socialist he didn’t believe in any kind of God Bojanko still felt inclined to appeal to any possible higher power in the universe to please have Horvat leave him alone tonight.
As was suspected though his pleas went unanswered. The phone rang 12:15. This time it was Horvat himself. Once Bojanko recognized Horvat’s voice the fogginess of sleep instantly dispelled.
“Yes, Marshall President I’ll be there right away! No, I won’t tell Seban.”
That night Bojanko rode to the palace alone. It wasn’t long after Bojanko arrived he realized he was the old man’s one and only guest.
Bojanko followed Horvat to the cinema, and they found their usual row. Horvat took his seat, and Bojanko took his. The overhead lights went out, and the projector beam stretched itself over the screen.
“Bojanko, come sit next to me,” Horvat said patting Seban’s empty seat.
Bojanko stood up and took his seat at Horvat’s side. “I think you might be due for a promotion,” Horvat said casually. “Thank you Marshall President,” Bojanko said with feigned enthusiasm knowing full well in Horvat’s regime death was the last rung in the ladder.