As first the job was rewarding and full of challenge, client’s meetings and networking. However with time passing the job became no more than a simple routine. The promised promotion stayed a promise. Therefore Max Polyakov put his foot down and decided it was time to break free from the bog of routine and move to new horizons.
It was time for radical changes. Max Polyakov sat down on his favourite armchair. He poured himself the Scottish Three Barrels brandy, opened the old Atlas, so old that Yugoslavia was still a country on the Europe’s map, and looked closer. Where should he go? Max didn’t want to go too far, he wanted to keep his grass green Volkswagen Beetle with him. It was an old car, but still reliable and full of memories and sentiments. The TV was on. Max Polyakov was not watching anything in particular, just a background noise and some “company”. An old film was on, The Street Fighter with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Max loved that film when he was a child. He dreamt about fighting evil and become as fit as the hero. Maybe that was a sign from above. Max Polyakov looked at the old atlas again. Jean-Claude Van Damme is from Brussels, Belgium is close enough to drive there in few days, and Max’s French was not perfect but good enough to get around and order a beer.
Max Polyakov switched his laptop on, opened Google and typed: “job search in Belgium slot machines”. The usual casino job search sites appeared, thousands of vacancies. The search has to be narrowed down. What can he do? Max Polyakov certainly wanted nothing to gambling to do anymore with finances and development for quite a while for sure. It came to his mind that during his student’s years he used to work at the restaurant in the kitchen and quite enjoyed doing so. Surely being thirty four years old is not too late for a radical career change. Max opened the document with his Curriculum Vitae; last time it was undated was four years ago. He certainly was a people’s person, willing to learn and few more standard positive CV’s attributes. In a matter of few hard working hours a new Max Polyakov’s CV appeared, short and clear.
Google search for kitchen positions revealed to be longer than expected, but the name of a café, “Murka” stood out particularly with its nostalgic connotation. The job description was simple, flexible hours, provided accommodation on the top of the café. It seemed perfect. Max sent his CV and a brief cover letter to the email provided in the advertisement and went to bed.
Very early in the morning Max’s phone rung. When was the last time that you have heard your phone ringing? Who calls anymore? Everybody text, or write emails, that is why there are at least five chat apps on everyone’s phone, it is very convenient, it eliminates the necessity to answer questions immediately, or at all. Max answered. A very loud deep male voice asked to speak to Max Polyakov. Nowadays you could never be too sure of the gender of a person jugging just by the voice, but this one was definitely a male voice. It was a call from Brussels, from the owner of the café Murka. The man introduced himself as Vsevolod Belovinskiy. After several minutes of colourful and enthusiastic advertisement of gourmand top menu and unique atmosphere of the café, Max Polyakov been asked to start his trial shift this very night: “eighteen hundred hours on the clock”. This left Max speechless for several seconds. Is he really that desperate to find a chef for his cafe, or was this a sign from above? All he had to do is to pack some basic essentials, fuel up the Beatle and go, and he had all morning to do it. Even some time to have a good strong espresso with a biscuit.
To start working at Murka Max Polyakov did not even needed bedding and towels, all was all provided. Packing proved to be easy. The flat just locked and main electric switches turned off, no plants to water of pets to feed. Fridge emptied, switched off and left open. This was a very important element to remember, as once after returning from a long vacation, Max have found new life forms on what once was human food in the fridge that was left as it was. There are things that cannot be un-smelled.
After a mild afternoon traffic leading out of the city, Max found himself cruising on the motorway through Europe. At four in the afternoon he was on the doorstep of the café Murka. A tall and skinny waitress sat him down and gave a menu. She had the most amazing eyes Max had ever seen one green and the other grey, huge eyes, almost like from a Japanese anime. After ordering a coffee and an omelette Max announced himself to be Max Polyakov that starts as a chef in few hours. The waitress asked to wait and that she would call for Mr. Bells. Out of the kitchen came a man of a very big gorilla-like posture with curly ginger hair on his arms and fingers. His smile was wide enough to see all of his perfect thirty two teeth. His main feature was a huge scar that covered half of his face. The disfiguring was evidently a consequence of deep cuts and burns. He curried the omelette and introduced himself as Vsevolod Belovinskiy, or Mr. Bells for short, the proud owner of Murka – the best café in town. The omelette was delicious, fluffy, with cheese and spring onions, pepper and salted to perfection.
Max Polyakov was shown to his room located on the top of the café. The room was rather small, but clean and sunny. The window view revealed the backyard of the café and a big oak tree. Three sets of chef snow white uniform were folded on top of the table alongside with the promised fresh bedding and towels. Whatever launderette they were using was doing a great job.
Max change and went downstairs to the kitchen of the best café in town, Murka. This was his first day of the new beginning, new opportunities and horizons. What was left behind already felt to Max like a distant memory of another life. Max Polyakov was excited.
The night shift ended in a blink of an eye. The menu was simple enough, but long. Loads of side salads, sandwiches, at least fifteen different dipping sauces to go with fries, and fish, loads of all sorts of fish. There was an entire fridge in the kitchen dedicated to fish, carefully labelled and dated.
When the clock stroked midnight, the kitchen was cleaned, café’s floor swiped, and there was silence. All the stuff sat down at the biggest round table on the terrace, Mr. Bells bring beers and pizzas that were big enough to feed a small army. He put Max on the back, saying he done well for the night and if he was ready to join the Murka’s family. Max Polyakov was tired and happy, it certainly felt like a big family at a family dinner, something that Max never really had.
The next day started early, very early. A trip to the local market to buy fresh fish and vegetables, bread from the baker, eggs from the farmer. Now it was clear why Mr. Bells wanted his staff to live on top of the café, so he can drag them down the bed at six in the morning, as the café Murka opens at eight for breakfast. There could be no excuses for being late due to heavy traffic, of public transport disruptions, or road closures, nor urgent doctor’s visits.
On the kitchen door hung the shift’s rota for the week. Max Polyakov had Thursday off and morning on Sunday. There was also driving duties marked in yellow. Driving duties? Where to? As turned out Murka provided catering for parties and events in the local areas, so food had to be delivered.
Max Polyakov’s life was very busy in the Murka’s family. He did not miss his apartment or old job, one certain thing is that he never tried so many types of fish and the way of cooking it was endless. The city proved to be full of life and full of fascinating places. Several gyms claimed to be the one where Van Damme trained. Max decided to visit all of them and start training. However this proved to be difficult, tiredness and laziness were beasts that were hard to tame.
The life’s tempo at the café Murka was fast, hard and demanding. New faces were coming and going, few loyal employees stayed, the one that were strong physically and did not required loads of sleep. Max Polyakov knew that this new Belgian life was a great change, a great start, but is something that would not last long, it was just a transition point toward something great and exiting, what was that great and exiting Max did not know yet. Mr. Bells was a huge man, not only physically, his personality shone like the Sun. His positivity and energy filled the room when he was near and his happiness and love for life affected absolutely everyone. Max could not stop noticing Mr. Bells’ scared face, he was so curious about how it happened, but no one really knew. Was he a hero that saved kittens and children from a burning orphanage, or covered his family with his huge body from a volcano eruption, or fought aliens with his bare hands? The possibilities were endless, but Max really-really wanted to know the truth.
Discovering the past of his boss was Max Polyakov’s new mission. He remembered that the full name of Mr. Bells was on his work contract, and Google certainly could help. A search for Vsevolod Belovinskiy revealed several Facebook pages of people that looked nothing like Mr. Bells. No images that would resemble the huge gorilla-like physique either.
Mr. Bells liked Max enough to be truthful, if Max could be brave enough to ask. Was it a secret? Max had to ask.
The next morning on the way back from the fish market Max Polyakov found the courage to ask. Mr. Bells’ smile and cheerfulness disappeared in an instance. There were few minutes of silence than Mr. Bells became cheerful himself again. “It was a very long time ago”, he said, “forget about it, nothing interesting to tell”. This answer, however, made Max Polyakov even more curious about the owner of café Murka. He had to know now.
Few more weeks passed, the days and weeks in café Murka were so busy, they just flew by like spring sparrows, one second you see them, the next one they are gone, gone past you, forward, ahead, ahead into the blue sky. Max Polyakov developed a canning plan. He had to get Mr. Bells drunk. But how do you get a man that weights at least two tons drunk? Will his story be worth it? There is always a change that it will not be heroic. Certainly not! Mr. Bells story could only be nothing but epic, like Van Damme’s film characters. Or can it?
Well, folks, this story will be told in the next chapter of Belgian adventures of life and glory of Max Polyakov’s journey and his loyal companion the grass green Volkswagen Beetle. I hope you managed to extract the moral of this short narration: do not be afraid of change, there are new people and new places waiting for you, do not be afraid to ask, life is wonderful.