We learn his name is Viktor. As we talk, a few more young men saunter up the street,
exchange firm handshakes, and inquire about the fuss I'm causing.
One of the guys, Ivan Kichilin, throws me an accusatory glance.
“You know, I have a friend who asked if the U.S. knew this meteorite was going to hit
Russia three days ahead of time—and didn't say anything.”
I make clear I know nothing about that. And Ivan flashes a half-joking smile. He's
twenty-one with closely shaved black hair, an easy smile but dark, tired eyes.
“Seriously, some guys are doing some shady business trying to sell fake pebbles.” Ivan
is speaking to me but directing his message to Viktor, almost fatherlike, suggesting he not
get into any shady business. I'm impressed with Ivan and begin to sense that he is a guy
who could teach me a thing or two about Russia.
“Sergei, can you see if we could meet Ivan for tea or something tomorrow? I'd love to
talk to him more.”
Sergei translates. Ivan thinks it over, looking me up and down, then agrees. “There is
one little café in town—maybe you saw it coming in. I'll meet you there.”
We exchange phone numbers and plan to call Ivan in the morning.
I was beginning to feel I had exhausted my interest in a meteorite—strange as that may
sound coming from a Star Wars- obsessed child of the eighties. And while I don't neces-
sarily believe God sent this thing to southern Russia, I get a weird feeling that trailing this
space chunk brought me into contact with Ivan for a reason.