By Thomas Burke
Svetlana is so efficient and organized that it’s borderline nauseating. But she’s a laugher with knockout dimples, and she wears bright, eccentric European couture, so it’s easy to like her.
She’s not the director, but I’m her subordinate. If our employer, the annual Summer Literary Seminars program in St. Petersburg, Russia, were an old car, Svetlana would be the carburetor. I, on the other hand, would be something of a backseat window that doesn’t always close all the way.
In the welcome sheet given to all the North American participants and faculty, my bio lists me as the one that can help “if you need some heavy lifting done” or if you want to know a “decent place for lunch.”
Here’s a scene: Svetlana has cell phones to both of her ears, she’s pecking something into the computer, she’s hugging to her chest seventy-five passports and two thousand dollars cash, and I grimace and say, “Can I help you with something?”