THE DOMOVOI sat on a shelf next to the matryoshka dolls in the duty free shop. The creature was perched atop his price tag, 150 rubles which, at the going exchange rate, was just under three dollars. He stared up at me and said his name was Petya. Dirty blond hair, moustache, and beard the color of wet straw; a nose like a fingerling potato.
“Buy me,” Petya said. “I keep house nice, clean.”
So I did. Three bucks, after all. No big deal. I bought him and put him into my backpack.
He fit easily, nestling in atop the rain jacket, his head sticking out through the flap.
“How did you wind up in the duty free?” I asked Petya on the way back to the cruise ship. “Aren’t you a Russian fairy tale character, taking care of houses and such?”
Petya swore. “They all got Roomba now. Programmable. Clean house good. Russia not like Petya no more. I export.”
When I got back to the suite Petya was fast asleep in the backpack. He had rolled himself into a ball, knees tucked into his chest, snoring. I laid him out gently on the pillow and went to dinner.
I returned late. The cabin sparkled. There wasn’t a mote of dust in the whole place. Petya sat on the commode, hairy feet dangling, and whistled Moscow Nights through his blonde moustache. He looked happy.
We had a good voyage together. The cleaning crew didn’t like Petya at first, then took to him. Meant less work for them. Petya even volunteered to help clean the other cabins. When it came time to disembark, Petya asked to stay on. Said he’d made friends with Sayeed, the djinn a passenger brought onboard from Bali. I agreed. Petya had cost me three bucks, after all. No big deal.
I got a postcard from Petya the other day, postmarked Sweden. Said he’d made floor manager on deck 12, and that cruising on MSC Fantasy suited him just fine. Said he’ll arrange a discount if I ever want to do another cruise.
EUGENE POLONSKY is a Russian immigrant who lives in the Seattle area with a wife and two children. Although he’s had a successful career in tech working for companies like Microsoft, his dream is to be a full time writer.