After clinking our glasses, Sergei and Uncle Vladimir downed their shots, then immediately sniffed their sleeves.
“What’s that all about?” I asked, confused.
“Just a tradition,” Katya replied, “to help soften the harshness. Sometimes, people choose to eat a pickle instead.” Sure … why not?!
I took a baby sip from my shot glass. Uncle Vladimir noticed this and laughed, saying something in Russian to Sergei.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Katya replied. “Don’t worry about it. He’s an alcoholic.”
“You not finish?” Uncle Vladimir asked, pointing to my glass.
“Da! Of course!” I replied, forcing myself to finish it off in two more sips, in a feeble attempt to impress. Involuntary gagging, however, ruined…
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