In the Scottish Highlands there is a small seaside village where the people are tough, the rain is relentless and colourful fishing boats take to sea in the grey hour before dawn.
Five years ago a stranger arrived to help out in the kitchen of the local inn. He said he came from Russia. He didn’t say much else.
At first people were wary of the newcomer, of his strange clipped accent, his razor-sharp face and prominent bones, his worn turtlenecks and his colourless buzz cut,
his menacing quiet and his sudden unsettling laugh.
He never did anything identifiably wrong, never even raised his voice, but people tended to feel ill at ease around him,
unnerved by the way he kept glancing around rooms and startling at the sound of engines, as if he was constantly expecting something painful to happen.
He was an outsider and he was strange, but nobody could deny he was good in the kitchen, that he worked 12-hour days without complaint, and weekends too, that he moved with a skittish,
nervous sort of efficiency and responded to any praise with a baffled blank look his co-workers soon learned to interpret as surprise.
When somebody asked him why he came over to the UK, he shook his head and only said ‘can’t go home, trouble with family’, and considered the discussion closed.
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