Saturday, November 7, 2009
The Old Woman
"...And the two of them had the following conversation."
An old woman is holding a clock in her hands, standing in a courtyard. I stop when passing her by and talk to her: "What's the time?"
"Have a look," she replies.
I look but cannot see the clock's hands.
"It has no hands," I say.
She looks at the clock's face and says: "The time now is quarter to three."
"Is that so? Thank you very much," I say, and walk away.
The old woman yells something after me, but I keep on walking. I come out onto the street and walk down onto the sunny side. The spring's sun is rather pleasant. I walk screwing up my eyes at the sun and smoking my pipe. On the corner of Sadovaya I bump into Sakerdon Michailovich. We stop, greet each other and talk for a long time. Since I am a little tired of standing on the street and I invite Sakerdon Michailovich into the basement. We drink Vodka, eat boiled eggs and sprat, after which we say goodbye, and I continue walking on my own.
Suddenly, I remember I have forgotten to turn off the electric stove back home. This is such an inconvenience. I turn around and head back. The day begun so well, and now, look: my first failure. I should have never left home.
Back home, I take off my coat, take my watch out of my waistcoat pocket and hang it on a nail. Then, I lock the door with the key and lie down on the sofa. I plan to stay there and try to go to sleep.
I can hear little boys screaming on the street - so unpleasant! I lie on the sofa and try to think up different ways I would like to execute them. The best one is infecting them with tetanus, imagining them suddenly incapable of movement. Their parents come and carry them home. They lie in their little beds and cannot eat, since their mouths won't move. They are fed artificially. After a week the tetanus cures, but the children are still weak and they have to stay in bed a further more month. They gradually recover, but I loose the tetanus on them one more time and all of them die.
I lie on the sofa with my eyes open and can't fall asleep. I remember the old lady whom I met today in the courtyard, and it pleases me to recall that her clock had no hands. Not long ago I saw an awful kitchen clock in a second hand store, with hands made of a knife and a fork.
Good God! I still haven't turned off the electric stove!
I get up and turn it off, then go back to the sofa and try to fall asleep. I close my eyes. I can't sleep. And the spring sun shines directly on me. I start feeling hot. I stand up and sit in the armchair by the window.
Now I want to sleep, but I am not going to. I'll get some pen and paper and start writing. I feel tremendous power building within myself. I thought of everything yesterday: it will be a story about a miracle-maker who lives in our times and does not perform any miracles. He is evicted from his apartment and he knows that all it takes is to wave his handkerchief and the apartment will remain his, but he prefers not to. Instead, he leaves his apartment, and goes to live outside the city, in a barn. He can turn this barn into a beautiful house of brick, but he prefers not to: he continues living in the barn and finally dies without performing a single miracle in the course of his entire life.
I sit in my armchair, rubbing my hands with joy: I am so delighted. Sakerdon Michailovich will burst with envy. He thinks I can no longer write a work of genius. Quick, let's get to work! Enough with dreams and laziness! I will write for eighteen hours straight!
My body trembles with impatience. I cannot decide what to do first: I need pen and paper; instead I am grabbing different objects, remote from my needs. I pace around the room: from the window to the table, from the table to the stove, from the stove back to the table, than to the divan and back again to the window. The fire blazing in my chest is choking me. It is only five o'clock. I have a whole day, an evening, and a whole night ahead of me.
I stand in the center of the room. What am I thinking about? It's twenty past five already; I should start writing. I move a little table next to the window and sit down at it. I have graph paper in front of me and hold a pen in my hand.
My heart beats anxiously still and my hand shakes. I wait a little so I can relax a bit. I put the pen down and fill up my pipe. The sun shines right in my eyes; I light up my pipe while screwing up my eyes.
At this, a crow flies past my window. I look out of the window and see a cripple walking; he has a prosthetic leg. His leg is hitting the pavement loudly, so is his walking stick.
"Thook!" I say to myself, still looking through the window.
The sun hides behind a chimney of a house near by. The chimney's shadow runs down the roof, flies over the street and hangs down onto my face. I should take advantage of this shadow to write some words about the miracle-maker. I grab my pen and write:
"The miracle-maker was tall".
I can't write anything else. I sit still until I start feeling hungry. I stand up and go over to the drawer where I keep provisions. I search, but don't find anything; nothing but a piece of sugar.
There is a knock at the door.
No answer. I open the door and see before me the same old woman who I saw today in the courtyard, holding a clock. I am surprised and speechless.
"So, I came," says the old woman and enters my room.
I stand by the door pondering what to do: kick her out or offer her a seat instead? But the old woman makes up her own mind and walks over and sits in my armchair by the window.
"Close the door and lock it," she instructs me.
I close and lock the door.
"Get down on your knees," says the old woman.
I get down on my knees.
Suddenly, I begin to realize the absurdity of my position. Why am I standing on my knees before some old woman I don't even know? Further more, what is this old woman doing in my room, sitting in my favorite armchair? How come I didn't kick her out?
"Listen," I say "Who gave you the right to give orders in my room? Specially ordering me? I haven't the slightest desire to stand on my knees."
"Then don't," says the old woman. "Now you have to lay flat on your stomach, with your face sunk in the floor."
I immediately obeyed her...
Friday, November 6, 2009
(ph: Stan Wayman)
Pakin and Rakukin
- Hey, you, cut out that sniftering! - said Pakin to Rakukin.
Rakukin wrinkled up his nose and gave Pakin a dirty look.
- What are you staring at? Seen enough yet? - asked Pakin.
Rakukin chewed at his lips and, indignant in his revolving chair, looked the other way. Pakin drummed his fingers on his knee and said: - What a fool! I'd like to smack him with a stick in the head.
Rakukin stood up wanting to leave the room, but Pakin quickly jumped up, chased after Rakukin and said:
- Wait! Where do you think you're rushing off to? Sit down, I have something to show you.
Rakukin stopped and looked mistrusting at Pakin. - What, don't you believe me? - asked Pakin.
- I believe you - said Rakukin.
- Then sit down here, in this armchair - said Pakin.
And so Rakukin went back and sat down again in his revolving armchair.
- So then - said Pakin - what are you sitting in that chair for, like a fool?
Rakukin moved his legs about and began to blink his eyes rapidly.
- Don't blink - said Pakin.
Rakukin stopped blinking and stooped down, drawing his head back, in to his shoulders.
- Sit straight - said Pakin.
Rakukin, still stooping, stuck out his belly and stretched out his neck. - Uhh - said Pakin - I wish I can smack you in the face right now!
Rakukin hiccupped, puffed out his cheeks, and then slowly, blew the air in his cheeks through his nostrils.
- Now, you, stop that sniftering! - said Pakin to Rakukin.
Rakukin stretched out his neck even further and began to blink his eyes rapidly.
Pakin said: - Rakukin, if you don't stop that blinking immediately, I'll give you a good kick in the chest.
Rakukin, so as not to blink, crossed his jaws, stretched out his neck still further, and threw his head back.
- Yuck, what a disgusting sight you are - said Pakin. - A face like a chicken's, a blue neck, it's just revolting.
At this, Rakukin's head fell back further and further and, finally, all strength lost, it collapsed on to his back.
- What the hell! - cried Pakin - What sort of a devil's treachery is that?
Looking at Rakukin from Pakin's position, Rakukin looked like he didn't have a head at all. Rakukin's Adam's apple was sticking up in the air. At first glance, one might well think that it was his nose.
- Hey, Rakukin! - said Pakin.
Rakukin was silent.
- Rakukin! - repeated Pakin.
Rakukin remained silent and continued to sit motionless.
- So - said Pakin - Rakukin's dead.
Pakin crossed himself and left the room on tip-toe.
About fourteen minutes later a little trail of a soul climbed out of Rakukin's body and threw a malicious look at the place where Pakin had just been sitting. Then suddenly, the tall figure of the angel of death came out from behind the dresser and, holding Rakukin's soul by the hand, led it away somewhere, straight through houses and walls.
Rakukin's soul was trying to keep up with the angel of death, constantly glancing back maliciously. But then, the angel of death stepped up the pace and Rakukin's soul, stumbling and jumping, disappeared after the first corner.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The beginning of a very good summer day
Right after the rooster crowed, Timofey jumped out of his window on to the roof and frightened all the passer-by's. Peasant Hariton stopped, picked up a stone, and threw it at Timofey. Timofey suddenly disappeared. What an acrobat! - cried the human tribe, and a certain Zubov ran into a wall smashing his head. Ohhhhhh! - exclaimed a woman with an abscess. But Komarov gave this woman a swift left-right and the woman ran off howling into a passageway. Fetelushin was passing by, laughing. Komarov walked up to him and said: "Hey, you, lard!" and hit Fetelushin in the stomach. Fetelushin leaned against a wall and started to hiccup. Romashin spat out of his window from above, aiming at Fetelushin. Not far from there, there was a woman with a big nose beating up her child with a washing basin. And a young, chubby mother was rubbing her little girl's face against a brick wall. And a small dog with a broken leg was lying sprawled on the pavement. A little boy was eating something rather revolting right from a spittoon. By the grocery store, there was a long line of people waiting for sugar. Women were arguing loudly pushing each other with their bags. Peasant Hariton, after getting drunk with methylated spirit, was standing in front of the women with his pants undone and uttering bad language.
This was the beginning of a very good summer day.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Anecdotes from Pushkin's biography
1. Pushkin was a poet and he was always writing something. Once, Zhukovskiy saw him writing and loudly exclaimed: - You're a true scribbler, not some dusty academic nibbler! From then on, Pushkin liked Zhukovskiy a lot more and started calling him domestically, simply: Zhukov.
2. It is a known fact that Pushkin's beard was rather pitiful looking. Pushkin suffered a lot because of this and was always envious of Zaharyn who, on the contrary, grew a very picturesque beard. "His beard is better than mine", - would often say Pushkin, while pointing at Zaharyn with his fingernails. And he was always right about that.
3. Once, Petrushevskiy broke his watch and sent for Pushkin. Pushkin came over, looked over Petrushevskiy's watch and put it back on the table. "So, what can you say about this, brother Pushkin?" - asked Petrushevskiy. "Now it's a stop watch", - said Pushkin.
4. When Pushkin broke his legs he started to move around on wheels. His friends enjoyed teasing Pushkin and would always grab him by his wheels. Pushkin would always get angry and would write abusive poetry about his friends. He would call this kind of poetry, "epigrams".
5. Pushkin spent the summer of 1829 in a village. He would wake up early in the morning, drink a whole jug of milk and run to the river for a swim. After his swim, he would sleep in the grass till noon. In the afternoon he would sleep in a hammock. If he met any stinking peasants, Pushkin would nod at them and pinch his nose with his fingers. The stinking peasants would take off their hats and say: "That's alright".
6. Pushkin liked to throw stones. If he saw stones, he would surely start throwing them. Sometimes he would completely loose his temper, standing there, blushing, waving his arms and throwing stones. It was rather terrifying!
7. Pushkin had four sons and all of them were idiots. One of them could not even manage to seat on his chair, and kept falling off it. Pushkin himself had problems sitting on a chair. Sometimes it would be ridiculously hilarious: they would both be sitting at a table; on one side, Pushkin would fall off his chair, on the other, his son. Enough to pee in your pants!