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Moonshine Lake

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Moscow, 1923

Moonshine Lake

At ten pm before Easter Sunday, our accursed hallway became quiet.  In the blissful silence was born in me the burning thought that my dream had arrived and that the bimbo Pavlovna, who trades in cigarettes, had died.  I decided this because from Pavlovna’s room did not carry the cries of her tortured son Shurik.  I voluptuously smiled, sat in the torn armchair and unfurled Mark Twain's volume.  Oh this blissful moment, this bright hour!

…Then, at 10:15 pm, in the corridor, a rooster thrice crowed.  A rooster is nothing special.  Indeed, a suckling pig lived in Pavlovna’s room for half a year.  Generally, Moscow is not Berlin, for one thing, but in the second place, a man living one-and-a-half years in the corridor of № 50 you will not in any way astonish.

It wasn’t the fact of the unexpected appearance of a rooster that frightened me, but rather the circumstance that the rooster sang at ten pm.  A rooster is not a nightingale that in the prewar times sang at dawn.

— Did these villains really get a rooster drunk?  — I asked my unhappy wife, after pulling myself away from Twain.

But she did not have time to answer.  Following upon the entrance flourish began an unbroken howling from the rooster.  Then a man’s voice began to wail.  And howl!  It was an uninterrupted bass howl in C-sharp, soulful suffering and desperation, an agonal painful howl.

All the doors were thrown open, footsteps thundered.  I dropped Twain and made for the corridor.  In the corridor under the lamp, within a tight circle of amazed inhabitants of the famous corridor, stood a citizen unknown to me.  His legs were spread wide as the letter W, he rocked, and without shutting his mouth, filled this most frenzied howl, which frightened me.  In the corridor, I caught how the inarticulate long note gave way to an intoned recitative:

— Such a one, — hoarsely choked and howled the unknown citizen, being doused by large tears, — Christ is Risen!  Very well you act!  So you will belong to no one!!! A-a-a-a-a!!

And with these words he tore bundles of feathers from the tail of the rooster, which thrashed in his hands.

One glance was sufficient to ascertain that the rooster was completely sober.  But on the face of the rooster was written inhuman suffering.  Its eyes were popping out from the orbits, it clapped its wings and thrashed out from the tenacious hands of the unknown citizen.  Pavlovna, Shurka, the chauffeur, Annushka, Annushka’s Misha, Duskin’s husband and both Duskins stood in a circle in perfect silence and motionless, as if nailed to the floor.  On this occasion, I do not blame them.  They even lost the gift of speech.  They saw, as did I, the scene of the peeling of a live rooster for the first time.

The kvartkhoz of apartment № 50, Vasili Ivanovich, crookedly and desperately smiled, grasping the rooster first by the elusive wing, then, by the legs, he attempted to pull it from the unknown citizen.

— Ivan Gavrilovich!  Be God fearing!  — he yelled, soberingly on my eyes.  — No one is taking your rooster, it be three times cursed!  Do not torment the bird on Easter Sunday!  Ivan Gavrilovich, come to yourself!

I first came to my senses and then with inspired voltage knocked the rooster out from the hands of the citizen.  The rooster shot up, it struck heavily against the lamp, then descended and disappeared behind a turn, to where is Pavlovnina’s pantry. And the citizen instantly calmed down.

The case was extraordinary, if you will, but only because it ended for me satisfactorily.  The kvartkhoz did not tell me that I, if this apartment does not please me, can seek out a house for myself.  Pavlovna did not indicate that I burn a lamp for five hours, occupying myself “with who knows what kind of business,” and that I, generally, completely in vain intruded there, where she lives.  She has the right to beat because it is her Shurka.  And let me bring to myself “my own Shurkas” and feed them with kasha.  — “I, Pavlovna, if you again strike Shurka on the head, will give you to the law court and you will be imprisoned for a year for the torture of a child.”  Pavlovna threatened that she will give “claim” to the administration so that they would evict me.  “Really, if someone is not pleased, let him go to there, where there are educated people.”

In a word, at this time nothing at all happened.  Into the sepulchral silence all the inhabitants of the most famous apartment in Moscow dispersed.  The unknown citizen was led by the kvartkhoz and Caterina Ivanovna by hand to the stairs.  The unknown citizen went red, trembling and rocking, silently and after staring with doomed, ebbing eyes.  He resembled a man poisoned with henbane.  They caught the limp rooster of Pavlovna and Shurka under the tub and also took it away.

Caterina Ivanovna, after returning, related the events thusly:

— My son of a bitch (read: her husband) went shopping.  He bought a fifth from Sidorovna.  He invited Gavrilych, "let’s go," he says, "and try a little."  People will be people, and they lapped up their fill, Forgive Lord my sin, if the priest in the church did not give a ring for it already.  I will not exert my soul for that which happened to Gavrilych.  They drank, my husband to him says: for what, Gavrilych, with the rooster into the restroom to go, give him to me, I will hold.  But then he takes, yes he gets mad.  And, he says, ‘you,’ he says, ‘want to appropriate the rooster?’  And he began to howl.  What he seemed to see, Lord only knows!

At two A.M. the kvartkhoz, after breaking the fast, broke all the glasses, thrashed his wife, and explained his action by the fact that she ate up his life.  I was at this time with my wife in morning prayer and the scandal went without my participation.  The population of the apartment trembled and summoned the chairman of the administration.  The chairman of the administration appeared immediately.  With blazing eyes, red as a flag, he looked at the turned-blue (bruised) Caterina Ivanovna and said:

— I am surprised at you, Vasili Ivanych, that the head of a house cannot cope with some bimbo.

This was the first case in the life of our chairman when he was not delighted with his own words.  To himself personally, to the chauffeur and to Duskin’s husband it fell to disarm Vasili Ivanych, because he had himself on the hand (Vasili Ivanych, according to the words of chairman, had armed himself with a kitchen knife in order to cut Caterina Ivanovna: — “Now I will show her”).  The Chairman, having locked Caterina Ivanovna in the pantry of Pavlovna, suggested to Ivanych, that Caterina Ivanovna ran away and Vasili Ivanych fell asleep with the words:

— OK, tomorrow I will slaughter her.  She will not escape my hands.

The Chairman left with the words:

— Well, the moonshine at Sidorovn’s.  Evil beast, that home brew.

At three A.M. appeared Ivan Sidorych.  Publicly I declare: if I was man, and not a rag, I would, of course, throw out Ivan Sidorych there from my room.  But I fear him.  He is the most powerful person in the administration after the chairman.  It can be that to evict him will not succeed, (or maybe it will succeed, the devil knows!), but to poison to me existence he can completely freely.  For me this is most terrible.  If to me they poison existence, I cannot write feuilletons, while if I will not write feuilletons, then a financial crash will occur.

— Herro… Mr. Djourn-a-lisht, — said Ivan Sidorych, rocking like a blade of grass in the wind.

— It is my pleasure.

— I ‘m coming to zyou about the eshperanto…

— I would like to jwrite a note… an article…  I desire to open a soshiety… Sho write thus: “Ivan Shidorych, esperantist, deshires, please”…

And suddenly Sidorych addressed me in Esperanto (by the way: an amazingly contrary language).

I do not know what the esperantist read in my eyes, only that he suddenly crumpled, the strange dock-tailed words, resembling a cross-breed of Latin-Russian words, began to be broken and Ivan Sidorych passed into an easily understood language.

— However, exshcuse me… …  I will come tomorrow.

— You are welcome!, I affectionately answered, bringing Ivan Sidorych to the door (he for some reason wants to leave through the wall).

— He cannot be expelled?  — asked my wife upon his exit.

— No, detka, it is not possible.

In the morning, at nine AM, the holiday began, with the performance of Vasili Ivanovich on the accordion (danced Katerina Ivanovna) and by the speech of the into-smithereens-drunk Annushka’s Misha, addressed to me.  Misha for his own part and on behalf of a citizen unknown to me expressed to me his respects.

At 10 AM arrived the junior yard-keeper (slightly drunk), at 10:20 the elder (dead drunk), at 10:25 the stoker (in a terrible state).  He kept silent and silently left.  Five million, given to me, was lost here in the corridor.

At noon, Sidorovn impudently did not add by three fingers to the fifth of Vasili Ivanovich.  So then, after taking the empty fifth, he headed off to where things are investigated and stated:

— They are selling moonshine.  I want to arrest.

— And you are not confused?  — they darkly asked him where things are investigated. —  According to our information, home brewing isn’t going on in your block.

— It is not?  — ironically smiled Vasili Ivanovich.  — Very remarkable are your words.

— So here it is not.  And how can you prove yourself to be sober, if you really have home brew?  Go.  Even better, sleep it off.  You will tomorrow give a statement, who is with the home brew.

— OK… understood, — Vasili Ivanych said dazedly, while smiling.

— Could it be that they don’t have authority over them?  Let them not top it off.  But concerning, what I sober, … smell the fifth.  The fifth proved to be with “the clearly expressed smell of fusel oils”.

— Lead the way! — they then said to Vasili Ivanovich.  And he brought them.

When Vasili Ivanovich awoke, he said to Katerina Ivanovna:

— Run off to Sidorovn’s for a fifth.

— Wake up and smell the coffee, damn soul, — answered Katerina Ivanovna, — Sidorovn's was shut down.

— What?  But how they get wind of it?  — Vasili Ivanovich said with surprise.

I rejoiced.  But not for long.  After a half-hour Katerina Ivanovna appeared with a full fifth.  It turned out that he forgot the fresh source at Makeicha’s, two houses from Sidorovn’s.

At 7 PM, I pulled Natasha away from the hands of her husband, the baker Volodya.  (“Not to dare to beat!!,” “my wife” and so forth).  At 8 PM, when Matlot burst out dashing and Annushka began to dance, my wife arose from the sofa and said:

— I cannot take more of this.  Do what you want, but we should get out of here.

— Detka, — I answered in desperation, — what can I do?  I am not able to get a room.  It costs 20 billion, I make four.  While I have not completed a novel, we cannot hope for anything.  Be patient.

— It is not for me, — answered my wife.  — But you will never write novel.  Never.  Life is hopeless.  I will take morphine.

I felt with these words that I became iron.  I answered and my voice was full of metal: — You will not take morphine, because I you this will not allow.  But a novel I will write and, I dare to assure, this will be such novel, that heaven will become hot.

Then I helped my wife to dress, locked door to the key and soaked, it asked Dusya first (he drinks nothing except port), to look so that the lock no one would break, and I drove away wife on three days of holiday to Nikitskuyu, to her sister’s.


I have a program.  Over the course of two months, I shall undertake to effect a desiccation of Moscow, if not completely, then by 90%.

Terms and conditions: I will run the show.  I will personally select the staff of candle holders from students.  They must receive a very high stipend (400 rubles in gold.  The deal is authorized).  100 hires.  For me, an apartment with three rooms with a kitchen and a lump sum payment of 1000 rubles in gold.  A pension to my wife in the event that they kill me.

Unrestricted authority.  By my order, they will be taken without delay.  A trial within 24 hours with no possible change in the fine.

I will carry out a massacre of all the Siderovs and Makeicheis and a reflectively just massacre of the “Corner Standers” and the “Flowers of Georgia” and the “Tamara’s Lock.”

Moscow will become like the Sahara, and there will be only light red and white wine in the oases under the electric signs that read “Business open until 12 midnight.”