IGOR POMERANTSEV TRANSLATED BY FRANK WILLIAMS
like this dog. Her skinny, elongated body, long muzzle, moist eyes. In the lift
she gets excited and even kisses people she barely knows. Once, walking past in
the corridor, I heard her say to our new colleague, “pop in and see us”. If
she'd said it to me, I'd have said yes straight away. But she avoids me because
she feels I've got something on her. Very occasionally, in passing, in the
corridor, she'll bark hoarsely: “Hi!” My eyes become moist, my ears go velvety
and I rush whining into the toilet to give free rein to my tears behind the
locked door of the cubicle.
it's his turn to share out the meat, it always makes me depressed. It's a
cosmic depression. I know: the pieces might all look the same, but he'll still
get more than me. I don't begrudge it, it depresses me. I know, he's much older
than us; he's old enough to have run with the last packs in the forests. It's
the lore of the forest. The main thing
there was survival. And since he has survived, one of the few, that really does
mean something. I'm depressed because I
know I wouldn't have survived then. I
suddenly hear my name, in its affectionate short form,"
... why haven't you taken your share?"
How fortunate that I didn't live with them in the forest. I grab my
ration, run without a backward glance to the lift, go up to our department,wrap
the meat up in a clean form and throw it into the rubbish bin.
I like the morning best of all. She flies into the office, her
beak rose pink, wing wet with rain. The narrow strip between beak and chin is
beaded with sweat. I am overcome. These beads are a confession of love. Her
breathing is still irregular - she is in my arms. I lick up her sweat, just as
I caught raindrops on my tongue when I was little. The day has only just
begun, but for me it has already passed.
Crash, tinkle, tinkle - glass is
broken on the ground floor. Half an hour later the same sound - a little
stronger this time - comes from the first floor. Everybody is working. I, too,
am silent. Glass is breaking on the second floor, and I start calculating when
it will happen to our windows as well. In four hours. Must do something. I go up to the squirrel and quietly, so as
not to cause a panic, ask: "Did you hear it?" The squirrel is
bewildered. Follows me with a long
stare. Over the next three hours the noise of breaking grows louder and louder.
I can imagine what hell it must be downstairs: the wind blowing through the
offices, forms and carbon paper flying about, everyone clinging to the walls,
to the desks. And out on the street? A
carpet of broken glass, the pavement cordoned off, idlers gawping from a
distance. They must be looking at our floor now. But it's all quiet here. Typewriters
clatter. The squirrel gnaws nuts. What is this - courage or unconcern? I feel
sick and go to the toilet. I groom my fur with a damp paw, but it still sticks
up. I go back and sit at my desk. We do not look each other in the eye. I press
my rump into an armchair, throw back my head, swallow saliva. Here it comes.
rat reeks of musk. She's got me up against the wall and talks and talks. The
smell could drive you mad. A door slams
at the end of the corridor. I recognise the rustle of the wings I love. If she
flies past and the rat breathes on her, she is doomed. The rustle comes
nearer. Oh my beloved, I shall save
you! I suddenly sink my teeth into the rat's lips in a deadly kiss and my body
becomes swollen with musk. I am soaring and do not see how my shoelaces, undone
now, flutter in the wind.
midday the fog had thickened and was pressing up against the windows. It even
became necessary to switch on the light. Never in my life have I seen such a
fog: thick, a bluey colour, probably, sticky. A raccoon came into our office
and stayed glued to the window. A dog came running in and also froze still.
Then others. Everybody, literally everybody was there. To see I had to haul
myself up on the coat rack. We didn't take our eyes off the fog. The glass
trembled. You could hear it distinctly in the silence. The blue, almost violet on the other side
of the glass, electric in the office, us, frozen still. Oh, how terrible, how
am jealous of her fondness for his voice. When the door is ajar we both hear
his voice. She sits with the back of her head to the door, and the voice first
of all nestles against her fur and kisses it soundlessly, then it reaches her
mouth, her knees. But I must not betray myself, and so I sit motionless. Only
when the raccoon passes outside in the corridor do I ask, as if by chance,
"Be so kind as to shut the door to the office". The door bangs shut,
and I see the voice come swimming up to the glass in the door, gawp, flutter
his fins and open his mouth convulsively.
This is awful: now she will feel sorry for him and so, love him.
Agitated, she gets up from her chair and almost runs from the room. I fix my
eyes on a paper-clip.
is the last day. I can go to the park. They're making bonfires there now. My
heart is sad. I'm sure the skunk felt this way this time last year. The week
before he was going round with red eyes, and everybody avoided standing next to
him even. On the penultimate day they drew lots. The skunk was there, though he
didn't have to be. All this year I've remembered the look in his red eyes - the
way he looked at me when I drew the lot. That day we were brothers, and the
skunk said farewell to everybody except me: after all we were parting for only
drew lots again yesterday. I didn't go. So I don't know who was next. It's not
important. I now realise the skunk went out of weakness. But who said that
it's bad or shameful to be weak? I'm strong. But is that good? I do not feel
fear. I'm just sad at heart. I'll go to the park. I'll stand a while near a bonfire. The skunk
probably cannot think of anything else except meeting me. The wind will carry
the smoke away from the bonfire. If only it could carry away my sadness, too!
my attention was caught by the fact that the raccoon was standing for ages near
the aquarium in the canteen. I, too, was standing quite close, but the raccoon
didn't even see me - he was so absorbed. I watched the aquarium for a long time
and came to understand something. The
secret of oriental love. This was a harem. The rythmic movements of the fish.
Their finery trembled in time to their bodies. This was a dance. The water was
thick and closeness difficult. Light draughts, was it, or a tabla provided the
rythmn. One fish shamelessly rubbed her lips against the glass. The raccoon was
listener and viewer. My head was splitting, and I, like a drunk, moved away. My
mouth tasted sweet. The raccoon came back from lunch absolutely shattered and
could not start work again for a long time.
were taken on an excursion. We two are walking along a canal.
I do not like this town. It is the work of a glass-blower. I like a different
sort of town, thrown by a potter. That kind, the other one, is warm, just right
for my paws. This one is cold, sharp. Good to recall in a heatwave. The water
is covered with scum and weed. We walk in silence. Suddenly she plunges into
the canal. I shudder with disgust: how could she throw herself into the brown,
green-tinged scabs. The swill washes into her ears, her mouth. I lean down from
the low parapet and stretch out my paw to her. She catches hold. With my right paw I lift her slightly out of
the water - her muzzle already green with slime, beak sharpened - and with my
left strike hard and unexpectedly between the eyes.
brought in boxes and began to unpack them right there in the office. By midday
I suddenly saw we were crowded out with boxes. All was quiet, and I began to
feel uneasy. I put my shoulder to what seemed to me to be the smallest box, but
it was nothing of the sort. Then I heard whimpering. I recognised the polecat
and for some reason it made me pleased. My shoulder was itchy because bits of
sawdust had got into the fur. I picked up a pair of scissors and began jabbing
them into the wood. Then I set to with my two fangs, spitting out a continuous
stream of wood chips. I called: "Polecat, can you hear me?", he
whimpered something in reply. "Polecat, we have to chew a way through to
the door." The polecat, judging by the sound of
gnawing, had also set to work.
month ago we had a mole in our office. We could have
done with him now! There were Christmas tree decorations in the box. You only
had to prick them gently with the scissors and they literally gave up the
ghost. A paper streamer was wound painfully round my neck. I was tired, my eyes
were watering, my stomach was rumbling. I lay down to take a breather, sucking
a sugar lump. Calculated how long it would take to get to the door. Three to four days. Do I have enough
strength, determination, and, ultimately, love of life? I don't know, don't
loaded us into cages and took us for a check-up at the clinic. I saw snowflakes
through the car window; my eyes watered
from the cold and lack of air; the squirrel's breath was flavoured with a smell
of rancid nuts. At the clinic we were given an X-ray. We had to get undressed
in an office in pitch darkness. My skin was covered in pimples. The
radiologist's fingers were electric. I got a shock. I threshed about in the
dark; the radiologist pinched me hard
and I froze still. When I'd dressed they put the squirrel in the machine. While
the radiologist was putting in a new plate the squirrel kicked and scratched
and chattered her teeth. I'd got used to the dark and could make things out
now. The white blob of a coat seared my eyes. The radiologist pressed a knob so
as to restrain the squirrel from two sides. Something scrunched, like a nut,
and a dead silence hung. I thought I would go mad. The radiologist dived
towards the apparatus and, keeping his back to me, pulled something out,
cursing and muttering. Then his back went out through the emergency exit. On
the way home, the cage was empty. It was so, so easy to breathe.
long before his death, the badger took up learning Mararanian. At first we
pulled his leg. "Off to Mararania are you, me old MacBadger?" His table was quite covered with textbooks,
dictionaries and children's books. The badger's lips were constantly in motion,
as though he was praying or casting a spell. Little by little his mumbling began
to form crystals of sounds. The badger went round all the departments
declaiming, denouncing, praising, without paying any attention to anybody. We’d all almost stopped talking
somehow uneasy. The screech, thunder, roar of Mararanian filled the rooms. One
day the badger was called to the telephone and we could tell by his excited
tirade that the caller was his Mararanian girl-friend. Somehow at mid-day the
din had stopped and each of us guessed what had happened. I now realise why the
badger finally took up a foreign language: those who make a beginning are far
from the end. Since then, I have only to chance to hear the screech of
Mararanian and recall how desperately the badger clung to life. f
are four lifts in our building. They all move simultaneously: up-down, down-up.
When you use the stairs you always hear their squeak, rattle, rasp. These
noises are all simply obscene. If I happen to be on the stairs with the marten
or the weasel, I always blush. The plaited steel cables are taut. The lifts
brush against the air, and I haven't the strength to stand next to the marten.
Even when you're sitting in your office you can hear a muffled rustling that's
even worse than their rasping. The whole building is eaten away by rustling
noises; paper, carbon paper, the trees outside the tightly shut windows. We,
too, are beginning to speak in whispers. The weasel bends to my ear and
whispers something. Her lip rustles against the lobe of my ear. I swallow and
hear the saliva slipping slowly down my throat. It's a good thing I've only got
one throat. The weasel keeps on whispering while I stare fixedly at a piece of
fluff shivering under my gaze.
and horror just happened. The eider duck, always so neat and tidy, rushed down
the corridor looking dishevelled and half-crazed, and on her white downy breast
two red wine stains, quite fresh. You felt ashamed if you looked at her, but
not to look at her was impossible. It was not the eider duck that was obscene,
but us, the fact that we found ourselves by chance in the corridor. Now each of
us sits at his desk and pretends to be absorbed in his work. But those two red
stains! I even managed to catch a whiff of acerbic stupefying grape. Oh to lick
it with the tip of my tongue. But what am I saying - lick? No! Drink it in, suck onto it, choke on it.
foxawolf! Could any of us forget your leap through the glass? It shattered,
splintered, tinkled down, while you flew smoothly and your paws trembled like
springs. Oh, how you ran over the squares of the city! Launched out, landed,
and between times soared: your body floated slowly through the air, and this
soaring was inexpressibly beautiful. What can I say about our feelings, even of
those of us who had not loved you until then? In the office a television
flickered. They were filming your dash from a helicopter. We could see what was
hidden from your eyes. All roads out of
the city had already been blocked. The roar of motorcycles, the perfect
co-ordination of the foot patrols, the howl of the ambulances, the precision of
telescopic sights. All this seemed empty hustle compared with your dash, with
your body, now convex, now concave.
You ran, you rushed, you flew towards freedom, love - we, fixed to the
screen, knew towards what.