by Vladimir  Sorokin



            A room with simple furniture. Five men and two women are in it. Some are sitting, some are standing, some are on the floor. They are waiting determinedly for somebody.

            MAN 1 (looks at his watch). What a swine! Itís already been seventeen minutes. Brute.

            MAN 2. Times are changing for the worse. If, ten years ago, a dealer was late for seventeen minutes... (Shakes his head) Something would have happened. And something very unpleasant.

            WOMAN 1. Well, all right... heíll be here any time now.

            MAN 3 (half-lying on the floor, touches his back, stretches agonizingly). O, man...

Iím having the cramps...

            MAN 4 (looks sullenly at him).

But weíve agreed.

            MAN 3. All right, all right...

            MAN 2. I canít... I canít wait... anymore! Another five minutes and I am going on the corner. Iíve got enough for a fix...

            MAN 5. Wait, donít dash in a flap.

            WOMAN 2. What do you mean - wait, wait!? (Screams.) Asshole! Weíre all suffering because of you! Because you are an asshole!

            MAN 5. Well... heíll come, definitely, I swear...

            WOMAN 2. Thatís it! Iím going! Not a second more!

            WOMAN 1. Hey, you - shut up. Itís already sickening, even without your howls.

            WOMAN 2. Not a second! Not a second more! Assholes, fuck! Did you want something new? Cretins! (Walks toward the door).

            WOMAN 1 (slaps her face). Silence!

            WOMAN 2 (sits down on the floor and starts to cry).

            WOMAN 1 (takes her hand and kisses it slowly). He wonít offer anything not worthwhile. Iíve already known this bastard for seven months.

            MAN 5. This is a top-notch thing... top-notch... It goes down smoothly. I mean... you know... because itís new. Itíll be cool...

            MAN 1. But you havenít tried it yourself yet?! How do you know?! O, boy!

            MAN 2. To believe in words. In our difficult and contradictory. Times. Is. At least. Thoughtless.

            M3. Iím not panicking, of course, but you have to think it through - should we wait or, maybe, figure out something else...

            M5. Come on, wait... a little more... heíll be here now...

            M4. I regret I got mixed up with you.

            M1. Fuck it! I canít wait anymore! (Gets up)

            W2 (sobbing). Iím going to get my Genet.

            M1. And I am getting my Cťline! In this stinking city, you can buy him on every corner!

            M5 (stands in front of the door). Wait... come on, weíve agreed... if you beat it... everything will fail...

            M1. We did not agree to be stuck here for eternity without a fix!

            W2. I wouldĎve already been reading for a long time!

            They struggle with M5. M4 slowly walks over to them and firmly pushes everyone from the door.

            M4. I donít get it: why is everyone on Cťline, Genet and Sartre so nervous?

            M1. None of your business, asshole! (jumps M4, but slides down on the floor, having received a punch in the stomach)

            M4 (taps his shoulder). Here is my advice to you - before all of your nerves burn out, quit your Cťline and get on Faulkner.

            M1 (cringes from pain). Stick your Faulkner up your ass!

            W1 (in contempt). Faulkner! Get on him, and, in a month, one becomes a retard like yourself! You know how in Amsterdam they call people who are on Faulkner and Hemingway? Weight-lifters! Look at this weight-lifter! Fuck... (Whimpers). Let me go and get a fix! Iíll go and you people wait for this fucking man, youíll read till you puke... Let me go!

            M5. There must be seven of us, seven, do you understand... otherwise, nothing will happen...

only seven, not a person less... itís a collective thing, fifth generation... and itís very good... youíll thank

me afterwards.

            M4 (slowly seizes him by the collar of his shirt). Iíve been thinking.

            W2. Apparently, he also knows how to think!

            M4. And decided the following. If the man is not here in ten minutes...

            M1. In five minutes! In four minutes!

            W2. Fuck, in two minutes! Fucking sons of bitches!

            M4. In ten minutes. So, if he isnít here, then you (shakes M5) will put out a fix for each of us. Got it?

            M5. Well...

            M4. Got it? Or didnít you? I canít hear you.

            M5. Got it...

            M2 (reproachfully). Friends! Why do we turn our meeting into something... not so pleasant? We got together of our free will, so to speak, in order to get... well... you know... the collective high. So letís wait under normal conditions, this way, we will, so to speak, be through. And letís love each other.

            W2. Letís love! Fuck... Iíve been without a fix for two hours, and he wants - to love!

            M2. Love makes wonders.

            M3. What is he on?

            W1. Heís on Tolstoy.

            M1 (maliciously). Some shit, God forbid to get hooked on him! Tolstoy! (Laughs). I get goose-bumps every time I remember him.

            M2. You didnít like it, friend?

            M1. Didnít like it? (Laughs). How can you like it? Tolstoy! About three years ago my buddy and I dug out some money and, you know, relaxed pretty well in Zurich: first Cťline, Klossowski, Beckett, and after that, as usual, the soft-core: Flaubert, Maupassant, Stendhal. And the next day I wake up in Geneva.                       But in Geneva, itís a different story, not like in Zurich.

            Everyone nods understandingly.

            M1. You canít expect variety in Geneva. Iím walking, see these black guys. Came up to the first one - Kafka, Joyce. The second one - Kafka, Joyce. The third one - Kafka, Joyce, Thomas Mann.

            Everyone cringes.

            M1. How do you come out of the withdrawal? I canít believe it - Kafka? Come up to the last one - Kafka, Joyce, Tolstoy. What is it, I ask? A wonderful thing, he says. So I took it. At first - nothing special. Kind of like Dickens or Flaubert with Thackeray, then indeed good, good, real good, very strong high, broad, powerful, but at the end... fucking terrible at the end! Very fucking terrible! (Cringes.) Iíve never had it so bad while on Simone de Beauvoir like I had on Tolstoy. Well, so I crawled outside and bought Kafka. I got a bit better. Then to the airport, and in London - at once the usual cocktail - Cervantes with Huxley - got smashed. After that, some Boccaccio, some Gogol - and I am alive and kicking!

            M2. Friend. You probably got the fake.

            W1. The real one is even worse.

            M3. Thatís right. Although Thomas Mann is some shit too, I had some liver pain after him.

            W1. Half and half with Kharms he goes down well.

            M3. You know, with Kharms everything goes down well. Even Gorky.

            M4. Whoís talking about Gorky?

            M3. So what?

            M4. Donít talk about this shit in front of me. Iíve been on him for six months.

            W1. What for?

            M4. Didnít have the money. So I was hooked on this shit.

            W1. You have my sympathy.

            M4. Youíre not on Chekhov by any chance?

            W1 (stretches agonizingly). No. Iím on Nabokov.

            Everyone looks at her.

            W2. But this is... wildly expensive!

            W1. I can afford it.

            M2. And how. Do you. Come out. From a withdrawal?

            W1. Thatís a complex one. First, half of Bunin, then half of Bely, and at the end a quarter of Joyce.

            W2. Nabokov, well! Wildly expensive thing. (Shakes her head). Wildly expensive. For a Nabokovís fix you can buy 4 fixes of Robbe-Grillet and 18 fixes of Nathalie Sarraute. And I donít even mention Simone

de Beauvoir...

            M4. Thatís what makes Faulkner so great. Do you know how you come out? With Faulkner.

            Everyone laughs.

            M4. Whatís so funny?

            The door opens. The dealer comes in wearing a torn raincoat, with a small suitcase.

            DEALER (talks sullenly, hardly catching his breath). Mother-fucking shit... (Puts the suitcase on the table, sits down and examines his raincoat.) Fucking pigs... You canít walk normally through the city any more. Itís a fucking problem now.

            M4. What, a round up?

            DEALER. Worse.

            M1. What could be worse than a round up?

            M3 (comes up and touches the suitcase). 24 hours in jail without a fix.

            DEALER (hits him on the hand). I never come late to my clients. Never. I left the home as usual -          a quarter to. A crowd of women walk along my street carrying a slogan: MAN IS A BEAST WITH A HORN BETWEEN HIS LEGS. I pass them and turn around the corner. A crowd of men is barging in my direction with a slogan: WOMAN IS A VESSEL FOR THE MANíS SPERM. There was no way to turn the second time. On the corner I was stuck in between them. And you know... (touches his torn raincoat)... the main thing is that the merchandise is safe.... (Unhurriedly opens the suitcase. Everyone surrounds the table. The inside of the suitcase is lighted with the blue light: the jars with pills are lined inside. On the jars are writersí names.)

            W2. This... you know...

            Dealer. What?

            W2. No... no, nothing....

            Dealer. All right. You ordered the collective one. I have four new ones. Number one. (Takes the jar.) Edgar Poe. This is very cool. But itís complicated to come out. Via Sholokhov and Solzhenitsin.

            Everyone winces in disgust.

            W1. Not for all the money in the world.

            Dealer. Number two. Alexander Dumas. The high is soft but long. This is supposed to be for... how many of you are there?

            M5. Seven... there are... seven of us.

            Dealer (with surprise). Seven?

            M5. Yes, seven. The rest... are having financial difficulties.

            Dealer. So why are you keeping silent, like a flock of sheep? Seven!. Youíve ordered for twelve people! Dumas is for twelve, Rabelais is actually for 36. Platonov is for 16. Seven! For seven I have no... here, thatís what I have for seven. Dostoyevsky.

            W2. Dostoyevsky?

            M3. But... what is it?

            Dealer. This is a cool thing. One of my latest finds. And itís easy to come out - via Hamsun.

            Everyone sighs in relief.

            M5. And what about the price?

            Dealer. Regular price.

            W2. Maybe... we should buy domestic?

            W1. Youíll have plenty of time to be on domestic.

            M4. We did not come here for that.

            M1. But who knows what is Dostoyevsky? Perhaps, itís the same kind of shit as Gorky.

            Dealer. Listen. I do not offer shit to my customers. Please remember that. Either you take it or I am going. Iíve got three more places.

            M5. So what, are we taking it or not?

            Dealer. When you read it youíll run for a second dose. Youíll thank me.

            M4. Weíre taking Dostoyevsky.

            Everyone takes out the money, hands it to Dealer. Dealer opens the jar, puts a pill in every mouth.

            Dealer. Have a good trip.

            Everyone. Happy stay.

            All seven descend into the space of Dostoyevskyís novel The Idiot, and become characters from the novel. Large, lavishly furnished drawing-room. Nastasya Filippovna, prince Myshkin, Ganya Ivolgin, Varya Ivolgina, Lebedev and Ippolit are in it.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Prince, my old friends here are very anxious for me to get married. Tell me what you think: should I get married or not? Iíll do as you say.

            Prince Myshkin. To... to whom?

            Nastasya Filippovna. To Gavrila Ardalyonovich Ivolgin.

            Prince Myshkin. No... donít!

            Nastasya Filippovna. So be it! Gavrila Ardalyonovich! Youíve heard the princeís decision, havenít you? Well, thatís my answer too. And let that be the end of the matter once and for all.

            Ippolit. Nastasya Filippovna!

            Lebedev. Nastasya Filippovna!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Why, whatís the matter, gentlemen? Why are you so upset? Goodness, just look at your faces!

            Ippolit. But... remember, Nastasya Filippovna, you made a promise... entirely of your own free will...

            Lebedev. And to put an end to so important a matter! Itís not serious!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Gentlemen, I really wanted to tell my story. And I did tell it. Isnít it a good one? And why do you say it isnít ďseriousĒ? You heard me say to the prince: ďas you say, so it shall be.Ē If he said ďyes,Ē Iíd have given my consent at once, but he said ďno,Ē and I refused. Why, my whole life was at stake; could there be anything more serious?

            Lebedev. But the prince, why the prince?

            Nastasya Filippovna. The prince means a lot to me, for he is the first man Iíve ever come across in my life in whom I can believe as a true and loyal friend. He believed in me at first sight, and I believed in him.

            Ganya Ivolgin. It... only remains for me to thank Nastasya Filippovna for the extraordinary delicacy with which she... treated me. This was... of course, to be expected... But... the prince... the prince in

this matter...

            Nastasya Filippovna. after seventy-five thousand rubles, isnít him? Is that what you were going to say? Donít deny it, you did mean to say that!

            Varya. Isnít there anyone here whoíll take this shameless creature away?

            Nastasya Filippovna. Itís me they call a shameless creature! Thatís how your dear sister treats me, Gavrila Ardalyonovich!

            Ganya (seizes her by the hand). What have you done?

            Varya. What have I done? Youíre not going to ask me to apologize to her, are you?

            Varya tries to pull away her hand but Ganya holds her tight. Varya suddenly spits in her brotherís face.

            Nastasya Filippovna. What a girl! Bravo!

            Ganya aims a blow at his sister but the prince stops him, stands between them.

            Prince Myshkin. There, thatíll do!

            Ganya. Youíre not always going to stand in my way, are you! (Gives the prince a slap in the face.)

            The Prince (smiles strangely and painfully). O, well, I donít mind you striking me, but I wonít let you touch her! (Pause.) Oh, how youíll be ashamed of what youíve done.

            Nastasya Filippovna (walks up to the prince. Looks closely at him). I do think Iíve seen his

face somewhere.

            Knocks on the door are heard.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Ah, that puts the finishing touch to the affair! At last! Half past eleven.

            Rogozhin comes in, holding a large bulky object wrapped in a newspaper. He comes to the table and puts the parcel on top.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Whatís this?

            Rogozhin. A hundred thousand!

            Nastasya Filippovna. So heís kept his word after all... (Comes to the table and takes the parcel, looks at it and throws it back on the table.) This, ladies and gentlemen, is a hundred thousand. Here, in this dirty parcel. This afternoon he screamed like a madman that heíd bring me a hundred thousand tonight, and Iíve been waiting for him all this time. You see, he made a bid for me: he began with eighteen thousand, then jumped to forty, and after that the hundred thousand here. He has kept his word - Iíll say that for him! Goodness, how pale he is! (Looks at Rogozhin.) Iím worth a hundred thousand to him! Ganya, darling,

I can see youíre still angry with me, arenít you? But did you really mean to take me into your family? Me? Rogozhinís slut? What did the prince say just now?

            The Prince. I did not say you were Rogozhinís slut - youíre not!

            Nastasya Filippovna. And how could you really have married me knowing that the general was making me a present of such pearls almost on the eve of our wedding and I was accepting them? And what about Rogozhin? Why, he bid for me in your house in the presence of your mother and sister, and after that you still came here to ask me to marry you and brought your sister with you!

            Varya. Oh, my God! Let me out of here... (Covers her face with her hands.)

            Nastasya Filippovna. Is it really true what Rogozhin said about you? Would you really crawl on all fours to Vassilyevsky Island for three rubles?

            Rogozhin. He would.

            Nastasya Filippovna. I could understand it if you were starving, but I am told youíre getting a good salary! And in addition to it all, in addition to the disgrace of it, to bring a wife you hate into your house. Because you do hate me, I know that! Yes, I now can very well believe that a man like you would commit a murder for money! For now theyíre all so obsessed with the lust for gold that theyíve taken leave of their senses. A mere child, and heís already determined to become a money-lender! No-o-o, thank you! Iíd better walk the streets because thatís where I belong! Either have a good time with Rogozhin or become a washer-woman tomorrow! Because, you see, Iíve nothing of my own. And whoíll take me without anything, ask Ganya, will he? Why, even Lebedev wonít take me!

            Lebedev. Lebedev perhaps wouldnít, Nastasya Filippovna, Iím a plain man. But the prince will! Nastasya Filippovna. Is it true?

            The Prince. It is.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Youíll take me just as I am,

without anything?

            The Prince. I will, Nastasya Filippovna.

            Nastasya Filippovna ( looks closely at him). Thereís another one for you! A benefactor... What are you going to live on if youíre really so much in love that you donít mind marrying Rogozhinís slut - you, a prince?

            The Prince. I will be marrying an honest woman, and not Rogozhinís slut.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Me, an honest woman?

            The Prince. You.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Oh well, youíve got that out of... novels! That, my darling Prince, is the sort of thing they believed in the old days. Nowadays the worldís grown wiser, and that is all nonsense! And how can you be thinking of marriage when you need a nurse to look after you!

            The Prince (in agitation). I... know nothing, Nastasya Filippovna, Iíve seen nothing, youíre quite right, but I... I think youíll be doing me an honor, and not I you. Iím nothing, but youíve suffered and emerged pure out of such a hell, and that is a great deal. I... I love you. Iím ready to die for you. I wonít let anyone say a bad word against you... If we are poor, I will work, Nastasya Filippovna...

            Lebedev and Ippolit are laughing.

            Varya. Please, take me away from here!

            The Prince. But perhaps we shall not be poor, but very rich... I am afraid I donít know for certain, but I received a letter in Switzerland from Moscow, from a certain Mr. Salazkin, and he let me know that I might get a very large inheritance. Hereís the letter.

            Lebedev. Did you say it was from Salazkin? Heís a very well-known man in his circle. And if itís really he who wrote to you, you can believe him unquestionably. Fortunately, I know his handwriting because Iíve had business with him recently... let me see the letter!

            The Prince gives him the letter.

            Ippolit. Is it really an inheritance? This is mad!

            Lebedev. It is quite correct! (Hands the letter back to the Prince.) You will receive without any trouble a million and a half by the incontestable will of your aunt!

            Ippolit. Well done, prince Myshkin, hurrah!

            Ganya (does not look at anyone). And I gave him a loan of twenty five rubles yesterday. Itís fantastic.

            Varya (to Ganya). But do take me out of here, I beg you!

            Ganya. Do leave me alone.

            Ippolit. Hurrah! (Coughs horribly, the blood oozes from his mouth).

            Nastasya Filippovna. Put him in the armchair.

            The Prince. Give him some water!

            Ippolit is taken to a large armchair.

            Ippolit (being hardly able to catch his breath). No... not water... give me champagne...

            The Prince. Youíre not allowed to drink champagne.

            Ippolit. Prince... I have two weeks left to live... thatís what our intelligent doctors told me... and I know myself what I can and canít do. Champagne! Well?!

            Ippolit is served with a glass of champagne.

            Ippolit. Prince... I would like to congratulate you. (Drinks, throws the glass on the floor).

            Nastasya Filippovna. Then I really am a princess... An unexpected ending...

            Ganya. Prince, come to your senses.

            Nastasya Filippovna. No, Ganya! Iím a princess myself now, you heard, didnít you? The prince will stand up for me now. What do you think, is it worthwhile having such a husband? A million and a half, and a prince. And, Iím told, an idiot into the bargain! What could be better? Oh, life is only beginning for me now! Youíre too late, Rogozhin! Take away your money, Iím marrying the prince and Iím richer than you!

            Rogozhin (to the prince). Give her up!

            Lebedev and Nastasya Filippovna are laughing.

            Ippolit (speaks with an effort). Give her up for a fellow like you? Just look at him... He came, threw his money on the table.. the goon! The prince is marrying her, and you came here to behave like a hooligan...

            Rogozhin. And Iíll marry her too! Iíll marry her right now, right this minute! Iíll give her all I have...

            Ippolit. He ought to be thrown out of here, the drunken sot...

            Rogozhin. Give her up, Prince! Iíll give her everything! Everything!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Do you hear, Prince, thatís how this peasant bargains for your bride.

            The Prince. Heís drunk. He loves you very much.

            Nastasya Filippovna. And wonít you feel ashamed afterwards that your bride almost ran off

with Rogozhin?

            The Prince. You were in a fever. You still are in a fever. You talk just as though you are delirious.          Nastasya Filippovna. And you wonít be ashamed afterwards that your wife has been Totskyís mistress?

            The Prince. No, I wonít. You did not live with Totsky of your own free will.

            Nastasya Filippovna. And you will never reproach me with it?

            The Prince. Never.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Well, take care, you canít answer for your whole life!

            The Prince. Nastasya Filippovna, I told you just now that it was you who were doing me an honor, and not I you. You smiled at those words and, all around, I heard that all laughed too. Perhaps I expressed myself funnily and perhaps I may have looked funny myself... but it seemed to me that I knew what honor was and what I was talking about. Itís impossible that your life should be utterly ruined. What does it matter that Rogozhin came to you or that Gavrila Ardalyonovich tried to deceive you? Why do you persist in reminding us about that? Few people are capable of doing what youíve done, I donít mind saying it to you again. When I saw your portrait this morning, I seemed to have recognized a face I knew well. I felt at once as though you had called me. I... I... will always respect you, Nastasya Filippovna.

            Ganya (whispering). A cultured man but a doomed man!

            Varya. Letís leave, I beg of you... I beg you as your sister!

            Ganya. I told you, leave me alone.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Thank you, Prince. No one has ever spoken to me like this before. Theyíve been always trying to buy me, and no decent man has ever asked me to marry him. Ganya! What do you make of all the prince said? Why, itís almost indecent, isnít it? Rogozhin! Donít be in such a hurry to go. Perhaps, Iíll come with you after all. Where did you mean to take me?

            Rogozhin (perplexed). To... Yekateriengoff.

            Ippolit (in alarm). What do you mean... Nastasya Filippovna!

Have you gone... mad?

            Nastasya Filippovna. Did you really think so? Ruin a baby like him? Why, thatís the sort of thing Totsky would do! Itís he who likes babies! Letís go Rogozhin! Get your money ready!

            Lebedev. This is Sodom! Sodom!

            Ippolit. Nastasya Filippovna!

            The Prince. No! No!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Well, maybe I too am proud, shameless slut though I am! You called me perfection just now. Some perfection to go on the streets just to be able to boast of having trampled on a million and a title! What sort of wife should I make you after that? Rogozhin, what are you waiting for?

Come on, letís go!

            Rogozhin. Letís go! Hey, you there... get wine! Hurrah!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Have plenty of wine ready, I feel like drinking. Will there be music?

            Rogozhin. Yes, yes. (Shields Nastasya Filippovna.) Donít come near! Sheís mine! All mine! My queen! Thatís the end!

            Nastasya Filippovna (laughing). What are you yelling for? Iím still a mistress here! If I liked to, I could still kick you out. I havenít taken the money yet, there it is. Give it to me - the whole bundle. (Rogozhin hands her the money.) Thereís a hundred thousand in it, isnít there? Ugh, how disgusting! Look Prince, your fiancee has taken the money because sheís a slut. And you wanted to take me as your wife. What are you crying for? Feeling bitter? You should laugh, instead. Put your trust in time - everything will pass. Better change your mind now than later. We would never have been happy... Weíd better part as friends, for, you know, I am a dreamer myself. Havenít I dreamed of you myself? You were right, I dreamed of you long ago, when I still lived with Totsky. I used to think and dream, think and dream... I was imagining someone like you, so kind, honest, good, that he would suddenly come and say: ďItís not your fault, Nasteníka, and I adore you!Ē Yes, I used to dream for so long that it nearly drove me crazy... And then Totsky would arrive, dishonor, insult, excite, deprave me and then go away - I was ready to drown myself a thousand times in the pond, but I was a despicable creature, did not have the spirit to do it, but now... Are you ready, Rogozhin?

            Rogozhin. Allís ready! Donít come near!

            Ippolit (coughs heavily). Stop... stop her...

            Lebedev. Heís got troikas with bells waiting for him! There, you can see them in the window, they next to the house.

            The Prince. Nastasya Filippovna!

            Rogozhin. Stand back! Everybody stand back! Iíll kill someone!

            Nastasya Filippovna (walking to the door with a bundle of money in her hand but suddenly stops, looks at the bundle). Ganya, Iíve got an idea. I would like to reward you. Rogozhin, would he crawl on all fours to Vassilyevsky Island for three rubles?

            Rogozhin. He would!   

            Nastasya Filippovna. Then, listen Ganya. I would like to take a look at your soul. Youíve tortured me for three months, itís my turn now. Do you see this bundle? Itís one hundred thousand. I am going to throw them into the fireplace now, into the fire! As soon as the fire sets it ablaze - get into the fireplace, but without gloves, with your bare hands and pull the bundle out of the fire. If you pull it out - itís yours. All one hundred thousand. All are witnesses that the bundle will be yours. And Iíll have a good look at your soul when youíre crawling into the fire for my money! And if you donít - itíll burn just like that. No one will touch it! My money! Is it mine, Rogozhin?

            Rogozhin. Yours, my joy! Yours, my queen!    

            Nastasya Filippovna. Well, stand back, all of you! Donít bother me! Lebedev, make the fire!

            Lebedev. Nastasya Filippovna, I canít do it!    

            Nastasya Filippovna takes the fireplace tongs, rakes the coals and throws the bundle into the fireplace.  

            Ippolit. Tie her up! Stop her!

            Varya. No, no, no! Ganya, run!           

            Lebedev (kneels down before Nastasya Filippovna). Madam! Queen! All-powerful one! A hundred thousand! A hundred thousand! Order me into the fireplace: Iíll crawl into it, Iíll put my gray head into the flames! Iíve got a sick wife with no legs, thirteen children - all are orphans, my father was buried last week, theyíre hungry!

(Crawls into the fire).   

            Nastasya Filippovna (pushes him away). Get away! Ganya, what are you standing for? Donít be ashamed! Go get it! Itís your happiness!

            Ganya looks at the burning bundle in stupor.     

            Rogozhin. Thatís our queen! Thatís the way we like it! Well, which of you scoundrels would ever do a thing like that?

            Nastasya Filippovna. Ganya, the money will burn! Why, youíll hang yourself afterwards, I am

not joking!

            Lebedev. Itís burning, burning!

            Ippolit. Tie her up! I beg you! Tie her up!

            Varya. I am going to die now! Oh my God, what did we deserve all of this for!?

            Lebedev. Go on! Go, you conceited ass! Itíll burn! Itíll burn!

            Ganya. No, no, no, no!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Itís burning!

Burning! Burning!

            Rogozhin. I love you! I love you! The queen!

            Ippolit. Death! Death!

            Varya. Help him! Help him!

            Lebedev. Iíll snatch them with my teeth! Out of the fire! Iíll crawl on my knees, in dirt!

            Prince Myshkin. Dear God, how miserable these people are!

            Lebedev. On my knees! In dirt! Iíll crawl like a worm!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Burning! Everythingís burning! Everythingís burning!

            Ippolit. I am dying. Iíll die, Iíll die swiftly!

            Rogozhin. I love you, my queen! I love you more than life itself!

            Varya. Iím asking as a sister - help me!

            Ganya. No! No! No!

            Nastasya Filippovna. All will burn! All will burn! Burned will be all!

            Rogozhin. The queen! I love you! Iíll rip my chest open! Iíll give you my heart!

            Ganya. No! No! No! Burn a hundred thousand! Two hundred! Three hundred! A million! A billion! Iíll have more! More! More!

            Prince Myshkin. How miserable they are! Dear God, how miserable they are!

            Varya. Only a sisterís love is eternal! Only a sisterís love!

            Lebedev. Iíll crawl in the dirt, kiss and lick your feet! Iíll clean the floor with my tongue, Iíll jump like     a clown and grovel like a worm!

            Ippolit. You donít care that Iíll die soon. Pitiless, heartless people! Iíll die soon! Two weeks is all I

have left!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Let it all burn! Let all the money of the world burn! Rubles, dollars, francs, marks, yen and shillings!

            Rogozhin. I love you! I love you! All the women of the world are in you. I sense them! I know them! I want them!

            Varya. Love of a sister! Innocent, sacred love of a sister! Itís unselfish! It cannot be bought or sold! Itís dearer than anything in the world! It is eternal and endless!

            Prince Myshkin. Pain and suffering! Pain of the world! This is what will save us! Listen, listen to the pain of orphans and beggars! The pain of les miserables!

            Lebedev. For a brass penny thrown to me by a rich man, Iíll cover myself with dirt! Iíll grovel like a worm and grunt like a pig! Iíll dance and weep, laugh and sing!

            Ippolit. Death! This is the most frightening thing in the world! There is nothing scarier than death! Iíve got tuberculosis, I am dying, two weeks is all I have left!

            Ganya. Iíll have a lot of money! Iíll have millions of millions, billions of billions!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Iíll burn all money! All check-cashing places and banks! All mint places of

the world!

            Ganya. Iíll erect a castle on top of Mount Everest! There, where there is only ice and clouds! Itíll be the most expensive castle in the world! Its foundation made of platinum! Walls made of diamonds and emeralds! The roof made of gold and rubies! Every morning Iíll come out on the jade terrace of my castle to throw down precious stones to people! And people down there will catch them and cry out ďO, Glory, Ganya Ivolgin, The Richest Man in the World!Ē

            Rogozhin. I want all the women of the world! I sense them! I know and love each and every one of them! I must inseminate them all! This is the purpose of my life! My divine cock is shining in the dark! My sperm boils like lava! There is enough of it for all the women in the world! Escort all women to me! Iíll inseminate them all! All! All!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Iíll build a wonderful, perfect machine! Like a steel giant, itíll walk the earth and incinerate! Walk and - incinerate! Iíll operate my machine! Iíll burn cities and villages! Forests and fields!

Rivers and mountains!

            Prince Myshkin. I have 3265150 nerves in my body. Let a violin string be attached to each one of them! 3265150 violin strings will stretch out of my body into the world! Let 3265150 children-orphans take 3265150 violin bows and touch the strings! O, the Worldís Pain! O, this music of suffering! O, these thin hands of children! O, my stretched nerves! Play, play on me all orphans and beggars and les miserables! And let your pain be - my Pain!

            Varya. Iíll lift a beautiful ship named ďSisterís LoveĒ into the air! Itíll be silvery and transparent, as light as the air and as firm as a diamond! In it Iíll ascend into the sky, above the worldís baseness and abomination, Iíll scream to the whole world: ďDear Sisters! Innocent Sisters! Sisters who have The Selfless Love of a Sister! Come to me! Iíll take you away from the world of evil and into the world of Goodness and Light!Ē And they will come and gather below! And I will lower a silver staircase for them! And they will ascend to me!

            Lebedev. Iíll become a giant steel hog! My front paws will become the paws of a mole! Iíll live underground and only at night I will come out onto the surface to devour the worldís sewage! Iíll cover the Earth with a web of underground tunnels! At night I will devour garbage dumps and drink up sewers! And the ample lead fat will accumulate under my steel skin! And only my tongue will remain human, sensitive, pink and wet! During the afternoons, while digesting sewage, Iíll stick my tongue out to the surface and lick clean the boots of counts and princes, marquises and barons!

            Ippolit. Iíll cheat Death! Iíll hire the best scientists in the world to make the New Me! New,

Eternal Ippolit! O, this is going to be a grandiose undertaking! Itíll be done by 165 scientific institutes under the supervision of 28 academy members - Nobel prize winners! In two weeks left to my rotting body, theyíll manufacture Ippolit Terentievís New Eternal Body! It will be made out of the most durable and lasting material! Itíll shine like the sun! Itíll be strong and young! The rays of Joy and Optimism will radiate from it! And when my old body shakes in the throes of deathly agony, the best neurosurgeons of the world will pull out my Unique Brain from the old body and transfer it into the New one! And I shall arise and take Ippolit Terentievís old body with my strong new hands and laughingly throw it into the jaws of old lady-death! And when her yellow teeth begin to chew on my old body, I, Young and Eternal, will laugh and spit in her eyeless mug! Laugh and spit!

            Ganya. Hey, little people below! Catch, catch the diamonds and emeralds! Catch the sapphires and the rubies! O, how they shine in the light of the rising sun! Shine and drop down! And there, little people looking like ants hustle and catch them! (Throwing.) Diamonds in the left hand! Emeralds in the right! Diamonds in the left! Emeralds in the right! Ha-ha-ha!

            Nastasya Filippovna. O, my God, how pleasant it is to incinerate! How beautiful is the Fire that obeys my will! What a wonderful and furious animal! How obedient to his Mistress! I show him a new city and tell him - tally-ho! And he rushes forward! Burn, burn cities and villages! Burn, burn forests and fields!

            Rogozhin. O, how sweet it is to impregnate whole countries and continents! I have enough sperm for everyone. My dick shines with a blue flame! Today I fuck the women of Australia, tomorrow I will fuck the women of Mexico, the day after - those of Indonesia! Come, come to me, millions of naked women! I love you! I want you! I fuck you!

            Varya. My ship, ďSisterís Love,Ē is hovering over the world of Vulgarity and Evil! Along the silver staircase sisters are ascending to me! How innocent, pure and sublime are their faces! They exhume Goodness and Love! Come, come to me my Sisters! Our ark of Goodness and Light will float to a different Galaxy - Galaxy of Love! Only there will we obtain Rest and Freedom! Only there! Only together!

            Prince Myshkin. Play, play on the strings of my nerves! Play, orphans and beggars! Play,

les miserables! Play, poor children! I can sense your pale hands! How awkwardly yet diligently they hold the bows! O, how I love childrenís hands, thin hands with scratches and red spots! Indeed play on me, my beloved offspring! Play! Play louder!

            Lebedev. O, how delicious are the dumps devoured under a full moon! City dumps, industrial sewers, village bathrooms, soldiersí waterclosets - everything will fit in my steel gut! Iíll devour and hungrily drink up the sewers! This is the best wine in the world! First rays of sunrise will drive me away, Iíll submerge into the cool body of the Earth, thrust out my tongue... ooo! How delicious are the boots of the rich and the aristocracy! How mighty and confident are their owners! How proudly they carry their heads! What confident postures they have! They always wear new shoes! How sweetly they smell of expensive stores, luxurious restaurants, private clubs and casinos! O, how sweet are these boots!

            Ganya. Diamonds - in the left hand, emeralds - in the right hand! Left hand - diamonds, right hand... (Shakes his hand.) I never thought that precious stones are so heavy... hey, someone, take my place for a while, I am slightly tired... throw diamonds to the left, emeralds to the right... just donít get mixed-up... there you go... and I donít hear the shouts of appreciation (listens closely; below, weak exclamations can be heard).... canít hear anything. Give out megaphones to the people below. (Shivers.) Itís kind of cold on top of Everest... (Screams.) Come on! I canít hear you! Wait, do not throw anything until they start to shout!

Iím listening! (From below: ďO, glory to you, The Richest Man in the World!Ē)

            Nastasya Filippovna. O, how much I have burned! Ugh, itís so hot in the cockpit... What am I

incinerating now?

            Someone. Rio-de-Janeiro.

            Nastasya Filippovna. How much napalm do we need?

            Someone. 24 thousand tons.

            Nastasya Filippovna. How much do I have?

            Someone. 4 thousand tons.

            Nastasya Filippovna. Send the napalm refueller immediately. And order the technicians to install the air-conditioner in my cockpit. Iím giving you 16 minutes for everything! Letís go!

            Rogozhin (impregnates women). O, good... very good... yes, yes, just make sure not everyone at the same time... not at the same time. My dear, order should be in everything... even in love... today I impregnate Englishwomen... only Englishwomen... o, how calm they are... how cold and obedient on the outside... how obedient they are to my hot dick... how it invades their cool vaginas... how my sperm boils and scorches them! O, I love you, women of England! O, how wonderful! Not everyone at the same time... not at the same time... I told you - not at the same time! Donít let the Irish women ahead! I will fuck Ireland tomorrow! And get the Armenian women away! They always cut the line! O, how wonderful!

            Varya. Ascend, ascend to me, my beloved sisters! Ascend the silver staircase! Iíll take everyone into my Ark of Sisterís Love! Just donít rush! My staircase is made of 99% pure silver! Its stairs are smooth and straight! Its banisters are brittle and exquisite! If you break the staircase, my beloved sisters, this will cause me to have serious financial difficulties!

            Prince Myshkin. Play, play, unhappy children! Play on my bodyís nerves! Play, play... but, I beg you, not Schoenberg and not Shostakovich! Play Vivaldi! Please, Vivaldi, ďThe Four SeasonsĒ! Did you understand me? Vivaldi, ďThe Four SeasonsĒ! Vivaldi!

            Lebedev (licking). O, the sweet, sweet boots of the aristocracy... itís a pity that not all aristocrats visit respectable places... Not everyone walks on rugs and parquet floors... some, for instance, attend soccer for some reason... what would an aristocrat find in soccer? A plebeian game!The benches are dirty with spits. And sometimes with vomit. And what about the stadiumís restrooms... well. These boots have a different taste. Not one of aristocracy.

            Ippolit. Young, new body? O, I will run through fields and meadows! Iíll jump like a young deer!           Iíll enjoy the sun and the air! My Young Age and Health Society  is open for all young men from 16 to 25!    Iíll accept everyone! But only the young and the beautiful! And no older than 25!

            Ganya (shouts). I told you - diamonds to the left, emeralds - to the right! And not vise versa! Asses! Bring me a sable fur coat! Itís as cold here as in the grave! Why is this terrace not heated? Install water heating! (Listens closely). Louder! Louder! Why is their shouting so lifeless? Hey, animals! I donít throw you beans with rice, but diamonds and emeralds. Open your

mouths wider!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Napalm, of course, is a luxury. You canít get enough of it for all cities. It would be easier to use kerosene or fuel oil. But kerosene stinks so much, and fuel oil gives  off so much soot... Ugh!

Thanks God I have an

air-conditioner in the cockpit... (Drinks water, spits it out). Hog, if you bring me water without ice again, Iíll send you with a bucket to get some ice in burning Lisbon! Get out of my way!

            Rogozhin. No! No! No! I canít fuck everyone at once! I am not a machine! Get those Armenian women away! Today - women of Holland only! O, get away, lusty bitches! Get away!

            Varya. Sisters! Dear sisters of mine! I beg you! Ascend the ladder in order! Youíre breaking my banisters! What are you doing? Silver is not steel, itís brittle! Come to your senses!

            Prince Myshkin (cringes from pain). Why are children so talentless? Itís indeed so simple to learn how to play the violin... how few wunderkinds there are in the world... (Screams). Donít tear my strings, bastards! What did you learn from your teachers?! A string is not a washing-cloth line, and a bow is not a stick! It should touch the string smoothly, smoothly... (Screams from pain). Smoothly! Smoothly! Smoothly!!

            Lebedev (licks boots). The aristocrats, the aristocrats today just arenít the same... not all of them wear designer shoes... (Throws up). And I canít devour radioactive waste... City dumps, garbage, soldiers toilets - with pleasure, but what does radioactive waste have to do with it?! My internal organs are beginning

to mutate...

            Ippolit (exercises on a machine). In the gyms of our society youíll find all sporting supplies! Your muscles will be elastic and resilient! Your body will be admired by all! The Young Age and Health Society!

From 16 to 25!

            Ganya. I donít have any more diamonds! Fuck! I canít throw emeralds only! They are too expensive! Break down the diamond walls! Throw the pieces down, but not the big ones! Iím cold! Pigs! Why wouldnít they scream? What is this - a strike? Bastards! Do you want my dead?!

            Rogozhin. I canít get my dick up! I canít get my dick up! I canít get my dick up!

            Lebedev (pukes). Why...? What dirt... (Pukes).... This radioactive waste...

            Rogozhin. I canít, I canít - get my dick up?! I canít?! I canít!

            Varya. God has punished the brute! But they broke my ladder! They broke my silver ladder!

            Prince Myshkin. Theyíre tearing my strings! Aaaaa! Theyíre tearing my strings!!

            Ippolit. Itís great to be young and healthy! No one will be tearing your nerves then!

            Rogozhin. I canít get my dick up!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Your dick is nothing. My oil-burner got clogged up!

            Ganya. Pigs! I canít break down the walls by myself! I need tools! Give me an electric hammer!

            Rogozhin. I canít get my dick up! But why?! Iíve been doing everything correctly! I have to impregnate all the women of the world! And I only was able to impregnate half of Europe! (Kneels down). Nastasya Filippovna! I beg you! Help! Help!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Fuck off! I need a monkey-wrench 48X120! Whoís got a wrench 48x120?!

            Varya. Fix my ladder! I canít pick-up the sisters! They are crowded below extending their hands

to me!

            Lebedev (maliciously pukes). Sisters... say it straight out - lesbians... ďArk of Sisterly LoveĒ... couldnít think of anything smarter...

            Ippolit (exercises). Health is the main thing in life!

            Prince Myshkin. They tore a million and a half of my strings! O, tear off their thin, scratched hands!

            Nastasya Filippovna. A monkey-wrench! Whoíll give me a monkey-wrench?!

            Rogozhin. Iíll get you a monkey-wrench, just get my dick up! I beg you! You have such gentle hands!

            Nastasya Filippovna. Buzz off! Ask Varya!

            Rogozhin. Varya! Iím asking you as your brother!        

            Varya. The ladder! The ladder! My ladder!

            The Prince. My strings. Donít tear my strings!

            Ganya (calmly, but shivering from cold). Shut the mouth of this crying Aphrodite. Iím offering

honest business.

            Everyone keeps silent. Only Ippolit continues to exercise on a machine.

            Lebedev (silently pukes). What business?

            Ganya. I need an electric hammer of the newest design. Iím offering any piece of my castleís walls.

And the walls in my castle are made of diamonds.

            Nastasya Filippovna. What do I need diamonds for? I need a monkey-wrench to fix the oil-burner!

            Lebedev. Iíll find any wrench for you in the cityís garbage dump, but I need all radioactive waste to be destroyed. So that I wouldnít have to devour it.

            Rogozhin. Iíll persuade all the women of the world to shit on your radioactive waste! Itíll be covered by a stratum of shit. But I need to get my dick up.

            Varya. Iíll get your dick up. Believe me, I can do it. But who will fix my ladder?

            The Prince. Iíll fix anything, just teach orphan children to play violins properly!

            Ippolit (exercises). In my Young Age and Health Society Iíll teach children everything! But the main thing Iíll teach them, is to appreciate their youth and look after their health! The culture of the healthy body - itís a great thing! If your body is healthy - you can easily learn the technique of playing Stradivarius - itís nothing really! (Suddenly, the muscles in his body are torn with a strange sound).

            Varya. The muscles of your new body are torn.

            Ippolit. But why?

            Ganya. Because everything new breaks down, sooner or later.

            Ippolit. But why donít I feel any pain?

            The Prince. Because your nerves are not nerves anymore, but

the clothing threads from merchant Karaganovís shop. Those are same threads that were used by the six-year-old Sonya Marmeladova to sew on the hand of her doll. It was on Thursday night, when the first snow just fell.

            Nastasya Filippovna (waves her fan). Letís drink Champagne, gentlemen. Perhaps, weíll be more joyous!

            Everyone drinks champagne.

            Nastasya Filippovna. And, at last, tell me a story about anything.

            The Prince. What exactly?

            Nastasya Filippovna. Well, anything about your childhood.

            M1. We lived near the last subway stop.

            W2. Thatís where there are dead poplars with sawed off branches?

            M1. Yes.

            M3. And where is the brick hangar with eyes painted on it?

            M1. Exactly.

            M4. And where there is a leaking hydrant on the corner?

            M1. A post!

            W1. And where it stinks of sweat and piss from the beer-garden?

            M1. Yeah!

            M5. And where the cats are angry and have torn coats?

            M1. Indeed.

            M2. And where the tenant from the second floor has elephantism of his left arm?

            M1. Elephantism. Exactly. He didnít come out often. Only in the mornings, to shop. He always hid his hand under the jacket. They called him Joe Frazer because Joe Frazer had a famous left hook. We sometimes looked into his kitchen window. He sat there drinking milk. With his right hand. And his left one was on the table. It was big and white, like a caterpillar. In the morning I went to school. It was dirty and enjoyable in the subway. You could frequently see a rat. I always carried a piece of brick with me. If I killed the rat, everything would be okay in school and I wouldnít be called on. While I was in school, I killed 64 rats. I did not miss that day either. The rat was thin and angry, like an old woman from a newspaper kiosk. I broke its spinal cord,          and it tried to crawl away on its front paws. I smashed its cranium with the heel of my shoe and entered the subway. There were a lot of workers from the shoe factory and the tire plant. They crowded the platform and waited for the train. Tire plant workers, as usual, talked loudly and laughed coarsely, while shoe factory workers stood silently like dead men. Trains would arrive frequently and bellow terribly. And as the train arrived, Iíd also begin bellowing. Not like a train, but like a plane. When the train came to a stop, everyone rushed inside. I would always be the last one to enter. I loved to get out quickly on the next stop, spit and enter the next train car. And, in this way, move through the whole train. This way, it wasnít boring to ride. But on that day, tire plant workers squeezed in with such force that I could barely stand. The tire plant workers were always pushing wildly, laughing coarsely, fighting in bars and injuring each other. The shoe factory workers, on the other hand, were silent, walking around like dead men, drinking at home, beating their wives and hanging themselves. My friend told me that this happened because tire workers breathed in crude rubber, and shoe workers - leather. Rubber aroused and leather tranquilized. They squeezed me inside and pushed me against the back door. Which meant I couldnít get out on the next stop. I turned away from them and began scratching the paint on the door. I wanted to scratch out T. Rex. And then IT happened to me. Someone pressed close to me, put his lips in my ear and began murmuring: ďElf, my elf.Ē And this murmur was like a dream. His right hand took my free hand and his left hand crawled into my pants. If he would have been a worker, Iíd scream or hit his mug. But this man didnít smell like a worker. He smelled like something clean and cheerful. Like a plane. And his hands were not workerís hands. I saw one of his hands, it held mine. Mine was dark, with red spots and scratches, with bitten off nails. And his hand was big and white. He took my dick and it grew big at once. And we rode and rode like that. And he murmured in my ear: ďElf, my elfĒ. And then suddenly his hot tongue entered my ear. And I came in my pants at once. And the train bellowed and came to a stop. Everyone left the train car. But I stood near the door and cried. Then, a fat lady conductor entered the train car and said: ďGet out of here.Ē

            M2. And we lived near the edge of a forest.

            M1. Thatís where there are big stones overgrown with white moss?

            M2. Yeah.

            W1. And where the pines creak at night?

            M2. Indeed they do.

            M3. Where the hawk hovers in the warm air?

            M2. Yes.

            M4. And where the sign of Mars is carved on the oak?

            M2. Itís carved.

            W2. And the willow looks like a hunchbacked girl?

            M2. Exactly.

            M5. And the stuffed bear stands with a lantern in the anteroom?

            M2. My dead father killed this bear. And we lived with grandfather. And there was also a groom,

a cattle-farm woman, and a cook. My grandfather was a forest ranger. He was the head of all rangers.

And they looked after the forest. So that peasants wouldnít chop it down and, so that it would grow better. Grandfather liked to play the harmonica and hunt. He went on far-off hunts with a retired Major and a superintendent. They hunted boars, fallow-deer and foxes. And he took me with him on hunts close by. These hunts were on heath-cocks and partridges. We had three hunting dogs - two hounds and a red setter named Dick. Dick had a problem - he couldnít stay set. And that was my fault. We got Dick the summer before.

By then, I had already gone on many nearby hunts. My grandpa bought me a single-barreled Beretta. I was a good shot. Grandpa told me I would be a first-class hunter if I developed WILLPOWER. I didnít have enough willpower. When they brought Dick, he was a puppy. Grandpa was very busy at that time, and he went on his forest errands every day. He instructed me to train Dick for wild game hunts. I trained him for hunting heath-cocks and partridges. Dick was first-class at sniffing them out,  but always made the same mistake: he didnít stay set after seeing birds in the grass, but attacked them, letting them fly, running after them and barking. No matter how I yelled at him, he still couldnít get it. Grandpa told me that I had to beat Dick so that heíd understand everything. But I couldnít hit him. Thatís why grandpa said I had weak WILLPOWER. So that summer grandpa and I went hunting. We walked over the ravine, went around the birch wood, and Dick instantly sniffed the tracks. At first I thought these were heath-cocks, but grandpa showed me the pinkie - they were partridges. Dick did well, the tracks led along the underbrush and soon stopped before a rye field. Heath-cocks would never go through the rye - theyíd get stuck among the ears of rye. But partridges were small enough, and they went into the rye. The rye was high-grown. I saw Dickís head flashing in the distance. Suddenly, he raised the heath-cocks, running after them barking. The heath-cocks fenned out as they flew up. We shot at them and one dropped. As we went to retrieve it, we stumbled upon Dick. He lay in the rye. Several small shots got him in the head. Dick trembled slightly and was dying. And grandpa said: ďThatís the result of the absence of WILLPOWER. If you had beaten Dick last summer, he wouldnít get into the crossfire now. Lower your pants.Ē I lowered my pants. ďLie down on top of Dick.Ē I lay down on top of Dick. Grandpa took off the belt from the rifle and whipped me. He whipped me briefly but strongly. And I lay on top of warm Dick and cried.

            W1. And I lived in a big old house.

            M1. The one that had a yellow creaking staircase inside?

            W1. Yes.

            M2. And that had a marble fire-place that looked like an old crying man?

            W1. Exactly.

            M3. And fatherís architectural projects are hanging on the walls?

            W1. Hanging.

            W2. And a bronze boy with a deer is standing in your room?

            W1. Yes.

            M4. And the huge clock in your fatherís cabinet strikes and wheezes, strikes and wheezes?

            W1. It strikes and wheezes.

            M5. And the terrace windows are many-colored?

            W1. Many-colored and have the shape of leaves. You could see a part of the pond from the terrace. And every day I would look at this part of the pond through the many-colored windows. I loved it the most when the pond was purple. I thought - it would be great to swim in a purple pond. Or - swim across and find yourself in a purple country. Everything would be purple there - the house, father, the cat, mother and her bamboo stick. Mother hit me with this stick because I would do a ďbadĒ thing. I liked to touch myself between my legs at night. It was very pleasant. And mother noticed once how I did that. And she beat my hands with the stick. But I still touched myself. And mother used to peer into my face every morning when I woke up. She looked to see if I had blue under my eyes. If I had - she would say: ďYou did the bad thing at night again?Ē She would leave to get the stick, return and hit my hands. Father never hit me but he would also never stand up for me. He would draw his projects and often leave for construction sites. We were left alone with my mother. I loved my mother and when sheíd leave, Iíd sit and look at the clock. And the clock would strike and wheeze. I hated lentil soup and liked to touch myself between my legs. And dream about the purple house. Once, my mother took me to a doctor. He looked me over and said: what youíre doing is very bad. Youíll get ill when you grow up. And I said that I wanted very much to do it. Then he said - every time you want to do it, look at the ceiling. And your desire will disappear. I tried to look at the ceiling at night. I wanted to do it even more and the hand crawled into my panties on its own. Once I spilled a cup of lentil soup. And my mother put me in the cellar. Sheíd sometimes put me there. It was a boiler-room. There were two boilers there - one was ours and the other one belonged to the neighbor who rented the other part of the house. I sat on the box from canned goods and looked at our door. There was another door - the neighborís. It was always closed. But suddenly it creaked and half-opened. I entered and went upstairs - along the staircase. The staircase led to the neighborís anteroom. He was an architect as well. They bought the house together with my father. The neighbor was bald, he wore glasses and was very boring. Every time he visited us, he would always talk about boring things. I entered the anteroom and already wanted to call the neighbor but suddenly saw him in the living room. He was standing on his knees before some red-haired guy. A womanís dress lay on the floor. The guy turned away from the neighbor and was looking in the window. And the neighbor kissed his hand and kept repeating: ďYou donít believe me? You donít believe me, do you?Ē Then, the neighbor began crying. And he cried so vigorously that his glasses flew off. He wept and hugged the red-haired guyís legs. But the guy kept looking in the window. Then, the neighbor grabbed the dress and began to tear it apart yelling ďI swear! I swear! I swear!Ē And the guy reluctantly hugged him. The neighbor began unbuttoning the guyís jeans. And the guy started to laugh. Then, the neighbor hit the guy on the cheek and screamed: ďHow long will you torture me, hog?!Ē The guy unbuttoned his jeans and stood on his knees. The neighbor lowered his pajamas. His wiener stuck out like a stick. He inserted it into the red-haired guyís bottom and began moving and groaning. Then he yelled: ďYou are young, arenít you! Why is your ass so much like an old chaplainís ass?! Hey, tense your ass! I canít fuck emptiness!Ē He was shaking, moving and yelling: ďI canít fuck emptiness! I canít fuck emptiness!Ē And the red-haired guy saw me in the Chinese vase and turned around. ďWhy are you standing there?Ē - he asked. And the neighbor also turned around. He was white like dough and without his glasses. He moved his white face and couldnít see anything. His eyes were white as well. And I shat in my pants.    

            M3. And I lived on the street with 82 houses.

            M1. In the house with 66 balconies?

            M3. Exactly.

            M2. Where there are 42 apartments?

            M3. Yes.

            M4. And 125 residents?

            M3. 123. Two have already died.

            W1. In the apartment number 35?        

            M3. 35.

            W2. With three locks on the door?

            M3. Yeah.

            M5. And there were 2512 steps from your door to the school?

            M3. 2512 - this was during the week. But on Sunday, when I walked past the school - 2590. I began   to love counting after I got sick with poliomyelitis when I was 6 years old. It wasnít a difficult disease. I simply had a high fever and the left side of my body became paralyzed. I couldnít feel that side at all. I was taken to the hospital at once. During the night, they tied me to the bed so that I wouldnít lie on my left side in the sleep. I could have crushed some important veins and started a gangrene. At night I slept, tied-up, and during the day Iíd stay in bed and count. I counted things, corners of things, wrinkles on the sheets, flies, crumbs, floor tiles, medical shots that Iíd received. Iíd count very quickly. In a half a year I got better and began walking. I had a special shoe for my left foot. It had a thick sole because my left foot was a bit shorter than the right one. And it had blue veins all over it, as if the skin had been peeled off. I always wore that boot, in any weather. In the summer, when it was hot, the foot would start sweating in the shoe. It was wet there because of the sweat. And I learned how to crack my sweaty toes with a loud noise as I was walking. To crack them loudly. And the passer-by did not understand what that noise was. And theyíd look at me. When I turned fourteen, my parents sent me to a sporting camp for the summer. So that Iíd become stronger. I played chess very well. And in the camp I was wearing pants all the time. I never wore shorts. I didnít show my leg. Once I was in the bathroom defecating. And I lowered my pants too low. And a boy from the second group came in and started to defecate on the left. He saw my leg and said: ďWow! Blue leg!Ē I wiped my bottom, got up and pulled up my pants. And he started to defecate, loudly repeating all the time: ďBlue leg. Blue leg.Ē And in the evening we played Ping-Pong with the second group. And this boy saw me and said loudly: ďO, and Blue Leg came!Ē I came up to him and said: ďKeep quiet.Ē He said: ďAnd what for?Ē I said: ďIíll give you a Swiss officerís knife.Ē And he said: ďAll right.Ē And I gave him my fatherís knife. I stayed in the camp for two months. During that time, I gave the boy a T-shirt with an Elvisís portrait, a pen, a B-52 bomber pin, eighteen cigarettes, 21 bubble-gums and 42 poppy seed buns. But on the day of departure, the boy wrote with his feces on my yellow bag: BLUE LEG.

            W2. And I lived at the grandfatherís big villa.

            W1. Itís where you go down to the river and there is a boat pier?

            W2. Yes.

            M1. And where there is a palm-tree alley?

            W2. Yup!

            M3. And where there is a gardener with a face like a horseís, with short legs and long arms?

            W2. Exactly!

            M3. And where there is a garden with the peach trees?

            W2. Yes.        

            M4. And where there are a fat servant lady and a thin cook?

            W2. Thin like a splinter of wood!

            M5. And where there is a beetle collection that grandfather gathered during the war?

            W2. Well, he started to collect beetles even before the war, when he was a simple major. And when the war was over, heíd already become a general. Now there are 532 beetles in his collection. When I was small, I couldnít understand one thing - why were the beetles dead? Because they were so beautiful. My grandpa wasnít a simple general. He was the Pride of the Nation. He became honored because of his famous Tank Attack. This Attack entered all of the study books. And when grandpa retired, all kinds of people would visit him at the villa to say how much they respected him. I also loved and respected my grandpa. And always helped him. And he would walk with me, play and read children books. Then, my grandpa became paralyzed. It happened suddenly. He sat in the garden peeling an apple. And suddenly he wheezed and shook. They put him in the bedroom. And he had stayed there for three years. Right until his death. He could neither move nor speak. He could only see, eat, drink, pee and make kaka. And moan. He was very funny-looking when he was in bed. When my parents were out, Iíd play with grandpa. At first, Iíd tickle him. But he was not afraid of tickling. After that, Iíd press his nostrils. And heíd breathe like a fish, through his mouth. Then, Iíd take off his blanket and touch his pecker. His pecker looked like a frog. Grandpa would roll his eyes, sweat and moan. Then, I invented a different game. I would take a stick for cleaning bed comforters and a piece of sugar. Iíd hit grandpa on his stomach and order: ďVoice! Voice!Ē And when grandpa moaned, Iíd place a piece of sugar in his mouth. Before my parents and the nurse heíd point at me with his eyes and moan. But they couldnít understand him. And I continued to play. I would come from school, eat my dinner, then tell the nurse that I wanted to read to grandpa. The nurse would leave, Iíd come in and close the door. He would begin moaning and rolling his eyes at once. I would take some sugar, the stick and play with him. After a while, he got used to it and did everything that was required of him: moan on time and suck on the sugar. Sometimes I fed him instead of the nurse. And, almost always, heíd cry. Eat and cry. When he died, I also cried. He was buried next to the Prime-Minister. And the soldiers saluted him with three rounds of shots from their rifles so loudly that both of my ears got clogged.

            M4. And I didnít have either a grandpa, a grandma or a father. 

            W1. You only had mother?

            M4. Mother.

            M1. She wasnít tall?

            M4. Wasnít tall.

            W2. She had light wavy hair?   

            M4. Light wavy hair.    

            M2. And with the glasses made out of transparent plastic?

            M4. Yes.

            M3. And with a birthmark on her left cheek?

            M4. Yup.

            M5. And with a gold ring on her left ring-finger?           

            M4. This particular ring sheíd take off sometimes. And then sheíd wear it again. I donít understand why. My mother was very good. She never punished me. And forgave me for everything. She worked as a nurse. But the money was not enough. And after the work, sheíd moonlight by administering shots. She administered shots to the sick elderly. And she always came home at 8 oíclock. At that time I usually played with other boys in the backyard. And when I saw her, Iíd run up to her and jump to hug her. And her hands were always clean and smelled of rubbing alcohol and shots. She would say: ďYou see, the butterfly flew home.Ē Our last name was Schmetterling. And though this was a German name, mother said that she didnít have a drop of German blood in her. Then, she would take a shower, drink a shot of cognac and prepare the dinner. When she cooked, sheíd always whistle. Then we ate dinner and Iíd tell her about the school.

Sheíd only say one thing: ďMake sure that I am not called to school.ĒAnd I made sure. Sometimes, men would visit my mother.

It happened on Sundays. Mother would tell me: ďGo and play in the backyard.Ē And I played for the whole day. When I came back, mother would be a bit drunk. But really she didnít drink that much. The neighbors did not like her because she didnít make friends with them. But I didnít give a shit about the neighbors.

And once at night, the house across us caught fire. And it was bright and scary. Mother stood near the window and looked. And I was scared. Very scared. And said to my mother: ďMom, I am scared.Ē She lay in my bed. And I trembled all over. And mother began to caress me to calm me down. Iíd never seen a fire. It was so bright that it seemed that our room was burning and shaking. And behind the window, people were running and screaming. I trembled and breathed heavily. And pressed against my mother and touched it at once. And mother hugged me and caressed me. Thatís how we lay until I fell asleep. And the next night I came to motherís bed myself and said: ďMom, I am scared.Ē And I breathed heavily. I pressed against her at once and touched. And fell asleep. And I would come to her bed every night. And then our class was sent to England through a school exchange program. And I spent a year in an English school. I spoke English very well. And I wrote letters to my mother. She wrote to me, but not too often. And when I got back, I lay down in her bed the very first night. I pressed against her and did not touch but began kissing her and said: ďDear mom, be my wife.Ē She said: ďHere you go, you are a man now.Ē She put me on top of her and helped me. And I entered my mother and she became my wife. And weíd do it every night. And it felt so pleasurable that tears would start rolling down my cheeks. And mother would lick them with her tongue and whisper: ďYou and I are criminals.Ē But then mother became ill with appendicitis and she was taken to the same hospital where she worked as a nurse. And during the surgery, she got an hepatitis infection. And mother died in 7 months and 13 days. And I was taken to the orphanage. And when I saw butterflies,     Iíd always remember my mother. And I started to collect butterflies and kept them in a candy tin. And I was teased and called ďSchmetterling - the catcher of butterflies.Ē But no one touched my tin. And after the graduation night, I slept with this girl. Then I burned the tin and went to work in a tin-can plant.

            M5. And my brother and I did not have either a mother, or a father, or a grandma, or a grandpa.

            W1. Father died on the front?

            M5. Yup.

            W2. Grandma died during the first year of the siege?

            M5. Yes, she did.

            M1. Grandpa was killed by the bomb?

            M5. By the bomb.

            M2. And mother died from typhus?

            M5. In city hospital # 8.

            M3. And you were left by yourself with your brother?

            M5. By myself.

            M4. Were you identical twins?

            M5. Yes, and we looked very much alike. They always confused us with each other and called us Rabbits. Because we had small chins and big teeth. When the second year of the siege began and mother died, we began dying from hunger as well. We chewed on everything: clothes, wood splinters, boots, and searched the dumps. But the dumps were clean. There were 3 million people in our city and everyone wanted to eat. But the enemy kept us surrounded, so that all of us would die. And we would die during the winter, if it wasnít for Fish. He took us into his gang.

He was a criminal and a deserter. He had been taken into a disciplinary battalion but escaped. And there were two more deserters in the gang, Fishís grandma and an engineer. Our gang lived in the cellar of a destroyed house. We had two ovens and a stove there. We made cutlets out             of corpses, and Fishís grandma exchanged them for bread in the city. Sheíd say she worked in the buffet of the partyís city committee. Early in         the morning, Fish would wake me up with my brother and send us to get the asses of the stiffs. He himself was afraid to come out of the cellar. We would put on our school bags and went to look for the corpses. The winter was very cold. People were very hungry and hardly moved. And often died right there in the streets. And then we would come up with my brother, cut out the ass and move on. I had a knife and my brother had a hand-saw. If the stiff was fresh, Iíd cut out the ass. And if it was frozen - my brother would saw off the meat with his hand-saw. We would put half of the ass each in the bag and then look for another stiff. Fish gave us a quota - two asses a day. We would not come back without two asses. Only once, we were scared off and brought one ass and a half. Fish beat us up. Since then, everyone in the gang called us Ass-and-a-Half. And once we brought five asses. And we hardly were able to walk to the cellar. At night, the work was being done in our cellar: cutlets were made out of the asses. The meat was chopped up, glue was added so that the cutlets wouldnít fall apart, it was salted, peppered and fried into cutlets with machine oil. The cutlets would look beautiful. In the morning, Fishís grandma went to exchange them and came back with bread and tobacco. Everyone would eat bread with boiling water, then smoke till they puked. But once my brother went to a neighboring house to get a needle and never came back. I donít know where he disappeared. I looked for him for three months. Then the blockade was broken and my uncle took me out of the city. My brother was never found. Sometimes I have the same dream: my brother shows me a needle and says to me: ďThere are 512 asses in this needle. We wonít die.Ē Then he stabs me with the needle and I wake up.

            Everyone freezes in odd postures.

            Enter Dealer and Chemist.

            Dealer. I see. Same thing again. For the third time.

            Chemist (comes up, looks attentively, pushes M1, M1 falls down; pushes W1, W1 falls down). Yes.

            Dealer. Itís the third time. Isnít it enough for you? Would you like to try the fourth time? Only then we wonít have any customers left.

            Chemist. Enough. (Starts to smoke.) Like my boss says Ė the experimental phase is over. We can now firmly establish that pure Dostoyevsky is deadly.

            Dealer. And what should we do?

            Chemist. Gotta dilute him.

            Dealer. With what?

            Chemist (thinking). Well... letís try Stephen King. And then weíll see.



© Vladimir Sorokin, 1998.

© Translated from Russian by Magazinnik, 2000.



respiro@2000-2004 All rights reserved