Member of the Uzbek Union of Writers
Holder Volcano was born in 1959 in Uzbekistan. Graduated from Tashkent State University. He has been writing poetry and prose since 1975. Lives in Canada. He has written 4 collections of poems, a number of novels, short stories and novels in two languages.In Uzbek and in Russian.His works have been translated into English.Has no titles and awards.
In my love novel «Boomerang» I tried to convey the pain and suffering of my people, which they experienced in the recent past. The novel tells about the beautiful and tragic love of the main cross-eyed literary hero named Sayak, who goes to work in Russia in search of a better life. It tells about his funny, sometimes sad adventures, which do not leave the reader indifferent, do not let him go until the very end, making him laugh and cry. As a result, the Uzbek labour emigrant, that is, the cross-eyed literary hero of the novel Sayak, returns back to his historical homeland like a boomerang. Read and enjoy. We recommend it. Have a nice read!
With deep respect to everyone, Holder Volcano.
The watchman of the vineyard
Sayak is a man about 25 years old, medium height, oblique, skinny build, black-haired, curly, snub-nosed. He lives in the village of Kuiganyar with his young wife named Zebo.
He works as a watchman of a grape orchard and sits all day in a hut on high stilts, as if on a border watchtower, from where the neighborhood is visible at a glance.Sitting in a hut, Sayak drives the birds away with a repeller made from empty iron cans of canned fish and Coca Cola suspended on wires.He shouts at the top of his voice, clapping his hands loudly. When he pulls the wires, the deafening sounds of empty iron cans are heard, scaring away flocks of voracious birds.Sayak is madly fond of watching flocks of birds flying in a cloud over a grape orchard, over cotton fields, creating the noise of a bird blizzard with their wings, abruptly changing their directions, this way and that, like a parachute blown away by the wind.
At night, lighting a kerosene lamp, he cleans the barrels of his double-barreled shotgun with a cleaning rod and wipes it’s wooden stock with a rag. Moths silently begin to curl around the burning kerosene stove. The sky above the hut overflows with stars.Then comes Sayak’s favorite moments.He enthusiastically watches the moon, which slowly and silently rises over the September cotton fields, over poplar and willow groves, illuminating the neighborhood like a powerful searchlight with its dazzling light.Such silence that you can hear the buzzing of a mosquito swarm, similar to the distant and anguished crying of hired mourners at the magnificent funeral of deceased officials.From afar comes the tired barking of a stray dog. The moonlight twilight will ring with restless crickets. Frogs will sing in the distant marshes and sublunary reeds of the kashkaldak River, making the sound of boiling soup in a cauldron. Under the moon, you can see with the naked eye deserted country roads and even paths, as in the daytime.On the bank of the river in deep ravines overgrown with junipers, foxes live, who love not only to eat chickens, they also love to eat juicy ripe grapes.Under the moon, foxes can be seen even from afar. The fox moves quickly, sniffing the ground, as if simultaneously identifying the smells of things. Sometimes he will stop for a moment, carefully sniffing the air.It is in such trembling moments that Sayak, throwing his gun on his shoulder, carefully takes aim, and shoots. «Dttish! Dttish!» The silence of the night echoes with a rolling echo the roar of a shot, like the sounds of spring thunder in mountain gorges.Frightened birds sleeping on the branches of nearby trees will fly away from fright.On moonless nights, Sayak takes aim at the animals between their eyes, which burn in the dark like a light and pulls the trigger.
The moon, slowly making its journey across the sky, wanders sleepily and for a long time over deserted fields.Sayak, taking off his outer clothes, covers himself with a cotton blanket called «kurpa» and goes to bed, thinking about his past, looking at the countless stars twinkling with diamonds in the boundless heavens and at the moon, which carelessly shines over distant cotton fields. He thinks about his distant and difficult childhood and his father, who abused alcohol, drank without drying out for weeks and months, going on a binge. When he came home drunk, he began to beat Sayak’s mother, dragging her around the yard like a sleigh in winter on a snowdrift. Sayak’s mom cried, screamed, calling for help from people. Sayak tried to protect her somehow, but he was unable to stop his strong, angry and drunken father. The neighbors were also silent, although they clearly heard the cries for help. Instead of helping, on the contrary, they secretly watched from behind a crack of clay douvals, rejoiced, as they laughed heartily.One day, his father took Sayak’s tricycle and headed outside to exchange it for vodka.Oh, how Sayak ran after his father then, begging him not to sell his beloved bike.But his drunk father hit him in the face with his elbow and broke his nose.Blood was oozing from Sayak’s broken nose.A year later, Sayak’s father died. That is, he was hit by a huge truck as he was crossing the road and he died at the scene.After his father’s funeral, his mother fell ill.Despite the autumn cold, Sayak, in order to help his sick mother, decided to work, washing cars that descended from mountain passes and stopped by the road to have a snack and relax in a local teahouse. The cold winds of the snowy peaks blew from the mountain slopes. Sayak was standing on the side of the road, constantly twisting a wet rag like an airplane propeller to somehow attract the attention of rich drivers.Here, one driver stopped his car on the side of the road and Sayak offered him his cheap service.The driver agreed. Little Sayak scooped a bucket of icy water from the ditch and began to work hard.While he cleaned the dirty wheels and washed the windows of the car, his hands turned red in the cold and the joints of his stiff fingers began to ache, which he tried to warm with his breath.He worked tirelessly, thinking about his sick mother and was very happy when the driver gave him money. Sayak, in order to save money, returned home hungry, not allowing himself to eat anything for dinner. Having collected all the money he earned by honest work, he ran home to please his mother.But when he went into the yard, there he saw the neighboring women and one of them, hugging Sayak tightly, sobbed bitterly.
— Oh, poor Sayak, you’re all alone now! Your mom is gone! — she said sobbing, stroking his head. Oh how Sayak cried then, oh how he cried, hugging the body of his late mother, shaking her. After the funeral, they wanted to send him to an orphanage where orphaned children were brought up, but Sayak’s grandmother drove away the newcomers, waving her cane.
— Leave now, I won’t give him to anyone so long as I’m alive! You can only take my grandson over my dead body! — she screamed, crying and making desperate resistance.
Years passed. Sayak has grown up. In those days, he reluctantly attended school, like a mongrel dog which the owner leads to hunt, dragging it behind him. The school for Sayak was like a penal colony, where he felt like a prisoner in a striped robe.
The teachers seemed to him to be evil guards, and the school principal reminded him of the prison governor. Sayak was sitting at a desk made of pine boards, located near the window, which was sometimes open, where he made paper airplanes from a notebook sheet and sent them flying. He was the first to run out of class during recess, especially when lessons were over, feeling like a prisoner released on parole. In summer, on vacation, Sayak grazed a cow from morning to evening in the floodplain of the Kashkaldak River.While his burenka was grazing with other cows in the meadow, he and his friends were swimming in the river, over which pugnacious seagulls flew in flocks, shouting together and noisily, like restless women at the bazaar. With the arrival of thoughtful September, his days again became empty, sad, like autumn itself, like the eyes of a donkey with a sad look.The teachers’ questions seemed to him like interrogations under torture in a pre-trial detention center.One day Sayak went to school with a backpack on his shoulders, rustling the fallen leaves of autumn maples, simultaneously planning an escape from school. But what he saw at the beginning of the lesson dramatically changed his plans and he had to postpone his escape for another day.
— So, quiet, fellow students! We have a new student from the city! Meet her, her name is Zebo!Niyazov’s her last name!The documents show that she studied perfectly at her school — said the teacher Uvadaguppiev.
The students were silent. Zebo, too. She looked out of the ground at her new classmates with big deer eyes, blushing with embarrassment and playing with the tips of her pigtails.This skinny, black-haired and black-eyed new student with long cow eyelashes turned out to be a very attractive girl. Her scarlet lips, reminiscent of ripe cherries, a thin and delicate neck smooth as ivory, thin and long fingers like musicians simply bewitched Sayak.
— Well, Niyazova, sit down at the desk next to the student Satybaldiev. His name is Sayak.He’s an underachieving student.So you will help him, — said the teacher Uvadaguppiev, pointing out to the new student the desk where Sayak was sitting, as if hypnotized.
Zebo sat down at her desk.The teacher Uvadaguppiev turned to Sayak.
— Why are you staring at me, schoolboy Satybaldiev?! Are you dissatisfied with something?! You, this, don’t even think of offending her!Otherwise, I will personally write a complaint against you to the district policeman comrade Dyryldaev, and he will send you to a children’s colony?! — he said.
— I understand, Comrade Uvadaguppiev, I understand… A little like the police, a children’s colony… Yes, I’m not looking at you, but at her, that is, at the new student. And what should I do if I have such oblique eyes?! — Sayak said.
Hearing this, the students laughed in unison. Zebo blushed even more.
The teacher Uvadaguppiev laughed like Aladdin, looking at the ceiling. He laughed for a long time, bursting with laughter.Then, barely suppressing his laughter and wiping his tears with his checkered, leaky handkerchief, he said:
— Well, sit down, comrade schoolboy Satybaldiev.
Sayak sat down, thinking about how good it was that he was oblique.Now no one will suspect when he looks at this beautiful Zebo girl. The naive teacher Uvadaguppiev will also think that Sayak is looking at the blackboard…
With such thoughts, Sayak lay for a long time in a hut, looking like a watchtower of penal colonies, looking at the moon and did not even notice how he fell asleep.
Love at first, oblique glance
Sayak, lying in the hut, began to think about his past again, about how he started dating his wife Zebo in his distant youth. How he looked at Zebo during lessons and even during recess and could not tear his squinting eyes away from her then.He remembers well the day when the lessons ended and the students, hurriedly taking their backpacks, rushing to the exit, shouting joyfully, like seagulls on the shore of the sea. Sayak also ran out of school and quickly caught up with Zebo, began to keep up with her.His heart was beating fast with excitement, like a freedom-loving bird in a cage.Finally he pulled himself together and began to speak:
— Well, Zebo, did you like our school?
— Yes — answered Zebo, smiling beautifully and closing her eyes from the rays of the September sun.
— And our village? — Sayak asked, so that the conversation would not be interrupted, like a film of an old movie camera, which rustled off in summer cinemas at the most interesting place of an Indian movie about love, where a lover Sundar, playing the piano, sings a sad song about a faithful friend, looking at the ceiling, straining so that burning tears would not roll down his cheeks.
— Zebo, I don’t know why, but when I saw you for the first time, I almost fainted.I’ve never met such a beautiful girl like you anywhere before. Believe me, you’re very similar to Radha, who I saw in the Indian feature film Sangam. In the film, a young military pilot named Sundar fell madly in love with her. Oh how he sang while playing the piano a sad song about an unfaithful friend!
Dost dost na raha, piaar piaar na raha,
Zindagiiii hameeein tera, aitubaaar na raha! Aaaytubaaar na raha…
(AND a friend is no longer a friend, and a beloved is no longer a beloved,
Life I don’t believe in you anymore, I don’t believe in you anymore…)
— Yes, I’ve also seen that movie. You sing well! Bravo! You have a good voice, like Fyodor Chaliapin, — Zebo said.
— Well, this is too much! What kind of singer am I? Are you kidding me? — Sayak said, laughing.
— No, I’m quite serious. You have a gift from God, a talent from God! As for the village, everything is very beautiful here.Wide fields and meadows where butterflies roam carelessly and quietly. as if they were afraid to break the silence. I often freeze, standing on the path, in the middle of meadows, when a lonely hoopoe sings wistfully at noon, somewhere out there beyond the sultry fields, in the distance.I used to come here often to my grandmother and fell in love with the rural landscapes, — Zebo said.
— Landscapes? Oh, you talk like great artists and poets — Sayak was surprised.
Zebo silently smiled back.
Sayak continued: — Have you seen our kashkaldak River?
— Yes, I saw it. Only from afar. High cliffs where swifts nest in burrows, green rice fields on the shore, where gulls rush, shrieking.I just can’t take my eyes off! — Zebo replied.
-You’re right, Zebo. There is nothing to compare our green meadows, rice fields, old willows and poplars in the delta, rustling reeds in the wind knee-deep in water. Blooming djids, cattails growing like a wall on the shore and white water lilies in quiet, mirrored pools. And on the island we herd cattle, disappearing into the juniper thickets and the tall grass. In the evening, when we wearily return home, wading through shallow water, driving a caravan of well-fed cows with calves, frogs will sing in chorus in the distance and the moon will shine. Cows and calves are returning home, along a dusty village road, lowing long — Sayak boasted.
— Yes, I also love country evenings, in the silence of the moon. In our city, the noise, the sounds of car brakes and the heartbreaking howls of sirens. When we lived in the city, my grandmother sometimes came to visit us and she could not stay there for a long time.I tried to return home, that is, here, as soon as possible.
— And who is your grandmother? — Sayak asked.
— Grandma Suttie — Zebo replied.
— Oh, aunt Suttie? She’s a very good old woman. The one who lives in a small house next to a water pump, right? Sayak said.
— Yes, that one — Zebo said, confirming the words of Sayak.
— Did you come with your parents or did you come alone? — Sayak continued, interested, like an investigator of the city prosecutor’s office.
— Together with my parents. The fact is that my mother got sick and the doctors advised her to change the climate — Zebo said sadly.
— Don’t worry too much, Zebo, everything will be fine.Your mother will recover soon, you’ll see. We have clean air, no noise, and beautiful landscapes. In general, I am glad you came here… Forgive me, I seem to have poured salt on your wound without noticing it — Sayak said guiltily, trying to calm Zebo.
Zebo sighed sadly, shaking her head approvingly, as if accepting Sayak’s apology for his inappropriate question and continued to tell her story, walking steadily along the road, rustling the fallen leaves.
Sayak did too. From the autumn maples and poplars growing along the road, yellow and purple leaves were falling quietly.Finally, when they reached the water pump, on which the storks built a huge nest of cotton stalks, they stopped.
Sayak didn’t want to part with a beautiful girl. When Zebo started to move away from him, he hurriedly shouted after her:
— If you want, I’ll show you the beautiful places of our river!
Zebo thought about it and blushed for some reason.Then she replied,
— Okay. But I have to ask my parents for permission.If they allow it… — she said.
— Okay, Zebo, okay. Agreed! After lunch, I’ll be waiting for you here, — said Sayak, relieved.
— Okay — said Zebo and opening the creaking gate, headed into the yard. Sayak stood looking after her with his slanted eyes until she disappeared from sight.
He then joyfully made a gesture with his hand, as if pulling an invisible lever of an old river ferry that emits long sad horns in the fog. After that, he ran home in high spirits.
A lonely autumn wind was breezing on the street, the fallen leaves, circling forlornly.
Zebo was sitting over the deep cliff of the kashkaldak River, and Sayak was lying next to her, sideways on the tall grass, thoughtfully looking into the distance with his crossed eyes, holding a foxtail stalk in his teeth.
— Well, what does our river look like from a close distance? He asked Zebo.
— Beauty! Zebo said.
Then she added:
— It seems God himself sent me here. However, in the first days I cried about how I could now live on in this remote village, where I do not have friends, and now I’m glad.
With such conversations, they fell silent, looking at the flocks of sparrows that flew in a cloud over the yellowed autumn rice fields, often and sharply changing the flight directions of the whole flock, as a single organism, first to the left then to the right. Farmers worked in the rice fields, they mowed rice manually with a sickle, as in the old days. Screaming seagulls were rushing over the river surface and fighting right in the air among themselves, like fraternal peoples fighting each other for territory, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, especially helpless children, destroying infrastructure, blowing up schools, kindergartens, hospitals, universities, turning beautiful cities into ruins. Just at this time, a donkey began to scream in the distance. His raspy voice resembled the clang of an iron gate in the wind, the creak of a rusty swing and an old carousel in an empty autumn city park.
— Zebo, if my crosseyed look confuses you, tell me right away. It may seem to you that I am looking at you at the moment, but in fact, I’m looking at flocks of birds that fly in clouds over the rice fields, — said Sayak.
— No, don’t say that, Sayak.Your look doesn’t bother me at all, — Zebo said, blushing slightly from her words.
— Really? — Sayak said, rejoicing.
— Really, really, — Zebo replied, smiling beautifully again.
— Thank God! Sayak said, sighing happily. Then he continued.
— To be honest, I’m afraid of my look, because of which I was almost killed once. I’m walking through the city park on foot, with a bag on my shoulders. I was walking, admiring the city landscapes, and then one tall and pot-bellied big guy comes up to me and says:
— Hey, village hillbilly , why are you staring at my wife?! What are you staring at?! I’ll gouge out your eyes!
— When I heard this, I turned pale with fear and told him, — I’m not looking at your wife, I am just cross eyed, like a hare. I thought the big guy would understand me but he began to beat his hands and feet on the vital areas of my poor body.I screamed like a distant train in the winter twilight, which rushes over the Kuiganyarsky suspension bridge, stumbling over the spines of the steel road.I called people for help, but no one responded to my shrill screams. On the contrary, onlookers began to cheer the big guy.
— Beat that hillbilly with a bag over his shoulders, who looks at decent women like a prostitute! He says I’m crosseyed. He’s lying! Don’t believe him, naive citizens! He’s faking it!It’s not enough to beat such people! He needs to be killed with a shovel and bury him like a like a rabid dog! People like him are the reason monstrous natural disasters have recently begun to occur on our lonely, orphaned planet and terrible typhoons are rising in the oceans, volcanoes are erupting, nuclear power plant reactors are exploding, radiation is going off scale all over the planet, entire cities are being destroyed in terrible earthquakes, AIDS and other types of plague are spreading, unheard-of plane crashes occur in the sky with hundreds of passengers on board, nuclear submarines equipped with hypersonic intercontinental cruise missiles are dying missiles in the seas and oceans! — they shouted.
— Quiet, citizens, I am a secret informant of the police, an honored informer Ruppan ibn Suppan and I have a unique idea about this! — someone from the crowd said. Then he continued: — Let’s hang him on the top of the tallest crane! Let hungry crows and vultures clean his bones! Let some people draw the appropriate conclusions from this, about what will befall the severe punishment of the one who stares at other women with his crossed eyes! — Ruppan ibn Suppan, a well-deserved snitch and secret informant of the police, said.
With these words, they began to hang me.When everything was ready, the man who put a bag on my head gave me the last word before the execution.
— Listen, you are condemned to death! We give you the last word and you can say whatever you want! After that, we’ll send you to hell, okay?! — he said, looking at me with burning eyes from a bag with holes for eyes.
By this time, the number of the crowd around the construction site where the execution was carried out had sharply increased.
I started talking:
— Dear compatriots! What is this?! It’s not my fault! I am being executed on trumped-up charges, like the inquisitors of the Middle Ages, who executed the innocent great scientist — astronomer Giordano Bruno, who, before being burned alive in a giant bonfire, said that the Earth rotates! Later it turned out that the Earth rotates not only around its axis, but also around the sun too! Believe me, I didn’t look at the wife of this Mr. bully! God is my witness that my gaze was directed at urban landscapes and not at a woman! I’m cross eyed, you know?! At school, my teachers also look at me with disbelief.They think I’m an unrecognized artist and pretend to be Cross eyed! And these gentlemen hang me for staring! I’m afraid that the future generation will never forgive you!.. I ask only one thing before I die. Take care of the yellowed manuscripts of my poems that are in this bag! I said.Here the executioner interrupted me and began to hurry me:
— Well, that’s enough, that’s enough, a slanting suicide bomber, an unrecognized impostor poet! I am a well-deserved executioner, winner of the prestigious Robespierre Award and I have little time, but on the contrary, there are a lot of things to do, you know! I have to hang many more such bastards — dangerous criminals, freethinkers, enemies of our long-suffering people, like you, who don’t look where everyone is looking! Come on, stop talking! You will pronounce the rest of your poetic speech in the next world! — he said, preparing to carry out the sentence, carefully putting a noose lathered with household soap on my neck. I began to say a prayer in a whisper, looking up to heaven, where a lonely, kind and silent God lives. Then a foreman in a construction helmet, looking up, shouted into a tin megaphone: — Vira! The crane operator began to carry out the order of the foreman, lifting the boom of a high crane and I woke up, covered in sweat, breathing heavily — said Sayak.
Listening to Sayak’s story, Zebo laughed loudly: — Well, you had a dream! It’s a good thing they didn’t hang you on the top of a tall crane. And I wonder if you write poetry only in a dream, or in reality too? — she was interested.
— You see, it turns out that I myself, without noticing it, have revealed to you a secret that I have never told anyone about before. Not like my classmates and teachers, even my grandmother doesn’t know about it. One day I sent one of my poems along with my photo by mail to the editorial office of the newspaper «Adabiet va Sanat» and a week later I received an answer.I’ll open the blue envelope, and there’s a letter written on a typewriter.I still remember the text of that hate-soaked letter. There were such words:
— Hello, Comrade Sayakbai Satybaldulin! We opened the envelope that you sent and immediately drew attention to your photo, which resembles a sketch of a particularly dangerous criminal on the international wanted list, and we decided not to read your poems, as it seemed to us a pointless occupation.The fact is that your appearance does not match with poetry. I wonder, with such cross eyes, did you decide to become a poet?! Look at your nose, which looks like a rino horn . You should first look in the mirror, and the face of our beautiful poets who struggle twice a day, sometimes three times a day, carefully shaving their beard, massaging their faces for hours, putting on nourishing creams to look good infront of their bosses. That’s what a real poet’s face should look like! There is not a single poet among them with slanted eyes and a nose like yours, like an elephant’s trunk, like a gas mask hose. My God, what a horror! I bet you get scared every time you look at a mirror. Even a stooped penguin, a vulture or a scavenger vulture looks more beautiful than you! The poet is the face of society, do you understand?! So, my advice to you is to find yourself another job, maybe you should play in a horror movie like in one of Alfred Hitchcocks movies. I think you could make a good living off of this. or maybe they should use your picture to scare kindergardeners that arent going to sleep and say «oh no the monster is coming!»
Sincerely, Mr. Konstantin Matyak, Chief Chairman of the Literature Department of the newspaper «Adabiet va Sanat».
After that, I decided never to send my poems to newspapers and magazines. Since then, I have been shy and write poems secretly, so, for the soul. I hide yellowed notebooks from people, where my poems are written, — admitted Sayak.
— Poor man! But don’t worry about this, what’s his name, Konstantin. He’s wrong.Your appearance is normal. To be honest, your eyes make your appearance even more attractive. Believe me, honestly! Now, the time will come and you will become one of the great poets of the world! It’s obvious. Since you have the pure soul of a real poet and I firmly believe that the poems of a guy like you should not be bad. I want to be your first reader, and I wonder if you will show me the manuscripts of your poems? — Zebo said.
— Yes, only if you promise not to show them to anyone, — said Sayak, smiling broadly, like a new moon over an evening meadow.
Previously, Saturday and Sunday were freedom holidays for Sayak, like the Independence Day of the country. Now it has become the opposite. Now he is looking forward to the arrival of Monday and aspires to school as the best student in the world.The school began to seem to him not a concentration camp, as before, but an expensive and comfortable resort with a five-star hotel, a quiet paradise, an azure coast, where palm groves rustle in the sea wind and coral thickets with shoals of colorful fry are visible under the clear water. The teachers began to remind him of silent, harmless good monks, who live in a monastery above the mountain gorges and pray to God, content with a piece of dried bread and water. Especially the teacher Uvadaguppiev. He began to praise Sayak that he started studying well, looking at the board all the time, thanks to Zebo, who is sitting next to him. In fact, Sayak was not looking at the board, but at Zebo. He once wrote a strange letter on a piece of paper and carefully handed it to her. The text of the letter was as follows:
— Red Guard, Zebo Niyazuva! I order in the name of the revolution! Quickly jumping out of the open window, sit on a rhinoceros and gallop to the bank of the kashkaldak River, across the steppe, where a silvery grass sways in the free wind. Ride, waving a sharp saber , along the way beheaded the White Guards of Kolchak and Denikin’s cavalry army. Our man, Commissar Uvadaguppiev, is waiting for you there on the shore. He will ferry you across the river to the other side and from there you will go by train to distant Turkestan to fight against the gang of Basmachi Kurbashi Kurshermet, Ibrahimbek Lakai and the bloodthirsty Junaid Khan!
period, chairman of the revkom, lieutenant general commander Sayak Satybaldizade.
After reading this, Zebo began to laugh uncontrollably, shaking her whole body and covering her mouth with her hand so as not to burst out with laughter.
After class, Zebo asked Sayak not to write her such funny letters in class anymore, which make her laugh, and the worst thing is that these letters can fall into the hands of classmates or teachers.
— I read your poems, which struck me. Real works of art! The time will come and your collections of poems will be published with millions of copies and distributed around the world. Believe me, Sayak, you have a great future! — she said, coming home after school.
Sayak thanked her for the good words spoken to him about his poems.
— When you become a great poet and come from Paris to Uzbekistan to visit your homeland, I will approach you with your book in my hands and ask you to give me an autograph. You will sign the book and give it back, with a smile on your lips, without recognizing me, — Zebo said, smiling thoughtfully and walking steadily along the autumn road.
Then Sayak stopped abruptly and said: — No, I will never go to Paris, even if I become a great poet! I’d rather burn all my poems and chop off my hand with an axe than move away from you! — he said.
— Come on, I was joking! Zebo said, laughing merrily. Then she continued: — You’d better tell me how you managed to learn to write such amazing poems? What books do you read? To be honest, I also want to try writing poetry or prose at worst, — Zebo said.
— It’s very simple.To do this, we have a school library and there are many interesting books there.If you want, we’ll go to the library right now and I’ll show you the best books in the world, — said Sayak.
— Why not, it’s not a bad idea. I agree — smiled Zebo. After that, the two of them walked towards the library.There they were met by a skinny librarian named Gulsum Abduzhalilova, about thirty-five years old, with a long neck, with big cow eyes, with swollen lips like a duck’s beak. In addition, she also limped slightly on one leg.
— Oh, come in Sayak! You are our most active visitor — said librarian Gulsumoy Abduzhalilova, and when she smiled, the gold crowns on her teeth shined brightly.
— Thank you, Miss, — said Sayak.
The librarian Gulsumoy Abduzhalilova thought that Sayak was looking at the bookshelves, not even suspecting that at the moment he was looking at her.
— Please come in and choose books. What books would you like to read? She asked politely.
— Books of foreign poets — said Sayak.
— Good — said the librarian Gulsumoy Abduzhalilova and sat down at the table, began to read some books.
After that, book lovers began to look for the books they needed.Divine silence reigned in the library.They walked between the high shelves, quietly examining the books.
— What a silence — Zebo admired.
— Yes, it’s always quiet here, like in misty meadows where horses graze peacefully. Doctors say that noise and stress shorten the lives of people whose nerves are shaken. They recommend patients to go fishing. If I were a doctor, I would recommend that patients often visit libraries to be treated with silence therapy for free, getting drunk without vodka and wine, breathing the fragrant smell of books, similar to the smell of dust during a thunderstorm, when the first, large, cutting raindrops fall.The library is a terrestrial paradise for me, — said Sayak. Then, picking up one of the books, he continued.
— Here, please, this is a book of poems by Japanese poets. There are haikku and tanks of many authors, such as Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, Wakayama Bokushi, Ishikawa Tokuboku, Kovahigashi Hekigado, Masaoka Shiki, Takahama Kyoshi and many others. In the haiku and tanks of ancient Japanese poets, you will see your own soul, similar to the moon, which oscillates in a bucket of clear water. With these words, they began to read the haiku and tanks of Japanese poets, standing side by side. They were standing so close to each other that their breaths merged.Then Sayak accidentally touched Zebo’s hand and hastily asked for forgiveness. Zebo blushed. Her eyes were looking at the book, but she did not think anything. She was confused by Sayak’s gaze directed at her, forgetting that he was Cross eyed and looking at a book of Japanese poets. When his gaze turned towards the book, he began to speak in a lowered voice: — You are an incomparably beautiful girl, Zebo! Maybe you won’t believe my words, but I think only about you day and night. I can’t sleep at night. I stand in the dark for a long time, like a ninja, looking at the glowing windows of your house, hoping to see you out of the corner of my eye.When I see your silhouette in the window, I freeze, leaning against the clay wall of the house, like a ghost… I love you, Zebo, do you hear, I love you… — he said, pressing the girl tightly against the shelf. Then he passionately began to kiss her on the lips, in the eyes, in the ivory-smooth neck, inhaling and getting drunk from the subtle fragrance of her thick and delicate hair.. Zebo struggled out of his embrace and hurriedly straightening her hair, whispered: — Fool! What are you doing, are you crazy? There is also a librarian, Mrs. Gulsumoy Abduzhalilova…
Sayak again asked for forgiveness: — Sorry, Zebo, for God’s sake, sorry… Yes, you’re right, I think I’ve lost my mind… Excuse me… — he said.
— Crazy! — Zebo said in a low voice. Sayak smiled, guiltily looking at Zebo with slanted eyes.
Then they came out of the cramped corridor between the shelves and approached the librarian named Gulsuma Abduzhalilova, who was sitting reading some interesting book excitedly.
A water field blooming with water lilies
Zebo was still working, tidying up the yard, covered with fallen leaves. She worked, collecting leaves with a rake and burning them on a smoking fire and thought only about Sayak. She thought about his funny jokes, laughing to tears, and about his poems. About how they kissed in the school library. About teachers and classmates who consider Sayak an underachieving student. But Sayak turned out to be the best. He even studies English on his own. Zebo worked with such thoughts in her mind, rustling the fallen leaves of the maple trees in the yard as other leaves flew by. She remembered with longing and with a sigh that summer day when she and Sayak went by boat to the delta of the river, where tall reeds rustled, swaying in the wind like a green wave.
Seeing countless snow-white water lilies, similar to lamps that bloomed among the reeds, which were like a wall, Zebo began to feel like a person trapped in another world, in another dimension. Water lilies and their buds with green leaves stuck out of the water as if from a mirror.
It was as if the wooden boat of the two lovers was sliding not on the mirror surface of the water, but on the sky. The water in the delta, where clouds were reflected, the shadows of blooming snow-white water lilies and their buds with leaves similar to green pancakes, where carp swam.
— Oh, my God! What a beautiful landscape, what heavenly flowers! So as not to tear them up, I’m even afraid to touch them with my hands, so as not to spoil this wonderful landscape! is this a dream, or is this real life? — zebo exclaimed, looking with wild delight at the blooming snow-white water lilies.
— Do you see how the buds stick out of the water? By the evening, they will also open up. Oh, how I want you to see this landscape at night, under the moon!
At dusk, the flowers of the white water lilies look like night lamps. I adore sitting in a boat, admiring these blooming flowers of paradise, listening to the distant rumble of a frog choir in the divine lunar silence! Sayak said, paddling softly, as if afraid to break the silence.
— Look, the fish are swimming among the algae, as if in a giant aquarium! Zebo admired, without taking her eyes off the mirrored water.Sayak continued to row slowly and steadily with a smile on his lips, looking with oblique eyes at the expanses of the delta, that is, at Zebo. The boat glided through the mirror-like water, parting blooming white water lilies and thickets of reeds with its nose. They felt as if silent mermaids were about to pop up among these snow-white water roses.
Then the ducks quacked and rose into the air, splashing on the water with their wings.They, hurried, and, flying low, sank back into the reeds not far from the lovers’ boat.
— I used to dream of living in this delta in a houseboat alone. Now my plan has changed, because you have appeared on the horizon of my life, taming my loneliness. Now I want to marry you and live together all our lives, here, in a houseboat, in the midst of blooming water lilies and rustling green reeds, merging with nature, like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. At night, a lonely moon will silently peer into the window of our houseboat. You and I will sit on the balcony, looking at the moon and its reflection in the water, which fluctuates like in the canals of Venice at night. We will watch the fish, which jump out of the water, shining in the moonlight.
— Yes, — Zebo said, thoughtfully looking at the blooming water of the delta and clinging tightly to Sayak…
The sad cries of cranes flying over the village interrupted Zebo’s thoughts, and she looked from under her palm into the sky, shouted: -Cranes!
Zebo’s parents and her grandmother also stared at the sky. Cranes flew in a huge flock, overflowing the sky with their farewell cries, going: -Kru! Kru! Kru!Kru! Zebo kept looking at the cranes disappearing into the boundless sky, with a broom in her hands. When the cranes disappeared from sight and their voices fell silent, it seemed to her that the whole neighborhood was empty in the lonely autumn silence.
The distant rumble of a tractor in a night field
Tractor driver Nazhmiddin worked at night in a field during autumn, plowing the ground while his bulldozer rumbled rhythmically, breaking the deserted silence. The thick layers of dirt that the plows were turning over glistened in the light of the round moon shining high above the field. Beyond the fields, the sleepy lights in the windows of distant houses looked sad. Countless stars twinkled in the sky. The bulldozer driven by Nazhmiddin worked in the darkness, plowing the ground with sleepy and red headlights. It is difficult and dangerous for a tractor driver to work alone at night, driving a bulldozer in a deserted field, as he may fall asleep, lozing control, causing his bulldozer to roll into a deep ravine, toppling over like a huge iron chest. Nazhmiddin drove his unit, thinking about his past, about how he fell in love with his wife Madina in his distant youth.
Once he was struck by the lightning of love and he lost his peace forever. Day and night he began to only think about Madina.
He thought and thought, eventually writing her a love letter with shaking hands, picking up the most sentimental words that can awaken a feeling of pity in the girl’s soul.
After writing the letter, Nazhmiddin carefully hid it in the pocket of his trousers in order to give it to Madina at the first opportunity.
The letter read as follows:
«Let this letter, which I am writing at night under the moon, fly like a migratory bird over the endless cotton fields and meadows and fall directly into the tender hands of my incomparable Madina. Hello, Madina! I have fallen in love with you and I want to meet you at lake Altynkul, where I will be waiting for you from 12 to 1 pm. If you don’t come, this letter will automatically turn into a certificate of my death. That is, I will have drowned myself in the lake. I have no other choice.
Yours sincerely, Nazhmiddin.»
Finally there was such an opportunity and Nazhmiddin gave Madina the letter. When she was about to open the envelope, he said to her:
— No, Madina, please, don’t open it here, read it at home.
Madina blushed with embarrassment and went home.
The next day, Nazhmiddin was in a hurry to meet Madina and raced on his bike towards the lake, with a bouquet of flowers in his hand. After a while, he arrived on his bike to the appointed meeting place and began to wait for Madina’s arrival, pacing back and forth like a wolf in a cage, thinking:
— What happens if she doesn’t show up? What then? I am such a fool! Why did I give her the letter! What a fool I am!… I have sentenced himself to death. Now I’m going to have to drown myself in the lake, abiding by my solemn oath… Maybe she will come, who knows… —
With such thoughts, he sat in the shade of a huge elm tree, where the sun shone through the tree’s leaves. On the shore, emerald-green reeds rustled in chorus, swaying in the free wind, as if drunk. Seagulls were screaming over the lake, looking at the mirrored surface of the water, in search of small fish. Nazhmiddin stared intently at the road. From afar, an engine crackled and dust rose from the road. Someone was driving on the dusty road on a moped. He went past the lake and climbed the rocky road to the top. But Madina was still nowhere to be seen.
Looking at the sky, Nazhmiddin whispered, like coastal reeds in the wind: «Lord, if you really are there, please send Madina here!
Then, looking at his watch, he became even more nervous. The clock was already showing 1:15. That’s it, he thought, Madina won’t come. Approaching the shore of the lake, he threw his skullcap into the water with a flourish.
— Oh fool! Come on, fulfill your promise now! You’re going to die somewhere, sometime, anyway,» Nazhmiddin thought, scolding himself.
He went to look for a heavy stone to hang on his neck and legs. He had ropes in the trunk of his bicycle, which were laying in the shadow of a huge elm tree.
In the thickets, Nazhmiddin searched for a suitable stone for a long time and finally found it. Preparing for the execution, he picked it up and suddenly heard a woman crying.
Putting the stone on the ground, Nazhmiddin ran to the shore, where Madina was standing, looking at his skullcap, which was floating on the surface of the water.
— Oh, Nazhmiddin! What have you done?! Couldn’t you have waited a little longer? I’m sorry I’m late! How I loved you! Oh, how I loved you! I’ve never loved anyone as much as you! God, why?! What have I done wrong, Lord?! Why did you take away my happiness, which I had only just found?! How can I live with myself now?! — she cried.
Hearing her crying, two men came running and asked:
— What’s wrong, girl? Why are you crying?
— Oh, help him, good people! Save me! My boyfriend drowned…There’s his skullcap floating above the water! — Madina said, crying the entire time.
The men, looking at the skullcap in confusion, which was floating above the water, hurriedly jumped into the water like frogs and began to swim, disappearing, then reappearing to catch their breath on the surface of the water with algae on their ears.
Taking a deep breath, they dived again. Nazhmiddin could not stand it any longer and shouted:
— Madina, don’t cry, my love! I’m here! I’m Alive!..
Hearing this, Madina got scared and jumped back. Then she blushed with shame. Nazhmiddin ran to her and she threw herself into his arms.
He hugged her tightly and began to calm her down. At this moment, two rescuers again rose to the surface of the water from lack of air. They opened their mouths wide and, stocking up on air, wanted to dive again, Nazhmiddin stopped them:
— Guys, everyone, you can stop! I’m, alive! I’m sorry for the misunderstanding! But you showed real heroism there! Thank you very much!
After that, the men came out of the water and looked at Nazhmiddin with bewilderment, and one of them even with contempt.
— I would like to thank you, but you can’t do much with a thanks! Therefore, brothers, I have a bubble! — said Nazhmiddin.
One of them, removing algae from his ears, asked:
— A bubble? What do you mean by «a bubble»?
— What, did you guys come from the moon or something?! A bubble is half a liter of vodka! It’s a liquid, and it burns like, bul-bul — said Nazhmiddin, snapping his fingers at his throat.
— Are you a fool or something? Why do we need your vodka?! We don’t drink alcohol! — said the men.
— Well, then I’ll drink to your health myself, — said Nazhmiddin, smiling.
The men, with wet pants shaking their heads discontentedly, left.
Nazhmiddin, having put his beloved Madina on his bike, went home… He worked with those memories in his mind until late at night.
In Uzbekistan, immediately after the grape harvest is completed, gardeners will bury vines, figs and pomegranates in the ground so that they do not freeze in winter. In the spring they will be dug back up and they begin to grow again. Sayak sells raisins dried in the shade at the city market from autumn to spring, which is called «Soyaki» by the people. One day he went to the deputy mayor of the city, Tepakalov Dermantin Rakatakovich, to get permission to open a new outlet in the market. The deputy mayor was sitting in his easy chair, lighting a cigarette and talking to someone on the phone. Sayak had to wait for him to finish his conversation. But his conversation lasted a long time.
He was talking into the phone:
— In short, I’m tired of these assholes! Always complaining to me. An old woman comes and says to me:
— Son, there is no water in our apartment building. The pipeline burst. The basement filled with water. Plumbers, fearing rabid rats, are afraid to enter the basement. They say that they even saw a giant snake of enormous size, similar to an anaconda.
— We need divers with bathyscaphes — she said.
I tell her:
— Granny, you’re a dandelion of God, where can I get you divers? In order to hire them, you need money, and we don’t have any money. Chip in yourself and use this money to buy a ticket to American-Airways. That lets you fly to America. From there to Hollywood, where they make horror movies. There are real directors there, students of Alfred Hitchcock. They need to be informed that we have a basement where you can shoot horror films without scenery. When they arrive, make a contract with them and earn a huge amount of dollars for pipeline repairs.
Hearing my words, the old woman was offended and left. This is nothing, Recently two people came and said:
— We have a high mountain of garbage in the neighbourhood. While we climb across, we get late for work.
— Well, fools — I tell them. Once a mountain forms, why try climbing it? When it is possible to create new jobs there, where our people could work sorting household waste, sending them for recycling. They say people working in landfills sometimes find expensive gold jewelry and even dollars. And on the garbage pass, you can develop tourism and mountaineering. Let climbers come from all over the world conquer garbage heights there, setting a world record with entry into the Guinness Book of Records.
Naive people, having spent their savings, going to distant mountains to relax. You thank God that such a high mountain of garbage has formed nearby. Live in harmony with nature! I tell them, but they said:
— How can you call it a mountain if there are no animals and birds there? I explain to them:
— Be patient, gentlemen. Everything will be fine soon, If there is a mountain of garbage, then there should be a carcass of a dead sheep lying there, right? If we approach this natural phenomenon logically, then I think that soon, sensing the disgusting smell of a dead sheep, a hungry pack of wolves will appear on the horizon. Bears and other predators too. The sky will turn black from carnivorous birds, and vultures that will circle over our city to feast on carrion. Especially, abandoned chicken legs will lure foxes. Here’s flora and fauna for you. It remains to open the hunting season for hunters and they will come from different countries on a ticket…
I just got rid of them, another young lady from Bustan came. She told me:
— The result of the drought has become like the surface of the moon. The trees have dried up. Thousands of jerboa, like kangaroos, run around the yards on their hind legs, not afraid of anyone. The gophers dug up the ground. We are afraid that multi-storey model houses will soon fall apart because of them. That’s nothing, — she says, -last night I looked, the curtain was moving. I see a huge lizard hanging on the curtain, hissing, inflating its neck and sticking out its forked tongue. I barely drove it away and stayed up all night with a stick in my hands. I called the zoology teacher on the phone the next day. He came and said it was a monitor lizard. Although monitor lizards, like crocodiles of the desert, attack lonely people, especially women, in order to eat them, but I think you should not worry if I lie next to you until morning…
I told her:
— Dear woman, God himself has rewarded you. Terrariums should be built there immediately, where you can breed monitor lizards, rattlesnakes, such as black mamba, cobra, scorpions, various poisonous spiders, including tarantula and black widows. Now do you know how much poison costs on the black market? Don’t you know? Im not sure, poison is illegal! You can earn a lot of money from this. For this money, you can not only repair water pipes, but it will even be possible to build luxurious, singing fountains in distant countries like Canada …
The boss spoke for a long time. Sayak got tired of his chatter and left. When Sayak turned left to take a short cut to the main road, a woman’s scream was heard.
— Help, someone please help!
Sayak became alert and ran to where the call for help came from. The scream came from a courtyard with a clay fence. When he went into the yard, there was a huge person sitting there, busty fat woman and a tall skinny man with a long neck big ears was sitting next to her, his head bowed to his feet. Seeing Sayak, the woman stopped crying for a moment and said:
— Oh, young man, hello, hello! Thank you for responding to my desperate cry for help! God Almighty himself has sent you to me! Oh, what yomantic dyeams I had! It’s all my fatha’s fault! He tyicked me! He said that this man is like peyfect fo you. A long-time cyiminal, an alcoholic! He has been in jail fo many yeas, wandeying ayound the camps! yecently, the escape fyom the pyison took place and he was declayed an intenational seaych.
— Stupidly I believed him, and he tuyned out to be a good man! A pyofessa of a univeysity! Damn you! He only looks like a dyunk. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t dyink, he doesn’t beat me, he doesn’t gamble, he doesn’t cheat, he doesn’t yob banks like hefty noymal men. is that a yeal husband? tell me, no he’s not a husband, he is a loosa! A chicken! Tell me, young man, why does a woman get mayyied? A woman gets mayyied so that ha husband beats ha with something properly. such as, with a sand filled knee high boot. I dyeamed of such a husband, so like the gladiatos, had hundyeds of deep cuts and scyatches on they face. That his body was coveyed with tattoos from head to toe. I dyeamed that he would always go unshaven. and that he would beat me two times a day. I’m on my knees begging him. Come on, Hit me! — and he says:
— I can’t beat you, im very merciful.
— Mom — I said — I can ‘t live with such a nice peyson anymoy .
My motha says:
— No, daughta. You’ll see, he will definitely beat you with an offica’s boot with, I sense it.
Anyway, she convinced me to wait. I’ve been waiting, waiting. He still does not beat me. He says hes not byave enough. Oh, how I envy my little sista! My sista’s husband dyinks alcohol like wata, He even dyinks gasoline. He smokes two packs of ciggayets pa day, smokes mayajuina even shoots needles of diyty puddle wata into his veins which have stawted to yot away. By pyofession, he is a plumba. He has a paiy of knee high boots with no soles which he beats my sister twice a day, you see, That’s yeal man! — said the woman. Then she continued:
-Young man, don’t be supyised that I’m cyying.
Sayak looked at her with bewilderment and said goodbye
— Don’t worry so much, madam. If your husband does not beat you, then God will surely beat you properly soon and this is obvious, believe me.
— Oh yeally? Young man? Well, thank you. You supyised me a lot — said the fat busty woman.
She thanked Sayak for a long time and, saying goodbye, escorted him to the gate.
Sayak went to a public bathhouse to relax. The bathhouse was located in the center of the village. It was Orientally styled, built after the Second World War. In spring, green grass grows on the clay domes of this bathhouse, and the scarlet poppies bloom. From a distance, the bathhouse looks like the mansion of an Indian Rajah. When Sayak opened the creaking door, a cloud of steam rolled out to meet him, which shot through the door like through an open window of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, where rich businessmen and oil magnates pay a million US dollars per day for room rent.
It was damp in the locker room. People dressed and undressed, as if in an impenetrable autumn fog.
Closing the door behind him, Sayak approached the bath attendant.
After greeting him, he paid. The bath attendant Abu Gibron De Tourvel gave him a leaky towel, a bar of soap and designated him a dressing room. After undressing, Sayak took a basin and went into the shower room, where people were washing, in a thick fog. Further on, sweaty people sat on concrete benches, breathing heavily. Some, with their eyes closed and their hands on their chests, lay in white dressing rooms, like the dead in a morgue. Basins and buckets rattled. The voices of people, as in mountain gorges, were echoed by a rolling reverb.
The head of the door to the steam room was low, and he had to go into the steam room, slightly bending his head. Sayak was delighted to see his classmate and friend Nishanbai sitting there. He said hello.
— How are you, Sayak? Nishanbai asked, blushing from the heat like an angry turkey.
— Thank God, we’re not complaining,» — said Sayak and sat down next to him, looking at his friend with slanted eyes, also with a smile on his lips.
After this conversation, they fell silent for a few minutes. Then Nishanbai started whistling.
— Don’t whistle, it brings bad luck, — said Sayak. Nishanbai stopped whistling. Then he started talking.
— Ah, I get it now… I keep wondering why my money, instead of being increasing, catastrophically disappears. I will never whistle from now on. Think about it, I’m about to turn thirty, and I still don’t own a car. I live in a dilapidated house. I want to build a nice house. But with what money? Lately, I’ve even become afraid to go back to my own house. As I walk in, my wife Latifa starts nagging me. She won’t stop until she gets punched in the face. Then she starts crying.
— Where will I get the money if I don’t have it, you fool? — I tell her — I don’t have machines to print money. The dogs are resting, but I’m not. I work day and night like a robot. Like a donkey searching in the fields for pennies. And what if there is unemployment all around?
— You say there is no money, but you come home drunk every day! I hope you die, you miserable drunkard! Here, I’ll find some gasoline to set myself on fire! — she shouts.
I say — Be quiet, you fool, people can hear us! The neighbors will hear us! If you don’t shut up, I’ll take a rope and hang myself!.. In short, I’m tired of everything. Recently it occurred to me to go somewhere, as they say, away from sin. Sayak, let’s take vegetables and fruits from the villagers on credit and go to Russia. Let’s trade vegetables. We’ll get rich,» Nishanbai said.
Sayak thought about it. Then he said,
— Well, that’s not a bad idea. But where will we get the money to travel? Business requires money and those costs are considerable.
— Indeed. You, Sayak, are not only a wise, good person, but also the most reliable friend. Thank you for being in this world. The earth relies on people like you. Believe me, Sayak, you are a saint! I am one hundred percent sure that after your death you will go straight to Heaven. I have to work off my sins in Hell, — Nishanbai said.
— don’t say that, Nishanbai. Only God determines who is sinful, and who is righteous. You know, they say that this world is also a big bathhouse, where a person must purify himself not only with his body but also with his soul before going to the next world, — said Sayak.
— Yes, you’re right — said Nishanbai, picking up a bucket of cold water and pouring it on the heated stones. Steam rose from the heated stones with a squeak. Nishanbai repeated this procedure several times. The steam room became stuffy and hot. From this stuffiness, people began to suffocate.
— Anymore and the bathhouse will explode, that’s enough! — someone said, washing themselves as if in a fog.
— what? — continued the other — Is it the heat? Compared to a Russian bathhouse, this is subzero temperature! Oh, how we lounged with friends in the saunas of the Russian bathhouse in the village of Gorelovo, Krasnoselsky district, Leningrad region, where I once served in the ranks of the Soviet army. What a bathhouse it was! After drinking strong Russian vodka, we were sitting in the sauna, can you imagine? Winter! Frost is forming outside the window! A blizzard howls. From time to time we went out into the yard, washed ourselves with snow, and bathed in an ice hole. Our bodies did not cool down even during the day. How we sang then to the balalaika and danced, Lord!.. With these words, he began to dance, clapping his palms first on his chest, then on his heel, singing:
Ka-lin-ka ka -lin — ka ka-lin-ka is mine!
There is a raspberry berry in the garden, my raspberry!
Nishanbai began to drum cheerfully on a bucket he turned upside down.
Here, a man who was singing and dancing in Russian, now had slipped, stepping on soap and falling, hitting his head on the concrete floor. He began to cry, complaining of unbearable pain, clutching his broken head with his hands. Blood began to trickle down his face and cheeks. Nishanbai, having given him first aid, bandaged his wound with a towel.He was then carefully carried out of the steam room.
Suffocating from the unbearable heat, seeing a pool of blood on the concrete floor, Sayak could no longer sit in the steam room, and went to the shower room, where it was cooler. He washed his face and went to the locker room. Then he went to his locker to dry off and get dressed. He went to his locker, where he undressed and gasped. His clothes were not as before. What he saw made his heart skip a beat. Well, he thought, it seems that the end of the world is very close. These are the people of this time? Not people, but bastards… How am I supposed to go home now? With such thoughts , Sayak got very angry and shouted:
— Hey, bath attendant, come here! What the hell is this?!
The bath attendant Abu Gibron De Tourvel approached him and asked:
— What happened?
Sayak shouted, looking at him with a sidelong glance:
— Where are my clothes?! What are you looking at, anyway?! How am I supposed to go home naked now or what?!
The bath attendant Abu Gibron De Tourvel looked at Sayak in surprise and opened one of the lockers and said:
— Here are your clothes…
Indeed, Sayak’s clothes were hanging where he himself had recently hung them. It turns out that he mixed up the closet. The bath attendant, shaking his head, went back. Sayak didn’t know what to do. Then he dried himself with a towel, got dressed, and before going outside, he asked the bath attendant for forgiveness.
— No worries, it happens, — said Abu Gibron De Tourvel immediately forgiving him.
Sayak left the bathhouse and went home.
Tandirkallaev works as a conductor of a long-distance train. His job is quite interesting, but very dangerous. Sometimes passengers get into a bloody fight among themselves or even a knife fight. They often end up killing one another while drunk. It’s hard to tell a good person from a bad one on a train. There is always a constant suffocation in the cars from the pungent smell of sweat, tobacco smoke and vodka. In the tobacco smoke, passengers feel like they are in an autumn fog, on a meadow, or in the steam room of a Finnish sauna. Thieves, pickpockets, thugs, gamblers, beggars, drug addicts, drunks, and prostitutes with their pimps are wandering around the cars. Drunken laughter of passengers, the ringing of glass containers, the laughter of women and children crying echo across the train cars. Sometimes, you can hear the wild scream of people who come across an old-fashioned wooden suitcase from the Stalingrad era, where money and documents were lying. To sum it up, a mobile madhouse on steel wheels. Tandirkallaev likes to look out of the car window at the passing forests, telegraph poles, ravines, bridges, and pastures where cows graze peacefully. A caravan of steel horses gallop, plaintively scraping the wagons, there is a long and sad whistle of the locomotive, the clang and monotonous clatter of steel hooves of an iron caravan. Tandirkallaev checks tickets, providing passengers with ironed bedspreads. There are also stowaways, so-called «collective farmers», who pay half of the ticket price in cash for travel. They ride mostly on the third shelf under the ceiling of the car, wrapped in torn, yellowed and leaky blankets. Tandirkallaev does not take bribery in the form of prostitutes, offering to pay for travel with their body. It’s dangerous. Who knows, maybe they have AIDS or syphilis. Maybe they were specially sent by the head of the train to check his activities. The point is, you won’t get bored on the train. Overhearing funny jokes and, without noticing it yourself, you start laughing silently, burning up, along with cheerful and drunk passengers.
Someone swears loudly with multi-storey obscenity at night, while other passengers with huge rears, similar to a backpack, spoils the already polluted, ecological unclean air of the car. The dark starry sky, darkening gloomy meadows and fields, distant lights and the disk of the moon, which also fly by without lagging behind the car, sometimes disappearing into the clouds and chasing the train again.The car swings like a creaking cradle of a baby on it’s iron wheels, landscapes constantly flash outside the window and a person slowly begins to feel sleepy. One night Tandirkallaev woke up from the noise and rumble and abruptly got up and ran to where the noise came from. It turns out that some guy is beating up a poor potbellied, tall, thin passenger with a swollen forehead and a syphilitic nose, whose holes are visible like a gorilla. He was screaming for help, but the guy kept hitting him.
— Here, take it, you bastard! Die, you brute! This is for the fact that you are selling people, deceiving representatives of your own people, taking their passports from them, forcing them to work for free! You have no right to live in this world, animal! Built himself a two-story house with dirty money, married a young woman, abandoned his first wife with three children, who were born mentally retarded, a shameless goat! Prepare to die, you stinking monkey! Now I’m going to throw your filthy body off the train like a sack of refuse and let the wolves eat you for dinner! — he said, hitting him with his feet and hands anywhere. He cried and begged, asked him not to kill him and offered him a large sum of money. Tandirkallaev began to calm the angry guy, asking him to stop beating the poor helpless passenger with a crooked neck and long skinny arms like an orangutan. But the guy did not listen to him, on the contrary, he abruptly grabbed him by the collar and lifted him up, then hit him hard in the stomach with his knee, and he collapsed on the floor of the vestibule like a bag of fertilizer. From his broken spherical head, similar to a watermelon, blood was oozing. Tandirkallaev pulled a whistle out of his trousers pocket and began to whistle with all his might, lifting the sleeping passengers to their feet. After that, the guy quickly left the train car. Tandirkallaev, with the help of other passengers, dragged the poor passenger into his cubicle and put him on the couch. He gave him first aid, bandaging his wounds with a bandage. He gave him sweet tea to calm him down. The paunchy, tall and skinny passenger, with the swollen forehead of a Neanderthal and with long arms like paddles, finally came to his senses and began to speak:
— Thank you, Mr. Conductor, you saved my life. If it wasn’t for you, I would have been finished, that is, that psychopath would have killed me without any hesitation. I will never forget your kindness and, as they say, your kindness will not be in vain, I will indeed return the favour some day,» said the pot-bellied and skinny passenger with too long arms and a syphilitic nose, slurping sweet tea. Then he continued:
— My name is Kotsa Lai. I am an entrepreneur. I have a small trading company in Russia called Hezalain. We work mainly in the labor market, providing those who wish to work in the vast territory of the Russian Federation. You pay no mind to that jerk who beat me up. All he said was slander! I have never taken passports from anyone, and i’ve never forced anyone to work for free. I am not engaged in human trafficking. This moron probably came up with all this himself. There are such ungrateful people that you will put to work, but they do not like to work. They are looking for easy money. So he decided to make money by threats and dirty blackmail, the bastard. I’m sorry, Mr. Conductor, that I overreacted.Here’s my business card for you. If necessary, call us, and we will help your friends and acquaintances to get a job in Russia. After all, I am forever in debt to you, I owe you my life,» he said, smiling slyly, with closed lips like a rosebud.
— It was very nice to meet you, Mr. Kotsa Lai. I am the conductor of the Tandirkallai. I’ve been working on this old train for many years now. The salary is small. Well, what are you gonna do… I appreciate your offer. It’s my own fault. In my youth, I did not study well, I have an average education, I did not go to university, and this is the result. I’ve been traveling on the train for weeks, like a prisoner sent to distant camps. But I’m not complaining. I’m carrying dried fruits in bags, well, various nuts, dried apricots, raisins and such. After selling those, I will buy clothes with that money and bring it back home to sell it. Many of our fellow countrymen go to Russia to work. Mostly young guys, thin, thoughtful, and withdrawn. They do not speak foreign languages. Sometimes they talk to each other about the difficulties of their lives, about who goes where, and where you can find a good job. They are even prepared to work as janitors or work in landfills, in order to provide for their parents. Our poor fellow countrymen! They are simply cultural slaves under the title of «Labor migrants» — said Tandirkallaev, taking a deep breath.
— Well, that’s pretty much it. If you ever meet such people, call me right away or give them my location. Your effort would not go unpaid, of course. You will earn money by becoming an intermediary. For one thing, you will help our fellow countrymen to get a good job in the distant and vast land of Russia — said businessman Kotsa Lai.
— Alright then, Mr. Kotsa Lai, it’s settled,- Tandirkallaev agreed, putting the business card of the businessman with a syphilitic nose in the inner pocket of his tunic.
Sayak woke up from a sharp pain in his stomach. Zebo wanted to call an ambulance, but Sayak refused to go to the hospital. Instead, he chose to turn to a local physician named Abu Arrashid al Hakim al Munajjim.
Tabib, that is, a folk healer, having carefully examined Sayak, said:
— Everything is okay. It’s just that you have a digestive problem. There is no ulcer. I will now give you «Achchiktash», (Crystals of alum). Take it three times a day after meals, it will break down the food that your stomach that you have difficulty digesting.
Hearing this, Sayak breathed a sigh of relief.
— Are you serious? Do you promise it will work? Well, Doctor, how you have satisfied me! Thank you, Mr. Abu Arrashid Al Hakim al Munajjim! Thank you for the accurate diagnosis.
Sayak and zebo thanked Abu Arrashid al Hakim al Munajjim and the couple returned home. Before taking the medicine, Sayak opened the pouch where the alum crystals lay, and, taking pieces of the healing crystal, carefully put it on his tongue.Then he washed it down with water.
As soon as he drank the water, effervescent steam rose from his mouth with the sparkling sound of carbonated water. Sayak clutched his throat, gasping, his eyes wide in horror and barely uttered:
— Oh! Zebo, my love, I feel terrible! Help me! It’s like i’m swallowing fire! Water! Give me some water!..
Zebo, confused, ran for water and brought a whole bucket, but that didn’t help either.
Sayak had to be laid down on a matress.
— Be patient, my love, it will pass now. Medicine is not sugar — Zebo cried. Meanwhile, foam was boiling from Sayak’s mouth.
He asked for a pen and paper and began to write a will: — Zebo, my love, it seems that this cursed folk healer Abu Arrashid al Hakim al Munazhzhim, having confused the pouch, gave me not alum crystals, but some other poisonous substance and deliberately poisoned me! How I believed this tabib with the Muslim name Abu Arrashid al Hakim al Munajjim! Oh, how I believed!.. It seems to me the end… If I die today, promise me not to cry and bury me in a Christian cemetery. Promise, my love… — he wrote. After reading the will, Zebo began to cry, hugging her husband:
— Oh, no, no, Sayak, don’t write like that! It will pass, be patient, my love! — she cried.
— No, — said Sayak in a hoarse voice, — Promise me that you will bury me in a Christian cemetery and put a wooden cross made of birch on my grave…
Nodding in agreement, Zebo kept sobbing. And suddenly she noticed that Sayak’s stomach was swollen. From fright, Zebo jumped out of her seat and called 911. After that, without taking long to wait, an ambulance arrived. Hearing the commotion, the neighbors came running. People crowded around. A doctor with a phonendoscope around his neck, having studied the situation, thought. Then he asked Zebo,
«What has the patient been eating lately?»
— Achchiktas (crystals of alum) — Zebo replied, still crying and trembling with fear. She showed the doctors the pouch where the crystals of alum lay. The doctor opened the pouch, took a piece of Achchiktash and examined it and said:
— These are not crystals of alum, but carbite, with which gas welders work.
Everyone standing around froze in a daze. After a few minutes, as if surprised, they began to hum in chorus:
«Oh my God!»
The next day, Sayak died in the hospital. According to his will, they decided to bury him in a Christian cemetery. All the villagers, classmates, friends, acquaintances of Sayak came to the memorial service. When the imam of the local mosque, Sheikh Yerkinjon Hukandi, came to the memorial service, everyone cried in chorus.
Everyone was struck by his religious tolerance. He said that all people on earth are children of Adam and they should live in peace and harmony as members of a single family, regardless of their race, nationality and faith. The memorial service was led by the rector of the Orthodox Church, Father Pavel.
According to the Christian custom, Sayak was dressed, shod, combed and put in a coffin on a soft uvada, that is, on cotton waste that will remain to our people after the collected raw cotton is sent to distant lands almost free of charge. Then the teacher Uvadaguppiev mournfully said:
— The personality of our fellow man, the caretaker of the vineyard, Sayak, was truly a historical! He turned out to be an outstanding poet of the era! A bright giant comet of remarkable poetry flew over the world, and you and I, dear fellow villagers, could not recognize such a phenomenon! Therefore, I propose to sculpt a death mask of his face for future generations!
— That’s right! — said Sayak’s friend Nishanbai, crying — Let the sculptor Akhunjan sculpt the historical death mask of my friend Sayakbai!..
After that, the local sculptor Akhunzhan, having filled the alabaster into a bucket and poured water into it, carefully stirred the mixture with a stick. When everything was ready, he carefully poured this mixture on Sayak’s face.
Everyone present watched his work with great interest. Finally, the mask froze. Akhunzhan pulled Sayak’s death mask towards him. But the mask rose in place with the head of the deceased. Akhunzhan tried to remove the mask for a long time, but could not tear it off. Then he took a small chisel and hammer and began to hack at the edges of the mask. But the mask turned out to be quite strong. The sculptor Akhunjan was sweating from how difficult it was. Sayak lay in a death mask like the mummy of Tutankhamun. Suddenly Nishanbai shouted to Ahunjan:
— Go away, you disgraceful sculptor! We really found ourselves a real «Tsereteli»! Who takes off a death mask like that?!
With that, he rolled up his sleeves. Sayak was still lying silently in the coffin like the mummy of the Pharaoh Ramses II. Nishanbai started pulling the mask towards him with all his strength with both hands, and he managed to tear it off. But by inertia, he bounced back and fell. As a result, Sayak’s death mask shattered like a fragile glass ornament that breaks off from the branch of a Christmas tree.
— Okay, we’ll have to do without a mask! — said the rector of the Orthodox Church, Father Pavel.
The conductor wearing a black tailcoat waved his wand, and the orchestra thundered.
The orchestra played «funeral march» by Frédéric Chopin. Sayak’s coffin, covered in brooms and garlands, was carried by fellow villagers, shifting from shoulder to shoulder, like a boat without paddles.
Then the coffin was placed on the trolley of the Nazhmiddin’s tractor, as if on a carriage. In the cart there was a large cross made of a birch trunk.
Relatives of the deceased climbed onto a the tractor’s cart and were driven to the cemetery.
The tractor drove slowly, as if it, too, felt mourning and irreparable loss. Loved ones were crying around the coffin. Zebo was also among them, crying bitterly.
Since the road was obstructed by repairmen, Nazhmiddin’s tractor stalled and stopped before reaching the cemetery. He had to carry Sayak’s coffin on my shoulders. Finally, they came to the place where they dug a grave for the him.
According to custom, people had to say goodbye to the deceased. The rector of the Orthodox Church, Father Pavel, said:
— Open the lid of the coffin!
Nishanbai, with bitter tears in his eyes, went to the coffin and opened the lid. He opened it and was stunned by what he saw. Sayak’s body wasn’t in the coffin.
— Oh my God!!.. — the people fussed in chorus, clutching the collar of their shirts in surprise.
The rector of the Orthodox Church, Father Pavel, looking at the sky, crossed himself widely several times and said:
— A miracle has happened! He has ascended to God’s altar like Christ! It turns out that the deceased was truly a saint, an angel in the guise of a man! Lord, accept the soul and body of the deceased! Bless him! God rest his soul! In the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!
When the rector of the Orthodox Church, Father Pavel, finished the prayer, Sayak’s relatives roared again, loudly. Especially his grandmother Kupaysin.
— Dear friends, we did not really appreciate our countryman Sayak Satybaldiyev during his lifetime! He turned out to be an incredible poet and a holy man! — The Teacher Uvadaguppiev said sobbing. Here, at the behest of Father Pavel, Sayak’s classmates lifted the empty coffin to return back. Then those present noticed that the boards of the bottom of the coffin were turned out. People looked around in surprise. Then they ran down the street in a crowd.
It turns out that poor Sayak’s body was dropped on the road and not noticed. The overturned body was lying in a ditch. The villagers picked him up and put him back in the coffin, returned back. Having performed the rite, they buried him anew. The orchestra, playing «funeral march» by Frédéric Chopin, was still mournfully thundering. A birch cross was placed on Sayak’s grave and, putting on their hats, everyone began to leave the cemetery.
When they went outside, Sayak woke up, breathing heavily from lack of air, like a diver who has torn the hose of an oxygen tank at the bottom of the sea. He began to cry, glad that all this was happening in a dream.
At the bazaar
A noisy oriental bazaar, where crowds of people buzz and whirl like giant whirlpools. Such a crowd is a paradise for pickpockets. Sometimes they hunt alone or in pairs in this human whirlpool, especially during a crush. They, having carefully cleaned the pockets of people who came from the villages, immediately disappear, merging with the crowd. Heart-rending screams, swearing, crying tears and laughter. Somewhere the donkey begins to scream loudly, stretching it’s neck forward, exposing large teeth and closing it’s eyes in pleasure. Chiiiii-oh!Chiiiii-oh!Oh!Oh!Oooh!! People talk to each other in a loud voice in a deafening noise, like fishermen in a stormy sea, like at Niagara Falls in Canada. Sayak also shouted at the top of his voice to attract the attention of buyers.
— Get it while you can! Fresh Samarkand raisins! I’ll sell them and i’ll be gone! These are the best raisins on the entire planet! Suffering from an ailment? These raisins will fix you right up! You’ll never need medicine again! — Sayak shouted.
— How much are the raisins? — suddenly asked a fat pot-bellied customer with almost no neck with a double chin with fused eyebrows. Sayak named the price. Without passing up the opportunity to make a large sum of money from the rich-looking buyer, he hastily began to advertise his product: — Buy this, brother, you will not regret it. You’ll never find raisins like this anywhere else. Believe me. I dried these raisins myself in the shade. I work as a vineyard keeper. What’s my secret, though? My salary is measly. So, I steal grapes and dry them to trade them here. But how else must I go about doing it? It is impossible to feed my family on the salary I receive… Excuse me, sir, I know it may look like i’m not looking at you, but rather the beautiful lady in the mini skirt behind you. The fact is that I have a lazy eye — explained Sayak.
— Don’t worry about it. In this world, everyone has their flaws. Look at me. I have problems too. I’m as fat as a hippopotamus, like an African elephant, and I have double a chin that look like a pelican’s chin sack. I am like a cloud wearing pants, as my idol, the great poet Vladimir Mayakovsky once wrote. Sometimes I feel like a bloated balloon and I’m afraid to fly into the sky in the wind, like the characters of Marc Chagall, who fly weightlessly over the city without wings. I see you have a good job, profitable and romantic.My advice to you, you better do wine-making.It’s not difficult. Take a large oak barrel, throw in bunches of grapes and half a bag of sugar. Then you climb into the barrel and start crushing them in boots with high tops until the grapes turn into a disgusting liquid. Then close the barrel tightly with something and after a month bubbles will appear on the surface. Then, with the help of a moonshine distiller, you will drive crystal clear alcohol. So much for business. You will get rich quickly, like the great masters of winemaking in Scotland and Georgia. After drinking a sip of such wine, the taster himself gets heavily drunk and starts dancing with daggers clenched between his teeth, like drunken, cheerful Georgians.
Playing the the drum, like — Dandala -didan! Dindala — didan! Dandala-didan! Dindala — didan! Dancing and screaming: — Wow, shenik!.. Assa, gamarjoba genatsvali!
Sayak grinned, looking sideways at the passers-by, that is, at the buyer with a double chin, resembling a pelican.
— A brilliant idea. But, you see, firstly, I don’t know how to make the healing Georgian wine «Tsinandali» at home. Secondly, for such a case, the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station of our district will give us large fines. In addition, it is also considered a great sin to distill alcohol in our country. Sharia law does not allow us — said Sayak.
— I see, — said the buyer, diligently tasting the raisins, like a taster with a lot of experience, continuing to talk:
— My name is Tandirkallaev and I work as a conductor of a long-distance train. To be honest, I am also not satisfied with my meager salary. Because I have a huge family, children, a grumpy wife and a gluttonous mother-in-law. Therefore, when I go on working trips, I take dried fruits such as dried apricots, nuts, raisins, and prunes with me to sell there, in the markets of distant Russia. I’ll bring back clothes from there with the money I made from selling the dried fruits. It is basically like export and import. I also have a friend named Kotsa Lai. He has a small trading firm called Hezaline, and good connections with the most influential people in the upper echelons of power. Kotsa Lai is a great person. He helps our countrymen get prestigious jobs in the territory of the Russian Federation. Not gratuitously, of course. If you have acquaintances, friends who want to work in Russia, then please do not hesitate, I am ready to help. Us countrymen should always respect and support each other. Well, do I get a discount now? — he said, still tasting the raisins, called «Soyaki», that is, dried in the shade.
Hearing this, Sayak thought even harder.Then he said:- All right, brother, it’s settled. Just leave me your location so that I can ask you for help if I need it.
— Well, you see, you can always accept the offer, if of course there is a burning desire for it.I can even call my friend, the successful businessman Mr. Kotsa Lai right now and find out if he has any high-paying jobs for you at this time,- said the conductor of the long-distance train Tandirkallaev, beginning to rummage through the pockets of his wide trousers, similar to a bag. Finding his mobile phone, he started calling his friend.
— Hello! Mr. Kotsa Lai, is that you? It’s me, Tandirkallaev, the conductor of the long distance train! How are you, over there?.. Are you still doing business? Let me cut to the point, here’s the thing… I’ve got an important client here. He wants to work in Russia! Yes, yes. No, don’t worry, he’s a good, law-abiding citizen! He does not drink, does not smoke. Works as a vineyard keeper in the village of «Kuiganyar»! Aha…I’ll explain everything to him now… right?.. Oh, are you saying…?! Yes?! Okay, okay, got it! Thank you very much. Okay, Mr. Kotsa Lai, goodbye! With these words , the conductor of the long — distance train Tandirkallaev finished his phone call with his entrepreneur friend Kotsa Lai and turned to face Sayak and said joyfully:
— Well, let me congratulate you, comrade watchman of the vineyard! It turns out that there is a vacant position for you! Yes, yes! You will work in a flower shop. I would love to work as a flower shop clerk myself, but you see, I have a lot of children, a grumpy wife and a fat gluttonous mother-in-law. Where can I go with such a huge contingent? Besides, I’m used to my work on the rails. I don’t know how to work as a salesman… Yes, I almost forgot, my friend Mr. Kotsa Lai said that you can live there for the first time in a barn. Well, there’s just the right job for you, Mr. Watchman! — said the conductor Tandirkallaev, giving Sayak the location of his friend Kotsa Lai and his address with phone numbers.
— Yes?! Gee! What a stroke of luck! Since childhood, since school, I have dreamed of working somewhere there, in the north, in harmony with nature. I love flowers, especially roses and autumn dahlias. I always got an A in botany at school. I envied the white Michurin and Timiryazev. Thank you, Mr. Conductor Tandirkallaev! I don’t even know how to thank you!Take all the raisins together with the bag for free! I have to run home to tell my wife! Thank you again for handing it over, Mr. Tandirkallaev!I will never forget your kindness! Sayak said, smiling happily.
«You’re welcome,» said Tandirkallaev, calmly taking a bag of selected Samarkand raisins, dried in the shade.
Returning home, Sayak began to tell about the old man Karabai, who, sitting next to him on the bus, was crying.
— What’s the matter? Why are you crying? Sayak asked. He says:
Eh, son, you know, in my youth I worked in a butcher stall, sold meat. I was a strong and tough guy then, like you. Tipsy, I would sell meat, quickly sharpening my knife with a sharpener. This was my habit. One day a decrepit, thin old man named Muhammad Ismail comes up to me and hands me money.
-Hello, Mullah Karabai, please give me one kilogram of mutton, — he says. I wrapped a kilogram of mutton in a newspaper and gave it to the old man. And he opens the package and says:
Excuse me, Mullah Karabay, could you give some lamb fat instead of bones?
I got really angry and left the stall. Then I began to beat this old man, that is, Mullah Muhammad ismail. He collapsed on the floor.
I said to him:
— What are you, a bearded goat!.. What will I do with the bones? Will I sell it to your grandmother?!..
I kept beating him for a long time. When I got too exhausted to continue beating him, the old man got up, hardly found his hat. And you know what he said, oh, I can’t! These words still torment me!.. Karabai began to cry again. Then he continued:
Putting on his skullcap and shaking his head, he says to me:
Excuse me, Mullah Karabai, old age is not a joy. I’ve lost a lot of weight lately. Didn’t your fists hurt when they hit my ribs?
Having uttered these words, he kissed my hand, with which I beat him. Kissed, you know?!
Karabai raised the hand with which he had once beaten poor old Muhammad ismail and looking at his hand said:
Sometimes I want to chop off my hands with an axe, with which I beat Mullah Muhammad ismail! The words that Mullah Muhammad ismail uttered then still haunt me to this day!..
Karabai aksakal let loose and started crying. I began to calm him down:
Don’t cry, Karabai. You’d better pray for him. He will surely forgive you in heaven.
Wiping his tears, Karabai Aksakal, without even saying goodbye to Sayak, got off the bus at the bus stop and went home. He was crying as he was walking.
Looking at him with his sidelong glance through the bus window, He sighed sadly, thinking — that’s the punishment — eh? No wonder they say that old sins have long shadows.
— Yeah, it’s a sad story — Zebo sighed too.
But there is also good news — said Sayak. Then he continued:
— It’s good that I went to the bazaar today. God himself probably heard our plea and sent this customer, the conductor of a long-distance train, to me. A friend of Mr. Tandirkallayev’s, a businessman named Kotsa Lai, said during a telephone conversation that he had just a vacant job opening, and I had to hurry before someone took it. There I will work in a flower shop, can you imagine?! That’s paradise, ah! Let’s forget once and for all the financial problems, hardships, everything that we have experienced here. I have been working in a vineyard for many years now, living as if in hell in this ruin, where there is no light and gas. As soon as I get a job and find a good place to live, I’ll call you right away and you’ll come to me so we can live together. Then you, too, will have a good job and together we begin to earn a lot of money. Enough to drown out the furnace with smelly dung in winter and sit without Internet.That electricity is cut off every day, you don’t even have time to charge your mobile phone. Is this even a life? There in Russia the electricity never shuts off. They say that gas in those parts burns like an eternal flame at the foot of the monument of an unknown soldier, — said Sayak, hugging his beloved wife.
— Don’t say that, Sayak. The time will come and everything will have formed in our country, as in the developed countries of the world. There was no cellular and Internet connection before. There weren’t even televisions. People in the evenings, by the light of kerosene lamps or candles, read books, telling each other various tales, and funny stories. The children didn’t watch TV and went to bed early. Then the birth rate in our country was at a high level, not what it is now. Even the homeless children who live in basements and cemeteries! They smoke, drink, sniff glue and acetone with turpentine, abusing substances, becoming inveterate drug addicts. They live on a needle, using «Methadone», «Crocodile», «Desomorphine» and rot alive! Because of drugs, many women will turn into prostitutes, trading their bodies for a dosage of drugs, or become alcoholics who are ready to sell their own children for pennies! In those days there was no such thing and people fell in love for real. There was no infidelity and divorce, as now. They lived in a pristine life, without chemicals, without howling brakes and sirens, without exhaust gases, without smoke from factories that pollute the environment, Zebo said.
Then she got sad:
-It’s good to go to distant lands for earnings, but for what money? We barely make ends meet ourselves. We don’t have enough money for the road, my love. By the time you get there, what will you eat?.. With these words, Zebo thought for a moment, then said sweetly: — Wait, wait, what if we borrow money from the pawnbroker Haji Bujurbattal as a loan? Zebo advised.
— Yes, dear, yes! You’re my clever girl, and we’ll do it! Only first we have to find out what his interest rate is. According to the train conductor Tandirkallaev, I can get a good salary there, part of which goes to repay the debt to the loan shark, with the rest of the money it will be possible to open a small restaurant, and we will call it «Kashkaldak» in the center of our village. We’ll buy a good car. Then we will demolish this house and build a new well-maintained two-storey ultra-modern cottage with a basement.
Let the vile envious people find out what we are capable of! With these words, Sayak, taking his mobile phone out of his trousers pocket, began to dial the phone numbers of his former classmate, the pawnbroker, Haji Bujurbattal.
On the train
Sayak went to Russia alone, promising his wife and his grandmother that as soon as he finds a good home, he will immediately take them to Russia. He was traveling on a long-distance train, where the familiar conductor Tandirkallaev worked. It seemed to Sayak that immediately after the train started, it was as if the trees, telegraph poles, road signs and a hanging iron bridge suddenly came to life and began to flicker back and began to move away. Then the roads, people and houses drowning in greenery began to flash past the carriage window, like in the movies.The car was stuffy, there was noise of the clink of glasses, bottles, jokes, laughter, and coughing. The smell of tobacco smoke and sweat made it almost impossible to breathe. Sayak was sitting closer to the window. Outside the window, trees, roads and fields flashed by, quickly disappearing one by one, like years passed by. At this time, the conductor Tandirkallaev approached him with a tray of glass cups in his hands, as the glasses clinked against one another.
— Greetings, fellow countryman! How are you doing? Are we going to distant fairy-tale lands for a happy life? Here, I brought you some sweet tea with orange peel pieces, help yourself, — he said and put the glass on the table.
— Hello, Mr. Tandirkallaev! I’m all good. Thank you for the tea, and your hospitality. I also want to thank you financially,- said Sayak, pulling out of his travel bag containing wads of money wrapped in a cellophane bag, which he took for travel expenses from the pawnbroker Bujurbattal as a loan, he asked: — How much do I owe you… Don’t be shy, I have a lot of money.
Seeing the money, Tandirkallaev’s narrow eyes almost popped out of his eye sockets from greed, and immediately looking around, he said: — What are you doing, Sayak?! Hide the money now. There are pickpockets, swindlers, gamblers, scammers, con-men, bandits and bloodthirsty thugs all around! If they find out that you have this much money, they can easily stab you at night with a razor… They’ll cut your throat from ear to ear… Yeah, believe me, please be extremely careful. It is my professional duty to warn you about these dangers. Besides, we are also fellow countrymen, after all. Don’t thank me financially. Your prayers are enough for me… Come on, quickly put the money back in the bag,- he said, secretly pointing with his gaze at the sick old man and his granddaughter, who were lying on the second shelf.
— Well, thank you again, Mr. Conductor Tandirkallaev! — Sayak said, putting the money back in his travel bag and cordially thanking the kind conductor for this important information.
— May God grant you a long and happy life, Mr. Tandirkallaev! I’ve always wondered why the end of the world hasn’t happened. It turns out that there are still good people in this world, such as you. That’s why the end of the world is not coming! You are a real angel in the guise of a man!
— Yes, you’re welcome, Sayakbai. You don’t have to thank me. We as countrymen should live helping each other out in difficult moments. Otherwise, what’s the point of living on this ruthless world? Tandirkallaev said modestly.
Sayak was very happy with these words of the kind guide and he wanted to live in this beautiful world even more. In the evening, the conductor Tandirkallaev came up to him again with clinking glasses on a tray in his hands trembling with excitement. He put the tea on the table and once again warned Sayak about the dangers that could happen at any moment in this madhouse on the rails.
— Sayakbai, take care of your bag, where the money is. Sleep with it under your head like a pillow,» he said.
— Aha, don’t worry, Mr. Tandirkallaev. I am a former watchman of the vineyard and I can spend the night without closing my eyes, like a border guard soldier on duty,» Sayak reassured the guide.
After that, he sat silently sipping his sweet tea with pieces of orange peels, thoughtfully looking out the window of the car. The lights of distant towns and villages flashed outside the window, like stars that fell to earth from heaven. The moon was moving across the sky through golden clouds. And the train was still rushing, the train cars were grinding, like a man who grits his teeth in a dream. By this time, the sick old man and his granddaughter had fallen asleep sweetly. Sayak also began to feel sleepy and he let out a wide yawn out of fatigue. He fell asleep with his checkered travel bag with money under his head. The conductor Tandirkallaev appeared once again, tiptoeing down the aisle, like an ballerina who dances «The Nutcracker» by Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich. He poked Sayak slightly, cautiously looking around. He was sleeping like a dead man and snoring loudly. Firmly convinced that the sleeping pills had a strong effect, the conductor Tandirkallaev carefully opened Sayak’s travel bag and took out the money. Then he quietly tiptoed away, like a stork hunting frogs in the swamps, and disappeared into his private quarters. In the morning he started to wake the passengers by shouting loudly: — Citizens, passengers, our train has arrived at Taldykorgan station! Please do not forget your things and hand over your bed linen!
Then he met Sayak who had a pale face and asked, pretending that he didn’t know anything:
— What’s wrong with you Sayakbai, Why are you so pale? Are you ill?!
— Yes, you see, Mr. Conductor, someone stole my money… What a fool I am, what a fool! Why didn’t I give them to you for safekeeping! What kind of people are these guys!..Not people, but some kind of animals… Help me, Mr. Conductor, find my money! Maybe the thief hasn’t had time to get off the train yet?! Sayak said.
— Well, Sayak! I warned you that you can’t trust anyone on the train. Thieves and robbers are all around…Oh, you… Another vineyard keeper! Here not only I, but also the police are unable to help you. Because thieves get on at one station and get off at another after they commit theft. Thank God they didn’t cut your throat with a sharp razor when you were sleeping in your deep infant sleep. It’s too late now. Oh, Sayak, Sayak! — said the conductor Tandirkallaev, hitting his knees with the palms of his hands and shaking his head. Then he continued: — That’s what, my dear countryman. A wise man said: The future is inevitable, and the past is irrevocable, live in the present. Everything that happened is already over. You can’t bring back what you’ve been drinking. Listen, I will give you some money and when you arrive in St. Petersburg, call my friend Mr. Kotsa Lai directly from the railway station. Tell him everything that happened and he will help you. I’m sure of it. He is a very good person,- Tandirkallaev said.
— Thank you, Mr. Tandirkallaev for your help, for being in this great world! May God bless you. I will never forget this kindness of yours, even in the next world! You have helped me in difficult moments of my life! It’s good that there are people in this world like you. In this world, everything comes back like a boomerang. That is, good karma surely comes back. I will definitely return this money to you with interest, Mr. Tandirkallaev! Sayak swore, hugging the fat conductor tightly with his skinny arms, as children hug immense oak trees in autumn oak forests.
— Yes, Sayak, but what kind of help are you talking about? This is my direct duty, not only to the passenger, but also to my fellow man. You’re just like a child… Don’t cry… Even the money of all the banks in the world combined is not worth your tears. You’ll see, very soon you will earn a lot of money and get terribly rich. I am one hundred percent sure of this… Those bastards! Here are the jackals! They have completely lost their conscience! They are not only afraid of people, they are not even afraid of God himself. How will they answer to God on the Day of Judgment for such sins? I do not even know. But don’t be discouraged, you’ll see, God will surely punish them. These godless heretics think that there is no God, because he is not visible and he is silent. No, he’s not silent. He speaks a language that not everyone can understand. God speaks in silence, they say, look how the dawn quickly turns into noon. Evening will soon come and the day is fading, burning to the ground, like a piece of paper on the fire of a flaming sunset. And this autumn maple leaf was green in the spring, now it has turned yellow right outside your window, turning yellow as if it were fried in a frying pan. Your life is going downhill, and you don’t even notice. So, Sayak, these bastards will soon realize that a person’s life is negligibly short, like a moment, like the knock of a auctioneer’s hammer, and they will know that everyone will have to answer on Judgment day in full for everything they have done in this world! Oh, how difficult it is for honest people like you to live in this wild and ruthless world! Lord, have mercy, save and preserve your sinful creation! Tandirkallaev said, looking at the ceiling of the car as if into the sky. Then he continued, as if calming Sayak: — It’s nothing, Sayak, don’t hang your nose! You will soon become so fabulously rich that many will die of envy, having suffered a massive heart attack, seeing your own Boeing plane and huge villa on the Atlantic Ocean.
Sayak thanked the conductor Tandirkallaev once again for the moral and financial support provided in difficult moments of his life and continued on, cursing the seven generations of, robbers who do not feel pity for others.
The train galloped on indifferently, its steel hooves clattering on the rail and its heavy, creaking carriages, rumbling. Spring forests flashed by the window of the carriage.
Sayak rode, looking askance out the window of the car, trying to forget about the troubles, the sorrows and disappointments that he had experienced all these days. The iron steed raced, tripping over the rails in time with Sayak’s heartbeat. Plains, birch forests, fields, meadows, houses and roads flashed past the window of the car, as if in an old newsreel of the great Uzbek documentary filmmaker Abdulaziz Mahmudov. Electric poles, trees and road signs seemed to bounce back, like people who saw something terrible. Sayak began to think again about his bygone youth, about Zebo, about love meetings, about how they loved each other. How long they said goodbye, how hard it was for them to part. They said goodbye again and again. Seeing Zebo home, Sayak immediately began to miss her again and it was difficult for him to fall asleep. To see her again, he, like a ninja in medieval Japan, quietly and quietly crossed the clay wall and peered out of the pitch darkness into the glowing windows of the small house where his beloved Zebo lived with her grandmother and her parents. When Zebo’s silhouette flashed through the window, Sayak froze, leaning against the clay wall with his back, groping for his chest, where his heart was beating fast with excitement. He leaned against the wall so that his legs would not give way. Sayak left there only when they turned off the light. Before going to bed, he always prayed to God that he dreamed of Zebo. He was tormented by some kind of insatiability, an unbearable spiritual hunger. It seemed to him that he would never be able to satisfy this spiritual hunger, even if he looked at her all his life, forever and ever. When Sayak was drafted into the army, Zebo cried for a long time, looking at the summons with eyes full of tears.
— Sayak, you can’t even imagine how difficult it will be for me to live without you all these years — she cried.
— Me too. But we have to go through this hell, there is no other way out. It is impossible to get out of the army service, that is, I have to fulfill my civic duty. I have nowhere to go from this. Don’t cry, my love. Come on, smile, or I’ll cry too, — Sayak reassured her, joking. Then he boarded the train and waved from the window of the car, saying goodbye to Zebo. The train started and Zebo ran along the platform for a long time, also waving her hand to her lover until the train disappeared in the distance, crying sadly. How they corresponded then and what letters Zebo wrote to him! Sayak read them like Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin’s poem «Eugene Onegin». He read them again and again in his spare time, lying on the tall grass of the border outpost. He even learned what he had written by heart, rereading it lengthwise and diagonally. Especially one touching letter, overflowing with longing and sadness. Zebo wrote:
— Let the letter that I am writing now fall personally into the hands of my beloved Sayak, and he will know my words, like a full moon in the deserted night of our village, where crickets sing monotonously, deafening the darkness and distant frogs trill by the marshes, in unison with stray dogs, who yap in the blue twilight by the river.
Hello, Sayak! How are you doing? How is the service? God grant that everything will be fine for you. If you have any problems, write and don’t be shy, dear. I’ll try to help. Send your new poems and photos, I will be glad. I keep all your letters like the pupil of my eye and looking at your picture, I cry silently and for a long time, I talk to you in a whisper, at night in the light of a desk lamp, like a madwoman. When I saw the dead mosquito that you sent in an envelope so that I would know what kind of mosquitoes there are in distant Russia, and I cried, imagining how difficult it is for you to stand at attention when these bloodthirsty giant mosquitoes bite you from all sides with a buzzing swarm! My poor man! You also wrote about three-four-meter reeds that grow like a wall in the border post, swaying in the wind and rolling in a green wave, making noise like the sea, reminding you of the delta of our river «Kashkaldak». You described the silently shining moon over the reeds, illuminating the control track like a powerful searchlight so that spies would not secretly cross the border of our vast country. I drew landscapes of endless starry skies in words, resembling popcorn over a watchtower, where you stand on duty, like a vineyard keeper in a hut on high stilts. You wrote about how red and blue stars fall in the blue twilight. As your fellow soldiers and commanders joke, saying that Private Sayak Satybaldiev can easily shoot anyone with a Kalashnikov assault rifle without even looking at the target. You wrote how you shot at the range, hitting targets in the top ten and how the military command solemnly awarded you the «Marksman» badge and how you woke up on alarm, in a hurry putting on your uniforms inside out… You should have seen how I laughed after reading this letter! I am glad to hear from you, Sayak, and I want you not to look at beautiful blue-eyed, red-haired Russian girls with your hypnotizing secret gaze and return home alive and well as soon as possible. If you ask me, then I also live like everyone else, as they say, quieter than water and lower than grass, longing for you day and night. I often go to the shore, where you and I met, kissed and swam along the river, sat on the edge of a deep ravine, looking at the sunset, turning scarlet like a wounded human soul, listening in the evening silence to the songs of frogs that sing in the delta, where snow-white water lilies bloom like white lamps of God. I sit and cry, remembering those distant, happy days. Today I came home and froze on the threshold, having heard the conversation between my parents and my grandmother and having learned that they want to marry me off to the son of some rich businessman. I told them the whole truth about the fact that I have a boyfriend that I love.
— Who is he?! — my mother asked. I said that I love Sayak, and I do not intend to get married until you return from the army. I told her that you are the nicest guy, not a drinker, not a smoker, that you write poetry. Hearing my words, my mother went berserk.
— Oh, that crosseyed guy?! He even writes poetry?! Oh, my God, not that! Poets are not people?! They are innate losers — drunks, rowdies! vivid example of this, the Russian poet, Pushkin Alexander Sergeevich, the kingdom of heaven be upon him, who died an absurd death. Where did he die? That’s right, in a duel! He didn’t even know about how the people loaded his revolver with a blank cartridge. That’s how naive and gullible poets can be, and Yesenin Sergey Alexandrovich? He hung himself on the arm of his shirt, as he himself foretold in his poems once! Mad Mayakovsky with horse eyes, also shot himself exactly like the American writer Ernest Hemingway. Mandelstam went mad and died in prison. Lorca was shot! Mashrab was hung, the poet and king Bobir died in India, Furkat’s grave is in China, Hamza Hakimzade was stoned in Shakhimardan. The repressed Usman Nosir died far from his homeland in Stalin’s death camps. So, my daughter, think carefully before you get married. — she said. I immediately rejected her words and said that I only love Sayak and do not intend to marry some rich businessmen… These are the letters Zebo wrote then — Sayak continued to think. Then his mobile phone rang sharply and he was glad to learn that his beloved Zebo was calling.
— Hello! Hello, my incomparable Red Army Zebunya! How are you? Sayak began to say, jokingly.
— I’m fine. How are you feeling, Comrade? Are you all galloping on an iron karkidon, simultaneously defeating an army of White Guards led by Kolchak and Denikin, mercilessly destroying gangs of Basmachi, waving a saber and chasing gangs of Kurbashi Kurshermet and Ibrahimbek?
They laughed with such cheerful conversations. Then, suddenly, Zebo started crying. Sayak was scared.
— What’s wrong with you, my love? Are you crying? — he asked.
— Yes, dear. I’m crying with happiness. You know, there are three of us now! Zebo continued to cry. Hearing this, Sayak’s heart skipped a beat.
— What are you talking about, dear. How can there be three of us?! Sayak shouted into the phone, perplexed.
— Sayak, are you standing or sitting now? Zebo asked.
— I’m standing in the vestibule by the carriage window, so what? — Sayak replied.
— Then sit down. did you sit down? Now listen here. I’m pregnant! — Zebo said.
— What?! Are you kidding?! Sayak said, jumping out of the place where he had just sat down.
— What a joke, you fool, it’s true! You’ve become a father! — Zebo said. Sayak fell silent. Then he sat back on the floor and cried with happiness, shaking his whole body, leaning against the wall of the vestibule.
Sayak drove on, looking askance from the window of the car at the telegraph poles, trees, road signs, rolling forests, steppe expanses, flowering meadows, rivers and bridges, floating ferries on the river, thinking about his faithful, pregnant wife Zebo, feeling remorse that he left her with problems in such a period when she is in dire need of his care.
Here two new passengers, who were placed in the carriage by the conductor Tandirkallaev, interrupted his thoughts, inviting him to the table to have a snack together. Sayak thanked his hospitable companions and joined them. Fruits, smoked fish, sausage, tomatoes, pickles and various drinks with vodka were placed on a small table covered with newspapers.
— Well, gentlemen, before we start eating, it would be nice to get acquainted, — said a pot-bellied, curly-haired, undersized passenger with a large head that didn’t match his body, about thirty-five or forty years old, shaved like a peeled egg, rubbing the palms of his short hands against each other, like a fly over manure and smiling slyly.
— My name is Kanagevanna, and this is my friend Salosarimsakphanat — he introduced himself.
His friend Salosarimsakfanat turned out to be a tall, and skinny type with a spherical head, a swollen forehead, and a Jack the Ripper hat. His overly long arms, resembling oars, hung below his knees, like an orangutan.
— My name is Sayak. Glad to meet you, gentlemen, — said Sayak.
— Mutually — Kanagevanna was delighted, then continued: — Well, we’ve met. Now I will uncork this bubble and let’s drink the poison of the green snake for acquaintance and wash our meeting, — he said, taking a bottle of vodka and trying to open it, gnawing the cork like a hungry dog gnawing a bone. Carefully pouring vodka into glasses, Kanagevanna made a long toast. After clinking glasses, Kanagevanna and Salosarimsakfanat drank vodka, drained the glasses in one gulp and had a snack with a crunchy pickle. Then they both stared at Sayak in surprise.
— Well, Sayak! What is this?! You can’t do that! We are sailing, as they say, on the same ship. Not on some Titanic, but on a spaceship called «Earth», which sails in the foggy and boundless ocean of the universe. Come on, drink the water before it cools down! — Kanagevanna insisted.
— No, I don’t drink alcohol, — said Sayak.
Kanagevanna and Salosarimsakfanat froze in an instant, constantly chewing a crunchy pickle.
— I see. Religion doesn’t allow it, does it? Come on, Sayak, arrange a circus here. By the way, we are also Muslims. How is it sung in an Indian film: «Tu hindu bane gana muslims banega! Insaaaniki avladikha insaane banegaaa! — Yes, maybe we don’t pray five times a day like you, we don’t go to the mosque for Friday prayers, we don’t fast in Ramadan and drink vodka like water, snacking on pieces of bacon with garlic exactly. Well, what can you do if there is no source of joy left in this ruthless world, except for vodka. There is poverty, unemployment all around, and you, my friend, act like the last religious fan who does not respect the company. Personally, I am ready to drink to the company not only kerosene or ink, but also a poisonous chemical with nuclear waste! Salosarimsakfanat said resentfully.
— No, I’m not a fan. I just don’t like to drink alcohol, I lead a healthy lifestyle. I excercise all the time. — explained Sayak.
— What?! A healthy lifestyle?! What, you think we are leading a sick lifestyle or something? What are you hinting at, you’re oblique, huh?! Now I’m going to break a bottle on the edge of this table, turning it into a rose, then one stab in the side and you’re finished! Salosarimsakphanat — said, angrily twisting his mouth.
— To hell with him, — Kanagevanna muttered and poured vodka into glasses. Then the two friends drank standing for friendship again, and again. After the fourth glass, they got drunk.
Then Kanagevanna, jumping up from his seat, shouted: — Oh, damn!
— What is it?! — Salosarimsakfanat was surprised.
— Look, we put food on the portrait of the first president of our country, the architect of independence, which is printed in this newspaper! Kanagevanna said with fear, pointing to the portrait.
— Come on, Kanagevanna, don’t make me laugh! What independence?! Which president?! Why do we need such independence, where everyone steals people’s goods, privatizes factories and factories built in the Soviet years by our fathers and grandfathers for free, and poor people suffer from total unemployment, go to neighboring states in search of work and a piece of daily bread?! There was no such thing in the Soviet years! For a stolen penny, they received long prison terms! Stalin sent bribe takers and corrupt officials in echelons to prisons and camps! There was no unemployment! People lived amicably and happily! And now it is like nations gnawing at each other’s throats! Sometimes I cry, remembering those peaceful, happy years, longing for the USSR, thinking about my happy fairy-tale childhood, where we walked through the streets in red caps, like a rooster’s crest and with scarlet ties around our necks, playing the drum and bugle, like: -Tutdugudu! Tutdugudu! Tantra-ra! Tantra-ra! Tantrarantra rantrara!.. How we laid wreaths at the foot of the monument to dear Vladimir Ilyich, who stood on a pedestal with his arm outstretched forward, showing us the right path to communism! Oh, what a country the bastards have ruined! If I had met this Gorbachev on the street, I would have hit his head with a brick on his birthmark so that the brick flew in different directions, breaking into small, small pieces! — said the angry Salosarimsakfanat, crying and wiping tears from his eyes with a huge leaky handkerchief.
— Don’t cry, Salosarimsakfanat. What does Gorbachev have to do with it?! It is Brezhnev, dear Leonid Ilyich, who is to blame for everything. It was he who ordered troops into Afghanistan and ruined the powerful economy of the USSR! Then gradually discontent began among the people and the peoples began to declare their independence one by one.Thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev for the fact that thanks to him our people also finally gained national independence! Now we live freely, expressing our thoughts, not being afraid of anyone! Democracy is developing, and this Joseph Djugashvili Stalin of yours turned the USSR into a huge prison of peoples, where the light of the nation, wonderful poets and writers, intelligent people, millions and millions of innocent people rotted alive in cold barracks, in swamps, under the stigma of «Enemy of the People» just because they wanted freedom to exist in society! Kanagevanna said, pouring vodka into faceted glasses.
— You bastard! Enemy of the people! Damn bourgeois! Unfinished contra! You leave Comrade Stalin alone! Unlike your presidents, he did not build fairy-tale castles for himself, did not steal people’s goods, lived so honestly that, after his death, seeing his ripped boots, everyone wept in chorus. That is, he did not even allow himself to buy a pair of new boots, can you imagine?! He didn’t have any extra clothes, except for a pair of casual and a pair of formal?! Thanks to him, we won the war over world fascism! Comrade Stalin did not even exchange his own son for the fascist General Paulus when his son was captured! His son participated in the war! And now?! Your presidents will never send their sons to the army, even in peacetime, and this is a fact! In the war, the sons of the common people die, sent into battle like cannon fodder! That’s your patriotism!.. Salosarimsakfanat said, taking a faceted glass of vodka, gulping down the contents and deliciously snacking on pork sausage.
— And how many outstanding generals and honest party leaders did your Stalin destroy in order to preserve his bloody throne?! It was he who forcibly deported innocent Chechens, Crimean Tatars calling them traitors that helped the enemy and many peoples who died in exile from their native lands. A Holodomor in Ukraine! If he had promptly believed the words of the intelligence officers, who informed him in time that Hitler was preparing to attack the USSR, so many people would not have died and beautiful cities would not have turned into ruins! In a word, your Stalin was a bloodthirsty dictator! The warden of the Peoples’ prison, and we should say a huge thank you to Gorbachev Mikhail Sergeyevich and build a huge monument to him made of pure gold in the center of Tashkent! I will raise this glass to the health of Mikhail Sergeyevich and Raisa Maksimovna! — Kanagevanna said and was about to gulp down the faceted glass, when his tall and skinny friend took the bottle and attacked him with a war cry: — To Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin! Die, you brute! Servant of the damned Hitler! With these words, Salosarimsakfanat began to wave a rose, and Kanagevanna began to defend himself. A bloody fight ensued between the drinking buddies. While Sayak was trying to change them and calm them down, glasses and plates, falling from the table to the floor, shattered.Then the conductor Tandirkallaev came running and started shouting: — What’s going on here?! Stop fighting now, devils! Otherwise, I’ll have to call security! The use of alcoholic beverages on trains is prohibited! You are violating public order! Security will come now, draw up a protocol and you will pay a huge fine! — he fussed.
— Sorry, Warden, we overreacted. Don’t call security. Here, money for the damages done, — Salosarimsakfanat said, pulling a wad of money out of the pocket of his trousers. Seeing this, the conductor Tandirkallaev calmed down and took the money.
— All right. Just so it doesn’t happen again, — he said. Then he went out. Half an hour later, he returned with a tray in his hands, where glasses of tea were clinking.
By the evening, the train arrived in St. Petersburg. Once he got off the train, Sayak finally breathed clean air and felt like a person who entered into an unfamiliar world. It was bright all around, although the moon was not in the sky. Sayak got into a taxi and drove to the address given to him by the train conductor Tandirkallaev. Sayak was driving a taxi, admiring the picturesque view of the ancient city. Architectural monuments such as Admiralty, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Winter Palace, Peter and Paul Fortress, drawbridge, boulevards, Nevsky Canal and other sights of the city on the the river Neva flashed by. Finally, he found the building where the office of the entrepreneur Kotsa Lai is located. Sayak went into a small room where the director of the Hezline company, the entrepreneur Kotsa Lai was sitting. Sayak introduced himself and said hello. The entrepreneur Kotsa Lai invited Sayak to his desk for an interview. Sayak sat down on a chair and the two began to talk among themselves.
— Well, how do you like my portrait in which I smoke a cigarette, tilting my neck to the side? This is the work of an artist — the migrant worker Rizo Abid, who I put to work. As a token of gratitude, he drew my portrait for free and gave it to me for my birthday. The portrait is painted in oil on a canvas. The man has extraordinary abilities, may the kingdom of heaven be upon him. He worked at a landfill. Poor guy, he died under a multi-ton blockage of garbage, when he was looking for discarded oil paints in tubes. Now, this portrait will immortalize him in our eternal memory, — said Kotsa Lai, thoughtfully lighting a cigarette without a filter, tilting his spherical head to the side.
— Excuse me, Mr. Kotsa Lai, what portrait are you talking about? — Sayak said, surprised.
— Yes, about this portrait, at which you stare intently, like a visitor to the Louvre Museum in front of the delightful paintings of Pablo Picasso.
— Oh, forgive me, Mr. Kotsa Lai, I’m not looking at the portrait, but at you, — said Sayak, wildly surprising the entrpreneur Kotsa Lai, who was sitting on an armchair, disappearing into the tobacco smoke which enveloped him, as if in a thick autumn fog.
— But you’re not looking at me? — Kotsa Lai was surprised, lightly flicking the ashes of his smoldering cigarette with his finger on the edge of a crystal ashtray.
— I have a lazy eye, that’s why it seems like i’m not looking at you… — Sayak explained guiltily.
— Oh, I’m sorry, fellow countryman. I did not know…I’m sorry for the way things turned out to be,- said Kotsa Lai, trying to hide his smile, closing his lips like a red rose bud.Then he added: — You know, it’s even for the best. That is, you can easily get a European citizenship or, say, Western countries in the future. Yes, yes, don’t be surprised. But to do this, the authorities must first arrest you, judge you properly and put you in jail for a long time… On what charge? I’ll explain now. In short, they will accuse you of taking an oppositional view of things, say, the political actions of the current authorities. In court, the prosecutor will say: — Sayak, how come you don’t look in the direction where everyone else is looking?! — It is clear that you will make excuses about the fact that you have a lazy eye. But it won’t help. Even your lawyer cannot save you from the harsh verdict of our most just court in the world!.. So you will have to go to jail. Of course, you will not sit idly by. You will try to escape by secretly digging an underground tunnel with an aluminum spoon, removing the soil by hiding it in the pockets of your prison jumpsuit. Finally, the long-awaited day will come and you make an escape. But soldiers and guard dogs will immediately notice you and pursue you, running through forests and swamps, as if on a royal hunt for a hare. Then they’ll catch you. After that, you will be sent to solitary confinement and your term will be extended. Eventually you’ll be released gray-haired, leaving prison with a bouquet of diseases. Then, human rights organizations will help you to escape from the country to Europe or to the West. A bitter life in exile begins, loneliness, homesickness and all that. It’s clear to you now, right?
Yes, Mr. Kotsa Lai indeed, your portrait looks very beautiful — Sayak smiled.
— Thank you, dear countryman. I respect people with a fine taste of art. Now let’s get right to the point. Before I get you a job, I need to fill out a survey and draw up the appropriate documents. It’s a small bureaucracy, but there’s no way without it. I’ll need your passport,- said entrepreneur Kotsa Lai, pressing his cigarette butt into an ashtray, blushing up to his neck, like an angry turkey, coughing strongly and breathing as if through a whistle.
Sayak gave him his passport. Kotsa Lai, having examined the passport, said:
— A passport is the soul of a person! No one is without a passport. No wonder Mayakovsky wrote poems about the passport.
I would have chewed out bureaucracy like a wolf.
There is no respect for mandates…
Now I have a lot of business meetings and trips.So your passport will be kept with me, as they say, in a safe place, that is, in my steel safe. I will deal with your documents later. Agreed? You will live in an abandoned barn for now. There is a cot with a blanket, a fragment of a broken mirror over the washstand, which is fastened out of a dried squash. Don’t worry too much, as soon as we have the opportunity, we will provide you with more comfortable accommodations. Now, thank God, it’s spring and it’s warm in St. Petersburg. There are fabulous bright nights in the courtyard. So, you will not need electricity and heating. You will work first in a greenhouse where flowers grow, and in the beginning, the work may seem difficult to you, but you’re from the village, get used to it. Then, gradually you will move to a new position, you will work as a salesman in a flower shop. So don’t hang your nose, dear fellow countryman, and don’t forget that every great person started from scratch. Even billionaires and oligarchs. This job requires patience and an iron will. Now about the most important thing. Listen here carefully.You know yourself that in this world you have to pay for everything. This is an unwritten law of Mother Nature. In short, you will not receive a salary for half a year to cover all the expenses that we spent for you. Don’t forget one thing as well. All great people have gone through difficulties and trials. When I was studying at the university, I also went hungry, like a prisoner of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Then I found a way to satisfy my hunger for free and started hunting pigeons. It turns out that pigeons are the most naive and trusting birds in the world. No wonder they are called the birds of the world. In short, I set up snares on the window sills of open windows, luring them into the snares, laying food around. Pigeons, cooing happily, like rushing water in early spring, flew in and fell into the loop, which I made from a thin fishing line. I caught them, took off their heads, plucked their feathers, and threw them into a pot of water. Then I made delicious soup from them and ate it with pleasure, like the knight Don Quixote of La Mancha on Fridays. Sometimes I would fry delicious pigeon kebabs from them and ate them with garlic. My poor fellow students went hungry, skinny as ghosts, like homeless, stray dogs, and I, on the contrary, gaining weight day after day, became fat and pot-bellied, like a thoroughbred pig. While I graduated from the university, there was not a single pigeon left on the university campus. I ate all these birds of the world, can you imagine? The concerned dean of our University even held an emergency meeting in connection with the mysterious disappearance of pigeons on campus. After seeing the feathers and bones of the pigeons I ate, which I threw into garbage cans, the foolish deans of faculties put forward a scientific hypothesis that an undocumented, invisible, pigeon-devouring, voracious cat, appeared on the university campus. How I laughed then, oh how I laughed, cracking up when I heard their words. In such a wise and cunning way I satisfied my hunger in those distant difficult times. In a word, entrepreneurialship is in my blood. You will also have to be patient if you want to succeed. Do you understand? Kotsa Lai said.
— Yes, Mr. Kotsa Lai, — said Sayak.
— Well, that’s fine. You can go now. You will be escorted out — Kotsa Lai smiled slyly, closing his lips, painfully similar to a scarlet rose bud.
After this conversation, two Hesaline company employees took Sayak to the greenhouse and gave him the keys to the abandoned barn. Entering the shed, Sayak was startled by a large rat that jumped out from under a damp blanket where a yellowed pillow was lying.
Sayak works tirelessly in the greenhouse from morning to evening. Only during lunch will he be able to rest a little, eat and talk on the phone with his wife. In the greenhouse, he met a girl named Katerina. By her nature, she turned out to be a cheerful, cheeky girl and kind at the same time. One day Katya, looking at Sayak with a dissatisfied look, said: — Hey, Sayak, why are you staring at me all the time?! Have you fallen in love? Don’t play with fire! Otherwise I’ll cut your ears off with these hedgeclippers!
— What are you saying, katerina Lixeevna! To be honest, I am terribly tired of explaining to everyone that I have a lazy eye. That is, when I look at these beautiful roses, consider that I am not looking at you, but at the beautiful roses, and when I look at those roses, my lazy eye will be pointed at you. If you look at it through the prism of logic, then it’s the same thing. That is, you look like a rose, and roses look like you,- said Sayak. Hearing this, all the workers laughed in unison. Katya and Sayak, too.
Katya even blushed with embarrassment after hearing such unexpected compliments directed toward her, while local guys call her an elephant, an oak barrel, even a pig. surprisingly original compliments uttered by Sayak simply amazed Katya and she herself, without noticing it, secretly fell in love with him.
One day, when she saw Sayak with a bandage on his arm, she asked: — What’s wrong with your hand, Sayak? Did you have a fight with the locals? Did they beat you? Tell me who they are? I’ll find them even it’s from under the ground and break their jaws!
— No, I didn’t get into a fight. Let me explain… A rat bit my hand. — said Sayak.
— A rat?! How? When? Where? — Katya was surprised.
— In the barn when I was sleeping — said Sayak.
— Wow! You live in a barn? — said Katerina, even more surprised.
— Yes, — said Sayak.
— Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier? I would have helped you out… You listen, Sayak, I have a grandmother who lives outside the city. She is a kind old woman. If you want, I’ll talk to her and maybe she’ll let you live with her. Minibuses, buses and even an electric train go there. But whether she will agree, I don’t know yet. It’s a little far for me. That’s why I live here in an apartment, so as not to be late for work. You’ll stay with my grandmother for a while. At the same time, you can help her with the housework, Katya offered.
— Thank you, katerina Lixeevna, but… — Sayak said and Katya immediately interrupted him.
— My God! Why are you always going «katerina Lixeyevna, katerina Lixeyevna!» Just call me Katya! — She said angrily.
— All right, Katya. But I don’t have my passport with me to register for a residence… How will I pay for my apartment if I give my salary to my countryman Mr. Kotsa Lai, who helped me get this job? — Said Sayak, saddened.
— What the hell? Why do you have to give your entire salary away to him… Why to Kotsa Lai, even if he got you a job? He’s no different from you after all, just a fellow countryman. What will you eat? You still have to send part of your salary home! Who took your passport? — Katya asked.
— Kotsa Lai. — said Sayak.
— Oh, this blockhead?! Well, don’t worry, my friend, we will get your passport back from him and make sure that he can no longer take your money, which you earn by honest work, — Katya said.
— No, no, Katya, he’s my countryman. He got me a job. Provided me with housing. I have to respond to kindness with kindness. He spent a lot of money out of his pocket for me, which I have to return. It’s inconvenient for me now to go and ask him for something. — said Sayak.
— Housing you say?! Oh, you! Is it possible to call a barn where rats attack you a house? Spit on such a fellow countryman! He’s not your countryman! Fellow countrymen don’t do that! On the contrary, they help free of charge! And he?! Well, I’ll show him whose boss. We’ll get your passport back from this donkey and I’ll get you a good job myself,- Katya promised.
The next day she went into Kotsa Lai’s office and immediately asked him: — Mr. Kotsa Lai, answer my question. Who gave you the right to take away a grifter’s passport and salary? Do the laws of the Russian Federation not concern you?
Hearing this, Kotsa Lai turned pale with fear. Then he began to speak: — What are you talking about, girl, I don’t understand.I didn’t take away anyone’s passport and salary. This is slander! — he said, trying to defend himself.
— Didn’t you take away the passport of Sayak Satybaldayev? — Katya asked again.
— Ah, that’s what’s the matter! Yes, I do not deny that I took his passport temporarily to issue some documents. But I had no intention of taking away his salary, I swear to you. Let him come and take his passport,- said Kotsa Lai, taking a puff from his cigarette.
A day later, Sayak came to Kotsa Lai’s office and took his passport back from him. Giving Sayak’s passport, Kotsa Lai said: — Aren’t you ashamed, fellow countryman, to complain to a girl? We helped you, didn’t you?..
— Mr. Kotsa Lai, don’t get me wrong. I also have a family, a pregnant wife. I can’t work for half a year without a salary. To hell with it, I’ll get by somehow. But I have to send at least some money home to help pay off the debts that we took from the loan shark with interest! Sayak explained.
— Well, of course. There something like this in a folk tale… In short, one wolf will come running to a farmer and ask him to hide him, as evil hunters are chasing him with guns in their hands. The farmer hides the wolf in a bag. But after the hunters left, the wolf came out of the bag and said, clacking his teeth: — Thank you, comrade farmer for your help, but I’m hungry and I want to eat you… The world is small, Sayak, hopefully, we’ll meet again. And now get out of my office, please,- Kotsa Lai said, nervously lighting another cigarette, tilting his spherical head to the side.
The bus was packed to capacity with passengers. Next to Sayak rode a man in ragged clothes, unshaven, in an old jacket, in an old and holey hat. Then the conductor appeared and asked all the passengers to pay for the fare. Sayak paid. After that, the conductor turned to face the unshaven man in an old jacket in the holey hat, hardly moving in the crowd.
— Citizen passenger, your ticket, please, — she said. He started talking.
— I must tell you, dear conductor, that I have every right to use any public transport for free. That is, I am a participant in the Soviet-Afghan war. who shed his scarlet blood for the Motherland, for our people, for the future of our children, without sparing his life! I have a number of awards, but I don’t wear them so that people don’t think I’m bragging. I served mainly in counterintelligence. My rank is Major General. War, blood, the roar of tanks and howitzers, air strikes, carpet bombing, the piercing howl of shells, smoke, dust to the skies, the fading pupils of the eyes of dying soldiers spitting blood, corpses lying around without arms and legs, in a word, a bloody war. Of course, all this could not but affect my health. My nerves are shattered. As soon as I fall asleep, I immediately start raving, calling my dead friends, poor fellow soldiers who were blown up by a mine. I wake up, covered in sweat and look, my poor wife is suffocating, asking with her eyes that I let go of her throat, which I grabbed with tenacious fingers, shouting with contempt:
— Death to the soulmans!
Then, my wife and I broke up, and she married a short, gloomy shoemaker who works along the street in summer and winter. When I was a retired brigadier general, my wife followed me around like my shadow, like a faithful dog, and said, I love you and I can’t live a day without you. Promise, dear, that we will die with you on the same day, in the same hour and in the same minute. We will write a will so that people will bury us in the same grave, putting us in the same coffin. As soon as I became a carpenter, she abruptly stopped loving me, and went to this silent shoemaker. That’s what love at first sight is. Don’t let my deplorable appearance and my torn clothes, and dirty, holey panama hat confuse you, Madam conductor. The main thing in a person is not his appearance, but his inner world, a vulnerable soul, overflowing to the brim with divine light, subtle feelings and attitude. Yes, I will not hide it, I drink. But not just like that. I was drunk with grief. Thinking about the condition of my poor people, who sow cotton in the fields and work day and night with their young children from early spring to winter, despite the vagaries of nature. they grow cotton, working hard under the scorching sun, receiving a meager salary for their slave labor, sometimes they do not receive them for years, rejoicing that they did not drown in debt. I am a retired general, but I earn my bread by honest work. That is, I am a hereditary carpenter. I make high-quality modern window frames from wood, and, moreover, inexpensive. Ah, you should have seen me working in my workshop in a T-shirt and cotton shorts, with a pencil behind my ear. So I take a bar, check it carefully, looking at it with one eye and tightly gripping it in a vice to cut it. The plane begins to emit divine sounds, and shavings fly out of it, like twisted wooden springs, similar to the curly hair of beautiful blondes. I’m working and my muscles are playing. In a word, when I work, the plane turns into an extension of my hands. This work for me is something like high poetry in wood, something like a divine symphony by Strauss, Chopin, Wagner, Giuseppe Verdi, you know? Oh, how I adore the subtle, pleasant smell of wood, it makes me dizzy. This is the smell of my childhood. When I inhale this fragrance, I involuntarily begin to remember the workshop where my father worked all day, who was also an unrecognized great carpenter. He died when he sawed the board into two parts with a circular saw. It so happened that the circular suddenly jammed, and then it, having broken, flew apart with a crashed in different directions. One of the fragments of this circular saw hit, like ninja shurikens, my poor father right in the forehead, and he died. I was left an orphan. My father’s tools were left to me as a legacy. The profession of a carpenter is in my blood, so from an early age I began to engage in carpentry. I remember we had a stool in our house, and I wanted to adapt it for myself. In short, I wanted to shorten the legs of that stool and for this I sawed off part of each of them. When I sawed off all four legs, the stool stood unevenly. I had to saw off the legs again to straighten the stool. But it was still standing crookedly. I sawed off a piece again and again and so on to the end. That is, our stool has no legs left. Seeing this, my mother got very angry, beat me with my father’s boot and kicked me out of the house. I went into the workshop, put all my father’s tools in a big bag and left. Mom was crying, sitting on the steps of our shack, wiping tears from her eyes with her ripped apron.
— Come back! — she shouted after me!
— But I was a stubborn boy and I never came home. That’s how I went through the difficult path of a carpenter. If you want, I can even give you one of the window frames that I recently made out of mahogany for cheap, — said the retired general.
Staring at the retired major General, the conductor thought for a moment, then, nervously lighting a cigarette in the crowd, she said:
— And what the hell do I care about your mahogany window frame if I live in a dark basement of an abandoned house? You’d better show me your ticket! What a retired general! Carpenter -cabinetmaker! He also worked in counterintelligence! No wonder your mother kicked you out of the house! Conman! Come on, buy a ticket faster, or I’ll throw you out of the bus, you miserable drunk! I am a black belt in karate! So no kidding with me!
— Oh, are you also a hooligan?! Well, well… Now we will call the native militia, where my friend, a fellow soldier, works as a boss… where is my cell phone?…It should be in my jacket pocket, — the retired general said, rummaging through the pockets of the potbellied man who was riding next to him, holding on to the handrail of the bus with both hands so as not to fall in the crush. He, too, turned out to be a man with shattered nerves, and then a fight broke out.
— Where are you going, you stinking pickpocket! I’m going to break your hairy and dirty hands! Give me my cell phone, you bastard! — he shouted. The frightened children began to cry in unison from fear, and the passengers began to shout, some from lack of air in the crowd, some, cursing the fighting with a three-story mat. In the confusion, the conductor began to provide military assistance to the potbellied passenger, hitting the head of the retired general who participated in the Afghan-Soviet war with a conductor’s bag. Here the driver stopped his clunker and the retired general quickly left the bus. When the bus pulled away, the conductor sobbed loudly. It turns out that someone cut off her purse with money unnoticed and took it away, leaving the strap.
Zebo went to bed late and had a strange dream. In her dream, she was walking towards a wild field to collect dung. Curly white-haired sheep ran around her, like tidal waves in the sea. She began to collect the dung, throwing them into a large basket hung on her shoulders.She was looking for dung, like mushroom pickers, who in waders are looking for mushrooms, lifting the skirts of Christmas trees with a stick, calling loudly to each other and wandering with baskets in their hands, in coniferous forests, where the rolling echo echoes the fractional knock of a woodpecker. Zebo worked, singing songs in unison with the larks, which trilled over the steppe expanses. She stopped only when she heard the rumble of the engine and saw a giant combine harvester with huge bunkers, collecting dung.
— This is progress! Innovative technology covers the entire planet, including remote villages! Finally, having created for the first time in the world a new unique combine harvester that can collect dung, our scientists have made a revolution in the field of tractor construction! Zebo admired. But when she saw the combine harvester, she almost fainted. Because Sayak was sitting at the helm of a giant combine. He had orders of the Hero of Socialist Labor and other gold medals hanging on his jacket. Zebo, hastily throwing the basket of dung, ran towards the huge combine, tripping over a steppe grasshopper and falling.
— Sayak, my love, I’m here! I’m here! I finally found you! Thank God that you have returned from distant Russia on a dung harvesting unit to your native land to facilitate the work of your compatriots! — she screamed! Zebo thought that Sayak, seeing her, would immediately stop his dung harvesting unit and, jumping off the tractor, would run to her. But it didn’t happen. On the contrary, Sayak started driving like an angry tankman in a war, raising clouds of dust directly towards where Zebo was standing to crush her. Seeing this, Zebo started running, tripping over the hobble and falling, sometimes looking back. Sayak was driving at high speed, driving his combine harvester like a fascist on a tank who saw his opponent. He was laughing and the pupils of his slanting eyes were burning like two yachts. Zebo, screaming for help, ran with all her might, then falling, then getting up, and in such a terrible place of her dream she woke up in a cold sweat. Zebo lay for a long time, thanking God that she had seen all this in a dream. Outside the window, in the morning silence, birds were already chirping and roosters were crowing, now in neighboring courtyards, then in the distance across the river. Quail calls came from the fields. Zebo got up and, after washing, went into the cowshed, rattling an empty bucket to milk the cow. There she almost went crazy after seeing a terrible picture. The bucket slipped out of Zebo’s hand and clattered to the ground. Their dead cow was lying in the cowshed. Her extinct eyes were open, and a lilac-colored tongue protruded from her curled mouth. Farida sobbed bitterly in a broken voice, leaning against the plastered wall of the cowshed, where she was molding dung from cow manure, similar to cakes.
— My God! Why did you take away our last source of income, which our family was feeding on, barely making ends meet?! How am I going to feed my family now?! — she cried.
When she went out into the yard, continuing to cry loudly, the frightened Kupaysin asked her why she was crying. Zebo told her the terrible truth, and the old woman also began to cry. It turns out that the grass that Zebo brought from the edge of the cotton fields was specially poisoned with poisonous pesticides so that livestock would not come close to the cotton fields. Zebo kept sobbing in a loud voice, hitting herself on the head in despair. Hearing the noise, the neighbors woke up and entered the yard. One of them mournfully began to express his condolences:
— Don’t cry, Zebo. This is God’s work… Poor Aunt Kupaysin was a harmless old lady during her lifetime. May her place be in Paradise, Amin! Please accept our condolences, dear neighbor, — he said.
— Yes, what are you people, in fact, my grandmother is alive! Our cow is dead! — Zebo said, crying bitterly.
— Oh, I’m sorry for God’s sake, neighbor. So, Aunt Kupaysin will live a long time… I’m sorry, for God’s sake… he said.
— God Almighty, why are you doing this, huh? It would be better to take me away, but leave the cow! How are we going to live now?! My grandson Sayak, the breadwinner of the family, went to work in distant lands! God pity his wife Zebo! It’s already very difficult for her… Kupaysin cried, sitting on the step.
Then someone intervened in the conversation, and began to give advice:
— Don’t grieve, neighbor. There’s always a way out. There is no hopeless situation. I know a butcher named Karzolim. He can buy the carcass of your dead cow and quickly sell it by mixing it with fresh meat. Karzolim has golden hands. He is a master of his craft and acts like a gambler with half a century of experience. Butcher Karzolim sells not only dead cattle, donkeys and dogs, but also old bones too. He buys tons of them, then resells them to consumers with such dexterity that buyers do not even notice how he slips crushed old bones that he buys, God knows from whom. However, one teacher, noticing this, raised a political scandal, threatening to put the butcher in prison for a long time. But the butcher Karzolim calmly took a long knife, sharpened it thoroughly with a file with a wolfish grin, cut off one thin hair of his hand, as if checking the sharpness of the ringing steel knife, and hit the teacher with this cold weapon at his throat with all his might, but the teacher jumped back and survived. But, greatly frightened, he suddenly turned pale, like a vampire on a full moon. The butcher Karzolim said, God forbid, the teacher will blab about his heinous crime, then he will come to an end, that is, he will immediately turn into a corpse. After that, the teacher stopped arguing with the butcher Karzolim. After hearing the extraordinary advice of her neighbor , Zebo stopped crying for a moment and said:
— What are you saying? Are you out of your mind? To sell the meat of a dead cow in a meat stall is a big sin! How will I answer to God in the next world? — she said.
Here the third person began to give his even more delicate advice:
— Then, this dead cow should be sold to a meat processing plant where sausage is produced. My brother works there and he told me that many people bring dead cows, sheep and goats there every day from different parts of the region. I don’t know if you are aware that now our Republic has become independent, and the enterprises have passed into the hands of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are not very interested in what kind of disease there is, «salmonella», «brucellosis», «ebola» or «rabies». For them, the main thing is that money flows like a river. So they buy up dead cattle and make sausage of various varieties. It turns out that they also buy tons of old books of ancient poets and philosophers as waste paper, which librarians illegally bring in dump trucks to sell. Among them there are books by Pushkin, Byron, Lorca, Yesenin, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Abdulla Kodiriy, Dostoevsky, Mandelstam, Hemingway, Stendhal, Kobo Abe, Borges, Cortazar and other famous authors of world literature. After that, entrepreneurs, having cut these books into small pieces with the help of special shredders, mix them with liquid meat mass. That’s why the population of our region, who eat sausage, without even noticing it, become wise day after day. That’s nothing. My brother, who works at this enterprise, recently told me that once a tall drunk janitor went missing at the meat processing plant, and a day later scraps of his plaid shirt and a worn-out skullcap with pieces of his rubber boots were found in a huge drum where the meat mixture is poured into special intestines. That’s where we’ll take your dead cow for a certain amount of money, of course. Do not be afraid, highly qualified veterinarians work there, and they will prepare the appropriate documents for you that your cow was alive and did not have salmonella, brucellosis or rabies. The carcass of your dead cow will be stamped with a stamp. You should not think about responsibilities before God either. You will tell God in the next world the whole truth that you were simply forced to sell the carcass of your dead cow to the meat processing plant, since you had no other choice. They say that God is merciful and He forgives the penitent.
Hearing this, Zebo said, — Astagfurullah! Astagfurullah! Then she started kicking the neighbors out of the yard:
— Leave now, you assholes! devils! Get out of our yard, for God’s sake! Leave us alone! — she shouted nervously and continued to roar, sitting down on an overturned bucket, covering her face with an apron. The old woman Kupaysin also sobbed in a heart-rending voice in unison with Zebo, like a sad violin in the hands of a wandering musician.
Zebo was crying. Her mom, was too.
— I warned you, oh, I warned you, and you didn’t listen to me. You married an lazy-eyed poet! This is the result! This loser has not sent us a penny to this day! And you’re sitting up to your ears in debt! And you’re pregnant! The guy you didn’t marry is a big businessman now. He happily lives with his beautiful wife and children in a luxurious villa! I am afraid to even think about how you will now get rid of the debts that you have from that loan shark! It’s not like we’re rich! The loan shark may very soon turn on the meter casuing your debt to grow in in proliferation, not by the day, but by the hour! Do you have any idea what this is?! We could lose our homes and end up on the street, with the entire neighborhood laughing at us! And that damned poet of yours, the vineyard keeper, has probably already married a young Russian girl and is living in luxury somewhere in a country house! You’ll end up killing me at the rate you’re going with what you’re doing… — she sobbed, sitting on a wheelchair.
— Mom, you will never understand me! Please stop! I love Sayak, I love him, you know?!I believe my husband and he will never leave me! He will definitely send me the money and I will pay off my debts in full. It’s not easy for Sayak either. It turns out he was robbed on the train. He barely got to Petersburg and got a job. There are unforeseen expenses… You’ll see, Mom, It will all be fine in the end,- Zebo said, continuing to cry. Her grandmother joined the conversation and began to calm her granddaughter.
— Don’t cry, my poor girl, don’t cry, everything will be alright. You’re right, Sayak is not a bad guy and it’s not easy for him now either,- she said. Zebo got up and went out into the yard, wiping her tears, then went home along the path, through the cotton field, so as not to show people her tear-stained eyes. Gray larks trilled merrily and loudly over the field, white-breasted swallows flew, nimbly waving their black, oil-like wings. In the distance, a lone tractor was working on the edge of the field, raising a cloud of dust behind it. Deep cliffs could be seen beyond the fields, and the Kashkaldak River glittered in the sun, like the curved saber of Timur’s ancient warriors. Walking along the path, Zebo came to the shore, where fragrant jiyda trees bloom. The wind gently swayed this blooming silver tree, and its delicate fragrance carried across the fields. Then suddenly Zebo’s mobile phone rang and she hurriedly turned it on. When she heard her husband’s voice, she was very happy.
— Hello, Sayak! How are you, my love? Are you okay?.. Yes, yes, I can hear you! Thank you, honey, I’m fine. Everyone is alive and well. They all said to say hi to you. I visited my mother and grandmother today. My mother is afraid that if we don’t pay off our debts in time, then soon the loan shark will «turn on the meter» and the increase our debt by the hour. Then they will take away our house and we will be left on the street with our entire family,- she cried.
— No, don’t worry, darling, everything will be fine! The world turns out to be not impoverished by good people. Here a Russian girl named Katya promised to help me and find a prestigious job. One of these days I will move into the house of her grandmother, who lives alone outside the city. An old woman of about eighty, barely moves with a cane in her hands, she’s so kind. God’s dandelion. She has geese, chickens and a cat named «Gottamserver». Now I will live with her, helping around the household. The rent is not expensive either. I got a new job. Now I will, like the good old days, do my favorite job gardening in a country house with a rich businessman. They have a country house and a huge front garden. Twice a day I take their Doberman dog named «Tarzan» for a walk. To sum it up, there is enough work. So be patient, my love. I’ll start sending you money through the Western Union soon. You just take care of yourself and our son. How is our little hero over there? Growing day by day? He is, so eat as much high-calorie food and salad as possible. Breathe fresh air. Try not to think about the problems. You shouldn’t worry. When everything settles down with me and I buy an apartment or a small house, I will call for you to come to me and we will all live together in the city by the river Neva. St. Petersburg is one of the most beautiful cities in Russia. Now here you can observe a wonderful natural phenomenon they call «White Nights». The night is bright, even when the moon is not visible. It’s like the city is drowning in milk and the townspeople are sleeping like rabbits with their eyes open. People can’t sleep on nights like these. Especially lovers. They walk in pairs along the pavement and along the embankment, where stone lions, sphinxes, ancient cathedrals, fortresses, museums, palaces, fountains, drawbridges, parks and boulevards are a delight to the eyes. We will also live in this old and big city, as they say, a happy life on a grand scale. Our son will be brought up in a good school in St. Petersburg. After graduating from high school, he will go to University. He will become a big man — Sayak said, dreaming.
— May our dreams come true, my love. Take care of yourself. I love you more than anything in the world,- Zebo said.
-I know, my dear, I know! I love you too. I’m talking to you right now and I want our conversation to last forever. But alas, you know, work is work. I have to go. The trumpet is calling!..I’ll call you tomorrow, my love. That’s it, hugs and kisses, and bye-bye, — said Sayak, forcibly rounding off the telephone conversation with his wife.
— Okay, dear. Thanks for the phone call! Thank you for being in this world, goodbye, darling! Zebo said, sighing sadly. Turning off the phone, she continued to walk the winding path. A lonely white butterfly was flying around her forlornly and the sad voice of a cuckoo could be heard from afar. Then, hearing a bicycle approaching from behind, Zebo turned back and saw the local corrupt police informant, Gisalai Salavach. The informant stopped his bike and started walking, next to Zebo. They started talking:
— Hello, Zebo! How are you?
— Hello, Gisalai Salavachich, thank you, we’re living just fine, and we’re not complaining.
-They say that Sayak went to Russia to work, is that true? Gisalai Salavach, the informer, asked.
-Yes,- Zebo replied.
Where does he work? In what city? The undercover police informant asked again.
— In St. Petersburg,- Zebo said.
— I see. Now many people go to neighboring countries to make money and disappear there for years, leaving their young wives. They send some money home, and they get married there and live a luxurious life, as they say, to the fullest. Due to men leaving their wives to live in neighboring countries, there is a shortage of men in our villages. As if during the Second World War. Poor women! They just dry up from loneliness, like autumn dahlias and chrysanthemums under the windows in the cold. They disappear for years at a time, and when they do come home, their children, growing up without a father, don’t even recognize them. In some cases, they return home in a body bag. The worst thing is that many of our countrymen, working as janitors, disgrace our country and our people. Those who do not want to work, falling under the influence of extremist religious organizations, secretly go to war in Syria. I’m afraid that Sayak is also…
— No, Sayak is reliable and I believe him. He is not like that — Zebo, sharply said, interrupting the words of the informer.
— Yes? Well… uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-Gisalai Salavach began coughing, blushing up to his neck and sticking out his tongue like a goat that bleats. Then, dropping his bike, he sat on his knees, gasping for air, clutching his throat. Then he collapsed to the ground. Seeing this, Zebo was very scared.
— Oh, what’s wrong with you, Gisalai Salavachich, are you feeling bad?! — she said in confusion, not knowing what to do. Then, without noticing it, she bent over Salavach to help him. Then the undercover informant, Gisalai Salavach, suddenly grabbed Zebo and hugged her tightly, began kissing her on the lips and neck.
— Zebo, I love you! I love you! Believe me, I swear by all that’s holy… I know you’re bored. You are young, beautiful and you deserve more! How beautiful you are, what beautiful eyes you have! They drive me crazy! Come to me, you are my incomparable rose… Do you want me to divorce my wife today and marry you? I will carry you in my arms… Why do you even need that lazy-eyed watchman? He’s not deserving of you… — he said. Zebo struggled to get out of the embrace of the vile informer Gisalaya Salavacha, like a hare from a close call with a snake and shouted: — Let go of me! What are you doing, you damned bastard?! I’m not what you think I am, scum!
Then the informant Gisalai Salavach took out his mobile phone and quickly took a selfie with Zebo and let her go. Zebo extricated herself from the informant’s embrace and recklessly ran home, crying and stumbling. The informant Gisalai Salavach, checking his mobile phone, grinned maliciously saying: — Well, go wherever you want, bitch! If you don’t want to be nice, then blame yourself now. A cool selfie, however, turned out to be of you and me!
Sayak worked in the garden of the rich businessman, Arkady Petrovich Zavyalov, who lived with his wife, 12 years younger than himself, named Svetlana. Roses of different colors bloomed in the garden, swaying in a wandering quiet wind, where harmless butterflies fluttered silently, gently touching either the cosmei or the daisies. It was like the flowers were secretly kissing one another. Sayak was working so carefully that he did not even notice how the owner’s wife came up, with a Japanese fan in her hands, in a delicate silk summer dress that looked like flowering meadows.
— Hello, gardener… how are you?.. — she said, smiling politely.
— Oh, hello, madam… Sorry I didn’t notice…I’m fine. — said Sayak, straightening his back.
— How interesting! You look at me, and your hands are nimbly planting flowers by themselves. You have simply golden hands — said Svetlana.
— Oh, I’m sorry, madam, I forgot to tell you that I am lazy eyed. That is, when I look at you, my gaze will be directed at these beautiful flowers. And vice versa. If I’m looking at flowers, then consider that I’m looking at you,- Sayak explained to Svetlana with his compliment.
— Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know that, honestly. But don’t worry, Sayak, I love people with slanted eyes. Strabismus even suits you, like a scar on the face of a fearless gladiator. It suits you very well, believe me,- Svetlana said.
— Thank you, madam, you are very kind — Sayak said, thanking the hostess.
— I wonder how you learned to plant flowers? Have you studied gardening somewhere? — Svetlana asked.
— No, madam, you have to understand, I grew up in a village. Since childhood, I have been engaged in agriculture. I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage and eggplants in the garden. I worked as a vineyard watchman. In a word, gardening is in my blood,- said Sayak, without looking up from his work.
— Oh, how interesting! And where are you from? Are you from Moldova or what? — Svetlana asked again, waving her Japanese fan.
— No, I’m from sunny Uzbekistan, — said Sayak, continuing to work.
— Oh, Uzbekistan, Tashkent! I know that place. But I’ve never been there. They say that the sweetest melons, watermelons and grapes of various varieties are grown there. You also have such exotic cotton plants that grow. I saw them in an interesting video where they talk about cotton growers. It turns out that cotton blooms like a white rose made of cotton wool. Whole fields of blooming white roses! It’s amazing! — Svetlana said with admiration.
— Yes, it’s true, Mistress. But don’t be discouraged. Maybe someday you will get to go to our country and see it with your very own eyes — Sayak said, smiling.
— God willing. Well, I think I’ll go. I don’t want to disturb you. It was nice to talk to you,- Svetlana said, also smiling beautifully.
— It was nice talking to you too, madam, — admitted Sayak. After the wife of the businessman Arkady Petrovich Zavyalov left, Sayak started planting flowers again and watering them using a watering can. After finishing his work, the first thing Sayak did was he called his wife and they started talking:
— Hello, Zebo! I order on behalf of the revcomm! Immediately jumping from the open window directly onto a horse, gallop along the country road to the bank of the Kashkaldak River. From there, take the ferry to the other side and urgently go by train to the west, to Europe and join the underground guerrilla groups that are hiding in the woods. Fight together with the partisans against the fascists, burning ammunition depots, blowing up railway bridges while trains with military cargo are crossing. In case of capture, eliminate yourself by biting an ampoule with poison sewn into the collar of your tunic.
T.C.K. Head of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Sayak Satybaldizade. After reading the briefing on the top-secret task, eat the briefing documents and wash it down with water,- he said, joking to somehow lift the mood of his pregnant wife.
Hearing his words, Zebo laughed. Sayak continued the phone conversation.
— Well, how are you, my incomparable love?! How is my grandmother and your parents and your grandmother? Is everyone alive and well? How is my son? Kicking and elbowing into your stomach? Sayak asked.
— Thank you, Sayak, I received the money in the amount of one hundred US dollars that you sent. I’ll give them to the pawnbroker today. Don’t worry, darling, we’re fine. Yes, your son sometimes moves in my stomach and beats me either with his foot or with his elbow. He’s growing. How are you doing? Are you still working, my poor man? Oh, if you only knew how much I’ve missed you! I wish these days of separation would end soon! it’s very difficult for me without you. Sometimes I go to the river bank to herd a cow or two. Sitting over the cliff, I look at the river deltas, where the reeds are swaying in the wind and I start thinking about you. I think and cry quietly, hiding my tears. Do you remember when we were young, we sailed on a wooden boat along the delta of the river? Blooming white water lilies, fish splashing like in an aquarium, the water as if it were a mirror of heaven through green duckweed, similar to the scales of mermaids! — Zebo said, sighing sadly.
— Don’t worry, dear, be patient, everything will be settled soon and you will come to live with me me with my son along with my Grandmother. Everything we’ve been through will be left behind.We will walk along the sidewalk of Nevsky Prospekt, admiring the landscapes of the ancient city against the background of a scarlet sunset — Sayak said, calming his wife. They talked like that until the battery on Zebo’s phone finally ran out.
A good lodger
Sayak chopped wood in the yard for a long time, working up a sweat, like a merciless executioner in the Middle Ages, who chopped the heads of criminals exactly on a block with a bloody axe. Then he carefully put the split logs in the woodpile.
— Thank you, son, for your help. How hardworking you are! You don’t drink, you don’t smoke. It’s hard to find people like you right now. Young guys, instead of exercising, drink without sobering up day and night, become drug addicts. They steal, fight among themselves like stray dogs and sometimes even kill their drinking buddies drunk. They don’t work anywhere, they don’t get married and they have children, and you are completely different and God grant you health and a long happy life — the old woman thanked him, leaning on a stick.
— You’re welcome, Grandma. I don’t know why, but I love chopping wood. This is not only an interesting activity for me, but also a good exercise — said Sayak, continuing to work. Then Katya appeared at the gate.
— Hello, sir! Can you tell me if a lodger named Sayak lives here?! she shouted, joking.
— Oh, that cross-eyed migrant worker?! No, madam, he does not live here, and who are you, if it’s not a secret?! Sayak shouted, also joking merrily.
— Oh, you bastard! You won’t recognize the girl who helped you find this apartment! Well, I’ll teach you a lesson now! — Katya said and entered the yard with plastic bags in her hands full of apples, sweets, cookies, and other products.
— Oh, no, no, Mademoiselle, I recognized you, I remembered! I think where I saw this beautiful girl… Let me help you, Ekaterina Alexeyevna — said Sayak, smiling and hurrying to help. Hearing their joking conversation, Tamara Mikhailovna smiled with her toothless mouth, like a baby.
After saying hello to Sayak, Katya hugged her grandmother and kissed her on the cheeks.
— Hello, how are you here without me, Grandma?
— Thank God, I’m fine. How about you?
— I’m fine. Today is Sunday, I thought I would visit you and this, bad lodger.
— Thank you, my sunshine. But the lodger turned out to be a very good guy. Look how he helps with the house, like my own grandson. Then he brings water from the well, then he repairs a leaky roof, then he cuts firewood.
— Stop it, Grandma, or I’ll melt now, from your praises, like a snowman in the spring, — said Sayak, smiling. Then he began to dance, singing a cheerful Karachinsky song:
Broke off quite a few branches,
Broke quite a bit of firewood!
Seeing this, the old woman kindly smiled again.
With such cheerful conversations, they went into the house and talked for a long time at the table. After lunch and a heartfelt conversation, Sayak and Katya went outside to walk together in the fresh air. The old woman stayed at home, looking out of the window at the street, thoughtfully stroking her cat, named «Gottamserver». Walking along the sidewalk, Katya began to say: — Sayak, can I ask you one question?
— Of course — said Sayak.
-Let’s say one girl accidentally fell in love with you and one day she, having gathered the courage, confessed her love and in case of refusal, threatened to commit suicide, what would you do?
Hearing this, Sayak thought for a moment, then began to speak:
— To be honest, I didn’t expect such a provocative question from you. This is a very difficult question. But I will still try to answer it. First of all, I don’t think any of the girls will love me. Why do they need a beggar, a hungry, working emigrant with empty pockets, like me? Secondly, if this happens, then I would explain to her that I am married, and I have a beautiful, faithful, pregnant wife. Thirdly, to commit suicide is a deadly sin. That is, such a person will die not only physically, but also spiritually. A person with a dead soul will go to eternal hell after their death.
— I see. And if she tells you, then will we remain friends for the rest of our days? How would you answer that? Katya asked again, walking steadily along the sidewalk, rustling the fallen maple leaves.
— I’ll agree right away, without even thinking, — said Sayak.
Here Katya stopped and stretched out her hand to Sayak:
— Then, promise me that you and I will remain friends for life — she said.
— What are you kidding, Katyusha, or?.. Sayak was surprised, gently squeezing the girl’s tender, plump hand.
— Yes, you have. I mean, I’m serious… I fell in love, you fool. Now it’s hard for me to live without this tenant…That’s the way things are… Katya said, hiding her eyes from Sayak. Then she added: — How I envy your wife! How happy she is, my God!..
— What are you doing, Katya? Of course we will remain friends… I will never forget the help you gave me. Only you are… Well, think for yourself, why do you need me? You don’t know who I really am yet. I’m not a good person, oh, so bad, Mom, don’t grieve. I’m evil, do you understand? That is, I am not worthy of you! Well, Katya, Katyusha… Do you want me to sing you a song about love?.. With these words, Sayak began to sing the song at the top of his voice, dancing and clapping his hands:
Apple trees and pear trees were a flower,
River mist was rising all around.
Young Katusha went strolling by the hour
On the steep banks,
O’er the rocky ground.
Seeing this, Katya smiled through her tears. Then she said: — Stop it, you fool, see, everyone is looking at us. After that, they walked further along the sidewalk towards the river. There they stood on the old bridge, silently looking at the ducks, which were carelessly floating along the river, furrowing the mirror of the water. Just at this time, Sayak’s mobile phone rang and he hurriedly turned it on.
— You lend money to a person, then you have to beg for your own money, run like a dog after a debtor for months, or even years! As if he, not you, is the creditor! What kind of people!Ungrateful creatures! You can’t do that! Here is the receipt that your husband signed with his own hand! Why don’t you keep your word and don’t want to give back my own money that I gave you on time?! You brought me some hundred-dollar bill. Is that what we agreed with your husband? I did not lend you money in parts, but in whole and at once! Have a conscience! Give me the money I lent you in full with interest! The deadline is expiring! Be human and don’t respond with evil to good. Yes, Sayak is my classmate. But that doesn’t give him the right to throw my money away. Business is business. In business there is no such thing as «friendship».There are only interests of the parties in it. If you don’t want it in a good way, it will be in a bad way. In short, I’ll give you two weeks. If you do not pay the debt within two weeks, then I will simply be forced to take more drastic measures, that is, we will talk to you in the language of street laws. Tell your husband about it today. Do you understand me? — said the pawnbroker Bujurbattol.
— Yes, Mr. Bujurbattal, but… Zebo said, and was immediately interrupted by the pawnbroker.
— No but! Come on, take your bill and get out of here now! — he said, pointing to the door. Zebo took the hundred-dollar bill and went outside. She cried silently as she walked down the street, trying not to show people tears. So that no one could hear her conversation with her husband, she turned on her phone only in a sparsely populated part of the street.
— Hello, my Zebunochka, how are you doing? — Sayak began to say, getting ready to joke. But Zebo cried in response.
— Sayak, I’m not doing well. I’ve just been to the pawnbroker Bujurbattal. He didn’t even want to take the hundred-dollar bill I handed him. The pawnbroker is very angry with us, dear. He promised that if we did not pay the debt we received within two weeks, he would talk to us in the language of street laws. I understand, my dear, it’s not easy for you either. But I don’t want our innocent parents to stay on the street. I will now send the phone numbers of the loan shark and you talk to him, ask him to extend the term of payment of our debt. Maybe he can change his mind. God, I wish this ordeal would end soon! — Zebo cried softly into the phone.
— Well, that’s it, don’t cry, darling, stop it, it’s not evening yet. Don’t worry, I’ll think of something. I promise. I will call this lender right now and talk about extending the repayment period. Don’t worry, everything will be fine. Just don’t worry. You can’t worry. Think about our son. Take care of yourself. God forbid anything happens to you, then I won’t survive it, do you hear?! Don’t cry, honey. The whole world is not worth your one tear. I’ll talk to the friends I met here. Maybe they will help. Wise people say that in any situation there is always a way out. You just need to search and find the key to this door. As long as I’m alive in this world, you don’t even think about the problems, my incomparable! Sayak said, trying to calm his wife.
— Thank you, dear, I believe in you. You are a support for me, an indestructible rock, a mountain behind my back! Take care of yourself! Without you, I will wither like a water lily in the delta, which quietly goes under the water in late autumn, like a drowned woman, Zebo said, still crying. With such conversations, they said goodbye and Zebo, turning off her mobile phone, continued walking down the street. Then the local police informer Gisalai Salavach appeared again and began to keep up with Zebo.
— Well hello, Zebo, how are you? I know that things are bad for you. You don’t know what to do, drowning up to your ears in crap, called «debt». This Sayak of yours lives a luxurious life for himself, changing mistresses every day like socks. Yes, yes, believe me. We have reliable information. Don’t believe in his fairy tales. Don’t be so naive, Zebo! Do you want me to help you get rid of all these debts. It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll take the leaflets of radical Islamists, hide them at night in the attic of this stupid moneylender’s house and he’s finished. If he does not agree to my terms, then I will write such a denunciation to the right place and he will be the khan. After that, he is arrested as a dangerous terrorist and sent where? That’s right, to the most terrible prison of our independent country, from where few people return. How many people have I sent there, many of them managed to return home. Only in sealed zinc coffins…So, I’m not to be messed with. Well, why are you silent, Zebo? Or don’t you believe my words? — said the snitch, smiling rapaciously.
— We don’t need your help. We will solve our problems ourselves, without your vile service. You leave me alone. I’m not what you imagine. My husband is faithful and I believe in him as in myself. He’s not like you. If you don’t leave me alone, then I will write a statement to the prosecutor’s office so that they put you in the most terrible prison in our country, from where few people return alive. There is a law and everyone is equal before it, from the president of the country to an ordinary citizen, — Zebo said, continuing to walk.
— Oh, really! Laws, you say? Well, well… and what about this selfie, which depicts our intimate relationship with you? Look at this… girl, I’ll send this picture to your Sayak and the fairy tale is over. You have no idea what will happen after that. Of course, I don’t believe that your man will hang himself on a rope! Most likely, he will be glad that he easily got rid of you and of the debts that he received from the moneylender, but Bujurbattal will not leave you and your parents alone until he takes your houses, leaving you on the street. That’s what you want, right? Well, then, for God’s sake, write your worthless statements wherever you want — said the snitch Gisalai Salavach.
— What a scum you are, you bastard! I’d rather take a can of gasoline and burn myself than agree to your vile conditions, you bastard! — Zebo said.
— Oh, don’t make me laugh, please. You better think carefully. If you want your family not to fall apart, then immediately find me yourself, before I send our intimate picture to your Sayak, — the snitch said and sat on his bike and rode away, calmly whistling some melody.
Sayak was cleaning a huge pool, pumping out it’s water using a pump, constantly thinking about how and where to get money to send it to his pregnant wife so that she would pay off the debt, getting rid of their problems forever. It would be shameful to ask Katya, who also barely makes ends meet. And even more so her grandmother, who lives on her pension. Here, interrupting his thoughts, the owner’s wife Svetlana appeared again, this time with a small dog in her hands, named «Matilda» and they greeted each other.
— Sayak! How are you doing? Are you cleaning our pool? — she began to say.
— Yes, madam, — said Sayak, without looking up from his work.
— Clean the settled dirt out of our pool so that the water in it looks like blue, boundless skies. So that I feel like a mermaid who swims not on the water, but on the sky when I swim. I love the clear waters of a quiet pool, where the shadows of trees lie on the reflection of the water, as if in a mirror, reminding one of the deserted silence of an Indian summer, when butterflies fly silently and quietly through the gardens. Do you like to swim or don’t you have time for it? — Svetlana said, smiling politely.
— Yes, madam, I often don’t have much free time here in Russia. But I also like to swim. After all, I was born and grew up in a village that is located just on the bank of the Kashkaldak River. In the delta of this river, tall green reeds grow like a wall, rustling in the free wind, where snow-white lilies and water lilies bloom. Above the mirrored water lie green duckweed, like the scales of fairy-tale mermaids. My wife and I loved to sail along the delta on a wooden boat in the midst of blooming water flowers, watching carp, which swam underwater, as if in a transparent aquarium. Pugnacious terns flew over us. Harmless white silent butterflies were flying over the blooming delta of the river. Colourful dragonflies flew, pleasant to our eyes. I even dreamed of building a small houseboat there and living with my wife and children, quietly floating along the river delta in this houseboat, — said Sayak.
— Wow! What happy people you are! I also want reeds to grow in this pool and snow-white lilies to bloom so I could listen to the frog choir in the evenings in the moonlight silence — Svetlana sighed. Then she added: — I see through and through, Sayak, that you are not in the mood today. What’s the matter with you? What is it? — she asked, gently stroking her little dog’s head.
When she didn’t get an answer back from Sayak, she continued:
— Sayak, have you read Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev’s story «Mumu?» — Svetlana asked, unexpectedly
— Yes, mistress, I have. why do you ask? Sayak was surprised.
— You remind me of the janitor Gerasim, especially when you work frowningly. And you know, I’m even a little afraid that you, too, someday, like Gerasim, can drown my poor Matilda in this pool by hanging a couple of burnt bricks around her neck, — Svetlana said, joking to somehow lift Sayak’s mood.
— No, what are you saying, mistress? Firstly, you are not evil, like the mistress of deaf Gerasim. On the contrary, you are cheerful, sociable and kind. Secondly, I am not deaf, like the janitor Gerasim, and unlike him, I am madly in love with dogs. And about the mood, you’re right, madam. I have problems with the debt that I received from a loan shark that I took out for travel expenses when I came here to Russia. I was robbed on the train at night while I was sleeping. Now, the deadline is just about to expire and I will have to repay the debt. Otherwise, trouble awaits me and my loved ones. That is, my pregnant wife and my grandmother may end up homeless, when the bouncers of the loan shark take the deed to their house for unpaid debts, which will soon begin to grow by the number. I don’t know what to do. — Sayak said, sadly.
Hearing this, the smile on Svetlana’s lips abruptly faded and she thought for a moment. Then she said:
— Don’t worry, Sayak. I’ll help you.
— You will? — Sayak was surprised. He continued: — But…
— No buts. How much do you owe? — Svetlana asked.
Sayak told her the amount of money he owed.
— All right, I’ll give you this money, but never, anywhere, tell anyone about it. Let this secretly remain between us. Agreed? — Svetlana said.
— of course… That is, I promise you that I will never, anywhere, tell anyone about this. Thank you very much, madam. You are very kind! I will never forget your kindness. As soon as I have the money, I will return it, — Sayak promised, almost crying with joy.
— No, you don’t have to return it. I am giving you this money in the form of gratuitous financial assistance, — Svetlana said. Then, saying goodbye, she left, going towards the house. Sayak immediately took his cell phone out of his pocket and started calling his wife to tell her the good news that he had found the money they needed.
Sayak turned on his mobile phone and put it to his ear, grabbing the leash of the Doberman, «Tarzan» with his other hand.
— Hello, Sayak, how are you dear? — Zebo asked.
— Oh hello, my dear! I’m fine. I’m walking the owner’s dog on the street right now. She’s huge, and beautiful, but aggressive. She’s got a muzzle on so that she doesn’t accidentally attack passers-by. How are you doing? Did you get the money I sent? Sayak said.
— Yes, I received it and paid off the debt! I’m so happy! I can finally breathe! Thank you again, dear, and your friends too! Zebo said, happy and relieved.
— No thanks to me, but to you, my beloved, for your patience! Well done! Didn’t I tell you that there is always a way out of any situation and everything will be fine? Well, now you can sleep peacefully at night without thinking about the debts with no one will bother you. It seems to me that God himself helped us through my friends. How’s our son doing? Growing? — Sayak said, continuing to walk along the sidewalk after the Doberman.
— Don’t worry, my love, everything is fine and your son is also growing day by day, he sends greetings to you — Zebo joked. Then she continued: — You’re right, my love! It was as if the weight of a mountain had been lifted from my shoulders and I had reazlied that the worst thing in the world is debt. But debts, as it turns out, are also good, even sacred. That is, duty to one’s parents, to the people and to the Motherland. Another one of the biggest and most sacred duties is the marital obligation, which we should never forget. I want you and me to live the rest of our lives without cheating on each other, like a pair of swans in a quiet pond — Zebo said.
— How wise you are, Zebo! You are the most loyal and most beautiful woman in the world! — Sayak exclaimed. Then he added, — Yes, you’re right. Loyalty and devotion is the most sacred duty of a spouse. I sometimes wonder why some people don’t like dogs when you can learn a lot from them, for example, loyalty, qualities that these animals have in their blood? I know a tractor driver who was constantly being cheated on by his wife. One day he caught his unfaithful wife with his rich friend in bed and wept bitterly, wailing: — Oh, my beloved, what have you done, my incomparable rose of paradise! This is treason, a sin! God will punish you for such sins! You’ll go to hell after you die!.. So, that’s why you haven’t slept with me all these years! What a soulless and ruthless woman you are! I loved you more than anything in the world, I believed in you, I worked even late autumn nights in foggy fields alone, longing and thinking only about you! And you?!.. Oh, you miserable prostitute!..- he said, wiping away his bitter tears with the sleeve of his cotton padded jacket. Hearing the words of her husband, she, hurriedly dressing and straightening her hair, said: — What sins are you talking about, you idiot? What hell!? Oh, you illiterate tractor driver! I provide emergency assistance to men, sacrificing myself, my own body, especially those who are in dire need of passionate love! I work day and night on this front, engaging in a dangerous and ancient profession, showing heroism, not even afraid to get infected with an STD. How do you know if the client has AIDS? What then?! It’s kind of like a generous donation of your own body, got it, you pumpkin-headed fool? Did you get that through your narrow-minded head?! This is not a sin, but kindness, goodness and mercy! Humanitarian aid! For this, I will not go to hell, but to heaven! By the way, I earn more money than you doing what I do! This is also a sort of entrepreneurial ship…
Hearing this, the poor tractor driver cried even harder. A year later, his unfaithful wife fell ill with AIDS and died in hellish torment, rotting alive. The tractor driver cried for a long time over the grave of his unfaithful wife, his bitter tears falling form his eyes, thanking God that his late wife had never slept with him all these years. He went on to marry another woman.
— Yes, Sayak, there are many good messages in such parables. That is, dogs can also be faithful, like swans and wolves. Quickly buy an apartment in St. Petersburg or a luxurious house, with noisy birch forests outside the window and we will live a happy life there, like swans in a quiet lake, on the shore of which tall reeds grow, rustling in the wind, where white water lilies and lotuses bloom, resembling porcelain lamps. Let us get dogs and walk them in the evenings, wandering through the parks of Petrograd, along the banks of the Nevsky Canal… Oh… It seems that my the battery on my mobile phone is running low. Sorry, Sayak! I’m ready to talk to you day and night on the fly, but unfortunately I’m forced to end the call now. We’ll talk tomorrow. Take care of yourself, darling, I love you. — Zebo said finally.
— All right, dear! You take care of yourself and our son too! — Sayak said. After that, he turned off his mobile phone, put it in the pocket of his trousers and grabbed the leash, running after the dog, as if he were a police officer following behind a guard dog leading the way to a dangerous criminal.
Autumn has come. In the gardens and poplar groves, the early september leaves fall in a whisper. The trees quietly drop their crimson and yellow leaves in the red silence. Migratory birds in loud flocks head to the south, leaving their native nests, which are empty on the half-naked branches of trees. Cotton fields are turning white, like the expanses of the plains after a snowstorm. Zebo, despite the fact that she is pregnant, in order to earn some money, decided to work in the field, picking cotton. She worked, singing songs about love, rejoicing that she got rid of the debts she received from the loan shark Bujurbattal. The cotton caught in her apron resembled white spring clouds. In the distance, cotton harvesters of blue color could be seen, like ships sailing on the sea, where gray waves were running, turning white. Zebo stopped singing after hearing someone cough. Turning around, she saw the secret informant of the local police, Gisalai Salavach, who was clapping his hands like a spectator sitting in a concert hall.
— Bravo, Zebo, bravo! You have talent, a divinely appointed singer! What a divine voice, Lord! I am one hundred percent sure that you were created by God not to serve yourself, but to sing on the big stages of the world! — Gisalai Salavach, the snitch, said, approaching Zebo.
— Why are you here again, you damned demon! What do you need from me! Get out of here now, you bastard! I’m going to scream for help now! — Zebo said.
— Come on, Zebo, don’t be afraid of me. I am not a bad person at all, you can even say an angel, unlike some people who walk with other women in distant lands, go to expensive restaurants, hotels, giving them expensive gifts, leaving only their poor pregnant wives in the villages. Don’t be afraid, I’ve come to help,- said Gisalai Salavach.
— I don’t need your help, leave me alone, bastard! Zebo shouted. Then, to get rid of the annoying, fly-like informant, she began to run. But entangled in the stems of cotton, she fell. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the informant attacked Zebo and, hugging her tightly, began to kiss her, then on the neck, then in the eyes, then on the lips. Zebo struggled to escape from the informant’s embrace and cried: — Get off me, you stinky informant! Let go, you brainless animal, let go of me, you bastard! — she screamed, gasping for breath. But the strong informant did not let go of the poor helpless pregnant woman, hugging her even harder, like a giant snake that strangles its victim by wrapping and squeezing her. Here Zebo bit the lower lip of the vile informant Gisalaya Salavacha so hard that he let her go from unbearable pain, cursing her grandmother. Blood oozed from his lip, turning the white cotton to red. While he was wiping the blood from his split lip onto some cotton, Zebo managed to quickly take off the cotton-ridden apron and ran towards the field camp. She recklessly ran along a country road and cried with fear. When she ran home, she could not recover for a long time. Even scarier was the fact that she dropped her mobile phone somewhere. Now she did not know how to call her husband to pour out her soul to him and somehow relieve the pain in her soul in this way. She was afraid to tell Sayak’s grandmother Kupaysin about all this, and even more so to her parents. It wasn’t easy for them anyway. Zebo cried into her pillow so that Kupaysin wouldn’t worry when she heard her crying. She was just afraid to go back and find her cell phone.
Zebo was even more scared when someone started banging on the iron gate with his fists and feet. She thought that the local police informer Gisalai Salavach and his friends had come to take revenge. While she was out in the yard, the old woman Kupaysin went and opened the gate. An angry loan shark came into the yard and started shouting: — Hey, will you give my money easily or not?! I helped you in the difficult days of your life, gave you money on credit, and you still don’t want to give it back! Do you have a conscience or did you eat it with bread for breakfast?! Well, how long can you wait?! Fear God, finally! How will you answer for all these sins before the Almighty on the Day of Judgment! — he said.
Hearing this, Zebo almost went crazy.
— Mr. Bujurbattal, what are you talking about! I gave you all the money that my husband sent through Western Union! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?! — Zebo shouted in confusion.
— what? When and what kind of money did you give me, madam?! Who can confirm this?! Is there at least some legal document, for example, a receipt signed by me, proving that I really received them?! Are you crazy or something?! Or are you kidding me?! What vile people you are! No shame or conscience!.. In short, so! I’m giving you another week to get my money back with interest. Otherwise, I will talk to you in a different, more understandable language. That’s it, time has gone! — said the loan shark Bujurbattal.
With these words, he left the courtyard, angrily slamming the iron gate behind him.
Zebo, lost consciousness and fell to the ground. The old woman Kupaysin began to cry in panic, calling people for help.
Katya called Sayak over the phone to talk to him and just ask how he was, where, what he was doing, and so on.
— Aah, Katyusha, is that you? Hello, — said Sayak barely, in a sleepy voice.
— What are you, Sayak, drunk or something?! — Katya said, worried.
— yes… Come, we’ll drink together bruderschaft style… now I understand why people become alcoholics and turn into homeless people… It turns out that this is not a way of life, but a wise philosophy! That is, alcoholics and homeless people are not the dregs of society, but on the contrary, the freest and happiest people who spit on everything in this world, where treason, blackmail, corruption, sycophancy, fraud and, most importantly, universal deception reign, — said Sayak.
— What the hell is wrong with you?! You used to be sober! Can you tell me what made you drink and go so low?! Where are you now?! — Katya asked again. Sayak told her the address of the cafe where he was sitting.
— I’ll be right there! You sit there and don’t go anywhere, you hear?! What a fool! — Katya said right before the connection was interrupted. Katya hurriedly ran out into the street and caught a taxi, and headed towards the cafe where her drunk friend Sayak was sitting. She went into the cafe and saw Sayak, who was sitting face down, as if on the executioner’s block on a table located under the window.
Katya approached Sayak, gently poking him saying: -Sayak, are you alive?! What’s wrong?! Why are you drunk? What’s the matter? — she asked.
Sayak raised his head with difficulty and looking at Katya with a sidelong glance began to say:
— Has Katyusha arrived?… Let’s pour vodka into glasses and drink to your health… You’re a good girl and I respect you, you know? Come on, pour it…
— No, I don’t drink and you won’t drink! — Katya said.
— Yes? Well, then, look at this picture, and admire it… It’s very interesting, even funny…
With these words, Sayak turned on his mobile phone and showed a photo sent not by someone, but by his wife to his mobile phone, where Zebo was lying in the arms of the secret informant of the police, the vile informer Gisalai Salavach. With a text message at the bottom:
— Thank you, you smelly watchman, for going to Russia, leaving me alone at last! I would have written to you about it a long time ago, but I was waiting for you to send some money to pay off the debt that you received from the loan shark. Now I am the freest and happiest woman in the world! I have sent you a very interesting photo in which I am with my lover, who is the father of my child, which I carry in my stomach. Ciao bambino, loser!
— Well, go to hell, slut! Oh… Screw you, you ungrateful rat! She once told me, «The greatest and most sacred duty is a marital obligation that we should never forget. I want you and me to live the rest of our days without cheating on each other, like a pair of swans in a quiet pond» And I was a fool to believe her, I believed in myself! And you even envied her, remember? This is her real insidious and bestial face! No, I won’t leave it like that! I’ll go home, find her and cut her into pieces! Sayak shouted, angrily.
— Maybe it’s slander, that is, defamation with editing? Now even in the villages there is Internet and everyone has two mobile phones, with which people slander each other. Even many families are falling apart all around due to this. It’s just awful! Don’t jump to conclusions, Sayak. I am sure that this is dirty provocation, slander of evil and vile people who hate you! — Katya said, trying to calm Sayak down somehow.
— What kind of slander? What kind of slander are you talking about, Katyusha? Can’t you tell the difference between a real picture and a edited one, when even I can see through my squinting eyes that it’s not edited! Oh shit! There is no point for me to live in this world! What a pity, oh, what a pity that I don’t have a gun! If I had a gun, I would, without even thinking, shoot myself right here, in front of your eyes, like an honest officer who did not want to be captured in a fratricidal war,- said Sayak.
— Calm down. Listen to me, Sayak, I ask only one thing: Do not forget that committing suicide is a deadly sin, and such a person (as you yourself recently told me) will die not only physically, but also spiritually. A person who has died a spiritual death will go to hell after his death. This is the first thing, secondly, do not make hasty conclusions. First you need to check carefully. Don’t burn your last blanket because of fleas. Pull yourself together. You’re a man! My advice to you is to continue to communicate with your wife as if nothing had happened. Don’t break your cell phone and don’t change your phone number. Communicate with her as before, calmly and politely. In order to accuse her of adultery, you need concrete, irrefutable evidence. Only then can you punish her. To punish not physically, but morally, by marrying another woman. Live so that when she hears about it, she burns slowly in the hell of jealousy and goes crazy if she really cheated on you,- Katya said.
Hearing her words, Sayak thought about it. Then he called the waiter. The waiter did not make you wait long, came and politely asked: — What do you wish, sir?!
— You can spin me a funny song, we want to dance… — Sayak said, getting up with difficulty and looking at the waiter with sidelong eyes.
— Of course, sir. And what song would you like to dance to? — The waiter asked again.
— «Katyusha» please, — said Sayak, swinging like a pendulum of a wall clock.
— OK, — said the waiter, leaving. A few minutes later he returned and apologized.
— Sorry, sir, our DJ said that such a song does not exist.
— Oh,what kind of a waiter are you?! Here, keep the tip, no change! — Sayak said, handing the waiter an armful of money. Then he continued.
— Whatever, I’ll sing it myself! I am a God-sent singer and I have a voice like Fyodor Chaliapin!With these words, he began to sing the song «Katyusha» in a loud voice, dancing listlessly.
Apple trees and pear trees were a flower,
River mist was rising all around.
Young Katusha went strolling by the hour
On the steep banks,
O’er the rocky ground.
It was November. The dull, gray landscapes of late autumn were not very pleasing to look at. Groves and gardens were bare, trees thoughtfully dropped their last leaves. Fog swirled in the fields and meadows and over the delta of the Kashakaldak River. Zebo’s father, the tractor driver Nazhmiddin, went out into the yard, hearing the familiar voice of pochtalon Kulmat, who shouted:
— Nazhmiddin, hey Nazhmiddin! It’s me, the postman Kulmat!
Nazhmiddin hurriedly approached the gate, opened it slightly and asked: — Why are you shouting? What happened, Kulmat? Has a war started?
— Nazhmiddin, the loan shark Bujurbattal’s thugs are kicking your daughter from out of her home for not paying off the loan that your son-in-law Sayak took at out with interest! — said the postman, breathing heavily.
Hearing this, Nazhmiddin quickly took an axe from the barn and ran as fast as he could towards the house where his daughter Zebo lives with Sayak’s grandmother Kupaysin under the same roof. When he arrived, Zebo and Kupaysin were sobbing loudly, cursing the loan shark and his henchmen. Bujurbattal’s thugs were seriously frightened when they saw the tractor driver Nazhmiddin Niyazov carrying a sharp axe in his hands, who attacked them while wildly crying out — I’ll kill you! But the henchmenn of the vile pawnbroker quickly pinned him down and took the axe from him. Nazhmiddin shouted: — Let go of me, you bastards! You have no right to arrest me! My daughter paid off the debt, and this scum says he didn’t get it. He’s lying! My daughter doesn’t know how to cheat! She’s honest with me! Her only mistake is that she did not take a receipt from this bastard before paying off the debt! Well, what kind of society is this?! The authorities are to blame for everything! If there was an opportunity to find a good job here at home, my son-in-law would not have gone to work in neighboring countries! Unemployment reigns in the country! Poor people can’t get a loan without a bribe! To get a loan, people have to collect a lot of documents! Bureaucracy and bribery are all around! In our country, our banking system needs reform! Our poor countrymen, tired of arbitrariness and lawlessness, and bureaucracy in the banking system, are forced to leave for other countries in order to find a job to feed their family! The authorities forced the people to take loans not from banks but from greedy loan sharks at high interest rates! Hey, you damned pawnbroker, fear God! You bastard, remember my words! The time will come, God will punish you! If he doesn’t punish you, then I will find you myself, catch you and send you to hell as soon as I get out of prison!
— It’s you who should fear God, you disgusting tractor driver! Why would I cheat! I didn’t come here to ask your poor daughter for money in debt! I just want her to give me my blood money! The debt payment is red! I gave them my money earned by honest work, I helped them, and instead of saying thank you to me, you attack me and my people with an axe! Insulting! Threatening! And your daughter and that old woman are cursing me! You probably forgot that there are fair laws of our country! There is a God after all! Hey, people! Don’t believe their crocodile tears! Words and never help them in any way! These are not people, but terrible creatures who will stop at nothing for the sake of profit! I will not lie, this woman once brought me a hundred-dollar bill, and I asked her to take her overseas banknote and get out of my house as soon as possible! I demanded that they pay the debt in full and on time, as we agreed. I swear by all that is holy that I have not received a penny from this lying woman who is not afraid of God and the Day of Judgment! I swear on my own life that I have never even gotten a single penny from her! Think for yourself, what kind of fool can give money to his creditor without a corresponding document, like a receipt! So, I ask our esteemed district policeman, Lieutenant Dryldaev, to write a record in front of us that this tractor driver Nazhmiddin Niyazov, attacked us with an axe, that is, with a cold weapon, with which he could easily kill us! And let this lying madam and this brainless old woman vacate the house, which now legally belongs to me! I don’t need other people’s pennies for nothing! — said the pawnbroker Bujurbattal.
The district policeman Dryldaev wrote up a record and the witnesses signed it without reading what was written there. It was written there that the terrorist Nazhmiddin Niezov attacked people with an axe in his hands while shouting «Allahu Akbar!». After that, the tractor driver Nazhmiddin was taken to the city, and pregnant Zebo and the old woman Kupaysin were thrown out into the street, into the autumn cold. They went to Zebo’s mom, but she didn’t let them in. After that, by the decision of the village council, they were placed in a abandoned field camp, which is located on the edge of the field. The two of them started living together, covering the broken and missing windows of the abandoned field camp with plastic wrap.
— Look how quietly the snow is falling! As if to hear the rustle of snowflakes, the neighborhood quieted down, nature fell silent, Katya said, admiring the night snowfall, looking out of the window into the snowy haze. From the snowy whiteness on the street it was light, as if on May moonlit nights, well illuminated by the moon to the very bottom.
— Thank you, Sayak, for staying with me tonight. I just didn’t want you to go to my grandmother in such a half-drunk state. I will forgive you by the Lord God, stop drinking alcohol once and for all. You’ll thank me for that. I despise vodka. It was because of vodka that my parents passed away prematurely and I was left alone with my grandmother. So many talented and healthy people have been killed by this green snake! There are so many people are sitting in prisons and doing time in camps, for the murders they committed while intoxicated. They die in car accidents while driving drunk. The gene pool of the people is being destroyed. Young people are dying, leaning towards the bottle from early childhood, living on the needle. Across the country, tens of thousands of people become disabled every year, die from alcohol addiction and drugs, permanently losing their health. I understand perfectly well that you got drunk from grief, but vodka doesn’t make it any easier. I repeat once again, you live so that your wife, seeing your successes and hearing about them, thinks about what a terrible mistake she made and what a wonderful person she lost. — Katya said.
— Thank you, Katya, for opening my lazy eye with your wise advice. Without you, I would definitely hung myself, with the belt of my trousers. I loved her and believed in her as I believed in myself. I never thought she would stoop so low. The scariest thing is that she wrote in her text message that the baby mine. Those terrible words pierced me like arrows soaked in snake venom, striking me like a bolt from a clear sky. Since then, I feel like a lonely tree on a high rock, which was hit by a ball of lightning. I still can’t fully recover and the torn wound in my soul doesn’t heal in any way, blood is oozing out of it. The snow is falling, covering roads, courtyards, trees and houses and the scarlet brushes of snow-covered mountain ash outside the window, resembling the bloody wounds of my soul. It’s as if the snow is trying to calm me down, whispering about something important in its incomprehensible sky-high language. Although I don’t understand it’s words, I want to listen to it in the winter silence, like your wise words over and over again. Look how these snow flakes fly weightlessly in the light of street lamps, then flying closer to the glowing windows, and soaring up! — Sayak said, looking out of the window squinting his eyes into the night where the snow was falling.
— I listen to you and think «he speaks or reads poetry.» It seems to me that you are not an ordinary person. You talk like a real poet and your words penetrate to the depths of my soul. Ordinary people can’t talk like that, — Katya sighed.
— And how did you guess? Yes, I write poems, but I don’t show them to anyone. No, not in order to not get my hopes up, but so that giant crowds of fans of my poems would not trample me in the mud, rushing to get my autograph when meeting me on the streets of Paris, — said Sayak, joking.
Hearing this, Katya laughed.
— The snowy haze painfully reminds me of the white nights where lovers walk in pairs, wandering around the city until dawn. Ah, how I want to walk along an empty snow-covered street now, healing deep emotional wounds with the therapy of silence, the snow, rhythmically creaking — said Sayak thoughtfully.
— Why, it’s not a bad idea. Let’s go outside, make a snow man, have a snowball fight, as in our distant childhoods. Come on, get dressed, Sayak, put on your ushanka and felt boots. I’ll take some carrots and some coal and put them in a bucket, — Katya said. With such conversations, they dressed warmly and went out into the courtyard. The snow kept falling and the snowflakes swirled like a giant swarm of white locusts. Sayak and Katya started rolling snow balls to make a snowman. Finally, they built a snowman with black eyes made of coal and a red pointed nose made of carrots, similar to Pinocchio’s nose. Then they put an old crumpled blackened bucket on it’s spherical head sideways. A smiling snowman stood with a disheveled broom in his hands, like a cheerful janitor. Then they began to have a snowball fight, laughing merrily, like children in their distant childhoods, chasing each other. Their snowball fight lasted until they were completely exhausted. After taking a little break, Katya said: — Come on, Sayak, close your eyes and don’t open them until I say «Open».
Sayak closed his eyes, thinking that now Katya would hit him on the head with a snowball or hide somewhere so that he would go looking for her. But this did not happen. After a minute, Katya told him to open his eyes. Sayak opened his slanting eyes. Then, when he saw the inscription on the snow, which Katya wrote with a stick, he was even more surprised.
The following words lay on the snow: «Sayak, I love you!».
Not knowing what to do, Sayak froze for a while, as if rooted to the spot. Then, when he came to himself, he went up to Katya and said: — Katya, are you serious or something?
«Yes,» — Katya said, lowering her eyes.
— Well, why do you need a freak like me when the world is full of beautiful men? I’m lazy eyed. — said Sayak.
— Your lazy eye doesn’t matter to me. On the contrary, it attracts. You are the most beautiful, smart and strong man in the world for me! Katya replied. After that, Sayak hugged her tightly and they began to kiss passionately under the thick snowfall.
A heartfelt conversation
The businessman Zavyalov Arkady Petrovich leaves for work early and returns late at night. Of course, his wife Svetlana is waiting for him to return with her kind mother-in-law, Anastasia Alekseevna. The couple live peacefully, as they say, soul to soul. Sayak has never heard of a quarrel between them. But he is surprised that there are no children in such a huge house. Either the spouses themselves do not want to have them, or God does not want it. He sometimes wants to ask Svetlana about it, but each time refrains from doing so, so as not to offend her accidentally. He knows that it is very easy to offend a person, but it is difficult, even impossible to fix it. Resentment is a bleeding laceration in the soul that never heals. Therefore, he will not dare to ask about it either from Svetlana or from Arkady Petrovich, who will come home only to sleep and rest. Sometimes he is on official business trips for weeks. This rich couple can only spend weekends together, barbecue, play billiards, kiss like spring pigeons on the roof. The rest of the time Arkady Petrovich is doing his favorite thing, that is, business. In a word, he has no time to do housework. Today Sayak came to work quite early and, seeing the tracks of car tire treads on the fresh snow, realized that the boss had already left for work. The snow that fell the day before covered roads, trees and courtyards with a thick layer. Sayak, having changed his clothes in the shed, got to work. He spent the whole day removing snow from the roof of the luxurious house by hand, using a snow shovel made of plywood. Large snowdrifts formed from the snow dumped from the roofs. During the rest, the businessman’s wife Svetlana thanked Sayak from the bottom of her heart: — You have golden hands, Sayak. Even an entire brigade armed with special equipment could not have cleared so much snow in such a short time, but you’ve ruined the landscape without even noticing it. If I had my way, I would have ordered to leave all this snow untouched, so as not to spoil such a divine winter landscape and so that crooked icicles hang on the edge of the roof like ringing crystal chandeliers until spring. Since winter is my favorite time. I myself am from Ukraine, from Kiev. We used to live in a small wooden house with a slender rowan tree growing outside the window. In winter, red-breasted bullfinches flew in a flock and sitting on the branches of that mountain ash, they ate its scarlet berries. It was funny to watch the fiery red birds from the window and it seemed to me that bullfinches swallowed whole not rowan berries, but red-hot lights. I loved to look at the snowdrifts, which slid along the corridors of snow-covered streets like white octopuses, raising snow dust like sails. I loved to listen to the howling of a blizzard in the snowy twilight. It was as if a blizzard was throwing rice, not snowflakes, at the windows. In the afternoon, from morning to evening, we had fun sledding down the hill and laughed loudly when the sled turned over at the bottom, and you probably don’t have snow in Uzbekistan in winter — Svetlana said, surprising Sayak.
— What do you mean it doesn’t snow? It happens, madam! True, spring will come much earlier for us than for you. You see, apricots, mendali and cherries will already bloom in April , later quince, peaches, apple trees too. In summer, the unbearable heat. Autumn starts in September and lasts until the very end of November. Winter really comes only by the end of December. Maybe you won’t believe it, our people used to work in cotton fields, collecting the remnants of raw cotton until the winter. The authorities paid kopecks for a kilogram of priceless white gold. Secretaries of regional and district committees, chairmen of collective farms and state farms did not allow people to rest, even on weekends. They drove everyone into the fields like convicts. Students of higher educational institutions, schoolchildren, old men and women, even small children were forced to work from morning until late at night, almost for free, even when the stems of cotton plants in the fields are exposed.They harvested cotton to the last fiber, breaking green cotton boxes with stones and shovel cuttings, like primitive people. They were looking for cotton from the snow-covered fields, warming their hands with their breath, reddened from the cold. Students who did not fulfill the norm for picking cotton were deprived of scholarships and even expelled from universities. Those so-called leaders thus oppressed their own people, for the sake of orders and medals, for the sake of titles and awards. The snow-covered fields seemed to them like cotton, that is, precious white gold, which went somewhere almost for free. Our people were left with only cotton waste, which is called «uvada», from which women wove cotton blankets, chapans, mattresses and other vital things. Since there were no forests in our region, people were waiting for the end of grueling work in the fields and only by December they collected frozen cotton stalks uprooted by tractors for the winter, popularly called «Gozoya», which burn quickly without releasing enough heat. In winter, people were forced to cut down fruit trees. They drowned their bourgeoisie with dung and pressed manure. They burned old boots, galoshes and school bags so that it would be warmer in the huts and not die from the cold. The most annoying thing is that due to improper water use, our Aral Sea dried up and turned into a puddle. The gene pool of our people has suffered greatly from extremely life-threatening toxic chemicals, such as pestidicides, herbicides, that they used to defile cotton fields. Here is a living example of this in front of you. That is, I was born this cross-eyed, and how many people died a painful death, like guinea pigs, like prisoners in concentration camps! They scratched themselves until they bled, scratched, but did not comb themselves in any way. Horror! Millions and millions of our compatriots have become disabled, losing their health. It was a kind of genocide, a red terror. Now, thank God, our country has gained independence and our people have finally freed themselves from slave labor. Although we were born in different countries, but we have very similar and close kindred spirits, madam. I, too, like you, loved and love thick snowfalls, the gentle rustle of snowflakes outside the window in the silence of the night, which calms the nerves and heals the soul, whispering about my loneliness. As a child, I spent hours looking at snow-covered fields and meadows, at the expanses of snowy plains, where white silence reigned. Especially, I liked to knock down the amber teeth of winter, that is, hanging icicles on the edge of the roof, throwing my ushanka with earflaps and it seemed to me that the gap-toothed winter smiled at me with her toothless mouth. I also really liked to kick the trunks of frosted trees and was insanely happy when snow fell from the tall poplars with a wild noise, like an avalanche in the mountains and I was lost for a moment in the thick snow dust. Here I am looking now, again with my crossed eyes at the snow, similar to our gray September cotton fields, and my soul is crying, longing for my native sunny land, which is called Uzbekistan, — said Sayak.
— Yes, Sayak, we have kindred spirits and it is a pleasure for me to talk with you — Svetlana smiled beautifully.
— I like talking to you too, madam, — said Sayak.
— Well, tell me then, how is your wife? Haven’t you got children yet? — Svetlana asked.
Sayak was sad. Then, taking a deep breath, he began to speak.
— I will not deceive you, mistress. What is the sin to conceal? After she received the money you gave her, she sent an insulting message to my phone saying that she had never loved me. Along with a text message, she sent a selfie where she is depicted with her lover, a local snitch. She wrote to me that the baby she is carrying in her stomach is not from me, can you imagine? After seeing this and reading the message, I almost went crazy. I still can’t fully recover. I even wanted to hang myself. But one good girl helped me with her wise advice and pulled me out of the abyss of hopelessness and despair — said Sayak.
Hearing Sayak’s words, Svetlana thought for a moment, then began to calm him down:
— No, I don’t believe it, Sayak. This is probably a provocation, a slander of vile people who do not like you. Now it’s easy to mount a photo and send such messages that families fall apart. My advice to you is not to succumb to this kind of provocation in any case. Before making a decision, you need to check, analyze the situation, think carefully about everything — she advised.
— You are right, madam, but the fact is obvious. That is, the photo is not mounted. I have called her many times to find out why she is doing this, but she does not answer my calls. Just recently I called her and there were long beeps. Then, it seemed to me that she was listening to me and I said: — Hello, Zebo? How are you, my love?.. Hello, why aren’t you answering? Hello!.. But she was silent… Then short beeps began to be heard, similar to the beeps of an artificial respiration apparatus connected to a patient who died…
Hearing this, Svetlana thought again.
Zebo, who worked hard with an axe for a long time, finally knocked down a dried poplar on the snow and cut it into several parts at once, cutting branches from the trunk.Then she put the harvested firewood in a sled, tied it with a rope and returned home, that is, to the field camp. For a fragile woman with a weakened body, especially after childbirth, it was not easy to walk, dragging a sled with firewood, which turned over on its side several times in deep snow. By the time she reached the field camp, she was so tired that she lay down on the snow like a dog without hind legs. This is due to the fact that she ate poorly due to a lack of high-calorie food, since the meager pension of the old woman Kupaysin does not allow her to buy meat and other basic necessities. Zebo and the old woman Kupaysin, like many other families, eat only tea and bread. After taking a little rest, she finally came to her senses and went into the field camp. There, at the «Sandalwood» (a wooden table covered with a thick cotton blanket, under which there is a small pit where lights are placed), Sayak’s grandmother was sitting, rocking the baby’s squeaky cradle.
— Have you come, daughter? thank God. You must be tired, my poor girl? — the old woman said, sympathizing with Zebo.
— Don’t worry, Grandma, I’m fine. Well, did Khudoberdy cry while I was gone? — Zebo asked.
— Don’t worry, my daughter, thank God, my great-grandson sleeps peacefully. God grant him a long life, — the old woman Kupaysin replied. Then they both fell silent, hearing the sounds of the engine. They could not immediately find out which car drove up to the field camp, as the windows were covered with plastic wrap.
— Oh, is it really Sayak?!.. Zebo was worried. Then she ran out of the field camp joyfully and saw a snow-white minibus «Damas», similar to the Russian bread «Bun». The owner of this vehicle was a thin, tall, swarthy guy, and Sarimsak Haji sat in the cabin, a fat, pot-bellied, short man with a big head, almost without a neck, with too short arms and short crooked legs, like the hind legs of a bear, with a fat butt that resembelled a backpack. After the driver opened the car door, Sarimsak haji came out of the cabin, panting and breathing like a whistle. Then the driver took a small cardboard box and the two of them headed towards the field camp, where Zebo was standing in surprise.
— Asalamaleikum, khanum! Can you tell me if a young, beautiful woman named Zebo lives here with her kind grandmother Kupaysin and with a small newborn baby? — Haji Sarimsak asked jokingly.
Zebo was silent, as she was not in the mood for jokes right now. She just pointed with her hand, silently inviting the uninvited guests, saying, — please come in. The guests entered the room.
— Assalamaleikum, Aunt Kupaysin! How are you all doing here, nursing your great-grandson? God grant that he grows up to be a good man and becomes a great boss, — said Sarimsak Haji.
— Thank you, Haji Sarimsak, thank you so much for your prayer. I’m sorry about the mess in the room. Now we are going through very difficult days because of the damned debt that my grandson received from a pawnbroker, on bail. There are documents that my grandson sent money to his wife and Zebo paid off her debts in full, but the insidious moneylender does not want to admit it. The fact is that my naive and trusting Zebo did not receive a receipt from this scumbag before paying the money. The villagers also believe this moneylender, and she is considered a fraud. Zebo is not what they say. She’s good, and truthful. I believe her — Kupaysin cried.
— Aunt, don’t cry. We believe you and her. We’ve come to visit you. We feel sorry for both of you, especially this poor innocent baby. God has told us Muslims to help all the poor. I have performed Hajj 5 times, visited Mecca and Medina. What kind of hajj will I have if I forget about the unfortunate, that is, about the poor slaves of Allah? This cardboard box contains meat products, cottonseed oil, sugar, cookies and fruits, — Sarimsak Haji said.
— Oh, thank you, Haji Sarimsak! I don’t even know how to thank you. May God grant you both good health and a long happy life! — The old woman prayed, opening the palms of her hands, with bony fingers that look like bamboo.
— These are still flowers, Aunt Kupaysin. I even want to give you a separate house! God will not forgive us if we do not help good people like you. You deserve to live in luxury homes, not in ruins, and Zebo khanum is still young, and she also probably wants to live like other happy women. According to Sharia law, we men are allowed to marry four women. So, we have come not only to visit you, but also to ask marriage. That is, I will forgive Zebo’s hands and hearts. May she become my most beloved fourth wife, — Sarimsak haji said, coughing and wheezing.
Hearing this, the old woman almost dropped her false teeth in surprise. Zebo also froze at Haji Sarimsak’s vile words. Then, recovering a little, she said angrily: — What are you saying, Haji Sarimsak?! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?! Would I rather die than become your wife?! How can you say this?! Are you crazy?! After all, I’m married! My husband is alive and he will definitely come back and take us away from here! — Zebo said, crying.
— You both forgive me and my driver, but people say that Sayak has already married a Russian girl in distant Russia! So… — Sarimsak Haji said, but Zebo interrupted him: — What a vile person you are!… Get out of here now! Come on, take your gifts too! I’d rather starve to death than eat these foods! — Zebo said.
— Oh, right?! Well, now blame yourself, you fool, you damned machine! No wonder the villagers rejected you! I’ll show you! I will make you crawl to me on all fours to ask for forgiveness! — Sarimsak hadji said, straightening his hat and getting up with difficulty from his seat. Then, kicking open the door, he left the field camp. The driver, lifting the cardboard box, followed him.
The Dance of Love
— Here I am wondering where my tenant had gone, thinking: did he really go off to his sunny Uzbekistan without paying any rent? It turns out that you’ve been living with Katya all these days. Don’t be surprised, son, Katya told me everything. Don’t drink any more alcohol, son. If you do it will be difficult for you to get out of that glass pit. Don’t jump to conclusions. Check it out first. Maybe something bad happened to your wife? Maybe she got sick, or lost her mobile phone. Why don’t you try checking to clarify the situation, say, through your friends and classmates? — Tamara Mikhailovna said, stroking her cat named «Gottamserver», who was sitting purring on her lap.
— well, grandma, think for yourself, how can I call my friends and classmates after all this? I’m ashamed. Do you think they don’t know about it? Yes, indeed! Now is this age, information travels at the speed of light!.. Well, let’s say that she lost her mobile phone, as you said, and some vile people sent me an offensive message with a dirty photo using her lost phone. Then why doesn’t she still try to call me, asking someone for a mobile phone, for example, from neighbors, or her parents? Nowadays there are pay phones on every corner and everyone has two mobile phones. She knew my phone numbers by heart!.. Oh, if you only knew, Granny, how it hurts me, how insulting all this is! She wrote to me that she never loved me and the baby she carries in her stomach is not mine, you know?! Oh, how I wanted to go back home then and catch her somewhere, and stab her together with her lover! I even wanted to shoot myself. If it wasn’t for Katya, I would definitely have committed suicide. She stopped me and pulled me out of that glass pit called alcoholism with her wise advice. It was very correctly said in the old days that time heals. In a word, I don’t care. I won’t call her anymore, because she’s not worth it,- Sayak said.
— All right, all right, calm down, Sayak. You know, there is a good proverb that goes: «Forget about the past, don’t think about the future, live in the present,- Katya said, stroking Sayak’s hand.
— Yes, son, Katya is right. Calm down. This is life, and everything happens in life. Maybe you guys won’t believe me, but you are very suitable for each other, like two boots in a pair. You look like husband and wife, by God — the old woman smiled with her toothless mouth, like a baby, to somehow lift Sayak’s mood.
— Well, okay, I will go to work. I’ll clean the roof before the rafters collapse from the weight of the snow, leaving us under the rubble — said Sayak as he got dressed and went out into the yard. Then, with a snow shovel in his hand, he climbed to the roof through a wooden ladder. Katya followed him in felt boots, wearing a padded jacket and began shoveling snow with a shovel, clearing the path to the chicken coops. Sayak climbed onto the roof and began to shovel the snow. They worked in silence until they were tired. Sayak, in order to rest a little, stood on the roof, leaning on the handle of a snow shovel, looking with his lazy eye at the snow-covered roads, the snow-covered roofs of houses, gardens and courtyards, admiring the wonderful landscape of winter. Gray, brooding smoke was bellowing upward in a column from the smoky chimneys of houses, resembling tobacco smoke coming out of a smoking pipe. The smell of burning coal and rubber was in the air. Apparently, someone burned a pair of old torn boots, throwing them into the furnace of the stove to heat their baths, trying to save firewood. In the distance, over the mirrored surface of a frozen pond, children were skating, playing hockey, with handmade clubs in their hands, nimbly chasing the puck. Crows screamed, opening their beak fully, swinging like on a swing, sitting on the tips of the branches of frosted trees. Suddenly, the snowball that Katya threw hit Sayak’s hat. Sayak smiled, looking at Katya with his lazy eye, who was laughing, rejoicing that she had hit the snowball exactly on target. She wrote the words on the surviving part of the snow with a stick: -Katya + Sayak = Love. After reading the formulas of love, Sayak raised his thumb up, signifying «Excellent!». Then, started working again. Finally, having cleared the roof, he wearily jumped into a snowdrift. By this time, the lazy snow began to fall again. Large flakes of snow flew weightlessly, like dandruff from unkempt hair.
— That’s enough for today, — said Sayak, shaking the snow off his clothes with his ushanka with earflaps. Then he added — We are starting a small cultural event! The song is dedicated to Duchess katerina Lixeyevna! The People’s Artist of Uzbekistan Mr. Sayak Satybaldishvili will sing! — With these words, Sayak began to sing, dancing merrily with a snow shovel in his hand:
Apple trees and pear trees were a flower,
River mist was rising all around.
Young Katusha went strolling by the hour
On the steep banks,
O’er the rocky ground.
Singing along in unison with Sayak, Katya also began to dance beautifully. The old woman smiled with her toothless, infant smile, looking at them from the window, like a new moon over a misty meadow.
The long-awaited spring has come. Nature has finally woken up from a snow-white winter dream. Birds chirp joyfully in the gardens and groves, and starlings settle again in the deserted birdhouses. In the evenings, frogs sing in silence by the marshes and silent lightning flashes in the distance. It’s as if someone is there, connecting the sky to the earth, soldering the two with a welding machine. Sayak worked all day in the front garden of the businessman Zavyalov, gathering last year’s autumn leaves and burning them at the stake. He began to think again about Zebo, who betrayed him leaving him for a sly informant. — I wonder what happened to my grandmother? The poor woman must have been left all alone. Me, instead of staying with her in her old age, I left the poor woman. And to think how happy she was talking to me on the phone, thanking me for finally giving her a great-grandson. Maybe she got sick after all this or already… No, no, oh no! God grant that she is alive and well. It seems that I urgently need to go home and I have to visit my grandmother before it’s too late… I’ll go with Katya so that the damned traitor burns alive at the stake of jealousy… No, if I go with her, then the rumor will sound even louder that I married a Russian girl, abandoning my pregnant wife and that’s why Zebo left with a nasty informant. And my grandmother will forever turn away from me because I, being a Muslim, married a Christian woman, he thought, looking at the smoking bonfire. Then he started working again, shortening the branches of fertile trees, shaping them, cutting them out with hedge clippers. After that, he took the doberman «Tarzan» for a walk and in the evening took the bus home, that is, to the apartment that he rented from Tamara Mikhailovna, Katya’s grandmother. Sayak was so tired that he didn’t even notice how he fell asleep sitting in the bus seat, despite the loud conversations of passengers. He dreamed of Zebo, who was sailing along the delta of the Kashkaldak River on a wooden boat with her lover, the sneaky informer Gisalayam Salavach. They swam, admiring the snow-white water lilies, which bloomed, spreading their roots into the water, as if in a mirror. In the clear water, carp and crucians splashed carelessly, like in an aquarium. In the intoxicating spring wind, the coastal green reeds rustled, where butterflies silently wandered, reflected in the mirror of the water as the seagulls bellowed. The informer Gisalai Salavach carefully rowed the boat with paddles so that the boat would not turn upside down, losing its balance. The boat was quietly gliding towards Sayak’s floating hut, where he was sleeping, having sweet dreams, unaware of the approaching danger.
— Here it is, the houseboat of your lazy-eyed watchman. As you can see, his legs stick out of the houseboat, like the legs of a dead man in a morgue. We will make a barbecue out of him, burning him alive in a floating funeral pyre and you and I will get rid of him forever,- he said, continuing to row steadily with the oars.
— Be careful, my love, he may have a gun and, although he is cross-eyed, he is a good marksman, — warned Zebo of her lover informant Gisalaya Salavacha.
— Don’t worry, dear, I know my business. That is not the first time i’ve done this. I have sent many such freethinking people to places from which they never return. — the vile informer Gisalai Salavach reassured Zebo. Finally, the wooden boat quietly buried its nose in the houseboat and the informer lifted the edge of the tarpaulin of the houseboat with the help of a paddle. Sayak was still sleeping soundly, as if he had been killed.
— Perfect. — whispered the informer Gisalai Salavach with an insidious grin on his lips and, taking a gasoline canister, began to pour gasoline over the houseboat. He then lit a lighter and threw it at the hut, saying: — Burn in hell, you lazy eyed watchman of the vineyard! — The hut began to burn. Sayak woke up in horror screaming wildly, hitting himself on the head and torso with his hands, trying to extinguish the flames he imagined were engulfing him from all sides. He barely calmed down when he realized that everythat that happened was just a dream.
— What’s the matter with you, young man?! Are you ill?! Should we call an ambulance?! — the frightened passengers on the bus asked.
— No, no, don’t, don’t call an ambulance, I’m fine. I just dozed off a little and I had a bad dream. — he said, apologizing to the passengers. Then Sayak got off the bus at the last stop. He started walking along the deserted and dark sidewalk towards Tamara Mikhailovna’s house and then suddenly a crowd of guys with baseball bats in their hands, dressed in dark camouflage and masks, attacked him. Sayak quickly pressed his back against the wall, strengthening the defense and began to defend himself. The masked men spoke broken Russian, presumably with a Uzbek accent.
— Hey, Ozbek, what are you doing in Russia?! Go back to your Ozbekiston! one of them shouted, trying to hit him on the head with a baseball bat. But Sayak, roundhouse kicked one of them, knocking him out and he fell to the ground with a crash. Sayak struck another one with his fist, and the third with his elbow. Seeing this, the masked men began to run away. But then someone hit him over the head with a baseball bat and stabbed him in the stomach with a knife. Sayak fell to his knees, gasping and moaning from the terrible pain and collasped to he ground. Thinking that he was already dead, one of the attackers said in Uzbek: — Olib koldi shekilli?.. Bilaaaat!..Polisya kemei turib, kochdik yigitlar! (I think he’s dead. Let’s run, boys, before the police arrive!) With these words, they ran towards a dark-colored foreign car. Then, hurriedly getting into the car, they drove away, disappearing into the spring twilight.
Sayak barely got up, leaning on a street lamp post with one hand, clutching his wounded stomach with the other hand, so that his intestines would not fall out. Blood was oozing from his stab wound. Sayak, walking along the sidewalk, staggering like a drunk, leaning his bloody hands on the board fences, barely reached Tamara Mikhailovna’s house and began knocking on the door tiredly. The old woman opened the door and was terribly frightened.
— Oh, what’s wrong with you, son?! Are you drunk?! You must probably be drunk again! Oh, my God! You’re covered in blood! Did you get into a fight?! Be patient, son, be patient, i’m calling the ambulance and the police! — she said in confusion.
— No, don’t, Grandma, don’t call anyone, for God’s sake! I don’t need any extra problems… — Sayak said, groaning. Then he went into the house and carefully sat down on a stool.
— Grandma, I need something to eat… Then, get me a needle and thread… If there are bandages, please get those too,- he said, carefully undressing, grimacing from unbearable pain and breathing heavily.
— Right away, son — Tamara Mikhailovna said, and went to look for a first aid kit and a needle and thread, leaning on a stick, wailing.
— Oh, my poor son, what happened to you?! — she said. By this time, a small scarlet pool of blood had formed on the floor, which was oozing out of Sayak’s torn wound. The cat named «Gottamserver» meowed, raising his tail vertically intending to lick from the bloody puddle.
— Get out of here, «Gottamserver», leave, — said Sayak, shooing the cat with his foot. Finally, the old woman brought everything he asked for. The poor woman kept crying, sympathizing with Sayak. Sayak, treating the wound with iodine, began to mend it like a shoemaker, gritting his teeth and moaning in pain. Seeing this, the old woman looked away. After a while, Sayak managed to close the wound shut and stop the blood.
— My poor Sayak, you must have lost a lot of blood. The main thing is that you stayed alive! . From now on, be careful and never get into a fight, always try to stay away from conflicts, even if you ever become a world champion in hand-to-hand combat. Come on, I’ll take you to the hospital. You’ll get better faster there, — Katya said, crying.
— No, Katya, don’t take me to the hospital. I’m afraid of injections. During school years, doctors vaccinated every year with iron reusable syringes against tuberculosis, typhoid fever, cholera and smallpox. Doctors with orderlies, so that we would not escape, came to our school unexpectedly, in white coats, like a shroud, and many students, seeing them, fainted from fear. We were all afraid of them, like ghosts. After BCG vaccination, the injection site turned into an inflamed lump, it hurt terribly. Now schoolchildren are not afraid of the injection. On the contrary, they themselves inject syringes into their veins and arteries and get high, rolling their eyes like ghosts, and before they even reach twenty, they will lie down in a box, that is, they die. They say that a drug called «crocodile» quickly destroys the immune system, and in a few months the addict rots alive. Unlike them, my wound is not deep and I think it will heal before the wedding. Previously, men fought with enemies, with a sword and an axe in their hands, on an open battlefield, heroically defending their homeland. Sometimes losing hands, eyes, legs and even heads! Now some officers and soldiers in the war, having shot themselves in the foot in the trenches, are returning home as heroes. So, honey, don’t make a big tragedy. I feel good, — said Sayak, looking at Katya with a sidelong glance, trying to smile.
— Well, in the hospital … — Katya said, but Sayak immediately interrupted him.
— Yes, dear, there are professional doctors and nurses in the hospital. But before they treat, they will ask what, where, when, and so on, and I have to explain to them in detail that I was attacked by some unknown masked men and the most interesting thing is that they were not skinheads, but miserable slaves of the vile Kotsa Lai. A crowd of journalists with microphones on long sticks, native police, protocols, statements, exhausting conversations, all that will come running here. No, I’d rather lie here, — said Sayak.
— My poor man, then they rob you on the train, then they take your passport, then your wife is cheating. Now they stabbed you with a knife, not skinheads, but their own, — Katya said with boiling tears in her eyes, stroking Sayak’s head and kissing him.
— Don’t cry, honey. I’m fine. You go on. Otherwise you’ll be late, come on, come on, — said Sayak, smiling.
— Fool — said Katya, also smiling through tears. She wanted to change her clothes, then Tamara Mikhailovna started calling her.
— What, Grandma?! Katya asked, sticking her head out of the open window.
— Here some guy came and asked for Sayak! the old woman shouted. Katya ran out into the yard and saw a young guy in a striped oriental chapan and a skullcap at the gate. He had a knife in a sheath in his cloth belt. He was standing with a carpet-like bag on his shoulders and a large melon in his armpit.When he saw Katya, he began to speak with an Asian accent:
— Asalamaleikum, hello, sister! I am Nishanbai, Sayak’s friend! I came to visit him! Sayak lives here?! — he asked.
— Yes, here, come in, come in — Katya invited the guest into the courtyard.
Nishanbai went into the yard, then began to follow Katya, asking along the way: — Isn’t he at home or something? Or is he at work?
— No, he’s at home. Only your friend got a little sick, you know? But he feels well, — Katya replied.
— Are you sick or something?.. I’m sorry, I don’t know Russian well, — said Nishanbai. They entered the house with such conversations.
— Asalamaleikum, Sayak! I’ve finally found you! — said Nishanbai, putting down the melon and bag. Seeing his classmate friend, Sayak tried to get up, but Nishanbai stopped him.
— No, no, lie down, my friend, — he said. The friends greeted each other and started talking to each other in their native language.
Looking at the exotic costume of the oriental man, Tamara Mikhailovna said jokingly:
— You, Nishanbai, are the spitting image of a basmach, which I saw in the movie «The White Sun of the Desert,» — she said, smiling a baby smile with a toothless mouth.
— Yes? Do you find it? Thank you, Grandmother! you look like an 80-year-old girl, — Nishanbai said, also smiling broadly. Upon hearing this, everyone laughed in unison.
When Nishanbai took the knife out of its sheath, Katya and her grandmother were very scared, stepping back.
— Don’t be afraid, I want to kill the melon, — Nishanbai said, laughing.
Then he carefully sliced the melon and invited everyone to try it.
-please, have some! — he said.
They began to eat the melon, praising him, closing their eyes with pleasure.
— Umh, that’s a melon! I’m eating such a sweet melon for the first time! Not melon, but wild bee honey! Katya admired.
— My God, what sweet melons are grown in Uzbekistan! We don’t grow these here, — Tamara Mikhailovna also said, continuing to eat melon.
A Gottamserver cat with a vertically raised tail was getting in the way under their feet.
After eating melon, the old woman and Katya went to cook delicious Russian pancakes and pies in honor of the guest who came from a distant sunny land.
The friends started talking to each other in Uzbek again.
— Well, tell me, what winds brought you, how did you find me, Nishan? Sayak asked.
— I work at a construction site in Gatchina. I asked fellow countrymen and they turned to the cultural center of the Uzbek community. I finally managed to find your address. I was so happy, I thought I’d visit my childhood friend and rushed here in this national costume, surprising everyone, — Nishanbai explained.
When he talked about how rumors spread about Sayak’s wife’s infidelity, and how the pawnbroker’s people took away his house and how Zebo’s father was put in prison, Sayak, out of shame, did not know where to hide his squinting eyes from his friend. Especially when he heard that his grandmother lives in a field camp, he just couldn’t hold back tears. Quietly turned away towards the window and silently began to cry.
Finally, Sayak fully recovered and he decided to go home to visit his grandmother, who is suffering because of his mistake, which he made by believing his insidious and vile wife, having received a debt for travel expenses from the moneylender Bujurbattal. As a result, he bought a plane ticket from St. Petersburg to Tashkent. Then he said goodbye to the businessman Zavyalov and his wife Svetlana, having received his last monthly salary, which he earned by honest work.
— You’re doing the right thing, Sayak. We must not forget about our parents. We need to try to call them more often and visit them, — said the businessman Arkady Petrovich Zavyalov, lighting a gilded pipe stuffed with fragrant tobacco.
— Arkasha is right. Oh, if my grandmother were alive now, I would visit her every day — Svetlana was sad. She asked Sayak to say hello to his grandmother. After that, Sayak went to the village, took his necessary things and said goodbye to Tamara Mikhailovna as to his own grandmother, promising her to come back. Katya went out with Sayak to help him buy gifts for his grandmother and accompany him to the Pulkovo International Airport. The old woman was looking out of the window, waving her hand at them. «Gottamserrver» sat on the windowsill with a raised tail.
Sayak and Katya went outside. Then they took the bus to St. Petersburg to buy gifts for Sayak’s grandmother at the clothing market.
— Honey, I’m afraid — Katya said, stroking Sayak’s hand, sitting next to him.
— Oh, you. You probably think that I won’t come back here again, having forgiven my ex-wife’s infidelity. Drop it, Katyusha. I never forgive that. I feel sorry for my grandmother. That’s why I’m going home! It turns out that because of this girl, my grandmother lives in a field camp, can you imagine? But I won’t let it go. I’ll catch the sneaky snitch somewhere and smear him on a mud-brick wall. Then, with all my might, I’ll spit in the girl’s face, in her eyes! I will spit until there is no saliva left in my mouth! — Sayak said, looking at Katya with a scythe.
— No, I’m afraid that you will commit a murder motivated by jealousy or vice versa, this bastard may kill you.
— Don’t be afraid, honey, everything will be fine. When I find this bastard, he will think that I am not looking at him, but in the other direction. Just at this historic moment, with one powerful blow to the throat, I will send him to the concrete.
Sayak said, smiling and hugging Katya tightly by the shoulder.
Katya smiled sadly. Then, sighing, she snuggled tightly to Sayak. After this conversation, they drove in silence, admiring the scenery that flashed by the bus window. Finally, they arrived in St. Petersburg and got off the bus, headed to the clothing market. The market was noisy, like a stormy sea. The cries of traders, similar to the cries of seagulls over the waves. People were talking loudly, like fishermen on the seashore. At the market, people were walking in a crowd, casting a cursory glance at the goods, like hungry seagulls at fish. Dresses hung like people who had hung themselves by committing suicide. Fat women passed by Sayak, and nearby, a tall, big-eyed, skinny person was selling clothes, shouting loudly. Katya stopped at a stall and asked about the cost of goods, looking at modest dresses and Orenburg down shawls for Sayak’s grandmother. They finally agreed on the price and decided to buy everything they picked up.
— Well, why are you squinting at this busty woman? It’s time for us to fork out, — Katya said, looking at Sayak.
— What do you mean, Katya, who do you take me for? Well, how much can I explain that I am cross eyed and I don’t look at this beautiful, slender person, but at you — said Sayak.
— Well, all right, all right, I’m sorry, my dear — Katya asked for forgiveness, smiling a kind smile. Hearing their conversation, the saleswoman started laughing.
Then Sayak, looking around with horror with a sidelong glance and, feeling the pockets of his trousers, said: — Oh, bastards!
Seeing this, Katya asked in horror: — What happened?!
— Stolen! They stole my money, those bastards! Sayak said, confused.
— Oh, my God! That’s all we needed! Oh, you idiot, where were you looking?! What are we going to do now?! — Katya said, almost crying. She even turned pale. Then she started calling the police. But Sayak stopped her.
— No, don’t call the police, honey! I was joking! Sayak said, smiling.
— Oh, thank you, Lord!.. I almost had a heart attack! Is it possible to joke like that?! Fool! Katya said, hitting Sayak on the shoulder with her fist. Sayak was laughing. The saleswoman, too. With such conversations, they bought gifts and left the market. Sayak wanted to call a taxi, then suddenly two police officers came up and quickly twisted him, put his face on the hood of the official car.
Then they said: — Uzbek citizen Sayak Satybaldiyev, you are detained on suspicion of committing a crime! With these words, they searched him and drew up a protocol in the presence of witnesses, recording all this on camera.
Seeing this, Katya suddenly turned pale and froze for a moment from fear. Then she screamed in a wild voice.
— What are you doing?! Let him go?! Why are you arresting him?! It’s not his fault! — she screamed. But the police officers did not even react to her words.
One of them coolly began to explain the rights to Sayak:
— Uzbek citizen Sayakbay Satybaldiyev, you are suspected of murdering an 80-year-old woman and have the right to remain silent. Anything you say now will be used against you in court…
Someone knocked on the door and Zebo became alert, like an alarmed wolf. Since plastic wrap was stretched over the windows, it was impossible to see the visitor who was behind the door.
Zebo thought that the informer Gisalai Salavach was standing behind the door, and to defend herself from him, she took an axe in her hand. Then she shouted angrily: — Well, what else do you need, damn it! Leave now, or I’ll chop you up with this axe! I’d rather die than be with you, you bastard! I have a husband and I believe him! He will never cheat on me and soon he will take us away from here! You hear me, you bastard! — she said, opening the door in one gulp and raising the axe with both hands, like a medieval executioner who chopped off the head of his clients on the chopping block.
Seeing this, her friend named Latifa was terribly scared and almost dropped the pot of soup.
— Oh, it’s you! I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I thought about it… I’m sorry, Latifushka, for God’s sake. I didn’t want… — Zebo apologized, lowering the axe.
— What are you doing, Zebo, have you gone crazy?! My God!…My heart almost burst with fear, honestly!.. I understand that it’s not easy for you. But you have to take care of yourself, because you have your family, your son, Aunt Kupaysin and your husband Sayak in the end. Why are you asking for forgiveness, my dear friend, you have to forgive me for not visiting you more often. Here, I brought you some hot soup, — Latifa said.
— Thank you, Latifa. You are my most loyal friend. Come in, — Zebo said, raising her tearful eyes. Tears rolled down her cheeks like raindrops on the glass of windows.
— Don’t cry, Zebo, everything will be fine — Latifa soothed her friend, giving the pot and going inside the room. Seeing her, the old woman hardly started to get up, but Latifa stopped her.
— No, no, don’t get up, Aunt Kupaysin, — she said after greeting him. Sayak’s grandmother cried with joy and thanked Latifa for deciding to visit her friend when everyone turned away from them and stopped inviting them to mass events. such as weddings, and funerals, believing in the words of the vile moneylender Bujurbattal.
— Don’t cry, Aunt, don’t cry. I know that Zebo is the most truthful, loyal woman among my friends and she will never cheat on her husband. You’ll see, everything will be fine. Sayak will definitely return and, as they say, there will also be a holiday on your street, — Latifa reassured the old woman.
— God grant that your good wishes come true, daughter! I ask God day and night so that he will give me the opportunity to see my only grandson and I want him to throw a handful of dirt into my grave, — said the old woman Kupaysin, continuing to cry.
— It’s all my fault. I organized his trip, offering him to borrow money from a pawnbroker for travel expenses. The devil himself confused me. If we hadn’t taken the money from the pawnbroker, he wouldn’t have gone to Russia to work. As if that wasn’t enough, I lost my mobile phone. I wanted to call him from the telephone exchange, but I forgot his phone numbers. How I envy, people with photographic memory who remember phone and identification numbers of cars! I don’t know why, but I don’t remember numbers well. Now, I don’t know how to contact him. Day and night I wait for his return. Mom also turned her back on me for putting my dad in jail because of me. She promises to forgive me only in one case, if I marry Haji Sarimsak. Well, think for yourself, how can I get married if I have a beloved husband who went to distant lands to put us on our feet?! I’d rather die than be the fourth wife of that vile stinking hajj. If I didn’t have a small child, I would have committed suicide a long time ago — cried, Zebo.
— Don’t cry, Zebo, it’s not your fault. It is the authorities who are to blame for everything, who promised the people mountains of gold before the elections. As soon as the elections were held, these pseudo-leaders, forgetting their promises, began stealing people’s goods such as gold, oil, gas, cotton, government money, that is, taxes collected from the people, etc. They steal to this day, everyone ruins the country’s economy. Factories are not working. Those that have been working for a long time have become unprofitable. There are no jobs. Agriculture, light industry, farms of the country are on the verge of ruin. What is left for the poor and oppressed people except to go to foreign lands to earn money? By the way, my husband Nishanbai also went to Russia in search of bread to feed our family. In our cities and villages, there are only civil servants, women, the elderly, children and disabled disabled people, as in the war years. It’s as if the men went to war, leaving their young wives and children. If things go at such a pace, then soon the people will begin to go out into the street and may even make a revolution! — Latifa said.
— No, my daughter, it’s probably fate. You can’t run away from fate. We need to endure, hope for the good-said the old woman Kupaysin. Then the son of Sayak Khudoberdy woke up and the women began to caress him, kiss him, forgetting for a while about the grief and suffering they had experienced.
of the pre-trial detention center
— Here’s a paper and a pen for you, write a sincere confession about how you killed an 80-year-old woman, with what and why. A sincere confession facilitates not only guilt, but also the soul, as well as to mitigate the measure of punishment, that is, your cooperation with the investigation is taken into account by the court. Comrade accused, stop showing off. Why do you look in the completely opposite direction when a civil servant is talking to you? — said the investigator, nervously lighting a cigarette.
— Sir, Investigator, I am looking at you, and not in the opposite direction, that is, I am crosseyed. This is the first. Secondly, how can I write a sincere confession if I have not committed a crime? Well, how many times can I repeat that I didn’t kill her! That is, I have nothing to do with the murder of Tamara Mikhailovna. She was like my own grandmother to me. How can I kill the woman who helped me in the difficult days of my life by providing me with cheap housing? This is beyond comprehension! This is absurd! — Sayak justified himself, sitting handcuffed on a stool attached to the concrete floor of the detention center.
— OK. According to the conclusion of the fingerprint examination, your fingerprints were found on the pillow, with the help of which the woman was tortured and killed. Explain to me how your fingerprints ended up on the murder weapon? — the investigator asked, showing Sayak a photo.
— So this pillow is mine! How can my fingerprints not be on the pillow if it belongs to me? I’m not going to hold it with a glove when I fix it and sleep, right? — Sayak answered the question with a question.
— Here, you strangled her with this pillow of yours in order to confuse the investigation in this way. The motive is obvious. You killed her to take possession of her property, that is, the house. Apparently, you tortured the poor woman for a long time and forced her to sign documents for the sale of her property, but she refused to sign the paper and you killed her. You see, we know everything. So, it is useless to try to mislead us, the accused Satybaldiyev. You simply did not have time to leave the territory of Russia, and were detained by police officers when you were preparing to fly to your homeland, covering up the traces of the heinous crime that you committed. You should thank God that you have committed this crime today, now, in modern democratic Russia. In the Middle Ages, the investigators would not have stood on ceremony with you for a long time, that is, they would have killed you shortly before the trial, using torture during interrogations. In the Stalinist years, you would have been simply put against the wall, shot without trial and investigation. Everyone who has crossed the law, no matter what nationality he may be, should be justly punished in front of society, — the investigator said.
The investigation lasted a long time, but Sayak refused to write anything and sign, not admitting guilt for himself and stating that the criminal case against him was fabricated. After that, the tired investigator ordered the convoy to take Sayak away and lock him in a cell. Sayak began to walk around the cramped and narrow cell back and forth, like a wolf in a zoo, not knowing what to do. He didn’t even want to eat. He walked here and there, painfully thinking about the kind grandmother who wished no harm to anyone. Her sweet face and kind infant smile, wise and sad eyes quietly floated out of the fog of Sayak’s memories. What cruelty, what meanness, Lord! Is it possible that now I will be imprisoned on a trumped-up charge for many years for a crime that I did not commit?.. He thought, clenching his fists until the bones crunched. He knew that this was the work of the vile Kotz Lai. Sayak mentally asked for forgiveness from the late Tamara Mikhailovna for leaving her alone and not saving her. Days passed. One day Balander unexpectedly handed him a letter that Katya had written. The text of the letter was approximately as follows.
— Hello, Sayak! It’s not your fault. Be patient, dear, we’ll get you out of there. The wife of businessman Arkady Petrovich Zavyalov promised to hire a good lawyer. Thanks to Svetlana’s financial assistance, her grandmother was buried, a magnificent memorial was celebrated and a black marble tombstone was installed over her grave. Hold on, my love!
The Bloody Sickle
The bank of the Kashkaldak River was melting in a sultry haze in summer. In the distance, harvesters in straw hats were working in rice fields, under the hot sun, weeding rice. A thin trickle of smoke from a distant bonfire rose into the blue boundless sky. Seagulls screamed over the river, circling and vigilantly watching their prey from the air. The rhythmic knocks of the steel wheels of the outgoing freight train, which passed, rumbled over the old iron Kuyganyar bridge, could be heard. Latifa was mowing juicy grass for her cow, thinking about her husband Nishanbai, who went to St. Petersburg to work. She did not even notice how the informant of the local police, the informer Gisalai Salavach, appeared next to her. When she saw him, she jumped back even from fright.
— Well, hello, Latifa! — Gisalai Salavach, the off duty police assistant said.
— Hi, what do you want? — Latifa answered dryly, without looking up from her work.
— How are you? — the police informant asked again.
— Nothing, I’ve got nothing to complain about. Why are you here. What do you need? Don’t bother me, can’t you see? I’m working. — Latifa said.
— Why are you being so rude to me? What have I done wrong to you? I understand that a woman whose husband has left becomes rude and angry, gradually turning into a half-man half-woman. This is from a lack of a feeling — male affection. Oh, the fool Nishanbai! He went to Russia, leaving such a fragrant rose! Come on, Latifa, let’s go to the ditch in the shade of the trees and sit and talk. Look how hot it is! In such a heat, a person can easily get sunstroke and die prematurely — Gisalai Salavach said with a sarcastic grin on his lips.
— What are you talking about, Gisalai Salavach?! It’s probably you who lacks male affection. Who do you take me for? Not only do I not want to talk to you, but I also don’t want to see your disgusting face! You make me sick! You got it, brat?! Get out of here before I kill you with this sickle! — Latifa said.
— Oh, really?! Are you still threatening me?! Well, well, well… — Gisalai Salavach, the informer, said, taking a recorder out of his trousers pocket.
— Then listen, enemy of our independent country and our long-suffering people! — With these words, the informer Gisalai Salavach turned on his recorder, where Latifa’s words were secretly recorded, which she said in the field camp to her friend Zebo.
— Don’t cry, Zebo, it’s not your fault. It is the authorities who are to blame for everything, who promised the people mountains of gold before the elections. As soon as the elections were held, these pseudo-leaders, forgetting their promises, will begin stealing people’s goods such as gold, oil, gas, cotton, government money, that is, taxes collected from the people, etc. They steal to this day, everyone ruins the country’s economy. Factories are not being used. Those of them that do still work have stopped producing income. There are no jobs. Agriculture, light industry, and the country’s farms are on the verge of ruin. And what is left for the poor and oppressed people except to go to foreign lands to earn money? By the way, my husband Nishanbai also went to Russia in search of bread to feed our family. In our cities and villages, there are only civil servants, women, the elderly, children and disabled disabled people left. It’s as if the men went to war, leaving their young wives and children. If things go at such a pace, then soon the people will begin to go out into the street and may even start a revolution!
— Latifa’s words played from the recorder.
— Well, have you calmed down? You said that all the men went to work, and in our towns and villages there were only women, old people, children and disabled people. No, my dear, we are not disabled. On the contrary, we are very able-bodied, especially sexually. Sleep with me and you’ll see how strong I am… Do you know what will happen to you if I pass this recording on to the right place?! — said the vile informer Gisalai Salavach with a cunning smile on his lips.
— Ahhh, did you record it, you damned sexpot?! Don’t scare me! These are completely different times.The free winds of democracy are blowing through the country. Now animals like you can’t stifle freedom of speech!We will talk about our country’s problems and no one will put us in jail for it! — Latifa said.
— Are you sure?! Really?!.. — Gisalai Salavach whispered through his teeth and rushed at the helpless woman. He hugged her tightly around the waist, threw her to the ground where the tall grass grew and forcefully began to take off her pants, woven from silk «Khan atlas», to rape her. But Latifa quickly got out of his arms and took the sickle, which was lying on the mown grass, raised it high, with the words:
— I’ll kill you, bastard! Don’t come any closer! I’ll cut out your eyes!
The informer Gisalai Salavach calmly began to approach her, thinking that the fragile woman would not have the guts to attack him with the sickle. But then Latifa swung the sickle like a medieval ninja and struck a blow in the groin of the vile and vile informer Gisalai Salavach. He screamed, clutching at the bleeding wound and fell to the ground. Enraged, Latifa, having lost control of herself, stood with a bloody sickle in her hand, shouting: «I’ll kill you, you brute!
— Oh no, no, don’t kill me, Latifa! I’ll forgive you! I’m sorry, for God’s sake, I’m sorry… Oh my God! — the informer Gisalai Salavach groaned and writhed from unbearable pain and cried.
Latifa took the sexpot’s recorder and destroyed it with her foot. After that, carefully wiping the bloody sickle onto a bunch of mown grass, she went towards the village.
The Armless cellmate
A person is a being who does not know what can happen to him in a day or an hour. A vivid example of this is the fate of Sayak. He did not even dream that one day he would go to jail and find himself among the murderers. Figuratively speaking, Sayak payed for a kebab that he didn’t eat, that is, he was in jail for brazen slander. God only knows what will happen to him next. There is no fresh air in the cell. Sayak only realized here that there is nothing more important in the world than fresh air. How good it is for people who are at large! They move without handcuffs and without escorts. They go where they want, breathing fresh air. And here in the cell, you sit and look through the closed iron window, you hear the trampling of shoes, the creaking of iron doors, the barking of dogs that echo in the narrow, poorly lit gloomy corridors. You’re always waiting for something. And waiting is the heaviest feeling that weighs on you with tons of invisible weight. You think, you think, and you get such an annoying feeling that it seems that even your thoughts are coming to an end. And the investigators are in no hurry. And where should they hurry? On the contrary, they are happy that the murderous expectation breaks many. The prisoners split up into groups, that is, they begin to prefer an area of the prison than being in that stinking hole, that looks like a trash bag made of stone. The only thing you can do is have conversations with your cellmates, so as not to go crazy and run wild from loneliness.
One of Sayak’s cellmates was missing both hands, and he would eat his prison meal like a monkey, holding a spoon with his feet. He cried when he talked about himself.
— I used to have a daughter. Her name was Malika. However, she was not very beautiful, that is, her teeth were hare-like, and her eyelashes were white. Freckled like that. Despite this, I still loved her. But I never spoiled her or told her that I loved her. The poor girl, because of her inferiority complex, could not play with other girls. Or rather, the girls didn’t want to play with her. Therefore, Malika played alone in the courtyard with pebbles, in the shade of trees. Sometimes she drew things on the ground with a stick. I loved to drink, and every single night I came home drunk. I would beat my wife cruelly, like SS prisoners who were in concentration camps during World War II. I threatened her with a knife or an axe, dragged her around the yard, grabbing her by the hair, and she was trembling with fear, begging me not to kill her, and shouted to Malika:
— Run, daughter! Save yourself!
Malika also cried, saying — Mom, what about you?! — My wife shouted back at her:
— Don’t think about me, daughter! I was born to be beaten! Run, my sunshine, run to the neighbors!
Poor Malika ran barefoot through the snow and hid with the neighbors, who were also afraid of me.
One day I heard such a conversation between my wife and daughter:
— Malika — my wife was saying to her daughter — Soon we will have to give you in marriage, and your friends should be present at your wedding. I see you don’t have any friends though. Well, think for yourself, who will want to marry you if you stay alone. Go and make some friends… After that, Malika started going to her classmate named Parisod. Parisod’s parents were rich people and lived in luxury. One evening I was returning home tipsy and unexpectedly met on the street the mother of the girl with whom my daughter was friends. The mother of Parsiod, the woman named Chamangul, seeing me, started yelling:
— Hey, you drunk, aren’t you ashamed of yourself?! Which pawnshop did you give my gold earrings and chains to! Do you really think we don’t know what you’re doing? Sending your daughter to the neighbors so she will steal precious gold jewelry from them. If you think that we have the most humane court in the world and it will not imprison minors for the crimes they have committed, then you are very wrong! Tell your daughter to return my gold chains and diamond earrings today! They were lying by the mirror and disappeared right after your daughter left! Keep in mind, if she does not give me my precious gold jewelry today, I will file a report to the police tomorrow and put your thief daughter in a juvenile detention center! My brother works as a prosecutor and you know him!
Hearing these words, I got very angry and I hurried home to beat my daughter. When my wife saw me, she started screaming in horror again
— Run, daughter, your father is drunk again! Save yourself!
I managed to bolt the iron gate of our yard and caught Malika, who was trying to escape. I grabbed her tightly by the hair and dragged her into the house so that her screams could not be heard by the neighbors. Poor Malika was crying with fear and my wife begged me to let my daughter go and not hurt her. She rushed at me like a tigress protecting her tiger cub and bit my hand. I kicked her in her stomach. She fell and, hitting her head hard against the wall, and losing consciousness. I firmly grabbed my daughter’s hair and began to beat her mercilessly.
— You’re a disgrace to your father, aren’t you, you rascal?! Why did you steal gold earrings from Chamangul?! Answer me! Where did you hide them, you miserable thief! Where are the gold chains, earrings and the diamond jewelry?!.. How am I going to walk among people now?! Shame! Oh, what a shame! Now I understand why in the olden days the Arabs would bury their daughters alive in sand dunes! I’ll kill you, you bastard! I’ll bury you alive, like the Bedouins of the old times! — I yelled, beating my daughter, grabbing her by the throat and kicking her anywhere. The poor girl screamed that she was not a thief and did not know about any gold chains and earrings. Her words irritated me even more, and I began to beat her even harder. Blood leaked from Malika’s mouth. Then she fell silent. The neighbors came running. The police and paramedics arrived. After examining my daughter, the doctors gave her first aid and took her to the hospital. The police began to interrogate the witnesses, filling out some forms.
At that moment, a black jeep arrived, and Chamangul, who accused my daughter of stealing, got out of the car.
— That’s just not enough — I thought.
But when she got closer to us, she began to apologize:
— I’m sorry, fellow policemen! My gold chains, earrings and diamond jewelry have been found! It turns out I put them in a porcelain vase that was in the sideboard — she said.
I wanted to pounce on her and kill her, but the policemen handcuffed me and stuffed me into their police car, and took me to the police station.
Soon I heard the terrible news that my daughter had died in intensive care. How I cried then, oh how I sobbed! I smashed my head on the concrete wall of the basement. I cursed myself, I even tried to commit suicide, but I couldn’t. I didn’t eat, didn’t drink, I just layed down. Once, in the dark, I got bit by some kind of insect. Then sores appeared on my hands and my hands began to rot. After examining me, the doctors said that I needed to be hospitalized urgently, as I had gangrene on my hands. I was taken under escort to the clinic to be treated. But then it was too late and both my arms had to be amputated. It seems that God punished me for what I did. — the handless cellmate said, sadly finishing his story.
In the trial, the public prosecutor outlined the essence of the accusation:
— Dear court, dear jury! On June 6, 2017, the body of Tamara Mikhailovna Tarasova was found in her country house. The lifeless body of the victim, which was lying in bed, was discovered by the neighbor of the deceased Filimonova Galina Pavlovna. According to the forensic medical examination, death occurred on June 6, 2017, at 10 a.m., as a result of mechanical asphyxia. The murder weapon is a pillow, with the help of which the murder was committed, that is, the deceased was strangled. During the investigation, the involvement of Uzbek citizen Sayakbay Satybaldiyev in this crime was established, who rented an apartment from the deceased. The defendant committed murder in order to take possession of the deceased’s house by strangling her with a pillow on which the defendant’s fingerprints were found. The defendant Satybaldiyev, in order to mislead the investigation, specially used his pillow during the commission of the crime.Satybaldiev was detained at the entrance of the central clothing market of St. Petersburg by police officers when he tried to leave the territory of the Russian Federation, with the aim of covering up the traces of the crime he committed. Psychological — psychiatric examination of the defendant is recognized as sane and aware of the acts incriminated to him.
In the debate of the parties to the trial, Sayak’s lawyer, who was hired by the businessman’s wife Zavyalov, speaking to the jury, said:
— Dear court, dear jurors! During the trial, the state prosecutor said that the death of the deceased occurred at 10 a.m., on June 6, 2017. According to the protocol and video materials, my client was detained at 10:15 in the morning. That is, he and his common-law wife, who is the granddaughter of the deceased, made their way to the city by bus, which will get to the city in 30 minutes. Now think carefully about how my client managed to commit this crime in such a short period of time? Doesn’t it seem to you that there is clearly no logic here? The discrepancy turns out, dear court and jury.
After that, based on the irrefutable evidence of the lawyer and the fair verdict of the jury, the court issued an acquittal and released Sayak directly from the courtroom. Katya, hugging Sayak by the neck, sobbed with joy, not being shy of anyone. Businessman Zavyalov and his wife Svetlana were waiting for them on the street with bouquets of flowers. The most touching thing was that a Doberman dog named «Tarzan» rushed into Sayak’s arms like a faithful friend and licked his face. Seeing this, everyone started crying, except for businessman Zavyalov. He kept smiling, congratulating Sayak on his release. Sayak thanked businessman and his wife, wiping tears of joy from his crossed eyes. Then they got into an expensive jeep and drove through the streets of St. Petersburg, happily talking to each other. After lunch at the restaurant dedicated to the liberation of Sayak, they remembered the good grandmother Tamara Mikhailovna at the meal and prayed for her. Sayak was silent, lowering his eyes full of tears, remembering Tamara Mikhailovna, who told him during his lifetime not to drink alcohol anymore. After lunch, they went to the cemetery to visit her grave, where they laid magnificent wreaths on the grave, honored the memory of the deceased with prayers. Sayak also prayed for her in his own way, whispering Muslim prayers by heart and said in Uzbek: — Bouvijon, siz judah yahshi inson edingiz. Menga kup yahshiliklar kildingiz. Men sizni hech kachon unutmayman. Sizni shldirganlar bu dunya bulmas, u dunya albatta jazosini oladi. Joyngiz jannatdan bolsin!(Grandma, you were a kind woman and did a lot of good things for me. I will never forget you. Those who killed you, if not in this, then in the next world, will surely be severely punished. May your soul be in paradise!).
Sayak started living with Katya in her rented apartment, since the house of the deceased grandmother was surrounded by a tape with the inscription «Crime Scene», that is, the investigation was not yet completed. The poor orphaned cat of Tamara Mikhailovna «Gottamserver» began to live with them, plaintively meowing in search of his kind mistress. Sayak postponed his trip to his homeland. Rather, he was stopped by businessman Zavyalov Arkady Petrovich, who went on vacation, offering to go together to sunny Uzbekistan, to visit Sayak’s grandmother and visit the ancient city of Samarkand, see the mausoleum of Amir Timur, the Observatory of the great astronomer Mirzo Ulugbek, ancient Bukhara and Khorezm.
— We will also go to Andijan, where the great commander and poet Zahiriddin Bobur was born. Let’s sit in the park of Alisher Navoi, under the wings of a huge statue of an eagle, «Simurg», which you like to talk about. Maybe you won’t believe my words, but I love your country and your people. Uzbeks are good people. Some people think that these people are peaceful, not belligerent. But this is not the case. Yes, they are peace-loving, but when necessary, they showed such belligerence that these pseudo-journalists, small-town bloggers, who had lost their memory, did not even dream of. They either do not know, or pretend that they do not know that in St. Petersburg, immediately after the Second World War, a memorial monument to soldiers -heroes of Uzbek nationality was made. These five Uzbeks fought to the last breath against an entire regiment of the German Fascist army and died without letting them into the besieged Leningrad. How many orphans evacuated from the front line they sheltered and brought up, sharing bread in difficult times! How can you not love such people?! That’s why I respect Uzbeks! — Zavyalov said. Sayak did not know how to thank the businessman and his wife for such kind words and for the kindness shown to him.
— Thank you very much, my friends. I don’t even know how to thank you, — he said.
— Yes, you don’t need to thank us, Sayak. This is a simple normal act, in relation to another, that is, each of us should sympathize and help those in need, — the businessman Zavyalov said. Then, in order to somehow distract themselves from the heavy thoughts, from the grief they had experienced, he offered to go on vacation to a training ground where archers shoot arrows.
— Why, it’s a great idea, in my opinion. Let’s go guys!- Svetlana said, stroking her little dog named «Matilda». Zavyalov’s proposal was liked by everyone and they all got into the car together and drove towards the landfill. The businessman’s favorite dog, was also sitting in the car. Zavyalov himself was driving and the car raced at high speed along the road, then along the highway. The cheerful businessman told new jokes without taking his eyes off the road, the others laughed together. When the merry company arrived at the training ground, archers were standing there, like ancient Mongolian warriors. They took aim for a long time, pulling the bowstrings to failure and shooting. Arrow after arrow flew straight towards the target and pierced.
Previously, Sayak did not know that archery is Zavyalov’s favorite pastime. The businessman shot well from a distance of 30 meters, hitting the target. He launched 6 arrows, turned to Sayak and said:
— Do you want to try?
— yes. But I… — said Sayak.
— Come on, come on, try it. This is interesting, — Zavyalov said and gave the bow to Sayak. Sayak put an arrow on the string and began to aim. Seeing his cross eyed look, the archers were scared, stepping back, thinking that he was about to launch an arrow not towards the target, but at them. Sayak started shooting with the bow and all the arrows that he launched pierced right into the target. That is, he got into the top ten. Seeing this, the archers gasped in chorus:
— Woah! Holy crap!
— Zavyalov’s jaw dropped with delight.
— Wow! Bravo! Where did you learn to shoot so accurately, Sayak?! — he said, clapping his hands.
— I used to work as a vineyard watchman and I had a double-barreled shotgun. I used to shoot from it sometimes, — said Sayak, modestly.
— Well done! People like you should serve in the special forces, in the national Guard of our country, ensuring the safety of the country’s top leaders! You work as a simple gardener with us. No, you move into our house with your wife from today and live as if you were at home. You will guard my house and business under the disguise of a simple gardener. My people will provide you with everything you need, as well as a decent salary — said the businessman Zavyalov Arkady Petrovich.
USB flash drive
After Latifa left towards the village, the informer Gisalai Salavach called the local policeman Dyryldaev on his mobile phone and reported what had happened. Without wasting any time, the instructor of the informer Gisalai Salavach, Lieutenant Dyryldaev, arrived on his official motorcycle with a cradle, raising clouds of dust on the country road. An ambulance also came for him. After giving Gisalai Salavach first aid, they put him on a stretcher and pushed him into an ambulance. The informant was taken to the hospital. The next day, Latifa was detained on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm to the citizen Gisalai Salavach. During the investigation, she did not admit to what she had done, thinking that the investigator had no evidence to confirm her guilt. She came to this decision only so that her innocent friend Zebo and the old woman Kupaysin would not suffer because of her. But the investigator described what happened as if he himself was watching her on the day when she was talking to her friend.
— Suspect, you are trying in vain to cover up the traces of a crime that you committed by causing serious harm to the citizen Gisalai Salavach, that is, a non-staff assistant to the district police officer Dyryldaev, who asked you for an explanation about the words you expressed that are defamatory in nature and calling for rebellion, violence, terror and coup d’etat when talking to your friend Zebo Niyazova and the old woman Kupaysin, that is, with their accomplices. In response, you struck him with a sickle in the groin area. Let’s agree on this: — You will tell me the whole truth, giving me a full confession, taking into account your cooperation with the investigation, you will be appointed a milder punishment — said the investigator.
— What are you talking about, Investigator? What kind of conversation are we talking about?What accomplices? What coup d’etat?! I think you’re confusing me with someone else. Well, think for yourself, how can I seriously injure a man? Even with the help of a sickle! I’m afraid to even look at a slaughtered rooster! This is absurd! — Latifa said.
— Oh, is that right?! Well, then, you brought this on yourself, suspect. I’m going to make an accused out of you now,- the investigator said, putting a flash drive on the table.
— Your secret conversation with your accomplices is in this flash drive. Listen,- the investigator said, inserting the USB flash drive into his laptop and Latifa’s voice immediately began to play.
— Don’t cry, Zebo, it’s not your fault. It is the authorities who are to blame for everything, who promised the people mountains of gold before the elections. As soon as the elections were held, these pseudo-leaders began stealing people’s goods such as gold, oil, gas, cotton, tax money, etc. To this day, everyone is stealing, developing the country’s economy, forgetting their election promises. Factories are no longer in operation. Those that are have become unprofitable. There is mass unemployment. Agriculture, light industry, and the country’s farms are on the verge of ruin. And what is left for the poor and oppressed people except to go to foreign lands to earn money? By the way, my husband Nishanbai also went to Russia in search of money to feed our family. In our cities and villages, there are only civil servants, women, the elderly, children and disabled disabled people left. It’s as if the men went to war, leaving their young wives and children. If things go at such a pace, then soon the people will begin to protest out in the streets and may even start a revolution.
— Well, what do you have to say about that, suspect? Did you think that you would be able to lie to us and get away with it? No. We see and hear everything. Our eyes and ears are everywhere! Come on, write in detail about the name of your terrorist organization, where they teach you, in which camp you train, what subversive actions you plan to commit. Who and what secret organization finances you and your accomplices?
Hearing this, Latifa wept bitterly.
— My God, what slander! What accomplices? What kind of subversive actions?! I only spoke about the problems that exist in our society! Yes, I hit that bastard with a sickle! What must I do when a man attempts to rape me?! I was just defending myself! — she said, crying.
— OK. And do you have video or audio evidence confirming that the citizen Gisalai Salavach sexually assaulted you? — the investigator asked.
Latifa sobbed in despair, covering her face with her hands and dropping her head on her knees.
Zebo, in order not to show tears to the already heartbroken old woman Kupaysin, often went to the shore, where the most carefree, bright and unforgettable years in her life with Sayak were spent. Today, leaving her child with Kupaysin for a while, she went to the shore, walking alone along a path through a cotton field to cry there, to pour out the cups of her soul overflowing with longing, separation and grief. Merry larks sang over the cotton fields, constantly flapping their wings, trilling, and greeting the morning sun.
— Oh, how happy these larks are and how carelessly they sing in the morning silence! Oh, how I want to know what these wonderful birds are singing about, without music, without an orchestra, making monotonous voices, which no one gets tired of. I want to applaud them and shout: -bravo! But I’m afraid to scare them off. Logically, any song consists of words. If so, who wrote the lyrics of their songs? Do they also have their own composers and poets, similar to Sayak? It’s a pity I can’t understand bird language, Zebo thought, continuing to walk along a narrow path through a cotton field. Finally, she came to the shore and began to admire the scenery of the floodplain of the river, looking into the distance from under the palm of her hand, standing over the cliff. Then, cautiously, she went down the path, overgrown with tall grass on both sides. She wanted to sail along the river delta on a wooden boat, as they once sailed with Sayak, admiring the blooming white water lilies and dancing carp under the clear water. She got into a wooden boat and silently swam, rhythmically paddling. The boat glided quietly over the surface of the water, where the blue sky and white clouds were reflected. It was as if Zebo was floating not on water, but on the sky. The tall reeds swayed as if they were drunk and quietly rustled in the free wind. Frogs croaked, blowing bubbles behind their ears, sitting on the leaves of water lilies, looking like green pancakes. Gulls were rushing and shouting together, now touching the surface of the water with their beak, then screaming and soaring up. There was a distant sad cry of a train that swept across the Kuiganyar sky-high iron bridge. It was as if it was running along the railroad, weeping bitterly about someone. Zebo cried too, remembering those happy days she spent with Sayak. Blooming water lilies resembling porcelain lamps were white all around. Zebo swam on the boat, paddling slowly, sometimes pushing apart with her hands the tall green reeds of the delta, which formed a wall. Making her way into an open area, Zebo suddenly saw a houseboat and froze in surprise for a moment, and stopped rowing. She immediately remembered Sayak, who dreamed of building a houseboat like this and living in it with her. Then Zebo heard the ringing female laughter and moans coming from the floating hut, which swayed slightly above the water and creaked like an old-fashioned sofa with springs. Zebo was sitting in the boat, as water dripped from the raised paddles. Suddenly hearing Sayak’s familiar voice, Zebo’s heart skipped a beat.
— Oh is it really Sayak?! Did he come and build this houseboat for me as a surprise? Strange! But what woman is laughing in the hut?! Why are they talking to each other in an incomprehensible language? No, it’s not Sayak, but another person with a voice similar to him. Maybe I’m imagining it all, or am I going crazy? — she thought and hurriedly began to row. As soon as the boat noiselessly nuzzled the floating hut, Zebo carefully stood up, maintaining her balance and tiptoed into the window of the hut. Seeing Sayak there with a naked woman, she almost went crazy. — You bastard! You bastard! What a surprise! It’s not a houseboat, but a floating brothel! Well, I’ll show you a traitor! she muttered. And she climbed onto the porch of the houseboat with a paddle in her hands. Then, kicking hard, she opened the door.
— Oh, so that’s why you stopped calling me! That’s what you’re doing in faraway Russia! And I believed you and waited! You promised me that you would love me for the rest of your life and in the next world too! It turns out that my wise mother knew and said that I should not have married a poet! And I, being a fool, did not listen to her! How right she was, oh how right she was!.. Well, why are you silent, damn it?! Who is this blonde woman?! Your mistress! I’ll kill you both, you bastards! Zebo said and hit Sayak with her paddle so hard that the old paddle broke. And the naked woman was lying, covered up to her chest with a sheet, and screamed with fear in an incomprehensible language.
— What are you doing?! Stop it, you villager fool! What mistress are you talking about?! This is my girlfriend. I love her! She’s pregnant with my baby! — Sayak shouted, angrily looking at Zebo with a sidelong glance.
Zebo rushed at the woman like a wolf and began to beat her, grabbing her by the hair.
— Take this, you bitch, die! You want to take my husband away! Nah, I’m going to strangle you with your own hair! What are you shouting about?! Why don’t you speak our country’s official language! she screamed. The woman bit Zebo’s hand and jumped out of the bed. Zebo, was scared stiff by what she saw. No, not from the nakedness of that woman, but from her lower limb covered with scales. She was fluttering like a huge fish on the floor, moving towards the door. Then, jumping out of the houseboat abruptly, she sank into the water.
— Fool, what have you done?! What am I going to do now if she doesn’t come back to me, to my houseboat?! How am I going to live without her now?!.. Oh mermaid, forgive me, little mermaid, my beloved! Sayak said, crying and then he also jumped into the water after the mermaid. Then Zebo woke up, panting, covered in cold sweat.
— What’s wrong with you, daughter, are you sick?! — the old lady Kupaysin said, worried.
— Oh no, don’t worry, Grandma, I just had a bad dream and I’m glad it was only a dream — said Zebo, sighing with relief.
— Sayak, go look, someone is knocking on the door! — Katya said, gathering fishing equipment to spend a day fishing with Sayak on the shore in good weather.
— Now? — Sayak said, looking up from his laptop. Then he went to the door and looked through the peephole. Seeing a woman there, he opened the door.
-hello! Excuse me, does the granddaughter of the deceased Tamara Mikhailovna katerina Alekseevna live here? A woman in her mid-twenties asked, looking around warily.
Yes — said Sayak — What do you want? Who are you?
— Why are you looking behind me? — the uninvited guest asked, cautiously looking back behind herself.
— Oh, I’m sorry, madam, I completely forgot to tell you that I am lazy eyed, — explained Sayak.
— Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know — the woman apologized.
— It’s nothing. Things happen. I even got used to it somehow… You’re probably from the newspaper. I’ll call Katya — Sayak smiled.
— Thank you — the woman thanked Sayak.
— Come in! do not hesitate — Sayak invited her.
— No, no, thank you, I’ll just stand out here, — said the woman.
A few minutes later, Katya came to the door and greeted the woman.
— Hello, katerina Alekseevna. My name is Leila. I am this… How to explain it to you… Here’s the thing… In short, I have very important information for you about the murder of your grandmother…
— Yes?! What is it? — Katya asked hurriedly. Then she continued: — Don’t stand on the threshold, come in.
Leila came in.
Well, what did you want to tell me? I’m listening to you carefully. Don’t be afraid, Leila, there is no one here except me and my husband, — Katya said, locking the door.
— You know, now is such a time that you can’t trust anyone. In order for me to reveal this secret, you must swear that you will never tell anyone about me and about our meeting with you.
— Agreed. I swear to you by all that is holy that I will never tell anyone about you, — Katya promised.
After these words spoken by Katya, the woman opened her purse and took out a flash drive. Katya wanted to take them, but Leila stopped her there.
— Don’t think bad of me, katerina Alekseevna, but I must get an appropriate reward for my risk. My friend, who passed this information to me, has gone missing. I’m afraid she’s already dead. I wouldn’t ask you for anything in return for information, but, you know, I have debts,- Leila explained, almost in a whisper.
— How much?.. I mean, money, would you like to get for this? — Katya asked.
Leila named the amount.
— Okay, I’ll pay off your debt. Only, before paying the amount you ask, I have to check the contents of the flash drive. I have a laptop here,- Katya said.
-Don’t worry, all this information is reliable and not edited. They were collected by my missing friend within the framework of the law, without encroaching on the rights and freedom of citizens,- Leila explained.
— Okay, let’s do this, I agree, — said Katya.
With such conversations, they sat down at the desktop and Katya inserted the USB flash drive. In the flash drive there were videos that were filmed covertly, where the director of the trading company «Hezaline», the pimp Kotsa Lai, discusses a plan to kill Tamara Mikhailovna with hired killers.
— Here’s her picture and home address. Be careful. Operate only with masks and gloves. Put plastic bags on your shoes so as not to leave footprints on the floor and in the garden. Smother her gently with a pillow. Let this goat and his girlfriend, who took away that ass’s passport from me, find out what we are capable of,- said Kotsa Lai, unaware of the hidden camera and listening devices. The flash drive also contained many videos and audio materials proving Kotsa Lai’s involvement in the carefully planned murder of Tamara Mikhailovna, carried out in revenge. This was enough to detain Kotsa Lai by operatives of the Department of the Department for Combatting Organized Crime. After seeing the episodes of Sayak and Katya in one of the videos, they gasped, where Kotsa Lai photographed his wife with his own hands in a completely naked form. After verifying the authenticity of the video and audio materials, Katya withdrew all her savings from the bank account and gave them to Leila.
Latifa, after being tortured, bullied and sexually assaulted, hanged herself in an isolation cell, with a rope fashioned from bed sheets. In connection to her violent death, human rights activists raised a big scandal, held rallies and pickets outside of the court building. Fearing the anger of the public eye, and so that the news of the scandal would not reach the president of the country, the prosecutor’s office stopped the criminal case against Latifa and the prosecutor General personally apologized to the protesters, stating that the investigator who abused his official position, has been suspended from his post.The informer Gisalai Salavach was also detained on suspicion of spreading slander that drove an innocent woman to suicide. After hearing about the death of her best friend, Zebo cried for a long time. The old woman Kupaysin also cried and prayed for Latifa, so that her pure and kind soul would rest in paradise. Zebo saw her in a dream last night. Latifa flew over cotton fields and meadows, walked along the river bank as if alive, singing songs, and walked along the path to the river with a sickle in her hand and walked carelessly, waist-deep in rye, sometimes stopping to listen to the sad voice of a distant cuckoo. In the morning, according to customs, Zebo told her dream to a flowing river to protect herself from any evil that could arise from her dream, and then Zebo had breakfast with the food which God has provided for her and was going to go to the cemetery to visit the grave of her friend. Then she saw the postman Kulmat, who was riding a bicycle towards the field camp, raising clouds of dust behind him on a country road.
— Hopefully he brings good news about Sayak, and not a subpoena, — thought Zebo.
— Zebo, you have received a package from Russia! Probably from your husband Sayak! — said the postman Kulmat. With these words, he gave a small box to Zebo and, turning around, rode back towards the village along the dusty country road on his squeaky bicycle.
— My God, finally! — Zebo cried, stroking the box and smiling through joyful tears. Then, to tell the old lady Kupaysin of the good news, she began to call her.
— Grandma, hurry up here! I just got a package from Sayak! Sayak has been found! It seems that God has heard our prayers! Oh, what great news, God! — she screamed. The old woman Kupaysin also sobbed with joy, shedding tears from her eyes.
— Thank God, thank God that my grandson was found! Now I can die peacefully and contempt! — she cried. While they were looking for a chisel with a hammer to open the parcel, Sayak Khudoberdy’s little Son crawled towards the box with a pacifier in his mouth.
— Here, your father has been found, son! Let’s open the box and take a look. Maybe your father sent you some toys,- Zebo said. Then she opened the drawer and froze in surprise, looking into a drawer filled with foam, where there was nothing but a sheet of paper and some dishes, similar to a small jug. The old woman also froze for a moment in surprise.
— Maybe he sent us dishes and valuable gifts inside this ceramic vase? That is, diamond earrings, gold chains, and a pendant. Strange, what is written on this paper? Probably a letter. Oh, how long we’ve been waiting for this letter, how long we’ve been waiting! This letter should contain the address where Sayak lives. I feel with a woman’s intuition that he bought a luxury house or a three-bedroom apartment in the city center. Mom, son, now we’re saved! The end of our suffering has come! Now let’s go to distant Russia. To ancient St. Petersburg! Sayak and I will work, and our son will be brought up in an elite kindergarten. You will be sitting at home, on a rocking chair, looking out of the open window at the street. Sometimes, sitting on a bench at the entrance of our house, gossiping with the neighbors. Let’s learn to speak Russian. There are completely different people there and they won’t laugh at us. Stylishly dressed in fashion, red-haired and blue-eyed city women will come to visit us to congratulate us on the housewarming. We will treat them to delicious pilaf and tell them about Uzbekistan. About the life of our people. It’s just autumn there now. In parks and boulevards, in groves and forests, scarlet maples, tall poplars and birches quietly drop their yellowed leaves, rustling in the autumn wind. We will walk around the city together, all 4 of us, walking with relaxed steps along the embankment, where there are many fountains and monuments -Zebo dreamed. Then, she carefully took the piece of paper and carefully unfolded it, began to read the note aloud, like poems by famous poets of the world. The letter was written in Uzbek.
The translation of the letter sounded something like this.
— Hello, Zebo! To our great regret and with deep sorrow we inform you about the untimely death of your husband Sayakbai Satybaldiyev, who jumped out of the window of a multi-storey building directly onto the asphalt. Before committing suicide, he left a note where he earnestly asks his grandmother to forgive him for committing suicide because of your infidelity and a selfie sent by you to his mobile phone, where you are depicted with your supposed lover, the police informant Gisalai Salavach. You also sent him an SMS message saying that the baby you are carrying in your stomach is not his. Sayak told us countrymen not to bury his body in a grave after his death, but to burn it in a crematorium and send his ashes to you after cremation. He asked you to scatter his ashes in the delta of the Kashkaldak River, where he spent the happiest days of his life with you. We fulfilled his will, that is, after cremation, we sent his ashes to you in a ceramic urn, which is in a box filled with foam, so that it would not break…
Then the note fell out of Zebo’s shaking hands, and the old woman Kupaysin began to sob loudly. Zebo froze in shock.
The day was sunny and fine. Sayak, Katya and a Doberman named «Tarzan» were sitting in the back seat of a car, and Svetlana with her beloved dog named «Matilda» in the front. Behind the wheel, as always, was the cheerful businessman Zavyalov, who, igniting the ignition of the car, said.
— Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to welcome you on board our Sayak Airlines aircraft operating a flight on the St. Petersburg — On the ladoga route. For safety reasons, we ask you not to use computers and phones during takeoff and landing of our airliner. Please fasten your seat belts. The commander of the ship, the pilot of the first class, Lieutenant Colonel of aviation Mr. Zavyalov Arkady Petrovich. The crew of the ship wishes you a pleasant flight. Let’s go! — said the businessman. Hearing this, everyone laughed. The jeep raced along the expressway towards Lake Ladoga, where they decided to just relax, having a small picnic on the shore.
— Gagarin also once, before flying into space, said «Let’s go!» — recalled Sayak.
— Why am I not Gagarin? You see, we’re not going, we’re flying! — Zavyalov smiled.
— As a child, we thought that Yuri Gagarin was an Uzbek and many called him not Yuri, but our Nuri, — said Sayak. Laughter rang out again.
— And who didn’t love him?! Everyone loves him, has loved and will love. How beautifully he smiled! Even Hollywood actors can’t smile like him. He opened the way to space. I even saw a picture of him in an uzbek skullcap. He loved the songs of the great Uzbek singer Batyr Zakirov. My God, how I want to go, like Yuri Alekseevich, to sunny Uzbekistan right on this clunker! The road and fuel are the same everywhere, we can refuel along the way, we will go through the Kazakh steppes, where proud, double-humped camels and saigas run. The expanses of the steppes liberate the spirit. I love the steppes and I adore watching the tumbleweed roll along the dunes, along the sand dunes in the free wind, like tidal waves in the sea. Let’s go to ancient Samarkand, where I will wear a skullcap and a striped chapan(traditional cotton overcoat). And I’ll say hello to the elders. I will say -Salamaleikum, aksakals! — Vaaleikum assalam! — they will say in response. Let’s go to the teahouse where quails sing in cages made of narrow-necked and string bags, suspended from the branches of a shady plane and elm tree. We will eat pilaf with our hands, rolling up our sleeves, slurping green tea from bowls… — said the business man Zavyalov.
— Eh, hearing your words, I miss my homeland even more. How my soul misses the voices of quails who sing «I’m out! Vyvyk! Bitbyldyk! Bitbyldyk!» — said Sayak, looking with his lazy eye at Zavyalov, who was reflected in the rearview mirror.
— Yes, yes, we also have quails that sing the same way! — said Zavyalov admiring the art of Sayak. Svetlana and Katya were laughing merrily, looking at each other through the rearview mirror.
— Today I had a strange dream — Zavyalov continued to say. — In a dream, I was walking down the street, searching for myself but I couldn’t find myself at all. I see an old woman coming, grunting and pushing along, leaning on a walking stick and I asked her if she had seen me. I even told her my description. No, — says the old woman.
— Eh, you are not a vigilant citizen! Oh autumn dandelion of God! We need to be more vigilant! Maybe I’m a bad person, that is, a bandit, an enemy of the people, what then? — I tell her.
— Why are you latched onto me, like scotch tape! How can I see you if my eyesight is bad! — she said, waving her stick and trying to hit me. I barely fought her off. Then I turned to another person.
— Hello, have you seen me here by any chance? Did I pass by you? He says: — I saw you, do you see that man over there? He’s running to court; That’s you. If you hurry you’ll be able to reach yourself in time. — he said, surprising me.
— How is it that I’m going to court, if I didn’t do anything illegal, and the prosecutor’s office didn’t summon me to court? — I tell him.
— You don’t need a subpoena. You are going to God’s Court,- he explained.
— Could you have told me that without scaring me — Zavyalov said, calming down.
— Is there a thing that one does not dream of? — said Svetlana.
— True. — Katya said.
Zavyalov yawned wearily and began to sing a cheerful song about Katyusha.
Apple trees and pear trees were a flower,
River mist was rising all around.
Young Katusha went strolling by the hour
On the steep banks,
O’er the rocky ground.
The others began to sing along to him, cheerfully clapping their hands. Zavyalov drove along, loudly singing and dancing.
Then his car suddenly drove into an oncoming lane, screeching the brakes and crashed into the body of a huge truck.
After receiving the parcel, the old woman Kupaysin became very ill. She stopped eating and talking. Zebo took care of her and cried, feeling like the main culprit in Sayak’s death. Life for her has lost its meaning and turned into a desert. She only continued living for her Thin-haired child, who did not know that he had lost his father. If it hadn’t been for her Thin-haired son, she would have killed herself a long time ago.
— Grandma, forgive me, for God’s sake. It’s all my fault! Well, say something! Curse me! I had to stop him! What a fool I am! Why didn’t I act like Latifa? Why did I walk along the shore alone then?! If I was walking along a crowded road, I wouldn’t have met the sneaky police informant Gisalai Salavacha! Why didn’t I demand a receipt from the damned pawnbroker Bujurbattal before I gave him the money that my poor Sayak sent me?! Oh Sayak! Darling, forgive me, forgive me! How can I live without you now?! — she sobbed, pulling out her hair. The frightened Khudoberdy also began to roar. Suddenly, the old woman began to speak, moaning and breathing heavily.
— Daughter, it’s not your fault! I believe in you! It’s fate. Pull yourself together, Zebo. You must, you just have to live on, feed my only great-grandson, educate and put him on his feet. You are the only support of our family. Without you, it will collapse and we will be lost. Don’t pay attention to me, I’ve outlived my time and now I have nothing left to do in this world. Promise me, daughter, that you won’t commit suicide like my stupid grandson. Bury me, and take care of my great-grandson. In the trunk there is my shroud and other things for the funeral. — she said, while tears rolled from her eyes down her wrinkled cheeks.
— Oh, no, no, Grandma, don’t say that! You are the mainstay of our family. Don’t leave us alone in this ruthless world! If you don’t want me to commit suicide, then promise to drink water and eat something! — Zebo cried, hugging the old woman.
— All right, daughter, all right… — the old woman Kupaysin agreed, hardly breathing. She fulfilled her promise by drinking water and eating some bread. After that, Zebo put her son in a homemade sling that hung on her shoulders, picked up the urn with Sayak’s ashes and went to the bank of the Kashkaldak River to fulfill her husband’s last will. She was walking through a cotton field, along a path, crying, wailing softly.
— Oh, my love, did you really believe the slander that the vile informer Gisalai Salavach had set up? Is this really all that’s left of you! What have you done, you idiot! I have never cheated and never will, even in the next world! Did you really sentence yourself to burn in the infernal hell, like a blazing sunset, which was admired with you, sitting on the shore until evening comes. Oh, what a grief, Lord! Why are you testing us so cruelly?! For what sins?! — she cried. With such thoughts, Zebo did not even notice how she came to the shore. Descending the path down to the delta, she carefully pushed the wooden boat into the water, carefully sat down at the oars and began to row steadily. The boat, as in the good old days, glided over the surface of the delta, as if on a mirror, where green reeds grew like a wall and snow-white water lilies and lilies bloomed. Seagulls were rushing over the deserted delta and shouting. It was as if they were sobbing in chorus, mourning Sayak. Carp swam carelessly in the clear water. Zebo stopped the boat, and, carefully holding the urn with the ashes, began to scatter the ashes of her burnt husband. In the distance, a train screamed as it raced east.
— Goodbye, Sayak! I sow your ashes in the delta, like the seeds of our love, so that white water lilies and lilies grow out of it! Goodbye, my beloved, and forgive me if you can,- she cried. Having fulfilled her husband’s will, she returned home, that is, to the field camp. Then, bending down, she carefully put down her son on the ground and went up to the old woman Kupaysin to tell her about how she fulfilled Sayak’s last will. But the old woman lay without signs of life. Her open glazed eyes stared at the ceiling.
It was snowing outside the window as a blizzard was crying
Sayak regained consciousness in the trauma unit of the hospital. He was lying all bandaged up, like the mummy of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the sarcophagus of the Egyptian pyramids.
— Where am I? What’s going on? He asked, trying to get up. But he was immediately laid back down by a young nurse in a dressing gown:
— No, no, lie back down. You can’t get up now. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine soon. You were involved in a car accident, — she explained, trying to calm him down.
— Where are the others? Where is Katya? Is she alive? And Svetlana and Arkady Petrovich? — Sayak asked, vaguely remembering what had happened.
— I don’t know for sure, but I think they’re alive too. Calm down, everything will be fine,- the nurse said, adjusting the pillow, although she knew that Katya and Arkady Petrovich died right at the scene of the accident. Only Sayak, Svetlana and the Doberman named «Tarzan» survived. Svetlana’s beloved dog named «Matilda» also died. Sayak found out about this only two weeks later. He cried silently and for a long time, leaning on the armpit crossbar of crutches, remembering Katya and Arkady Petrovich, who had done a lot of good for him. He cried even more, thinking about how they dreamed of going to Uzbekistan, how poor Katya loved him, despite the fact that he was lazy eyed! How they dreamed of living together until they grew old, having many children and nursing their grandchildren. When Svetlana met Sayak, she sobbed so bitterly, sitting in a wheelchair, and he barely calmed her down. Svetlana and Sayak were treated in the hospital for a long time, finally being discharged.
— I thought that I would remain crippled for the rest of my life, but thank God that I began to move independently without a wheelchair — Svetlana cried. She thanked all the doctors and nurses for the long time that they nursed them back to health. But they could not heal their mental wound, which hurts and bleeds. This wound can be cured only by one doctor — a healer called «Time», without operations and medications. Indeed, after days, weeks and months have passed, a person who has lost his most beloved and loved one begins to smile and even laugh again. Such is the essence of man and life. As time passed, Sayak and Svetlana also began to smile. They have become much closer to each other, one might even say inseparable friends. They were united by a common grief. One day Svetlana asked Sayak to stay the night. Sayak could not refuse the woman who gave him gratuitous help in the most difficult days of his life. How can you not help her when she needs his help? That night they talked for a long time, sitting next to each other on the sofa. It was snowing outside the window and a blizzard was crying. After a long conversation, Svetlana went to sleep in the bedroom, and Sayak stayed in the living room and lay down on the sofa. He couldn’t sleep for a long time, thinking about Katya and Zavyalov, who died. He was thinking about my grandmother and of course about my ex-unfaithful wife. Finally he fell asleep and had a strange dream. In a dream, he saw his teacher Uvadaguppiev and greeted him. — Hello, professor! — he said.
Aah, Satybaldiev, is that you?! My God, how you’ve changed! You grew out your beard, became a big man… Ah, what happened? Why is your head bandaged and your legs in casts?!- asked the teacher Uvadaguppiev.
— Got into a car accident — said Sayak.
— You need to be more careful… It’s nothing, though, Satybaldiev, you will recover soon. The most important thing is that you survived — said the teacher Uvadaguppiev, smiling.
— To be honest, professsor, I didn’t really like you when I was at school, I even hated you. Only now I began to realize all my mistakes. Thank you for teaching us. Thanks to you, we, that is, your students have learned to read and write, — said Sayak.
— No, Sayak, I didn’t teach you, but our poor people did! From the president of the country to a simple worker, everyone studied with the money of our people. Because we are state-funded teachers working in schools and universities, receiving a monthly salary allocated from the state budget of the country. The main source of the state budget is the state taxes paid by it’s citizens.
Yes, yes, our humble, hardworking people, who do not even think about why they pay taxes and do not require an annual financial report from the Ministry of Taxes to find out where the money they pay monthly goes. I have heard that in Canada taxpayers file a tax return every year and the state returns back a part of the taxes they paid in a few months. Now that’s how to conduct a tax policy! In a word, you and I studied with the money of our humble people. Do you understand now, Satybaldiev? — explained the teacher Uvadaguppiev.
— Yes, Mr. Teacher — Sayak said and woke up. After that, he couldn’t sleep for a long time. It was still snowing outside the windows and the blizzard was still whistling.
Best Man Ali Abdulkasimzadeh ibn Abdelrahman
Days and months passed and the long-awaited autumn came again. After the death of Zavyalov’s mother Anastasia Alekseevna, Sayak began to live in Svetlana’s house so as not to leave her alone. They lived, honoring the memory of Katya and Arkady, as well as Tamara Mikhailovna and Anastasia Alekseevna, often visiting their graves, laying flowers at the foot of the tombstones. Svetlana began to manage a production and trading company, and Sayak became the rightful owner of the property of the late businessman Zavyalov Arkady Petrovich. A Doberman dog named «Tarzan» was also completely healed, thanks to good veterinarians.
One day, in order to distract herself from the stress she experienced, Svetlana suggested to Sayak to go somewhere where there is no noise, noise and fuss, where you can have fun, calm the nerves that have been shaken. Sayak could not refuse her offer and ordered his chauffeur, Ali Abdulkasimzada ibn Abdelrahman, to drive the BMW to the exit. After that, they got into the car and drove to the recreation center «Losevo Prak», which is located 80 kilometers from St. Petersburg, where the picturesque banks of the Vuoksa River and Lake Sukhodolsky are. On the way, a conversation ensued. Ali Abdulkasimzadeh ibn Abdelrahman was the first to speak.
— It’s interesting, Sayak Satybaldievich, from olden times, villagers rush to the city, and citygoers rush to villages.
— The village is older than the city. That is, there used to be only one large village called «Planet Earth». Then people began to fence off certain territories, calling them vegetable gardens. Then this vegetable garden became a fenced off space, later a city. Residents of these places were called citizens. If you look at it through the prism of logic, then all the people living on the planet are villagers. We all have some part of our primitive instinct left over from our ancestors that sometimes we wake up and we ourselves are striving for nature without noticing it, — Svetlana said.
-You’re right, Mistress. I had one acquaintance. His name was Frol, and his surname was Tryapkin, he was also a village man, originally from Ryazan. He was engaged in private retail trade, without excise stamps and a license — continued the chauffeur Ali Abdulkasimzadae ibn Abdelrahaman, keeping his eyes on the road.
— Was he selling seeds, this friend of yours?.. What’s his name, Tryapkin? — Sayak asked, and it seemed that he was looking with his lazy eye at the autumn landscapes that flashed outside the car window, but he was actually looking at his best man Ali Abdulkazimzade ibn Abdelrahman.
— No, Sayak Satybaldievich, Tryapkin did not sell seeds, but crickets by the piece, putting them in matchboxes — explained the best man.
— He probably sold his live goods to fishermen, since fishermen would use them as bait for fish, putting them alive on hooks, — said Svetlana.
Yes, no, madam, he sold them to the townspeople who lived in high-rise buildings. They bought crickets to sing in their apartments on moonlit nights, to make them feel as if they were in a village. My friend Frol Tryapkin was engaged in such a unique business and got terribly rich. He bought myself a luxury apartment in the city center and a cottage outside the city. He drove expensive cars until all this was taken away from him, by pseudo-policemen, that is, werewolves in uniform. They planted drugs in his matchboxes,- best man Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman said smiling in the rearview mirror.
They drove for a long time having such conversations, admiring the autumn landscapes.
— What beautiful places, my God! There are forests all around us and there are probably woodpeckers knocking! — Svetlana admired the landscape.
— Yeah! I also love autumn. Autumn forests, the farewell noise of autumn forests and the cries of cranes, that fly in a V-formation to the south, I love the quiet rustle of flying birches! Look, Abdulkasimzade, such great leaffall! — Sayak admired.
They stopped at a small cozy cafe that was located along the road to have a snack and then to drive onward.
The friends went to a cafe that was crowded with customers. They sat down at a table by a huge window, behind which autumn forests could be seen. They sat talking to each other, admiring the red leaf fall through the cafe window, after looking over the menu. Then suddenly they heard a noise and a drunken fight broke out at the next table as two people began to beat one poor man who flatly refused to drink to their company, explaining that he was driving. Recognizing the trucker’s driver, Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman, Sayak Satybaldievich’s best man, got into the fight, protecting the driver from the conflict. Then one of the guys started calling someone on a cell phone.
— Hello. Torpedo, where are you?! Urgently come to the Pinocchio cafe, there is a very serious matter! — he said. Then turning to Ali Abdulkasimzada ibn Abdelrahman, he continued: — If you are a real man, stay here and don’t go anywhere. Our close friend, the world champion in hand-to-hand combat, is coming now.
Hearing this, Svetlana got scared and asked Sayak and his best man to stop this madness before it’s too late. The cafe staff also froze, and the dishes stopped rattling. Svetlana, who was going to call the police, was stopped by Sayak.
The champion, who protects the thugs, did not take long to wait, and appeared on the threshold of the cafe, with combat nunchucks in his hands in a karate kimono. It turned out to be a two-meter tall thug with a deep scar on his face. He resembled ancient gladiators. When they saw him, everyone fell silent, the staff did too. They froze like frozen polar explorers at the North Pole, some with scoops, some with a cleaver in their hands, some with rolling pins in their hands.
After the two thugs showed the champion a potential victim, that is, poor Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman, the champion nicknamed «Torpedo» performed the splits, then started warming up, as if warming up his blood before the fight.
He said with nunchucks around his neck: — Everyone sit here and watch! It’s just the two of us going out. One on one!
With these words, the world champion in hand-to-hand combat and the chauffeur of Sayak Satybaldievich went out into the parking lot.
— Well, what are you standing there for? Come on, take off your jacket start warming up! Now we will fight to the death — said Torpedo.
— I can fight with you in a jacket and without any warm-up, — said Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman.
— Well, then say your prayers. I’m going to send you to hell with one blow,- said the Champion nicknamed «Torpedo». Then, shouting: «Ki-ai!», he delivered a deadly kick to the head of Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman. But slipping on a watermelon peel, he fell, hitting his head on the concrete curb of the parking lot. As a result, he lost consciousness.
When Sayak Satybaldievich’s best man Ali Abdulkasimzade ibn Abdelrahman entered the cafe alive and well, without his rival, the world champion in hand-to-hand combat, everyone gasped in chorus with wild admiration.
Kotsa Lai, having given all his savings to lying lawyers and dishonest law enforcement officers, got away with it. That is, he was released from the pre-trial detention center, according to the conclusion of the medical commission, recognizing him as insane and not reporting his actions. After his release from the detention center, his friends advised him to temporarily leave the territory of the Russian Federation. Kotsa Lai fled to Uzbekistan. But he was detained by operatives of the State Security Committee, right at the Islam Karimov International Airport on suspicion of organizing channels for the illegal transfer of religious fans from the territory of the Russian Federation to the hot spots of the planet. Handcuffed to his long and skinny arms, which hung below the knees like an orangutan, they were taken to a pre-trial detention center. In the detention center, Kotsa Lai tried in every possible way to get away with it again, but he failed.
— Mr. Investigator, I swear to you by all that is holy that I have nothing to do with religious fanaticism. First of all, I don’t pray, I just pretend to pray. Secondly, I am deeply atheist at heart, that is, I am skeptical about religion. I dress, as you can see, in a European way. I wear hats, sometimes caps. I love to eat lard and pork, I like to drink alcoholic beverages, I smoke two packs of cigarettes a day. Yes, I sometimes go to the mosque for Friday prayers. But this is only in order to secretly study the activities of these damned religious fans and compile a blacklist in order to transfer them to where they should be, that is, to you. You, Mr. Investigator, instead of awarding me with awards and medals, accuse me of all mortal sins — Kotsa Lai smiled slyly with narrow eyes, closing his lips like a red rose bud that is about to open. The investigator, having presented irrefutable material evidence, finally forced the vile Kotsa Lai to admit his guilt in committing the crimes incriminated to him. After that, the court gave him a fair sentence — 15 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property and sent him to a high-security penal colony. Entering the cell with a mattress and his other belongings in his armpits, Kotsa Lai greeted the convicts and began posing as a criminal authority. Cellmates modestly listened to his stories about how he led a criminal group in the wild, who committed robberies, murders, and how he cruelly punished one slanting migrant worker, who collaborated with a human rights activist named Katya, whose grandmother was strangled with a pillow for helping a slanting traitor, by giving him almost free housing.
— But this bastard managed to get away from punishment, thanks to an expensive lawyer. If you want, I can give you the coordinates of that rich Russian businessman. A lot of money and gold are stored in his safe. Well, as you wish…In short, it didn’t end there. Later, I sent the ashes of the recalcitrant migrant worker to the wife of the cross eyed guy, whom we burned in the forest. Just like the cross eyed one, he did not want to pay us monthly dues, — he said.
Here one convict asked about the name of the slant who did not want to pay the fee.
— Sayak was the name of this cross eyed man . His wife’s name is Zebo, — Kotsa Lai replied.
Hearing his words, an angry peasant rushed at Kotsa Barking like a hungry tiger at a fat boar and began to beat him, hitting him with his hands and feet anywhere. His cellmates barely calmed him down.
— You bitch , I’ll kill you! Sayak is my son-in-law and he is a good normal man, and Zebo is my daughter! You bastard! That’s it, you’re finished! You’re dead! Do you hear me, asshole?! — he shouted. Kotsa Lai cried from fear covered in blood and escaped by hiding under the bed, which the convicts call a shkonka.
— It didn’t even occur to me that Arkasha and Katya were dying in a car accident and you and I would be left alone in this world. At night I dream of Arkasha and he walks next to me, as if alive. As if he hadn’t died. What dear people we have lost, Lord! Svetlana sighed. Then she continued: Tonight I had a dream again, where Arkasha was walking, as before, alive and unharmed.
— Arkasha, are you alive? I’m sorry for asking such a stupid question. The fact is that I recently had a terrible dream where you allegedly died in a car accident — I tell him.
— Yes, thank God, alive. Don’t worry dear. I’m alive and well. I work at a floating space factory where time is produced.
— You produce time?
— Yes. We produce time and export this vital commodity to the black market of planet Earth, that is, to you, where it is scarce. I work here as a shop supervisor. I get about ten kingls in a month. «Kingl» is a monetary unit. We are changing it to » Battal » . Battal is a hard currency. Ten kingls for exactly one and a half Battals. One and a half battals is a living wage. At the market, one «koons» of light costs half a ringle. For one koons of light, you can live three days. Or even more. There are different kinds of light. Weak, medium, strong and heavy-duty. Here, only the poor feed on weak light. And the rich eat in space restaurants, super-powerful laser beams, which are considered delicacies. Arkasha swallowed saliva with such words.
I was even more surprised:
— Oh my God, is it possible to eat light?!
— Why not? — With these words, he lifted the edge of his shirt. I got scared, because Arkasha had no insides under his shirt. In some places, he had silver wiring and boxes in microchips.
Pointing his finger at a metal organ that looks like a seashell, he said:
— This is my stomach. The eaten ray gets here. Here everything is digested and passes into the liver. There the light is thoroughly purified and transmitted through the silver veins in the heart . And the heart distributes light to the whole body. It is not blood that revolves in our veins, but light. Do you understand now, redneck? — Arkasha explained, joking.
— Yes, yes, — I said.
And Arkasha continued: — They feed on infrared rays well, but ultraviolet rays are dangerous to health, like a red fly agaric and a pale toadstool you have. In short, you need time, and we need light. The fever of time is raging on earth. Earthlings don’t have enough time. The need for time has reached such an extent that they cannot allocate some time for their parents. They save it, because time is precious. It is so expensive that it is not possible to buy it with any money! Therefore, Earthlings secretly change the light for time. I am afraid that sooner or later they will remain in darkness, that is, without solar energy. If you want, I’ll show you how time is made.
— Oh, it’s very interesting! I said.
Arkasha led me through a poorly lit narrow corridor towards the workshop.
— From what raw materials is time produced? — I ask Arkasha along the way.
— It’s a trade secret, — he says. We entered the workshop. There Arkasha introduced me to the workers:
— Meet my wife Svetlana from the planet «Earth». She runs my trading firm there.
I greeted the workers of the floating space factory. After that, Arkasha led me towards the warehouse where the time was stored.
— Welcome, Mademoiselle. Our time is stored in these barrels. You can try it, — said the warehouse manager named Bracatopkur.
Finally, he generously gave me 15 years, carefully packing the time in a plastic bag and on this terrible note I woke up — said Svetlana.
— Ndaaaa, you have interesting dreams, mistress. And your husband Arkady Petrovich was truly a good man. Katya too. The kingdom of heaven to them — sighed Sayak. They sat for a long time, talking among themselves. After a long conversation, Svetlana went to the bedroom, but for some reason she stopped at the door. Then turning to face Sayak, she said.
— Sayak, to be honest, I’m afraid. Sometimes it seems to me that someone is walking back and forth in the bedroom and breathing down my neck. It’s probably Arkasha’s ghost,» she said.
— Yes, no, madam, it’s all from fatigue, probably. Just a hallucination. Don’t be afraid. It will pass — Sayak reassured her.
— Easy to say. I’m afraid, you know? Could you lie next to me until morning? Please, — Svetlana said. Sayak thought for a moment, not knowing what to do. Then he agreed. He could not just refuse a woman who provided him with gratuitous help in the most difficult days of his life. How can you not help her when she needs his help? With such thoughts Sayak went into the bedroom and they lay down side by side and in the light of the night lamp continued the conversation again.
Suddenly Svetlana laid her head on Sayak’s shoulder gently, like rain in silence whispered: — Sayak, I can’t hide my feelings anymore. I love you! — she said, crying. That’s when Sayak fully realized that their friendship had already turned into love. In spite of this, — he said:
— Why don’t you, Svetlana Nikolaevna, say that. You deserve better. That is, you will still meet handsome, literate, educated men. Why do you need a guest worker like me? I am uneducated, rustic, as if this is not enough, still cross-eyed, like a hare — said Sayak.
— Sayak, that’s enough. I don’t need another man but you. I can’t live without you! I want to live with you! — she cried. After these words of Svetlana, their shadows on the wall intertwined. Thick snow kept falling outside the window, knocking snowflakes against the window panes in heavenly silence.
After the prosecutor’s office dismissed the investigator from his post and arrested the secret informant of the police, Gisalai Salavach, the people began to treat Zebo differently, realizing that she had been slandered. Zebo’s own mother also came to the field camp in her wheelchair and asked her daughter for forgiveness. She was crying, hugging and kissing her orphaned grandson early. The villagers, led by the teacher Uvadaguppiev, also gathered in the field camp and organized the funeral of Sayak’s grandmother, the old woman Kupaysin. The ghassal women, who wash the dead before burying them, performed a ritual of ablution and wrapped the body in a shroud, put it in a coffin. The imam-khatib of the mosque, Sheikh Yerkinjon Hukandi, read the janaza, according to Sharia law. The gravediggers also, despite the freezing cold, dug a grave in the frozen ground in the snow-covered cemetery, manually. After the janaza, those present raised Kupaysin’s coffin, mentally asking for her forgiveness and carried her to the cemetery on their shoulders, seeing her off on her last journey. Zebo bitterly mourned Kupaysin’s grandmother as her own mother. She cried until her throat was completely hoarse. Kupaysin was buried with all honors, prayed for her and each of those present threw a handful of dirt into her grave. The most interesting and strange thing happened later. The wife of the pawnbroker Bujurbattal herself exposed her husband in order to put him in prison and seize his property. She announced the vile deeds of her ex-husband, immediately after Kupaysin’s funeral, speaking to fellow villagers with a fiery speech.
— Dear fellow villagers! First of all, I want to apologize to Zebo and to everyone present here at Aunt Kupaysin’s funeral for hiding from all of you all this time a secret that I once recorded in this phone! I intend to hand over this recording of a conversation exposing the inhumane acts of a greedy and vile moneylender, my ex-husband Bujurbattal to the prosecutor as material evidence! Yes, don’t be surprised! He really got the money with the big interest that Zebo brought back then! A naive woman has paid dearly for her gullibility! This shameless bastard deceived not only her, but all of us! I recently caught this bastard in bed with his busty mistress! Now I’ll show him! I’ll put him in jail for many, many years! — she shouted.
Hearing her words, the villagers were enraged and the crowd headed towards the pawnbroker’s house to throw stones at him, but they were stopped by the teacher Uvadaguppiev.
— Wait! Listen to me carefully!We live in a civilized, democratic country where problems are solved only by legal means! Let Zebo fall on the moneylender Bujurbattal to the court, which will punish him to the fullest extent of the law! After all, it was because of him that the whole family suffered! Our fellow villager, the kind watchman of the vineyard Sayak committed suicide by jumping out of the window of a multi-storey house in distant Russia! Zebo’s father, labor drummer, tractor driver Nazhmiddin Niyazov was imprisoned! Today we buried poor Kupaysin! Sayak Satybaldiyev was my student and I knew him well, I knew what he was capable of! This well-read student of mine, instead of going to university, was forced to go to Russia to work, borrowing money at high interest rates from a greedy and vile moneylender! Sayak was a good gardener and he could open a farm by getting a cash loan from a bank. But this is not possible in the banks of our country, since bureaucracy and bribery reigns in many banks! The banking system of our country needs serious, deep reforms! In a society where the law does not work, chaos, arbitrariness, theft, discontent of the people are formed, a multimillion army of unemployed people is being created, which will turn into labor migrants, into cheap labor, into slaves! If we want the economy of our country to develop and the life of our people to improve, we all have to learn to live by the law! — he said. After his words, the people who wanted to kill the moneylender Bujurbattal, throwing stones at him, calmed down. The next day, law enforcement officers detained the pawnbroker with the corrupt policeman Dyryldaev and took them away in handcuffs for interrogation. Weeks later, Zebo’s father, tractor driver Nazhmiddin, was released from prison and he returned home. Zebo with her small child Khudoberdy moved from the field camp to her own house, which was once taken away from her by the moneylender Bujurbattal.
Leaving her child to her parents, Zebo goes to the city every day, seven days a week and works at the market from morning to evening, selling potatoes in the open air. She works in a padded jacket and felt boots, warming her chilled hands with her breath, which turn red from the cold, like the brushes of a scarlet mountain ash outside a winter window. Zebo buys potatoes from the population and resells them at the bazaar at a much higher price. In this way, she earns money for daily bread. One day she called a neighboring district on an ad to a farmer who sells potatoes. The next day, Zebo took the bus there to buy potatoes for resale. Finally, she found the house where that farmer lives and went to the iron gate, she called the owner of the house. A man of medium height came out, with a horse-like face and a nose like a potato, thin build. He was dressed in an old cotton chapan, with a hat with earflaps on his head. Zebo politely greeted him: — Hello, Nigman aka. I was talking to you on the phone yesterday. Do you sell potatoes? — she asked.
— Yes — Nigman answered and continued — if memory serves me right, your name is Zebo. Glad to meet you, please come in — Nigman invited her into the yard.
— Likewise, — said Zebo, along the way, following Nigman.
They walked, rhythmically creaking the snow, which grunted under their feet like a pig.
— What a winter! In such cold weather, it would not hurt for you and me to drink a cup of hot tea before getting to work, — Nigman suggested.
— No, thanks. Some other time. I’m in a hurry, I have things to do — smiled Zebo.
— Okay, I understand you, Zebo. Let’s go into the barn then, — Nigman said. With such conversations, they went into the barn and Zebo immediately could smell quinces and apples, which were lying on the shelves. Cracked pomegranates with bunches of grapes of various varieties hung on the walls of the barn. Melons and watermelons lay on the floor. Nigman began to weigh the potatoes. Zebo bought one bag of potatoes and wanted to lift the bag of potatoes, but Nigman stopped her.
— What are you doing, Zebo?! Women are not allowed to lift heavy bags. I’ll help you take him to the bus stop on my bike, — he said.
Then the barn door creaked and a little girl appeared. She looked at Zebo with surprise, then suddenly rushed at her, joyfully shouting: — Mom! mommy!
Zebo didn’t know what to do.
— Daughter, it’s not your mom! Nigman said, trying to pull her away from Zebo, but the girl hugged Zebo’s neck even tighter, kissing her.
— No, I won’t let you go! This is my mommy! You said she went to Yassia for a job! She’s gone! — she cried.
Hearing these words of his daughter, Nigman silently began to cry, turning away and secretly wiping tears from his eyes. Then he began to apologize to Zebo.
— I’m sorry, Zebo for God’s sake. Seeing you at the gate, my heart skipped a beat. The thing is, you look a lot like my late wife. If you don’t believe my words, I can show you her photo. You’re like her twin. That’s why my daughter takes you for her mom, — Nigman explained.
From these words, tears also appeared in Zebo’s eyes.
— Calm down, daughter, yes, I’m your mother, — she said, kissing the girl on the cheeks, stroking her hair and hugging her tightly.
— You’re not leaving anymore? I will always be with you, my love, — the girl said, not wanting to let go of Zebo.
— All right, sweetheart. As soon as I finish my business, I’ll come back, okay? You’re a good girl, — Zebo said. After that, Nigman loaded the bag onto the trunk of the bike and headed towards the bus stop. Zebo also followed him with the girl in her arms. At the bus stop they said goodbye and Nigman had to take his daughter away from Zebo by force. The girl was roaring, pounding on Nigman’s head with her small fists.
— You’re not working well rat, it’s bad! — the warden of the correctional colony told Gisalai Salavach.
— Keep in mind, if things go at this pace, then today or tomorrow the whole colony will know that you work for us. So, hurry up — he warned the informer Gisalai Salavach.
— Oh, no, no, Mr. Chief! I am working. Only the damned convicts seem to have found a new way to communicate. That is, they communicate by exchanging secret notes among themselves, which they destroy immediately after they read. I don’t know how to gain trust. But I will expose them anyway. Believe me, utto is the boss — said the informer Gisalai Salavach.
— Come on, come on, work, rat, get busy.We need a result, — the supervisor said.
— Yes, Mr. Chief! — Gisalai Salavach bowed and left the office under the supervision of the guards. After that, he was taken back to his workplace, that is, to the cell and pushed with a kick so that he fell. He moaned and groaned, clutching his stomach.
— Bastards, beat me with batons, kicked me in the stomach — he writhed.They helped him up and gave him water.
— Thanks, guys, — he said, sitting down and leaning against the wall.
— They don’t know who I am yet. I will still be released by escaping like the Count of Monte Cristo! I swear, there will never be a century of will! — he promised, crying.
— Keep it down, man. Even the wall have ears. How do you know, maybe there are nasty informers sitting among us — one of his cellmates reassured him. Then he wrote on paper: — It is clear that you are a real kid, a decent shift, that is. That’s the kind of people we need. We intend to make an escape…If you want, we’ll run away together
— Yes? Gisalai Salavach, the informer, asked after reading the note excitedly.
— Yes. But, in order to join us, you must learn our new prison alphabet, as we communicate with each other by notes, — the convict wrote again.
— Guys, I’m ready to learn this unique alphabet. That is, I have a good memory, photographic, you might say. I was elected chairman of the squad council, not knowing that I secretly smoked, drank and stole money from my parents.Of course at school, all this may seem ridiculous to you, but I graduated from school with a gold medal. In a word, I am able to learn not only the alphabet, but also whole books, — the snitch said in a whisper, cautiously looking back.
— We believe you, — said the convict. By the evening, the guards took the snitch away again for an «interview».
— Well, what’s the news, rat? What will you please us with today? — the curator asked.
— They promised to give me the alphabet so that I could learn it, — the secret informant replied.
— We already know this. let’s get to the point — said the curator.
— All right, Mr. Chief. Here I found a piece of paper today. It fell out of the pocket of one stupid convict. Something important is written here in their new alphabet, presumably about the escape — the informer Gisalai Salavach reported.
— This is a completely different matter! Well done, rat! Now you have to bring us this prison alphabet, — said the curator, thoughtfully lighting a cigarette, looking out of the window at the snow-covered roofs of the prison.
— All right, Mr. Chief, it will be done! — the snitch promised. A few days later, the informer Gisalai Salavach managed to get that prison alphabet and he took it to his curator. The guards, in the presence of the informer, began to read the note that fell out of the pocket of the careless convict, using the secret alphabet that the informer Gisalai Salavach, nicknamed «rat», brought.
The text was as follows:
To Mr. Prosecutor General of our country from the poor convict Gisalai Salavach.
— Mr. Attorney General! There is no justice in our penal colony. The warden and warders steal things from poor prisoners, take away parcels and steal meat products from the warehouse. We prisoners are given liquid balanda with spoiled cabbage. We are beaten with batons three times a day, strangled by putting plastic bags on our heads. They drink vodka at work and mock us, forcing us to put on gas masks and torture us by covering the air. They torture us with electric shock! They conduct boxing training by hanging convicts from the ceiling of the basement. Not a penal colony, but some kind of concentration camp of fascists! The head of our institution said that he is not afraid of anyone, even you! These are still flowers, Mr. Prosecutor General of our country! He intends to carry out a coup d’etat and wants to become president of the country, overthrowing you from the throne. Plans to put you and your family members on life imprisonment at the first opportunity! Our prison, which is run by this psychopath, a damned fascist, has turned into a pigsty, where we are kept without walks, without baths, without any visits. All the prisoners in our prison suffer from a severe form of tuberculosis and syphilis! When you see the walls of our institution, you may think that they are painted red. No, Mr. Prosecutor General of our independent country, this is not so at all! The walls turned red from our blood, which was sucked in by lice and bedbugs that we kill every day. Such an unsanitary state reigns in our prison. Not a prison, but a stable, a pigsty! Help us, for Christ’s sake, Mr. Prosecutor General of our vast independent country!
the informer Gisalai Salavach with great respect, was hungry, and utterly emaciated, like a skeleton and pale as a ghost.
After reading the note, the guards were furious.
— Oh, you animal! You ungrateful snitch! Wow you rat! Are you still mocking us, you homeless dog?! It’s good that they found out about your vile plans during the time! Beat the sneaky snitch! they shouted, hitting the secret informant of the police, Gisalai Salavach, with their feet and rubber batons, ignoring his screams.
Zebo, as always, was briskly selling potatoes at the bazaar, shouting: -Come to your garden, half sugar, half honey! The best and freshest potatoes are only with us!
Then her phone rang and she turned it on. Hello, I’m listening to you! — Zebo said.
— Hello, Zebo! This is Nigman! Remember me? — the familiar voice of the farmer who sold Zebo potatoes sounded.
— Yes, yes, how are you? Is your daughter, who mistook me for her mom, getting used to it? — Zebo asked without looking up from her work.
— No, Zebo, she can’t accept separation in any way. After you left, she cried for a long time. I cried until I fell asleep from exhaustion. She’s waiting for you. The worst thing is that in the last few days she got sick and stopped eating. Forgive me, I understand that you have a lot to do, but I just have to ask you for help. Help me for God’s sake. I know that every minute is precious to you, but I’m even willing to pay for it. God forbid, if something bad happens to her, I can’t survive this grief, because I love my daughter, more than anything in the world. I’m ready for anything for her! — said the farmer Nigman crying.
— Don’t cry, Nigman aka. Everything will be fine. I agree. I’ll go to you tomorrow. Only you don’t have to pay anything. After all, I am also a human being and I also have a soul. I feel sorry for your daughter. Poor girl, — Zebo said.
— Thank you very much, Zebo. I’ll tell my daughter right now that her mom will come tomorrow, — Nigman rejoiced.
— OK, Nigman aka, see you tomorrow — said Zebo, rounding off the conversation. The next day, she went to the neighboring district to please the orphaned daughter of the simple farmer named Nigman, along the way buying a doll as a gift, as well as various sweets. It turns out that the father and daughter were waiting for Zebo at the bus stop, with a bouquet of flowers in their hands. Seeing Zebo, who got off the bus, the girl smiled, holding out her hands to her: — Mom! Mommy’s back! Zebo hugged the girl tightly and kissed her on the cheeks, looking at her through tears.
— Here I am. How are you, my daughter, my clever girl? What is it? — she asked.
okay, — the girl replied, wrapping her skinny arms around Zebo’s neck and kissing her. After that, the three of them went towards the house where Nigman lives with his daughter. At home, Zebo opened her travel bag and before giving the girl a doll and sweets, she said: — Well, close your eyes. The girl closed her eyes.
— Now open them! Zebo said. The girl opened her beautiful eyes and was very happy to take the doll away. She took and hugged the doll tightly, like the mother of her child.
— What should you say?! you need to say thank you so much for the gift — Nigman recalled to the girl.
-thank you so much — said the girl.
— Well done, good girl! Nigman was delighted.Then he said softly.
— There was no need to spend so much money on such an expensive gift. You also bought sweets. Thank you, Zebo.
— You’re welcome! See how happy she is. With these words, Zebo’s eyes filled with tears again. Then she asked: — I’m sorry, what’s her name. I still don’t know her name.
— Jamila, — Nigman replied.
— What a beautiful name! Zebo sighed. Then she was attracted by a portrait of a beautiful woman hanging on the wall.
— Yes, indeed, your late wife looks like me, — admitted Zebo.
— Yes, she was a beautiful woman like you. God grant you a long life and good health, — Nigman said.
Sayak’s life took a 180 degree turn. He became rich. He made friends among businessmen, famous actors and musicians. Now in the circle of rich people his friends called him Sayak Satybaldievich. Sayak and his wife are often invited to corporate parties, where fun and exciting events such as buffet banquets, concerts, discos and the like are held. At one of these parties, a fight almost broke out with a businessman unknown to Sayak. He was pretty drunk. Approaching Sayak, he said.
— Dude, can we have a word outside?
Sayak at first did not understand why this stranger was asking him to go outside, but regardless, he got up. Svetlana grabbed his sleeve and started begging him not to.
— Don’t do it, Sayak, he’s drunk! Sit down, my love, don’t do it!
But Sayak did not listen to her and followed the unknown businessman into the street, where it was snowing.
— Well, what do you want? — Sayak asked, preparing a counterattack.
— Why are you staring at my wife? — the businessman said.
After he realized what was going on, Sayak smiled. Seeing this, the businessman became even more angry.
— Why are you smiling, eh, narrow-eyed Asian?! Are you tired of living?! Why are you hiding your gaze! Look at me! — he said, exposing his pistol and loading it.
— Woah, woah, man, what are you doing?! calm down! Let me explain. I didn’t look at your wife, I’m lazy eyed, you know? I can’t walk around with dark glasses all the time,- explained Sayak. Here the businessman froze for a moment. Then, when he came to himself, he began to apologize. — Oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for God’s sake. I didn’t know, honestly…
— Yes, there is no need to ask for forgiveness, it happens, — said Sayak.
— I’m such a fool. I almost shot an innocent man, — the businessman said, thanking God and again apologizing to Sayak. He put the gun back in the pocket of his crimson jacket. Then he held out his hand.
— Well, let’s get acquainted. My name is Andrey.
Sayak also introduced himself.
— Glad to meet you — said Andrey.
— Likewise, — said Sayak.
So they became friends. When they walked back into the hall, Zebo couldn’t believe her eyes. Andrey even introduced his wife to Zebo. Then, the men, leaving their wives alone, sat down at another table, located near a wide window, behind which snow flakes were swirling.
— You know, Sayak, I used to believe in women, especially my first wife. Now I’ve lost all trust in them, after she cheated on me. How I believed her, Lord! Then we were often invited to such lavish banquets, birthday parties and weddings. I’m sitting with my wife and one of the rich businessmen comes up to me and politely says: — May I invite your lady to dance?.. — I agreed and my wife danced the waltz with the other guy, spinning merrily on the dance floor, like a blizzard outside a winter window. And I smiled at her, although it jealousy scratched my heart like a wildcat. I even intended to hire some licensed private investigator who could collect secret information about my wife, about where she goes, what she does. But I didn’t dare to do it, fearing that the detective could easily betray me, starting to secretly cooperate with my wife, becoming a double agent in order to get a double fee. The most dangerous thing for me was that after destroying the family, he could take away all our possessions. So I decided to install hidden cameras around the house and in the bedroom. As if feeling all this, my wife calmed me down.
— Calm down, my dear. Trust me, I will never cheat on you. Even in the afterlife. Because I love you. Don’t worry about me. I have a best friend Madame Sonya and she does not leave me alone. That is, until you come back from a business trip, my faithful friend will live with me,- she said.
You know, Sayak, business is business. Trips around the country, stock exchanges, auctions, meetings with foreign businessmen and business trips are different. I was going on a business trip, thanking God for having rewarded me, for what benefits? I do not know. With such a faithful and incomparably beautiful wife. When I came back from a business trip, I realized that one of the hidden cameras captured such shots that, after viewing them, I almost fainted. The best friend of my first unfaithful wife, a tall and skinny woman with narrow eyes, a small nose and lips resembling a rosebud named Madame Sonya, who walks in a hat turned out to be a trance. Yes, yes, this is a real story, not a joke. I couldn’t get over it for a long time after that. Then I provided that video evidence to the investigators and won in court. And I just kicked out my unfaithful wife and cut her out of my life forever. Since then, I have lost confidence in women, and every time my wife and I attend mass events where men are present, my heart begins to be torn apart by jealousy, like old furniture. As they say, the one who got burned from milk blows on cold water — said Andrey.
Sayak sighed and for some reason he did not want to tell Andrey his story related to his first wife, who also cheated.
Spring has come to the village again. In the fields and meadows, red dandelions, scarlet poppies, blue cornflowers, convolvulus and sweet clover bloomed, pleasing to the eye. The thin branches of the willows were covered with yellow flowers in the groves. Birds are chirping happily in the gardens, the chatter of water flowing in streams and ditches can already be heard. Zebo no longer sells potatoes at the bazaar, as before. She married Dehkanin Nigman at the request of her parents. Zebo’s grandmother even insisted that she marry Nigman, considering him a good man, a family man who does not drink, does not smoke. Zebo agreed to this only in order to save the poor girl, playing the role of her mother, who died. She really fell in love with Jamila and got used to her as her daughter. Nigman also began to raise Khudoberdy as his own son, who also quickly got used to his stepfather and even began to call him dad. Zebo and Nigman work in the fields, under the scorching sun, leveling the ground using sickles. Since the climate in Uzbekistan is hot, the sun will start baking by noon. At such moments, the couple sit, hiding in the shade of trees, where the ditches murmur carelessly. Jamila and Khudoberdy love to run after butterflies, which silently wander over wildflowers, nimbly waving their fragile wings. The couple sat in silence, under the shade of a huge elm, looking at the sultry fields melting in the haze.
— Do you hear that, my love, the voice of the cuckoo? — Nigman asked.
— Yes,- Zebo replied, looking thoughtfully into the distance.
— How sad she sings, poor thing,- Nigman said. Then he continued. — They say that the cuckoo does not sing, but cries, thinking about her chick, which hatches without her, in someone else’s nest.
— yes. You’re right. My grandmother once told me that cuckoos do not build nests. This bird is like a woman of easy virtue who, having given birth, leaves her own newborn child at the doorstep of someone else’s house. Some even sell their own child for money, like a sheep. They are left at train stations and bazaars to get rid of them. God, what soulless people! — Zebo sighed.
— That’s nothing. I know one woman, who, after giving birth, threw her newborn baby into the well of an old field toilet! Can you imagine?! It happened in the fall of ‘seventy-eight. At that time I was studying at a pedagogical college and we were sent to pick cotton in a distant Lenin collective farm, in the Komsomolabad district. In the evenings, we organized discos, and sometimes a group of projectionists came to play feature films in the open air. On one of these evenings, I wanted to relieve myself. In those years, wooden toilets made of planks with a deep well were built on the edges of the fields. I went in short, to the toilet and was very scared when I heard the baby crying. I thought it was a demon scaring me. I ran out of the toilet with such terrible thoughts. Then, having recovered a little, I looked into the toilet again. I could still hear the baby crying. I couldn’t see anything so I lit some paper on fire and looked into the well. What I saw made me squint. There was a living child lying there and crying. I quickly called people and we started thinking about how to save the poor child. I went down the rope into the stinking well of the toilet, like a caver into a deep cave and picked up the child. At that time we had a cook named Durdona. She bathed the baby, then fed him cow’s milk. After these procedures , she said:
— Dear teachers and students, give the baby to me. I have no children. I will raise and educate him myself. — We all agreed.
Thus, she raised that abandoned khoromidanbugan, that is, an illegitimate child, giving him the name Sahargah. He, that is, this illegitimate child is now quite a rich and famous person who steals people’s goods and uses them in various ways. He lives in a luxurious house, and even went to Mecca, performing Hajj in any case, to atone for his sins. He looks down on poor people like you and me, out of the corners of his eyes, like an ant,- Nigman said. Then he fell silent.
The cuckoo sang again somewhere beyond the fields, in a distant poplar grove.
When Zebo’s parents came to visit, the children were the most delighted.
— Hooray, Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us! — they shouted, like seagulls over the river. Nazhmiddin picked up his grandson and his new granddaughter. He rejoiced, kissing them on the cheeks. Seeing this, his wife shed tears of joy, thanking God. They gave their grandson and new granddaughter sweets, various nuts and apples.
— Jamila, who will you be when you grow up? — Nazhmiddin asked.
— I’ll be a doctor and cure Grandma’s feet! — Jamila replied.
— Oh, that’s good! And you, Khudoberdy, who will you be? — Nazhmiddin asked his adopted son.
— I will be the president! Khudoberdy replied.
— The president of a company or something? — grandfather asked again.
-No,- Khudoberdy replied.
— The president of a country or something? — said Nazhmiddin.
— yes! — Khudoberdy replied.
— Wow! Good for you! — Nazhmiddin was delighted.
Hearing this, Zebo and Nigman laughed, looking at each other.
The conversation continued at the dinner table.
— Well, how is your health, Mom? Is it better already? — Nigman asked.
— Thankfully, son, It’s much better now. I even intend to go to Japan for the Paralympic Games, in my wheelchair, and I am firmly confident that I will win a gold medal — Nigman’s mother-in-law joked. The laughter rose again.
— No, I think that your mother will start walking on her own very soon and next time she will come to visit you marching like a soldier, — said Nazhmiddin, making everyone laugh. With such a sincere and interesting conversations, they did not even notice how the evening had passed by. At this time Zebo started cooking pilaf, and Nigman, apologizing to the guests, began to get ready for work.
— It’s strange, everyone returns from work in the evening, and you leave for work in the evening — Nazhmiddin said, surprisedly.
— Yes, Dad, we water the cotton fields at night so that the cotton plants don’t drop their cotton buds, — Nigman explained. Then, taking his sickle, he went to the cotton field on his old, creaky bicycle. He was driving along a country road towards the field, admiring the blazing scarlet sunset, where the sky threw the red-hot fireball known as the sun, like dung in a furnace. By the time he arrived at the field camp, evening had fallen. In the deserted silence, restless crickets began to sing, then loudly, then quieter. The evening silence rang from their voices. The moon began to rise slowly and quietly over the cotton fields. Nigman began watering the cotton plants by hand with the help of a sickle, rolling up his trousers to his knee, trying to distribute the water evenly over the beds. This delicate work requires special care from the irrigator, since water can wash away the beds, flooding the entire field like spring floods. In the silence of the moon, you could clearly hear the murmur of water running through the beds, shining in the aisles under the moon, like molten lead. Nigman worked for a long time under the moon, where there was no one but his shadow. Distributing the water, he lay down on the grass, which grew on the edge of the field under an old willow. Nigman was resting, looking at the distant stars and the moon, listening to the primordial singing of crickets. Then he heard the sound of footsteps, turned around and saw his wife Zebo, who was bringing him food for dinner. Nigman got up and greeted Zebo with a smile.
— Have you come, my incomparable? How are the guests? — he said, hugging her and taking a bundle of food and a thermos. They kissed in the moonlight, like young lovers on a «white night» of St. Petersburg.
— Yes, honey, I brought you pilaf for dinner — Zebo replied. Then they sat down next to each other on the edge of the field, under an old willow with thin branches, similar to the pigtails of Uzbek girls, as a wandering wind played softly. Nigman began to eat his dinner, eating the pilaf and slurping green tea.
«You eat like a hungry wolf,» — Zebo said jokingly.
— Rrrrrr! Nigman growled, showing his teeth like an angry wolf baring his fangs.
Zebo smiled. Nigman, having had a hearty dinner, said: — I’ll sing right now. He wanted to howl at the moon, but Zebo immediately stopped him.
— Oh, no, no, don’t. We’ll do without the song. Look at the moonlit night! The stars are falling in the distance! — she admired.
— OK. The concert is canceled,- Nigman agreed, hugging his wife.
— God, how beautifully these frogs sing! Still for free, without demanding anything in return. Their ancient, primordial songs will never get tired of anyone who listens. And how their voices harmonize with the primeval silence!.. Oh, another star fell over there, did you see?! Zebo admired.
— Yes, I even made a wish, — Nigman replied.
After that, the couple, sitting in an embrace, silently looked at the moon fields, listening to the distant chorus of frogs.
The airliner took off from the St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport landed in Tashkent. Sayak and his wife Svetlana got off the plane and headed to the terminal. From there, after receiving their luggage, they left the terminal of the Islam Karimov International Airport and hired a taxi, went to the most expensive hotel in Tashkent. The next day, having rented a jeep, they drove towards the Fergana valley.
— It’s good that I got a driver’s license in Russia. Driving by car is easier than flying by plane. And it’s stuffy on the train or on the bus, we’ll just end up suffocating from lack of fresh air. Look, my beloved, how beautiful my sunny homeland is, which I have not seen for many years. Oh, how I’ve missed her, living all these years in distant Russia! Native poplars lined up along the road greet us, waving their leaves like flags. It’s as if they are meeting the president of some country who came to Uzbekistan on a friendly visit with his wife. Oh, how I love these native poplars, which once ran, stumbling over stones all the way to the state borders for a car, then for a train, where I was traveling. They fled, asking me not to leave, not knowing that I was forced to leave my homeland and go to foreign lands to work. But it didn’t end there. I was walking around the park of St. Petersburg, walking our dog «Tarzan», and I saw willows with poplars there. It turns out that they got to Russia on foot chasing me! The most touching thing happened later. I’m lying in the hospital with a cold and a sore throat and I saw a crowd of trees looking at me through the window and I just couldn’t hold back my tears, I cried silently, thinking that they had come to visit me, a migrant worker who has no relatives or relatives in Russia, imagine! That’s why I respect and love trees. People think that trees cannot walk and are inanimate. But they are very wrong! Trees not only walk, hobbling on one leg, but also run, they even know how to climb snow-capped peaks, like brave climbers, climb a high rock to admire the vast expanses of the plains from there. They crowd into snow-covered forests and groves, in winter, to be hacked down by people with an axe to heat their cold huts, like empty refrigerators, where their children do their homework by the light of a kerosene lamp, shivering convulsively from the cold. If I say that trees can fly, of course you won’t believe it, it’s unequivocal. You might even suspect that I’m not okay in the head. But this is not the case. That is, trees, like giant eagles, fly through space, firmly holding the planet «Earth» in their claws. They are such beings who know how to forgive, they give the most priceless source of life, called «air», to those beings who chop them with an axe and a saw, cut them into a log, cut them with an axe, turning them into a log and putting them in woodpiles. They produce oxygen for their enemies by swallowing dust, exhaust gases, radiation, carbonate anhydride, etc. And people, on the contrary, chop them, turn them into logs, and burn them in bourgeois. A man who is happy to profit destroys forests and groves on the planet, like a stupid suicide. — With these words, Sayak drove without taking his eyes off the track. Then changing the topic of conversation, he continued: — First of all, we will visit my grandmother and I will tell her, opening my arms wide: — Well, hello, Grandma! Here I am, dear! I did not come alone, but also with my faithful, beloved, incomparably beautiful and pregnant wife! I can imagine how happy she will be, hugging you and me, shedding tears of joy from her eyes. Then I will find my slut ex wife, and, pressing her against the wall I will spit in her face, and in her eyes until there is no spit left in my mouth. I will say : — Here, meet my new wife, my joy and happiness! She is pregnant! Die, burn in the hell of jealousy, you miserable witch! Then I’ll catch her snitch lover, Gisalai Salavach, and severely punish her. I’ll kill the bastard with a sapper shovel and throw his filthy body off the high Kuiganyarsky bridge into the river. I will build a two-storey cottage with all amenities. Let the bitch go crazy after seeing the happiness we share,- said Sayak, turning the steering wheel of the car, not taking his eyes off the road. Sayak talked for a long time until he found out that his wife had already fallen asleep. After an exhausting five-hour drive, the Jeep finally arrived in the village where Sayak was born and grew up. On a country road they met the postman Kulmat, who was riding a donkey with newspapers in a bag. Sayak stopped his rented jeep next to the postman.
— Asalamaleikum, Kulmat! Are you driving your four-legged Mercedes, without a driver’s license and identification?! — he joked. The postman was surprised to hear such words, even scared.
— Excuse me, sir, I don’t recognize you. Who are you and how do you know me? — he asked, stopping his donkey.
— It’s me, Sayak, your fellow villager, the keeper of the vineyard! Don’t you recognize me? Sayak said.
Postman Kulmat, instead of rejoicing, stiffened in horror. Then he asked:
— Oh Sayakbai! You’re alive?! O glory to God, thank God!
— What’s the matter with you, Kulmat? Of course i’m alive!? Did you think I was dead? — Sayak asked dumbfounded.
— Someone mailed your wife a package containing a ceramic urn with your ashes. In the note it was written that you jumped out of the window of a high multi-storey building and died — said the postman Kulmat.
— What the hell! The bastards! What scum! Clearly, this is the work of Kotsa Lai, who went to jail. And I, as you can see, am alive and well, thank God — Sayak smiled, removing his sunglasses from his slanting eyes.
— But this is another matter! Sorry, Sayak, sorry I didn’t find out right away. My God, how you’ve changed! Bearded and in a luxury jacket, wearing black sunglasses, like spies who, by clicking their cameras, photograph top-secret documents of military facilities, about mines where intercontinental cruise missiles with nuclear warheads are hidden. Damn it! Give me a hug! — said the postman Kulmat, getting off the donkey.
Sayak got out of the cabin of his huge jet black jeep, and the two villagers hugged: — That’s what you are, huh?! Rich. You’re driving an expensive jeep, like Mobsters, by God!.. And who is this red-haired lady? — the postman asked.
— This is my wife, Svetlana. How are you, how is my grandmother, Kulmat? — Sayak asked happily.
Then the postman Kulmat abruptly collapsed and asked: — Haven’t you heard?
— What are you talking about, Kulmat aka? — Sayak said, surprisedly.
— Your grandmother died, passed away. We buried her with all the honors. Oh, how long she’s been waiting for you, poor thing. She often asked me if there was a letter from you, like in the old days,- the postman Kulmat said in a mournful voice.
Hearing this, Sayak froze as if rooted to the spot. Then, clutching his head, he sat down and began to cry bitterly, shaking all over. Seeing this, Svetlana also got out of the car and began to calm her husband, hugging him tightly and stroking his head like an orphan.
— Oh, it’s all because of her! You unfaithful bitch! I will kill her together with her lover, that police informant Gisalai Salavach! — Sayak cried.
— No, no, Sayak, what are you thinking?! Your wife Zebo didn’t cheat on you. It turns out that that sneaky informant, Gisalai Salavach, took a selfie when your faithful wife was trying to flee from his grasp. He confessed it himself after God punished him for his sins with an incurable disease. He got sick with… syphilis, and rotted alive. His nose fell off, what a horror! You wouldn’t wish that even on your sworn enemy. It turned out that this bastard sent you that ill-fated selfie on your wife’s phone, which she lost in the fields when she was fleeing from him. The informant Gisalai Salavach asked for forgiveness before his death. But Zebo didn’t forgive him. The pawnbroker’s wife also publicly exposed all the sins of the greedy pawnbroker Bujurbattal, stating that he received all the money that Zebo had brought to him. Also, your son has grown up and is now running around! — the postman explained.
— Really?! Oh my God?! God, what have I done! Where are they?! Where is my Zebo and Khudoberdy, my son? I have to beg for their forgiveness on my knees! — Sayak said, still crying.
— Your wife, thinking that you were dead, got married. Her husband adopted your son. They live in the neighboring district,- Kulmat, the postman, said, sighing sadly. From these words, Sayak froze again, like a lonely tree on a high rock, which was struck by lightning. The postman Kulmat, sitting on his donkey, rode on. He was crying too.
Clouds rapidly thickened over the cotton fields and the sky abruptly darkened. A light gusty wind rose, foreshadowing a thunderstorm. Lightning flashed as if a giant tree had spread its silver roots into the sky. Oblique, large and cutting raindrops began to fall. When the rain began to rustle merrily, people ran to shelter, leaving their hoes in the fields, some took shelter from the rain under a tractor trailer, others hid under a tree, laughing merrily. Nigman and Zebo ran towards the field camp. Rolling thunder rumbled, deafening the surroundings like shotgun blasts. Lightning flashed, exposing the arteries and veins of heaven, as if on an X-ray. By the light of lightning, they saw the joyful faces of their children, who, standing on the porch of the field camp, beckoned for them to run faster. While Nigman and Zebo ran to the field camp, they got completely soaked. By this time, the rain had intensified and turned into a downpour. The ditches bubbled, overflowing with muddy rainwater, similar to cocoa. It rained for a long time. Then it ended as suddenly as it began. The sky became clear. A huge arc appeared over the fields and meadows — a seven-colored rainbow, pleasing to the eye. People looked at the rainbow with wild admiration, as if it were a giant gate of paradise. The birds began to chirp loudly again and the reflections of sodden trees stared into the mirror-like puddles, where their reflections lay like doubles. The puddles resembled glass that fell from the sky to the ground and did not break. Then a black Jeep appeared on a country road. People thought that the commission from the region had arrived. The children, shouting merrily, ran to where the car stopped. The jeep stopped without approaching the field camp and a fashionably dressed, bearded man in sunglasses and a red-haired woman got out of it. The bearded man in the tuxedo politely greeted the children, then asked them if a woman named Zebo was nearby.
— Yes, she’s around. She’s my mom. I’ll call her now! — Jamila said and ran towards the field camp. Running to Zebo, she reported that a bearded uncle in black glasses was asking her. Hearing this, Zebo and Nigman exchanged glances and Nigman said to his wife: — Well, what are you waiting around for. Go find out why this bearded man is asking around for you? Maybe he’s one of your friends, who you met in the city when you were selling potatoes.
— What are you implying? Please don’t start this, dear. Don’t be jealous. I have no one else but you. Then you go to him yourself and ask him who he is, why he came, and why he is asking me — Zebo was upset.
— Ok, I’ll go! I don’t like it when someone brazenly stares at my wife or calls me to him. I will not tolerate such impudence. — With these words, Nigman went to the car where the bearded man was standing. Approaching him, he said.
— Hello. What do you want?
— I’d like to talk to Zebo. Are you a foreman or something? Sayak said.
— No, I’m not a foreman, but a simple worker. And Zebo is my wife. So what did you want to talk to her about, and who are you, may I ask? — Nigman said.
— Ah, that’s who you are! I know, they told me about you. For your information, I am Zebo’s first husband. Maybe she told you about me and that I died. But here I am, as you can see, alive and well. It was the companions of a vile pimp named Kotsa Lai who sent her the ashes of another man, which they killed in the forest and burned only because he refused to pay them so-called «contributions». I understand your situation. But you must understand me too. I have a son that you illegally adopted and married Zebo for nothing. And we love each other, you know? Since high school. If you don’t believe my words, you can ask her. I don’t mind,- said Sayak.
— Ah, goatee! What are you doing, you immortal kashchey! You keep coming back! — Nigman got angry and hit Sayak in the face with a sweeping hook. He was knocked back from the strong blow and fell to the ground. Svetlana, horrified, began to scream for help in Russian. A fight broke out. The men beat each other with their hands and feet, then getting up, then falling to the ground again. They fought like bulldogs in a dogfight, covered from head to toe with mud. Seeing this, Zebo came running to help her husband. Then, seeing Sayak, whose sunglasses flew off of his face, she froze, not believing her eyes. Sayak, without looking up from the fight, shouted: — Zebo, my Zebunya! My love! We were slandered, that is, deceived, you know! I’m alive! I’ve arrived! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, my love!..
After hearing these words of Sayak, Zebo fainted.
After the fight that ensued between her former and current husband Nigman, Zebo was in the hospital for a long time. Sayak tried to come to her room many times to beg on his knees for forgiveness, but the doctors simply wouldn’t let him, demanding he does not disturb her. He even tried to bribe the doctors, but they didn’t take it. They asked him not to come near the hospital anymore, otherwise they would call the police. Sayak prayed day and night to God that Zebo would recover faster. He sat all day in the jeep and watched with binoculars for Nigman, who came to the hospital every day with the children to visit Zebo and envied him. Finally, Zebo recovered and was discharged from the hospital. By this time, Sayak’s Russian wife Svetlana, at the request of her parents and the deputy of the trading company, had gone home to Russia. After Svetlana left, Sayak, having bought expensive gifts for his first wife and for his son Khudoberdy, came to the house where Zebo lives. But the couple and their children were not at home. The neighbors said that they had recently gone to work in the field. Sayak quickly turned the car around and drove towards the field camp, where he had the fight with Nigman. He caught up with them in his car on a country road and slammed on the brakes, raising clouds of dust on the side of the country road. The couple and their children stopped.
The angry Nigman, throwing his bike, wanted to attack Sayak, with a hoe in his hands, in order to tech his arrogant rival a lesson, but Zebo stopped him.
— Calm down, honey. If you kill him, you will be imprisoned and I will be left alone with the children. Let’s solve this whole problem without a fight, in a humane way,- she said. Nigman barely restrained himself and with difficulty pulled himself together, agreeing with his wife’s choice.
— Well, why did you come to us again on your cart, you cursed oblique? What else do you want from us?! Do you have a deathwish?! If it wasn’t for Zebo, I would have cut you into exactly two parts with this hoe. You’re stuck to our feet like Scotch tape. Leave us alone and go to your Russia, you traitor to the Motherland, a migrant worker, a miserable farmhand, an unhappy slave! Come on, get out of here before I kill you! — he shouted.
The frightened children hid behind their mother’s long skirt, like chicks under the wing of a bird.
Sayak sat down on his knees, and moving towards Zebo, like a war cripple who had both his legs amputated, began to beg for forgiveness loudly:
— Zebo, forgive me for God’s sake, forgive me, my love! You know, I’ve never knelt before anyone! I swear by all that is holy that I succumbed to the dirty provocations of the vile informer Gisalai Salavach! Yes, it’s my fault that I believed in all this! I remarried thinking that you cheated on me! Well, think for yourself, dear, what kind of man can stand this when he sees a selfie where his wife is depicted with a strange man! If you only knew how I burned in those days in the hell of jealousy, I contemplated committing suicide! As if that’s not enough, the vile bastard Kotsa Lai sent you the ashes of some person by mail, declaring me dead! In a word, vile people have ruined our family! They took you away from me! If I had known that all this was not true, I would never have married another woman in my life, believe me, dear! Yes, I should have checked it all out and come here. But I couldn’t, because I was ashamed to come back here, after the dirty provocation of the vile informer Gisalai Salavach, do you understand?! I only found out the truth here, which the postman Kulmat told me! I want you to understand me correctly and forgive me! And you, dude, calm down. I’m not afraid of your threats. I’m not afraid to die anymore. Because I’ve lost almost everything. My wife, whom I loved, I love and will love forever, even in the afterlife. My grandmother, who raised me after the death of my parents, instead of sending me to an orphanage. Live, for God’s sake, I agree. I accept all this as God’s cruel punishment for the sins I have committed. Just give me my only son and I’ll go to Russia with him in a good way. I swear by all that is holy, I will leave you alone forever! Dude, you’re a father too and you have to understand me. To know out how difficult it is for me, you put yourself in my place. Do you have a heart in your chest, or is it made of stone?! Do you want me to give you $100,000? Listen to the word of a decent man!.. — Sayak said.
— Oh, you aristocrat, you are just an unhappy businessman! Why do we need your overseas money? We don’t sell our children! Khudoberdy is my son and I won’t give him to you for any money! Children are priceless! — Nigman shouted, picking up his bike. Then he said, «Let’s go Zebo, let’s go, my children. Zebo, with bitter tears in her eyes, and dutifully followed Nigman, occasionally looking back.
— Dad, why is Uncle crying? Khudoberdy asked, sitting on the trunk of his stepfather’s old bicycle. Nigman didn’t know how to answer him.
— Where are you going, wait! Zebo!.. Zebunya!.. Son, Khudoberdy, come to me! I’m your father! I’ll take you to Russia! I have a big house there, where there are a lot of toys! — Sayak shouted.
The couple and their children began to leave.
Sayak fell to his knees again and wept bitterly, not caring if anyone saw him.
Tears of happiness
Sayak used the remaining money to buy a plot of land with an old grape orchard that once belonged to the Lenin collective farm. Now, as in the good old days, he works as a watchman of his own vineyard and sits all day in a hut on high stilts, as if on a border watchtower, from where the neighborhood is visible as in the palm of his hand. Sitting in a hut, Sayak drives away birds with a repeller made from under empty iron cans of canned fish and Coca Cola suspended on a wire. He shouts at the top of his voice, whistling loudly and clapping his hands. When he pulls the wires, the deafening sounds of empty iron cans are heard, driving flocks of voracious birds away. Sayak is madly fond of watching flocks of birds flying in a cloud over the grape orchard, over cotton fields, creating the noise of a bird blizzard with their wings, abruptly changing their directions, this way and that, like a parachute blown away by the wind.
— Oh, how good it is to live and work in your native land, where you were born and grew up! Do what you love, admiring the scenery of your Homeland! You look at your native September cotton fields, which turn white like the pure soul of a good person. The train is humming, rumbling along the railway of the Kuiganyarsky bridge, as if greeting you from afar, like your old and faithful friend. Well, with what can this country road be compared, along which the postman Kulmat rides on his donkey? How I longed for the river delta, for rice fields, for ravines, for my fellow villagers when I lived and worked in distant Russia! I love you, I love my sunny Uzbekistan! — he thought, looking askance at his native September fields, over which flocks of birds flew in a cloud. Then his cell phone rang and he turned it on.
— Hello! Sayak Satybaldizade is on the wire. How are you, my dear Svetlana?! How’s your health? How is my son Sasha, the namesake of the great poet Alexander Pushkin? You take care of him like the pupil of your eye. He is my heir. Well, how are you, all calmly swimming in the noisy stormy sea of business, standing at the helm of an old schooner of our company?- he said into the phone.
— Hello, my love! Thank God, I don’t have any health problems yet. Sasha is growing. Handsome, black-eyed! Curly, like Pushkin. As for our company, I want to note that it has gone bankrupt. The fact is that in my absence, the deputy director of the firm, Solodyankin Prokhor Nikolaevich, conducted improper trading on the securities market, naively trusting analysts’ forecasts foreshadowing an increase in oil prices by buying a controlling stake in one oil company. But oil prices have fallen to record lows. As a result, the shares collapsed sharply, hitting the quotes of our company. There were also economic crimes committed, that is, tax evasion on a large scale and laundering of criminal proceeds. We barely got rid of our debts by paying off the property of the company and a country house. You did the right thing by not interfering in the commercial affairs of the firm. Now I don’t know what to do, — Svetlana said.
— Yes, spit on all this, my love, and come to me in Uzbekistan immediately! Although there is no luxury here, but there is the most important thing — peace of mind. Let our son Alexander grow up here and live in harmony with nature! I will call you in Uzbek oidin (moonlit night), and my son Aleksndra Alisher. May he become a great poet and thinker like Emir Alisher Navai! Come soon, I’m dying of loneliness!.. Oh, wait, honey, just a minute… Don’t turn off your phone, my incomparable! Now I will drive away these voracious birds, then we will continue the conversation! — With these words, Sayak began to whistle and shout: -Shoo! Shoo! and pulled the wire of the repeller, made from under empty iron cans of canned fish and Coca Cola.
After that, he picked up his mobile phone again and continued the conversation with his wife Svetlana.
— Well, where are we staying? Ah, I remember… You go to the ticket office right now and buy a plane ticket. Even by plane, even by train, even by car, go here, do you hear?
— I have already bought a plane ticket, my dear, — said Svetlana.
— That’s fine! Well done! Fly, I will meet you myself at the Tashkent International Airport named after Islam Karimov! I will be wearing a skullcap and a striped chapan, resembling a tiger skin. I will have a banner in my hands, with the words — I am here, my beloved Svetlana! .. Here, I will descend from the hut on high stilts and immediately go to Tashkent! What flight are you coming on, dear?! — Sayak asked, rejoicing.
— Don’t go to Tashkent, my dear, your son and I are already here?! — Svetlana said, coming out of hiding and cheerfully waving her hand to her husband. Seeing Svetlana with a baby in her arms, Sayak was happy as a little one, standing in a hut on high stilts.
After Sayak arrived, Zebo’s life turned into a living hell. Nigman became jealous and began to be jealous of literally everything and began to constantly pursue her, suspecting that she was dating Sayak. He started coming home drunk. He drank day and night without sobering up. As a result, the family became impoverished. Sometimes he brought his drunken drinking buddies, loafers, toothless drunks home, who, running around the yard chasing chickens, tripping over buckets and falling like Fascist soldiers in the occupied territory. The rest laugh, rowdy, scaring the children to death. Nigman no longer worked anywhere, and as if that wasn’t enough, he lost a cow at a card. Naturally, Zebo cried like all women, and Nigman began to reproach her.
— Well, why are you crying, you brainless chicken? I feel sorry for the cow, right? what about me? Don’t you feel sorry for me?! Yes, of course, I am bad, a drinker, a batter, a beggar and a gambler, that is, not as good as your Sayak! You know, after my death, I certainly won’t go to hell. Yes, yes, don’t be surprised. Because, I have already gone through a hell called jealousy and you are specially arranging to get rid of me as soon as possible! After your death, you will burn in hell forever! I know you. I can see in your eyes that you are deceiving me. You don’t love me and you never have! If you loved me, then for me you would be ready to sacrifice not only a cow, but also yourself!.. Listen, bitch, next time I’ll put you on the line! What’s the difference, you’re still a cheap and dirty bitch. You are secretly meeting with your ex-husband, who has returned from Russia, with a thick wallet containing overseas money! Oh, what a shame, what a shame! God, why did I marry her?!.. The devil himself confused me! No, don’t swear! Don’t swear, I don’t believe you anyway! You’ve completely lost your credibility! But keep in mind, I’m not the sucker that you imagine yourself to be. If I catch you with this slanting devil, then you will both be finished. I’ll bury you alive! By the knife! — he said, taking the knife out of its sheath and licking its points with his tongue like a bloodthirsty executioner. The biggest scandal happened later. It was like this. One night a strong wind was blowing and apples were falling, making sounds, the trampling of hooves of wild horses running in a herd. That night Zebo had a strange dream. In the dream, she, running away with her children from her evil and drinking husband Nigman, hid in a grove and began to live in a tree, building herself a dwelling from branches. After learning that she lives with her young children in a tree, local bloggers came with video cameras in their hands and took a video. The next day, they posted the video on the Internet, appealing to compatriots with a request that they provide financial assistance to a poor homeless woman who, like a monkey, lives on a tree in the twentieth century. Zebo thanked the kind bloggers, wiping her tears with the holey sleeves of her robe. But a few months later, the bloggers built not for her, but for themselves luxurious, well-maintained cottages with money collected in the form of donations. Then, so that the victim did not apply to the police with a statement, bloggers burned Zebo’s hut and she woke up in horror and could not sleep until morning. In the morning she picked apples that fell at night from a strong wind, making the sounds of the hooves of wild horses and went to the market to find money for food. She was screaming, holding two apples in her hands, similar to billiard balls: — Come people! Half sugar, half honey! Sweet apples! Who needs apples! Then a woman came up to her and tasted the apple, and said: — I need two kilograms, please. The woman put a hardcover book on the counter before opening her shopping bag. Seeing a photo of the author on the cover of the book out of the corner of her eye, Zebo almost fainted. This was Sayak’s book. Zebo, barely pulling herself together, poured the apples into the woman’s shopping bag and asked her about where she bought the book.
— In that bookstore over there, — the woman said, pointing with her purse at the bookstore. Then she added: — A collection of poems by our countryman, the great poet Sayak Satybaldiyev! He writes such poems that after reading, you are simply amazed, you freeze, like autumn outside the window. He does not write poetry, but symphonic music with the help of words! High poetry!.. Do you also like poetry? — she said.
— Yes, very much, — Zebo replied, trying to smile.
— That’s commendable, — the woman said and left.
Zebo, having sold the apples, ran towards the bookstore and bought a hardcover collection of Sayak’s poems. When she got home, she hid the book like a priceless diamond under her pillow. In the evening, Nigman came on all fours, drunk as always. He muttered something to himself for a long time, finally fell asleep. Zebo went into the kitchen and carefully opened it and began to read a collection of Sayak’s poems in the light of a kerosene lamp by the open window. Midges and moths circled around the burning kerosene stove. A round moon shone carelessly over the village. The lazy and tired barking of distant dogs could be heard. Restless crickets sang their primordial monotonous songs in the darkness, then loudly, then quieter, then somewhere near, then in the distance. Zebo enthusiastically read her lover’s poems, forgetting herself and tears rolled down her cheeks like raindrops on a window pane. Especially when she was reading a poem dedicated to herself. Zebo read for a long time and fell asleep right at the table. She woke up in the morning to a loud scream from her husband. Nigman was standing with Sayak’s book in his hand and cursing at the top of his lungs.
— You filthy bitch! You bastard! You animal! How dare you bring your slanting, smelly goat’s book into my house and read it! I’ll kill you! Here, take it, bitch! Die, you ungrateful brute!
With these words, he began to beat Zebo, hitting him with his feet and hands anywhere. Zebo screamed, begging her husband not to beat her and calling people to help. The children were also screaming, trembling with fear. While the neighbors came running, Zebo lost consciousness from the blows. Nigman kept screaming, tearing the pages of Sayak’s book to shreds and shoving them into his wife’s mouth.
— Here, eat, bitch, eat! Then the teacher Uvadaguppiev rushed at Nigman and knocked him to the floor with one blow. The police arrived and took Nigman in handcuffs to the police station.
After Nigman was imprisoned for fifteen days, Zebo moved with her children to her parents. After serving his sentence, Nigman tried to bring his family back, but the tractor driver Nazhmiddin brutally beat him, then kicked him out, warning that if he ever touched his daughter again, he would simply kill him. After that, Nigman, in order to take away his daughter, appealed to the court with a statement, but the guardianship authorities and the court deprived him of parental rights, given that he abuses alcoholic beverages and leads an immoral lifestyle. At this time there was a thoughtful September in the yard, whispering early and red leaf fall. Scarlet maples, poplars and willows flew around in groves and gardens. Zebo swept the fallen leaves, listening with a sigh to the loud cries of Sayak, who scared away flocks of voracious birds in the vineyard, clapping his hands, sitting with his son Alexander in a hut on high stilts. Zebo was crying silently, thinking about why she was so unlucky. Even the second husband, who was a good man, a family man, sank below the baseboard, turning into a drunkard, right after Sayak arrived.
— For what, Lord! For what sins did you throw me into hell? What have I done wrong?! — she turned mentally to God, crying softly. Jamila and Khudoberdy got used to it incredibly quickly, making friends, playing together with local guys, running through the streets of Kuiganyar, laughing loudly. Once Khudoberdy and Jamila brought home juicy bunches of golden, sweet grapes. Seeing this, Zebo was scared.
— Where did these bunches of grapes come from?! Was it stolen?! She asked hurriedly, thinking that the children had stolen them from someone else’s garden.
— No, Mom, we didn’t. These grapes were given to us by the crosseyed uncle. He also took us for a ride on a cart. We all climbed onto the cart and sat down on the soft hay, while the crosseyed uncle drove the horse through the streets. — Jamila explained.
Hearing this, Zebo froze for a moment, then quietly began to cry, secretly wiping her tears.
With such thoughts, after sweeping the yard, Zebo drove the cow and calf to the river so that they grazed in the pasture. Walking along the road, she began to think about Sayak again, about his poems, which she read in a collection of his poems, which the evil Nigman tore to shreds. She especially remembered his autumn poems, where he described the landscapes of his native land, flying maples and poplars, Sparkling dew drops on a spider web, like a necklace, the cries of cranes in the fog, the river delta with noisy tall reeds. Despite the fact that Sayak lives with another woman, Zebo still sometimes thanked God that her beloved Sayak returned alive and well, for being in this world. With such thoughts, Zebo came to the bank of the Kashkaldak River, where the farmers mowed rice by hand, using a sickle. Noisy flocks of sparrows flew like a cloud over the rice field. In the rice fields, farmers worked, some reaped ripe rice by hand, others knitted mown rice into sheaves, some of the sheaves piled up. Bonfires smoked in the distance. The willows and poplars on the shore were flying around, the tall reeds were quietly rustling, swaying like drunks in the autumn wind. From afar came the cries of seagulls, which were rushing over the delta, where the flowers of water lilies were still white. Cow and calf, having carefully descended to the shore, began to graze silently with other cows. Zebo, sitting over the cliff, began to admire the autumn landscapes of the coast, thoughtfully looking into the distance. Here, the creaking of the wheels of the old cart interrupted her thoughts and she turned around and saw Sayak, who was standing in the cart stopping the horse. Seeing this, Zebo’s heart skipped a beat with excitement and she stood up, not knowing what to do. Sayak jumped off the cart and boldly approached Zebo.
— Well, hello, Zebo, how are you feeling, dear? Then he suddenly sat down on his knees in front of her and looking at her with a sidelong glance, began to ask for forgiveness.
— Forgive me, my love, for causing you so much pain and suffering all these years! I’m sorry, forgive me if you can… — he said, clutching his skullcap to his chest. Zebo began to cry again: — Fool, — she said crying, through tears. Sayak stood up, putting his worn skullcap on one side, and then Zebo rushed into his arms. She hugged Sayak tightly, began to beat him with her fragile fists and sobbed with happiness.
Devil… — she said.
— Yes, you’re right, my love, I’m a devil, but not a simple one, but an crosseyed devil — Sayak smiled, also through joyful tears.
— Crazy, — Zebo continued.
— Yes, yes, I’m crazy, don’t cry, my love, don’t cry, — said Sayak, kissing Zebo on the lips. They started kissing so passionately that Zebo’s hair tousled like tall grass in a gusty wind before a spring thunderstorm. Then the screaming cranes began to fly over them in a huge wedge. The lovers, embracing each other, looked into the sky, listening to the sad voices of gray cranes. cranes shouted in chorus, slowly and smoothly moving away from the village.
— Cranes fly away to warmer climes like a boomerang and they will come back to us when spring comes to catch this gray boomerang with a swoop. They will come, like our love, which has returned to us — sighed Sayak.
— Yes, — said Zebo, also sighing and clinging even tighter to Sayak.
The last meeting
Sayak, sitting in the shade of a mighty willow, carefully beat the scythe with a hammer. The ringing clang of the gland and the knocking of the hammer flew into the distance in the deserted silence. Checking the blade of the scythe with his finger, Sayak began to mow the grass, which stood up to the waist with a wall. Butterflies fluttered carelessly around him and larks sang loudly over the meadow. A horse was grazing by the unhitched cart, now shaking his head, nodding, thus fighting off annoying flies.The smell of mown grass was in the air. Dandelion fluff flew thoughtfully and weightlessly, like snowflakes during a snowstorm. Beyond the iron bridge, freight trains rumbled, rhythmically tripping over the steel vertebrae of the railway. Sayak worked for a long time under the scorching sun until he was terribly tired. He was sweating all over and he wanted to rest in the shade of the trees, hiding from the heat. Sitting in the shade of a willow tree, in the middle of tall grass, Sayak greedily drank cold water, quenching his thirst. Since the meadow was closer to the shore, distant dams, rice fields with a delta could be seen at a glance. The cries of seagulls could be heard, which were rushing over the river. Crazy flocks of sparrows flew like a cloud over the rice fields. Admiring the landscapes of his native land, Sayak began to remember his distant childhood and youth, which he spent on the bank of this river and how he and his friends drove a cow to the other bank to pasture. Cows sometimes waded, then swam across the river, with birds on their backs and on their horns. Then they spent the whole day grazing, getting lost in the tall grass and in the juniper thickets, where daisies and blue-eyed cornflowers quietly waved because of the vagrant wind. Only in the evening the cows returned home in a long and tired caravan, walking along the country road with unhurried steps, raising clouds of dust, reminding the sad horns of distant ferries in the evening silence. Sayak was sitting with such thoughts, looking into the distance, and then someone from behind closed his eyes with the palms of their hands and asked — guess who?..
— Did you come, my only one? — Sayak said holding Zebo’s hands, he pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. They started kissing.
— I love you, — said Sayak, stroking Zebo’s hair, looking askance into her eyes.
— What about Svetlana? Zebo smiled.
— Her too. She’s my second love. You’re my first… Do you remember how Svetlana helped us with money during the most difficult days of our life? Thanks to her, we got rid of our debts. Maybe you won’t believe my words, but despite the fact that she is a Christian, she recently offered me to live with three people, joining our families with you.That’s how noble she is! — Sayak said.
— Oh, you’re my bitter fate! — Zebo sighed.
— Are you jealous? Well, go ahead and be jealous. Jealousy means you love — said Sayak, smiling. Then he continued: — My Zebunya, I’m glad that you didn’t kill yourself out of despair all these years of separation. How patient you are with me, my incomparable one! Almost every day I take the children on a cart and I can’t tell my son that I am his father. I’m afraid to scare him off. He thinks Jamila is his own sister. Poor kids… Listen, can we join our families, at least for the sake of the children? What do you say to that?
— I have to think and consult with my parents, — Zebo replied thoughtfully. With such conversations they sat for a long time in the shade of a mighty willow. Then they got up together and began to turn over the mown grass with rakes and pitchforks so that it dried out and turned into hay.
After finishing the work, Sayak harnessed the horse and the two of them got into the creaking cart and drove along a country road towards the village.
— Oh, how good it is to ride on a simple cart, even with your beloved woman along a winding rural road through fields and meadows in your native land, where you were born, grew up and fell in love for the first time! — Sayak admired.
Then suddenly, out of the dense thickets of juniper and blooming wild rose hips, Nigman jumped out with a sawed-off shotgun in his hands, like a partisan in the Belarusian forests during World War II.
— Stop, you cockeyed bastard! Hands up! Or I’ll put a hole through your brainless empty skull with one shot! — he said, aiming at Sayak. Then he continued, looking at Zebo: — Come on, get off the carriage, bitch! Come to me on all fours, kiss and lick my shoes bitch! Then you will kiss my knees and… and you, you brute, stand still and don’t move! The slightest movement and you’ll get a bullet in between the eyes! Now I’m going to make you crow, — he said.
Zebo began to cry with her hands raised, trembling with fear and not taking her eyes off the barrel of the sawn-off shotgun.
— Well, what are you standing for, like this one?! Come on, get down, chicken! I don’t have much time!I’m counting to three! One!.. Two!.. Two and a half!..
Then Sayak could not resist and rushed at Nigman, like a Ussuri tiger at a wild boar in a distant taiga. But then a shot rang out and Sayak fell to the ground with a crash, raising dust. Seeing this, Zebo lost consciousness. Nigman, with a sawed-off shotgun in his hands, hastily disappeared into the bushes.