Member of the Writers’ Union of Uzbekistan
To be honest, I’m not going to draw a verbal portrait of the literary hero of my story, nor will I give his real name under any pretext, keeping his safety in mind. To describe the appearance and parameters of the character, would be like handing over a sketch of him to the police department, which has declared him as being on the Interpol’s most wanted list. This is extremely dangerous for him. We will be limited only by calling his pseudonym «Ibn Kambal». Ibn Kambal walks with a tightly glued beard and moustache, having grown his hair down to his shoulders, having dyed it Gray so that he would not be accidentally recognized on the street by local police officers. Otherwise, he may be arrested and put in jail for many years for the economic crimes he committed. The fact is that our literary hero Mr. Ibn Kambal writes good poems and one day a crazy idea came into his head to publish his first book, hoping to get a substantial fee for it. He talked to a hunchback employee of a publishing house, who promised to publish Ibn kambal’s book of poems, cheap, in high-quality, fast and, of course, advertise it well. Ibn Kambal, believing the words of the employee, gave him a lot of money from the sponsor without a receipt. The hunchbacked worker turned out to be a greedy, mean-spirited and inveterate swindler, and soon he broke his promise and published a book of poems by poor Ibn Kambal at the expense of low-quality papers that he stole once from the warehouse of the publishing house and safely hid in the basement. As if that wasn’t enough, he put paper on the cover, as well as on the drawings and on the circulation of the book. It so happened that the book of Mr. Ibn Kambala was published and not advertised well. The book resembled a thin school notebook. Such a «book» could not be sold on the market. Even a bookworm, that is, an avid book lover of flea markets, who is well versed in art, does not even want to buy such a pathetic garbage. The cunning and hunchbacked worker was delighted that the gullible Ibn Kambal payed him a large sum of money without a receipt. As a result, Ibn Kambal himself had to advertise his book, which was similar to a student’s notebook. But he didn’t realize it. Half a year later, Ibn Kambal’s sponsor began to demand him to return the money received with interest. The poor literary hero of our novel, Mr. Ibn Kambal, did not know what to do. He’s up to his ears in debt. At home, a grumpy wife who reproached Ibn Kambal day and night, calling him a pathetic loser, a loafer, a lazy man, a parasite and a sucker. — God, why did I even marry this idiot, a poet with empty and leaky pockets! Normal husbands go to work in the neighbouring countries and earn serious money by working as janitors, barn keepers and freight car loaders, loggers and such. When they return, they build luxury houses, two-story cottages with basements, and buy cool cars. And you?! You sleep during the day like a stray dog with no hind legs and from night to day you scribble the devil knows what, in the light of a kerosene lamp, not letting me sleep soundly. Is literary creativity a job these days?! Here, just recently, this fool released his book, a thin one, similar to a birth certificate, a work book and got into debt up to his ears! And there’s nothing to eat at home. A single pair of dress shoes, which we share at a time! It’s embarrassing to walk barefoot in this space age! We are afraid to go outside! We sit at home, holding our breath, as if we are in a bomb shelter in the midst of a carpet bombing, when all of a sudden, the sponsor’s agents show up, demanding we return the money that this bastard borrowed! This debt grows not by the day but by the hour! My God, what kind of a life is this?! What a pity that Comrade Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich is not with us now, who sent dozens of such unsuccessful Tunisian intellectuals to concentration camps in freight train cars designed to transport horses! If Comrade Stalin were alive, I myself would have given you into the hands of the NKVD, carefully writing a denunciation against you that you were an English spy! Oh, it’s not for nothing that poets were hanged and shot in the old days, not for nothing! No, I’ve had enough! I’d rather climb on a stool and hang myself or burn myself by pouring kerosene on my worn clothes than live with you, jerk! — she screamed loudly, dropping bitter tears on the floor. Then, abruptly changing her mind, Ibn Kambala hastily packed her things into an old wooden suitcase from Stalin’s times and threw it out into the street through an open window. Then, pointing to the door, she said: — Get out of my house! Go and don’t let me ever see you again! Thus, the poor literary hero of our story, Ibn Kambal, found himself on the street. But it didn’t end there. The sponsor’s bouncers quickly found him and broke one of his legs, forced him to collect documents and fraudulently get a huge loan from the bank. Ibn Kambal submitted an application and submitted the relevant documents with a business plan to the bank claiming the loan was to open a trading and manufacturing company. But he immediately had to give the sponsor all the money received on credit. Half a year later, the police put him on the wanted list. Since then, he has been walking with a glued on beard and moustache, having grown his hair down to his shoulders and dyed it gray. Ibn Kambal searched for a house for a long time and finally he found a small hole that had formed on an old abandoned road during a mudslide and decided to live in it. He erected a small roof over the pit, resembling a chapel. This roof performed two functions at once. Firstly, it did not allow rainwater to get inside of the pit and served as a kind of warning fence for random passers-by, so that they would not fall into Ibn Kambala’s squalid dwelling, during an evening walk in the dark or in a thick fog when they walk their beloved dogs. The peculiarities of this peculiar housing is that here he will not be disturbed by police officers, tax officers, inspectors of energy supervision, gas supply and housing and communal services department. Most importantly, there are no evil neighbours, rhythmic creaking of the bed, sweet moans, loud music, trampling, crashing, heart-rending cries for help, the noise of the feast, drunken laughter, swearing, crying children and women, the clanging of a hammer, the buzz of a drill, the sounds of shattered glass windows, broken porcelain dishes, and the roar of kitchen dishes that violate the peace and quiet of citizens. There are also a number of inconveniences in this pit. That is, there are no windows in it from which you could look out on the street, to enjoy the autumn leaf fall or night snowfalls in winter. Another inconvenience in this housing is the lack of a kitchen. There isn’t even a washbasin. The pit also lacks the most important thing, that is, a toilet. In spring, summer or autumn, you can relieve yourself at large, for example, in the thickets or somewhere else. In winter you will have to sit on the pot and take the contents to the top, so as not to accidentally freeze some important parts of your body. But there he could build a small stove to heat the pit and cook food. However, this is only useful for the cooler seasons. In summer, you will have to cook food outside, on a campfire. With such thoughts, Ibn Kambal first of all, took out all the garbage from the pit, carefully glued some wallpaper to the plastered, putty wall, and laid cardboard boxes at the bottom of the pit. He made a small bookshelf and hung a portrait of the president of the country on the wall. He descends into his dwelling like a submariner descending through the upper hatch of a nuclear submarine with cruise missiles on board. Sometimes he feels like a tank man, rushing forward at breakneck speed on his tank, destroying everything in his path, schools, hospitals, kindergartens, trees and burning houses, crushing livestock, and a crowd of refugees and children. Ibn Kambal loves to read at night in the light of a kerosene lamp an interesting book that he bought at the bazaar, where you can buy a book much cheaper than in bookstores. Ibn Kambal loves book fairs, especially a specific flea market in the bazaar, similar to an old open-air museum where people sell old things. Almost anything can be found in there. Torn chrome and tarpaulin boots, breeches with a red streak of a general who once died, school bags, books without covers, bugles and drums of pioneers, textbooks, icons, rosaries, a bronze bust of Lenin, a dog-fur hat, an old accordion, a portrait of Stalin, cages for songbirds, aquariums, even wrenches, is there something they don’t have, my God! Fashionable dresses with the hats of long-dead old ladies, chains, crimson jackets, telephones of the twentieth century, globes,traps, samovars, wooden suitcases, old coins, buttons, brass musical instruments from a brass band, axes and saws, scissors, children’s toys, heavy cast-iron irons working on hot coal. You c an buy whatever you want or just look at things for free, like museum exhibits. The most valuable things at this flea market for Ibn Kambal are old books with yellowed pages and worn, torn covers. Those who sell old things at a flea market do not know the price of these books, since they do not read them. They simply lack the refinement of feelings and thoughts, emotions such as surprise, admiration, perception, witchcraft influence and the effect of words on consciousness, which, like magic, enchant, giving a person a certain mood, giving him the opportunity to dive into the depths of sweet memories of his youth and love, forgetting for a while about pain and suffering in a cozy spiritual solitude. One day Ibn Kambal heard a very interesting conversation between a a customer and the cashier. -You know, yesterday I just saw this guy in a dream -said a cheerful customer, smiling at the portrait of Stalin. — Really? What’s your name? -said the seller. -My name is Lodim Cotin — answered the customer. — I wonder what Comrade Stalin’s doing in your fucking dreams? — the seller asked in surprise, with a smoking cigarette in his teeth. — In short, it was like this. I had died in my dreams and was taken to a stone cave, where there was a huge crowd of sinners who stood looking with horror at the blazing fire and their huge shadows swayed on the stone of a giant cave. I see some of them sitting on stone benches. I approached a man who was wearing breeches and chrome boots with long tops, big-eyed, thin build, with a sharp nose and rectangular moustache. He was dressed in a brown uniform, with an iron cross and his hair was combed to the side. I approached him cautiously and said. — Move aside, please, Uncle, otherwise I’ll get exhausted… Hearing my words, the man in the brown uniform was furious. He was so furious that he blushed up to his neck, like an angry turkey. His eyes widened with anger and the cheekbones of his face began to twitch convulsively. — Do I look like an uncle to you, schwein! Don’t you recognize your Fuhrer! I’m Adolf Hitler! — he shouted. I got scared when I recognized the bloody dictator of the twentieth century, Adolf Hitler, who turned the world upside down, turning beautiful cities into ruins, killing 50 million innocent people. — About Bette, I’m sorry, Herr Schicklgruber — I asked for forgiveness. Here, interrupting our conversation, a man of about forty-five, fifty, bald, short, with a red goatee beard in a suit and with a red tie around his neck came up to me. He looked smilingly straight into my eyes, as if into a deep well, and began to speak fluently, holding his cap in his hand. — And me, сomyade? Do you yecognize me? Well… ESEDYEPE, Smolny, the Bolshevik payty…Kyupskaya Nadezhda Konstantinovna, the upyisings of the woykeys and faymeys in Petyagyad… wintey palace, Octobey yevolution… .Bank of the lake»Yazliv», Kyilataya fiaza, the slogan «pнoletaians of all styans unite!»..Well, do you yemembey now, the уed Aymy soldiey? «What is it?» — he asked, holding on to the lapel of his world-famous jacket with one hand. — Oh, is that you, сomrade Vladimir Ilyich? Wow! I never thought that I would ever meet you here. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you right away. This must mean you will be rich,- I said, rejoicing. -What do you mean, you’ll be yich, comyade? Do you even think when you talk? I will nevey become yich, exploit! Aftey all, I am the leadey of the pyoletayiat all, yaght? And you’ye compaying me to some damn bouygeoisie! You aye wandeying like a the blood enemy of the woyld pyoletayiat, like social evolutionayies and monaychists and beelogvideytsy! It’s not good, comyade, oh it’s not good — Lenin said, offended by my words. — Excuse me, Comrade Lenin, I wanted to say that you will get rich not materially, but spiritually — I justified myself. Hearing my answer, Lenin’s mood quickly lifted. He was delighted, as a little boy, and the pupils in his narrow eyes gleamed with joy from a smile. — This is quite a big deal, comyade the уed Aymy soldie! Well, did the bloodthiysty gangs of the Basmachi Kuibashi Kuisheymet and Ibyagimbek in Tuikestan? — the leader of the proletariat asked, looking into my eyes again, as if into a deep well. — Yes, Vladimir Ilyich, they crushed it. Defeated, but… I replied, fearing that my next words might again greatly upset the leader of the world proletariat. -It’s a shame, comyade yedaymeyets, why do you say «but»? — Lenin asked again, holding on to the lapel of his world-famous «troika» jacket with one hand, nervously clutching his cap in the other hand, looking like a platypus. — You see, Vladimir Ilyich, I don’t even know how to explain this to you. In short, the USSR has collapsed! — I said. — What?! The USSY collapsed?! What aye you talking about, comyade?! Oh my God! — said the leader of the proletariat , looking at me with bewilderment. His mood soured again and he began to nervously pace back and forth, like a wolf in a cage. — Were you not aware?.. That is, have you not heard about the collapse of the USSR, Vladimir Ilyich? — I said surprisedly. Lenin stopped abruptly and said: — Aye you out of your mind, comyade the уed Aymy soldieys, how can I find out if there is no telegyaph heye? — Yes, you’re right, Comrade Lenin, that makes sense. — I agreed. Then Hitler began to rejoice: — Zuldatun und offitzigen des dgitten gijches! Communishten kaput! Their gratulige! Huwah- hah hah haaaa! Yeh- hah hah hah haaaa! — he laughed, and began to dance, singing a cheerful song by Lily Marlene, masterfully playing his harmonica, which he took out of the top of his chrome boot. Lenin began to pace nervously back and forth again, occasionally casting an angry glance at Hitler. Then, stopping abruptly, he asked me. — What, now the USSY into the hands of the social yevolutionayies? — No, Vladimir Ilyich, first General Secretary Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was elected president of the country. And then the State Emergency Committee and power passed into the hands of Yeltsin Boris Nikolaevich, who was put into a bag by the saratniki, and thrown from a high bridge into the Moscow River. He miraculously survived… — I replied. — Who is Mikhail Gaibachev and what is his name… Boyis Yeltsin! Oh my God, why weye they knocked out and not appointed! Wheye have the Communists gone?! Such a layge and gyeeat county was destyoyed by the mice! — Lenin said, nervously hitting the knees of his legs with the palms of his hands. — This is nothing, Vladimir Ilyich, in comparison with the statements of the State Duma deputy Mr. Zhirinovsky. He said that it was high time to take your corpse out of the mausoleum and burn it in the crematorium, and bury the ashes in Ulyanovsk, where you were once born. — Yeally? Did he say that? Foy such woyds of such countey-yevolutionayies, it is necessay to shoot them without tyial and investigation, and send them to the concentyatijn camps! Let them byeak the gyanite stones theye in the negative 40 degyees and make them cayyey heavy stones on theiy backs, jingling the chains on theiy heels and on theiy feet in theiy styiped pajamas! — said the leader of the proletariat, clutching his cap even more tightly in his hand. In order to somehow distract comrade Lenin from discussing such a topic, I began to lead the conversation in a different direction. — Excuse me for a stupid question, comrade Lenin, what are you doing here? -You see, comyade, I naively obeyed the woyds of comyade Kayl Mayx, well, this Kayl and his yich dude, like him, yes, Fyidyih Engels, thinking that judgment day does not exist. It tuyns out that I was veyy wyong then… Meyciful Loyd, have meycy on me, youy deay God, in the name of the fathey and the son and the light of the spiyit, Amin! — Lenin crossed himself briefly, looking with wild horror at the blazing flames of hell and at the lava that bubbled like molten metal. At that moment, a man in a military tunic and breeches appeared near us, of medium height, with his hair combed back, with a bushy handlebar mustache and with a smoking pipe in his teeth. One of his hands turned out to be withered. — Gamarjoba, genatsvale! — he said, puffing on his pipe. I recognized him immediately and said: -Oh, hello, Comrade Stalin! Are you here too? — Yes, unfortunately… Well, genatsvale, did the Crimean Tatars, Jews, Armenians, Ukrainians, Ingush and Chechens, who we deported to Central Asia, get used to the new living conditions? What’s the news? — he asked. -No, Comrade Stalin, unfortunately many of them died from lack of air in the wagons of freight trains designed to transport horses. They were forced to bury their dead children and other loved ones in the sand of the Kazakh steppes along the way. Many died later, from hunger and disease. Only a few remained. Many Jews, Armenians, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Chechens and Ingush were sheltered by our Uzbeks, sharing with them their last pieces of bread in difficult times. This is nothing compared to those who died in concentration camps located in the Gulag archipelago, in Salikamsk and in Magadan. Intellectuals were mostly sent there, declaring them the worst enemies of their people, accusing them of espionage. Millions and millions of people rotted alive in cold barracks, from lack of food, from dysentery, from typhus and tuberculosis. Many went crazy and hanged themselves on ropes, others committed suicide by cutting off their genitals. And how many soldiers and officers, old people, and children, innocent people died in the war! From the lack of weapons and ammunition, poor soldiers with wooden machine guns in their hands went on the attack in companies, shouting together «For the Motherland, for Comrade Stalin!»and the Germans shot them like partridges, creating a mountain of corpses of dead soldiers, sergeants and officers. Beautiful cities, factories and factories have turned to ashes — I said, sighing sadly. — Well, what can you do, genatsvale, war is war and it requires sacrifices. Let’s have a better conversation with you about positive events… I was once informed about the heroic work of the Uzbek people, who built the great Ferghana canal manually in 45 days, with the help of hoes and shovels, headed by this bald guy… Unfortunately, I can’t remember right now. After the stroke, my memory deteriorated. I remember I gave him my watch when he came late to the meeting. I once jokingly told him, they say, I want to invite you to Moscow, but I’m afraid that you will open channels around Moscow… How we were laughing then, Lord… Well, how are things going there? The Mirzachul desert with the Kizilkum probably would have turned into green cotton fields, into gardens and vegetable gardens rustling in the wind? Stalin said, stroking his bushy mustache like a cat. — No, Comrade Stalin. After improper use of water resources, the water level in our rivers dropped sharply and our Aral Sea dried up. It turned into a puddle. There is an ecological catastrophe there now. Sandstorms are rising, covering the entire territory of Karakalpakistan and Khorezm with salt. There is a fear that very soon the entire Central Asian region will turn into a desert. By the way, I even wrote a poem about it. It’s called the «chase». Would you like me to recite it by heart, Comrade Stalin? I said. — Yes? Here’s the news. I used to write poetry, too. Come on, read it, genatsvale, if you wrote about an environmental disaster in Central Asia. Only read it briefly. Otherwise I don’t have time for this,- Stalin granted me permission, lighting his smoking pipe. I started reading my poem. The chase In my youth I chased the desert, To turn it into cotton fields. Also grow watermelons and melons, Where poplars will ring white. The desert was running away from me, afraid, From the traces of lizard on the dunes patterns. Now I regret, singing in the sand, that our sea has dried up. In vain, oh in vain I chased her then, Although all this happened a long time ago. Now I’m running from sandstorms, And the desert is chasing me. After listening to my poem, Stalin applauded me, clapping his hands, smiling slyly with a smoking pipe in his teeth. — Wah wonderful, genatsvale, wonderful! You write like Shota Rustaveli! — Thank you, comrade Stalin! But it seems to me that your words don’t sound very sincere,- I said, as if skeptical of his words that he uttered. — What are you saying, you bourgeoisie! Is it possible to lie in such a place like this? Look how the fire is burning! O Lord Jesus, have mercy and bless your sinful servant Joseph Dzhugashvili! Lord, how many churches, synagogues, mosques and Buddhist temples have I destroyed to the ground, ordering by secret decree to demolish crosses from the domes of temples, crescents from the mosques and erase the six-pointed star of David from synagogues! By my order, the Red Army soldiers removed the bells and sent them to metallurgical plants for casting to create parts for tractors from them! We have turned the sacred temples, mosques and synagogues into a vegetable storehouse! The Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim clergy were exterminated. Oh, how I’ve sent so many saints to distant death camps, from where no one has ever returned home! Just at this time, a tall, fat and bald man ran out of the crowd and approached Stalin. Then he began to speak: -Have you been summoned, Comrade Stalin? Stalin took his smoking pipe out of his mouth and looked at the bald man in surprise. — What are you doing here, enemy of the people?! You English spy! This friend here says that due to the incorrect distribution of water resources, the Amudarya and Sirdarya rivers in Uzbekistan have turned almost into a dry riverbed, and the Aral Sea into a puddle! It turns out that the entire Central Asian region is gradually turning into a desert day after day! Fertile lands, cotton fields, orchards and vegetable gardens are covered with salt! Where are we going to sow cotton now? In your grandmother’s garden or something?! It’s all your fault! Bukharin’s tail! Answer me, you bastard, before I repress you! Otherwise, today, in the predawn darkness, NKVD officers will come for you in the car of the GPU «Black Raven» and will quietly knock on your door to take you where you need to go,- he said. Hearing this, the tall, fat and bald man sat down on his knees and began to move his knees towards Comrade Stalin, pressing his headdress to his chest, like a disabled person who had both legs amputated due to gangrene. — Oh, come on, Comrade Stalin! Don’t repress me! Your secret service can shoot me according to the verdict of the military tribunal! I am not an enemy of the people and not the tail of Mikhail Dmitrievich Bukharin! We mastered the Mirzachul desert according to the project of Comrade Lenin himself! It’s Lenin’s fault for everything! — he said crying. — Oh, you damn contya! You want to accuse me, the leadey of pyaletayat, of the cyimes of the centuyy, which you youyself have committed! I fiystly heay about the deseyt «Miyzachul»! My pyoject says «Hungyy Steppe». Holy shit… The scoundyel! Come on, put youy payty ticket on the table, invadey! The cyiminal element! — Lenin said, angrily. — No, never! I’d rather die than put my party card on the table! — said the tall, fat and bald man and began to sing: Arise ye workers from your slumbers Arise ye prisoners of want For reason in revolt now thunders And at last ends the age of cant. Away with all your superstitions Servile masses arise, arise We»ll change henceforth the old tradition And spurn the dust to win the prize. So comrades, come rally And the last fight let us face The Internationale unites the human race. After he sang the international communist anthem, he ran shouting «For Comrade Stalin!» and jumped straight into the abyss, where hell’s flames were burning and lava was bubbling like molten metal — the customer at the flea market said, finishing his story. — You see, dude, I’m not a sorcerer, but it seems to me that this dream of yours predicts the approach of your inevitable death. In order to prevent this, you should buy a portrait of Comrade Stalin or this bronze bust of Comrade Lenin. I also have a book by Karl Marx called «Capital». Buy it. I think you have no other way. And I’ll sell it for cheap, almost for a gift, it’s a pity to throw it away, you know? — No, I’d rather buy this woollen ceremonial jacket together with state orders and medals, — said the buyer. — Why do you need this jacket of a recently deceased World War II veteran? another customer was surprised. — What for? I will participate in the celebration dedicated to Victory Day, wearing this jacket along with orders and medals, and everyone will congratulate me on the holiday, as a hero of a bloody war. They will hand me flowers, shed tears of joy, set off fireworks and even pour alcohol — he replied. — You bastard! How can you do that! What a vile, disgusting person you are! — another customer said. — what? Am I a vile person?! Well, well, you better look at yourself! Look in that mirror over there! Your head is too small, it’s the size of a lemon. And your nose is like an elephant’s trunk, like the breathing hose of a gas mask. Your arms are long, like an orangutan, your legs on the contrary are short and crooked. I don’t even want to talk about your ass. It hangs like the huge backpack of a tourist who came from distant Europe to ancient Bukhara. After that, a fight broke out between the buyers and Ibn Kambal decided to hastily leave the bustling flea market with a worn book in his armpits until the police arrived.
16/09/2022. 1:29 PM. Canada, Ontario.