FATHER

Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian

by

Jane H. Buckingham

Translation edited by

Shona Brandt

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

1 At five o’clock in the morning the young candidate of philological sciences, the university lecturer Pogodin, awoke to the distant voice of his wife calling his name, “Vasia, Vasia!” He was sleeping on the couch in the office – what one of the two rooms in their apartment, where there were bookcases and the computer, was called for convenience. Pogodin opened his eyes and, without getting up, opened the door, which was very close, right from the couch. “What is it?” he called through the hallway. By the noise of water he heard, his wife was in the bathroom. The street was completely dark and he tried to figure out what time it was. “I can’t hear you! Come here, it seems it has started!” his wife called again, turning off the water after a short time. Immediately understanding what had started and being terrified, Pogodin got up and, stumbling over the wash on a wire rack stretched out in the room, went to his wife. Dasha, in a short nightie, was standing in the open shower. There was something wet on her right leg and some slimy fluid with pink streaks was flowing down to the white plastic of the shower stall. “Do you know what this is? I woke up and here... Perhaps already?” his wife asked plaintively and jerkily. She was pregnant with their first child at thirty-nine weeks and her due date was only ten days away, at the end of September. His wife read thick proper books about childbirth and, with her characteristic persistence and trust in everything written on paper, was waiting for distant signs of birth: false contractions, then fits of genuine but infrequent bloating of the mammary glands, and others. She was not prepared for the birth to start suddenly without any build-up and completely not according to the described rules and was now confused, not understanding what was flowing down her legs. Pogodin also did not expect it to be so soon and thought of the child as of something far away, rather abstract. He could not believe that all these months it was close by in his wife’s abdomen, and it seemed that the child would appear from somewhere outside. He did not ponder over from where exactly; the main thing was that it would happen later. Even when the child was pushing, often with great displeasure and even irritation, and his wife gasped, it was also difficult for Pogodin then to imagine that his son was so near, just under a layer of skin. Only sometimes, when under his palm, if he held it for long on his wife’s stomach, something firm and obstinate took shape: a head, a back, or a shoulder, and Pogodin understood that the child was indeed there and in this obstinate pushing already showed his, the child’s, own independent will. “Maybe something bad? I’m scared! What do you think? Shouldn’t be so soon! Huh?” his wife said, nervously stretching a hand out to him. Pogodin took her hand and pressed it slightly for support. He wanted to embrace his wife but could not, for fear of infecting her. He had caught a cold from somewhere
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2 unknown, which was precisely why he was sleeping in the office on an uncomfortable couch and not in the bedroom. “Have the contractions already started?” Pogodin asked. “Don’t ask. How do I know?” His wife bent her head down and looked at herself lamentably as if she had never seen herself before: it was as if the slender legs and the contorted protruding belly covered by the nightie were not hers but some one else’s. “How do you know? Then who should know?” Pogodin was surprised. “Perhaps they’ve started. I have pain right here!” Dasha vaguely pointed to the top of the stomach and began to describe how a nagging ache had woken her up and something started to leak. The pain was not strong and his wife at first did not want to get up, then called him but he did not hear her. Dasha spoke, swallowing her words, incoherently, and Pogodin did not understand much but silently felt sorry for her, when suddenly at the end his wife said decisively and in a businesslike tone, “Get the book. You know which one! Fetch it!” These sudden, always unexpected transitions from softness and helplessness to stubbornness, imperiousness, and even despotism were quite characteristic of Dasha and Pogodin had gotten used to them. The first time he fought with them, was upset about them, trying to find some pattern but not finding it, he once and for all shut himself off with the simple, reliable, and comforting thought, “She’s a woman... They always have whims and tricks. So, it has to be this way and I won’t think about it anymore, won’t fret.” Pogodin understood everything through a foggy creation from lack of sleep, as if through a veil. There was no excitement or anxiety and he acted automatically, taking in only the edges of events taking place. He did not like the pink spot at the bottom of the shower stall nor that his wife had given him an order, but he knew that now was not the time for arguments. He went into the room, picked up the book on childbirth written by two German scientists with each name on the dust cover having the conceited title of “Professor” and “MD,” flipped through it, and, getting annoyed at how incoherently it was written, found the necessary table soon enough. “Early warnings of birth: the appearance of blood, release of mucus with streaks of blood. May occur for several days prior to the emergence of other warnings or not happen till the start of labour pains,” he read and went into the bathroom to repeat it to his wife. He thought that Dasha was waiting impatiently for him, but she had almost forgotten about it, as she had also forgotten that she needed the book. She turned the shower on full and energetically, face determined and biting her lips, washed the pink trail off her legs and the floor. It reminded Pogodin that she also wiped the table after a meal and washed the floor the same way, rubbing them with such surprising strength as if she hated them profoundly. Dasha was always extremely clean, almost a clean freak. She bathed twice a day, washed her hair once a day, and changed towels and linens
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

3 often; therefore damp laundry was forever hanging in the apartment and the smell of dampness was even in the room at night. In the way she was showering and rubbing her leg with soap and the washcloth, as if trying to wipe the skin off at the same time, Pogodin decided that his wife could not control herself. Fearing that she would now hurt the child with her washing, he grabbed the showerhead without a moment’s hesitation. “Don’t. Turn it off!” “Let go... no... I will! I know better... leave me alone!” his wife panted. Now they were both holding onto the showerhead and each pulling with strength, spraying jets of water. His wife was pulling furiously with tight lips, Pogodin cautiously but resolutely, at the same time watching such that his wife would not lose her balance and fall in the slippery stall. He was much stronger and felt that he had the upper hand, but suddenly recollecting that he was wrestling, almost fighting with a nervous pregnant woman, he yielded, became embarrassed, and let go. Pogodin expected reproaches and tears would now begin anew, but his wife grew quiet and calmed down almost instantly, not for the first time surprising him with the abrupt transition from one state to another. “By the way, I’m the one giving birth!” she said already quite calmly. Convinced that the pink drops were dripping again and it was impossible to stop them, Dasha finally gave up. She turned off the water and a sudden silence hung in the bathroom. To break the silence, Pogodin began to describe what he had read in the book, but Dasha was already not interested: unerring female instinct had managed to hint to her what was happening, and the book on childbirth was not needed again. “In fact, how do these two Germans, never having given birth themselves and even incapable of doing so, know how it is with women? Hearsay? But what is such hearsay?” thought Pogodin. While he was pondering the wisdom of nature, his wife still remained in the shower and managed to pull the phone by the cord to herself to call her aunt, a skinny and nervous woman, whose practical mind she had always trusted. Despite the early hour, her aunt answered after the second ring, understood everything right away, and her energetic and forceful voice was heard a moment later. Pogodin walked along the hallway and listened to the conversation. Yesterday his wife and her aunt went for a consultation and with great effort secured a referral to the well-equipped Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, but not surmising that the birth would be so soon, did not get the necessary signature of the chief physician, without which the referral was worthless, and now they were deciding how to proceed. Finally after a short discussion it was agreed that they would wait another hour, till seven, to see whether labour had actually started or there was still time. Her aunt told her not to be nervous and promised to come, but his wife had already calmed down and

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

4 was only listening to herself. Padded with a towel, she moved over to the bed and settled down comfortably. “It stopped! Seems it has stopped!” she said several times happily, then pouted and turned uncomfortable, looking down through the blanket, and Pogodin understood by her movement that the water was continuing to get under way. About another twenty minutes passed this way monotonously: his wife dozed off, then looked at the clock, marking the time of the contractions, and asked Pogodin to pull a towel out of the linen drawer. “Not that one!” she said impatiently. “Too big. The red one! What do you mean not there, when I remember that it’s there? Oh, it started again! What do you think, everything will be fine, huh?” she added plaintively and again continued in a discontented voice. “Yes, the cherry one! You really didn’t understand that when I said red I meant that one.” Pogodin left the room and again wandered around aimlessly. To the extent that, as he woke up more and more, fear and anxiety roused together with him. It seemed to him that he was worrying much more than his wife, who, counting the time between contractions and changing the towels, did not even have time to worry. The candidate looked idly into the kitchen with the mess of dishes from the evening and the pot of geraniums wrapped in newspaper standing on the table. Then he went into the room and stared at the cold leather couch with the sheets slipping onto the floor and the blanket pulled up, the couch on which he was sleeping so uncomfortably. “Lie down again? No, don’t. What, crazy, not now!” he thought, experiencing almost squeamish horror towards the couch. Trying to calm down, Pogodin walked over to the bookcase, pulled out a book – it seemed to be Cantemir’s1 poetry, read three or four lines without understanding and, not reaching his goal, shoved the book back into the bookcase. “All the books, even the best are fake, substitutes of someone else’s life, and here’s the proof!” he thought suddenly. “We read them only when we have no strong feelings. When the feelings appear, books are forgotten. For example, you read about a terrible massacre or a plague, and nothing, you’re almost indifferent, but when you cut your finger or come down with the flu... Or books about love, what are the great fateful passions described there worth compared to our tiny, slightly warm feeling?” Pogodin was about to turn on the computer in order to outline in two lines the ethics case interesting to him, when his wife hailed him again, “Vasia, where are you? Why did you leave? I’m scared by myself.” Pogodin felt ashamed that he had deserted her and hurried over to her. Although Dasha was, as she said, scared by herself, it did not prevent her from calmly counting

1

Antiochus Cantemir, Prince Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir (1708-44), Russian poet-satirist and diplomat, figure of early Russian Enlightenment. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

5 out white homeopathic balls,2 transporting them out of the square cardboard box into a tin one for daily use. “Three... four... Well, where is it? Five, six, seven... Did you bring it?” “What’s it?” “Really! My blue notebook. I shouted to you!” his wife repeated. “Did you? I didn’t make it out!” Pogodin was sincerely surprised. Realizing that he had not heard her shout, his wife decided to express displeasure and wrinkled her smooth pink face, as she alone knew how to do. Her facial muscles moved like that of a mime actress. In a moment, a dozen different wrinkles broke through her face: two overlapping on the forehead, two under the eyes, three under the bend of her nose, and one on the chin. These wrinkles immediately made his wife’s pretty face ugly and it was distressing for Pogodin. He looked at his wife and, not noticing, frowned as if he tasted something sour. “Don’t do that, I already asked you! Why mar yourself?” he said and quickly went out for the notebook. On hearing how a car quickly drove into the courtyard and braked, he ran with the notebook in his hand up to the window and looked out. The car that pulled in was not visible – a huge, spreading linden, not yellowing anymore, had completely hidden it. Although he did not see the car, Pogodin was certain who had arrived, and the slam of the iron entrance door confirmed that he had guessed correctly. Soon hurried footsteps were heard along the stairs, and then the doorbell, malfunctioning for a long time, reluctantly grunted two or three times. Just as the doorbell pretended to ring, Pogodin pretended to hurry to the door. With a greeting in passing, into the apartment quickly came first a small brisk woman with short hair, and behind her, a tall, stout woman with a good-natured but as if always slightly offended face. The first was Dasha’s aunt, the second her mother, whom her aunt had picked up on the way. The two visitors, who had obviously gotten dressed in a great hurry, quickly darted past Pogodin and disappeared into his wife’s room. Energetic voices were heard from there at once; their eternal family battle had started. All three – his wife, her aunt, and his mother-in-law – were good women and quite harmless individually, but when they got together, it was as if simple chemical reagents, safe separately but creating dynamite together, were combined. A carelessly spoken word was enough of a spark to be followed by a chain of deafening explosions. Right now, not listening to each other, all three women were talking about one and the same thing: that risks must not be taken and they must go to the maternity hospital as soon as possible. Although everyone was talking about the same thing, each had the

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Homeopathic medicine in a solid form is in the shape of tiny balls the size of cake decorating balls; from 1 to 10 are taken at a time and are to be dissolved slowly in the mouth. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

6 impression that the others did not understand her and were arguing with her, and the voices were becoming louder. Pogodin did not want to go into the room where he would immediately have to take someone’s side, which would be impossible because the party was one. He leaned his back against the wall and amused himself with covering up his ears with his hands and then uncovering them. This led to the spoken words becoming blurred and losing their meaning and only the voices remained. “Ti-ti-ti! Tu-ti-ta! Ta! Ta!” said his wife. “Bu-bu-bu-bu!” said her mother. “Tra-ta-tata-ta!” the energetic aunt cut off everybody. Finally, the “ti-ti-ti” and “bu-bu” petered out and fell silent and only “tra-ta-ta-ta” remained. “We lost!” Pogodin said and took his hands away for good. Suddenly he felt ashamed that he was behaving like a boy at this important moment and he entered the room. His wife was lying on the bed and quickly leafing through the phone book, and her mother, obviously not having any idea what to do with her hands, was toying with the empty blue cup without a handle, in which Pogodin brought Dasha tea in the morning. His wife’s aunt looked askance like a bird at Pogodin and continued to talk rapidly on the phone, “What do you mean no? Why? We’ll bring the consultation referral and the medical card! Why the last moment? It’s only been a week! You yourself know that no one knows exactly when... Yes, yes, I understand that you have specific rules, but can’t we come now and then get an appointment? Not done? That means you think there’s no chance of getting in at yours? No, she doesn’t want to be at home... You don’t know, then who should know whose authority, your chief doctor? No, I’m not yelling at you, I’m asking your advice! Miss, my dear, please tell us, if you were in this situation...” The aunt talking on the phone reminded Pogodin of a brisk little weasel or fox, which runs along a solid wooden fence and looks for the slightest opening to get into the coop. However, this fence was evidently quite impassable because, when she hung up, the expression of affable attention, with which she had tried to hypnotize the other party remotely, slipped off her face at once. “Stinker-stinker-stinker!” the aunt said hurriedly, without anger, and her “stinkerstinker-stinker” merged into one long word. “They won’t take you at the Institute of Obstetrics: we didn’t manage to bring them the card. Why couldn’t you wait another day?” “And I can’t get in without the card? Or bring it now?” Dasha asked, obviously not understanding why the card was needed when she had a stomach and a child striving to leave it. “Don’t be a fool! They have established such rules! Card, examinations, tests, and only by their specialists! Should have thought earlier!” Her aunt straightened her out. She worked in the ministry, in a bureaucratic institution, and knew how great the strength of a piece of paper was.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

7 “No need to rush about!” his mother-in-law said in a bass. “I said, pick a hospital and walk around it until there’s urgent need.” Mother was calmer than her sister and evidently displeased that she was pulled off the bed early in the morning and did not get enough sleep. If the aunt had never given birth and, like any woman never having given birth, imagined the process of a child’s appearance in the world as a chain of horror and unavoidable complications, then the mother had given birth twice, both times in the last few hours when strong contractions had already started, got to the hospital via the train and then the tram because it seemed to her stupid to call an ambulance for such trifles. She gave birth easily and did not even remember what time Dasha, her second daughter, was born. “It seems sometime in the morning,” she said. Although his mother-in-law herself was not worried, and she should not be reproached for indifference, it soothed no one and gave the aunt full freedom to imagine the worst, exercising her imagination and emotions. Therefore, the aunt was certain that the birth would be perilous and difficult, and Dasha had to go to the hospital immediately so that the child would not appear on the way. His wife, reassured by the seething fuss around her, looked satisfied. She was obviously pleased that her aunt and her mother were shouting at her and with it seemed as if removing from her the responsibility for everything that was happening. She lay on top of the blankets with a pillow under her back and awkwardly, hampered by her stomach, pulled on white woollen socks. Pogodin felt completely unnecessary in this small bedroom full of women. Everything was taking place very well without his participation and as if outside his will, and he felt the full absurdity of his situation. Instinct forced him to hang around muddle-headedly in place, not to lose his wife from his field of vision but to protect her from predators. However, there were no predators and therefore Pogodin walked around the room, getting on the nerves of his mother-in-law who had to move her legs, and annoying the aunt with his bustling around. The aunt was in their apartment for only the second or third time, but the phone was already completely tamed by her, and its long cord, all of a sudden wholly lodged in the room, obediently coiled up in a ring near her feet like a cobra bewitched by a fakir. Pogodin tried to advise taking Dasha to their district maternity hospital, which was very close by, only three streets, but both her mother and aunt waved him away; even his wife, not having an opinion of her own, succumbed to the general trend and waved her hand, clutching a white sock, at him. Because of all this, Pogodin was glad when the aunt asked him to go outside and see whether she had locked the car in a hurry and if it was hindering the passage of other vehicles. Realizing that this order was not important but rather removing him from the apartment so that he would not be in the way, Pogodin all the same agreed to play by the rules and pretended that this was quite responsible and truly a man’s task.
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8 Carefully closing the door of the apartment behind him, he went out to the staircase, went down and, once on the street, took a deep breath of the moist air, in which a morning mist was still floating. The morning was grey and fresh, leaves rustled on the pavement. Pogodin walked around the aunt’s car. As he had surmised, the car was parked safely, all the doors locked, and the red light of the alarm system was blinking on the dashboard visible through the window. Pogodin grinned and walked around the courtyard still quite empty in the morning. Everything was quiet, only in the distance around the corner of the building there was the rustle of a sweeper’s broom on dry leaves. A middle-aged man with grey stubble on his face and a big Doberman trailing behind him went past Pogodin. Both the owner and the dog looked ordinary: the man yawned and smoked, and the dog indifferently sniffed the rocks and looked around, and it was evident by the way it did it that going for a walk or sitting at home was all the same to it. “Walks and strolls as if nothing is happening! He has a normal, ordinary day, a day like yesterday or the day before; goes home with the dog, dresses, has breakfast, and goes to work. If I decide for no rhyme or reason to tell him that my wife is giving birth, he wouldn’t be interested. Perhaps he would squeeze out a smile, mutter something, and that’s all,” Pogodin mused, following the man with his eyes and the feeling of deep injustice that his child was uninteresting to other people, as other people’s children and many events of other people’s lives were of little interest to him earlier. “But can he really be accused of callousness? And if everything were in reverse? Let’s say, a month ago when I too had an ordinary day, this man came up to me and said that his wife was giving birth...” Pogodin continued to imagine, but, reflecting that for such an elderly man the children would most likely have already grown up, corrected and changed the condition. “No, not the wife giving birth but say, he told me that his brother had died. What would I do? Well, I certainly would have made a sad face, tried to express my condolences, but sincerely, a hand on my heart, would it be important to me? I would forget about him at once, the minute he left.” While these thoughts slowly, clinging to one another, flowed through Pogodin’s mind, the man’s Doberman stopped, as if remembering something important, quickly turned around, and lifted its back leg for several successful moments at a wheel of the aunt’s car. Once done, the dog looked significantly at Pogodin and ran to catch up to its master. For a few seconds the candidate was taken by surprise, but then he laughed and suddenly felt a strange sense of community with this stupid dog. When he returned to the apartment, preparations were already underway. The aunt and his mother-in-law were rummaging purposefully in the closet, and his wife, already fully dressed, was standing by the door with a bag packed earlier. Her face was distressed but subdued; it was evident that she did not want to leave the apartment, a

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

9 place already familiar and well-known to her, and go to another place, strange and unfamiliar, but she understood that it was inevitable. “That’s it, thank heavens, it’s settled. Arkadii Moiseich called a midwife he knows, she starts her shift at eight... Arkadii Moiseich says: Dasha has a weak aura, must help her with positive emotions, think about bright and happy things...” her aunt, emerging from the bedroom, spoke quickly. His wife’s family, though possessing excellent health, loved undergoing treatment. Their diseases were intricate and incomprehensible, alternating with incredible rapidity. Each month they discovered they had something new. Arkadii Moiseevich was a friend or, as her aunt was fond of saying, their family’s personal physician, associated with a chain of other luminaries with whom he worked “in tandem.” His medical specialty was very obscure: something to do with endocrinology, but this did not prevent him from giving advice on all diseases and prescribing homeopathy. Arkadii Moiseevich, whom Pogodin had seen only once, was portly, bearded, and very even-tempered, with hairy, very wide hands and short fingers. He ate noisily, jaws snapping, and laughed loudly as well. It scared Pogodin to look at his red mouth, constantly moving and always saying something. All through dinner, Pogodin tried to bait Arkadii Moiseevich somehow, put him in his place, prove to him that he was a charlatan, but Arkadii Moiseevich had a unique quality. He listened only to himself and only he could talk, and therefore he was imperturbable. “Vasenka, we’re leaving. Are you coming?” his wife asked, touching the back of his sleeve. “Yes, I’m coming...” Pogodin nodded, feeling that remaining at home now was impossible for him. “What are you going in, track pants and light sweater? Remember, you have to come back on the subway. Aunt won’t be able to give you a ride! And don’t argue, don’t argue with me, mustn’t argue with me now...” his wife said quickly, pursing her lips. “Okay, I’ll change, just calm down...” Pogodin went into the room, taking off the sweater on the way. “Only hurry, please! Indeed not the same as before: a pregnant woman all packed, and we’re waiting for you...” her aunt shouted after him. Opening the closet, the candidate absentmindedly rested his gaze on the sweaters folded in a pile and the ironed shirts, pants, and jackets tightly squeezed against each other in the cramped space. His wife ironed and put away his things and Pogodin tried needlessly not to look here in order not to violate the strict hierarchical order prevailing in the closet. The need to pick out clothing for himself dispirited him and seemed like an unimportant, oppressing trifle, therefore he always wore what came to hand first. Noticing his old favourite jeans, threadbare and folded looking out from one of the shelves, Pogodin eagerly reached for them. Although the door to the room was ajar and his wife remained in the hallway, she caught with her sixth sense that he was going to do
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

10 something forbidden and shouted, “No, not those, take the grey pants! They’re on a hanger on the right!” Pogodin was once again surprised by Dasha’s peculiar intuition, always appearing unexpectedly and generally in domestic matters. Even splashing about in the shower, she would surmise which of the many restrictions he was attempting to disregard: dip a wet spoon into the sugar, put a glass on a polished surface without a trivet, or walk into the room in shoes for outdoors. All these rules oppressed Pogodin, seemed unimportant and nominal, and he did not keep them in his memory. Sometimes a distressing, disagreeable feeling towards his wife roused up in him, and it seemed to him that he was living with a foolish and petty woman, and he was afraid that their children would also be so foolish and petty. In those moments he felt cornered and was angry, and his wife, as if sensing the change in him, became quiet, attentive, and affectionate, and Pogodin soon relented and forgot about his irritation. When he went back out into the hallway, his wife gave him a quick look of inspection, sliding from the shirt collar down to the socks. They closed the apartment door and went out. On the stairs, Pogodin wanted to hold his wife by the hand or even carry her, but Dasha went down by herself, not touching the handrails, and at the end of the flight of stairs quickly went two steps at a time as was her habit. “Stop it, don’t you understand? How do you feel?” Pogodin asked anxiously. Dasha, till then walking down the stairs with a normal face, thought for a moment, put on a suffering expression just in case, and then just shrugged and said, “Everything’s fine... Just hurts somewhere here...” and followed with a vague gesture, which could be referring to not only the stomach but also the chest and even the legs. They sat in the car: his wife and her mother in the back and Pogodin in front. The candidate did not much trust her aunt’s driving skill and told his wife to buckle up. “Can’t buckle up in the back!” her aunt said not without pleasure. “Why not, there’s a seatbelt!” “There’s a belt, but the buckle is broken!” her aunt explained, starting the car and pulling away from the curb. The Volkswagen shook terribly and Pogodin stared reproachfully at the aunt. “What can I do, here’s the curb!” she said, justifying herself and, stepping on the gas, jerked the car from the spot. As it turned out, the road for the aunt consisted of speed bumps, but if there was no bump, she managed to make do with potholes or manholes, their massive covers clanging tonelessly when the wheels went over them. The car, receiving blows to the suspension, shuddered incessantly. His wife and mother-in-law were quiet in the back and Pogodin himself tried with his might to trust the aunt. “Indeed she has already driven for a long time and hasn’t rammed into anything; so, according to the theory of probability, we have a good chance of surviving today,” he assured himself.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

11 The candidate, who did not drive and only knew the central part of Moscow, did not even understand where they were going. He felt the joy of recognition only twice: the first time when they shot past the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on Smolenskaya and the second time when they drove by the long flat building with semi-circular windows facing the Garden Ring.3 The official opponent,4 Professor Derbasov, lived in this building and Pogodin had to travel to him a couple of times before his defence. “When do you have lectures?” his wife, whose intuition prompted that he was thinking about the university, asked in a voice warming up. “Tomorrow.” “You said today.” “You got mixed up. Today there are two study groups for night-school students,” Pogodin explained. “Ah, I see... I wanted to tell you something...” his wife’s face took on a meaningful expression. “Please don’t wear a sweater under the jacket and don’t undo the top button when you have on a tie... And, please, try to recover sooner, take the medicine in the wicker basket...” At last, the car turned into a narrow street, then went along some more, and Pogodin guessed from the relief on the aunt’s face that they had arrived and even, it seemed, remained alive. They stopped for a moment at the closed gates, where a pockmarked young guard, boyishly tapping his hand with a rubber baton, came waddling towards them. Aunt shouted to him that they were bringing a woman about to give birth; the guy started to bustle, ran to the gates, and started to open them in a hurry, pulling them with strength. Pogodin had long noticed that many men, faced with a pregnant woman about to give birth, worried a lot more than the woman herself guided by wise nature. When the gates finally opened, the aunt drove along the yellow concrete fence and stopped at Admissions. Here the aunt and the mother-in-law again began to exchange words quickly and nervously, while his wife was sullen and tense, both hands pressing the yellow bag with her things to her stomach. Forgetting about Pogodin, the three women started to climb the steps. He was about to set off after them, but his mother-in-law shouted fearfully at him, “What are you doing? Where are you going? You’re coughing! If they see that you have a cold, they’ll put Dasha in infectious diseases!” Pogodin felt resentment and his complete uselessness as a father: why did he come here at all if his wife would disappear behind hospital doors inaccessible to him? His soul was somewhat crushed with a feeling of incompleteness.
3

The Garden Ring is a circular avenue around central Moscow. At its narrowest point, the Ring has six lanes, but at its widest, it has eighteen lanes. 4 An official opponent is a doctoral dissertation reviewer who writes an official reference, which will be delivered by the candidate together with the dissertation to the Scientific Council, the defence committee. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

12 At the top of the stairs, his wife turned around, frowning as if remembering something. “Check if I turned off the washer... Cottage cheese on the table; put it away else it’ll spoil... Finish the cake! Buy gauze bandages... And please, I beg you, put pressed garlic in all the rooms, you have to kill your germs!” she shouted in a trembling voice. Pogodin listened to her absentmindedly, rapidly forgetting everything. It was obvious to him that Dasha was now hiding behind the domestic directions, as behind something customary for her, from her fear of the maternity hospital and what was happening inside her concealed in her bulging belly. Pogodin did not remember the very moment when the door of Admissions closed behind his wife. In the middle of the hospital courtyard was a large oval flowerbed with a few stunted trees, and the candidate began to walk around the flowerbed, saying or whispering with his lips those few simple prayers he knew: “Our Father” and the Creed, which begins, “I Believe in God the Father Almighty...” “Go around the flowerbed forty, no, forty is too many, twenty times and then everything will be fine,” he thought. Pogodin lost count after the fifth or sixth round and then was already going around only not to be standing on the spot. The maternity hospital, old, four-story, brownish-yellow with heavy windows and glass on the first and second floors painted white, seemed ugly to the candidate. He wanted to take his wife away from here and carry her off to some other, light and bright place, but he simply did not know where to find this place and suffered with his own worthlessness. When he started the next round, his mother-in-law and the aunt appeared from Admissions. In the aunt’s hands was the same yellow bag that Dasha went to the hospital with, and his mother-in-law carried in an armful her daughter’s pants, sweater, and red shoes. “Where’s Dasha? What’s wrong with her?” Pogodin rushed to them. “Everything’s fine, a doctor examined her. They gave her a gown and slippers. Now she’s in prenatal,” his mother-in-law said. She was a simple woman, as they say, “without sentimental lines” and always talked extremely clearly. Pogodin visually imagined how they had deprived his wife of everything, gave her government shoes and a gown, and led her to a ward. “And the things?” “Returned. Nothing is allowed, not even toothpaste... Must be sterile in prenatal, one bed in the middle of the room there. Here, can you carry this?” the aunt gave him the bag and the mother-in-law put the clothing on top; it was obvious she was glad that she no longer had to carry them. They stood for some time by the car like strangers, not knowing what to say. Earlier only Dasha joined them together; now when his wife was not with them, the bridge between the banks threatened to disappear completely.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

13 “How will I know that it has already happened? Will they call me about it?” Pogodin asked. For some reason, he was afraid to utter in full “when the child is born” and used the vague, nonbinding it. “Indeed they will! They’ll send a telegram on a form with flowers!” his mother-inlaw snorted in mockery. She opened her mouth wide for a moment and the candidate saw the crown on her lower back teeth. “How will I know?” he was lost. “Phone Reception, they’ll tell you.” They fell silent again. Pogodin feverishly pondered what other important things he needed to know before they parted. “How much time does it usually take? I understand it’s impossible to know exactly but at least approximately?” he asked. His mother-in-law threw up her hands in dismay. “Well, you ask some questions!” she said. “Who knows? Sometimes after seven hours, sometimes twelve, and some even a day. I had Katya in five hours and Dasha in two, as soon as I got to the hospital.” Pogodin nodded again, understanding hardly anything. He wanted to say goodbye quickly to his mother-in-law and the aunt and remain alone; it was clear that they wanted to do the same because the aunt suddenly looked at her watch like a person in a great hurry, and, horrified theatrically, exclaimed, “Look, I’m sorry, but I have to be at work. Give you a lift to the subway?” “No need, I’ll walk,” Pogodin turned it down. “Are you sure? Well, as you wish... Just be careful, don’t drop anything, please,” the aunt started to get into the car, in which his mother-in-law was already seated, when suddenly, remembering something, she quickly ripped out a page from a notebook and wrote down phone numbers. “This is my work and home. And this, the bottom one, is Reception. The midwife, when it happens, should communicate with Arkadii Moiseevich and give him a full report! I’ll call you immediately...” She uttered the word him very importantly and gravely, as if everybody in the world had to call Arkadii Moiseich without fail and give him a full report. Finally, aunt and mother-in-law drove away and Pogodin, in order not to walk far to the gates, jumped over a low concrete wall, against which someone, obviously thinking as he did, had leaned two thick boards. At the bus stop, he put his wife’s sweater and shoes on a bench and looked inside the yellow bag, wondering whether he could shove something else in it, but the bag was full even without them. Besides being understandably full of underwear, hygiene products, and all sorts of little feminine things, a small rattle was caught on the bottom more as a talisman. He remembered how his wife had gathered these things according to a large American book and how she laughed when she saw on the list, “a bathing cap and slippers for the husband if you both decide to take a shower.” Certainly, they never counted on a shared shower, but that Dasha could not even bring toothpaste with her seemed preposterous.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

14 Attached to the watch clasp were two small gold earrings, which Pogodin did not see Dasha removing earlier. These earrings seemed to him the most miserable and he felt a sudden compassion for his wife, left in the hospital without any of her own things but only slippers and a gown washed and worn many times by different women. There was something in this that put the hospital on par with a prison. A yellow bus slowed beside him and, slightly opening the door, continued to move slowly. Pogodin was surprised by this at first but suddenly realized that he was alone at the bus stop, and the driver was asking with this movement whether he wanted to get on or not. The candidate picked up his wife’s belongings and hopped on... The apartment on his return seemed oppressively empty. Indeed, this emptiness was not sudden, but it suddenly swept over him, attacked from all sides, as if it had been lurking and waiting earlier until he arrived in order to descend upon him. It was empty in the hallway, the room, the unmade bed, on which lay his wife’s nightie, the kitchen with dirty dishes, and the bathroom with water dripping from the showerhead. Pogodin caught himself for a little while and would rush about again. He looked at his watch and distrustfully brought it up to his ear, checking if it was running. Although the day had seemed endless to him, it was only half-past ten. Deciding to prepare the lecture for the next day, the candidate went to the office and sat down at the desk, then pulled over the stack of books with the earlier text fragments. This ancient Russian literature class was not his but belonged to his former advisor Professor Kseshinskii; however, Kseshinskii was currently sick and asked Pogodin to take over. Earlier Pogodin, having only finished grad school a year ago, rarely had to speak in front of a large audience, he was usually assigned only study groups and special courses, and this lecture was a good opportunity to show himself and test his strength. He secretly hoped to challenge Professor Kseshinskii and give a stronger lecture so that the students, comparing them, would discuss among themselves which one was better. However, in preparing the lecture, Pogodin ventured on too much, not counting the preparation time, and now the lecture was already just around the corner, yet he still had not even started to summarize the collected material. As a last resort, he was left with presenting the topic, using the plan already stated in the textbook and only supplementing this with some new information. This approach deliberately deprived the lecture of special appeal and made it mediocre but quite routine. Many instructors often gave in to this and he, Pogodin, secretly condemning them for it, now began to understand what forced his colleagues to do so. The candidate turned on the computer and, looking over the sources, quickly began to compose the text of the lecture, but soon perceived that he did not feel like working. His thoughts got entangled and returned to one and the same, and then, unable to concentrate, he got up and went out onto the glassed-in balcony.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

15 The uneven, dark, and wet trunk of an oak was seen quite close from a window; a part of the leaves remained green and strong, and the others were brown, soaked, and hung bleakly from the branches. “How strange, why are some green and the others already dried up?” thought Pogodin. “No, that’s impossible, I don’t even know what’s happening to her now... Maybe go and stand under a window there? Although what will I see there? No, better call!” Hastily digging in the pockets of his pants discarded on a chair, the candidate took out the aunt’s piece of paper and dialled the number of the hospital. “Reception,” a female voice answered after the second ring. “Please tell me, Daria Pogodina... How is she? What condition is she in?” he got confused, not knowing how to ask a question. “In prenatal...” the voice answered after a moment’s pause, and Pogodin realized that the receptionist had just found with a finger the line in the registry. He even imagined quite visibly her finger, dry and slightly curved, with a strong and hard fingernail. “Where, where is she? I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch it...” Pogodin said, eagerly hoping to hear some clear and comforting words. “Hasn’t yet delivered. In prenatal...” the voice repeated patiently and the phone beeped. Realizing that the nurse could not impart to him anything except the available entry in a book and setting himself at ease with it, Pogodin sat down at the computer. He was going to prepare for the lecture once again, but instead began for some reason to type question marks on the screen. At first, he typed them closely, packed tightly, and then began to leave a gap after each question mark. It was only when the question marks began to jump to the second line that he stopped, caught himself, and erased them. He had barely managed to divert his attention slightly and get the feel of his work when his wife’s aunt phoned. She was apparently calling from work: other voices were made out in the background. “Hear what I’ve found out. Arkadii Moiseevich got in touch with the midwife and she called him back. Don’t worry, Dasha’s condition is normal. She was asleep the whole day, for the time being the contractions haven’t increased. I was worried that there’ll be some pathology, but the midwife said that everything’s in order. Arkadii Moiseevich approves of her aura and transfers part of his energy to her.” In the aunt’s voice again appeared enthusiastic lisping, whimpering, and right in the middle of the hallway a nonmaterial monument to Arkadii Moiseevich began to arise from the air. This monument grew and spread all the time, propping up the ceiling with its head, and had become tight in the hallway when it suddenly collapsed. The aunt’s voice, losing all its sweetness, said dryly, “Please don’t put anything on my desk! Over there, on the stack!” Pogodin was surprised at first, not knowing what she
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

16 was talking about, but immediately understood that these words were not addressed to him but to someone else interrupting her narration without warning. However, the aunt already checked herself after a second and added a little warmth to her voice, “Now I’m a scatterbrain, got talking and forgot that I’m actually at work... As soon as something happens, I’ll call! OK?” “I’ll be at the university in the evening.” “I remember. Come on, cheer up, soon you’ll be a father!” The aunt said good-bye in a hurry and grew quiet, waiting for the beep to hang up. Pogodin had discovered long ago that a contest of courtesy consisting of who hangs up last would appear at the end of a telephone conversation with her. The aunt, being an experienced ministerial employee, most often won. Now, sensing from the other end of the line the stony ministerial patience limited only by the end of the working day, Pogodin surrendered and hung up first. Until five in the afternoon, when he had to go to the university, he called the hospital three more times and each time was told that Dasha was still in prenatal. “So long... It’s even good that I need to go out now. I’ll worry less on the way, even less at the study groups, and when I return from the university, something will already be known,” Pogodin said to himself. He remembered and was jealous that the daughter of one of his former classmates was born when the classmate was abroad. The young father only found out about it two days later and wept emotionally on the phone; and when he returned after three months, without any worry he received a daughter already fully ready, pretty and plump, in a flannelette blanket and even almost with a pink bow. This pink bow on the blanket and even the lace diapers were perfect fruit of Pogodin’s fantasy, and although he suspected that everything was in fact different, he was not going to destroy the illusion but encouraged it for the time being. Feeling a little weak in the legs from the chill, he did not walk to the subway but waited for the bus. Next to him at the bus stop stood a young woman with a baby stroller, in which a young child, not very old from Pogodin’s point of view, was halfsitting, half-lying. On the face of the miracle of nature a rash bloomed like red roses, here and there, underlined with green spots like young leaves. The child was not embarrassed by his awkward appearance, as he would not be embarrassed by anything happening with him. Pogodin thought that if a bus suddenly flew past on pink wings or the end of the world started, the child would just calmly look at it as he was staring at him now. Pogodin began to look at the little fellow and, practising, imagined that this was his son, but the mother did not like it and shielded her child with her back. Coming out of the “University” subway station, he as usual glanced at the glowing electronic clock in front of the first subway car and saw that the time was now six thirtytwo. Later, he remembered that he had looked at the clock at that moment and attributed this to his seemingly inner connection with his wife; at the time he just
©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

17 thought that the evening study group had already started and he was a little late as usual. Walking along the iron guardrail of the road, which he had walked in all the years as an undergrad and a grad student, and now also as an instructor, Pogodin thought about how he would bring up a son. “Have to start teaching him right away, to speak at first, then to read as early as possible! He should grow talented and fit. The world is especially cruel to men, it crushes and sweeps away the weak and the stupid. I won’t talk baby talk to him, I don’t need fools! Just let him try to grow into a whiner, I’ll immediately send him to military school, exactly, to the military! Settled! Must also tell Dasha, don’t let him count on being tied to her apron strings... And to hell with all mothers-in-law and aunts, what will they teach him?” Pogodin thought incoherently and enjoyed the ruggedness of his own position. He was so carried away that he did not notice how his legs brought him to the necessary floor, and he came to only when the elevator door opened in front of him on the ninth floor of the first humanities building. When Pogodin entered the auditorium, his group was already there and was listlessly conversing among themselves. Pogodin saw on all the faces the same usual and indifferent expression, which was always on them but which so frightened him today in everybody. It seemed to him that they were all floating in calm stagnant jelly, preventing them from smiling widely, moving impetuously, or expressing their feelings clearly. Possibly as a result, Pogodin delivered the day’s topic listlessly, undertook unnecessary arguments, started for some reason to analyse the grammatical forms of Zadonshchina,5 which even he himself, as he found out, remembered poorly already, and made the students trace the family tree of the princes in The Tale of Igor’s Campaign.6 With all these, the students seemed to him boring and restrained, even the pretty girl who sat at the window, whom he had always secretly admired; her nose seemed to be too long today and her face thin and sallow. The study group stretched on forever and Pogodin, more than the students themselves, was pleased when the bell was finally heard. After the first study group immediately began the second one, for another class, and here Pogodin took the opportunity to give the lecture prepared for the next day, having decided to check how it sounded. He regretted his undertaking almost immediately but decided to carry it through. His voice sounded weak to him, the ideas insignificant and trite, and when he wanted to say something new, it was too incoherent. The students listened to him inattentively and watched lethargically, obviously tired for the day, and only one girl, tall, ungainly, with a bony and plain face, was rapidly
5

This is the late 14th century Russian literary monument of unknown authorship presenting a detailed description of the victory of Prince Dmitrii Donskoi (1350-89) over the Tartars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). 6 This is an old Slavic epic poem of unknown authorship giving the account of a failed campaign (1185) by Prince Igor Svyatoslavich the Brave (1151-1201/1202) against the Don Polovtsians. ©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

18 writing the synopsis in a notebook. The candidate was sorry for her and wanted to say that she could also read everything in the textbook, but he remembered what someone had said about this girl, that she indeed wrote intensely at all the lectures this way, but could remember nothing afterwards and cried at exams. Only near the end, when already about ten minutes remained before the bell, Pogodin talked a little and expressed one or two fresh thoughts, unnoticed by anyone because everyone was already tired and even the girl with the notes had put down her pen. Pogodin returned home in the foulest mood. He felt like a man most insignificant, cowardly, indecisive, and shallow, too easy-going on a compromise, and afraid of heavy painstaking work. He recalled how difficult it always was to force himself to go to the archives and sit in libraries and book repositories, and it was not possible to be a true scientist-philologist without this. He also remembered many other difficult and unpleasant occasions splendidly proving and highlighting all of his weaknesses and shortcomings. “I’m already twenty-six and I haven’t accomplished anything brilliant or talented. At this age Pushkin, Lermontov, and Tolstoy were already well-known and their names resounded in the whole of Russia. Earlier it seemed to me my ceiling was still far away, now it seems I’ve reached it. Can I be a good father and even if I can, what if my son will be unimpressive like me or even worse? I wish he would be smarter, a dozen, a hundred times smarter!” Pogodin mused, striding towards home. At this time he thought about his son as something that still had not happened, not appeared in the world, and was somehow sure that his wife had not yet delivered, the contractions had turned out to be false, and perhaps the hospital would even let her go home in a few days. This belief was so strong that when he got home, he did not call the hospital but decided to take an aspirin before dinner to stop the cough annoying him after all. When the phone suddenly rang, Pogodin was startled and, bustling, ran up to it, losing his slippers on the way. It was his wife’s aunt again, loud and agitated, “The third time I’ve called, where did you go? Congratulations, you have a boy, three kilo five sixty. At six thirty. The head is thirty-six, only don’t remember what...” She said something more, it seemed that Dasha was pushing badly and the midwife had to scold her, and then she was given some shots, having a bit of a fever, and was transferred to infectious diseases, but Pogodin almost did not hear her. Afterwards he no longer remembered what the aunt had said and what he had said to her, only remembered that the phone was beeping and he, not even comprehending that he had won this time, stood and listened to it. Everything was as if in the past, but there was no sudden joy, which he had expected from this news. “Probably happiness is the anticipation of something. When the moment comes, there’s already no happiness but relief... What happens with my wife

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

19 and child now? Can I leave them in the hospital, in the hands of strangers?” he pondered. The next morning Pogodin phoned the hospital and found out that he could already bring her belongings and send a note. “Can I see her?” he asked. “She’s in infectious. Not allowed in there. Do you at least have an x-ray?” Reception answered him. “No.” “Then why do you go? Please leave your wife alone! Let her rest, catch some sleep!” Criticizing to himself the existing hospital rules taking away from him some of the most important days with his wife and son, Pogodin typed a letter on the computer for a long time, trying to make it cheerful. After the university lecture, he hurriedly, now and then breaking from a walk into a run, went to the maternity hospital. He showed up in the spacious lobby at the same time the woman sitting at reception was talking to someone on the phone, “A girl, two kilo five hundred.” Her voice sounded not even indifferent but quite toneless, like that of a cashier in a store asking to call a department. The candidate handed a yellow bag and the attached letter to a plump, goodnatured in appearance older woman coming out of the office. There was something trustworthy and calm in everything about this confident woman in a white coat; in Pogodin’s notion, nurses in hospitals, nannies, and cooks should look like this. When the nurse was about to leave, he asked her to give his wife pen and paper so she could write him an answer. The chubby woman turned around and laughed with some special sly expression. Wrinkles appeared on her round, full cheeks near her eyes. “A note?” she said, puzzled. “Why a note?” “What do you mean? I should know what she wants!” Pogodin was indignant, thinking that they would even deny him this. “Ah, you still don’t know!” the nurse guessed. “Go around the building to the left and left again, and there will be their window. Room 102.” “What floor?” “First. I did say clearly: 102,” the woman shook her head and withdrew reproachfully, distressed by his slowness. Pogodin, surprised that such a simple system had not come to his head, ran onto the street and across the lawn around the building. He ran and laughed at the hospital rules, where everything seemed impossible on the surface but was in fact possible. Now the hospital already did not seem to him so gloomy and ugly as it had at the very beginning. Pogodin noticed that at a level of about three or four metres from the ground all the brown bricks were covered with scratches here with a sharp stone, a pencil, and there simply with a pen. There were hundreds of inscriptions, crowding, covering, and forcing out one another – Anton 12.01.1990, Masha Kuzina. 25.07.1998, Pete’s son! 08-Oct©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

20 1993. Above the others, almost at the level of the second floor, where it was impossible to reach, in big letters unevenly traced out in black paint was KIRUNA 3-11-89. “Almost ten years and no one has gotten higher!” Pogodin chuckled, and could not help eyeing the lawn and the wall, gauging on what Kiruna’s indefatigable parent could have struggled up. As he turned the corner and passed by the trampled-down grass, he almost immediately found the necessary window. Someone’s considerate hand had also tried here and under each window the room number was written here with paint and there with a tag. With his foot on the decorative ledge jutting out under the window and his hands gripping the painted grille, Pogodin pulled himself up and looked in the window. He saw his wife on the bed closest to the window. She was in a nightgown faded from much disinfection, her exposed sharp collarbone emphasizing her slenderness even more, and a featureless hospital robe hung next to the back of the bed. His wife’s curly long hair, the object of her pride, was tightly tied up with a bright headscarf. His wife was looking somewhere to the side and did not notice Pogodin. The candidate was about to knock on the window, when suddenly a door opened and a woman in a green gown appeared with some bundles. She was uninteresting to Pogodin and he again wanted to look at his wife, when he suddenly realized that the bundles were newborns. The nurse carrying them in went first to a woman lying near the door, then to his wife and gave her the second bundle. His wife clumsily and very gently took it and held it to her bosom, holding it as if it was something of glass and very fragile. Pogodin realized that this bundle was his son and everything in him died of curiosity and impatience. From where he stood, he could only see a big red ear and part of a cheek. He waited for the nurse to leave and then tapped on the glass with a finger. His wife raised her head and, noticing him through the glass, looked reproachfully and wagged a finger. Having pulled his right hand from the bars and waving impatiently, Pogodin demanded that she bring their son closer to the window. Bare feet getting down from the bed, his wife approached and showed him the child on outstretched arms. Their son had short blond hair as if wet, through which the head shone, a reddish-blue wrinkled face, eyes closed, and blue-raspberry thin lips. The baby was continually making strange movements with these lips, first widening then narrowing them, and pushing the tip of the tongue between them. Occasionally he opened the thin-lipped mouth and hiccupped two or three times at once. The child seemed ugly to Pogodin and did not look at all like him, and both discoveries were unpleasant, but he could not tear his gaze from him, hoping to see on his face at least a grain of intelligent expression. At the same time, Pogodin saw on his wife’s face that she liked their son and considered him hers, and this discovery surprised him.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

21 Evidently it was uncomfortable for the child to be in a vertical position on his wife’s outstretched arms or the too bright light from the window was in his eyes, because the baby suddenly opened wide his mouth, reddened, and uttered a quiet, offensive but prolonged high-pitch sound, stunning his father. His wife began to bustle about, and forgetting about Pogodin, started awkwardly to put the baby to her breast. She turned around and nothing but her back was visible. Pogodin climbed down from the window, experiencing more disappointment than joy. It was difficult for him to believe that this reddish, bawling piece of human flesh was his son, whom his wife had carried in her womb for many months. At the same time, despite the disappointment, Pogodin was gradually filled with a new strong sense of responsibility and duty, and he felt that if needed, he would protect this reddish bawling bundle even at the cost of his own life. Having returned home and anticipating what he would do now, Pogodin carefully washed his hands, took a screwdriver and pliers, laid the bolts out on a newspaper, and unskilfully but very carefully began to assemble the crib, earlier standing behind the closet to save space. Exactly at that moment, he felt himself a father. 1998

©Jane H. Buckingham 2013 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets

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