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The Moon Outside My Window. Part 2

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    Haldor Volcano The Moon Outside My Window (Satirical Novel) Part 2 Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov


Haldor Volcano

The Moon Outside My Window

(17) The Return of the Dead Man

     
      Three months ago the secretary of Uvada Factory Zubeida was put under arrest. She was accused of killing her husband Sultan Savdagar. His body was found in the flood-lands of the Karadarya River. It was hard to identify it. Sultan"s relatives recognized him from the tattoo in the shape of a snake on his right arm. His mother wept, now and then fainting. When she heard the terrible news Zubeida, too, came running. The brothers of the deceased, accusing her of Sultan"s death, gave a thrashing to Zubeida.
      The militia arrested her as a suspect. She cried rejecting all the accusations. Sultan"s body was taken to the morgue. The crowd demanded execution without due process of law. They wanted to make her "tashbaran", i.e. by old tradition they wanted to kill her with stones. Bu the militia did all they could to prevent lynching. At parting Zubeida cried:
      - People, I did not kill him! Don"t you believe me? It"s malicious calumny!.. I didn"t kill him...
      She shed tears, but it didn"t help. She was taken away all the same. The investigation lasted long. A month later she was brought to trial. She pleaded guilty under pressure. After long whispering the court passed the verdict. She was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment and sent to a penal colony. After that there appeared a number of newspaper articles devoted to the case. The TV showed alleged details of Zubeida"s horrible crime. The whole country cursed her in chorus. The investigator Khurramov was given the rank of a major for the disclosure of the crime.
      Days and months went by. Suddenly, to the general amazement Sultan Savdogar turned up in Matarak. He entered the house and, finding no one there, he asked the neighbors:
      - Where is my family?
      On seeing him alive the neighbors shrank back. Then they rejoiced. But the elation soon faded. People started hiding their eyes. They didn"t know what to say. They kept silent. The women started crying. Then an aged woman said:
      - Where have you been gadding, you devil?
      Sultan Savdagar got angry:
      - Why are you scolding me? After all, I didn"t go to Tumen to dance around, but to earn my living. What"s wrong about it? Where are my children? Where"s my wife?
      The old woman continued:
      - Oh sunny, your home is in trouble. Your wife is in prison!
      - What? - said Sultan in surprise- How come? Why? Why in prison? .
      The woman answered:
      - For murder! She was sentenced for murder!
      - For murder? Whom on earth has she murdered? - asked Savdagar.
      -You!- said the woman.
      Sultan Savdagar got frightened and then said:
      - I don"t understand, really. That can"t be! I am safe and sound, and they put my wife to prison accusing her of having murdered me? Are they crazy?
      - Yes, that"s it, sonny! It was misunderstanding. Three months ago the body of a dead man was found on the bank of the river, and they saw a tattoo on the left arm, which looked like yours. The clothes too looked like yours. But the head was disfigureв to such an extent that the militia was unable to identify the body, and they confused it with you. Haven"t you heard about it yet? - the woman asked.
      -No, I came right here
      - Look here - the woman said - Go to the militia station and tell them the whole truth. Tell them to free Zubeida.
      Sultan Savdagar ran to catch a cab to go to the prison. Kalankhan Adalatov and I joined him. When the prison manager saw Sultan Savdagar he came to a standstill. And, shocking all those present, passed over the news to higher officials.
      The prosecutor"s office got down to business and after filling some forms Zubeida was rehabilitated and freed.
      Kalankhan Adalatov, assisted by an attorney, demanded an indemnity for the moral damage she had suffered. He prosecutor apologized to Zubeida on behalf of his office and promised to indemnify her for the losses and punish the culprits.
      - Pardon me, - Sultan Savdogar said hugging his wife on their way home.
      She looked at her husband wistfully and said:
      - Why should I? You are not to blame, after all. Thank God, we are back at home. I am happy now.
      Two months later Zubeida died from heart attack.
     
     (18) The Dputy"s Double
     
      In the morning, as soon as I came to work, I was told that the director had asked about me. I entered the waiting room and greeting the secretary asked her why the director needed me.
      - I don"t know -she said.
      Looking into the mirror and setting my skull-cap right I half opened the Director"s room and asked:
      - May I come in?
      - Aa-aa, there you are -Adalatov said. I greeted him, and he pointed to the chair:
      - Sit down.
      As I sat down Kalankhan Adalatov went on:
      - I have a special mission for you.
      - It"s my pleasure - I said - what is it?
      - The task is not so simple, of course, - the Director went on - but I think you will cope with it. Do you remember my friend Tofik Tulagenich from Itpalkhan?
      I thought a little and then said:
      - Why, yes of course, I remember him. He is a shoemaker, isn"t he? The one who wounded his old father with a hammer, in a state of drunkenness. He then served a term of imprisonment.
      - Yeah, that very man, - said the director, - a friend of mine with a false diploma. Last year he nominated for election to the Chamber of Deputies, and he made it. He is a big man now. We met at the party committee the other day and he said: "We need a reliable man. There"s an important thing for him. We guarantee a big salary. He will have many things to do. Business trips abroad, negotiations and all. In short, you will travel on public transport instead of him.
      I opened my mouth wide in surprise:
      - How can travel instead of him? People that voted for him will not take me for his personality.
      - Don"t worry, - Adalatov said -everything has been well thought over. You"ll put on a mask, and everything will be ok, as they say. You will be traveling on a bus, going to work by metro and by tram so that people might see and say: "Our Deputy Tofic Tulegenich is a modest man. Look, he is traveling by tram along with common people". To make a long story short, I am your commander, and you are a soldier of Uvada Factory. From now on you are on a business trip. Go home. Uvada Factory and the proletariat of all lands are behind you. Go. Here is his address.
      I said good bye to the Director and left his office. I went home to consult my wife. She didn"t agree with me, of course.
      - Don"t go there, dadasi, - she said - it"s dangerous.
      I didn"t listen to her. I packed my things in a sack and made my way to the address I had been given.
      I found Tofik Tulegenich playing golf in his country house, a real villa. A pack of donkey size dogs with golden collars attacked me. I stood stock still. If it were not for the guards who stopped them, they would have torn me to pieces.
      - Who are you? - the guards asked - What do you want?
      I explained.
      They put me into the car that looked like a lawn mower going up and down a smooth clean asphalted road. When we arrived at the golf course Tofik Tulegenich stood there smoking a cigarette, club in hand, and a baseball cap on, with the peak turned back,. He didn"t even look at me, actually. The guards went up to him and told him the whole of my story.
      Tofik Tulegenich hit the ball with the club, and it flew up the lawn towards the little flag. When the ball rolled into the hole Tofik Tulegenich raised his head and said:
      Take him to the instructor. Let him learn for a couple of weeks. We shall see then.
      The guards put me into the car again and we set out towards a two-storied building with black-out windows. I got acquainted with my instructor who gave me all I needed for study. From then on I resided in the villa learning things. Within the two weeks I had learnt all the habits and patterns of behavior of Tofik Tulegenich.
      When I had finished the course I passed all the exams successfully, and they gave me a certificate with Deputy"s credentials, congratulated me, provided me with shoes and clothes and made me put on a mask.
      I picked my bag, went out and I took a bus to go to town. As was riding on the bus I noticed that people were stealthily casting glances at me. In particular, one burly man looking like a shark, with fishy eyes, stared at me as if I had killed his father or something. Then he came up to me and said:
      - Ah-aa a, you scoundrel, there you are! Where are you electoral promises? You took a vow that you would carry out people"s mandates! You promised to fix the roads, equip houses with modern amenities, improve the living conditions in town and all. You sad: "Vote for me, in six months you will get vodka in shops for free. Where is the free vodka? Answer, you jackal!"
      The shark started strangling me, like a python.
      I choked and uttered:
      - When did I make those promises? I have never promised anything to anybody! My instructor didn"t tell me anything about it!
      My words enraged the shark driving him out of his wits. He opened his eyes wide like a
     bull on a corrida public spectacle. The whites of his eyes looked like pieces of cotton from a torn mattress. He shouted:
      - Gosh! He doesn"t even remember what he promised! We must knock on his chump to remind him of that! Instead of keeping his promises, he has built a luxurious villa out of town! Thrash him!
      They started walloping me from all sides. I was a living sack for them. I used my hands and arms as defensive tools to defend against their attacks. They hit me on the head, some with a rucksack, others with a balalaika.
     . When I regained consciousness I was lying on the ground at the bus stop, more dead than alive. The moon was sadly rambling about the night sky. Setting myself against the pole, I got up staggering like a drunkard, stopped a taxi and went to Tofik Tulegeniche"s villa. I paid the taxi driver for the lift, and he left. The skinhead guards in dark eye-glasses came out and asked:
      - What"s the matter with you, boss? Why are you limping?
      I could hardly answer their questions. They put me into the car and took me to the cottage where Tofik Tulegeniche lived with his wife. The latter met me at the entrance. She hugged me warmly and asked:
      - Wow, Tofik, what"s the matter with you? Who"s hurt you? Oh, my God!
      Then she shouted to the guards:
      - Why are you staring, you spongers?! What do we pay you for? Get lost! I don"t want to see you!
      I wanted to say that I was not Tofik Tulegenich but his double. But she wouldn"t let me speak.
      - You"d better keep silent - she said. Speaking is bad for your health. Let us gо, darling. I will put you to bed. We will take a bath, and then I will call a doctor. Oh, Tofik, dear, so many times I have told you not to walk alone without a bodyguard. That"s the result. God forbid, they will kill you, darling. How can I live without you? You should be careful, dear!
      Saying that, she took me to a gorgeous hall with a warm massaging bath. She undressed and washed me and lay me down on the hydraulic sofa in the bed-room with candles burning around and a tiger-skin from Ussuryisk hanging on the wall.
      Not willing to be disclosed I refused to see the doctor. Tofic"s wife stripped naked and lay down by my side. She cuddled up to me and started kissing me passionately. Again, unwilling to be disclosed, I couldn"t say "no" to a woman. "Come what may! - I thought - I have been suffering so long. I might as well enjoy myself a little".
      We didn"t sleep till morning. Acting like mad in bed, she nearly tore me to pieces. At last she spread her white and smooth arms on the bed-sheet and closing her eyes said:
      - Well, well, Tofik! You have cheated me, really! Cunning man you!
      - Why?
      - You have always avoided doing it, haven"t you? You said you were impotent. You joker! You happen to be a real man! I am proud of you. You didn"t let me sleep till morning, my dear cowboy. Now we are going to have a baby. I feel it with all my heart. We will have an heir now! Do you hear? Oh, Tofik, I am so happy! And again she started kissing me all over.
      After a nice breakfast I dressed and with the help of the guards went downtown. As we got to the place I sent them back and dropped in at an office. In the toilet of that office I took off the mask, tidied myself up and went out into the street. Then I went home. The following day I went to work and reported to the director on a successful accomplishment of the secret mission. Kalankhan Adalatov shook my hand and announced gratitude.
      I serve Uvada Factory! - I said.
     
     (19) The Soldier
     
      Following the incidence with the coffin Usta Garib had long been going to town to see the leadership of the Enlistment Office to find out the whereabouts of his son. The officers reassured him that the search work had begun.
      At last Allayar had been found. Looking up at the sky Usta Garib said:
      - God be praised! Tank God, I haven"t lost my only child! You are really gracious and merciful, like the clergyman say!
      I congratulated Usta Garib. Presently, Ramazanov turned up at the door and announced the good news:
      .- Usta Garib, give me a hundred roubles for vodka. Your son has returned from the Army!
      - Stop kidding -Usta Garib said.
      - Run home, you fool - Ramazanov cried.
      - Oh, good for you! What a joy! Oh my God, I thank you once again!
      Usta Garib gave Ramazanov the money and ran home. As he was running by my side he said:
      -Come on, Al Kizim, you will help me slaughter a sheep. We will arrange a toi
     to-day!
      We ran headlong, and when we came to the house we saw Usta Garib"s wife stand in yard crying. Taking his breath, Usta Garib said:
      -Well, congratulations! Didn"t I tell you that he was safe and sound?! And you kept crying. Go and call your son. Where is our soldier boy? Usta Garib"s wife went on crying:
      - Oh, them rascals! May their houses burn to the ground! Damnation! What have they done to my son! May you be consigned to hell for ever!
      -Stop it! What are you talking about, you crazy woman! - Usta Garib said.
      Now Allayar himself came onto the porch. Usta went up to him with open arms saying:
      - Well, hello, sonny! How are you?
      Allayar hugging his dad said:
      Zauri, bizho, genazvali! Gamarzhoba! Is that you Zauri? You"re alive? Haven"t you been stabbed in Kandagar? No, no, you are not Zauri. You are arruvakh! Be gone! Be gone!
      Opening his eyes wide Allayar glanced at his father and pushed him. Usta Garib stepped back and said:
      - What"s the matter with you, sonny? Don"t frighten me. Are you kidding?
      Allayar walked up to the oven and taking the spade lying there gave it to his mother.
      - Karalanyan, Norik, here"s the grenade cup discharge, take it. Why are you standing like that? There"s an enemy sniper beyond the rock, do you see? Fire! The dushmans are there!
      Usta Garib"s wife, holding the spade in her hands, kept crying. Allayar went up to the grate with a fire burning in it, took a burning log out and, turning to me abruptly, cried:
      - Death to dushmans!
      He threw the log at me. I ran out into street and shut the gate behind me. The log hit the gate. I was standing outside the house, in a state of confusion. After some time I left. I walked home cursing war that had taken millions of innocent soldiers and turned beautiful cities to ruins and billions of peaceful people to refugees.
     
     
     
     
     (20) The Secret Agents
     
      It happened on Sunday. Kalankhan Adalatov and I were walking around the market and I said:
      - Master, it has nearly slipped my mind. I, too, have to buy something.
      -What is it precisely? - Kalankhan Adalatov asked.
      - Birdseed. You see, our hens have stopped laying eggs - I answered.
      -We"ll take it for free. At least it will be dirt cheap for us. Your hens will be happy - the Director said.
      - Is it possible?- I asked in surprise.
      - Why not?
      -Well, if it is cheap we will buy a big quantity - I said.
      Adalatov took me to the seed and corn counter. We walked around as if picking and choosing the best seeds at a good price. Suddenly Adalatov stopped before a bearded man selling corn. Before bargaining Adalatov turned to me winking slyly. Then he withdrew his trade union membership card and showing it to the bearded man cried:
      - Don"t move! I am a secret criminal investigation agent! No use to resist! The market is encircled!
      On hearing that the bearded man turned pale, his hands hanging down like those of a cotton doll. Then, suddenly, he picked a plastic bucket, hit Kalankhan Adalatov bump on his head ran towards the gate stumbling and hitting on passers by. Kalankhan Adalatovich took the bucket off his head and shouted:
      - Stop him!
      We chased the bearded man running headlong like hunting dogs after hares. The distance shortened. When were about to get hold of him he suddenly threw his caftan down, and we fell down on the heap of tomatoes turning it to juice. The woman who was selling the tomatoes shouted attacking us with a flour-sack. She hit us a couple of times, so we turned white: our hair, eye-brows, eye-lashes, faces, clothes and all. The way we looked, even our own children wouldn"t recognise us.
      - Thanks for nothing! - I thought. It"s good that there were no bricks or cobbles in the sack.
      Looking at the free performance of ours the saleswomen roared with laughter. We looked like circus harlequins. We stopped to apologize to the woman selling tomatoes. Instead of pardoning us, she wanted to hit us with the sack again but presently Kalankhan Adalatov showed her his certificate and said:
      -We are secret agents of CID chasing a dangerous criminal.
      The woman gave us way in fear. We ran after the criminal again. There were voices coming from all around:
      - What"s going on here? Are they cinema produces, sort of? They must be shooting some comedy! What a place to shoot a film at, idiots!
      - We ran on and on and then the militiamen joined us in the chase. Suddenly the fugitive took a pistol out of his pocket and shot at one of the militiamen who fell down. The runaway had hit him in the leg. It caused panic at the market. People ran scattering in all directions with cries, shouts and curses resounding all around. Some thought something serious was happening. Someone shouted:
      - They are not shooting a comedy, it"s an action movie! They are not militiamen, they are actors! They must be pretending! Good boys! They are acting naturally! It will be a nice movie. That"s another pair of shoes! From now on the whole world will be watching Uzbek movies. It appears, we, too, have good actors and tough producers that do not waste people"s riches!
      Presently the criminal took the red faced taxman hostage putting the pistol to the poor man"s head. The latter got scared and, like a little boy, burst into tears. A few minutes later the barking of guard dogs resounded at the market. The special forces of militia have encircled the market.
      One of the officers, a loudspeaker in hand, started negotiating with the bandit. The latter put forward his conditions. He demanded two hundred thousand US dollars and a military helicopter. Otherwise, he threatened to kill the taxman. If in half an hour, he said, his conditions
     were not fulfilled the taxman would be collecting taxes in hell.
      То save the taxman"s life, the authorities agreed to pay the money and let him have a military helicopter as he had demanded.
      When the detectives had left to fetch the money, a mullah from the local mosque called the bandit for reason telling him not to commit a sin. The pirate wouldn"t listen. He said:
      - Don"t try to push me into the sack and hand me over to the cops, you traitor! You venal mullahs always serve the disgusting rulers by your stupid preaches and by pushing people into sacks.
      The mullah raised his hands to the sky and cursed the pirate
      At last the money had been delivered. The helicopter was also there. The detectives in flak jackets and helmets opened the case and showed the money to the bandit. Then they closed the case and pushed it to his feet. Sliding along the asphalt the case stopped at the bandit"s feet. The latter, holding the pistol against the taxman"s head, ordered:
      - Take the case!
      The taxman took the case with the trembling hand, and the bandit holding the taxman and sneering, made his way to the helicopter.
      At this point there came an audible discharge of gas from behind the taxman.
      Grimacing from the choking vapor the bandit muttered:
      - Uu-uu-gh! You brute! Ugh-ugh! You damned taxman!
      With these words the bandit fell down to the taxman"s feet. Seizing at the opportunity, the cops dashed off to the bandit and handcuffed him.
      Then we returned home.
      For three days I didn"t go out. Then I learnt that the state had awarded Kalankhan Adalatov with the medal "For Courage". As for me I was given a diploma.
      That"s not all - Adalatov said. He showed me a letter written in English. It was from the Secret Agency Bureau. They thanked me for the capture of the dangerous international terrorist who was under crime detection.
     
     (21) The Free Press
      Tornado Buran, a journalist, arrived at out factory anв offered us his services of setting up a free press at the factory, i.e. releasing a small newspaper.
      We believed in the prosperity of our business. Kalamkhan Adalatove told the journalist:
      - I believe in you, and you, for one, should know the limits.
      Tornado Buran thanked the director for trust, and we started releasing the newspaper "Uvada". We published satirical articles, caricatures, poems, short stories and, of course, advertising blocks. People took to the newspaper at once. Tornado Buran placed my poem in the paper. It was published under the name of "The Love of the Store Keeper". I dedicated it to Kalankhan Adalatov"s secretary Zubeida.
      One day, as I was walking along the path towards the lavatory I saw her cutting roses for the vase standing in the Director"s office. That was the moment when I had my poem generated in my mind... Sitting in the toilet I wrote the poems right on the toilet paper. These lines of poetry will go down in world literature as masterpieces of all times. Here they are for the reader to see that it is true:
     
      The Love of the Store Keeper
     (dedicated to secretary Zubeida)
     I was watching from the bushes,
     Like a hedgehog in the morning,
     And I saw you walk in silence
     Knife in hand, and not in mourning.
     
     Like a cutthroat, with no mercy,
     You were cutting charming roses,
     While the fresh winds in the garden
     Were swinging sweet mimosas.
     
     Adalatov"s cut off roses
     Were like Robespiere"s and Razin"s bodies.
     Are the flowers really guilty?
     Killing roses, what a pity!
     
     Cut off roses you amaze
     When you see them in the vase.
     Al Kizim, store keeper, says:
     You will pay me with caress!
     
      When the poem appeared in the newspaper I overnight.became а famous man in Matarak
      I was looked upon with ill-disposed envy. In particular, women fell in love with me sighing and making a wry face.
      Fame appears to be a bad thing. To avoid the evil eye and curious looks, I would walk around with a welder"s face shield on. But they would recognize me anyway. I even made up my mind to undergo a plastic operation, like Michael Jackson did. On coming home I would reread the poem "The Love of the Store Keeper" again and again and couldn"t stop.
      As for Tornado Buran, he was very disparaging. Sitting under Pegasus" wing and using the trident of criticism he pierced managers of collective farms and bankers who tended to skin the farmers alive. They didn"t thank Tornado Buran for that, of course. On the contrary, they started taking revenge on him.
      The chief censor arrived from the regional center and started checking the release which Tornado Buran had prepared for the make-up. In the evening we had dinner along with the censor who said addressing Torando Buran:
      - Comrade Editor, don"t forget for a minute that you don"t live in America, nor in Canada. Before you criticize someone be sure to consult us. In your feuilleton entitled "Amanov Spitting upon the Sky" you lay structures on Alexander Arkadyevich Amanov, an innocent and honest man. As a conscientious banker he gives credits to people raising their standards of living. I repeat, you do not live in Kirgizia where democracy prospers!
      Tornado Buran only smiled saying nothing in reply.
      The censor had a drop too much and, taking his clothes off, lay down on the sofa, in Tornado Buran"s office. We wished him good night and left for Usta Churan"s watch-box.
      We long sat making up the next release of the newspaper. It was drizzling. Then a snow-storm arose, and the light went out. We suddenly heard the sounds of knocking, shouting and swearing. Someone was calling for help. It was the censor who was sleeping in the editor"s office. We ran there and saw three masked men who were making the censor eat the newspaper. The latter begged not to beat him and not to make him eat the Uvada paper. He said:
      I am a censor, not the editor.
      - One of the intruders asked another one:
      - What on earth is a censor?
      The other one answered: it must be a pseudonym. He"s the one who has written the article about our team leader. Give him a thrashing! Beat him!
      They started walloping the editor.
      - There you are! Here"s one for the feuilleton and for the criticizing Alexander Arkadyevich, you scabby journalist!
      So having walloped the censor they left, pleased and content.
      A week later the newspaper was shut down, the censor died and Tornado Buran was arrested.
     
     (22) Kalankhan Adalatov"s Secret Life
     
      A work collective without the director is like an orphan. It had been a few days now that our sage and indispensable Director hadn"t turned up at his office. I went to see him and find out why he was shirking work. Kalankhan Adalatov"s wife Tarzana Nikolayevna met me with tears in her eyes.
      - You see, Al Kizim-aka , your brother (she meant Kalankhan Adalatov) must be examined by the doctors. He is off his feed and has lost weight - she complained.
      . - Don"t worry - I said trying to console her - everything will be all right. After all, a man is not made of iron. Sometimes he can fall ill. It"s natural. Illness is only a guest. It comes and goes.
      - God grant, God grant, Al Kizim-aka... Come into the sitting-room. Your brother is there, lying on the sofa - Tarzana Nikolayevna said.
      I thanked her and entered the room where the sick Director Kalankhan Adalatov was lying. Seeing me he wanted to get up but I stopped him:
      - No, no, you shouldn"t get up, stay in bed.
      I greeted him, and asked him how he felt.
      - Nice to see you here - Adalatov said - I"ve got something to tell you. But you should promise not to tell anybody the secret.
      I gave him my word to keep the secret.
      - Then listen -said Adalatov.
     . - When you had quit work at the factory and went to work as a swine-herd we won the socialist emulation having exceeded the production plan. As an award to our work collective, the state allotted us a health resort voucher, and, in the interest of justice, I held a lottery. So I ordered the cook of the Factory that he should made pancakes and put a screw-nut inside one of the pancakes which would fall to the lot of the lucky owner of the voucher. I ate the pancake, you know, and nearly had my tooth broken by the screw-nut. I took it out carefully and suddenly a terrible thing happened: the screw-nut slipped and rolled down into my stomach, like a coin into a slot-machine of the 60ties. As a result, I was taken ill with ulcer and have been suffering from pain ever since, like a pregnant woman in childbirth. I am done for, Al Kizim.
      - Don"t be a pessimist, Kalankhan Adalatovich, - I said - everything will be all right. Nowadays the surgeons perform such operations with their eyes closed. I myself have read about it in a newspaper. In the West some surgeons had even managed to solder a man"s cut off head to his body and brought him back to life. If you are afraid of surgeons then go to see tabibs, i.e. witch-doctors. They treat patients without performing an operation. There are also wizards and sorcerers that treat the sick with the help of genies. And you talk about some secrets...
      - I havened opened the secret yet - Adalatov went on - listen, the point is that I am living in two different phases, in reality and in a dream. It all started when I was thirty years old. One day I saw in my dream beautiful valleys and big rivers flowing down the emerald mountain tops with the crystal clear waters glittering like glass in the sun among the fir-woods and green meadows with innumerable white wildflowers blooming all around. I walked across the meadows through century-old fir-woods, and stopped by the mountain tops where powerful streams were boiling up beneath the high granite rocks. I saw a suspension bridge over the mountain river. A solitary eagle was hovering up in the sky. I crossed the bridge and saw a rustling apricot grove. The ripe yellow pink-tinted fruits were glistening in the sun like the first-rate gold of Bukhara . An old man with a white beard and in white clothes and a white turban was sitting on a carpet there. We greeted each other, and then the man said:
      - Have a taste of the ripe apricots. If you like them, take some home for your children.
      I thanked him and, picking some ripe fruits from the tree, washed them in the ditch water and ate one or two. The apricots were as sweet as the honey of wild bees. I gathered some apricots into my skull-cap and, saying good bye to the old man, walked back through the fir-woods across the shallow rivers that glittered like silver in the sun amidst the meadows with blooming wild flowers. Suddenly a mounted detachment of the Red Army came out of the fir-wood. The soldiers were in red army helmets and armed with rifles.
      The commander saw me and shouted:
      There he is, one of those daring fellows of kurbashi Kurshembat! Kill him, comrades! They are enemies of the world proletariat and socialism! Forward, to the victory of Marxism and Leninism! Asia shall not be governed by bourgeois!
      Encouraged by the "hurrah" war-cry and waving the swords and shooting from bayoneted rifles the Red Army cavalrymen directed their horses towards me. Pressing my turban to my chest so as not to lose my apricots I ran across the meadow. Shooting from their rifles the Komsomol members were approaching me. Bullets were flying right over my head. One bullet pierced through my pajama. I kept running anyway. Then I reached the wood and hid myself in the bushes.
      The Red Army men stopped at the border line for the bushes were impassable for the horsemen. Leaving their horses they the pursued me running.
      Gasping for breath I kept running. Suddenly the ground under my feet collapsed and I fell down the slope rolling like a torn off wheel. I only stopped when I stumbled against a girl washing the linen by the river side. She jumped up in fear and stepped back. When I got up and apologized to her she started beating me with the wet bed sheet.
      - Stop it! Stop - I said - what are you doing? It was unintentional! I am a stranger here. They are chasing me!
      After these words she stopped looking at me in surprise.
      Why are you standing like that? Hide me quick! Or else they will come and kill me and you, too!
      Presently, we could now hear the voices of the Red Army soldiers, coming from above. The shouted:
      - He is somewhere here! Maybe, he"s slid down!
      Then the girl took me by the hand and led me, as if I was a little boy, into the thick bushes. We disappeared. The reds lost our tracks and went away. I thanked my savior. She was so beautiful that I fell in love with her at first sight. Her thick tender hair was waving in the wind, like precious black silk. The whites of her eyes were as clear as snow. Her teeth glistened like white pearls. Her lips reminded of the petals of roses. Her face, neck, arms and feet were like ivory. It all drove me mad. We got acquainted. She said:
      - My name is Shakhzoda Gizhduvanaskaya. I was born in Gizhduvan, near Bukhara. Ironically, all our family had moved to the world of dreams. We now live in a dream.
      - I am Kalankhan My surname is Adalatov. I live in reality. I am Director of Uvada Factory.
     . - You are a good, kind and handsome man. Pardon me for beating you with the wet cloth. - she apologized.
      - Never mind - I said - They once beat me on the head with a sack of flour. Thank God, there was nothing heavy in the sack
      Shakhzoda Gizhduvanskaya smiled.
      - You are a joker- she said -are you going to stay in a dream?
     . - No- I answered. I have to go home before my wife gets up.
      - It"s a pity - she said.
      - But I will coma back, by all means, Shakhzoda!
      - Take care! Be on your guard - she cautioned me. And saying good-bye to me she added:
      - The reds are walking around there.
      All of a sudden I found myself by my wife"s side. Lying in bed like a huge cow-elephant Tarzana started scolding me:
      - What"s up? Are you drunk again? Your hair looks like black karakul, all dirty and bristling up. Oh, what"s the matter with your pyjamas? What sort of hole is this? You"ve burnt it with a cigarette, eh? Oh, my lord! What have you got in your turban? They are grapes, aren"t they?
     . - Yes - I answered - I have brought them for you, taste them. You see, I"ve been in a dream. Just fancy, I walk across the meadow and suddenly I see a mounted unit of the Red Army. Shooting from rifles they chase me. One of them pierces my pyjamas with a bullet.
      She didn"t believe me. But having tasted an apricot she said:
      - Impossible! Is it true? I cannot believe it! What an apricot! I have never tasted anything like that! It"s like honey! Why did you bring so little? You should have taken more. Tomorrow I will give you a cardboard box so that you may bring more. We"ll make jam for the winter - Tarzana said with a woman"s greed.
      - No, we needn"t. There are many reds there. It"s dangerous.
      A day passed. When I came home from work my wife made me put on the uniform which I had brought from the army, and before I went to bed she gave me a carton. I fell asleep, and again I saw in my dream the paradise gardens. Again passing the shallow streams and walking through fir-woods I stopped at the food of the mountain tops where the powerful flow of water was boiling and whirlpools foaming beneath the high granite rocks.
      Over the mountain river there was a suspension bridge tightened with wire cables. I crossed that creaking and swinging bridge. And again I saw an apricot grove rustling beyond the river and a solitary eagle hovering up in the sky. The old man with a white beard, in white clothes and with a white turban on sat on the carpet saying his prayer. Not wishing to disturb him I made my way back to the suspension bridge where the river was boiling with powerful flows beneath the high granite mountain tops. As I approached the meadow with wild flowers swaying in the wind I saw a mounted unit of Kurshermat"s National Liberation Army. The bearded militants in striped gowns were armed with machine-guns, Mousers and Turkish cavalry swords with a one-edged, slightly curved blade.
      The warriors in striped clothes and with hairy chests spurred their fast horses dashing towards me. One of them shouted:
      - Allahu Akbar! Allahu akbar! Kill the red commissar! The impious Bolshevik! Sheikh Ibrahim Abd As Salam himself has declared a gazat, i.e. a total war, against the unfaithful! We shall cut his throat and donate it to Sheikh .
      I ran as fast as I could. Why not? It"s frightful, after all. The carton full of apricots in my arms, you know.
      Suddenly, a stray bullet whistled, piercing the carton through. I kept running all the same. I thought it was good that I hadn"t taken my wife along. Seeing a woman without a paranja on they would have gone totally mad. Besides, my wife is Russian. They would have cut me to pieces with their bent swords.
      The bearded horsemen were still chasing me. But when I reached the woods and ran through the bushes they, too, like the Russians the other day, stopped the horses at the border line and went on pursuing me. I now knew the way well and used the slope like a children"s ski-jump in kindergarten.
      I slid down in sitting position holding tight the carton filled with apricots. The girl wasn"t there, so I hid myself in the thick bushes like I had done the previous time. Now safe, I went out from the bushes and made my way to the place where Shakhzoda and I had parted. I looked around in search of the girl but there was nobody there. Suddenly two men in militia uniform and one in plain clothes came up to me, and one of them said:
      - I"m security officer Sergeant Gadoyev. Your documents, please.
      Taken aback, I didn"t know what to do. Then I said:
      I have no documents about me, Comrade Sergeant. I am here in the world of dreams as a guest from reality.
      - How come? - the sergeant asked in surprise. A person without a document is like an animal. Do you understand? At least we think so.
     
      - Then - I said - does it mean that your ancestors who lived a long time ago and didn"t have documents were animals? Had the animals been...
      The sergeant interrupted me:
      - Are you a philosopher?
      Then he turned to the man in civilian clothes. The latter threw the cigarette down and stamped it with his foot thinking about the answer. Then he said:
      - Where are you from?
      - From the real world.
      - Well now, what have you got in your pockets? Don"t try to hide anything for it"s useless. You will be searched at the militia station anyway and find what they want even between your legs. They will even tear off your boot soles, if need be. So if you"ve got money, give it now! Or else you will have to go to the militia station.
      - Officer - I said- I"ve got neither foreign currency nor valuables. Or rather I"ve left them at home.
      - And what have you got in the carton? - the officer asked.
      - Apricots.
      - Will you put it here? We"ll check it.
      I put the carton down and opened it. The officer and the two sergeants bent over the box and examined it carefully. The other militiaman, also a sergeant, stood up straight and said:
      - Look what I have found, commander!
      The officer in civilian clothes turned to him and looked at his hands. The sergeant had a plastic bag in his hands, and all of them said in chorus:
      - It"s heroin! Wow!
      I stood dumbfounded.
      - How come? - I said.
      - That"s how! You may taste it. You dare pretend! What"s your name? Sergeant, run for the witnesses, quick! - the officer in plain clothes said.
      - Yes, Comrade! - said the sergeant and ran towards the village.
     
     . While the sergeant was away the officer wrote down my name in his pad. Then he
     opened his file and started filling in some forms. A few moments later the sergeant had brought along a few men. One of them was wearing a tracksuit. The senior officer told them:
      - So, people, be witnesses of the fact that a man calling himself a tourist was carrying a dangerous load with him, and namely, smuggled drugs i.e. narcotics, heroin, to be exact!
      - Sign it here - said the senior officer pointing to the signature place in the pad with the form he himself had filled in.
      The man in the tracksuit suit said:
      - That"s fine, but may I see your documents first?
      The sergeants and the senior officer exchanged glances. Then the man in the tracksuit showed them his identification card, and when they saw it they suddenly turned pale. The man in the tracksuit was a lieutenant-colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Dreamland. He was on leave with his mother there.
      The heroin which Gadoyev "had found" turned out to be lime.
      While the case was being discussed a crowd of people gathered around. I saw Shakhzoda among them.
      When I was freed I took my carton and made my way to Shakhzoda. She invited me to see her at her place and be her guest. I agreed and stayed with her overnight. In the morning she saw me off.
      Suddenly I found myself lying next to my wife. She was laying spread on the bed like a crocodile in the tropical swamps of the Amazon River.
      When she saw the torn carton with the apricots she was very happy. Tough she reproached me for having spoilt the carton.
      So I began to live in a dream. Years went by. In my dream I married Shakhzoda. We had children. By that time we had had grandchildren as well. But you shouldn"t tell anybody about it. Tarzana doesn"t know that I have a wife there. In our dream we are better off than in reality. It"s a pity; you haven"t been to the world of dreams. The life I am living here, in reality, is not life but a parody. I"ve been parodying, you see?
      When he finished his story he fell silent. I looked at him contemplating.
     
     (23) The Medication
     
      Kalankhan Adalatov"s illness was aggravating with every passing day. Since he was afraid of the operation we had to turn to the local medic Khabib-Tabib for help. He had long examined Kalankhan Adalatov and finally said:
      - Nothing terrifying. It"s just your problem with indigestion. There"s no ulcer. I will give achiktash which you will take three times a day after lunch. It will decompose the food which is hard for your stomach to digest.
      Kalankhan Adalatov sighed with relief:
      - Oh, really? Are you sure? Well, doctor, you have really made me happy. Thank you ever so much. We"ve got achiktash at home. Thank you for the diagnosis.
      - Kalankhan Adalatov thanked Khabib-Tabib, and we returned home. We had scarcely entered the room when Adalatov cried:
      - Tarzana!
      She came out running and said:
      - What is it?
      - Go into the sitting-room and see if there a little a pouch on the upper shelf of the cupboard. Bring it to me.
      Tarzana Nikolayevna went to fetch the remedy while Kalankhan Adalatov turned to me saying:
      - Al Kizim, you go and bring some water.
      I ran to fetch the water. Tarzana Nikolayevna brought the pouch and gave it to Adalatov. He opened it and took the medicine. I gave him the water.
      Before taking the medicine Adalatov uttered: "Ba niyati shifo". The words meant "may I recover from illness".
      Opening his mouth wide he put achiktash under his tongue and drank the water I had brought. When he drank it there came a fizzy steam and a sparkling sound like that of gas water. Adalatov gripped his hands round his throat and muttered widening his eyes:
      - Ukh -Ukh! Al Kizim, I"m feeling bad! I am all burning inside! Help! It feels as if I have swallowed a flame! Water! Water! Give me water!
      - Taken aback and all at a loss, I ran to bring some water and brought a whole bucket of it. But it didn"t help.
      We carried him in our arms to the mattress and put him on it gingerly.
      He was getting worse and worse. Tarzana Nikolayevna tried to encourage her husband:
      - Come on, don"t worry! You are like a little boy! Have patience! It will pass.
      Presently, Adalatov was foaming at the mouth. He called me, and I came up to him.
      - Call Falankhan - he said.
      I did as he said, and we came up to him. Adalatov said:
      - Al Kizim, Falankhan, if I die, bury me in the Christian grave-yard. You promise?
      We started crying.
      - You shouldn"t say that, master - I said - it will pass.
      - No - he said confidently, and added with a hissing sound - that"s the end. I am done for.
      Tarzana Nikoayevna burst out sobbing, ran out into the porch and called in an ambulance.
      Adalatov said :
      - Al Kizim, do promise me that I will be buried in the Christian Cemetery.
      I wept as I nodded meaning to say "yes".
      Now we saw Adalatov"s belly swelling badly. It looked like a hippopotamus"s swollen paunch. We covered it with a blanket, and then suddenly - bang! - it burst under the cover. Taken aback, we jumped off our seats while Kalankhan cried like mad:
      - Father! Mamma! Mom!
      Tarzana Nikolayevna came up running. On seeing the terrible scene she fainted and fell down. I took her up. The neighbors, too, came to see what the fuss was all about. Then the ambulance car arrived. The doctors examining the case were brooding over it. Presently, Tarzana Nikolayevna came round. The doctor with the stethoscope asked:
      - What has the patient eaten of late?
      - Achiktash - Tarzana answered and went out to bring the pouch.
      The doctor opened it and taking a piece out examined it carefully. Then he said:
      - It"s carbide used by gas welders.
      All those present stood struck dumb with astonishment for a moment. Then, as if awoken, all shouted like one:
      - Oh, my Lord!
     
     (24) The Funeral
     
      Adalatov died a true Christian. He had dreamed about erecting, near Uvada Factory, a big church with golden crosses on the cupolas and a belfry whose bells would ring inviting people of Matarak to attend the service in the morning when the yellow clouds stretch along the skyline in the rising sun, and in the evening when the vermilion of the sun sadly fades in the horizon. But Adalatov"s dreams were, however, not destined to come true. The civil funeral was attended by all the fellow-villagers, friends and acquaintances of the Director. When the Imam of the local Mosque Zainutdin Ibn Gainutdin arrived all like one burst out crying.
      We were all amazed at his tolerance of other people's beliefs. He said all people on earth were the children of Adam Allaikhissalam.
      Adalatov"s friend Yegumy Alexandrovich Kopilov was at the head of the service.
      By Christian tradition Kalankhan Adalatov had been dressed, brushed, and put in the coffin on a soft cotton bed-sheet. Meanwhile some one spoke:
      - Kalankhan Adalatov"s personality was really historical. Therefore I suggest that we should take his death-mask so that the future generations might not damn and curse us!
      - That"s right! - said Adalatov"s friend, producer Manna Sundal, the man who lived along with his family in the Theater of Comedy and Satire - we should immediately find the sculptor who can take Kalankhan"s death mask!
      - Then Kunzhibay and Ramazanov left and an hour later came back with the artist Akhunjan. The latter put alabaster into the bucket filled it with water and started mixing the grout. When all was set Akhunjan poured the plaster on Adalatov"s face.
      We all watched his work with great interest. At last the plaster had thickened, and Akhunjan pulled Adalatov"s death mask up. But it came up along with the head of the deceased Director. Akhunjan tried to remove the mask but couldn"t tear it off. Then he took a hammer and a piercer and started knocking along the edge of the mask. But the mask was too hard, so Akhumjan"s face broke out in sweat, whether from hard work or from shame. Meanwhile, Kalankhan Adalatov lay under the mask like Tutankhamun"s mummy. Suddenly Ramazanov shouted to the artist:
      - Get out, you good-for-nothing sculptor! Who do you think you are, Tsereteli ? Is that the way of making a death mask? Get lost, you lousy stone-cutter!
      He rolled up his sleeves and spit into his palms. Adalatov was lying in the coffin like the mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Ramazanov pulled the death mask to himself with all might and managed to tear it off. But mechanically he jumped back and fell down. As a result, Adalatov"s death mask broke into pices like a litle glass toy that falls off a New Year's tree.
      - Ok, we can do without a mask! - said Usta Churan.
      The conductor waved his baton and the band began to play rumbling. It was the funeral march of Frederic Chopin. Several men lifted the coffin of Kalankhan Adalatov adorned with garlands and wreaths and carried it, shifting from shoulder to shoulder, like a boat without ores over the black waves of the sea of people.
      They put the coffin with Kalankhan Adalatov on a tractor drawn carriage looking like a gun-carriage and we made our way toward the cemetery. The carriage was slow as if feeling the loss and the mourning. The near and dear of the deceased one sat around the coffin shedding tears. I, too, was among them, and I also wept. As we approached the cemetery the cotton waste carrier stopped because the road had been dug up by the road rebuilt service. So the men had to carry the coffin on their shoulders. At last we had arrived at the burial place.
      By tradition people had to say good bye to the deceased man. The priest Yegumy Alexandrovich said:
      -Open the face of the deceased one.
      I went up to the coffin and opened the lid. Goodness gracious! Adalatov was not there!
      - My goodness!, what"s that?- I said
      - Well, what"s the matter? - the preist asked.
      - The coffin is empty! - I said.
      There came voices from all sides: "Oh, God Almighty! Oh. mamma mia!" Tarzana Nikolayevna, embracing her son, was howling like a wolf in the snow-clad wood under the full moon.. The priest Yegumy Kopylov crossed several times looking into the sky and said:
      - A miracle has happened! The deceased man, like Jesus Christ,. has ascended to God"s altar. Adalatov was, indeed, an angel in the make-up of a man! Oh, Lord, receive the soul and body of the deceased man! Receive and bless him! In the name of the Father and of Son and of Holy Spirit, Amen!
      When he finished the prayer Adalatov"s near and dear burst out crying again. My soul became emtty. I had lost my good old friend, an honest boon companion of mine, my dear neighbor and teacher. Leaving me he has risen to heaven.
      - We didn"t appreciate him properly when he was alive - Ramazanov said sobbing. Yegumy Alexandrovich told us to lift the empty coffin and go back. I looked and saw that the boards were turned over. We exchanged glances and ran down the street.
     . It so happened that they had dropped the Director"s body on the way to the cemetry and didn"t notice(it. The upturned body was lying in the ditch by the road. We picked him up, put him in the coffin and went back. After the ceremony we buried him again, our wise Director Kalankhan Adalatov. The band still dinned playing the funeral march of Frederic Chopin. The grave diggers set up a cross on Adalatov"s grave, and then, putting on our head-dresses, we all dispersed.
     
     (25) Political Prisoners
     
      The authorities looked upon Kalankhan Adalatov"s funeral disapprovingly. I mean, the name of the deceased was not highlighted in the pres, nor on TV nor radio, except for the Factory"s wall newspaper "The Red Uvada" which released a small obituary written in soft-tin pen. As it was unusual and unique I copied it into my note-book. It read as follows:
     
     Obituary
      Kalankhan Adalatovich Adalatov has passed away following a long and serious illness . He was the founder of Uvada party, an ardent patriot of his Motherland, the father of local democracy, a great expert of waste utilization science, the permanent and wise leader of Uvada Factory. As he was a Crimean Tartar by nationality his father was arrested during Stalin"s reprisals and taken to Lubyanka . His mother and her baby were deported to Uzbekistan.
      His childhood was very hard. They had left their house, a cow and a calf in the Crimea... Before being deported women and children had been driven into a church and kept there like cattle. The armed guard did not allow the adults to leave the church. Kalankhan"s mother told her son to go home and feed the cow and the calf. When the little boy entered the house and went up to the cow and the calf he saw them shedding tears as if saying silently: "Where have you gone leaving us?" Kalankhan fed the cow and the calf and gave them water, and when he scratched them lovingly the cow cuddled up to him like a little child cuddles up his dad. Then Kalankhan hugged her enfolding round the neck and also started crying. When he went out he saw some trucks and heard the voices of crying women.
      The armed men were entrucking women and children to deport them. Kalakhan"s mother was also forcibly caused to get on the truck, but each time she would get off, holding her child, that is, Kalaghan"s daughter, in her arms, crying bitterly:
      - Sonny! My son has fallen behind! I shall not go anywhere without him! Kalankha-a-an! So-oo- ny!
      On hearing his mother"s voice and seeing her Kalankhan ran to her as fast as he could crying:
      - Mom, I am here!
      When he ran up to her she hugged him with tears in her eyes. Then they were loaded to the trucks, and they left their homeland for ever. At the railway station they put them in the train and carried away. On the way Kalankhan"s sister fell ill and died. Kalankhan"s mother was in despair. She cried fastening her teeth silently lest the armed men should see her deceased daughter and take her away.
      The girl"s body started decaying and evolving smell. When the train stopped in a steppe the armed men made Kalankhan"s mother and him get off and bury the deceased daughter right in the sand. They were crying so bitterly, oh, lord!
      Years went by. Kalankhan"s father was freed from the Stalinist prisons and arrived in Uzbekistan. So they had found one another at last! After that Kalankhan never let his dad"s hands go for a minute so that he might not lose him again.
      Now, comrades, let us take off our headgears bending our desolate heads in memory of Kalankhan Adalatov.
      So may he rest in peace!.. Ugh! Ugh!..U-u-gh.. Damn, I"ve got a cold! Ugh!..U-u-gh!
      Excuse me. Just a minute. I had a pill somewhere here. Ah, there it is. I"ll take an aspirin tablet and one for the flu. There"s water at hand.. Just a moment...Gurgle-gurgle-gurgle. There! I"ve had it. Ugh! Disgusting! Pha!.. Excuse me once again. Well, where did we stop? Ah yea, Kalankhan Adalatov will live for ages in the hearts of his friends and of course, in the hearts of his enemies who are happy about his death...Hey you! Why don"t you take off your scull-cap? Doesn"t the obituary concern you? What a stupid man! What a barbarian! Neanderthal man, you! Well, I should say...Ok, I"ve got an idea. Comrades, let us commemorate our late Director with eternal silence.
      Administration
     
      Next to the wall newspaper in a small plastic case with a black fillet there was a portrait of Kalankhan Adalatov painted a canvas by the farmer"s artist Athenian.
      - I have paid the artist a pretty sum of money from the funds of Uvada Factory for this portrait - said proudly the chef accountant Kujinbay.
      - Really? - I said - then we must cherish it like the apple our eye. To prevent it from stealing we should install a powerful signaling system and an observation camera.
      At this point the charwoman Rukhfasa started cleaning the dear deceased Director"s portrait and suddenly cried out: "Aa-aah!"
      On seeing her in a state of stupor we thought she was stung by a scorpion or something, but then...
      As we looked carefully at the precious portrait of Kalankhan Adalatov we saw that the portrait was half wiped out The Factory employees were looking at Rukhfasa as if she had committed a satanic act of vandalism. The terrible thing about it was that beneath that hack-work which Akhunjan had done we saw a sullen, flaxen-haired old man in a jacket and a neck-tie. It was Comrade Chernenko, Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Secretary of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
      It so happened that according to the Trade Agreement the artist Akhunjan was to paint a little portrait in oil, but cheating Kunjibay, the artist had painted it in gouache. We found out that among the employees there was an informer who, cooperating with the Committee for State Security, reported on people. So on that day secret agents, twisting his arms and handcuffing him, took Kunjibay, along with the portrait of the General Secretary, to meet Akhunjan face to face.
      Shortly afterwards they were tried on political grounds and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. The interesting thing about it was that Kunkinbay had sent a letter to his relations from prison calling them to urgently commit a crime and go to prison. He said life in prison was much better than in freedom.
      On hearing that, many Matarakaners started committing a crime hoping to be sent to jail. Some applied to court asking for life imprisonment on frame-up.
      According to prison scholars the movement was to become a mass phenomenon, and prosecutors had fixed the bribe for which innocent people would be put to prison on frame-up accusations.
     
     (26) Away from Home
      We had an election the other day. I mean an election in our family. It was on an alternative basis.
      My wife stood for the election along with me. She was a candidate from the "Free Women" party. I saw that our sheep was also voting for my wife, so I said:
      - It"s not fair. The sheep"s voice doesn"t sound right. "Ba-ba! Ba-a-ba! - says the sheep. One sound is lacking here and namely the sound "t", and the letter "T", accordingly. "Baba" doesn"t mean "Babat". So I would ask the Election Committee not to count that voice in favor of my rival.
      The Committee did as I said. I had won and became head of the family again. My sons became oppositionists and went underground. Using my catapult, I started persecuting the birds
     which every night flew together in the huge maple-tree outside our house to discuss some secret matters. I would shout to them:
      - You, silly birds, get out, quick, will ye? Who gave you the right to hold an unendorsed meeting?! We are not against meetings as such. But if you are in opposition, then, please, hold your meetings indoors, say, in a club or somewhere.
      The silly birds took offence at my words of wisdom and flew away without dropping in at the nearby club.
      - Well, you may fly away, if you wish - I said - fly, you wretched migrants! Traitors of Motherland! We have no time for politics and meetings now. From now on very stringent laws, which I have written myself, will reign in our family. That"s the way it is. If some citizens don"t like our laws they may fly wherever they want. Let them die safely abroad if the want! Coalitions and negotiations are out of question!
      The birds had flown away. Our orchard and kitchen-garden were desolate now. Consequent-ly, the leaves in the trees as well as melons and gourds were all eaten up by hordes of locusts. The family economy was in a complete failure. I started looking for some other ways of recove-ring the economy of our family.
      In autumn I went to the local winery and bought a carriage of grapes for wine production. I brought them home, put them in a vessel and shut the lid hermetically. A month later I opened the lid and saw the grapes bubbling and smoking like a swamp. Well, I thought, that must be all. After that I started working on my self-made woodworker day and night and, at odd moments, making underground wine. I had made fifty boxes of it and hiding them in the cellar went to look for buyers. My buyer was a thirty two years old guy by the name of Khalim Khazori Khalty. He was about two meters tall, as thin as shaitan, fair-haired, with big rabbit"s front teeth and brown eyes. He bought my wine for his younger brother"s wedding party. On the wedding day the guests drank that wine and started running to WC. After the wedding all the victims gathered round and knocked Khalim Khazori Khalty"s front teeth. He split and betrayed me. They started pursuing me. I had to hide myself under an assumed name and using a beard and moustache glued to my face. As the victims had vowed to make short work of me I always came home late at night. As I was sick and tired of living in hiding I left home following my nose.
      I now lived in Kashkirkishlak at the baker"s by the name of Zhavatokhun. I worked at his bakery. Apart from Zhavatokhun there were two ice cheerful guys there. One was thin and tall, the other was the other way around, thick and short. The thin one"s name was Sunnat, the thick one had the name of Ummat. The baker Zhavatokhun-aka was a good man. He was fond of quails. When they sang in the cages made of pumpkins he would rejoice like a little child. The quails sang to please him: "Pick-per awick! Pick-per awick! Pick-per awick!"
      He wore a green skull-cap. It was green from grass. He used that cap to kill insects in the meadows for his quails. He also gathered seeds of wild hashish and fed the birds with them. The quails would peck them, get tipsy and sing songs falling into a reverie.
      Now and then Uncle Karavan, a friend of Zhavatokhun, would drop in at our bakery. The old man, too, loved quails, their fights, in particular. He wore a gown called yaktag which is similar to the Japanese kimono, and would always have a fighting quail up his sleeve, feeding him with little pieces of meat and a boiled egg. The fighting quails" name was Spartacus. He named him after the legendary gladiator of ancient Rome.
      I was lucky to attend a quail fight one day. There were fans around. In a small of circle of people two little birds stood staring at each other with burning flames in their eyes. The referee threw them a handful of seeds, and the fight began. People staked on the outcome of the fight. There were shouts all around: "Aha, knock it! Put its eyes out! Eat it! Strangle it! Get hold of its throat!"
      The game-birds, all bleeding, kept fighting, and it lasted rather long. Getting tired, they would cling to one another, with their bills open, like boxers do in a free fight. After a while, having a little rest, they would resume fighting to the delight of the spectators. In the end one of the two fighters would give up, and the fight would be over.
      The quail fans would long tell one another stories about the fights. There were quails that would not even be exchanged for a car.
      They caught quails in cotton and rye fields. One of the methods is called "tuzak" which is a loop made from horsehair and fixed with clay.
      The tuzaks were set on the ground in places where quails walked around in search of food. Unable to lift the clay load they would get into a loop as they walked. The bird-hunters would then pick them and sort them out selecting the singing and fighting ones and frying for food or selling the rest to gourmets.
      Another method involved using a net.
      Early in the morning they would set nets in a grass plot. Near the net they would hang up a cage with a female quail which sang at dawn attracting mail quails. Then the hunters would go towards the net from the opposite side raising a noise by stirring the grass with sticks.
      The ordinary quails could not fly far and high, so they would get into a net. The hunters would have their trousers all wet from the morning dew. But they were indelibly impressed. when a quail flew up from under the feet and got into the net
      When I came to settle there I learnt a lot of things. My main task at the bakery was to prepare the dough by the time the master arrived.
      Early in the morning I would make the dough and go to give the quails fresh water and feed them taking the cages out to the open air and hanging them on the branches of weeping willows outside the bakery. Zhavatukhan usually came to work after the morning service in the mosque when recited the Bamdad prayer (morning prayer) at 6 a.m.
      He would bless me with his prayers and we would get down to work. Sunnat and Ummat would come at 7 a.m. I would switch on the tape recorder and we would, to the sound of classical music, bake bread in the form of flat round cakes looking like sun disks.
      It"s really pleasant and encouraging to have such bread with sour cream for breakfast early in the morning. After work we would make some delicious dish, and after supper we would sit around chatting.
      I had written a story about bread which went like this.
      The main character of the story was a man by the name of Turdikul who went to a big city on business. He made up his mind to buy a piece of flat bread for lunch. He saw an old woman selling bread near a shashlik-house . Turdikul bought a piece of bread and dropped in at the cheap dining-room to eat it with shashlik. The bread was extraordinarily tasty. The following day he came to the same place and saw the same woman selling bread. Again he bought bread from her and went to the dining-room to eat it with spaghetti. He was amazed at the wonderful taste of her bread and decided to ask the woman for the recipe for making such good bread. But the old woman was not there.
      Turdikul was preparing to go home. The following day he came to the place again but the woman was not there. He didn"t see her till the day of his departure. At the end of his business trip he went to see the woman for the last time. He suddenly saw the woman, but she was not selling bread. He greeted her and said:
      - Granny, where have you been all this time? I used to come here to buy bread every day but didn"t find you. I should say, your bread is amazingly tasty. I wanted to ask you for the recipe. Why don"t you sell bread any more?
      - Oh, sonny, - the woman said with a sigh - my husband has passed away...
      - Sorry, I didn"t know. May he rest in peace. Was he the one who made that bread? - asked Turdikul
      - No- the woman answered - you see, sonny, my poor hubby had ulcer on his neck, and some liquid was dripping out of his wound all the time. The sorcerer advised me to put flour on the wound, which I did. But the wet flour, turning into dough, was gradually accumulating. I did not throw away the dough though, why should I? That was the dough I used to make the bread which you bought and ate...
      On hearing this, the main character of my book fell down moaning "Ah-oh-ah" and died on the spot. Militia men arrived and started interrogating the woman.
      - I was kidding - she said - these people, they don"t see a joke. They have no sense of humor.
      I think I have opened new horizons in world literature by writing this story. I read it to my fellow-villagers in Matarak. Up to now they cannot shake off the acute feeling of fascination from the story which I myself have written.
     (27) The Punishment
      After lunch at the bakery I was alone. Zhavatokhun-aka, Sunnat and Ummat had left to town to buy flour. I was preparing half finished flat cakes using the dough that had remained in stock, when suddenly the man of about sixty by the name of Karabay came in.
      - Assalyam aleikum - he said.
      - Valeikum assalyam, Karabai-ata - I greeted him.
      He entered the room and sitting down on a stool said:
      - Ahmin, may there always be peace in the whole world, Allahu akbar!
      Then he asked:
      - Well, how are you?
      - Very, well - I said stretching him a piala of tea - have some hot tea.
      He thanked me sipping slowly the green tea, which is very good for a thirsty man in hot weather in Central Asia. Drinking it and lending his ear to the music he said:
      - Will you make it louder, this tapuerkoda of yours?
      I turned up the volume of the tape recorder. It was the song of didactic sort called "Don"t offend the weak".
      Not wishing to be in the way I started kneading dough. When the song ended I was paralyzed with wonder. Karabay-ata was crying. His beard grew wet with his bitter tears.
      - What"s the matter with you, granny? - I asked.
      He wiped his tears with the sleeve of his overcoat and said:
      - Oh, sonny, I am deeply moved by this song. It has really touched my heart... You see, I used to work as a butcher at one time. I was a strong and tough young man. Once I was selling meat in a state of intoxication, knife in hand. It was a long sharp knife which I whetted with a knife-sharpener off and on. I had that habit, you know.
      One day a very old man by the name of Mukhammad Ismail came up to me and stretching me the money said:
      - Assalamu Aleikum, Mullah Karib, will you give me a kilo of mutton, please.
      I wrapped a kilo of mutton in a piece of paper and gave it to him. He unwrapped the package and said:
      - Excuse me, Mulla Karabay, will you give me some mutton fat, instead of the bones?
      I got furious and walked out of the counter. I started walloping the old man, i.e. Mulla Mukhamad Ismail. He fell down.
     
      I said:
      - Ah, you damned aging brain! And whom shall I sell the bones? Tell me...To your granny, eh?
      I beat him for quite a while, and when I stopped the old man got up and hardly found his cap. And you know what he said? Oh my! The words are still breaking my heart!.. He burst out crying again and said putting his cap on and shaking his head:
      - Sorry, Mulla Karabay, it"s no fun getting old. I have grown thin of late. Did your fists hurt when you hit me in the ribs?
      Saying this he kissed my hand which had just beaten him. He kissed my hand, do you understand?
      Karabay-aka raised his hands which had once beaten Mulla Mukhammad Ismail and said contemptuously:
      - I sometimes want to cut off my hands which hurt Mulla Mukhammad Ismail! Do you hear? The words Mulla Mukhammad Ismail said pursue me up to this day giving me no rest!
      Old Karabay wept like a child, without feeling embarrassment. I started consoling him:
      - Don"t cry, Karabay-ata. You"d better pray for him. He will surely forgive you.
      Without saying good bye, old Karabay went out into the street wiping the tears off his face.
      He walked crying bitterly. It was cold, and it was raining. .
      I looked to see where the former butcher was going and sighed with grief.
      - What a punishment! - I thought. They are right when they say that old sins have long legs.
     
     (28) The Second Love
      In Kashkirkishlak there was a lovely widow by the name of Salima who was engaged in selling milk.
      One day, early in the morning, as I was hanging up the cages with quails nicknamed as "torkovok" (having a narrow forehead) onto the branches of weeping willows, she passed by the bakery announcing:
     . - Milk! Who wants milk? Fresh milk!
      I stopped the woman and greeted her. She came up to me and said with a charming smile:
      - How many liters do you want?
      - One... no, two. Two liters, please - I said.
      Still smiling, she took a two liter glass jar with milk and gave it to me. As I was taking it our hands met unintentionally.
      When I felt the touch of her hands I lost my head. I just cannot describe what I felt when our hands met. My heart went pi-a pat and melted like the icicles that melt from the warm wind of the spring morning.
      When I returned her the empty jar she said:
      - Al Kizim, it"s nice that I have met you. The point is that my son Genghiskhan has recently bought a new tandoor, and we cannot mount it. Maybe, you can do it? You are an expert in such things, after all. As the saying goes, even a sparrow must be slaughtered by a butcher... Well, are you coming? Please...
      And she smiled exuding charm and splendour.
      - Yes, by all means - I said - tell your son to prepare clay and straw. I will come after lunch.
      She was happy to hear it.
      - Thank you, Al Kizim-aka- she said - I"ll be waiting for you. I"ll prepare pilau with mutton fat especially for you.
      - All right - I said smiling.
      She left.
      After lunch I got Zhavatakhun"s excuse from work and, as I had promised, made my way to Salima"s place. She was happy to see me, like a little girl, and invited me to table with soft kurpachas ( mattresses to sit on) and with the table on short legs to sit at and eat comfortably.
      I sat down on kurpacha and, as a common practice, recited a short prayer for the good fortune of the family. I looked out and saw, beyond the flower-bed, a boy preparing clay mixing it with straw. His face was smudged with clay from diligence.
      - Genghiskhan, greet the tandoor expert - said Salima. The boy gave me a hostile look and spitting through clenched teeth went on working in silence.
      I want into the barn, changed my clothes and joine the boy in the work. Salima helped me passing me ove guvalas. The latter are oval bricks without facets. I laid them on the foundation of the tandoor. On guvalas I put clay which Genghiskhan had silently brought in two battered buckets. So the foundation was gradually taking shape. When Genghiskhan went to fetch clay I said to Salima, turning around on the sly in a low voice:
      - You son does really look like Genghi Kkhan.
      Salima smiled:
      - The spit of one's father. He, too, was a jealous man.
      - Why "was"? Is he dead?- I asked.
      - No - she replied - he left us. God only knows where he is roamong about. For all I know, he is doing time in Karaulbazar Prison under Bukhara...
      Presently, Genghiskhan brought the next portion of clay and we had to break our conver-sation.
      I took the buckets with the clay he had brought and poured in the gradually growing foundation. Taking the empty buckets Genghiskhan walked away salima and went on laying guvalas, and I resumed sizing up Salima"s soul:
      - He left you, did you say? Pardon me fo asking you an indescreet question: what are your plans for the future?
      What do you mean? - she asked?
      - I mean what I said. Your wish to start a new life... Do you want to get married?
      -No, I don"t - Salima answered passing her hand across her throat which meant she was fed up to the neck living with my husbund .
      - Don"t you feel lonely at night? - I asked.
      -No - she said - I"ve got used to it. I don"t even think about it.
      - As for me, I worry about my loneliness - I sighed.
      -Yes, I heard that you haven"t a wife - she said.
      Not wishing to let this woman slip through my fingers I lied:
      I came here to become a baker. My wife and I are incompatible, as the saying goes.
      - What about children? How many of them do you have? - asked Salima.
      - I have two sons - I said - the senior one is Arabboy, the junior"s name is Sharabboy.
      At this pint the clay carrier arrived and streched me with enmity the dirty buckets. He must have heard what we were talking about.
      Half an hour later the foundation was ready. We lifted the tandor oven carefully and put it on the foundation. Then we started claying it, mixing it with straws. When the tondoor was set up I told Salima to put some dry brushwood inside the oven and kindle it. She did as I told her. The fire generated steam over the oven. Far away beyond the horizon the day was fading, and it was getting dusky. We first filled the oven with chips and splinters and then put some logs and gradually increased the furnace. The oven looked like the huge head of a fire breathing dragon in the dark starry sky.
      - That"s all - I said - don"t put logs any more. It will have dried up by morning.
      Having finished the work we washed and ate tasty plau with mutton fat which Salima prepared as she had promised. Genghiskhan didn"t utter a word eating his supper like dumb. But I wasn"t offended. Salima wanted to give me money for the work done but I didn"t take it. After supper I said good bye to Salima and went out into the street.
     
     
     (30) The Love lake
     
      The thunder of love had sruck me so strongly that I became like contused. Withot Salima my dayes were filled with melancholy, like autumn. I was thinking about her day and night. I thought and though, and then, with the shakin hand, wrote her a letter choosing the most sentimental words that were capable of arousing compassion. I made two copies of the letter as a istoricl document and put them in different pockets searatele so that I might give one of them to Salima at the first opportunity.
      I had that opportunity at last. I gave it her and as she wanted to open the envelope I said :
      - Don"rt read it now. You will read it at home.
      Salima blushed and went home. Like a wolf on a cage I was anxiously walking to and fro.
      The leter read as follows:
      Salom , Salimabonu,
      Hello, dear Salima!
      Sorry for intruding into your life. I can"t help it. I will tell you straight, I have fallen in love with you! Or should I say, I love you! What difference does it make?... That"s all, I"ve had enough! I cannot live without you. To make a long story short, I will be waiting for you by Palvankyol Lake from 12 to p.m. I"ve got something to tell you. If you don"t keep the appointment, this letter will turn into my death certificate. After 1 p.m. I will drown myself in the lake hanging a tractor"s ploughshare on my neck.
      Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
      Yours faithfully,
      Al Kizim
      And, like a wolf in a cage, I was walking to and fro.
      Then I saw Salima going somewhere and I thought:
      - What if she doesn"t turn up? What then? How can I live then? A man should drown himself? What a fool I am! I shouldn"t have given her that letter! Silly me! I have sentenced myself to death. Well, maybe, she will turn up, who knows...
      Contemplating about this I started writing the scenario of our tomorrow"s date. I fel asleep at dawn.
      When I got up in the morning Zhavatakhun said:
     
      - You shouted "Salima! Salima!" at night. What"s the matter with you? Are you not feeling well?
      I was embarrassed.
      - No I said - I am all right. Maybe, it"s because I"m tired.
      Zhavatakhun tapped me on the shoulder and said:
      - Then you"d better go and have a rest. I will tell the guys.
      - Thank you, Master.
      When Zhavatakhun had left sitting astride his donkey, I had breakfast and worked till lunch time and then began to play the scenario I had made up the day before. Having worked it through, I hurried to the lake on my bicycle.
      I now sat by the lake looking at the road and listening to the green rustling canes growing in the estuary.
      In expectation of Salima I sat down beneath the tall maples fixing my eyes on the road. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a motor and saw a cloud of dust swirling on the road. Somebody was riding on a motor-bike along the dusty road. He rode passed the lake and up the stony road, but Salima couldn"t be seen.
      Looking at the sky I whispered like canes in the free wind: "Oh Lord, if you are really up there, please send my Salima here!"
      Presently, I heard a donkey bray in the rice field where two men were working with their bodies bent..
      - That"s the end- I thought - It"s time to kill myself. I knew that the donkey brayed each day at 1 p.m., like a German watch, always on time.
      I went up to the open space at the shore, took off my skull-cap and threw it into the water.
      - Come what may! Once I have given my word I must kill myself! I will die somewhere some day anyway. One is born to die. It"s better to die with dignity than to leave this world in disgrace.
      So I went to look for the load I wanted to hang on my neck and legs. I had the ropes in the luggage rack of my bike which I had put in the shade beneath the willow. I had searched for the proper stone and finally found one. Suddenly, I heard a woman crying. I put the stone on the ground and ran to the shore. There on the bank of the lake in the open space without canes Salima stood crying and staring at my skull-cap floating by.
     - Oh, Al Kizim-aka, what have you done? Couldn"t you wait a little longer? I loved you
     so! I had never loved anybody like that! Have I done anything wrong to you? Oh, my God! Why have you taken away from me the good fortune I had found! Look, oh my Lord! Do you see his forlorn bicycle? How can I live without him now? - cried Salima.
      On hearing her cry the two men in white underpants working in the rice field ran up to her. One of them said:
      - What"s the matter with you, sister? Why are you crying?
      - Oh, please help him! Rescue him! The man has drowned!..
      The two men in white underpants, looking in confusion at the water where my skull-cap was floating, jumped there like frogs and, after diving in the water for a while, came out like divers do when after remaining in the water for some time emerge on the surface, with aquatic plants hanging down their ears.
      Taking the air they dived again and again. I could no longer wait and shouted:
      - Salima! I"m alive!
      She jumped back in fear.
      Then she blushed with shame. I ran up to her, and she threw her arms round my shoulders. I started consoling her as we hugged.
      Presently, the two so called rescuers of the life-guard appeared, for lack of H2O, on the surface with aquatic plants hanging down their ears. Opening their mouths wide to take the air they were about to dive again but I stopped them:
      - Brothers, I am here! Alive! It"s all over! All clear! You have really shown heroism. I have the honor!
      They came out of the water and looked at me in confusion, and one of them even with contempt.
      - I know that hearty tanks can"t buy you butter and bread - I said. So I owe you half a liter.
      - Half of liter of what? - asked one of them removing the aquatic plants from his ears.
      - Are you crazy? - I said - Half a liter of vodka! There is such liquid, burning liquid...
      Then the second one said:
      - We don"t drink alcohol. Our belief doesn"t permit it. We recite our prayers five times a day, you see? Silly you!
      - Well, as you like - I said - We have democracy, so to say. So I will not push you, I myself will drink to your health.
      The two men (as if) from the life-guard, in white underpants, all wet, went away shaking their heads discontentedly.
      I took my beloved Salima on my bicycle, and we rode home.
     
     (30) Brute Lee
     
     So I had won another heart without a war and without losses. I set up my banner of love
     in Salima"s heart. I set up a great power of love from Babat to Salima and from Matarak to Kashkirkishlak. To preserve this empire I was prepared to compromise even with Genghiskhan because being Salima"s son he disliked me.
      It had been a week since the local Mullah Ikrom Khodzhi married us, and I began a genuine life with Salima.
      Genghiskhan, for one, started leaving home without saying a word and returning drunk late in the evening.
      As the father, I made up my mind to correct the fellow.
      One fine evening I went to look for him asking young men about his whereabouts. They told me that he could be found in the district center near the restaurant with a cellar bar in the basement. I went to the district center and having found the bar went down the spiral stairs. On the walls of the bar there were pictures of naked women, dull-eyed vampires and hieroglyphic formulas painted in aerosol oil. A roaring sound of music came from the counter where the bartender was selling alcohol. Young people, wrapped in a shroud of smoke, were dancing in the pavilion. The air was saturated with the smell of alcohol, tobacco and perfume. I found Genghiskhan behind the bar where tables were set. He was sitting with a woman whose face was all in paint and putty. Her tits where the size of a man"s head. I walked up to them with a greeting but Ghengiskhan didn"t even look at me.
      - Get up - I said - let"s go home.
      Ghenghiskhan first stared at me in surprise and then burst out laughing with acidity:
      "What"s up, man? Are you crazy? Why are you calling me? I"m not your son. You are not all there, are ye? Get out of here before you get killed. You want to be my father, I see.
      - All right, you are not my son - I said - But have pity on your mom. She is worried about you. Come on, Ghenghiskhan, get up. Let"s go.
      Presently, the woman with big tits interfered:
      - What"s the matter, man? Why do you offend my boy-friend?
      - Don"t pry, you slut - I said angrily.
      All over sudden she got hold on my color with a loud cry.
      - What did you say? Repeat it, did you say slut?!
      I struck her with all my might. She rolled back and fell down and entangling in the table-cloth hit herself against the table.
      Those in the bar rose from the tables while the cooks and the waiters were watching the scene from the kitchen. The musicians, too, cast glances at her but went on playing. The girl with big tits got up and threatened:
      - Your days are counted now. If you are a real man, stay here. I will bring Bruce Lee! He will make cutlets from you.
      - Go, go and bring your Brute Lee! You might as well bring along Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris for that matter. I am not afraid - I said, so as not to appear faint-hearted in the eyes of Ghenghiskhan. But I shivered as I said it.
      The woman with big tits disappeared. Ghengizkhan, shaking his head and laughing, said:
      - Aren"t you sick and tired of this? Go away before too long. If you fall into the hands of
     Bruce Lee, that will be the end of you! He is a Master of Sport in Kon Fu . Do you know what a Kon Fu is? It"s a bone breaking machine! A mill that grinds human bones into flour!
      - We"ll go together, come on, get up - I said stubbornly, lifting him by his armpits.
      He shook off my hands and shouted:
      - Don"t touch me!
      Then he started crying for some reason:
      - I don"t need a father. Do you understand? Leave me alone! I have a father. He will come and stab you!
      Then I told him:
      - Come, come, don"t cry. Why are you crying like a girl? All right, when we get home I will leave the house for ever. Get up, will you? Let"s go home.
      As I said this Genghiskhan stopped crying and looked at me as if I had come from another planet. But it was too late for he woman with big tits had brought Bruce Lee, a man with an Asian look, slant eyed and two meters tall. The woman said pointing at me:
      - There"s the scoundrel. He"s insulted me!
      The alleged Bruce Lee came up to me, lifted his leg, beat the air and started limbering up. The woman with huge tits continued setting her idol on me:
      - Teach him a lesson, Bruce! Bang him on the pate! Show him what you can do! Hit the lame dog!
      The false Bruce took off his kimono, girded himself with a belt and went on limbering up.
     I was sure he would knock me down at a blow. And though I was scared, yet I could challenge my rival:
      - Perhaps, we"d better go out? - I said calmly.
      - Why not? - answered the false Bruce Lee just as calmly.
      He stared at me, quite composed, like a butcher stares at the bull, or like an executioner stares at the man sentenced to death on the guillotine. His look made my blood run cold. We went out. People followed me looking at me with compassion. The musicians, keeping their eyes fixed on me, went on playing.
      I started praying to God, like I had done back on the lake, secretly glancing over the sky:
      "God, oh my God, do you hear me, please do me a favor. Help me once again. I have my young wife and my children at home, they are waiting for me".
      I looked and saw the false Bruce Lee limber up again. Without stopping it he said:
      - Say your prayer. In a few minutes you will go to heaven.
      - Oh yeah - I answered.
      He stopped limbering up and started waltzing around me and, like a mad gorilla, looking at me frowningly.
      I thought I heard the heavenly singing of angels in the distance.
      Suddenly, the false Bruce Lee slipped down on a water melon rind and, losing his balance, fell down striking his head against the concrete. I saw him lie motionless. I felt his pulse. He was alive. I thought he"d got а cranial trauma.
      I thanked God, of course, and made my way back to the bar. I went downstairs and entered the hall. People were standing motionless there. The music slowed down and then faded. The musicians, instruments in hand, were looking at me. All guests, cooks and waiters also stood staring at me. The woman with tits as big as balls was struck. Genghiskhan was also staring at me with eyes wide open, unaware if it was a dream or reality.
      I went up to him and said:
      - Well, get up now and let"s go home. Genghiskhan took his raincoat and followed me. When we went out into the street we saw an ambulance car and medics loading Bruce Lee putting him on the stretcher. My rival"s servants also went to hospital. We took a taxi and went home. On the way Genghiskhan asked me:
      - You"re a good fighter, man. Do you do karate? Where did you learn it?
      - At Uvada Factory I answered.
      He looked at me enviously and said:
      - I should say I didn"t expect it. You should be sent to fight without rules! To knock out such a burly man within 10 minutes - incredible!
      I smiled confusedly. Genghiskhan went on:
      - Listen, will you teach me to fight?
      - Yes, I replied -but you will have to give up drinking.
      Genghiskhan agreed.
     
     (31) The Dangerous Laboratory Assistant
     
      I passed over to Genghiskhan all I knew about the oriental martial arts and the history of ninja . He was so keen on karate that he even gave up drinking and smoking.
      A made a load which he hanged up to his feet and ran in the morning and in the evening. After running he beat the sack filled with sand. He started calling me Master and, as a sign of respect, he now used the polite form of address ("you" instead of "thee").
      So we had made friends. Salima was overjoyed. We were happy that we had managed to prevent the ne'er-do-well son from going astray.
      But one day our joy was overshadowed again. Genghiskhan took to the bottle again. He had broken loose, so to say. We asked him about the reason but he wouldn"t answer. "It"s useless" - he said.
      But I found out. He happened to have fallen in love with the daughter of the filling station attendant Bairam who sold petrol at Pump 3 in the district center. When the attendant saw his daughter with Genghiskhan he got angry and said:
      - If I see you with my daughter again I will teach you a lesson, you son of a bitch.
      Genghiskhan hit Bairam for the abusive words But the former"s bodyguards beat Genghiskhan black and blue.
      I took that act as a challenge. I was so angry that I nearly went mad. I took my bike with an imported handle bar and the empty tires and, settling myself on the saddle like a knight on a jade, I said:
      - Farewell! I am gone! The trumpets are calling! If by morning I do not come back, remember me kindly! Remember to attend my grave every spring on Memorial Day. It will be a pity if my burial pace, remains sad and solitary, dug up by hedgehogs from all sides, while other graves will be attended by the near and dear of the departed person, and if my grave doesn"t have any greenery, not even nettle or thorns, while other graves will be covered with tulips and roses. I will show Bairam how to abuse the honor of my Salima! I shall take revenge! And you, Genghiskhan, continue my cause! Salamu aleikum!
      I finished my farewell speech, and rattling with the wheels of my bicycle without tires, like an ancient Egyptian archer in a chariot, I made my way towards the district center where Bairam sold gasoline.
      On seeing me Bairam started kidding:
      -Welcome to our gas station, Mr. Azhnaby! I am sorry, what petroleum suits your imported car- 93 or 76?
      I answered:
      - Oh thank you very much. We will first check the petroleum, ok?
      - And who on earth are you to do the checking? - Bairam asked.
      - I am a laboratory assistant!
      -Ah -a-a, laboratory assistant, are you? That"s interesting... And how are you going to check your wretched domain? Maybe, you"ll smell it? Or gulp a glass? Don"t be ashamed, we have a good brand. It makes one feel dizzy!
      - Ye-e-s, ok! - I said.
      Our conversation made the drivers roar with laughter. Some of them held their bellies like people suffering from stomach ulcer. As if continuing the comedy Bairam called one of his attendants.
      Urman, bring two liters of gasoline. A laboratory assistant has come to us from the USA. Let him check it. He brought the gasoline in two dirty buckets and passing them over to me said:
      - Drink it, Mr. Laboratory Assistant, gurgle-gurgle. Whisky with soda! Oh, sorry, it has slipped my mind. You Americans, too, drink it on ice. Just a minute. Excuse me. There you are.
      The drivers were laughing, tears in their eyes. Baron went on scoffing at me.
     . . - I should have known, you westerners, drink sipping, in a civilized manner, using a straw. I will correct my error quickly. For once, instead of a sipping straw, he put a hose into the bucket. I took off my shirt and put it into the bucket, to moisten it. Then I took the shirt and walked up to the pumps. I threw down my shirt, withdrew a cigarette lighter and raised it over my head. Out of fear, Bairam turned pale and shrieked:
      - Hey you, what are you doing?! Don"t you see I am kidding? .
      The drivers, fearing there would be an explosion, stood motionless, like dummies made of cardboard.
      - Hey, Bairam, little boy - I said - will you bring that bucket here? Be quick! I am serious! I am a kamikaze! .
      - You should have said it at once. I thought you were an Uzbek man. Gamarjuba, Genozwali! You have a nice name - Kamikaze. I have a friend. He, too, is a Georgian. His name is Marmelaze. By the way, is he a relative of yours?
      - What are you talking about you, stupid fool? Kamikaze is a bomb and a man. He explodes a certain site and dies in that explosion. Don"t pretend. Go and bring the bucket with the gasoline - I shouted.
      Bairam"s comedy turned into a tragedy. He stood like a tragic actor. The drivers" faces looked- like burnt out bulbs.
      I was ordering about like a film producer. At last our tragic actor took a bucket and came up to me. He was so scared that his hands and legs were shaking. I told him:
      - Now drink the gasoline! We"ll see how strong it is. You may drink it without ice! You are a taster to-day. Be quick! Do you hear? Drain it!
      Bairam took a mouthful of the burning liquid, and his face was distorted with disgust. I shouted:
      - Well, how is it? Tasty? Do you want some more? Why did you offend my son and insult my wife?
      - Bairam went down on his knees and started begging my pardon. Now somebody must have called the militia and the operative force officials from the oil-station arrived. They started negotiating with me. Bairam offered me $1000 US in exchange for reconciliation. I refused and said:
      - Who do you take me for? I am an honest laboratory assistant. I don"t take bribes, I"ll be dammed!
      At this point there came a loud voice from the group of militiamen and oil-station officials:
      - Stop it, laboratory assistant! Let us sit down and discuss all the questions on the spot!
      Now some figures in black camouflage flashed. As far as I could see that it was an attachment of Emergency Force of Militia. I lit the cigarette lighter. Everybody stood motionless staring at the burning lighter. I shouted:
      - Take away the Emergency Force, or else I"ll explode the pump! I"ve got nothing to lose!
     There came a command for the Emergency Force to withdraw.
     I went on crying:
      - All I want is justice! The gasoline refiller has insulted my spouse and hurt my son! I want Bairam to quit work at the oil-station.
      - We give you the word of honor that he will be fired and never work along this line! - the voice from the loud speaker said.
      Bairam crawled up to me on all fours and started kissing my boots.
      - Pardon me, please, for goodness sake! Forgive me, Mr. Laboratory Assistant!
      At this point something incredible happened, and the men of the Emergency Force fell on upon me. I jumped back and said:
      - Is that what you want? Now get it!
      I threw the burning cigarette-lighter down on the ground where my shirt soaked with gasoline lay. On seeing that, the Emergency Force men dashed towards the cash desk. There came a voice from the place where the drivers, officials and operative militiamen were standing:
      - Lie down!
      All those standing on the site and beyond jumped into the ditch filled with water, hoping for rescue. Bairam, too, ran and jumped into the dirty water. I looked around and saw that my cigarette-lighter was still burning but my shirt was not. I picked the lighter and placed it against the shirt to make it take fire. But it suddenly went out. I tried to do it several times but alas, each time it died out. A few minutes" later people started raising their heads in surprise seeing that the gasoline was not burning. It turned out that Bairam had mixed the gasoline with water or something. Those lying on the ground got up with a sigh of relief. The men from the Emergency Militia Force arrested me and put me into the car, handcuffed. As we started, I thought:
      - That"s all. They will sentence me to life imprisonment. But it appears that there is justice on earth. Subsequently, they thanked me for the disclosure of the crime committed by Bairam and freed me with apologies.
      I was free now. Salima and Genghiskhan came to meet me. I tapped Genghiskhan on the shoulder and sang the following lines from a popular prison song:
     
     Cabman, dear, take me away,
     I am free as the wind to-day...
     Northern wind! The Central Prison,
     The attorney died this season.
     
     (32) Fishing
     
      Sunday morning after breakfast Genghiskhan and I dug up in the garden some worms for the bait and took the fishing rods in the barn. Then we went fishing to Palvankul Lake. Like a surgeon in a white smock, the morning was cutting with the scalpel the huge hernia of the sky in the horizon. Some birds were making a noise in the elm tree, while the voices of other birds could be heard up in the fresh quiet air. We were in high spirits.
      Looking at the can which Genghiskhan was carrying like the lamp of Aladdin I said:
     - Worms look very simple but in fact they are very mysterious. They eat the earth cultivating the soil. If there were no worms, all tools and even machines would break during the tillage: spades, hoes, mattocks and even most powerful tractors. There would be no trees, no flowers, and no life on earth. There are huge terrible worms in this world. It"s us human beings. We, too, dig up the soil and build pits for winged rockets. We test nuclear bombs exploding them underground. We bury nuclear wastes away from ourselves and close to our brethren that receive the overdose of radioactive emanation and live without suspecting the presence of contaminated substance. We are horrible worms for, cheating the fish, we pin them alive on hooks using them as baits forgetting that worms do useful work digging the soil.
      - Ye-a-ah - said Genghiskhan.
      - One night - I continued - we went by taxi through high Kirghiz mountain passes covered with eternal snow with the moon floating up in the cold sky. Looking at the mountain rocks and primeval forests with snow-clad tall green fir-trees, pines and cedars standing motionless, like bewitched, I asked the driver Mavlyan:
      - Baike, I"ve been told that once upon a time two people were driving along this road just like we are driving now, and as they were going up, their car broke. The driver told the passenger to go out and put a stone under the wheel. He went out and as he tried to do as he was told he was attacked by a pack of hungry wolves which tore the man into pieces and ate him up.
      Mavlyan laughed merrily and said:
      - God forbid! Deliver us from breakage!
      - Never fear! It was a long time ago. Wolves are afraid of man nowadays. For if we catch one we are sure to fry it on fire and eat it. They say the wolf"s meat is very good for health.
      Genghiskhan laughed. We crossed a cotton field and came out into the open space of Palvokul Lake. The fresh winds were stirring its greenish azure waters. White sea-gulls flew around looking down in search of fish and crying like one all together.
      We went along the narrow path down to the shore of the lake where green two meter long canes were rustling in the thick brushwood. We heard frogs croaking in the canes.
     . We put our rucksacks on a dry place. Then we set our fishing rods, dressed the hooks with worms and cast the lines up into the air. The hooks with the sinks and the buzzing lines dropped into the blue water of the lake. We now watched the floats, sitting in silence so as not to frighten the fish. The water reflected the blue sky with white clouds.
      Suddenly I and saw a red dragonfly settle on my float. Genghiskhan was staring at me. Smiling to each other, we watched the blue eyed red dragon fly riding the float. I thought:
      - It"s not for nothing that the doctors advise people with heart trouble to go fishing. It really sets one"s heart and mind at rest and restores one"s nerve cells. There is no noise, no hubbub. Peace and quiet remove tension.
      I knew many anglers. They loved solitude and silence. It turned into a habit, and they would become as silent as fish. Now the dragon-fly flew away breaking my contemplation. Suddenly my float splashed and disappeared. I was at a loss.
      - It"s biting! - Genghiskhan said.
      - I see - I replied and taking the road in my hand I started rolling the reel.
      When I raised the rod I saw a small fish hang and the hook glistening with silver red
     scales in the bright rays of the sun
      I took the fish off the hook. For lack of oxygen it writhed taking the air in with its mouth
     and quills which it uses for breathing and pumping water. To relieve it from torments, I put it in a small pool where it started floating showing its back in the shallow water. Now Genghiskhan , too, had his line tightened and his float disappeared. When he started rolling the reel I said:
     - Be careful, sonny. It looks like a big fish has fallen for the bait. Don"t pull it sharply for
     for it may break off the line.
     He did as I told him and pulled out the fish, now tightening, now loosening the line.
     The fishing gave us a lot of pleasure and joy.
     Suddenly three men appeared over the ravine. They turned out to be Sadik Nenash, who
     had served his prison sentence for stealing people"s money, the tractor driver Satim Pati and the stock-keeper of the local school Shakhrukh Shaitan.
     With the inflatable rubber dinghy on his shoulders Sadik Nenash came down the path
     leaving behind his boon companions.
      Satim Pati had some heavy unit in his hand, Shakhrukh Shaitan had a flask and a sack. When they approached us we saw that the unit was a compact machine that converted mechanical energy to electrical energy generating the current of rather high tension.
      Shakhrukh Shaitan and Satim Pati examined the fish we had caught and sneered wryly. The former said:
      - Do you call it a catch? We will now catch fish using sacks within six seconds. Look and learn. It"s not baking bread for you.
      - We shall see - said Genghiskhan.
      Shakhrukh Shaitan poured gasoline into the generator"s tank and closed the lid. Then he
     turned to Genghiskhan and said:
     - Hey, man, have you ever eaten game?
     - No, why? - replied Genghiskhan.
     - You will taste it now - Shakhrukh Shaitan said.
      He took the flask and poured out the rest of the gasoline onto the last year"s dry canes
     and struck the match. We hadn"t been able to stop him. The cane took fire raising a huge crackling puff of smoke. The alarmed waterfowl left their nests quacking and leaving their eggs and their helpless hatched birds on their own. There was not a moment to lose.
      - We must extinguish the fire - I said to Genghishan
      - Yes, but how? - he asked in surprise.
      I tried to put the fire out but it was too late. The fire was expanding with every second. I felt an urge to hit and break the hands of Shakhrukh Shaitan who had set fire to the cane. But he already sat in the boat drinking vodka with his boon companions. The generator was rattling. They must have switched it on.
      Then Satim Pati told Sadik Nenash to put the leads into the water. The latter did as he was told. As a result both small and big fish came to the surface with their stomachs up. Opening his womanlike toothless mouth wide with excitement Shakhrukh shaitan shouted :
     - Hey you! Do you see? That"s the way you should fish! Learn it from us!
     Shouting out this Shakhrukh Shaitan stretched his hands to the fish and grabbed one,
     shouting happily. Then for some reason he fell into the water. Now Sadik Nenash cried out:
      - Satim Pati, switch off the generator!
      The tractor driver saw Shakhrukh Shaitan fall and quickly switched the unit off.
     It so happened that when Shakhrukh Shaitan had seized the fish with both hands he was
     struck by the current. Satim Pati cried to us:
      -Help!
     Sadick Nenash, who had made water out of fear, was crying in a low voice. Genghiskhan
     was the first to jump into the water. I followed him. We had long searched for Shakhrukh Shaitan and finally found him. When we got him out of the water he was dead.
     
     (33) Santa Claus
     
      From then on Salima, Genghiskhan and I started living in friendship and harmony. Days and months went by, and now we were on the threshold of New Year"s Day!
      It was New Years Eve. We set up a plastic Christmas tree adorning it with multicolored toys and flickering lights. We laid the table. Salima had prepared a tasty shurpa and roast meat with potatoes. We were in a festive mood. I went up to Salima and hugging her from behind started kissing her. She tried to free herself from my hugs whispering:
      - What are you doing? Let me go, Genghis is there. Shame on you..
      She slipped away and raising the wooden ladle attacked me like a fencer. I took the lid of the
     saucepan to defend myself. Then I walked up to the door where Genghiskhan stood encouraging
     his mom:
      - That"s it! Strike him! On the head, hit him on the head!
      Salima started striking me furiously. I ran out into the street. It was dark, and it wassnowing
     heavily. The wistful trees were covered with snow which seemed to illuminate the night. I heard
     the sound of happy laughter and the shout of a drunken man in the distance.
      I was still defending myself. Then "combat support" came to Salima. It was Genghiskhan
     who suddenly pushed me back. I slipped and losing my balance fell down. They threw snow at
     me. I shouted and laughed. Then I looked and saw them sit and pant laughing. I picked a handful
     of snow, made a ball and stuck it in Genghiskhan"s bosom and ran to the house. They ran after
     me. As we entered the house we couldn"t stop laughing. Breathing heavily we went into the
     sitting-room. Salima went to the kitchen. Half an hour later we sat down at the table to have
     breakfast. We sat eating, drinking and chatting without taking account of time. Time flew. When
     the clock struck 12 I opened a bottle of champagne and poured it out When we raised the glasses
     Santa Claus has suddenly come in. Frankly speaking, it was quite unexpected. We were so
     Happy! We greeted him and invited him to table. I poured him a glass of champagne, and we all
     drank. Then we sat together eating and making merry. "It"s such a joy to sit at table with genuine
     Santa Claus at Christmas party" - I thought - One might as well die from such happiness!"
     - I say, Jack Frost, I have never received a gift from Granny Frosts - I explained - your
     arrival is a big gift for me.
      Wiping his greasy lips with a napkin Jack Frost said:
     - I have brought gifts for all of you. You will have one as well. Let me give them to you
     before I get drunk. Come on, let"s get up quickly.
      We rose from the table..
      - Can you recite poems? - Granny Frost asked me.
      - Yes- I answered.
      - Then come up close to the Christmas tree and read.
      I went up to the adorned tree and started reciting the poem:
     
     O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree!
     How are thy leaves so verdant!
     O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
     How are thy leaves so verdant!
     
     Not only in the summertime,
     But even in winter is thy prime.
     O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
     How are thy leaves so verdant!
     
      Granny Frost clapped his hands:
      - Good for you. Will you close your eyes?
      As I closed my eyes he said:
      - Now lift your foot and stand like a stork
      I did as he said and stood waiting for the gift. Now all of a sudden I literally flew off from a powerful blow in the face, crushing the Christmas-tree, while Jack Frost continued walloping me
     scolding me like anything.
     - Why, what"s the matter, Granny Frost, are you crazy? Why are you beating me? What
     have I done to you? Don"t hurt me! I"m a war invalid!
      But he didn"t stop. I had to defend myself until he had totally crippled me. As he came close to me I hit the angry Granny Frost in the groin with my good foot. He bent down and fell. I got up. Then, taking him by the collar, I hit him again in his muzzle. Jack Frost bashed his head against the sideboard crushing the crystal vases and the quaint chinaware. He was lying amidst the splinters, without his glued mustache and beard. Closing her face with her hands Salima cried out. Genghiskhan bent down, put his hands round his neck and shouted:
      - Father! Daddy! At la-a-ast! You have come back, eh? Sorry, dear, we didn"t know!
      I realized at once that it was Geghiskhan"s father Hasil who had been doing time in Karaulbazar prison under Bukhara. I felt ill at ease. I was at a loss not knowing what to do. Thank God, the neighbors called the militia and they arrived. They drew up the report, and I was taken to - gosh! - the sobering-up station, one of the worst places I had ever been to!
      Caught like stray dogs the boozers slept snarling. Some were raving, others were letting the air out that resounded like the distant wistful hooter of an atomic vessel breaking the ice in Arctic Ocean.
      There were stinking feet and worn through socks scattered around like badly smelling chemical weapons of mass destruction.
      There were no windows in the cell. The door was thick and iron-shod.
      I could hardly hold out till morning. In the morning the iron door opened and I, like a centaur, started greedily breathing in the fresh air. I looked around and behind the bar saw militiamen filling in some forms. Then a militiaman, as thick as a hog, with no neck, entered the cell, a bundle of belts in his hands. He threw the belts down to our feet. Everybody chose a belt to his liking. I found a cheap belt with a crocodile"s picture on it. As I adjusted the belt to my trousers a militiaman called me:
      - Hey you, Satan, the one who beat Jack Frost, what is your name?
      I told him my name, and he put it down. Another militiaman fixed his malicious eyes on me and said:
      - What a rascal! What an ungrateful jackal! Granny Frost had brought him gifts, and he walloped him! The brute! If the law permitted I would strangle you with my own hands!
     I did not respond. Then he made a roll-call. Then they started giving the boozers over to
     their relatives who had paid the fine.
      I waited thinking: "What a disgrace! Nobody is going to come and take me out of here. I have no relatives left. Nor do I have money to pay the fine".
     Suddenly, the militiaman who had scolded me called me again:
      - Hey you, lame man, go over there!
      I did as he said and saw Javatokhun standing there. I dropped my eyes. I was ashamed of
     the Master. He squeezed my shoulders and said smiling:
      - You are not to blame. I heard everything. Never mind, don"t worry. Everything will be all right. Don"t go there any more. Sunnatillo will bring your things. You will be living with me again.
      On hearing that, I felt as if I had a blackout before my eyes.
     
     
     (34) Sorrow
     
      Winter night. Thick fogs. Silence. Like huge eyes with no pupils and lashes, solitude had fixed its eyes upon me. My patience gave way.
      I put my coat and shoes on and went out. In the thick fog I could easily get off the road and fall down into a ditch or bump into a tree. Waking carefully on the crunching snow, I made my way to Salima"s house.
      I had liked fogs and winter nights since my childhood. I remembered when I was a boy my school friend Uktam would drop at my place in his tiger skin-like striped caftan and a worn out cap with ear-flaps. We would go to school together. Leaving the first footsteps on the morning snow and, hardly struggling forward, we would advance admiring the high silver mountains where a snow-slip hanged by a thread. We would kick the tall maple-trees and look up to see the clouds of snow with silver coating come down on us, like snow- slips. We would feel a joyful and pleasant dread for the moment. In other words, we would get a big portion of hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla. When it was over we would laugh noisily shaking off with our caps the snow from our striped caftans.
      In winter, when it snowed, I often recalled that friend of mine. He was gone. He had died from a heart attack.
      Thinking about that I insensibly came up to the house where Salima and I had lived together. I entered the yard. The dim yellow light coming from the dear windows was illuminating the porch.
      Stepping quietly, trying not to make the snow crunch, I went up to the windows like a ninja spy intrudes into the emperor"s residence attempting to crush him with his sword. Looking inside through the window I saw the Granny Frost Hasil who was sitting on the sofa, with his legs crossed. Judging by the way he looked and moved he was obviously drunk. He was talking to Genghiskhan:
      - You thought I was dead didn"t you? No-oo-o, Genghis, I am Koschei the Deathless.
     Even if they throw me into the barrel of the mill, binding my hands and feet, I will get out safe and sound with a sack of flour on my shoulders. You got it? Having a father like I am, you hired some other father? And your mom? She has trampled down the honor of our family. She told me you needed father"s hand to bring you up. Nonsense! She didn"t need his hand but some other part of him.
      Salima cried:
      - Shame on you! How can you say such things in the presence of your son?!
      - What? - the Jack Frost Hasi jumped up from his seat - Shame on me did you say? You bitch! And you? Aren"t you ashamed, you bloody whore, to bring your lovers to the holy bed? Well, did you like New Year gift? That"s it! I will come from where you don"t expect me! Ye-ee-s, Genghiskhan"s stepfather liked the gift.
      Genghiskhan said:
      - Father, don"t say that! He is not my father!
      - Why did you let him enter our house? - Granny Frost Hasil shouted - Are you a man or a woman? Why didn"t you pierce his throat with a pitchfork? Why didn"t cut him into pieces with an axe?
      He opened his eyes wide like Othello. Then he started beating himself:
      - Disgrace! Oh, what a disgrace! Why didn"t I stab him? No-o-o, I won"t let it pass! I will make him toe the line! I"ll make him eat shit! I"ll bring an action against him! I will tell the court: "Gentlemen, do your laws defend people or are they on the side of beasts that take the lawful spouses of from honest men by force? It"s rape, that"s what it is! I believe in the state and in the court of justice!" That"s precisely what I am going to say! Then he will be sent to a strict-security camp under the most severe article. The prisoners hate such men. They regard them as girls. Men will take turns in marrying him.
      Saying this Granny Frost Hasil poured out vodka and gave one of pialas to Genghiskhan:
      - Drink it!
      - I don"t drink - said Genghiskhan.
      - How can you? - Salima interfered - instead of...
      - Don"t pry, you bitch, you whore, you slut! - Granny Frost Hasil shouted. Then he went on:
      - We are cheating Genghiskhan"s new father.
      Hasil still had the piala with vodka in his hand. He started screaming again:
      - Take it! Don"t disobey your father! Or else I will damn you!.. If only my father could rise from the dead and come out of the grave, if only he gave me a cup of vodka telling me to drink it! I would drain it! Oh my, I"ve lost such a father! I was his boon companion. Before leaving for school he would take out a bottle of vodka and pour some for me. Then we would exchange toasts, clink the cups and drain them like intimate friends do. We would drink without having a snack. I would drink two hundred or two hundred and fifty grams and walk slightly staggering to school. All my cell mates... dash!... all my classmates envied me. My teachers did not praise me for that, of course. On the contrary, they would sometimes put me to guardroom, well, you know, punishment cell sort of, the so called zindan , that is a deep trench.
      And you should see the way we dressed! Our school was a specialized one, and our uniform was in line with it. Well, how should I explain it to you... We had a striped uniform, you see? And we had numbers on them. They were designed to make it easier to catch those schoolboys who tried to break away. Outside, behind the bars, fierce dogs were barking, and the guards armed with hunting rifles watched the school campus fenced with barbed wire. The school was equipped with a powerful signaling system and a searchlight. The windows had grates on them. From time to time they would search the cells. The teachers conducted lessons shield in hand and wore body armor and a protective helmet. My father would always help me out and free me from zindan by bribing the headmaster Gemalayev Dogmat Doratkagazovich. Come on, sonny, take the cup and let us drink to the bright memory of my father, that is to your grandfather. May he rest in peace!
     Genghiskhan took the cup and drained it in one gulp.
      - That"s a good boy! That"s another pair of shoes! Go ahead, have a snack now - Granny Frost Hasil said stretching him a pickle.
      Looking at Granny Frost with contempt Salima cried:
      - Why are you staring in such a way, you damned wretch! - he shouted. Shall I pour you some vodka? Have a drink, you"ll be better...
      Then he got up and went up to the door. I hid myself in the larder. Hasim went out and, without putting his shoes on made his way to the toilet. When he closed the door behind him, I went out of the larder, looked around and saw a brick near the hen-house. I picked it and hurled it with all might towards the toilet. Hitting the door the brick pieces dispersed like shell fragments. Like a ninja agent, I disappeared in the thick fog and started watching the scene. Granny Frost Hasil went out of the toilet looking around in fear and dashed headlong to the house. His trousers were wet. He must have let half of the water out in the wrong direction.
      I didn"t go up to the windows any more. I hated to hurt the woman who found herself in an
     awkward situation. I realized that my actions were illegal. But I hadn"t forced he to marry me for I knew that love was above the law. I found out that love was a misery. A physicist by the name of Karim Ibn Tolib cited the following proverb: "Why should we love and suffer if all roads lead to bed". If love ended in bed I wouldn"t have suffered so badly. I wouldn"t have been attached to Salima so strongly. Now I will go and never come back...
      Stumbling in the snow I walked in the thick quiet fog. Tears came to my eyes. I wept through clenched teeth in silence.
      I had liked thick fogs since my childhood. For in the fog you don"t see anybody, and nobody can see your tears.
     
     (35) Mukhametdin"s Diary
     
      After the death of unle Mukhametdin, the old war participant, who had lived a long life and died in his old age, we found his shabby diary in leather binding.
      He was one of the most respectable men in Kashkirkishlak village. As I was engaged in creative work murdashui Gaipnazar gave me that diary asking me not to lose it. After the funeral I brought the diary home.
      I started reading it and couldn"t stop. The events described in the diary were so exciting, that I couldn"t tear my eyes off the pages day and night.
     Prologue
      I knew perfectly well that the diary could be an occasion for the marshal court to sentence me to death penalty by hanging. Therefore I started writing it after Stalin"s death during Khrushchev"s period of thaw. I wrote what I had seen in my life and what you couldn"t even see in your dreams.
     The War
      In 1942 I was drafted into the army. We were trained under Krasnodar, and after the training we were sent to the Ukrainian Front, along with the horses.
      Either due to the lack ammunitions or because of mistrust they didn"t give us anything except for spades. We were bombed by the enemy" planes under Rostov-on-Don. As a result, the train came off the rails and the carriages blazed up. So many people died then, it was horrible!
      After the bombing the fascists took us prisoners. As a faithful soldier of my Motherland, I should have killed myself but I couldn"t. The infantrymen had no other weapons but for spades. We were driven like cattle God knows where. We walked under escort the whole day. They didn"t feed us and didn"t let us rest. We walked staggering like drunken. The fascists shot dead on the spot those lagging behind and falling down. It was not until late in the evening that we were allowed to have a rest. Many people fell ill that night. At midnight they roused us and made us walk ahead. Half asleep, we walked in the cold rain along the dirt road. The fascists escort soldiers and officers had raincoats on, and before setting out they had had a good supper. In the morning we arrived at the destination. It was a concentration camp for Soviet war prisoners.
      They searched us and taking our clothes away gave out striped pajamas and offered some food which, in fact, couldn"t be called food at all. The broth had neither meat nor oil in it, just pieces of rotten cabbages. The next day the fascists cut the meat of a dead horse into pieces in a pointed manner and fed us like chicken with birdseeds, sort of. Pushing one another, the hungry prisoners rushed to the meat of a dead horse and began to eat it greedily, like a pack if beasts. Presently, a heavy fire was opened at the place from which the food had been thrown to us. The whistling bullets flew over our heads. Fearing the stray bullets, the prisoners like one lay down on the ground. Watching the scene the fascists roared with laughter. Then they threw us some more of that so called meat. The prisoners got up and were about to run to the pieces of raw meat when the fascists opened fire again, and again we had to lie down to make the fascists laugh.
      It was late autumn. The frosts were getting stronger and stronger with each passing day. The fascists started sorting people out in the camp. The Jews were beaten severely. The fascists set the guard dogs on them. One Jewish prisoner was eaten up alive by dogs. Another tried to flee and was shot dead, like a partridge.
      Since I was a folk healer I treated prisoners in the barrack at night. I had my own method of treating the prisoners thrashed by fascists. In the past I had mainly used the song and poem therapy trying to influence the patients" mental process and behavior.
      Being unable to treat people in the camp with the help of songs I started using the poem therapy. When I read a poem by heart the wounded prisoners would be hypnotized and fall into a trance. After the treatment they would be relieved from pain and feel good.
      I could of course hypnotize the fascists as well, but I was afraid that in case of failure I would be killed on the spot. It would be like committing suicide. Seeing my prisoners recover after my treatment I felt happy. It was really great!
      But there were informers among us who reported the fascists about my medical practice. The
     result was that one night the fascists burst into the barrack and took me away.
      It was cold outside. The barbed wire fence and the creaking lights on the lamp posts swayed and whistled in the fierce wind. The powerful searchlights illuminated the camp, and the dogs barked at me nervously.
     They brought me to the camp commander. When we entered his room he stood by the window smoking. He was a tall red haired man, thin and with protruding eyes like those of a smoked fish. There was an officer by his side, a thick man in the fascist"s uniform, with a big scar on his face. As they opened the door the officer and the escort men straightened at attention raising their right hand and greeting their boss with the exclamation: "Heil Hitler!"
     - "Heil" - said the camp boss. The thick assistant with a scar on his face joined him. Then
     the boss told the officer to leave the room along with escort. When they left the room the camp manager started interrogating me. The thick assistant was translating my words from Russian into German.
     - Are you a communist?
     - No, I don"t belong to any party.
     - You are a doctor, aren"t you?
     - Not really.
     - What do you mean by saying "not really"?
     - I am a folk healer. I mean I am a Talib. Talib is...
     - What are your methods of treatment?
     - Sometimes I treat singing songs... I mean I mostly use the song and poetry method.
      Is it possible to treat the sick in that way?
     -Yes it is.
     - What is your nationality? Are Jewish?
     - No. I am Uzbek. There was such a republic in the Soviet Union.
     - Uspakistan? Pakistan, is it?
     - No. Uzbekistan. Uzbek, Uzbik, Uzbyuk. Well, Samarkand, Bukhara...
      - Oh yeah, Samarkand, Bukhara. Tamerlane? Do you come from the Tamerlane nation?
     - Ye-e-es, yes.
     - Then why do you treat Jews?
     - To me sick people are just patients, regardless of their nationality and their belief. I just
     have to help those in need of my support. That"s what my father taught me.
      The boss fell silent contemplating. Making a pause he asked:
      - Can you treat a child suffering from phobia?
      - I will try - I said.
      The camp boss silently crushed the cigarette in the ashtray.
      - Who is the child? Where is he? - I asked.
      - It"s my son - the camp boss answered.
     - Your son? - I asked in surprise.
      - Yes, even doctors and academicians were unable to cure him. So think. I will give you a chance. If you cure him, I will let you live. If not, you will die a terrible death for Otto is my only child.
      - Excuse me, what does you son complain of? - I asked.
      - He always says that there someone standing behind the door or behind the wall. We know there"s nobody there. To make him see, we open all doors before him and even turn everything over n the house. But he insists stubbornly:
     - There he is, cant"s you see? A thin black hairy man, with a little head. Turn him out, I am
     scared - he says. But we don"t know what to do.
      - Don"t worry - I said encouragingly - Everything will be all right.
     - You will see my son tomorrow - said the camp boss.
     - OK, I replied.
      The camp boss gave a sign with his eyes, and the aide pushed the button to call the escort. They entered the room and took me back to the barrack.
      It was still and cold outside with the wind swaying the squeaking lanterns on the lampposts.
     The walls of the barracks echoed the barking of the guard dogs. I watched the snow flakes sadly whirling in the light of the hanging lanterns and falling quietly like the feathers of shot down birds. Wrapping myself up in my striped clothes I walked shivering with cold.
      At last I was locked up in the cold barrack where prisoners lay sleeping. I thanked God for saving me from being shot by the fascists. I lay down on the straw mattress and answering the questions of my brother-soldiers in a low voice I gradually fell asleep.
      I had a terrible dream. I saw that I had been brought to the chamber of torture with huge bowls of water. There were armed guards standing, sticks in hand, by both sides of the bowls. There were prisoners in the bowls filled with cold water. As they come out from under the water the guards struck them without remorse on their heads, and they dove in again. The guards asked me:
      - What is your nationality?
      - Uzbek - I answered.
      - Ah, Uzbek. Then take off your clothes and go down into that bowl. There are Uzbeks in it. There are many of them though you cannot see them all. Many of them must have died for lack of air.
      - Really? - I said, and then I added:
      - Excuse me, why aren"t there guards there with big sticks in hand who strike the prisoners on the head when they come out to take the air?
      - The point is that you do not need guards. You will not let one another breathe drowning your brethren.
      - The guard did not finish for suddenly a long thin arm with a tattooed word "Mamarayim" on it came out of the water and seizing my leg started pulling me into the bowl. I drowned and started
     gasping for breath.
      At this point up I woke. "What a terrible dream" - I mumbled thanking God for making this nightmare occur in a dream and not in reality.
      In the morning the officer with the escort came again and I was taken away. When we entered the office of the camp manager the officer and escort soldiers raised their hands and exclaimed in chorus:
     - Heil Hitler!
      - Sieg Heil - answered the boss. His aide and interpreter joined them.
      The boss was now talking to me in a milder tone. He explained to me that before going to see the patient I had to take a bath for hygiene.
      I took a bath and changed my clothes for the suit the officer gave me. Then I had a good meal, and putting me in a car they took me away. We drove through the wood along the bumpy road. It was lightly snowing.
      At last we arrive at a gorgeous villa where the boss lived with his family. The guard met us greeting with a fascist salutation. We entered the house. A lovely blue-eyed woman came out to meet us. The camp boss led me to the room where his sick son was sitting.
      - Put him to bed - I said.
     The boy was put to bed.
      And what is the title of the song? - the manager of the concentration camp asked.
      "Lazgi - The Roads of Khorezm" - I answered and began to sing:
     
     Omoneeeeeey omooooon!
     High mountain top stretch one by one,
     Some have snow caps, others have none.
     If a young man"s head is wise and bright
     His wife and wealth will be all right!
     
     Omo - o - o - n !
     R - a - an !
     Randada - dida - dandada !
     Dindada dandada - dindada !
     
     Drawn in pencil are your brows,
     Black as pitch they make me burn!
     Like two pythons your eyebrows,
     Make me long for you and yearn!
     
     Tell me please, my pretty girl,
     Whom does your heart belong to, warm?
     Lovely tulip, can you tell
     What flower-bed do you come from?
     
     Do you come from Hutan steppe?
     You"re as slender as gazelle!
     Black-eyed beauty, take a step,
     Come to me, my pretty girl!
     
     Black-eyed beauty my bu - u - uu - u - ty !
     My pretty girl, my bu - u - uu - u - ty !
     !
     
     
     When I changed the note from the low octave raising it to the note "do" the child started
     writhing and crying noisily. He opened his eyes wide in fear. I continued singing giving the sign to the parents to hold the child"s hands and feet. They did as I said. Singing the song I rose from my seat and began to dance "Lazgi". The escort men joined in. We danced on and on sweating our guts out, so to say. Now the child suddenly came round and smiled.
      Thus I had cured Otto, the sick son of the manager of the concentration camp. After that the fascists called my method of treatment a new discovery in the horizon of world medicine, that is a miracle of medicine, and started taking me now to the clinic, now to the field hospital where fascist soldiers were taking treatment.
      I didn"t mind. All sick people, regardless of their nationality and origin, were just patients to me. I treated them with all my heart.
      One day I held a treatment session at the field hospital, singing "Lazgi". After the session the bandaged officers and soldiers rose from their beds and started dancing around on crutches. The doctors and nurses also danced. After this session the fascists sent me to a distant island in the Pacific Ocean where German scientists were carrying out scientific experiments.
      Before my departure the fascists had warned me that it was a dangerous place. The point was that the islanders disliked doctors. I thanked them for the warning and set out for the journey. We first traveled by train, then flew to the Ocean shore and then sailed off from the port on board a small ship. It had been a long journey across the Pacific before we reached the shores of the island of mutants and nits.
      When the fascist officers had put me on a boat and left me alone it was dark with stars twinkling over the ocean. The fascists went back, and I was all on my own on the island shore with the serf roaring and swaying the boat on the huge ocean waves.
  

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