Deep South v.3 n.3 (Spring 1997)
Chapters 1-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9 appear in previous issues of Deep South.
Further chapters will appear in later issues of Deep South
"So, Ed--you going to fuck off to Moscow again?" says Paul, smirking.
"Where could he do better than in Kharkov, M. Curlers?" Genka takes up the theme. Genka really doesn't want Ed to leave. Genka would be bored. And he doesn't believe Ed will get away.
"We have firmly resolved to abandon you come September, friends." confirms Anna. "I'm going first, Ed's following in about ten days. We take Celia Yakovlyevna to Kiev, find tenants for the apartment, and farewell Kharkov!"
"And back again in two weeks!" laughs Genka. "Ed already went to Moscow, in April. He couldn't bear being torn from hearth and home!"
"But our Bakhushka's already there. He stuck it out--good for him! He wasn't made for Kharkov. Torn is right--torn from this Ukrainian faggotry" M. Curlers gestures to the side at the visitors of the Tavern. "How I despise them, this merde!" he mutters, clenching his fist against his curly hair. "I'll head off for Muscovy too, when Bunny has the baby."
"And you'll come back, too, Paul Why you all can't just stay in Kharkov..." Genka doesn't like conversations about leaving. Doesn't like them at all. Maybe he himself would go to Moscow, but here in Kharkov, where his father is a restaurant director, life is just so much easier. Who would he be in Moscow? Just another Muscovite. In Kharkov, Genka is the son of Sergei Sergeevich Ovcharenko. Even in little things, it's comfier for him here. Yesterday, for example, they needed money, as always; they were sitting around in Genka's house. Without even thinking about it, Genka took from the refrigerator several jars of crab and a couple of jars of caviar and threw the jars into a briefcase. They went down Sumskaya to the hairdresser's by the "Penguin" Cafe, and in five minutes they sold the jars of scarce goodies. And then went over to the "Lux" for shashlik. In Moscow, Genka wouldn't have a refrigerator like that, no matter how much money his father sent him.
Genka can't move to Moscow. Therefore Genka doesn't want Ed to move. Or Anna. Genka wants to keep the gang together. He can always come over to Ed and Anna's, at any time of day or night, if he's passing by. If a vertical line of light were drawn from Anna's window, that line would go right down the stairs leading to a wine cellar hidden under the asphalt of Tevelyev Square. In the summer, when it's hot, the winey smell rises straight up and permeates the trolley-shaped room, irritating the nostrils of the young poet. When Genka goes to the wine-cellar to drink, he may, if he's bored, whistle for Ed, and a few minutes later his co-imbiber will be standing next to him, leaning his shoulder against the wall decorated with Russian colors. It's strange that, in a city with a population of one million, such patriarchal customs, more characteristic of a sleepy little town, have endured so long. Genka's comfortable living in Kharkov. Therefore he doesn't like conversations about leaving.
"Ed came back from Moscow last spring because of me!" proudly declares Anna, glancing defiantly at the group. Her little nose goes all red, and her tanned face too. "Right, Ed?"
"Right." Ed feels guilty, so he avoids the usual quarrel. Normally, to provoke Anna Moiseyevna, he'd say, "No, not at all..." And Anna would say, "You scum! Young scoundrel!" and a skirmish would begin. And it's true, actually, that without Anna he'd feel awfully alone in Moscow. He's gotten used to Anna Moiseyevna; after all, they've been living together for what will soon be three years! Anna's his grandma, his friend, his drinking buddy. As Motrich says, "Anna's a good guy!"--and Ed agrees with him. She's insane, of course. But Eduard Savyenko himself spent some time in a mental hospital. He tried to do away with himself. He opened his veins onto Stendahl's novel, The Red and the Black. The bloodstained book is on the shelf, among other books, in his parents' bookcase. It was open to the page where the ardent Julien Sorel sneaks into Mme de Renal's bedroom.
But it wasn't just because of Anna that Ed returned to Kharkov. It was hard on him, moving to Moscow. He had nowhere to live. He stayed with his friend Anna, the former Kharkovite Alla Borobevskaya, formerly married to a Muscovite, Senya Pisman. Senya, of course, wasn't exactly delighted by the Kharkov youth's presence in his home. After all, who would be? To make a long story short, the first attack failed. Ed came home.
"But why do you want to go to Moscow, anyway? Moscow can't hold everyone; it's not made of rubber" --said Anna's friend, the well-known painter Brusilovskii, who was in Kharkov for a brief visit. Smelling of leather and some obviously foreign perfume, smoking a sweet-smelling tobacco (Bakh said it had raisins in it!) from a beautiful, curving pipe, moustachioed, with sideburns and a beard--Brusilovskii, striking Ed as uncommonly elegant, came to see the girlfriend of his youth. Anna had vowed to drag the Muscovite to her home, and she did.
The family made elaborate preparations for the visit. Ed went down to the Blagovyeschchenskii Market and got the groceries, and Celia Yakovlyevna made Forschmak, gefilte fish and pirogii.
The Muscovite ate like a boa-constrictor. Vagrich Bakhchyanin, who had also been invited, showed some of his works.
"Interesting...interesting..." mumbled Brusilovskii, examining Bakh's enamels. "How was it done?" Ed read poems. In essence, it was in order to show the young people's work to the Muscovite that the meeting was arranged. An important meeting. The volunteer promotional tandem, Anna and Celia Yakovlyevna, tried to palm off on Brusilovskii the young talents. Ed was the first to notice how excited Anna was. She even bit her fingernails.
"Wonderful! Remarkable!" exclaimed Brusilovskii after each poem was read--though he didn't forget to gobble the pirogii. The Muscovite's praises seemed to the poet a bit too greasy and too sweet; but, remembering Anna's instructions, he kept reading.
Such a handsome white-skinned boy doughnut of flattened leather like a column. So brilliant, his little head was transluscent Such a boy perished, eh? Like a little girl, and they'd dressed him like a girl Only later he wouldn't stand for it. He said "What am I, a little girl?"
Such a cute little tyke...
The Muscovite lavished on "Knizhishii" the greasiest praise he had in his thesaurus. "Magnificent! Magnificent! Up to Moscow standards!" he cried, stuffing pirog into his beard. But it wasn't clear what he had in mind: the meat pirog--the work of Celia Yakovlyevna--or the poem--the work of Ed Limonov.
"Tolya, tell me truthfully, as an old girlfriend...you and I have known each other for ten years, if not longer. If Ed takes poems like this to Moscow, he might win...renown, perhaps?" Anna hesitated. Ed, embarrassed, gulped a wineglass of vodka. The Muscovite didn't drink vodka.
The energetic Brusilovskii, who, pink and flushed wherever there wasn't beard, had come to Kharkov against his will--to visit his sick Papa, Rafail, the Kharkov writer--looked at Anna Moiseyevna attentively. This girlfriend of Anatolii Brusilov's youth knew a great many things about him, things she considered shameful, things which, from a higher perspective, might not really be so terrible, but had certainly been rather painfully unpleasant for the masculine pride of the young Brusilov, ten years earlier. For example, she recalled how some of Tolik's evilly-inclined acquaintances (Anna's ex-husband among them) had hung the puny Tolya from a chesnut-tree in Schevchenko Park, having already removed the clothing from the lower part of his body...Tolya thought for a moment, and, obviously decided to treat the girlfriend of his youth humanely, having transcended his youthful humiliations.
"In the official literature, avant-garde poems like the ones your present husband writes could not, of course, be acceptable and it would, as far as I know, be impossible to print them. Even Andrei had a great deal of trouble publishing his avant-garde work. (By "Andrei," as Eduard correctly guessed, he meant Andrei Voznesenskii.) Even for him..."
Anna grew sad. She considered Brusilovskii intelligent, flexible and nimble. So if Tolik says "No," it's clear that the poems of her boy-husband and protege can't be published in Moscow. Her genius...
"But..." Brusilovskii put another piece of pirog on his plate, and, lifting the plate, prepared to bring it closer to his mouth, "...many of my poet-friends live outside the official culture. Not to mention my old friends, Kholin and Sapgir. (Ed pricked up his ears, hearing these unfamiliar names), "both of whom make a living by writing poems for children..." Brusilovskii stuffed the pirog into the slit between his beard and his carefully-curled, glossy moustache. "Even the SMOGISTS manage to get by somehow..."
Once again Ed pricked up his ears. What the hell are SMOGISTS?
"You've never heard of the smogists?" asked the Muscovite, noticing the embarrassment on the provincials' faces.
"Something...a little..." Vagrich answered diplomatically. Vagrich having just shaved his Armenian beard, is looking younger, and is very determined to go to Moscow.
"SMOG is the newest avant-garde tendency in literature. It stands for Smartest Modern Organization of Geniuses. The most ingenious genius is Lenya Gubanov. Then there's Volodya Aleynikov. They're all very young, just kids really. Gubanov was recognized as a genius at sixteen!" Brusilovskii gazed condescendingly at the provincials. The twenty-two-year-old Ed felt old. He was even ashamed of his advanced age. Vagrich was even five years older than he. Maybe they shouldn't go to Moscow? Maybe it's too late? Maybe they're too far behind already?
"Now why, in general, do you people want so much to go to Moscow?" the self-assured and dynamic Muscovite smiled condescendingly at the provincials. Ed noticed that the Muscovite's hand, which was resting on a glass of some soft drink, was small, with short fingers. "You can work and develop just as successfully here. From what Anna told me--" here Brusilovskii, for some reason, snorted in delight, "--I understood that you have a complex, highly-developed intellectual milieu. Meet with each other more often, write poems, show your work to each other, put on exhibitions in private apartments...Since, after all..."--The Muscovite gulped down the soft drink--"...after all, guys, Moscow can't hold everybody, Moscow's not made of rubber!"
Fuck you and your sideburns, asshole!--thought the poet. This non-rubber Moscow holds you! You married a Moscow girl. But for us there's no room. --Out loud he said shyly, "I read somewhere recently that in order to learn to play chess well, you have to play people who are better than you are. If you just go around playing people who are worse, or at the same level, you won't improve."
"Yes, very wise!" Brusilovskii suddenly agreed. "How did that one of yours go?...'hot weather'...
A hot summer day...they come to visit, Anton and my Uncle Ivan...........
Some Pavel, and some Ribsy And with them their nephew Kraska...
--There's something in that one. Something at once both Ukrainian-Kharkovian and eternal, Buddhistic, was in that poem of yours. Yes, that one will go over well in Moscow." As if Brusilovskii were talking to himself.
Ed--such is human nature--instantly forgave the Muscovite for his short fingers, his greedy wolfing of the pirogii--even the Muscovite's sideburns suddenly became pleasant.
"Tolya! You remembered it! After hearing it only once!" Anna Moiseyevna smiled at Brusilovskii. In honor of this distinguished friend of her youth, Anna is wearing a black velvet dress with a white collar made of old lace, borrowed from Celia Yakovlyevna.
"I have a powerful memory," says Brusilovskii, shrugging his shoulders. "Still, Moscow...it's a cruel city." he continued. "To survive in Moscow...to get famous in Moscow...Oh, for that you have to be a very strong person. Brusilovskii doubtfully looked over the skinny young poet, whose attire heightened the impression of frailness: black pants, black vest, white shirt. It must be noted that after becoming a poet, the working-class lad had lost several kilograms of his working weight, and and after a couple of years of clever books and agitated discussions, of associating with painters, writers and artists, his thin intellectual face had become unusually elongated and thin. (Just as the faces of Sinologists, they say, become more Chinese after years of working in the Heavenly Empire.) It's true that the vulgar insist there's another solution for the poet's thinning face--that Anna has fucked the life out of the poet. Indeed, the discrepancy between the powerful, elastic, plump Anna and her boy gives rise to many obscene hypostheses. But of their sex-life we will talk later. Their sex-life wasn't the main thing. Maybe Ed Limonov wouldn't have given the impression of being a strong man, but if you looked carefully you would notice in the young man's manner a certain dignity. Dignity was always linked in his character with self-love. "
"How old is Gubanov?" Ed asked enviously, comparing the Moscow genius to himself. Exactly as he used to compare himself to Motrich at one time. Ed was thinking of what Melekhov had told him not long ago: that he, Ed, was a much more interesting and original poet than Motrich. Although what Melekhov said had not surprised him; in his own mind, he had already toppled the figure of Motrich.
Gubanov is twenty...
It's not I in the Kremlin's eyes,
Nasally, obviously imitating the author, Brusilovskii recited. "Gubanov reads his own poetry marvellously. He doesn't really read them--he practically sobs them. Have you ever heard the way they cry out in northern Russia? Like that--Gubanov cries just as wellwell."
Brusilovskii got up to leave. He was leaving town the next day. According to the girlfriend of his youth, Brusilovskii hated Kharkov and hated his former friends, who had tormented him ten years ago. He had come home only because his father had had a heart attack. Otherwise nothing could have lured him to Kharkov. In moving to Moscow, he had changed even his last name--he'd started signing his pieces in the magazine Meaning is Strength with the name "Brusilov."
"So...how's Igor?" asked Brusilov, already stepping across the threshold. "He still stuck in Simfernopol?"--Joy shone in the eyes of the famous Moscow avant-garde painter. It seemed that of all his former friends, Anna's former husband was his special hatred.
"Igor? I called him when Ed and I were in Alushta. He's married, and I told her that if Igor wants to keep working in television he'd better send me 25 rubles. And he sent it to me, like a dear!"
Brusilov laughed heartily and even kissed Anna. As far as Ed knew, those 25 rubles were the only sum Anna had ever managed to get out of her former husband. But listening to Anna's anecdotes, you'd think she was a professional extortionist and blackmailer. When in reality she drank the miserable 25 rubles away in one winter night in Alushta.
"If you two are ever in Moscow, give me a call. I'll introduce you to some interesting people," Brusilov promised, and left. The inhabitants of the corridor, blasé as ever, hovered above their saucepans.
From the window he could see the solid little Brusilov, in a loose-fitting suede coat which reached the ground, walking quickly past the refrigeration-repair school, through a crowd of future refrigerator-repair technicians, who were pouring out of the building for a coffee-break. The broad belt of the coat fastened around his sturdy rump, the Muscovite turned onto Sumskaya street and was gone.
"Well, what do you think, Ed?" asked Anna Moiseyevna, sitting down and finally taking some pirog.
"We have to go," said Vagrich. "We'll make room, we'll find a place big enough for two."
"For three," said Anna Moiseyevna touchily.
"For three," Vagrich corrected himself.
"Students! Stop that immediately! Students! Get off those camels! Immediately! Militia!" The limping guard runs around the enclosure in distress, blowing a whistle on a chain, then spitting it out of his mouth to shout, "Students!"--then suddenly he begins to cry, out of shane and frustration. He cries and limps, whistling for the militia.
The "students" are Fima on a two-humper, and Lyonka Ivanov on a one-humper, which he was spurring unmercifully. They're sitting on the camels, playing Lawrence of Arabia or Tuaregs intercepting a caravan in the Sahara. The camels, as stunned as the lame guard by the insolence of the students, are snorting and gasping. Fima and Lyonka, with the help of their "SS" unit, managed to herd the camels against the massive fence of black iron, and from there Fima, and then Lyonka, too, had managed to bellyflop onto the bald, discolored backs of the beasts. The thick-lipped Jew-Tuareg Fima found himself right between the humps, and hung on for several unpleasant minutes, during which the frightened beast carried him to the opposite end of the enclosure, snorting, jumping up and down and trying to bite him with its big yellow fangs; somehow taming the beast, and kicking it in the side with his heels, he forced it to parade pretty smoothly past Gennadii, Ed and Anna, Viktorushka and Paul, who had remained behind the fence. The lunatic Lyonka had quickly failed. The former sergeant jumped, screaming, from the fence--but the beast shied, and Lyonka landed on the gravel which, in the minds of the Kharkov zoologists, represented the surface of the camel's native desert. Getting up from his knees and licking his wounded hand, Lyonka hobbled across the enclosure after his camel. Along the way he was almost trampled under the feet of Fima's camel, which made Fima laugh happily, sitting high in the sky, and even try to aim his yellow-fanged mount at the clumsily running Lyonka. Literally by a miracle, with the help of Viktorushka and Paul, both of whom had climbed over the fence and herded a one-humper into a corner of the enclosure, between a hay-cart and the iron railings, Lyonka managed to get up on the beast. Now, showing itself to be much less amenable to control than Fima's camel, the one-humper tirelessly bucks Lyonka around the enclosure, not allowing him a calm moment in which to utter the a ppropriate muzzein's cry: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet!" The sly, evil beast lists to one side, jumps up and down, and finally resorts to the tactic of scraping against the fence. The beast has decided to scrape Lyonka off its back, and in fact almost succeeds in breaking his foot, jamming it into the rails of the fence.
Anna with Genka's clothes in her hands, the wet Genka in swimming trunks and shoes, Ed with a blood-red dahlia tucked into his collar, laugh drunkenly, foreheads pressedagainst the fence.
"Lyonchik, the camel doesn't want you! Get off, or he'll chew you up!"" No fucking way! I'm a man and he's a beast! Man is the crown of creation! He must submit!"
The camel suddenly falls on its front feet and onto its side. Not expecting such a devious move, Lyonka flies off the beast, hands extended, and slams into the gravel. "Fucking monster! Snotty, vicious, humped beast!" curses Lyonka, lying on the gravel and in no hurry to get up.
"Let's leave, huh guys? The guard'll come back with the trashes." Ed suggests. And moves away from the fence.
"Right. Time to leave. Let's get out of here, guys." seconds Anna, who is still sober.
"Surely you're not afraid, Eduard Venyaminovich?" observes Genka ironically, taking his clothes from Anna's hands. Genka went swimming in the hippopotamuses' tank. Genka wanted to take a refreshing dip, and he wanted to do it nowhere but in the hippopotamuses' tank. The skin on Genka's left shoulder is scraped--a rough-skinned hippo surfaced beside the uninvited guest and accidently brushed him with its hide. Genka insists that the hippopotamus was actually very happy to see him, but its hide was like sandpaper.
"I'm not afraid." counters Ed. adjusting the dahlia in his lapel, "but God helps those who help themselves, as my grandma used to say. You know I can't fall into the trashes' hands, even by accident. For two years I haven't had any visible means of support. They're not being too gentle with `parasites' these days. It's fine for you; you're still officially studying at the Polytech..."
"OK, let's go. Retreat." agrees Genka. "By the time the gimp comes back with the security guards and the militia gets here, we'll already be drinking cognac at the `Automatic.' I'm not even sure the security guards have a telephone."
The guffawing Viktorushka throws a bottle at the wolves' enclosure, located opposite the camels' abode. Flying past two gray wolves, their white eyes silently staring with moon pupils at the drunken youths, the bottle smashes to bits against the artificial rock wall. The wolves run off toward their shed, their tails calmly waving. Ed frowns unhappily. When he's drunk, Viktorushka becomes boorish. But Genka never changes. Even when he's falling-down drunk, Genka is unfailingly polite. Bakhchanyan is the wildest drunk of all of them. Like a kamikaze. In fact, it's surprising he's still alive. One day, after a couple of glasses of wine, he got so drunk that he broke loose from his friends' grasp with a cry of "Fucking communists!" and ran onto Sumskaya Street. For which, of course, the patrolling trashes were more than happy to arrest him. The good part is that Motrich saw the arrests and instantly ran into the "Automatic" crying, "They've arrested Bakhchanyan!" Everybody in the "Automatic," the decadents, intellectuals, poets and painters, something like fifty people, went to the Militia station located next to the "Mirror Stream," but they couldn't keep Bakh from being put in jail. The official poet Arkadii Filatov, the Vosnesenskii of Kharkov, brandishing his Writer's Union card, managed, with a great deal of effort, to get the cops to let Bakh out of their clutches. Bakh was lucky it happened at 6:30 in the evening, after the end of the workday, when the "Automatic" was full of people. A drunken Bakh at 4:00 in the afternoon...it's terrible to think what would've happened.
Another time, accompanied by Genka, Ed and Fima, the drunken kamikaze (they were walking along the fence outside some factory) suddenly tore down a flag hanging from the wall. Ripping down the flag and tearing it off, he let out a warlike cry and started to run. His less-intoxicated friends, seeing that there was nothing else to do, ran after him. From the passage guards rushed after them, firing their weapons. Whether they were firing into the air or at the kids--that was never discovered, since they didn't stick around to see but ran like sprinters. Luckily it was already dark. Nobody got caught or wounded. Bakh threw the flag off a bridge into the Kharkov River, and it slowly and gracelessly sank, soggily, in the muddy water. The Armenian, the Southerner, ought to be able to drink wine by the gallon without getting drunk...But no, Bakh shouldn't drink at all, he goes berserk.
Genka has gotten dressed, and they leave, passing among the cages and enclosures toward the ravine. If you know the area well enough, you can operate in it easily. They're slowed down a little by having to help the massive Anna Moiseyevna over a wall.
"I advise you to knock the fucking wall down, so as to ensure quick and easy passage to the territory of the Zoo once and for all." says Lyonka.
"The faggotry will just build it right up again," says Paul. "A dozen hegemonic elements with shovels and concrete will come along and fill in the gap."
"They'll even stick broken glass on top." giggles the drunken Viktorushka.
Landing on the other side, Anna broke a heel and now walks barefoot. Observing in profile the nose and double chin of M. Curlers, who has put on weight in the past year, Ed remembers the portraits painted by Pavel-Paul, as layered as his chins, as filled with eye-slashing colours. In the ex-sailor's works, yellow colors are especially prominent. --Isn't yellow associated with some illness?--Ed thinks. --With paranoia?
What would Doctor Vishnevetskii say on the subject of Paul? It's obvious what he'd say about Anna. But is Paul a normal person or not? To judge by his paintings, he's not normal--probably a paranoiac. Doctor Vishnevetskii is Eduard's tormentor. Executioner, fascist and scholar...
"You still insist that you're normal, Eduard?" The Doctor's eyes, weak, greenish, faded as the peephole in the reception area, ironically probe the "patient's" face. "The most basic instinct of any living creature, from the most primitive being to man, is the instinct of self-preservation. Take a tweezers, and put it in a drop of water, and you'll see, under a microscope, the amoebas, these single-celled organisms you find there, fleeing from the tweezer which threatens them. This is the most basic manifestation of the powerful instinct of self-preservation. But in your case, my dear Eduard, this instinct is lacking. You tried to kill yourself, to open your veins, to drain the blood from your body. It follows that you are ill..." The Doctor looks triumphantly at the youth seated before him, who is wearing a faded flannel hospital gown which is too big for him, drawers which stick out from under the hospital gown, and bare feet protruding from gigantic slippers.
"These clothes would make anyone sick, Doctor. You put on these rags, and you'll soon be sick. I don't believe I'm sick."
"No mentally-ill patient ever admits he's sick," the Doctor smiled jesuitically with his thin lips. As he got up, his starched smock crackled. "Ask your comrades in the ward--are they sick? Every one will answer, `No.'" The Doctor, going to the window, looked out at the autumnal park. Beyond the window was a sad, sunless autumn day, warm and cloudy. The Institution was surrounded by an immense park, known as Saburov's Dacha. Several patients in quilted blue jerseys were raking dead leaves from the lawn.
"Moreover..."--the tall, thin Doctor returned and graciously, with one finger, pushed his gold-framed glasses higher on his nose--"Moreover, you did not wish to inform me of the real reasons for your act."
"I already told you, there are no reasons. No..." Eduard thought: after all, it's better to chat with this fascist than to sit in the ward with his drowsy fellow patients. It was his second month in the hospital. A week ago they transferred him out of the violent ward, where they'd casually tossed him on that strange night in October 1962. He endured a month in the violent ward, surrounded by paranoiacs, schizophenics of all sorts, and dangerous psychopaths. For "good behavior," they transferred him to the "quiet" wing of the Institution. In the quiet wing he was still surrounded by szichophrenics, paranoiacs and psychopaths, but more quiet ones. And in the quiet wing he had his own bed. In the violent wing, for the first couple of weeks he'd had to share a bed with a dull-eyed kid, younger than himself. One night Eduard was awakened by the dull-eyed kid's stroking his penis. He'd had to give the dull-eyed boy one on the jaw.
In the quiet wing, Doctor Vishnevetskii became interested in Eduard. Lately he's been calling Eduard in every evening to interview him, or make him take various tests, most of them extremely stupid.
"Precisely because you cannot state the causes which led you to attempt suicide, you are here, my dear young man!" The Doctor smiles, reservedly, with his eyes only.
Fellow patients, and there are some at Saburov's Dacha with experience, some who've been there for twenty years, have told Edurad that the young Doctor Vishnevetskii obviously wants to make out of him, Edka Savyenko, a medical exhibit, and perhaps to write a dissertation about the history of his illness. Doctor Vyacheslav Ivanovich Vishnevetskii's superior--the head of his department--is Professor "Nina," Nina Pavlovna, is almost never there, so Vishnevetskii does what he wants. "He's desperate for power, the four-eyed bastard. He wants to be head of the department" say the experienced patients over their jello.
"Doctor, what it comes down to is that it's my life, not yours. Even if I did want to die, that's my business! And please don't call me `my dear young man.' You're six years older than me at the most. Get me out of here and I'll take care of myself just fine. Not one of the orderlies can say I've misbehaved. I've waited patiently for two months. Nina Pavlovna promised to release me in time for the October holiday. But it's already past..."
"We can't let you out until we know the reason or reasons for your abnormal behavior, Eduard. We cannot take that responsibility on ourselves. If you could raise a hand against your own life, how much more easily might you tomorrow decide to take the life of another--to kill someone!" Doctor Vishnevetskii, with his saintly, tranquil little smile, looked at the "patient." A strand of blond hair fell on his smooth, tranquil forehead.
The patient knits and untangles the fingers of his hands, which rest on his knees. Doctor Vishnevetskii now seems like a villain, a fascist scientist from Auschwitz, thinks the patient. Should he say so? If he does, Vishnevetskii may never let him out of this prison, the bitch. Hooliganism overcomes the instinct of self-preservation, and the patient, placing one foot on the other, the big slipper dangling and the pink heel exposed, blurts out: "You know, Doctor, you remind me of the SS doctors at Auschwitz. I saw doctors like you in a movie. You're ready to torture thousands of people in your experiments, just to prove your theory."
"That is why I wear a doctor's smock, my dear young man." Not a muscle twitched on Vishnevetskii's face. "The white smock is a symbol of my profession. In the white smock one may commit crimes--and save people from death. The white smock is like an army uniform. Armies conquer and enslave, but they also liberate. At the time you arrived here, we had a patient named Primachenko. A country fellow. He came to us for the same reason as you: he tried to do away with himself. To hang himself. He was saved by accident. His sister went out to the shed for some peasant trifle--for the ladle, maybe, or the broom. He's hanging there. They cut him down, gave him artificial respiration, and brought him to us. He spent the winter with us. He behaved himself perfectly. We released him into his relatives' custody in spring." Vishnevetskii stopped and looked exultingly at the young man, who had begun grinding the leg of his chair on the floor. "Two weeks later he hacked his mother and sister to death. So... And now let's get back to our tests...With your permission we will proceed to the laboratory..."