How to trample on the snow virgin? Ahead is a man, sweating and cursing, barely moving his legs, constantly bogged down in loose deep snow. A man goes far, marking his way with uneven black pits. He gets tired, lies down on the snow, lights a cigarette, and the smoke of the malaise spreads out in a blue little cloud over white shiny snow. The man has already gone on, and the cloud still hangs where he rested, the air is almost still. Roads are always laid on quiet days, so that the winds do not sweep the works of men. The man himself sets out his landmarks in the vastness of the snow: a rock, a tall tree, – a man leads his body through the snow as the helmsman leads a boat along the river from the cape to the cape.
Five or six people move side by side along the narrow and wrong track. They step near the track, but not on the track. Having reached the pre-planned place, they turn back and again go so as to trample the virgin snow, the place where the human foot has not yet stepped. The road is broken. It can go people, sleigh carts, tractors. If you follow the path of the first trail, there will be a noticeable, but barely passable, narrow path, a stitch, and not a road – the holes along which it is more difficult to wade than along the virgin soil. The first is the hardest, and when he gets exhausted, another comes out of the same head five. Of those following the trail, everyone, even the smallest, the weakest, must step on a piece of virgin snow, and not on another’s trail. And the tractors and horses are driven not by writers, but by readers.
They played cards at the Konogon Naumov. The duty officers on duty never looked into the barracks of the konogons, rightly assuming their main service in monitoring the convicts under the fifty-eighth article. Horses, as a rule, were not trusted by counter-revolutionaries. True, the practice commanders secretly grumbled: they were deprived of the best, most caring workers, but the instructions in this regard were definite and strict. In a word, the konogons were the safest, and every night there gathered thieves for their card fights.
In the right corner of the hut, on the lower bunks, multi-colored wadded blankets were spread out. A burning “Kolyma” was screwed to the corner post with a wire — a homemade light bulb on a petrol pair. Three or four open copper tubes were soldered into the lid of the tin can — that was all the fixture. In order to light this lamp, hot coal was put on the lid, gasoline was heated, steam was rising through the tubes, and gasoline gas was burning, lit by a match.
On the blankets lay a dirty down pillow, and on both sides of it, tucked in Buryat legs, were partners — the classic pose of a prison card battle. On the pillow lay a new deck of cards. These were not ordinary cards, it was a prison self-made deck, which is made by the masters of these cases at an extraordinary speed. To make it, you need paper (any book), a piece of bread (to izhezhat and wipe through a rag to get starch – to glue the sheets), a stub of a chemical pencil (instead of printing ink) and a knife (for cutting and stencils of suits, and the cards themselves).
Today’s cards have just been cut from a volume of Victor Hugo – the book was forgotten by someone in the office yesterday. The paper was thick, thick – the sheets did not have to be glued together, what is done when the paper is thin. In the camp during all searches chemical pencils were rigorously selected. They were selected and when checking received parcels. This was done not only to curb the possibility of producing documents and stamps (there were many artists and such), but to destroy everything that could compete with the state card monopoly. Ink was made from a chemical pencil, and ink was applied to the card through ink through a paper stencil — ladies, jacks, dozens of all stripes … The suits did not differ in color — and the player did not need the difference. Jack Peak, for example, corresponded to the image of the peaks in two opposite corners of the map. The location and shape of the patterns for centuries were the same – the ability to make cards with one’s own hand is included in the program of the “knightly” education of the young blatar.
A new deck of cards lay on the pillow, and one of the players patted it with a dirty hand with thin, white, non-working fingers. The nail of the little finger was of supernatural length – also blatsky chic, just like the “fixes” – gold, that is, bronze, crowns, worn on completely healthy teeth. There were even masters – self-proclaimed dentists, who earn a lot of money by making such crowns, which were always in demand. As for the nails, then color polishing them, no doubt, would have entered the life of the underworld, if it were possible to start varnish in prison conditions. The sleek yellow nail gleamed like a gem. With his left hand, the owner of the nail went through sticky and dirty blonde hair. He was trimmed “under the box” in the most accurate way. A low forehead without a wrinkle, yellow eyebrow bushes, a mouth with a bow — all this gave his physiognomy the important quality of a thief’s appearance: stealth. The face was such that it was impossible to remember him. He looked at him – and forgot, lost all the features, and did not find out at the meeting. It was Sevochka, the famous connoisseur of tertz, stol and borax – three classic card games, an inspired interpreter of thousands of card rules, the strict observance of which is obligatory in a real battle. It was said about Sevochk that he “performs excellently” – that is, it shows the skill and dexterity of the sharper. He was a sharper, of course; honest thief game – this is a game of deception: watch and catch a partner, it is your right, know how to deceive yourself, know how to argue a dubious win.
Always played two – one on one. None of the masters humiliated themselves by participating in group games like points. They were not afraid to sit down with strong “performers” – just like in chess, the real fighter is looking for the strongest opponent.
The partner of Sevochka was Naumov himself, the brigadier of horsemen. He was older than his partner (however, how old is Sevochek — twenty? Thirty? Forty?), A black-haired fellow with such a pained expression of black, deep-down eyes that I did not know that Naumov was a railway thief from Kuban, I would take him just a wanderer – a monk or a member of a well-known sect “God knows,” a sect that has been encountered in our camps for decades. This impression increased at the sight of a gaitana with a tin cross hanging around Naumov’s neck — his shirt gate was unbuttoned. This cross was by no means a blasphemous joke, caprice or improvisation. At that time, all thieves wore aluminum crosses around their necks – this was an identifying badge of the order, like a tattoo.
In the twenties, thieves wore technical caps, even earlier – captains. In the forties, in the winter, they wore cuban caps, tucked tops of boots, and wore a cross around their necks. The cross was usually smooth, but if artists happened, they were forced to paint patterns on the cross with a needle on their favorite themes: heart, map, cross, nude woman … Naumovsky cross was smooth. He hung on Naumov’s dark naked chest, making it difficult to read a blue tattoo-tattoo – a quote from Yesenin, the only poet recognized and canonized by the underworld:
– What are you playing? – Sevchka sifted through his teeth with endless contempt: this was also considered a good tone of the beginning of the game.
– Here are the rags. Lepeha this … And Naumov patted himself on the shoulders.
“I play five hundred,” appreciated the suit of Sevochka. In response, there was a loud verbose swearing, which was to convince the enemy of the much greater value of the thing. The spectators surrounding the players waited patiently for the end of this traditional overture. Sevochka did not remain in debt and cursed even more stingingly, knocking down the price. Finally, the costume was valued at a thousand. For its part, Sevochka played a few worn jumpers. After the jumpers were evaluated and thrown right there on the blanket, Sevochka shuffled the cards.
I and Garkunov, a former textile engineer, sawed firewood for the Naumovsky barrack. It was a night job – after my working day, it was necessary to cut and chop wood for a day. We climbed to the konogon immediately after dinner – it was warmer here than in our hut. After work, the Naumovsky daily poured a cold “yushka” into our kettles – the remnants of the only and permanent dish, which in the dining room menu was called “Ukrainian dumplings”, and gave us a piece of bread. We sat on the floor somewhere in the corner and quickly ate the earnings. We ate in complete darkness — the hut-benches lit up the card field, but, according to precise observations of the prison old-timers, you don’t carry spoons past your mouth. Now we looked at the game of Sevochka and Naumov.
Naumov lost his “cast”. The trousers and jacket lay near Cevochka on a blanket. A pillow was played. The nail of Sevochka was drawing intricate patterns in the air. Cards then disappeared in his palm, then appeared again. Naumov was in a undershirt – satin shirt was gone after the pants. Helpful hands threw a padded jacket over his shoulders, but with a sudden movement of his shoulders he threw it onto the floor. Suddenly everything was quiet. Sevochka slowly scratched the pillow with his fingernail.
“I play the blanket,” said Naumov hoarsely.
“Two hundred,” replied Sevochka in an indifferent voice.
– A thousand, bitch! – shouted Naumov.
– For what? This is not a thing! “This is loksh, shit,” said Sevochka. – Only for you – I play for three hundred.
The battle went on. According to the rules, the fight cannot be over while the partner can still respond with something.
“I don’t play boots,” said Sevochka firmly. – I do not play state-owned rags.
In the cost of several rubles, some Ukrainian towel with cocks was lost, some cigarette case with Gogol’s embossed profile — everything went to Sevochka. Naumov’s dark skin showed dark blush.
“To the show,” he said, ingratiatingly.
“It is very necessary,” said Sevochka briskly and stretched out his hand: immediately a lit cigarette was inserted into the arm. Cevochka took a deep drag and coughed. – What is your idea to me? There are no new stages – where can you get it? Have a convoy, or what?
Consent to play “on representation”, in debt, was an optional favor under the law, but Sevochka did not want to offend Naumov, to deprive him of his last chance to win back.
“A hundred,” he said slowly. – I give an hour representation.
– Come on card. – Naumov straightened the cross and sat down. He played the blanket, pillow, pants – and again lost everything.
“Chifirka would have been able to cook,” said Sevochka, putting the won items in a large plywood suitcase. – I’ll wait.
“Boil guys,” said Naumov.
It was about an amazing northern drink – strong tea, when fifty or more grams of tea are brewed into a small mug. The drink is extremely bitter, drink it with sips and snacks on salted fish. He relieves sleep, and therefore held in high esteem among thieves and northern drivers on long-haul flights. Chifir should have a destructive effect on the heart, but I knew the perennial Chifirists, who endure it almost painlessly. Cevochka took a sip from the cup he was given.
Naumov’s heavy black gaze circled those around him. Hair tangled. Glance reached me and stopped.
Some thought flashed in Naumov’s brain.
I came to the light.
It was already clear what was the matter, and everyone followed with interest the attempt of Naumov.
Under the padded jacket, I had only state-owned underwear – the tunic was given out about two years ago, and it had long since decayed. I got dressed.
“Come out,” said Naumov, pointing at Garkunov.
Garkunov took off his jacket. His face turned white. A woolen sweater was put on under a dirty shirt: it was the last gear from my wife before being sent on a long journey, and I knew how his coast was Garkunov, washing it in a bath, drying it out, not letting it go for a minute would have stolen now comrades.
“Come on, take it off,” said Naumov.
Cevochka waved his finger approvingly – woolen things were valued. If you give to wash the jersey and evaporate the lice from it, you can wear it yourself – the pattern is beautiful.
“I won’t,” said Garkunov, hoarsely. – Only with skin …
They rushed at him, knocked him down.
“He bites,” someone shouted.
Garkunov slowly rose from the floor, wiping blood from his face with his sleeve. And now Sashka, Naumov’s everyday, that same Sashka, who an hour ago poured us soup for sawing firewood, sat down a little and pulled out something because of the boot of the felt boot. Then he stretched out his hand to Garkunov, and Garkunov sobbed and began to roll on his side.
– Could not, perhaps, without it! Shouted Cevochka. In the flickering light of a benzinka, it was clear how Garkunov’s face became gray.
Sasha stretched the hands of the murdered man, ripped his undershirt and pulled the sweater over his head. The sweater was red and the blood on it was barely noticeable. Sevochka carefully, in order not to get his fingers dirty, folded the sweater into a plywood suitcase. The game was over and I could go home. Now I had to look for another partner for sawing wood.
Dinner is over. Glebov unhurriedly licked the bowl, carefully scooped bread crumbs from the table in his left palm and, bringing it to his mouth, carefully licked crumbs from his palm. Without swallowing, he felt the saliva in his mouth thickly and greedily enveloping a tiny lump of bread. Glebov could not say whether it was delicious. Taste is something different, too poor in comparison with this passionate, self-forgetting sensation that food gave. Glebov was in no hurry to swallow: the bread itself melted in the mouth, and melted quickly.
Bagretsov’s hollowed, glittering eyes gazed intently into Glebov’s mouth — there was no such strong will in anyone that would help take his eyes off food that disappears in the mouth of another person. Glebov swallowed saliva, and now Bagretsov turned his eyes to the horizon – to the big orange moon crawled out to the sky.
“It’s time,” said Bagretsov.
Silently they walked along the path to the rock and climbed a small ledge that went around the mound; even though the sun had gone down recently, the stones that had burned the soles through the rubber overshoes, worn on bare feet, were already cold by day. Glebov buttoned his padded jacket. Walking did not warm him.
– Far away? He asked in a whisper.
“Far away,” answered Bagretsov quietly.
They sat down to rest. There was nothing to talk about, and there was nothing to think about – everything was clear and simple. At the site, at the end of the ledge, there were heaps of broken stones, torn, shriveled moss.
“I could do this alone,” Bagretsov chuckled, “but the two of them are more fun.” Yes, and for an old friend … They were brought on the same ship last year. Bagretsov stopped.
– We must go, see.
They lay down and began to throw away the stones. There were no big stones, such that it was impossible to lift up, move together, because those people who threw them here in the morning were not stronger than Glebov.
Bagretsov cursed softly. He scratched his finger, bleeding. He dusted the wound with sand, tore a shred of cotton from a padded jacket, pressed it – the blood did not stop.
“Poor coagulability,” Glebov said indifferently.
– Are you a doctor, or what? – asked Bagretsov, sucking blood.
Glebov was silent. The time when he was a doctor seemed very far away. And was there such a time? Too often, that world beyond the mountains, beyond the seas, seemed to him to be somehow a dream, an invention. The real was the minute, the hour, the day from the rise to the end – he did not think further and did not find the strength to think. Like everyone else.
He did not know the past of those people who surrounded him, and was not interested in him. However, if tomorrow Bagretsov had declared himself a Ph.D. or Air Marshal, Glebov would have believed him without hesitation. Was he ever a doctor himself? Not only the automatism of judgments was lost, but also the automatism of observations. Glebov saw Bagretsov sucking blood from a dirty finger, but said nothing. It only slipped in his mind, but he couldn’t find the answer to himself and didn’t search. That consciousness, which he still had and which. perhaps it was no longer human consciousness, it had too few facets, and now it was aimed only at one thing – in order to quickly remove the stones.
– Deep, probably? – asked Glebov, when they lay down to rest.
– How can she be deep? – said Bagretsov. And Gleb realized that he had asked nonsense and that the pit really could not be deep.
“Yes,” said Bagretsov.
He touched the human finger. The big toe of the foot was peeping out of the stones — it was perfectly visible in the moonlight. The finger was not like the fingers of Glebov or Bagretsov, but not the fact that it was lifeless and numb – this was not enough difference. The nails on this dead finger were cut, he himself was fuller and softer than Gleb. They quickly threw away the stones that were littered with the body.
“Young at all,” said Bagretsov.
Together, they barely pulled the corpse by the legs.
“Healthy, what,” said Glebov, panting.
“If he hadn’t been so healthy,” said Bagretsov, “he would have been buried the way they bury us, and we wouldn’t have to go here today.”
They straightened the hands of the dead and pulled off a shirt.
“And the pants are brand new,” said Bagretsov with satisfaction.
Sneakers and pants. Glebov hid a wad of linen under a padded jacket.
“Put yourself on better,” said Bagretsov.
“No, I do not want to,” Glebov muttered.
They laid the dead man back into the grave and threw stones at her.
The blue light of the rising moon fell on the stones, on the rare forest of the taiga, showing each ledge, each tree in a special, non-day view. Everything seemed in its own way real, but not that day. It was like the second, night, face of the world.
The dead man’s underwear warmed up in Glebov’s bosom and no longer seemed alien.
“To smoke,” said Glebov dreamily.
Bagretsov smiled. Tomorrow they will sell underwear, exchange for bread, maybe even get some tobacco …
For days on end, there was a white fog of such density that two steps away there was no person visible. However, it was not necessary to go far alone. Few directions — the canteen, the hospital, the watch — were guessed by someone who did not know how to acquire the instinct, akin to the sense of direction that animals fully possess and which in suitable conditions also wakes up in man.
The workers did not show the thermometer, and it was not necessary – they had to go to work in any degrees. In addition, the old-timers almost exactly determined the frost without a thermometer: if there is a frosty fog, then it is forty degrees below zero on the street; if the air comes out with noise when breathing, but breathing is not difficult yet, then forty-five degrees; if breathing is noisy and noticeable shortness of breath – fifty degrees. Over fifty five degrees – the spittle freezes on the fly. Spitting frozen on the fly for two weeks.
Every morning, Potashnikov woke up with hope – did the frost fall? He knew from the experience of last winter that, no matter how low the temperature, a sharp change, a contrast, is important for feeling the heat. Even if the frost falls to forty – forty-five degrees – it will be warm for two days, and it did not make sense to make plans for more than two days.
But the frost did not fall, and Potashnikov understood that he could not endure longer. Breakfast was enough, at most, for one hour of work, then tiredness came, and the frost penetrated the whole body to the bones – this popular expression was by no means a metaphor. One could only wave the instrument and jump from one foot to the other so as not to freeze until dinner. Hot lunch, the notorious soup and two spoons of porridge, little strength, but still warmed. And again, there was enough energy for work for an hour, and then Potashnikov was seized with the desire not to warm up, not to just lie down on the prickly frozen stones and die. The day nevertheless ended, and after dinner, after drinking water and bread, which no worker had eaten in the dining room with soup, but carried off to the barracks, Potashnikov immediately went to bed.
He slept, of course, on the upper bunks — there was an ice cellar downstairs, and those whose seats were below, idle half the night at the stove, hugging her in turn with her hands — the stove was a little warm. There was always not enough firewood: I had to go for wood four kilometers after work, everyone and every possible way avoided this duty. Above it was warmer, although, of course, they slept in what they worked in – in hats, quilted jackets, jackets, wadded trousers. It was warmer at the top, but even there the hair froze to the pillow overnight.
Potashnikov felt how every day the strength was becoming less and less. He, a thirty-year-old man, is already difficult to climb onto the upper bunks, it is difficult to descend. His neighbor died yesterday, just died, did not wake up, and no one was interested in why he died, as if the cause of death was only one, well known to all. He was glad that death did not occur in the evening, but in the morning – the daily allowance of the deceased remained in the daytime. Everyone understood this, and Potashnikov grew bolder and went to the daily: “Break off the crust,” but he met him with such a strong swearing, which only a person who has become weak from the weak and knowing that swearing is unpunished can swear. Only in extraordinary circumstances the weak scolds the strong, and that is the courage of despair. Potashnikov was silent and walked away.
We had to decide something, invent something with our weakened brain. Or die. Potashnikov was not afraid of death. But there was a secret passionate desire, some last stubbornness – the desire to die somewhere in the hospital, on the bed, on the bed, at the attention of other people, albeit to official attention, but not outside, not in the cold, not under the boots of a convoy, not in the hut among the battle, mud and with complete indifference of all. He did not blame the people for indifference. He understood long ago, whence this spiritual dullness, emotional cold. Frost, the one who turned saliva into the ice on the fly, got to the human soul. If they could freeze bones, could freeze and dull the brain, could freeze and soul. In the cold it was impossible to think about anything. Everything was simple. In cold and hunger, the brain was fed badly, the brain cells dried out – it was an obvious material process, and God knows if this process was reversible, as they say in medicine, like frostbite, or the destruction was forever. So the soul – it froze, shrunk and, perhaps, will forever remain cold. All these thoughts were at Potashnikov before – now there was nothing left but the desire to endure, to wait out the frost alive.
It was necessary, of course, to look for some ways of salvation earlier. There were not many such ways. It was possible to become a foreman or caretaker, generally keep around the authorities. Or around the kitchen. But there were hundreds of competitors in the kitchen, and Potashnikov refused the brigade a year ago, giving himself a word not to allow the force of another’s human will here. Even for the sake of his own life, he did not want his dying comrades to throw their death curses at him. Potashnikov was waiting for death from day to day, and the day seems to be coming up.
After swallowing a bowl of warm soup, munching on the bread, Potashnikov reached the workplace, hardly dragging his feet. The brigade was lined up before work began, and some thick red-faced man walked along the rows in a reindeer cap, Yakut torbasses and a white fur coat. He peered into the emaciated, dirty, indifferent faces of the workers. People silently trampled on the spot, waiting for the end of an unexpected delay. The brigadier stood right there, respectfully saying something to a man in a reindeer hat:
– And I assure you, Alexander Evgenievich, that I do not have such people. Go to Sobolev and bytovichkam go, and this is after all the intelligentsia, Alexander Evgenievich, – one torment.
The man in the reindeer cap stopped looking at the people and turned to the brigadier.
“The foremen do not know their people, they don’t want to know, they don’t want to help us,” he said hoarsely.
– Your will, Alexander Evgenievich.
– I’ll show you now. What is your last name?
– Ivanov is my last name, Alexander Evgenievich.
– Here, look. Hey guys, attention. – The man in the reindeer cap stood in front of the brigade. – The management needs carpenters – to make boxes for the carriage of soil.
“You see, Aleksandr Evgenievich,” the brigadier whispered.
Potashnikov suddenly heard his own voice:
– There is. I am a carpenter. – And took a step forward.
From the right flank another person stepped in silence. Potashnikov knew him – it was Grigoriev.
“Well,” the man in the reindeer hat turned to the brigadier, “you’re a hat and shit.” Guys, follow me.
Potashnikov and Grigoriev trailed behind the man in the reindeer cap. He paused.
“If we go like this,” he croaked, “we will not come to dinner.” That’s what. I will go ahead, and you come to the carpentry workshop to the foreman Sergeyev. Do you know where the carpentry workshop?
– We know, we know! – shouted Grigoriev. – Treat smoking, please.
“A familiar request,” the man in the reindeer cap muttered through his teeth and, without taking the box out of his pocket, pulled out two cigarettes.
Potashnikov walked ahead and thought hard. Today he will be in the warmth of a carpentry workshop – to sharpen an ax and make an ax. And sharpen the saw. No need to hurry. Before lunch, they will receive a tool, write out, look for the storekeeper. And today, in the evening, when it turns out that he cannot do an ax handle, but he does not know how to part a saw, he will be kicked out, and tomorrow he will return to the brigade. But today he will be warm. And maybe tomorrow and the day after tomorrow he will be a carpenter, if Grigoriev is a carpenter. He will be an assistant at Grigoriev. Winter is already ending. Summer, short summer, he somehow will live.
Potashnikov stopped, waiting for Grigoriev.
“Can you do this … carpenter?” – Choking with sudden hope, he said.
“I, you see,” said Grigoriev cheerfully, “a graduate student at the Moscow Institute of Philology. I think that every person who has a higher education, especially a humanitarian one, must be able to carve an ax handle and part a saw. Especially if it needs to be done next to a hot stove.
– Does not mean anything. For two days we will deceive them, and then – what do you care what will happen next.
– We will cheat on one day. Tomorrow we will be returned to the brigade.
– Not. In one day we will not have time to translate the account in the carpentry shop. It is necessary, after all, to submit information, lists. Then again deduct …
Together they barely opened the frozen door. In the middle of the carpentry workshop, a red-hot iron stove was burning, and five carpenters on their benches worked without jackets and hats. Those who came to their knees in front of the open door of the stove, before the god of fire, one of the first gods of humanity. Throwing off the gloves, they stretched out their hands to heat, thrust them directly into the fire. Repeatedly frost-bitten fingers, which lost sensitivity, did not immediately feel the heat. After a minute, Grigoriev and Potashnikov took off their hats and unhooked the jackets, without getting up from their knees.
– Why are you? – Unfriendly asked their carpenter.
– We are carpenters. We will work here, – said Grigoriev.
“By order of Alexander Evgenievich,” Potashnikov added hastily.
“This means that the foreman spoke of you in order to give you axes,” said Arnström, an elderly toolmaker who had cut the cuttings for shovels in the corner.
“Take it,” said Arnström, looking incredulously at them. – Here you have two axes, saw and wiring. Wiring back then give back. Here is my ax, knock out the ax.
“The daily allowance for my ax is thirty,” he said.
Grigoriev took the chock from Arnstrem’s hands and began to hew. The dinner horn buzzed. Arnström, without dressing, silently looked at the work of Grigoriev.
“Now you,” he said to Potashnikov.
Potashnikov put the log on the log, took the ax from the hands of Grigoriev and began to cut.
“Enough,” said Arnström.
The carpenters had already gone for lunch, and there was no one but three people in the workshop.
“Take these two of my hatchets,” Arnström filed the ready axes to Grigoriev, “and plant axes.” Sharpen the saw. Today and tomorrow, warm yourself by the stove. The day after tomorrow, go where you came from. Here is a piece of bread for dinner.
Today and tomorrow they were warming themselves by the stove, and the day after tomorrow the frost immediately fell to thirty degrees – the winter was already ending.
In the evening, reeling the tape measure, the caretaker said that Dugayev would receive a single measurement the next day. The brigadier, who was standing nearby and asked the caretaker to lend “a dozen cubes until the day after,” suddenly stopped talking and began to look at the evening star that gleamed behind the crest of the hill. Baranov, Dugaev’s partner, who helped the caretaker to measure the work done, took a shovel and began to clean the face he had cleaned long ago.
Dugayev was twenty-three years old, and everything he saw and heard here was more surprised than scared by him.
The brigade gathered for a roll call, passed the instrument and returned to the barracks in the prisoner uneven ranks. The hard day was over. With Dugaev’s head, without sitting down, I drank a portion of cold, cold cereal soup over the side of a bowl. The bread was given out in the morning for the whole day and was eaten long ago. I wanted to smoke. He looked around, wondering from whom to beg a cigarette butt. On the window sill, Baranov collected shaggy grains from an inverted pouch into a piece of paper. Having collected them carefully, Baranov rolled up a thin cigarette and held it out to Dugayev.
“Smoke, you leave me,” he suggested. Dugaev was surprised – they were not friendly with Baranov. However, with hunger, cold and insomnia, no friendship is tied up, and Dugayev, despite his youth, understood the fake saying about friendship, verified by misfortune and misfortune. In order for friendship to be friendship, it is necessary that its solid foundation be laid when conditions and life have not yet reached the last frontier, beyond which there is nothing human in man, but only distrust, anger and lies. Dugaev remembered well the northern proverb, the three prisoner commandments: do not believe, do not be afraid and do not ask …
Dugaev eagerly sucked the sweet makorochny smoke, and his head spun.
“Weaken,” he said.
Dugaev returned to the hut, lay down and closed his eyes. Last time he slept badly, hunger did not let him sleep well. Dreams were especially painful – loaves of bread, steaming greasy soups … Forgetting did not come soon, but still half an hour before the ascent, Dugaev had already opened his eyes.
The team came to work. All went to their faces.
“And you wait,” the brigadier said to Dugayev. – The caretaker will put you.
Dugaev sat down on the ground. He had already managed to tire so much that he would take any change in his fate with complete indifference.
The first cars crashed on the ramp, shovels gnashed against a stone.
“Come here,” the caretaker said to Dugayev. – Here’s a place for you. – He measured out the cubic capacity of the face and put a mark – a piece of quartz. “To here,” he said. – Trumper will reach your board to the main ladder. Carry wherever and all. Here’s a shovel, a pick, a crowbar, a car – take it.
Dugaev obediently began work.
“Even better,” he thought. None of the comrades will grumble that he works poorly. Former grain growers are not obliged to understand and know that Dugaev is a novice, that immediately after school he began to study at the university, and exchanged the university bench for this face. Everyone for himself. They are not obliged, should not understand that he has been exhausted and hungry for a long time, that he does not know how to steal: the ability to steal is the main northern virtue in all its forms, starting with the bread of a comrade and ending with extracting thousandth prizes to non-existent achievements. No one cares that Dugaev can not withstand a sixteen-hour working day.
Dugaev drove, Kailil, poured, again drove, and again Kaylil and poured.
After the lunch break, the caretaker came, looked at what Dugaev had done and silently left … Dugayev again kayl and poured. The quartz mark was still very far away.
In the evening, the caretaker appeared again and unwound the tape. He measured what Dugaev did.
“Twenty-five percent,” he said, and looked at Dugayev. – Twenty-five percent. Do you hear
“I hear,” said Dugayev. He was surprised by this figure. The work was so hard, so little of the stone was picked up by a shovel, it was so hard to litter. The figure – twenty-five percent of the norm – seemed very large to Dugayev. Were caviar, from the emphasis on the wheelbarrow unbearably hurt hands, shoulders, head. Hunger left him long ago.
Dugaev ate because he saw how others were eating, something told him: he should eat. But he did not want to eat.
“Well, well,” said the caretaker, leaving. – I wish you health.
In the evening, Dugayev was summoned to the investigator. He answered four questions: name, surname, article, term. Four questions that are asked thirty times a day to a prisoner. Then Dugayev went to sleep. The next day, he again worked with the brigade, with Baranov, and on the night of the day after, the soldiers led him out of the base, and led along a forest trail to the place where, almost blocking a small gorge, there was a high fence with barbed wire stretched over and from at night came the distant chatter of tractors. And, having understood what was the matter, Dugayev regretted that he had worked in vain, had tormented this last day in vain.
Parcels were issued on the watch. The foremen certified the identity of the recipient. Plywood broke and cracked in its own way, in plywood. The local trees broke wrong, shouted not in such a voice. For the barrier of benches, people with clean hands in an overly neat military uniform opened, checked, shook, betrayed. Boxes of packages, barely alive from many months of travel, thrown up skillfully, fell to the floor, cracked. Lumps of sugar, dried fruit, rotten onions, crumpled packs of shag scattered across the floor. No one picked up the scattered. The owners of the parcels did not protest – to receive the parcel was a miracle from miracles.
Near the watch were escorts with rifles in their hands – some unfamiliar figures were moving in a frosty white fog.
I stood by the wall and waited in line. These blue pieces are not ice! This is sugar! Sugar! Sugar! It will take another hour, and I will hold these pieces in my hands, and they will not melt. They will only melt in your mouth. This big piece will be enough for me twice, three times.
And shag! Own shag! Continental shag, Yaroslavl “Belka” or “Kremenchug number 2”. I will smoke, I will treat everyone, everyone, everyone, and above all those with whom I have been smoking all this year. Mainland shag! After all, we were given a ration of tobacco, taken at storage from the army warehouses, on a gigantic scale: all products were written off to the camp that the storage periods had been used for. But now I will smoke a real shag. After all, if the wife does not know that the shag is needed stronger, they will prompt her.
The package cracked, and prunes, leather berries of prunes, spilled out of the box. And where is the sugar? Yes, and prunes – two or three handfuls …
– You burkas! Pilots burkas! Ha ha ha! With rubber soles! Ha ha ha! Like the head of the mine! Hold, take!
I stood confused. Why do I need a burqa? In the burkas you can only walk on holidays – there were no holidays. If deer pima, torbasa or ordinary boots. Burki – this is too gorgeous … It is not befitting. Moreover …
“Listen, you …” A hand touched my shoulder. I turned so that the burqa could be seen, and the box, at the bottom of which was a little prune, and the bosses, and the face of the person who held my shoulder. It was Andrei Boyko, our mountain caretaker. And Boyko whispered hurriedly:
– Sell me these burkas. I’ll give you money. One hundred rubles. You can’t bring it to the barrack – they will take it away, they will pull it out. – And Boyko jabbed his finger into the white fog. – Yes, and stolen in a hut. On the first night.
“You yourself will come up,” I thought.
– Okay, give me the money.
– See, what I am! – Smartly counted out the money. – Do not deceive you, not like others. He said one hundred and give one hundred. – Boyko was afraid that he overpaid too much.
I folded the dirty papers four times, eight of them, and put them in my pants pocket. Prunes poured from the box into the jacket – his pockets have long been pulled out of pouches.
Buy oil! A kilogram of oil! And I will eat with bread, soup, porridge. And sugar! And I get a bag from someone – a torbochka with a twine cord. The indispensable identity of any decent prisoner of fraers. Thieves do not go with torbochkami.
I returned to the hut. They all lay on their plank beds, but Efremov sat with his hands on the cooled stove, and was stretching his face towards the disappearing heat, afraid to straighten, to tear himself away from the stove.
– What is not melt?
– Efremov duty! The brigadier said: let him wherever he wants, he takes it there, but so that the firewood is there. I still will not give you to sleep. Go before it’s too late.
Efremov slipped through the door of the hut.
– Where is your package?
I ran to the store. Shaparenko, head of the department, still traded. There was no one in the store.
– Shaparenko, I have bread and butter.
– You kill me.
– Well, take what you need.
– Do you see how much money I have? – said Shaparenko. – What can a wick like you give? Take bread and butter and come off quickly.
I forgot to ask for sugar. Oils – kilogram. Bread – a kilogram. I will go to Semyon Shaynin. Sheinin was a former Kirov referent, not yet shot at this time. We worked with him once together, in one brigade, but fate divorced us.
Sheinin was in the hut.
– Let’s eat. Butter, bread.
Shaynin’s hungry eyes glittered.
– Now I’m boiling water …
– Yes, do not need boiling water!
– No, I am now. – And he disappeared.
Immediately someone hit me on the head with something heavy, and when I jumped up, I came to myself, there was no bag. All remained in their places and looked at me with evil joy. Entertainment was the best sort. In such cases, they were doubly happy: firstly, it was bad for someone, and secondly, it was not bad for me. This is not envy, no …
I did not cry. I barely survived. Thirty years have passed, and I remember the distinctly darkened barrack, the evil, joyful faces of my comrades, the raw log on the floor, the pale cheeks of Scheinin.
I came back to the stall. I no longer asked for butter and did not ask for sugar. I begged for bread, returned to the barrack, melted snow and began to cook prunes.
Barak was already asleep: he moaned, wheezed and coughed. The three of us cooked each of our own at the stove: Sintsov boiled a crust of bread, saved from dinner, to eat it, sticky, hot, and to drink afterwards with greediness hot snowy water smelling of rain and bread. And Gubarev pushed into the pot of the leaves of frozen cabbage – a lucky man and a sly one. The cabbage smelled like the best Ukrainian borsch! And I cooked parcel prunes. We all could not not look into someone else’s dishes.
Someone kicked open the doors of the hut. Two soldiers came out of the cloud of frosty steam. One, younger, – the head of the camp Kovalenko, the other, older, – the head of the mine Ryabov. Ryabov was in aviation burkas – in my burkas! I hardly realized that it was a mistake, that the Ryabov burkas.
Kovalenko rushed to the stove, swinging the pick that he brought with him.
– Again bowlers! Now I will show you the pots! I show how to breed dirt!
Kovalenko knocked over the bowlers with the soup, with a crust of bread and cabbage leaves, with prunes and punched the bottom of each pot.
Ryabov was warming his hands on the chimney.
– There are kettles – it means that there is something to cook, the head of the mine thoughtfully spoke. – This is, you know, a sign of contentment.
“You should have seen that they cook,” said Kovalenko, trampling pots.
The bosses came out, and we began to disassemble the crumpled kettles and collect each one of our own: I am the berries, Sintsov is sodden, shapeless bread, and Gubarev is crumbs of cabbage leaves. We all ate it right away – it was the safest thing.
I swallowed a few berries and fell asleep. I learned to fall asleep a long time before my legs warmed up – once I could not, but experience, experience … Sleep was like oblivion.
Life was returning like a dream – the doors opened again: white puffs of steam lying on the floor, running to the far wall of the barrack, people in white sheepskin coats smelly from novelty, unfinished clothes, and something that did not move but was alive, grunting.
Daytime, in a puzzled, but respectful posture, bowed before the white sheepskin coopers.
– your man? – And the caretaker pointed to a clump of dirty rags on the floor.
“This is Efremov,” said the orderly.
– Will know how to steal other people’s firewood.
Efremov spent many weeks lying next to me on the bunk until he was taken away, and he died in a disabled town. He beat off the “inside” – the masters of this business at the mine was a lot. He did not complain – he lay and moaned softly.
We drilled at the new test site for the third day. Each had its own pit, and in three days each went deeper by half a meter, not more. Nobody has reached the permafrost, although crowbars and pickles were refilled without any delay – a rare case; blacksmiths had nothing to delay – only our team worked. It was all about the rain. Rain poured the third day without stopping. It is impossible to recognize on stony ground – it rains for an hour or a month. Cold light rain. Neighboring brigades with us have long since been removed from work and taken home, but these were brigade blatari – even for envy, we did not have the strength.
The ten’s man in a wet, huge canvas raincoat with a hood angular like a pyramid appeared rarely. The bosses pinned high hopes on rain, on the cold whips of water that fell on our backs. We have long been wet, I can not say before the linen, because we did not have underwear. Primitive secret calculation of the authorities was such that rain and cold will make us work. But the hatred for work was even stronger, and every evening the foreman with a curse lowered his wooden yardstick with notches into the hole. The convoy guarded us, taking refuge under the “mushroom” – the famous camp facility.
We could not get out of the pits – we would have been shot. Only our brigadier could walk between the pits. We could not shout at each other — we would have been shot. And we stood silently, waist-high in the ground, in stone pits, a long string of holes stretching along the bank of a dried up stream.
During the night we did not have time to dry our jackets, and at night we dried our tunics and pants with our bodies and almost had time to dry them. Hungry and angry, I knew that nothing in the world would make me commit suicide. It was at this time that I began to understand the essence of the great instinct of life – the very quality with which man is endowed with the highest degree. I saw how our horses fainted and died – I cannot express myself otherwise, use other verbs. Horses were no different from humans. They died from the North, from overwork, bad food, beatings, and even though all this was given to them a thousand times less than people, they died before people. And I realized the most important thing is that a man became a man not because he is God’s creature, and not because he has an amazing thumb on each hand. And because he was <physically>stronger, more enduring than all animals, and later because it made its spiritual principle successfully serve the beginning of the physical.
That’s about all this for the hundredth time I thought in this pit. I knew that I would not commit suicide because I had tested this vital force of mine. In the same pit, only deep, I recently punched a huge stone. For many days I carefully released his terrible burden. From this gravity unkind, I thought to create something beautiful – in the words of a Russian poet. I was thinking of saving my life by breaking my leg. Truly this was a beautiful intention, a phenomenon of quite an aesthetic kind. The stone was supposed to collapse and crush my leg. And I am forever disabled! This passionate dream was to be calculated, and I precisely prepared the place where I would put my foot, imagined how I would turn slightly with a pick, and the stone would collapse. The day, hour, and minute were set and came. I put my right foot under the hanging stone, praised myself for my calmness, raised my hand and turned it like a lever laid with a rock picker. And the stone crawled along the wall to the designated and calculated place. But I do not know how it happened, – I pulled back my leg. In the close pit, the foot was crumpled. Two bruises, three bruises – that’s the whole result of such a well-prepared case.
And I realized that I am not a good man either for injurers or suicides. I just had to wait until a small failure was replaced by a small success, while a big failure would exhaust itself. The closest success was the end of the working day, three sips of hot soup – even if the soup is cold, it can be heated on an iron stove, and I have a three-liter tin can – it is hot. Smoke, or rather, to smoke, I will ask our daily Stepan.
So, stirring in the brain “star” questions and trivia, I waited, soaked to the skin, but calm. Were these arguments some training of the brain? In no case. It was all natural, it was life. I understood that the body and, therefore, the brain cells receive insufficient nutrition, my brain has long been starved and this will inevitably affect insanity, early sclerosis or something else … And it was fun to think that I would not live I will have time to live up to sclerosis. It rained rain.
I remembered the woman who passed us along the path yesterday, not paying attention to the shouts of the convoy. We welcomed her and she seemed beautiful to us – the first woman we saw in three years. She waved her hand to us, pointed to the sky, somewhere in the corner of the firmament, and shouted: “Soon, guys, soon!” A joyful roar was her answer. I never saw her again, but I remembered her all my life – how could she understand and comfort us like that. She pointed to the sky, not at all referring to the afterlife. No, she only showed that the invisible sun descends to the west, that the end of the working day is near. She in her own way repeated Goethe’s words about the mountain tops. About the wisdom of this simple woman, some former or real prostitute — for there were no women other than prostitutes at that time — that was her wisdom, her great heart, and I thought, and the rustle of rain was a good sound. background for these thoughts. Gray stone coast, gray mountains, gray rain, gray sky, people in gray torn clothes — everything was very soft, very agreeable with each other. Everything was some kind of unified color harmony – devilish harmony.
And at this time there was a faint cry from a nearby pit. My neighbor was someone Rozovsky, an elderly agronomist, whose fair special knowledge, like the knowledge of doctors, engineers, and economists, could not be applied here. He called me by name, and I responded to him, not paying attention to the threatening gesture of the guard from afar, from under the mushroom.
“Listen,” he shouted, “listen!” I’ve been thinking! And I realized that the meaning of life is not … No …
Then I jumped out of my hole and ran up to him before he could rush to the convoy. Both escorts were approaching.
“He got sick,” I said.
At this time, a distant horn sounded by rain and we began to build.
We worked with Rozovsky for some time together, until he rushed under a loaded trolley rolling down a mountain. He put his foot under the wheel, but the trolley just skipped over it, and even the bruise was left. Nevertheless, the case was attempted to commit suicide, he was tried, and we parted, because there is a rule that after the trial the convict never goes to the place where he came from. They are afraid of revenge under the hot hand – the investigator, the witnesses. This is a wise rule. But in relation to Rozovsky it could not be applied.
The hills were white, with a bluish tint, like sugar heads. Round, treeless, they were covered with a thin layer of dense snow compressed by the winds. In the gorges, the snow was deep and strong – he held a man, and on the slopes of the hills he seemed to be blown up by huge bubbles. These were the bushes of elfin woods, sprawled on the ground and lay down for the winter overnight stay before the first snow. We needed them.
Of all the northern trees, I liked stanik more than others, cedar.
I have long understood and dear that enviable haste, with which poor northern nature sought to share with a beggar, like her, a man with her simple wealth: to bloom as soon as possible for him with all the colors. In one week, it used to happen, everything started to bloom, and for any month since the beginning of summer, the mountains in the rays of an almost never-setting sun were reddening from cowberries, blackened from dark blue blueberries. There was no need to raise a hand on stunted bushes – a large yellow watery ash was poured. Honey mountain rosehip – its rose petals were the only flowers here that smelled like flowers, all the others smelled of dampness, swamp, and this was matched by the spring silence of birds, the silence of larch forest, where the branches were slowly dressed with green needles. Rosehip coast fruits to the very frost and from under the snow stretched us wrinkled meaty berries, purple hard skin which hid the sweet dark yellow meat. I knew the gaiety of the vines, changing the color in the spring many times – either dark pink, then orange, or pale green, like a colored husky. Larch trees stretched their thin fingers with green nails, the omnipresent greasy weather covered the forest fires. It was all beautiful, trusting, noisy and hastily, but it was all summer, when the matte green grass interfered with the anthrax of mossy rocks shining in the sun, which suddenly turned out not to be gray, not brown, but green.
In winter, all this disappeared, covered with loose, hard snow, which the winds swept into the gorges and was tamped so that in order to climb the mountain it was necessary to cut down the steps in the snow with an ax. The man in the forest was visible a mile away – so everything was bare. And only one tree was always green, always alive – elfin wood, evergreen cedar. It was a weather predictor. Two or three days before the first snow, when it was still autumnally hot and cloudless during the day and no one wanted to think about the near winter, the dwarf suddenly stretched its huge, two-seated paws along the ground, easily bending its straight black trunk with a fist thickness of two and lay flat on the ground. A day passed, another, a cloud appeared, and in the evening a blizzard blew and snow fell. And if late autumn snowy low clouds were gathering, a cold wind was blowing, but the elfin wood did not lie down – one could be firmly convinced that the snow would not fall.
At the end of March, in April, when the spring still did not smell and the air was thin and dry in winter, the elfin rose around, shaking off the snow from his green, slightly reddish clothes. After a day or two, the wind changed; warm jets of air brought spring.
Elfin was an instrument very precise, sensitive to the point that sometimes he was deceived, he went up to the thaw when the thaw was delayed. Before the thaw, he did not rise. But before he had time to get cold, he again hastily fit in the snow. It used to happen like this: in the morning you will make a fire a fire, so that at lunch you have where to warm your legs and arms, put in more firewood and go to work. After two or three hours from under the snow stretches the branches of elfin wood and slowly straightens out, thinking that spring has come. I had not yet had time to extinguish the fire, as the elfin stranded again in the snow. Winter is two-colored here – a pale blue high sky and a white land. In spring, last year’s autumn rags are exposed to dirty yellow, and the earth is dressed for a long time in this beggarly dress until new greens gain strength and everything will not blossom – hastily and violently. And among this sad spring, the ruthless winter, bright and dazzlingly greener, the elfin glittered. In addition, it grew nuts – small pine nuts. This delicacy was divided between people, nutcrackers, bears, squirrels and chipmunks.
Choosing a platform on the lee side of the hill, we dragged the branches, smaller and larger, picked some dry grass on the prometina, the bare places of the mountain, from which the wind broke the snow. We brought with us from the barrack a few smoking heads, taken before leaving to work from the drowning stove – there were no matches here.
The heads were worn in a large tin can with an attached wire handle, carefully making sure that the bunt did not go out dear. Pulling the bunt out of the can, blowing it out and putting the smoldering ends together, I fanned the fire and, putting the bunt on the branches, laid a fire – dry grass and small branches. All this was closed by big boughs, and soon a blue smoke stretched uncertainly in the wind.
I have never worked before in teams that collect elfin needles. The billet was made by hand, green dry needles were pinched, like feathers from a game, with their hands, grabbing more handfuls, stuffed bags with needles and in the evening handed over to the foreman. Then the needles were taken away to the mysterious vitamin complex, where they cooked from it a dark yellow thick and viscous extract of an indescribably nasty taste. We were forced to drink this extract or to eat (whoever is able to) before every dinner. The taste of the extract spoiled not only lunch, but also dinner, and many saw this treatment as an additional means of lager exposure. Without a pile of this medicine in the canteens it was impossible to get lunch – this was strictly followed. Scurvy was everywhere, and elfin was the only medicine approved medicine for scurvy. Faith prevails, and although it was later proved to be completely incapable of this “drug” as an anti-scorpion remedy, it was abandoned, and the vitamin complex was closed, nowadays people drank this stinky rubbish, spit it out and recovered from scurvy. Or not recovered.
Or did not drink and recovered. Everywhere around the world there was darkness of wild rose, but nobody prepared it, did not use it as an anti-scorpion remedy – the Moscow instruction did not say anything about wild rose. (A few years later, the dog rose began to be brought from the mainland, but my own blank, as far as I know, was never established.)
Representative of vitamin C instruction considered only elfin needles. Today I was a procurer of this precious raw material – I was weakened and from the golden face was transferred to pinch stanik.
“Like stanik,” said the outfitter in the morning. – I will give you a cant for a few days.
“Kant” is a widespread camp term. It means something like a temporary rest, not just a complete rest (in this case they say: it is “swelling”, “swelling” for today), but a kind of work in which a person does not freak out, a light temporary job.
Work on elfin was considered not only easy – the easiest work, and, moreover, it was infinite.
After many months of work in icy cuts, where every pebble frozen to shine burns his hands, after clicking rifle bolts, barking dogs and rulers behind his back, work on elfin was a great pleasure felt by every tired muscle. They sent to elder after the usual divorce in the dark.
It was good, warming my hands on a jar of steaming heads, without haste to go to the hills, so inconceivably distant, as it seemed to me before, and climb higher and higher, all the time feeling my loneliness and deep winter mountain silence as a joyful surprise, as if everything the evil in the world has disappeared and there is only your comrade, and you, and a narrow dark endless strip in the snow, leading somewhere high in the mountains.
My friend looked disapprovingly at my slow movements. He had long gone to the stlanik and rightly assumed in me an incompetent and weak partner. We worked in pairs, the earnings were shared and divided in half.
“I’ll chop, and you sit down pinching,” he said. – And live yourself tossing and turning, otherwise we will not make the norm. And I don’t want to go from here to slaughter again.
He chopped elfin branches and dragged a huge pile of paws to the fire. I broke off the branches smaller and, starting from the top of the branch, peeled off the needles along with the bark. They looked like green fringe.
– It should be faster – said my friend, returning with a new armful. – Bad, brother!
I myself understood that it was bad. But I could not work faster. His ears were ringing, and his fingers frost-bitten at the beginning of winter had long ached with a familiar dull pain. I felled the needles, broke whole branches into pieces, without peeling off the bark, and pushed the prey into the bag. But the bag did not want to be filled. Already, a whole mountain of peeled branches, similar to washed bones, had risen near the fire, and the sack was all swollen and swollen and accepted new arms of elfin wood.
Comrade began to help. Things went faster.
“Time to go home,” he said suddenly. “We’ll be late for dinner.” On the norm there is not enough. – And, taking a large stone from the ash of the fire, he pushed it into a bag. “They don’t untie them,” he said, frowning. – Now will be the norm.
I got up, scattered the burning branches to the side and kicked snow on the embers. The fire hissed, went out, and it immediately became cold and clear that the evening was close. A comrade helped me to load my bag on my back. I rocked under the weight.
“By portage,” comrade said. – Down for drag, not up.
We barely had time to get our soup and tea. On this easy work, the main course was not supposed to.
When we, all four, came to the key of the Duchess, we were so happy that we barely spoke to each other. We were afraid that our trip here was someone’s mistake or someone’s joke, that we would be returned back to the ominous, drenched in cold water – with melted ice – the stone faces of the mine. State rubber galoshes, chuni, did not save our frostbitten legs from the cold.
We followed the tractor tracks, as if following some prehistoric beast, but the tractor road ended, and along the old pedestrian path, slightly noticeable, we reached a small log house with two slotted windows and a door hanging on one loop from a piece of car tire, fortified with nails. The small door had a huge wooden handle, similar to the handle of restaurant doors in big cities. Inside, there were bare bunks of a solid knuckle, a black, smoked tin can was lying on the dirt floor. The same banks, rusted and yellowed, lay around a small house covered with moss in large quantities. It was a hut mining intelligence; No one has lived in it for more than a year. We had to live here and cut a clearing – we had axes and saws.
We first got our grocery ration on hand. I had a treasured bag of cereals, sugar, fish, fats. The bag was tied with scraps of twine in several places as sausages are tied up. Sugar and grits of two varieties – barley and magar. Saveliev had exactly the same bag, and Ivan Ivanovich had two whole bags, stitched together with a large man’s marker. Our fourth — Fedya Shchapov — lightly poured the cereal into the pockets of a pea jacket, and put sugar in a footcloth. The torn inner pocket of the pea jacket served Feda as a pouch, where the cigarette butts were carefully folded.
The ten-day rations looked frightening: I did not want to think that all this should be divided into as many as thirty parts – if we had breakfast, lunch and dinner, and twenty parts – if we eat twice a day. We took bread for two days — the foreman will bring it to us, for even the smallest group of workers cannot be imagined without a foreman. Who is he – we were not interested at all. We were told that before his arrival we should prepare a home.
We were all tired of the barrack food, where every time we were ready to cry at the sight of large zinc containers filled with soup on sticks. We were ready to cry for fear that the soup would be liquid. And when a miracle happened and the soup was thick, we did not believe it and, rejoicing, ate it slowly, slowly. But even after a thick soup in the warmer stomach, there was a sucking pain – we had been starving for a long time. All human feelings – love, friendship, envy, humanity, mercy, thirst for glory, honesty – left us with the meat that we lost during our long fasting. In that insignificant muscle layer, which was still left on our bones, which still gave us the opportunity to eat, move, breathe, and even saw logs, and pour stone and sand in a wheelbarrow with a shovel, and even haul cars on an endless wooden ladder in a gold face , on a narrow wooden road to the flushing device, in this muscle layer there was only anger – the most durable human feeling.
Saveliev and I decided to eat each on my own. Cooking is a special kind of prisoner pleasure; It is an incomparable pleasure to cook food for yourself, do it yourself, and then eat, even cooked less than the skillful hands of the cook would do – our culinary knowledge was insignificant, there was not enough cooking skill even for simple soup or porridge. And yet, Saveliev and I collected jars, cleaned them, burned them on the fire of a fire, soaked something, boiled, learning from each other.
Ivan Ivanovich and Fedya mixed their products, Fedya carefully twisted his pockets and, after inspecting each seam, scooped up grains with a dirty, broken nail.
All four of us were perfectly prepared to travel to the future – even to the heavenly, even to the earthly. We knew what scientifically based nutritional standards are, what the food replacement table was, and it turned out that a bucket of water replaces one hundred grams of oil in calories. We have learned humility, we have forgotten how to be surprised. We had no pride, self-love, vanity, and jealousy and passion seemed to us to be Martian concepts, and, moreover, trivialities. It was much more important to get the hang of winter pants in the cold in the winter – adult men cried, sometimes unable to do it. We understood that death is no worse than life, and were not afraid of either one or the other. Great indifference owned by us. We knew that it was in our will to stop this life even tomorrow, and sometimes we decided to do it, and every time they interfered with some trifles that make up life. Today they will issue a “stall” – a premium kilogram of bread – it was just silly to commit suicide on such a day. That day-old from a neighboring barrack promised to give a smoke in the evening — to pay a long-standing debt.
We realized that life, even the worst, consists of a change of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, and we should not be afraid that there are more failures than successes.
We were disciplined, obedient to the chiefs. We understood that truth and lies are sisters, that there are thousands of truths in the world …
We considered ourselves almost holy, thinking that during the camp years we had redeemed all our sins.
We have learned to understand people, anticipate their actions, solve them.
We understood – it was the most important thing – that our knowledge of people gives us nothing useful in life. What is the use of understanding, feeling, guessing, foreseeing the actions of another person? After all, I can’t change my behavior towards him, I will not report on the same prisoner as myself, whatever he does. I will not seek the position of brigadier, which makes it possible to stay alive, because the worst thing in the camp is imposing one’s own (or someone else’s) will on another person, a prisoner like me. I will not seek useful acquaintances, give bribes. And what’s the point that I know that Ivanov is a scoundrel, and Petrov is a spy, and Zaslavsky is a false witness?
The inability to use known weapons makes us weak compared to some of our neighbors in the campfire. We have learned to be content with little and rejoice with little.
We also understood an amazing thing: in the eyes of the state and its representatives, a person is physically strong better, precisely better, more moral, more valuable than a weak person, something that he cannot throw twenty cubic meters of soil from a trench during a shift. The first is moral than the second. He performs the “interest”, that is, performs his main duty to the state and society, and therefore is respected by all. They consult and reckon with him, invite him to meetings and gatherings that are far from the question of throwing out heavy slippery soil from wet slippery ditches.
Due to his physical advantages, he turns to moral force in solving daily numerous questions of camp life. Moreover, he is a moral force as long as he is a physical force.
Aphorism of Paul I: “In Russia, the one with whom I speak and while I speak with him” is notable – he found his unexpectedly new expression in the faces of the Far North.
Ivan Ivanovich in the first months of his life at the mine was an advanced hard worker. Now he could not understand why now, when he was weak, everyone was beating in a casual way – it didn’t hurt, but they were beating him: a day-care artist, a hairdresser, a contractor, a headman, a brigadier, a guard. In addition to officials, he is beaten by blatari. Ivan Ivanovich was happy to have got on this forest trip.
Fedya Shchapov, an Altai teenager, became durable before the others because his semi-childish body was not yet strong. Therefore, Fedya kept two weeks less than the rest, rather weakened. He was the only son of the widow, and he was tried for the illegal slaughter of livestock – the only sheep that killed Fedya. Slaughter of these were prohibited by law. Fyodor received ten years, mine, hurried, not at all similar to the village, the work was hard for him. Fedya admired the free life of blatar at the mine, but it was in his nature that prevented him from getting close to the thieves. This healthy peasant principle, natural love, and not aversion to work helped him a little. He, the youngest among us, clung at once to the oldest, to the most positive — Ivan Ivanovich.
Saveliev was a student at the Moscow Institute of Communications, my countryman in the Butyrskaya prison. Out of camera, he, shocked by all he had seen, wrote a letter to the party leader, as a faithful member of the Komsomol, confident that such information would not reach the leader. His own business was so frivolous (correspondence with his own bride), where evidence of agitation (paragraph ten fifty-eighth article) were letters from the bride and groom to each other; his “organization” (point eleventh of the same article) consisted of two persons. All of this was seriously recorded on interrogation forms. Yet they thought that, apart from the link, even on the scale at that time, Savelyev would not get anything.
Soon after sending the letter, on one of the “declarative” prison days, Savelyev was summoned to the corridor and given to sign the notice. The Supreme Prosecutor reported that he would personally deal with his case. After that, Savelyev was called only once – to hand him the sentence of a special meeting: ten years in the camps.
In the camp, Savelyev “swam” very quickly. He is still incomprehensible to this sinister massacre. Not only were we friends, but we just loved to remember Moscow — its streets, monuments, the Moskva River, covered with a thin layer of oil, molten mother-of-pearl. Neither Leningrad, nor Kiev, nor Odessa have such fans, connoisseurs, lovers. We were ready to talk about Moscow without end.
We put the iron stove brought by us to the hut and, although it was summer, flooded it. The warm, dry air was an extraordinary, wonderful aroma. Each of us is accustomed to breathe the sour smell of a worn dress, sweat — it’s still good that tears have no smell.
On the advice of Ivan Ivanovich, we took off his underwear and buried him at night in the ground, each shirt and underpants apart, leaving a small tip out. It was a folk remedy for lice, and we were powerless at the mine to fight them. Indeed, the morning lice gathered at the tips of their shirts. The land, covered with permafrost, nevertheless thawed here in summer so much that it was possible to bury linen. Of course, this was the land of this land, in which there was more stone than land. But even on this stony, icy soil, thick forests of huge larches with trunks grew in three girths – such was the life force of trees, a great edifying example, which nature showed us.
We burned the lice, bringing the shirt to the burning smut from the fire. Alas, this ingenious way did not destroy nits, and on the same day we cooked laundry in large cans for a long time and fiercely – this time disinfection was reliable.
We learned the wonderful properties of the land later, when we caught mice, ravens, gulls, squirrels. The meat of any animal loses its peculiar smell if it is pre-buried in the ground.
We took care to maintain an unquenchable fire, because we only had a few matches kept by Ivan Ivanovich. He shook the precious matches in a piece of tarpaulin and in rags in the most careful manner.
Every evening we put together two smut, and they smoldered until the morning, not extinguishing and not burning. If there were three smut, they would have burned. This law I and Savelyev knew from school, and Ivan Ivanovich and Fedya knew from childhood, from home. In the morning we fanned smut, flashed a yellow fire, and we piled a thicker beam on the fire that broke out …
I divided the cereal into ten parts, but it turned out to be too scary. The operation to fill five thousand people with five loaves was probably easier and simpler than a prisoner to divide his ten-day ration into thirty servings. The rations were always decade cards. On the mainland, there had long been a hangout for all sorts of “five-days”, “decados”, “uninterrupted”, but here the decimal system was kept much firmer. No one here considered Sunday to be a holiday – the days of rest for prisoners, entered much later than our live-in forest trip, were three times a month at the discretion of the local authorities, who were given the right to use rainy days in summer or too cold in winter to rest prisoners on account of weekends.
I mixed the cereal again, unable to withstand this new flour. I asked Ivan Ivanovich and Fedya to take me to the company and handed over my products to the common pot. Saveliev followed my lead.
Together we, all four, made a wise decision: to cook twice a day – there was definitely not enough food for three times.
“We will pick berries and mushrooms,” said Ivan Ivanovich. – Catch mice and birds. And a day or two in the decade to live on the same bread.
“But if we go hungry for a day or two before getting food,” said Savelyev, “how can we resist not to eat too much when they bring the welding?”
We decided to eat twice a day at any cost and, as a last resort, to thin. After all, no one steals from us, we got everything completely in order: here we have no drunk-cooks, thievish storekeepers, no greedy guards, thieves who are pulling out the best products – all the endless bosses, consuming, robbing prisoners without any control, without all fear without conscience.
We got completely our fats in the form of a clump of hydro-fat, granulated sugar — less than I washed with a tray of golden sand, bread — sticky, sticky bread, on which the great, inimitable masters of weight gain worked, and the baker’s superiors worked. The croup of twenty names, not at all known to us throughout our whole life: maghar, wheat chop – all this was too mysterious. And scary.
The fish, which replaced the mysterious replacement plates for meat, is a rusty herring that promised to compensate for the increased consumption of our proteins.
Alas, even the norms received completely could not feed, sate us. We needed three times, four times more – everyone’s body was starving for a long time. Then we did not understand this simple thing. We believed the norms – and the famous cook observation that it was easier to cook for twenty people than for four, was not known to us. We understood only one thing absolutely clear: that we lacked products. This scared us not so much as surprised. It was necessary to start working, it was necessary to pierce the windbreak with a glade.
Trees in the North die lying down, like people. Their huge bare roots resemble the claws of a gigantic bird of prey clinging to a stone. From these giant claws down to the permafrost, stretched thousands of small tentacles, whitish processes covered with warm brown bark. Each summer, the permafrost slightly receded, and in every inch of the thawed land immediately penetrated and strengthened there with the thinnest hairs of a tentacle – the root. Larch trees reached maturity in three hundred years, slowly lifting their heavy, powerful body on their weak, spreading roots along the stony ground. A strong storm easily felled weak trees on their feet. Larch trees fell backwards, their heads in one direction, and died, lying on a soft thick layer of moss – bright green and bright pink.
Only twisted, twisted, stunted trees, exhausted by the twists of the sun, behind the heat, kept tightly alone, far from each other. They had been so tense for their lives for so long that their tormented, wrinkled wood was no good. A short, blunt trunk, entwined with terrible growths, like splints of some kind of fractures, was not suitable for construction even in the North, undemanding of the material for the erection of buildings. These twisted trees and firewood were not good – with their resistance to the ax, they could torment any worker. So they avenged the whole world for their life, broken by the North.