What did I ever do to him? What? Did he think I’d eat the Economic Council out of its stores if I rummaged in the rubbish? Greedy creature. Take a look at his mug some time: fat, broad cheeks. He’s a brass-faced thief. People, help! The white-hat gave me a taste of boiling water at noon; now it’s dark, around four in the afternoon, going by the onion smell from the Prechistenka fire station. The firemen get buckwheat groats for dinner, as you well know. But that’s way down on my list, like mushrooms. Dogs I know from Prechistenka told me, however, that there’s a place called The Bar on Neglinny Street, where people gobble up the special of the day, mushrooms en sauce piquante, at three roubles seventy-five a portion. To each his own – for me it’s like licking galoshes… Oooow… My side is killing me, and I can see my future career absolutely clearly: tomorrow there will be sores and I’d like to know how I’m supposed to treat them. In the summer you can go down to Sokolniki Park, there’s a particularly good grass there, and besides which, you can stuff yourself with sausage ends and the citizenry litter the place with greasy wrapping paper that’s good to lick. And if not for some old biddy who sings in the moonlight – ‘Celeste Aida’ – in a way that turns your stomach, all would be fine. But now where am I supposed to go? Have you been kicked by boots? Yes. Have you ever got a brick in the ribs? Plenty of times. I’ve suffered it all, I’ve accepted my fate, and if I’m crying now it’s only from the physical pain and the hunger, because my spirit hasn’t dimmed yet. The canine spirit is very tenacious. But my body is broken, battered, people have had their fun with it. The worst part is this: once he’d poured the boiling water on me, it ate through the fur, and now there’s no protection for my left side. I could easily get pneumonia, and if I do, citizens, I will starve to death. When you have pneumonia, you’re supposed to lie under the main stairs inside, and who’s going to run around the bins in search of food except me, a bedridden bachelor dog? If my lung is affected, I’ll be crawling on my belly, weakened, and any guy with a stick can finish me off. And then the street-cleaners with their badges will grab me by my legs and toss me into their cart…
Of all the proletarians, street-cleaners are the vilest scum. Human dregs, the lowest category. You get different kinds of cooks. Take the late Vlas from Prechistenka. How many lives he saved! The most important thing when you’re sick is to get a bite. And there were times, the old hounds say, when Vlas would toss a bone and it would have an ounce of meat on it. May he rest in peace for being a real human being, the personal chef to the Count Tolstoys, and not from the Council of Normalized Nutrition. What they do in the name of normalized nutrition is beyond a dog’s mind to understand! Those bastards use rotten corned beef to make cabbage soup, and the poor customers know nothing about it. They come, eat, guzzle it down!
This little typist of the ninth rank earns forty-five roubles but, of course, her lover gives her fine cotton stockings. And how much she has to put up with for those fil de Perse stockings! He doesn’t just take her the usual way, he makes her do it French style. Real bastards, those French, just between you and me. Though they eat well, all washed down with red wine. Yes… So the little typist will come to eat there, she can’t afford to go to The Bar on forty-five roubles! She doesn’t have enough for the movies, and movies are the sole consolation for women. She shudders and winces but eats it. Just think, forty copecks for two courses, while both those courses don’t even cost fifteen, because the manager steals the remaining twenty-five copecks. And is this the kind of food she should be eating? The tip of her right lung has a spot, and she has women’s troubles thanks to that French stuff, they docked her wages at work and fed her putrid meat at the canteen, there she is, there she is! Running into the alley in her lover’s stockings. Her feet are cold, the wind is blowing on her belly because her fur’s like mine, and she wears cold undies, just a lacy appearance of underwear. Tatters for her lover. Let her try putting on flannel pants. He’ll shout: “Why can’t you be sexy? I’m sick and tired of my Matryona, sick of her flannel underpants, my time has come. I’m a chairman now, and everything I embezzle goes to female flesh, chocolates and bottles of Abrau-Durso! I spent my entire youth hungry, I’m done with that, and there is no afterlife.”
I pity her, I do. But I pity myself even more. That’s not my egoism talking, oh no, but it’s because we truly are in unequal conditions. At least she’s warm at home, but what about me? Where can I go? Beaten, scalded, spat upon, where can I go? Ooooow-ooow!
“Here, boy. Sharik, come on, Sharik! Why are you whining, poor thing? Eh? Did someone hurt you?… Ooof!”
The blizzard wind, that witch, rattled the gates and smacked the young lady on the ear with its broom. It lifted her skirt to her knees, revealing creamy stockings and a narrow strip of poorly laundered lace underwear, stifling her words and sweeping away the dog.
My God, what terrible weather. Ooof. And my stomach aches. That salted meat! When will it all end?
Lowering her head, the young woman launched herself into the attack, breaking through the gates, and she was spun round and round, tossed and then twisted into a snowy funnel, before she vanished.
The dog remained near the alley, suffering the pain of his mutilated side, pressed himself against the cold wall, held his breath and decided that he would never leave this spot again, that he would die right there. Despair overwhelmed him. He felt such bitterness and pain, such loneliness and fear, that tiny canine tears bubbled from his eyes and dried on the spot. His fur on the wounded side was all in shredded, frozen clumps, revealing vicious red burns. How stupid, nasty and cruel were cooks. She called him "Sharik”… What the hell kind of "Sharik” was he! Sharik was a fluffball, a round, well-fed, dumb, oatmeal-eating son of pedigree parents, and he was a shaggy, bony and scruffy stray, a homeless dog. But thanks for the kind thought.
The door of the brightly lit shop across the road slammed, and a citizen appeared. A citizen, not a comrade, and probably a gentleman. As he came closer, it was clear he was a gentleman. Don’t you think I judge by the overcoat. Nonsense. Lots of proles wear overcoats now too. Of course, not with collars like that, no way, but still you could get confused from a distance. But I judge by the eyes – you can’t mistake them either near or far! Oh, eyes are a significant thing! Like a barometer. You can see everything – who has a vast desert in his heart, who can jab you in the ribs with the toe of his boot for no reason at all, and who is afraid of everything. There’s such pleasure in nipping the last type in the calf. Afraid? So there. If you’re afraid, you deserve it. Grrrrr… arf!
The gentleman crossed the street confidently in the column of blowing snow and moved towards the gate. Yes, yes, I could see everything about him. He wouldn’t put away that putrid corned beef, and if anyone dared serve him some he would raise such a fuss and write to the papers saying: “They gave me, Filipp Filippovich, rotten meat!”
Here he comes, closer and closer. This one eats well and doesn’t steal. He won’t kick you, but he’s not afraid of anyone, and that’s because he’s never hungry. He is a gentleman who does intellectual labour, with a French pointy beard and a grey moustache, fluffy and dashing, like French knights had, but the blizzard carries his smell and it’s a bad one – hospital and cigar.
What the hell brings him to the Central Economy Co-op? Now he’s right there… What’s he looking for? Oh-oh… What could he want to buy in that crummy little store, aren’t the fancy stores on Okhotny Ryad enough? What is it?! Sausage. Mister, if you saw how they made that sausage you wouldn’t go anywhere near the store. Give it to me!
The dog mustered what little strength it had and madly crawled out from beneath the gate onto the pavement. The blizzard thundered like a rifle shot above him, billowing the huge letters on a canvas poster: “is rejuvenation possible?”
Of course it is.