The dog crawled like a snake on its belly, streaming tears. Note the cook’s work. But you’re not going to give me any. Oh, I know rich people very well! Yet, essentially, what do you want it for? What do you want with rotten horsemeat? You won’t get poison like this anywhere except at the Moscow Agricultural Processing Trust, that’s for sure. You had breakfast today, you world luminary, thanks to male sex glands. Oooo-oooh… What is going on in this fair world? I guess it’s too early to die, and despair is a sin. I have to lick his hands, there’s nothing else left to do.
The mysterious gentleman bent over the dog, the gold frames around his eyes glinting, and took a long white package out of his right pocket. Without taking off his brown gloves, he unwrapped the paper, which the storm immediately took away, and broke off a piece of sausage, which was called Cracow Special. And gave the piece to the dog. Oh, what a selfless individual! Oooh – ooh!
“Phweet” the gentleman whistled and added in a stern voice, “Here! Sharik, Sharik!”
Sharik again. I’ve been baptized. Call me whatever you want. In return for your exceptional act.
The dog instantly pulled off the casing, clamped onto the Cracow sausage with a slurp and gulped it down in a trice. And choked on the sausage and snow to the point of tears, because he had almost swallowed the string in his greed. More, I lick your hand more. I kiss your trousers, my benefactor!
“Enough for now…” The gentleman spoke in short bursts, as if giving orders. He leant over Sharik, looked interrogatively into his eyes and unexpectedly ran his gloved hand intimately and gently over Sharik’s belly.
“Ah-ha,” he said portentously, “no collar, that’s lovely, you’re just the one I want. Follow me.” He clicked his fingers.
Follow you? To the ends of the earth. You can kick me with your suede shoes and I won’t say a word.
Street lamps glowed all over Prechistenka. His side ached terribly, but Sharik sometimes forgot about it, lost in one thought only – how not to lose in the crowd the miraculous vision in a fur coat, and how to express his love and loyalty. And he expressed it some seven times down the length of Prechistenka to Obukhov Lane. He kissed his shoe; near Myortvy Lane, trying to clear the path, he scared some lady with his wild bark so much that she sank down on an advertising pillar; and once or twice he whined to maintain the man’s pity.
Some bitch of a stray cat, looking like a Siberian, slipped out of a drain pipe, having caught the scent of the sausage despite the blizzard. Sharik almost lost his mind at the prospect that this rich weirdo who picked up wounded dogs in doorways would pick up this thief too, and he would have to share the processed meat. He snarled and bared his teeth at the cat, and the feline hissed like a hole-riddled water hose, and climbed up the pipe to the second floor. Grrrrrrr… arf! Scat! You can’t stock up enough from the processing centre for all the freeloaders hanging around on Prechistenka.
The gentleman appreciated the loyalty and right at the fire station, by the window that emitted the pleasant grumble of a French horn, rewarded the dog with a second piece about an ounce smaller.
Silly man. Luring me. Don’t worry! I’m not going off on my own. I’ll follow you wherever you go.
“Phweet! This way!”
Onto Obukhov? By all means. We know this lane very well.
This way? With pleas- oh, no, sorry. There’s a doorman. There’s nothing worse than a doorman. Much more dangerous than a street-cleaner. An absolutely hateful breed. More disgusting than cats. A flayer in gold braid.
“Don’t be afraid. Go.”
“Good evening, Filipp Filippovich.”
Now there’s a personality for you. My God, what have you found for me, my dog’s destiny! What kind of man is this who can bring dogs off the street past doormen into an apartment building run by a council of comrades? Look at that scoundrel – not a word, not a movement! His eyes look disturbed, but in general he is indifferent under his gold-braided cap. As if this is how things should be. That’s respect, gentlemen, real respect. Well, and I’m with him and behind him. What, touch me? Here’s a bite. I’d love to sink my teeth into your calloused proletarian foot. For all the torment from your brethren. How many times did you poke my face with a broom, eh?
“Come on, come on.”
I got it, don’t worry. Wherever you go, so do I. You just show me the way, and I’ll keep up, despite my miserable side.
Calling down from the stairs: “Were there any letters for me, Fyodor?”
From below, respectfully: “No sir, Filipp Filippovich, there weren’t” – then, in an intimate, low tone, adding – “they’ve moved new tenants into apartment three.”
The important canine benefactor turned abruptly on the step, leant over the banister, and asked in horror, “Really?”
His eyes opened wide and his moustache bristled.
The doorman tilted his head, brought his hand to his mouth and confirmed it. “Yes sir, a total of four of them.”
“My God! I can just imagine the state of the apartment now. And what did they say?”
“And Fyodor Pavlovich?”
“He went out for screens and bricks. To make partitions.”
“I’ll be damned!”
“They’ll be moving people into all the apartments, Filipp Filippovich, except yours. There was a meeting; they elected a new council of comrades and sent the old one packing.”
“The goings-on. Ai-ai-ai… Phweet.”
I’m on my way, hurrying. My side is making itself felt, you see. Allow me to lick your boot.
The doorman’s gold braid vanished below. The marble landing was warm from the pipes, we turned one more time and reached the first floor.
There’s absolutely no reason to learn how to read when you can smell meat a mile away. Nevertheless, if you live in Moscow and you have a modicum of sense in your head, you learn some reading willy-nilly, and without taking any courses. Of the forty thousand Moscow dogs there must only be one total idiot who can’t make out the word “sausage” syllable by syllable. Sharik started learning by colour. He had just turned four months when they hung greenish blue signs all over Moscow with the words “MSPO Meat Trade”. We repeat, none of that is needed because you can smell meat anyway. And there was some confusion once: going by the toxic blue colour, Sharik, whose nose was masked by the petrol fumes of cars, ran into the Golubizner Brothers’ electrical-goods shop on Myasnitskaya Street instead of a butcher shop. There, at the brothers’ shop, the dog felt the sting of insulated wire, which is a lot tougher than a coachman’s whip. That famous moment should be considered the start of Sharik’s education. Back on the pavement, Sharik immediately understood that “blue” doesn’t always mean “meat” and, tucking his tail between his hind legs and howling with pain, he recalled that all the butchers’ signs started on the left with a gold or reddish squat squiggle that looks like a sled: “M”.
Things went more successfully after that. He learnt “A” from “Glavryba”, the fish store on the corner of Mokhovaya, and then the “B” (because it was easier to run over from the tail end of the word for fish, “ryba", since there always was a policeman standing at the beginning of the word).