incarnation? Shall I ask? You mustn’t! I will! No one will ever know . . . And I see myself—a fine, in telligent head with skin like leather . . . But what’s this—white and slimy and bathed in sweat? Just like a snail. How utterly vile! A carcass dressed in rags with a rope around its neck; must have hanged himself. A monster. He’s seen me. He’s looking! He’s looking from there! Can he really see me? He can, he can . . . His lips are trembling . . . and this is me, this is me! Is that what I
looked down at their plates or at the tablecloth. And the all-seeing eye that had been watching them squinted mockingly at the luckless spies and dissolved in a yellow patch, the color of the wallpaper, as though it had never been there. ( ^ ) It was snowing, and the snow fell on my eyelashes, on my cap, making it even fluffier, and on the roofs. If you nar rowed your eyelids, tiny snow houses appeared between them. The light of the street lamps shone through them brightly, creating an
whole family of jugglers, consisting of a man and wife with four children, leaped into the ring. They did uncanny gyrations in the air, while Dad, who was the chief juggler and had trained them, squinted his eyes at J L h e m u sic *47 FANTASTIC STORIES the bridge of his nose and stuck in his mouth a stick with a nickel-plated disk, placing on it a bottle labeled “Zhigulyovskoye Beer,” and on the bottle a glass, and on top of that—first an umbrella, then a dish, and finally two decanters
se quence—to you, who stood him the drinks! You can’t get a word in edgewise. But this fellow does a little arguing or falls into a reverie as the need arises— or just sits and preserves a sympathetic silence. Sometimes Konstantin Petrovich would become upset and the tears would flow, and he’d weep and sob so that nothing could comfort him. And he’d keep talking about his unhappy life and remembering his old mother, who, only three yards away from this very spot, was lying on an iron bedstead
who, like himself, had been roughly used by fate. They kept their hands folded be hind their backs as a sign of their lost freedom and oblig atory submissiveness. Around them were darting birds, the free denizens of the region, and there was a heady smell of flowers, grass, and bushes. Transparent, light dandelion heads were flying around everywhere. On either side, reeling from boredom and their own insignificance, a small posse of guards drifted along, smoking large home made cigarettes.