Impressionable type

Note: The following is an English rendition of this short story originally written in Russian: http://www.proza.ru/2008/12/16/678

Uncle Vassily wasn’t really my uncle. He was my landlord in my freshman year back in Russia. At that time, uncle Vassily was about sixty. He worked as a railroad mechanic. A hell of a handyman, and, of course, a drunk. Uncle Vassily was a bald and yellow little man. He would have been like so many bald and yellow little men, had it not been for two things – his moustache and his voice. The moustache was phenomenally long and looked like a piece of thick grayish rope glued across his face. And the voice, in the friendly talk mode, easily obliterated engine horn sounds at the rail-yard. A scary voice.

Once in a supermarket, uncle Vassily saw a woman poke unwrapped bread with her finger, choosing a softer fresher loaf. He snuck up to her and said, keeping his voice as low as he could:
“Buy all the bread you’ve touched. Understood?”
The woman sized up the short withered sot and protested:
“Who the hell are you? My hands are clean!”
Uncle Vassily moved his moustache up and down, and suddenly it was like a band of three dozen tuba-players blared their brass, all at once.
“Clean? Your hands clean? You scratch your beaver with them, bitch. Your hairy rotten beaver.”
The sound nearly shattered the glass in the windows and counters. A crowd gathered - both customers and shop-assistants came running. The supermarket manager showed up too. And uncle Vassily caught his breath and continued, crescendo:
“Your crabs are all over the bread now, see? Creeping and crawling!”
And on and on went the brass band. The woman was shell-shocked and confused.
“No, these are just poppy seeds,” she whispered and fled in shame.

Uncle Vassily had a younger brother, Viktor. Viktor fed and groomed horses at the race-track stables. He looked and acted nothing like Vassily. Viktor had no moustache and I never heard his voice, not once, even though he often came to visit his big brother. Each time I crossed paths with Viktor, he would hide his eyes, move his lips without ever producing a sound, and sneak back into Vassily’s room. Viktor was an amateur artist. He painted nothing but horses, mostly in water-colors. Viktor gave finished pictures to Vassily who hung them up on the walls in his room, or simply stacked them on the floor. All the paintings were equally bad.

One day, my room-mate Roman asked uncle Vassily:
“What’s up with Viktor? Why is he such a wacko?”
The old man carried his moustache across the room and just about shoved it into Roman’s chest.
“Viktor’s no wacko,” he boomed. “He’s just … hmmm… an impressionable type.”
“And what’s the difference?” laughed my friend.
Uncle Vassily took a moment to think.
“There’s a difference. Whackos are all fucked up in their heads from birth, while impressionable types get that way along the journey.”
That statement got me curious too.
“What journey, uncle Vassily?” I asked.
“The journey of our shitty little lives.”
Uncle Vassily got emotional. The murky moonshine in the bottle on the kitchen table was splashing as if shaken by an earth-quake.
“You know nothing about life, you greenhorns. Life is one strange thing, I’ll tell you that. Viktor had been a happy boy too, always smiling and playful, you know. Until that shit happened.”
“What shit, uncle Vassily? Tell us, please.”
“That goddamn fucking crazy shit.”
Uncle Vassily massaged a cheap cigarette, lit up and told his story.

“It was after the Great War. I was already thirteen and Viktor had just turned seven. Our family was living in a workers’ house, all in one room, twenty rooms on each floor. A crappy way to live. There were three big houses like ours nearby, with a courtyard in the middle. Men put up some benches and a sandbox for the kids. And everyone in the neighborhood tossed their trash in one huge dumpster. A garbage man came every evening at about seven to take all that stuff to the landfill. He had a cart and a horse, a brown gelding. And that shit-country ranger got around, a lot. Hard to believe considering the smell he had after shoveling crap all day long, but he got laid all right. When pussy starts talking nose shuts up, you know. And after the war, men were in short supply and valuable, stinking like shit or not.
“Anyway, the garbage man would empty the dumpster into his cart and go screw his girlfriend of the day. And the horse and the cart would just stand there. The guy never tied the horse to anything. Why bother? It’s a gelding, isn’t it? No balls, no danger. Let’s say, Roman, I cut your balls off,” uncle Vassily glared fiercely at my friend. “How high do you think you will be jumping? You don’t know? Well, not very high, take my word for it.

That god damned night everything was as usual. The garbage man had loaded all the shit into the cart and went, all fresh and fragrant, to his lady. And now imagine, guys, a courtyard full of life. It’s June. The days are long. The grannies are gossiping on the benches, the young mothers walking around with babies. We, the bigger boys, are playing catch. My little brother Viktor is building castles in the sandbox. They were real pretty, those castles, like in a fucking fairy tale, I swear to god. And the men are, of course, drinking. Not without a reason: a neighbor had sprung from the big house. They called him Boris the Buttnose. One big piece of shit he was. Whenever he got drunk, we would beat his wife unconscious, and try to screw any broad who happened to be nearby, consent be damned. That’s why they’d put him away. And now look who is back, let’s celebrate. Soon they run out of booze. Everybody’s thirsty, especially Buttnose. All stores are closed already. So one guy says to Boris: ‘I’ve got a bottle of vodka at home. I’ll give it to you, but you’ll have to earn it. Fuck that garbage horse over there and the vodka is yours. Or go home sad and sober.’ Buttnose tears his tanktop in half, throws some jail words at the guy, but what can he do, this turd? Long story short, he mounts the horse, from behind, I mean.”
Roman’s and my jaws dropped.

“You can’t be serious, uncle Vassily!”



“One crone can’t take it any more, so off she runs and calls the police: ‘A horse is being screwed in a public place. The communist morals are in grave danger. Come save what’s left of it.’

“At that same time, the playboy garbage collector takes a break, looks out the window and sees what’s happening. And here is the picture. Boris the Buttnose is damn close to the finish line, while that shit-farm cowboy dashes out of the house, pulls out his whip and yells: “I feed this horse, I take care of him, and you, bastard, are fucking him!” Not exactly the sharing type. So he raises the whip and tries to sting a good one on Boris’s bare ass. He should have aimed a little lower, though. But the guy must’ve been nervous. So he misses, and hits the horse’s neck and muzzle instead.

“The gelding can’t take all that pain and humiliation. He neighs and rears up on his hind legs. He would have looked exactly like one of those monuments in St. Petersburg, except for the carriage full of shit and Boris clinging to his ass. I still don’t understand how Boris managed to hold on. There wasn’t much to hold on to. Must’ve wrapped his hose around the horse’s gut, or something. Anyway, when the gelding is back on all fours, Boris is still sitting on the thills, his pants down, his arms glued to the horse’s behind. I wish he had fallen off. It’s a shame he didn’t.

“The horse speeds off. Who would have thought the jade could be so fast. He starts galloping around the courtyard, lap after lap, like at the races, with Boris the Buttnose and the carriage along for the ride. Pieces of toilet paper are flying all around, like confetti. And that screwball of a man is still holding on, screaming to high heaven. So round and round goes this fucking chariot. All the people clear the courtyard in a second, and squeeze into the walls like shit inside a centrifuge. For nobody knows where the horse will go. The police arrive. But the cops are too scared to get out of the car. Well, what do you expect? Tell me, Roman,” uncle Vassily pointed his brown finger at my room-mate, “how much do you like the idea of dying under a garbage cart? You don’t like it? Neither did they. Fucking chickenshit.

“And Viktor, my little brother, is right in the middle of the courtyard, alone in his sandbox, watching the whole thing, motionless. The gelding and the butt-naked horseman are dashing around him, up close. And Viktor is watching, watching, can’t take his eyes away. I still remember those eyes of his. I see them in my dreams.

“Long story short, on a turn, the carriage falls on its side and pulls the horse down with it. The hack goes down hard, breaking his legs and hitting his head on the pavement with a thud. And Boris the Buttnose flies on - right into Viktor’s sandbox, and sticks his horseshit covered dick into my little brother’s fairy tale castle.

“The cops get their courage back, jump out of the car, lift Boris and take him away. Nobody has seen him since. The horse is twisting and twitching and neighing on the ground. So the cops shoot him dead. I’d rather they’d done it the other way around.
“On that night, Viktor changed. It’s like he withdrew into himself and just stayed there, quietly. I know that he is there, somewhere inside, I knock and knock and knock, but he won’t open. He just keeps looking at me, like he was from that sandbox. Viktor did badly in school, even though his memory’s always been remarkable. He just kept drawing his horses, always, you know. At fifteen he dropped out of school and took up the job at the race-track. Well, that’s the story.”
Uncle Vassily fell silent. I felt like I had to say something to him, but I could not find the words. My friend Roman was also silent, a rare occurrence.

Three years or so later, I happened to be in the neighborhood and thought I would pay uncle Vassily a visit. He looked older, thinner and a deeper shade of yellow. His moustache was now drooping. The voice was the same, though. We were sitting in the kitchen, drinking and talking. All the walls were covered with paintings of horses. I asked uncle Vassily about his brother.

Uncle Vassily swallowed hard and said, averting his eyes:

“My brother is no more. He hanged himself in the stables, on the reins… And he did not even drink.”

The last word turned into a husky whistle, like air coming out of a punctured tire. His Adam’s apple was moving up and down trying to crush the rising tears, drive them back into the emptiness of the heart. I quickly said goodbye and left.
It was a long time ago, but I still remember uncle Vassily, his brother Viktor and Viktor’s pictures. I do not know why. I must be an impressionable type. Or, maybe, a wacko.


Рецензии
Спасибо за рассказ, Автор.
Английский очень хороший. Но если сравнивать с переводом - то терятся очень много. Слэнги, говорок, наречия, диалекты, феню, аромат всего этого - переводить очень сложно. Практически, я бы даже сказал, невозможно. За редким исключением.
Пытался представить себе картинку попытки попадания кнутом по жопе в предложенном расположении объектов... "Взять бы пониже - было бы лучше"... То есть, раз получилось повыше - должно бы по горбу или голове Чуносого... А попал мерину по шее и ушам, морде... Т.e. так высоко, что выше Чуносого головы... И попал мерину в голову... Как бы, должно быть, опять уже пониже... Как-то не очень могу увязать в схему компоненты и тректорию полёта кнута в связи со своей пагубной зашоренностью уроками теоретической механики...
А в общем - молодец.
Всех Вам Благ.
:)

Ярослав Вал   31.03.2017 03:09     Заявить о нарушении
Русский текст очень хороший, сочный и выразительный. Английский перевод неплохой, делала его крепкая рука. Но там и сям рука эта бьёт мимо. ТАКОЕ перевести - ЧРЕЗВЫЧАЙНО сложно. Проще оригинал создать. Переводить такие вещи - это работа гения. Тут гениальности не. Но нет и халтуры.

Сергей Елисеев   30.03.2017 20:01   Заявить о нарушении
Ну да... Я же и говорю - англиский сам по себе - отличный. Рассказ - хороший.
С Вами, Сергей, я согласен.
И Вам Всех Благ
:).
P.S.
Если не ошибаюсь, мы с Вами когда-то на какие-то темы беседовали... Не помню только на какие...
:).

Ярослав Вал   30.03.2017 20:34   Заявить о нарушении
Да, когда-то пересекались. Точно не помню, на какой дорожке. Кажется, с языками это было связано. Я с ними всю жизнь ковыряюсь, но написал про это очень мало. Вскользь касаюсь этой темы, например, в "Мороженое по-русски". Можете посмотреть.

Сергей Елисеев   30.03.2017 21:15   Заявить о нарушении
Конечно, на родной переводить "проще". Но и за такую "простоту" - глубочайший респект Татьяне Гнедич, выдавшей БЛЕСТЯЩИЙ перевод "Дон Жуана" Байрона (вариантов несколько). Гениально перевёл Бернса Мармшак. Но всех превзошёл (увы, забыл имя) старый русский дедушка, переводивший на АНГЛИЙСКИЙ русских поэтов "не первой величины" из когорты Никитина, Фета, Дельвига, Тютчева. Это, безусловно, гений. И меня просто сразил англичанин (Rosenberg?), переведший "непереводимого" Маяковского. Как точно! Да с каким блеском!! Всё-таки есть гении.

Сергей Елисеев   30.03.2017 21:21   Заявить о нарушении
Я абсолютно убеждён, что переводить нужно ТОЛЬКО на родной.

Ярослав Вал   30.03.2017 21:31   Заявить о нарушении
Не могу с Вами не согласиться. Родной - эта своя кровь. Я предпочитаю на чужой. Не всегда, но часто мне это удаётся. А ещё больше люблю с одного чужого на другой чужой. И весьма недурно. Хотя, полный идеал (а нужен в конечном итоге только он) не всегда получается. Такой вот интеллектуальный мазохизм. А "Мороженое" всё-таки рекомендую. Думаю, будет вкусно.

Сергей Елисеев   30.03.2017 22:26   Заявить о нарушении
Прочёл. Спасибо. Зарисовка советской действительности. :). Почему-то вспомнился "Осенний Марафон" с Бузыкиным и профессором Хансеном...

Ярослав Вал   31.03.2017 03:15   Заявить о нарушении
По поводу одного знаменитого стихотворения Бернса и некоторого количества красивой отсебятины, которую сочинил Маршак.
My Heart's In The Highlands
Robert Burns

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North
The birth place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains high cover'd with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green valleys below;
Farewell to the forrests and wild-hanging woods;
Farwell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands a-chasing the deer
Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart's in the Highlands, whereever I go.
В ГОРАХ МОЕ СЕРДЦЕ
С.Я. Маршак.
В горах мое сердце... Доныне я там.
По следу оленя лечу по скалам.
Гоню я оленя, пугаю козу.
В горах мое сердце, а сам я внизу.

Прощай, моя родина! Север, прощай, -
Отечество славы и доблести край.
По белому свету судьбою гоним,
Навеки останусь я сыном твоим!

Прощайте, вершины под кровлей снегов,
Прощайте, долины и скаты лугов,
Прощайте, поникшие в бездну леса,
Прощайте, потоков лесных голоса.

В горах мое сердце... Доныне я там.
По следу оленя лечу по скалам.
Гоню я оленя, пугаю козу.
В горах мое сердце, а сам я внизу!

Ярослав Вал   31.03.2017 03:27   Заявить о нарушении
Спасибо за мнение. Почему-то вспомнился "Осенний марафон"? Возможно, тот же мечущийся "гнилой советский интеллигент". "Картинки советской реальности"? Не советской, а вообще реальности. Какая была, такая была. Я Вам мог бы предложить эти картинки повыразительней, но не стану. А то подумаете, что саморекламой занимаюсь.

Сергей Елисеев   31.03.2017 10:03   Заявить о нарушении
Так вот по поводу перевода Маршака этого стишка Бернса. Мне он явно гениальным не представляется. Много отсебятины, когда можно точнее.

Ярослав Вал   31.03.2017 22:52   Заявить о нарушении
На это произведение написано 8 рецензий, здесь отображается последняя, остальные - в полном списке.