A second hand graveyard cross. Chapter 1


          The evening has covered the countryside with its dark wings cooling the lush vegetation of a Ukrainian village warmed by day sunlight. The full moon has taken its reign in the starry sky and illuminated the silhouettes of three graveyard crosses with its mystical light.

"It's time!" said Cardan.
"Let's wait a little longer," Sucker interjected.
"Are you going to wait until morning?" Gray interrupted.


The way to the graveyard had to be laid through a potato garden, a height of the plant tops reached up to the knees, and the thick dew made the moving quite uncomfortable. A courageous group of three men rushed to the intended goal.

          In place of a quiet summer day, came a sonorous night; it filled the darkness with croaking of frogs and chirping of crickets. The village dweller, burdened with hard work, practically does not notice the day's noise, singing of birds and rustling of leaves. He is so eager to take care of his worries that he seems to be about to complete some important undertaking, after which there will be a rest, bringing him an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his exhausting labor. But the morning comes and the history repeats itself. Having depleted his strength, he goes to bed; waking up before the sunrise, he has to feed his cattle and poultry. Then he goes to work. Returning tired home at night he should do the chores that have been piled up during a day. And there is nothing new under the sun: the same procedure goes on day by day. Life flows like water in a river. And now, on the slope of his years, he looks back at the past. In the recesses of his memory he finds only one monotonous, boring day. It turns out that he has lived it many times in a row, so reverie is limited to life events that encompass the fullness of only one day.
           But not all, who live in the village, want to experience such a deplorable fate. They try to diversify their existence with alcohol, which gives a quite tangible interest in life as a result of imagination.

           Our heroes are trying to obtain for themselves the only remedy that gives respite from the boredom of monotony. These three brave guys must act quickly and quietly - after all, the graves are near a private house and you need to avoid the trouble of being seen by someone.

           In the second half of the working day a man with a face that betrayed a recently experienced grief peeped into the local tractor workshop.
“Where's the turner?” he asked. The man was not native and did not know the personnel working in the workshop. Cardan, who was fiddling with the engine from his broken tractor, sensing the possibility of easy earnings, instantly rushed to him.
“I'm a turner,” he answered convincingly wiping his soiled with oil hands with a rag.
“My aunt's died,” the stranger continued, “I need to have a cross made.”
“Well, of course, we`ll do everything you`ll ask for. Don`t worry. Tomorrow morning it will be ready. It will cost you almost nothing. Just one liter of vodka,” Cardan reassured him in a confident and sympathetic voice.

            In the village people are more known by their nicknames, which correspond to their type of character in a colorful manner demonstrating a person not only as a unit of society but also as an individual. And why Cardan (a driveshaft in Ukrainian)? Well, because it spins. To survive in this cruel world one has to always remain on a constant move.

           For greater credibility Cardan led the visitor to show the welder who will weld the parts together, made by the turner, to create a tomb cross.
“Oh, speak of the devil. Here he comes to us. Now, we`ll sort out everything right away.


Don`t worry, tomorrow the cross will be ready,” Cardan encouraged him again.
“Gray, this man`s aunt has died. He`s in a desperate need of a tomb cross for tomorrow.”

          Gray was not actually a welder. He was visiting the tractor workshop by chance. "Maybe," he thought, "the guys have some alcohol today and will give me a drink?" That's why he was nicknamed Gray, because he constantly sniffed, searched, scoured to search for booze like a wolf. He instantly sensed the opportunity to earn a drink and assumed the role of a welder with no hesitation.

“Don`t worry. Tomorrow morning come with a liter. A cross will be ready. The turner will make the rings and cut the pipe. I will weld everything together. The head mechanic will provide us with the material.”
“Are you sure the head mechanic will give you a pipe?” the stranger asked anxiously.
“Of course, there he is, Dmitry Ivanovich, can I talk to you for a minute?” Cardan called a passing by Berdock with a fake name.

“I? What? What do you want?” dumbfounded Berdock stammered. Cardan and Gray, having winked, explained to him that the person is in grief, that his aunt died and a pipe for the cross is needed immediately. Berdock was very clumsy in adventurous matters but knowing the nature of these two rascals, he realized that they want to wheedle some alcohol out of him.
“Yes, of course, I will give a pipe, but when is the funeral?”
“Tomorrow at 2 pm.”
“OK, come to me in an hour, I'll look in my closet.”
“Dmitry Ivanovich, tell him directly, will there be a pipe or not?” Cardan insisted on the answer, periodically winking at Berdock.
“I have one, such as you need.


Come to me in half an hour, now I`m just busy, I'll give it to you.”

          Eventually the matter was settled, and the visitor left the territory of the tractor workshop.
“Where can I get you a pipe?” Burdock asked Cardan indignantly.
He did not know how to think quickly and grab everything right away and always asked dubious questions.
“Why are you so slow to think? It is necessary to be always on the move!” reproached them Cardan. “Let's go outside, I'll show you something.” Leading two of his comrades out of the workshop, he pointed with his index finger at three graves located two hundred meters from them, “Tonight, that cross over there, the newest one, we will steal.”

           During the Man-made famine (Holodomor) of 1932-33, people died massively. Managing with the funerals and see off the deceased in their last way to the local cemetery was not possible. They were buried near the houses in which they lived. In the course of time some of the relatives of the deceased expressed a desire to be buried next to their relatives, and thus the tradition of burial in the family cemetery continued for several decades after the tragic events experienced by the people of Ukraine.

          And so, in the deep-night darkness the adventurers approached one of such family cemeteries. Suddenly they heard a creak of the opening door of the near house.
“Quiet, someone went out,” Gray stopped his comrades.
  The trinity, holding their breaths, crouched down.


Another door creaked.
“Someone went to the toilet. We should wait until he comes into the house again.”

When everything was quiet Burdock approached an iron cross.
“This one or what?” he asked.
“Don`t you see that those two crosses are wooden and this one is made of iron! Of course it is! Come on, pull it out!” commanded Cardan.
“Why me, again me?! It seems like there is no one else but me! Always me!” Burdock, grumbling, grabbed the cross with both hands trying to pull it out of the ground.
“Guys, help me, it doesn`t give way!”
Cardan pulled to the left, Gray to the right, Burdock, standing in the center, wagged like a tail from side to side: to the right - to the left, over here  - over there.
“Something doesn`t let it go out,” Berdock complained.
“Keep on pulling! Less talk! A rod welded across the bottom of the pipe is the reason. Pull stronger!” Gray took the initiative.

After several minutes of painstaking efforts, the guys managed to pull the cross out of the ground.

“Look, we bent it at the bottom,” whispered Berdock in a frustrated voice. “Shall we leave it here or take it?”
“Are you crazy ?! Take it! Tomorrow we'll think of something,” Cardan blurted out not losing enthusiasm.

        Next morning the guys gathered over a bent cross and began to think how to get out of the difficulty.

“What now?” Berdock stammered throwing an incomprehensible glance at his comrades.
“OK, you will go to go to the welder and promise him a drink of vodka. He will cut off the twisted end and weld a new piece of pipe,” Cardan realized quickly.


“But a welding seam will be visible!” Burdock, not believing in the success of their trick, asked a dubious question again.
“There`s nothing to worry about, we will paint it and it will look like a new one.”

Quickly managing with the work, the guys went to meet the customer of the cross at the entrance to the workshop. As agreed, he arrived at the appointed time.

“Oh, and painted!” The customer was pleasantly surprised.
“Yes, do not get in paint. Take it over here and over here with these two pieces of paper; wrap them around the pipe. When you come home put the cross in the sun. The paint will instantly dry.
“Here's the payment, as agreed.”

Grabbing the alcohol with both hands, Cardan ran in the direction of the grove, Gray and Burdock followed him for a feast.

          Having buried his aunt, the nephew went out to look at the potato garden and was struck with a horrible surprise. The grave of one of his relatives, whom he buried two years earlier, was without a cross. Later he told people in the village, "Just imagine, I`m walking in front of the funeral procession of my late aunt, carrying a cross. We stopped to take a breath. I`m looking at it and strange thoughts are creeping into my mind: somewhere I've already seen it. We went a little further; the same thoughts keep nagging me: well, something familiar. But yesterday morning I went out of the house to take a look at the garden and there I stumbled on a grave of my relative which was without a cross. So that's it! And suddenly I remembered clearly that I had already held it once. It turns out that I buried two of my relatives with one and the same cross. Oh, those rascals!"