Edible sawdust. Chapter 4


          You can philosophize endlessly about the meaning of life, teach others how to reason out, because problems are more visible when they are not yours. A satisfied and successful man looks at a miserable wretch who has nothing good in life except alcohol and condemns him comparing him with himself. But if someone would take away from such a clever man his physical attractiveness, family, work, money, friends and throw him into beggarly conditions, what will happen to him? Will he continue to be proud of himself looking in the mirror when he would be despised and persecuted by everyone? Or, maybe, he will be able to improve his financial situation in the village, where there is neither a decent job, nor an opportunity to earn enough money to buy something more than a little food and some clothes. Who should he talk to if he does not have a family? He comes home in the evening and again - boredom, loneliness. When he tries to communicate with his village fellows, he reaps only contempt in return. He can`t help having a drink or two of vodka from time to time because life seems to be starting to get better for him when he is tipsy. He finds peace and amusement in alcohol. It is hopelessness that makes a person to get drunk and to forget about his problems.

 It's easy to judge other people, but what exactly such a righteous one has done himself to improve life of people in the Ukrainian village? I beg of you stop teaching others. If you cannot help them with anything, you`d better keep silence and take care of your own business.

 "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
(Mat. 7.3)

          When a village baby is born into a poor family, the mother and father do not have time to raise their child properly because they work from morning till night. There is a dilemma: either you stay at home and take care of your child and your family is starving, or you go to earn money and your child runs wild? At school such a child learns badly: he must help his parents about the household, and he doesn’t simply have enough time to do his homework. When he leaves school, there is no money for a higher education. So it remains for him to wander around the village or to find a job in a big city. But who needs him there, unless as a manual worker? Such an adventurer very often works at a construction site pouring concrete floors and carrying bricks like a horse. And again the same hopelessness, the same terrible conditions, the same binge drinking. He is a lucky one who gets married: in the family he finds his haven. Such a person gradually settles down. Thus he finds his meaning of life taking care of his wife and children. And if a village guy does nott get married, he would be lost. Such guys often become drunkards; waste themselves for nothing because of such beastly life. Many of them end their lives tragically. It is only for a while that alcohol gives peace to a desperate soul. It is usually not hard work that pushes people into the grave prematurely but most often a lack of socially active life. Where are the previous mass festivities, sports competitions, when the whole village gathers for entertainment? .. Where is the former Soviet honour? Where is the opportunity to excel at the workplace and get respect in society? Let them give a person an opportunity to feel his importance and value, not only for himself but for others as well! Let them create conditions for individual manifestation in favor of society!


Let them give a chance to a man to reveal his talent, show his physical abilities, patience, diligence rewarding him with public respect! Let them finally give him an opportunity to earn for a piece of bread! Only then will such advisors have a moral right to teach others how to live. According to the laws of nature most of us have similar strengths and weaknesses. Our behavior is the internal reaction of our brain to external circumstances - and nothing more.

 "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, such shall ye be judged; and with what measure ye mete, so shall they also be measured to you." (Mt.7.1).

          The life of Cardan goes on as usual. Is it possible that a Ukrainian will sit at home in front of a TV set, even at the weekend? No. He will always find a job - even if there is nothing to do. Ukrainian people are distinguished for their diligence: they love work for the sake of work and will not sit idle without a serious cause.

          Cardan climbed the stairs to the attic of his house. In the morning, as always, he had a headache. It doesn`t matter whether it is a weekend or a working day you have to spin and always be on the move. He found a pile of sacks covered with dust because of a long storage time. Cardan picked up the upper one - enough. With a languid effort he overcame the way back. "Oh, again this bloody hangover" he squeezed a complaint out painfully. "It was too much booze yesterday". "Too much, too much, too much ..." a pulsing echo in his head continued complaining. He went to a saw mill and stuffed the sack with sawdust. Then he went to the pig farm. Near the warehouse he collected several handfuls of grain fodder and filled with it the top of the sack covering wood shavings under it.
         There are a lot of lonely old women that live in the village. The men die early there from hard living conditions. They are often left alone in this cruel world with nobody to take care of. Taking a rest from endless worries, they run shopping to the local store.

 Meeting someone on her way as lonely as herself, one of such old women starts chattering and discussing rural news. The tongue goes working without restraint - never mind, a man cannot live without communication with others. They would talk, they would chatter on end, but, unfortunately, they must be in a hurry: household chores are waiting for them. A vegetable garden, a cow, pigs, geese, chickens - and why so much of everything for an old woman? "It is necessary to have a big supply of products! It is a good way to escape starvation," such an assiduous woman usually answers. The echo of the experienced famine of 1932-33 for many decades inculcated a panic fear of hunger in our minds. Sometimes you may ask a village woman in order to satisfy your curiosity, "Why do you store dry bread in sacks on the stove, it will perish, and mice will destroy it?!”
"Uh, you don`t know, son, what famine is," she usually answers in a drawling voice. "If hard times come, I will have a sack of dry bread and not die of hunger," she will explain wisely.

And it is impossible to convince her that there won`t be any hard times now, that there will be no such famine any more. You will ask her to rest, have fun, watch TV, but no, you cannot change her mind. Stalin managed to bring the country, which used to be the breadbasket of Europe, to the point of starvation. It seems that for a very long time thereafter, the fear to die of hunger will torture our minds. Over time our fear of starvation to death has abated to a certain extent. We no longer dry bread. But we buy bags of salt, sugar, flour, cereals to have it in stock, just in case. We do not starve, but we made a cult out of food, and our tables are full of dishes when we meet guests. After all, nowhere in the world you will find a country where an entire people were being destroyed by artificial famine. Fear of starvation in some cases forced people to eat "their own kind."

         You cannot go on talking for too long: there is no possibility.


The old women have flied to their households. The work is not waiting: potato garden must be weeded, the cow is mooing - she must be milked urgently, the pig is squealing - it must be fed. Noise, moos, grunts, quacks, barks - a usual home environment. So, she quickly milks a cow, feeds pigs, geese, and chickens - silence. The chickens are full and happy grazing about the yard: cluck-cluck, cluck-cluck. All right, it's time to run to the garden. Life goes on with no change day by day, until death stops such a strong, willful, energetic woman. There is no power in the world that can break her will for work except the grave.

Suddenly someone knocked at the gate.
"Landlady, Landlady, do you need grain fodder?" she heard Cardan`s enticing voice.

A few minutes later the gate was opened and an old woman came out into the street. Years had beaten her face, littered it with wrinkles taking away the former freshness. Hard work had hammered her formerly slender posture.
“And how much do you want for it?" She asked incredulously.
“A liter of vodka and it will be yours. I`m almost giving it for free. If you take it, I'll bring tomorrow one more sack.”
“OK. I will fetch an empty sack now and you will put the grain fodder into mine.”
“It`s unnecessary. Take it with the sack. If you do not have spare ones, I'll bring you a couple of them tomorrow for free.”
“I have to take it," the old woman decided. There is nothing to be done: the cattle and poultry must be fed.

The barter took place. Cardan, satisfied with the deal, set off with a bottle of vodka; the old woman went to make evening food for pigs. She took a handful and hooked the sawdust with her hands. She was digging deeper. No, it could not be real sawdust. Deeper and deeper was she rummaging - nothing but sawdust. Then she knocked over the sack on the ground, shook out its contents – everything was sawdust. "Ah, that scoundrel! Oh, that rascal! Oh, that thug!" the old woman`s curses started pouring at Cardan.

Finally, after an extensive complaining, she stopped cursing, sat down on the threshold of her house and sighed for the last time, "Oh, bastard!"

          Next morning she went shopping. She told about Cardan's trick to all her friends. "How could you trust such a bandit? Don`t you know how many people he has cheated in the village? Drive him away if you see him again! Do not let him come near your house!" they advised her.

In the morning Cardan woke up with the usual state of pain in his head. "Can it be the other way around?" he thought. "It simply means that yesterday was a lucrative day. It would be nice to have a drink today as well." He took another empty sack from the pile in the attic and walked to the sawmill again. Filling it with sawdust he returned home. Then he grabbed his last sack of grain fodder under his arm, loaded both sacks onto the bicycle and went to execute his new plan.

There was heard a knock at the gate.
“Do you need grain fodder?!”
A few moments later the door was opened and an old woman went out into the street. Horrible swear words fell on Cardan. It turns out that the old woman heard about his yesterday's trick near the shop in the morning.

“Get away from here, so that even your spirit will forget the way to my house!" she waved him off with a hand.
“It's not my fault,” Cardan began. “I was deceived too. They gave me a sack of grain fodder to change for alcohol and handed me the sack with wooden shavings. Had I but known. I have just brought my own sack of fodder to her.  The misunderstanding has already been settled.
“Do you think I will believe you so easily?"
The old woman fetched an empty sack from the yard with a bucket.
“Put bucket by bucket of grain fodder into another sack and I'll watch.”

“Just take a look at it! Nothing but grain fodder! No sawdust, no wooden shavings. Hold on for a minute, I'll bring a jar of vodka.”
The old woman went into the house, and Cardan at that time took out a hidden sack with sawdust and put a sack of grain fodder in its place.
The old woman came out with a liter of vodka. The deal took place. After a while Cardan returned and retrieved the sack of grain fodder from the bush, loaded it on a bicycle and drove home.
            In the evening all the neighbors heard the curses pouring down on Cardan, they were with no end and no limit. Finally the old woman got tired of incessant curses, she kicked the sack with her foot and whispered, "Oh, reptile!"