Yesterday I finished forging, two day norms were cast and tinned, and my plant, without a warning, sent me packing overseas. Washed off soot of the production, ate my lunch of jellied cod - ready for my first instructions: whatís permitted and whatís not. Their conditions could be better, overall. Iím afraid my trip, however, could go wrong. So a pamphlet quickly given to review, to make sure I wonít start living like we do. Like a brother he starts talking on deceptive, cunning West, on democracy in Poland, in the town of Budapest: "Foreign manners look untoward, you wonít understand at once. Try to be respectful, comrade, give their practices a chance. If there are debates with liquor, disagree: no, my democratic drinkers, only tea! Turn away from all their presents, unimpressed. Tell them that we have this nonsense, in excess. He advised: "You should be frugal, live in comfort but act wise. Do not starve to save a ruble, we donít need your swift demise! With the Czechs itís getting tricker, in the town of Budapest. They might offer you a dinner, or perhaps they donít want guests. Oh, in Hungary Iíll visit the bazaars, where Romanian German misses cast their charms. (Buddies told me that the ladies in dem states do not charge a single penny Soviet friends) "But the bourgeois statesí contagion follows us to prey upon. Stay away from complications, extramarital liaisons! Spy-girlsí bodies scream of fitness; you reject them, they come back. You should tell: at home this business long abolished, for a fact. Sometimes itís not so apparent: she intrudes, sneaking in your train compartment, like a dude. In her bra she keeps, however, amatol. You must check your neighborís gender, first of all." "Iím afraid to make a blunder," I begin to question him. "If you try to check whatís under, Youíll get clouted on a whim..." But this guyís a real sharpie, Knows his craft, he wonít be stressed! So again we start malarkey on deceptive, cunning West. Listen here, Iíll be repeating, for your best: To Bulgaria Iím leaving - Budapest. "All political discussions - Must evade. Give them facts, donít flex your muscles To persuade." I donít know their alien grammar, not a single foreign word, But if you give me a hammer - anyone will fit our mold! For Iím not an agitator, Iím a blacksmith by my trade! To those Poles in Ulan Bator I wonít go at any rate! Laying with my wife, I prattle: "Dusya, please! Maybe I donít have to travel overseas? I wonít mix well with their medley, Iíll run off. I canít speak their eerie language, not a word!" Dusyaís dozing like a baby, with her plastic curlers on. Still asleep, she turns to tell me: "Listen, Kolya, and be gone. Got no courage, whatsoever... Iíll divorce you, you will see! Twenty years we live together, And youíre always: "Dusya, please..." You have promised me, remember - that youíll bring from those Banglapesti venders an oilskin. Try to save a dozen rupees for a gift. Anything, Old Nick in booties, if itís thrift. Falling into sleep I hug her, My beloved, tender soul. In my dreams I forged my armor, Followed by the shield and sword. They are using other standards - stay alert, theyíll eat alive! So I dreamed of Magyar ladies: bearded faces, guns and knives... Then I dreamed about the jacket colored beige, of the spy-girls that inhabit Bangladesh. I will live with the Romanians, for a chance. Heard, thereíre from the Volga flatlands, just like us. And my wife, sheís such a sweetie: when she sees me off, she cries. All my shirts are ironed neatly, very pleasing to the eyes. See you later, blacksmithís quarters, where I know every pin! See you later, partyís orders, that were overdone by me! We were drinking - spirits passed in- to my brain. I had hiccups on the bus ride to my plane. As Iím boarding, from behind me comes a cry: "Why you left us so untimely, Nikoláy?"
© Kirill Tolmachev. Translation, 2023