Now and then a long and ropy cough would grab him by the chest.
“Hnat, I’m sick of your whooping!” she would scream from the bedroom, “you keep me from sleeping.”
He looked guiltily at the brown drapes and said:
“Right Li, I won’t cough.”
“You could go to the kitchen altogether and there you could cough even till morning,” the one he called Li would drag the words sweetly.
The light went with him to the tight kitchen. Before daybreak it grew tired and went out. Perhaps he too grew tired. His short and nervous dream was full of chimerical scenes. Once he jeered at the positive heroes of miserable
romances. The workbench or the tractor always appeared positive in his dreams. And then he dreamed of all the
girls except Li. And how he hated to part with her, even in his dreams!
Now he dreamed of formulae, he dreamed of fat parallel lines and the head designer’s moustache. True, Yakim Ivanovich never had a bristle over his lip in his life, but in his dream, Hnat somehow knew well that it really was
his moustache. One time he told Yakim Ivanovich about it.
“Good, I’ll curl my whiskers over that one,” he laughed it off with a joke. “Generally, this kind of dream doesn’t
just simply come. Maybe you’re overworked.”
Yakim Ivanovich liked Hnat, but didn’t show his feelings so that there would be no idle talk. Like it or not,
Hnat was his son-in-law. This time he asked, unexpectedly even for himself:
“Do you often fight with Lida?”
“No, we never fight…”
“And she never hisses at you?”
“It happens. But only when I keep her from sleeping…”
“I knew it; you keep her from sleeping,” threw in Yakim Ivanovich, and his kind black eyes suddenly began to gray. It was always that way when he was cross.
“My God, what’ve you done to the kitchen!” Each morning the pile of butts would shock her. “You’ll turn
into a dotted line yourself soon…”
But Hnat liked his smoked-away nights. He liked his cigarettes, his cough, and his drafting tools. True, he could’ve gotten by without the cough, but without those nights—never! He liked his fatigue and his fantastic dreams. And he liked the sleepy mumbling of his wife.
“Wow, did you burn up a mess of those stinking cigarettes…”
Lida didn’t understand his cigarettcs, nor his cough, nor his dreams. And she didn’t like his nights and his fatigue. When Hnat tied all his thoughts together, when his sleeplessness personified itself in the whimsical webs
of his diagrams, he ran into the bedroom and grabbed Lida by the shoulders:
“Li, how great everything’s come out…”
“Well, what is it?” she asked through her sleepy listlessness.
“Li, I’ve found what I was looking for.”
“But dear, do you have to wake the whole city because of it?”
He sat in the kitchen till morning and devoured her indifference with tobacco smoke. In the morning he packed
his things in a suitcase and spoke insulting words to her.
She cried and answered him likewise.
And later he stood in the office of his father-in-law, or rather, the head designer, and spilled his insults out on
“I left her so as not to keep her from sleeping. I’ll go north and never come back.
Yakim Ivanovich’s eyes were gray, and his voice indifferent.
“Go and sit down by your work. There’s no use wailing about it,” said Yakim Ivanovich. And he fell silent.
In the evening he himself came to Hnat’s table:
“Lida came to me…”
Hnat threw back the black locks from his forehead and, as if from a pit, he looked at his father-in-law.
“What did she say?”
“Only that which women always say in these cases,” with his eyes he touched the ungraceful figure of his son-in-law and thought, perhaps, of something very distant.
“I told her: When they love—they don’t take their tears to mediators.”
Hnat was dressing and just couldn’t get his left shoe into the galoshes. Afterwards they descended from the third floor and smoked their cigarettes.
On the street, the autumn evening cackled. They walked through its cackling.
Unexpectedly, Yakim Ivanovich Hnat by the shoulders and turned him, face-to-face.
“I told her that maybe you’ll come back to her, when she wakes. Then you won’t keep her from sleeping.”
He went, almost ran away from Hnat.
Hnat came to the hotel and very early lay himself in the bed. He dreamed of Lida, parallel lines, and the nonexistent whiskers of the head designer.
Перекладач: Andriy M. Freishyn-Chirovsky
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