…Not far from the hill, near his house, there was a narrow-gauge track, which connected other, main railways with two plants: repair and engineering works, and precast concrete factory. Its length was small – about half an hour of an unhasting walk, – but it intersected a varying terrain: here, it deeply disappeared between steep slopes, overrun with impassable weeds and burs; there, its each side was occupied by old red brick pack-houses and workshops, and behind a high fence, a chimney-stalk reeked; or there hulked up inapprehensible steep-sided constructions, which looked like high oblong barrels of riveted iron, put apeak; here, it dived into a dark sonorous tunnel, which was crossed from above by a big road with ahum lorries and rare passers-by; and there, it ran between pitted barrens and dumps. It was clear enough that parents strictly forbade to go there, but each time, when occasion served, secret expeditions were organized to those longed-for places of puppyish adventures. Since those times and for all his life, he cherished an affection for railways, pack-houses, car pools, and small offices, placed in one- or two-storeyed houses under darkened and sometimes mossy slate roofs, with pigeons under the leads and rifle-green ribbed aloe in flowerpots on windowsills, where nearby, on tarred wooden poles, there were electrical and telephone wires, which sometimes almost touched leafages of whity poplars or dusty cherries behind a fence of a certain warehouse, where wicked dogs, set loose for a night, barked ferociously.
…Boys never took her with them, though she blandished them of it. She was still inadmissibly little for their desperate company. But one day, they were frayed by her bitter tears, and the live wire with barked knees waved his hand gloomily: "O'K, you're in." Not believing in her unexpected happiness, she smeared the rest of tears over her smiling cheeks, and went to catch them up. …They were missing for a whole day at the narrow-gauge track. A seething flow of unknown before feelings bemastered her. When somewhere in the distance, an engine, not seen yet, gave a scream, her heart missed a beat in a pressing presentiment; then a wheezing chimney came into view round the bend; the train increased sweepingly in size; then the engine sped by; and a grumpy engine-driver with a forage cap leaned out of the window and bawled at them; like an indiscernible caravan, there flitted open platforms and trucks, choked up with copper plates, scraps of pipes, zinc sheets, duraluminum rouleaux, coal, and grey metal swarf; the wheels went like blazes; the ground shivered all around; she looked in a forbidden delight at all that magnificence, and it seemed to her that the turning brash gyres, which pulled about and tore mercilessly her short frock, would pick up and carry her somewhere absolutely far away. Then all faded in ajingle deafness. In an instant, first there came the train's retreating noise, then grasshoppers' crick-crack, colorless grass's rustle, and more, and more, and more, – and all sounds came back again. She recovered her breath, and found her ability to breathe and to move again. …Then they hid in clay gullies; weeds were as tall as she; burs' villous buds clung to and hung on her dress; she clambered up bluff slopes, snatched at branches, bushes' roots, and certain grass's rough stalks, and jumped from sandy slopes… Her new half-hoses, certainly, quickly lost their whiteness…
She was not even punished. The parents, who had not had a slightest idea what to do, were happy to see her alive and safe. It was the boys, who caught it. That evening, there was a lot of work for fathers' tawses… But after that day, the boys became her sworn friends and devoted patrons.
…For a long time, she had already been living in another town, as small as her native one, many years had passed since then, and lots of events of all kinds had happened in her life. But still, her heart flackered and felt faint within her every time, when she heard trains' screams, trains' noise, and observed trains running fast. She worked in a quiet office with papers' rustle, quarter reports, and daily dish of tea at half past eleven and at four. When she was proposed a business trip to the district's center to bring urgently needed documents, she agreed, however, without any pleasure, as she imagined all those dusty roads, overflowed buses, and all accompanying inconveniences. …She tided over the business unexpectedly quickly and decided to spend the day for her own choice. Her travelling certificate was marked as it was necessary, and she felt like a happy owner of the whole free day. …Towards the evening, she got hungry and dropped in at the first found caf?, which looked quite decent. Twilight died into dark. It was already fresh like in autumn; warm and even cozy in the caf?. She sat at the window. There were not a lot of visitors. At the next small table, at the window as well, there were two people. She did not see their faces, as she did not need it. They ate with appetite, and the older one, from time to time, filled the wine-glasses from a little decanter…
…He still lived in the same house, the repair and engineering works still banged about and hooted with its hammer, the precast concrete factory regularly laded its building granites, and several times a day, a laden train dinned to and fro on the narrow-gauge track, beeping and eased down before the railway-crossing with blinking semaphores, and only trees had grown around, and many new houses had been built, and therefore the former outskirt seemed to be deeply inside the city. …Together with his chief, he came on business in the district's center of one of the neighboring regions. There was a perfect combination, which would reveal favorable prospects for their joint project. Meetings proved successful, the partners agreed with all conditions proposed. The evening was free. They let the driver go, but asked him to take them from the hotel the following morning at nine. They could hear sounds of music, female voices, laughter, gate's scratch, – and all those promised a near opportunity of adventures. It was high time to refect themselves. In falling twilight, they noticed a looming, but still seen, sign over the entrance to a caf?, and took a silent off-street, planted by teils. Judging by a hollow roar, brought all the time by the changeable wind, somewhere nearby, there was a factory or mechanical workshops. The caf? happened to be quite decent, and the nippy was even very much affable. Having eaten and drunk a little bit for courage, they started a cigar… Nadia the nippy was getting prettier every day… It had already darkened, and it was time to do something or to drift. They had already squared up and were going to leave, but suddenly, a train hooted somewhere far away, the near railway-crossing, which was invisible because of teil trees and wooden fences, rang a peal, and it even seemed to him that somewhere, semaphores' red glistens flashed. He was looking through the window. Their neighbor, a woman from the right table, who he had once glanced at and noticed no longer then, was looking there as well. At last, they could hear the noise of the approaching train, some other beeps: two disturbingly short and one draggingly long, – and the train passed with a roar the railway-crossing, leaving a calming down knock of the last platform's wheels, – both she and he guessed at once that it was a freight train, which was hurrying to that rustling nearby factory or mechanical workshops. At the railway-crossing, the clang stopped…
They both simultaneously took their eyes off the window and looked at each other. Judging by how they were looking at each other and what there was in their gaze, they both realized that, even not being familiar to each other, they were actually united by things, which are so important and basic, so that one does not usually speak about them, but just knows whether they are between two people or not. And if they are, then these two are unique for each other in the whole world.
Minsk, January 2001
Russian-English translation: Andrej Bursau