BEADS
 

…Loading had been continuing for two hours already. The rain which started silently and surreptitiously in the afternoon, would not stop for a minute. The train, cisterns, metal breast-rails as if oiled were shining in spotlights' bluish-white cold rays. Everybody got wet and perceptibly tired. Helmut's forage cap already swollen and grown heavy long ago, stuck to his top. Drops were slipping off his cap-peak, time and again gathering together and dribbling. Soldiers were in a worse condition: their sopped fore-and-aft caps did let cold thin trickles of water go directly to the scruff of the neck. But, frankly speaking, there was not already anybody who could have noticed that the rain was strangely chilly for the mid of April – all were warmed up by well-going and well-organized work. Helmut did not want to stay in the shelter of the awning. He would stand in two steps from it or go along the set of cars longways pack-house, thus throwing in the same lot with everybody to be bedrenched by that steady and quiet spring rain. The soldiers liked him for that touch of his nature. He never resorted to cronyism with them, always kept the necessary distance, and it was just what commanded their even more respect.

…Helmut was always keen on night works: spotlights' rays, flitting dark silhouettes, or – au contraire – figures caught by bright straight light and dissolved in it, metal clangor, the scamper of tens of feet, the lack of communication with the rest of the world due to the blackness, the pack-houses overcast with their stumpiness – all those, on the one hand, appealed to his romantic chord, on the other hand – being strictly brought under regulations, it seemed a confusion worse confounded only to the uninitiated, while all those corresponded completely to his aptness to pedanticism and order. The rain added its special tincture to that night picture: it was getting brighter because of streams en-silvered by the projectors' lights, things were eluding, wet metal, wood and beton smelled differently, all the sounds became sappier and bulkier.

…Loading finished. Almost at the same moment the rain stopped. It became possible to hear drops slipping off the pack-house' gradual roof, showering spray over the damp beton and crashing. Appeared out of blue from somewhere, a bulbul started chirling in the bushes near the water-tower. Nearby. Navigating pug-engines' screams, heat transmitters' noise did not abash the bird at all. Having screwed water out of fore-and-aft caps and drying hands in haste, the soldiers started smoking. There was an ascent of vapours from their backs and shoulders. Helmut did not smoke. Having listened to deans' short reports and given the latest directions, he went off to his wagon. There were twenty-three minutes left before the departure. He had not dropped in at the wagon, but having gone along the whole set of cars and passed subdepots, he got to the platform. The station was empty. The clock showed 3:17. Helmut was pacing slowly the platform. Reflected from the outer wall of the green station's building, the sound of his steps was wafted all around the moistened morning space. He had already been used to differing the bluchers' sound from that of shoes or boots in former times – when he would pace in the same way, waiting for a train in that life which seemed now quite far, where he had left Philosophy Department, his joyous student life, books, aforetime friends, Heine whom he liked. All those were still important for him,– but now – as an afterglow. Helmut did not feel like going back to it. He himself had changed everything for himself. Now in his life there was something that had been missing then. Now his everyday very concrete work merging with the results of co-ordinated labour of hundreds and thousands of people just like him bent to the one common aim, did substantiate outwardly in the upcusting revival of his country and his people. Not the feeling of co-participation, but that of immediate involving into the great deeds and events – that was what inspired him like nothing else before, what influenced him stronger than the music by his favourite Bruckner had done somewhen. It did give all-out importance to his separate life. Helmut felt physically how his life wasting and waning, did feed the haemal system of the building-up state, how it did embody in new plants and factories, in thousands of people masses' movement, and how, at least, it would have been spent completely on a new happy life of all people.

…Getting into the wagon and grasping still wet breast-rails with his both hands, Helmut threw his body backward and gave the whole rolling stock the once-over. It had already become a ritual which he would conduct every time before the departure. The wagons' clank gave the go-ahead to the set of cars.

…Out the window valleys were punctuated with hills and copses. Small spruce bourgs and villages were glimpsing. Having banged over a polyfoil bridge, the wagons shot across a wide calm river. The dawn had already broken. Clouds had melted. The train was running straight ahead to the rising sun. An athrill augury of the forthcoming great events overfilled Helmut. He did not feel like sleeping. He lay and looked through the window. Somehow he recalled Lotta – once she ran to him with her eyes abrim with tears: the beads had fragmented, and waves covering joyfully sand, swallowed up forthright all the bright-red drops into the lake's green coolness. The only one left fell haply into her little palm opened due to suddenness.
 

Igor Savchenko
Villa Waldberta, Feldafing (Munich)
Ŕpril, 2000

Russian-English translation: Andrey Bursau, Minsk