LAST EVENING



...Baluev branched off the road and went straightway on the already damp grass. His boots grizzled because of the corrosive vicinal dust, quickly became black again. The day was fading away. A belated lark was still chirping somewhere on darkening high. Catching swarms of skitting midges, kitish dragonflies were flitting. The morrow was going to be hot as well. The acclivous uphill of the declivity brought Baluev to the high abrupt coast. He approached the very brink. Below, a coolness was fuffing from the wide quiet river. The sun had already set, but its light therefrom, from the horizon being reflected from the heaven's ethers, was filling the space by itself, not leaving shadows at all, and therefore, all the subjects looked silent and mysterious. There was coming a special time - time of evening twilight. Smells beaten down by the day time heat and dust, were spreading everywhere with a newborn freshness, however, not dumping with each other and not mixing up. Gradually becoming invisible, the high rich grass, coastal willow bushes, river sand, and the river itself, were replaced by their other hypostases smells. Sounds were changing, too. That, what in the afternoon was not distinct even for the most sensitive and alert ear, was becoming now audible far around. The town's outskirts were descending to the river, and here, on the very top of the declivity, where Baluev was standing, there could be heard bursts of children's chirm, an unintentional knock of a gate, a scratch of buckets, and neighbours' conversation, while from the village, on the other coast, hails of a shepherd coming back with his herd, the snap of the whip, and somebody's quiet sad song, were heard.

...Twilight was dying into dark. The sky still remained clear only in the Western part. The first star lit up. Shining with onboard lights, barges laden with wood, drifted downstream. From its coast, the village began dimly scintillating with lights of the coastal huts. Lifting a wave of smells, the hardly perceptible wind soughed with the grass, with sensitive willow branches at the river, and thawed somewhere above the dark water. The song behind the river ceased, and all the sounds also subsided. A little bite aside, in the bushes, at first, one and then another, and after that one more nightingale started singing. A humble-bee, which, maybe, had been alarmed by someone, or which, for any of his reasons, had not found his night shelter yet, bombinated with great effort and flopped down the grass somewhere quite near. Baluev started smoking. He was thinking that then, probably, someone, as well as he, was also standing on the other coast and, probably, seeing a roughly jittery light of his, Baluev's cigarette. The tobacco, meanwhile, had managed to soak in with an evening moisture, and the cigarette flickered out. Having loudly scratched a match and rustled in the night, Baluev lit it up again. Somewhere, there could still be vaguely visible, and somewhere, there could be hardly seen hilly fields stretched far around with deep gullies and ravines, and birch copses. An unknown bird (for certain, black for some reason, Baluev was thinking) whistled hardly with its wings and wafted away behind the river - there, where behind the hills, then invisible, the large plant, which roar just reached this place, was flaring up with boltless lightning in the windless night calm.

Baluev knew, that in shops then, there was a great work: scattering with sparks, the fiery metal was flowing; the sledge-hammer was whooping; ringing with chains, the cranes with clamorous hoistmen were running under the ceiling; sparkling with the whites of the eyes, silent workers, some in T-shirts, others in half-open, next-to-the-skin slops, which would disappear then, alternating, were greedy approaching the yellow asmear aeneous tap with lukewarm water, while master Potapov, the thin sinewy old man, whom Baluev had had a chance to get in with for a short time, for certain, was shouting something in the telephone to the attendant at the Plant Administration, and the latter, among the black leather of armchairs and sofas, a number of massive telephones on the green velvet of the spacious table in the management bureau, was writing down something in another daily report just to transfer it on the following day, early in the morning, to far-away Moscow, where they were always to know precisely what and how many had been done at this, one of hundreds of similar plants, which were scattered all over our spanless country. From the plant, there seeped out a short train hooter, then another: there, the iron gate then opened, and a wheezy little train began pulling to the nearest station three-four sealed box-wagons and as much finned platforms carefully covered with a green spotty tent-cloths. Here and there, among the platforms and wagons, it was possible to notice sharp obtrusive upwards bayonets of sentries...

...Having stretched his strong body, Baluev readjusted his shirt under the hard belt and sighed deeply. He had nothing to do here any more. The plant had gained a foothold. It was high time to move to new places, where life was not fitted out properly yet, where fast trains hardly would go, and where it was possible to reach only by humming lorries, or by easygoing horses, where similar immense fields with ravines were stretched, or dark dense forests would stand, the same quiet rivers would flow, or among heughs and cliffs, rough cataracted waters would rush to ice cold Northern seas, where similar sleepy hamlets were sheltered, or in hundreds versts around, there was only a lonely hunting lodge in the light-blue taiga.

...Baluev looked once again at distant looms of the plant, listened to its lull, and, having turned, started outstriding down the hill back to the town. He knew that the following day she would surely come to the station, though he did not like to be seen off. He also knew that they would, most likely, see each other never again.
 

Igor Savchenko
Villa Waldberta (Munich) - Minsk
July 2000

Russian-English translation: Andrey Bursau, Minsk