tanase filit„OLD NICK AND THE MUMMY” -a novel by STELIAN TANASE

Translated from the Romanian by Jean Harris

Chapter 1

“I don’t care what happens to Russia. Let the Devil take her!” V.I. Lenin Lenin disappeared from Red Square on a rainy night in April 1953. The devil opened the sarcophagus and dragged him out by the feet. When the soldier on guard turned on the light, all he saw was the generalissimo’s mummy. Not Lenin’s. The neighborhood drunks say the perp had accomplices. A jailbird might have offered a clue: the phone number of a young widow. The bandits swiped the mummy to hand it over to some Georgians. I—call me Blind Serioja—I’d sell it around the flee markets as a relic of our sainted Orthodox Church. The heart of Mother Feodosia. The pate of Eftimie the Ethiopian. The fruitless nuts of blessed Alexei, patron of whores. The ribs of the all-pious Piotr, protector of poop-outs. According to another drunk, uncle Afanasi, cries were heard in the middle of the night. Although it was raining, he stuck his head out of the can where he happened to be at the time. He witnessed a huge vampire swarming over the Kremlin. It carried something like a statue in its claws. I figured, it’s the mummy, and I phoned the Militia. The officer told me I could stick my finger up my ass and put down the phone. Another drunk, Costea, says that a pack of wild dogs chawed the mummy all day in front of the movies. They rounded up the dogs. They drew samples of blood and urine.1 Their stomachs contained remains of lamb with spinach from the greasy spoon on the corner. Too late! They’d already bludgeoned the strays. Hope remains that Lenin will be found. —You said that the Devil plucked him out of there? As he doesn’t believe in God, it means he’s an atheist, by the rod. The drunks caper and drag on the accordion. The passers by are not amused. They give them a wide birth from the opposite sidewalk. Since Stalin’s been dead, it’s been one disaster after another. Our drunks—if not the members of the Politburo—know the disappearance has created a dangerous situation. Without Lenin, Russia and the whole shebang’ll go kaput! If the god dies, the horde takes the road of exile and goes looking for another country. What the Devil! piata rosie 2* 1 Kaki Grangousier, The Logic of Defecation in the Western World, K&K Publishing, Utrecht, 1673, pp.543-545. When Costea says Devil, the drunks feel a fiery breath on their cheeks—to a man—and they distinctly hear the word Preeeesent! The nickel drops. Clicking their heels, they salute, fingers to brow. They know with whom they have to deal. Speak of the… very person in question. They know him by the smell of pitch, of shit, of spermaceti and cold borscht, of mess kit and foot wraps. Could it’ve been some soldier from the glorious Red Army? Anyhow: Phew! He’s gone without their having beheld him. Incalescence gives way to the cold humidity of the rain. It gives the drunks goose bumps. Who exactly dared to steal the mummy from the very heart of Soviet power? So as not to find themselves with Him in their midst—demanding vodka—the drunks resolve to call him Old Nick. Why not? Even Ulianov called himself Lenin. And the tovariscii, the comrads? The tovs called him Starik—the Old Man. I beg your pardon. He deserted. He threw Russia into chaos. Uncle says: that’s an American slur. I visited him yesterday, toward evening. He lay there stretched out with his hands at his sides. It was kinda cold, so I knocked back a taste. I didn’t sober up, but I kept a weather eye. Really?—wonders Blind Serioja, thrashing at the darkness with his cane. On your life?!—sez Liuba. Swear! The disappearance is registered in the commander of the guard’s report. The members of the Politburo found out yesterday. Well, he hadn’t disappeared yet. So what? Pravda and Izvestia didn’t write anything t’day. Costea lifts the bottle to his mouth. When he lets go he says: a double was arrested as a protective measure. Howdayouknow? I know bec’ze he’s my cuzin. He went out to buy cigarettes and BAF! They nicked him. He agreed to die in exchange for a canister of cooking gas that’d be given to this peroxide blond neighbor of his: Second Floor, Apt. 15. They stuck a goatee on him, fitted him out with britches—both from the wardrobe of the Bolshoi theater. They closed his fly buttons. Three missing. Urgently sewn on. His soul ’s kept in a samovar Made in Baku, 1889. When the mausoleum opened in the morning, no one noticed the switcheroo. Howdaya’ explain that to yerself?—Liuba sez. I don’t—sez Costea. Liuba: Unlike you, Lenin got younger. Roses in his cheeks. He’s kinda fresh—not bruisey-grey like the original. His feet stink; you put a perfumed hanky to your nose and yer all set. Costea: You still got those cool tits? Liuba: Watch it or I’ll bust you in the head with somethin’. What—you want nookie? It couldn’t be some Agitprop fib—Uncle sez in a conciliating way. The Blind Man: it’s a KGB intoxication. Costea: Did Lenin even exist? The Blind Man: Naturally, in the heads of some dumb old squaws! Liuba adores him. In Russia you gotta have some kind of phantasm to keep things in place. Our guy Starik holds the place of god. rusiaUncle Afanasi understands that the great leader of the proletariat was obtained by means of collage. They put together a bunch of colored Life covers found in the trash can of some embassy. Them ol’ women, the babushkas, spread the word through the districts. He goes on to say: He was embalmed to be shown to the world after death. The corpse was stolen by relatives who disagreed with the officials. They wanted the worms to eat him. Who disappeared? A poor old man steeped in vodka. Costea: Niet. He was detained at customs and skinned alive, sprinkled with salt and passed through the smoker. Liuba: You’re talking nonsense. They found him in a brothel in Odessa, exhausted after bonking ten hookers. The Blind Man: Lenin was buried in secret at Sankt Petersburg. –If it’s even him, of course, says Uncle skeptically. He was seen (bald, goatee, cap) kneeling before the great icon of the Holy Virgin of Saint Basil the Blessed and denounced by a priest with a stammer. By the time the Militia cottoned on and arrested him, Starik had taken a powder. A porter lady identified him: he was buying irises for a cocotte. He was cornered when the patrol asked for his papers. The soldiers knew whom they were dealing with because they used to carry his portrait in the November 7 th parade. They kept him at bayoneted point and dropped him in the slammer. So now he makes a declaration: I the undersigned, Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov, confess that on the evening of the…” Who’s stretched out in the sarcophagus next to the Generalissimo? Drunkards, I ask you. No- body! It’s a wax figure cast in London and brought by zeppelin.—Eh, sez Liuba, they don’t have the courage to announce the disappearance. That’s our tragedy. Long live Mother Russia! The revolution’s gone to the devil. Costea: Pssst! Don’t let them hear you. An anonymous denunciation would be the ticket. Informing is tough these days. Everyone knows the scoop, although the newspapers don’t print a thing and the radio keeps mum. The visitor pays for a ticket, goes into the mausoleum, nods his head, sheds a tear. As if he would see Starik. After a minute, he goes out to the street. You can’t find a soul to shout: Lenin’s not in the sarcophagus! Pravda lies. Liuba: Why don’t they ask for their ticket money back? The Blind Man: Russia’s finances would collapse. The ruble’s worth as much as my eyes. Liuba: Stalin’s been sticking it out alone. I mourn for him. He has leftovers between his teeth, threads of tobacco on his chest, sleepers in his eyes. He’s waiting for guests, all dressed up as a generalissimo. He looks like something from a medicine show: the child with two heads, the clavichord and the fish with hair. Our beloved chief has swindled us. Costea: It’s not Stalin. It’s a bald gentleman with a goatee. Costea guzzles a slug and passes the bottle.—I’m drawing a blank. Could you please tell me, what’s-his- name? sez The Blind Man. –If you’ve forgotten, you’ll die in Lubianka, laughs Costea. Who has the guts to go out in Red Square and say: they stole him. We’re being lied to! Liuba: It’s as if Ol’ Nick would have said in Christ’s time: God doesn’t exist, just the Devil! That’s not the bad news. It’s that our drunks get stuffed in a black maria belonging to the militia and slammed in the jug under accusation of spreading enemy rumors, art. 56, paragraph b and c, The Penal Code. lenin 7The disappearance is discovered by a civil servant with good prospects and bushy sideburns. Sent by the Kremlin, he presents himself at the mausoleum to make an inspection. He has a new briefcase and wire rimmed glasses on the tip of his nose. Documents in order—signed, stamped—he walks in and posts a notice: CLOSED FOR INVENTORY. He sits at a table, opens the files, drinks cold tea, seemingly prepared by Starik on the evening before his disappearance. He conceals the blue enamel mug in a cellophane bag—for finger prints. He reads papers, ticks items with a pencil. He wears it tucked behind his ear under a mop of graying blond hair. He moistens the tip on his tongue. An instant later, he draws a line. If he’s not Old Nick, Old Nick sent him. If not—Okhrana. He’s been wandering around for a century trying to capture this dangerous conspirator whose brother plotted to assassinate our glorious tsar. End of 5 days of hard work, the inspector manages to put a tick at the head of the column: One mummy, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin-Ulianov. Entered in inventory: January, 1924. Value: 37 rubles and 12 kopecs. “Where is it? May we see it?” the inspector asks those present—which is to say, two marshals (one real, one false, brought specially from the Bolshoi Theater to intimidate him), one admiral with three tattooed oarsmen from the Baltic Fleet, the corresponding minister, two ladies of the night with peacock feathers in their chignons, five Government adjuncts, the commander of the guards and eight canaries, all for sale—plus our drunks who’ve come to ogle with their mouths hanging open. They can’t believe their eyes. “Don’t you know?” says the tovarisha who cleans the toilet. The mummy’s in its place. Thousands of people wait in the rain to see the illustrious leader of the revolution!” “Look, the mummy’s in the sarcophagus !” “Excuse me, I don’t see a thing,” says the delegate. Up to this point, everything has been in order. They’ve shown him mops, fire extinguisher, draperies, gun racks, 25 red flags, 14 chipped mugs, 11 plates, 87 empty bottles, 9 stuffed birds, 31 rolls of toilet paper, one generalissimo. When it’s time to show him the mummy, they show him where it isn’t. “Your moon blind,” the mustached marshal assures him. “You’ve got nyctalopia.” Bald as a dick, the other marshal invites him to give the mummy a feel—Carefull! Mind! Lenin’s ticklish—and boasts of fighting in the Crimean War, 1854, Sevastopol, confronting the valiant English. “You can count on a tried officer!” he says jangling his decorations—“Where do you see comrade Lenin missing?” They all agree, with knocks on the skull to touch wood. They assure him that the mummy is laid out in its historic place. In the first sarcophagus as you as you enter, on the right under the livid, pink light. Are you feeling cold? They swear on their mother and the village church. They get photographs out of their wallets and weep. They vociferate indignantly. They grab him by the collar. “Who sent you? Impostor, sell-out, odious renegade, you traitor!” “Go back where you came from!” “From nothing!” They talk senselessly. The inspector goes on ticking his register: “one mummy—Lenin—missing” and turns the page, goes on to the next chapter. Since the assembled all see the mummy and the stranger doesn’t, they tell him firmly to visit an oculist. They know a good one, cheap. He treats the tovarisci from the Politburo. moscovaThey admit, however that mummy Nr. 1 is in the garage repairing his bicycle. Someone says he caught a glimpse of a tov with a goatee in the library on the first floor reading Pravda. To convince him, they bring the honorable inspector to the corps on duty at the Kremlin so that he can see Lenin playing chess with an ex-Dadaist—hair dyed purple-green, pink silk scarf, finger up the nose, Borsalino hat tipped back on his head. This reporter does not recall a single detail regarding the mummy, who was not to be seen. Happily, there supervened a mate in three moves: black knight d4 to f5. The tovarish inspector, meanwhile, is hoisted by the armpits, carried into the big room and slapped around. That’s what we were talking about, you bastard, yelping cur that you are. Look, Starik is resting next to the generalissimo. The young man with bushy sideburns, already without career prospects, supposes they’d produced a substitute. That’s a grave dereliction of the USSR’s Penal Code. Employees with take-home from the state tend to be suspicious. According to anonymous sources, the cadaver was furnished by our devoted Militia. He was identified the previous night sacked out in the dewy grass. They painted his cheeks and put him at the disposition of the honored public to be visited with a label hanging from the big toe of his left foot: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Mummy—suffering from nervous exhaustion and greatly deteriorated—was dragged out by the neck like a dog on a leash, with the full knowledge of the Politburo in Red Square. This other one watches as visitors enter. You see! They freeze solemnly. After a minute they head toward the door. The inspector doesn’t understand why they stop twice when there is only one mummy in the chamber. “You see” the two marshals fly at him, “everybody sees two mummies—you’re the only one that doesn’t! You’ll get one hundred switches on the bottom of your feet for that.” Having moistened his indelible pencil on the tip of his tongue, the stubborn inspector writes in his register: one Lenin mummy missing. Personally, he’s not interested in who was a Bolshevik or not. Or tsarist. Or anarchist. The factual and the written don’t match. In his documents he calls himself Ulianov, not Lenin or Starik, nor even Volodea, as Inessa called him. “So this is the source of all the confusion!” laughs the mustached marshal. “Whatever may be said, the dead prefer to wear their own names so as not to be mistaken for others in heaven. They don’t want borrowed names—legitimately, I may add. They don’t want to suffer some other person’s punishment as the result of a typographical error. To be grilled like pork rind, to have stakes shoved up their ass, to have their nails and teeth ripped out, to have someone cut off their ears with a Black&Decker, to be skinned and rolled in salt, blown up with a straw till they burst…” “How do you know?” the bald marshal explodes. “I know because I come from There,” reposts Old Nick incarnate and in person. He allows himself the pleasure of mixing in conversation when you least expect it. Having been nowhere in the vicinity, he turns up out of the blue, accompanied by a forkful of burning air. “And why are you barging into the discussion?” the inspector asks. Who asked you?” He prefers precision, such as year of death, family name and personal name according to birth certificate, parents’ names, date and place of birth. The dead detest confusion. God forbid you should arrive in heaven incognito. On top of that, he has a serious illness: he doesn’t understand what the mausoleum means to Russia. He’s a modest accountant sent by the proletarian state. He’s to note in the register what is to be found in Red Square. What’s written in his papers is not to be found in the sarcophagus. stalin 11Lenin’s mummy—Register Nr. NK/24—is missing. The cadaver called Koba-Stalin—though he was a generalissimo—remained alone, without Starik-Lenin! sez Liuba, taking her hand out of her pants. How I laughed! sez Uncle. He crapped out mourned by muzhiks, bureaucrats and officers. —By whores and drunks like us, The Blind Man continues. There’s a purple wind blowing. The chronicler merely notes, like a scribe, after a few gusts of air. Really, Koba left debts at the pub: 14 R, 5K. He didn’t pay his tailor either for a pair on trousers with red piping three fingers wide. Nor did he settle an account with the dentist for a tartar removal and three fillings, not to mention failing to give Father Marftei the price of three handkerchiefs and a small icon with St. Pavel. Although Koba was a poor payer, Pravda published his portrait at half mast, three column width, page 1, as an expression of joy over his death. * 2 Ivan Hlestakov, Treatise on Mummies. Cheops Publishing, Giza, 1836. The Gogol Prize was translated into 43 languages. His recollections, entitled Accountant Souls are still to be found in the periodicals of the period and await a publisher. See especially those in The Autopsy Almanac, Bishopric Puplishing, Cernautz, 1878, pp.56-58, bilingual essay, “How to Embalm Beloved Dogs,” in which the author confronts the superstitions of the age. Still, the tone is circumspect, sober. What if this is just a farce? The Devil has a hand—or tail—in it. I told you not to utter his name again, you stupid woman. So what! I saw him twirling a cane in evening clothes with a top hat tipped over his eyes. It smells like the Devil. Don’t you feel it? Niet. Man, Moscow smells of the departed who left on March 5 th of the current year with 6.5 kilograms of decorations on him. The generalissimo is playing in a Mosfilm comedy, really, sez Uncle. Costea: You all should know that Koba is first on the list of suspects in the mysterious disappearance of Lenin. It’s his hand—a plot. Mobil: He wants to be alone, not to share his glory with anyone. Koba stuck him in a cyanide bath. They found the remains in the river under a bridge… You know for sure? sez Liuba, They strangled him: they cut him into tiny pieces and tipped him into a suitcase that they left at the baggage room at Kazan Station. I got an aunt there at the ticket counter. She told me. Liuba: His whole life Koba eliminated all his rivals. And he aint givin’ up after his life’s over, neither. What did he have against the mummy? Starik was the only one he missed. Koba’s fixin’ his mistake! Laughing, Costea gives Liuba the elbow. How about the two of us getting’ it on? He opens his nearly toothless mouth in which a single silvery tooth shines. Liuba: I’m not fuckin’. I’m in morning for Stalin. Costea nods his head: F’get about it. I’ll give ya a fast unfuck, and ya can fast after that. Uncle: tanase dracul si mumiaSMERSH operatives came to question Koba—“Where’s Lenin?” Koba looked at ’em like the cat that swallowed the canary and said, “in the neighborhood.” “You killed him. We have proof. You were seen calling a taxi, you climbed in with a suitcase full of foreign stickers—Helsinki, Prague, Munich.” That’s Ol’ Nick for ya. No way it wuz Koba, sez Costea. He goes around in rags, carries that cosmopolitan valise. Koba’s in his generalissimo uniform. Bunchacrap, sez the Blind Man. Starik’s mummy, glory to him, was eaten by moths. The Penal Code doesn’t hand down no ordinance against ’em. I’m sorry but you don’t know a thing, he says, cleaving the night with his white cane. He was taken out of the sarcophagus officially so that he could play a secondary role in a Super-Production, color by Eastman Kodak. The makeup artist put a little red pepper in his cheeks to brighten him up; Starik was as pale as a black ’n white movie. Uncle: The business fell through. It was a matter of his playing Nosferatu, but the Germans didn’t come up with the scratch. If I were a hero of the USSR like you, colonel—Uncle addresses some phantom from SMERSH—he ‘d a confessed everything during interrogation, down to his mother’s milk. They gave you your ranks fer nothin’. Brothers, the revolution is in danger! Costea: Last night a black car stopped at the entrance. I wuz blind drunk, fallen down near a lamp post and singing the Internantional. Out rushed four guys in leather coats, stamping their boots on the roadway, trap-trap. With pistols heaving on their rumps! They lifted him out of the mausoleum like a bale of hay. They crammed him onto the back seat. Not Starik, you deaf old battle-ax. Koba. On the road, his decorations kept rattling. Phew! They woke the whole neighborhood. Windows flew open. People was poppin their heads out the window and sayin’: they’re taking Koba. The Generalissimo, he knew how to give orders—he asked the chauffeur to start the radio so he could listen to the news about the funeral. They had to put black canvas blinders on ’im. Eh, and here’s where the miracle happens—I’d kiss the hand of Saint Teodosie the Leper, that one with hunchback. Stuck between them operatives as he wuz, he snapped his fingers and gone he was. He got all the way to Kerch. The Blind Man: Ol’ Nick spoiled the games. I report: they got to Felix Dzherjinsky Square, the saluted the statue, following it with their gaze according to regulations. The SMERSH team slammed open the doors and got out. One of them ordered Koba: C’mon, outside! As I told ya, the generalissimo’s mummy wasn’t nowhere. What a heart attack! lenin 8They couldn’t enter Lubianka Prison with empty hands. What to do? They picked up this belated passerby and presented him to the officer on guard—It’s Koba! Only, don’tcha know, it wuz Ol’Nick, out for a cigarette. In the intermission between the acts, you know, the audience takes the air, has a smoke, exchanges a few impressions. They’d collared him in front of the theater and threw him into a cell without a word. They treated him bad: they wacked him a few with army canes on the soles of his feet till they turned black. They pulled out his mustache and painted it back on with whipped cream. They pulled him by the ears. They gave him holes for earrings. To make up their expenses (food, night’s sleep, electric bulb, salaries, paint for the bars), they thought of sending him to a bordello in the port of Odessa where transvestites are in big demand. They set him to drawing the dove of Peace from a Picasso poster. They held him without sleep for three months on nothin’ but bread an’ water. But Koba still didn’t tell them where he hid Lenin’s mummy. He resisted heroically. They exposed him to Roentgen rays. He had a few coins in his belly from before Christ, three cans of dog food cheerfully stolen from the canteen, and some bones of Saint Haralamb from the Prodhosk Monastery. He stuck them in his pocket to safeguard himself in the 40 days it takes to pass through the customs booths of heaven. Some angels would have had to lift him by the armpits for him to pass over yonder. Ol’ Nick set himself against, naturally. He opened his arms in the form of a cross and he said: Niet. He’s mine! They closed the file. With a rusty Colt, they crammed his nutcase with 9 grams of lead manufactured at Tver. Costea: You lie. They found him struck by palsy. His spirit left his body to wander about Russia.Well said, sez Liuba, drunk. First they nicked his decorations, shoelaces and epaulettes. There are signs of rouge on his cheeks and 1,586 strands of grey-white hair missing from his mustache. That’s how they installed him in the sarcophagus next to the great man, Lenin/ In fact, they got everything about Starik from a TASS communiqué. That’s what Costea knows. Koba came to blows over a bowl of stew with some dogs in the courtyard of the Red Flag, a greasy spoon. His eyes bugged out and he showed signs of scratching. When it was announced that Iosif Vissarionovici Stalin had died, Pravda published a communiqué on March 3: The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Ministerial Council of the USSR announces a misfortune that has overwhelmed the Party and the people, the grave illness of Tovarish Iosif Vissarionovici Stalin. On the night of 1-2 March, while at his apartment in Moscow, Tovarish Stalin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that affected vital zones of his brain. Tovarish Stalin lost consciousness, and his right arm was paralyzed. He likewise lost the went into morning. A feeling of vast aloneness overwhelmed millions of people. They were left alone in the world under threat of the elements, bureaucrats, stray dogs, drivers, women who keep house, the toothed and the toothless, jerk-offs and kolkhozniks from collective farms. lenin. inessa armandThe maneuver of certain occult circles!” says Serioja the Blind Man. “I read a manifesto on a pillar. I see better since I’ve gone blind. The guilty are the Masonic Lodges of the Great Orient and the Enlightened of the Mission Congregation Alpha. —False! Bandits from the Trotskyite revolutionary group. —Oh yeah, the missionary monks of the Gray Order of St. George poisoned him. Our drunks from the Metro station have gathered to debate. Certainly Koba isn’t dead. He’s immortal, as Agitprop teaches. Paranoiacs of the Cold War and revanchists planned this loathsome masquerade. Even a child knows that, sez Liuba, still not sober after last night’s drunk. The CIA plot was uncovered. KGB proceeded to arrests. If I tell you something, don’t interrupt me because I get ugly, Costea hurries to add. It’s like this: Koba was seen alive on the night of March 7/8, two days after he died. He was standing in line for meat, for a half a kilo of steak. Uncle puts the kibosh on that. He has other information: the Generalissimo, all rigged out in glad rags for a gala, was waiting at a kiosk for the newspapers to come Unc’ Stiopa the militiaman held him for questioning, Koba being suspected of wearing a uniform illegally. He ran away from the escort, the rascal, with the help of some bats. May thunder strike me if I lie. A witness swore on his children that the so-called dead man lies there on his back and looks at his cadaver in the ceiling mirror. Actually, he’s a vampire. He’s forty-five point seven percent dead. A stake has to be thrust in his heart. The neighbor saw him stuck to a ministerial building. He was lighting his pipe. A madam, her cheeks powdered with flour—a former singer, married to a hunchbacked midget—sez that she caught sight of him on the station roof with a garnet umbrella, lookin’ morose ’cauze it was raining torrential an’ he couldn’t get down to take the 6:15 train. He was squabbling with the people on the platform out of boredom, throwing gravel, cracking jokes, laughing to himself like a fool. The authorities, unfortunately, remained indifferent. Some student said that he’d found out from a foreign radio station that Stalin was dead, however. – He lies to himself, shamelessly. – We’re witnessing a diversion launched by enemies of the USSR. There’ll be war Prepare yourselves. Get in a provision of crusts. Take care with the gas masks. Arrange your woodpiles under the shed. —Consequently, live! guesses Liuba, good soul that she is.- —The conflict among the superpowers takes savage forms, sez the news vendor, who seems informed. —A speaker with a lisp read the official declaration of the United States’ State Department on the Voice of America radio station ability to speak. It seems that there have appeared serious disturbances of heart and brain function. The best doctors have been summoned to assure Tovarish Stalin necessary treatment. leninThe student is denounced by a woman with hair in curlers and barely escapes lynching. The furious crowd breaks the windows of a neighboring store. It takes what it finds: flower, salami, plums, oil, chamber pots, olives, table lamps, yeast, detergents, plastic bags. Rats participate in the sack. They live under the floor. “May my right hand wither, the one I write with.” A jaundiced quill driver catches sight of Koba’s face in the window. “Look at him over there: he’s staring into the distance. He looks just like his official portrait, only younger. In white jacket with red military collar, without the military visor. It can’t be a UFO, certainly.4” “So it seemed to you!” says a guy with a black watchcap. “No, not at all!” A melee breaks out. The mounted police charge the crowd—leaving dead and wounded behind ’til the ambulances shows up. Arrests are made. Several individuals in civilian clothes ransack the building to be sure that nobody has seen Koba. No one has—neither the former proprietor, nor the agent, nor the milk woman, nor the hens in the coop, though they cluck cheerfully, nor our drunks. Conclusion: the whole thing arose from some idiotic woman’s miserable visions. The individuals in civilian clothes didn’t find anything but a cadaver fallen from the 6th floor with a gramophone in his arms. For many days people put basins with food, coiled breads and wild flowers near that wall. Beside them: lighted candles, small icons, photos of Koba. Nights: the beggars would cop the whole thing. Days: provisions appeared, set out as alms for the soul of the dead—a funeral sweet made of boiled wheat and sweet brioche—brought in secret by a dwarf, an old clothes dealer with a distinct smell of talcum powder and SMERSH. The wonder lasted until the morning period came to an end, during which interval the dead man traveled over Russia in disguise to take final leave of his subjects, a fact certified by his solemn disposition before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He appeared in his red jerkin, worn at elbow, thin with wear. He bore a white hen on his shoulder who went by the name of Fiodosia. She picked off his lint and dandruff. Koba was covered with pillow fluff, and he wore an ear trumpet in his right ear. But just now Liuba has discovered that to keep Lenin from loneliness, the Politburo has decided to deposit the Generalissimo beside him—Lenin showing, as Khrushchev remarked, definite signs of fatigue. Cheap and elegant. So they don’t get bored they added a chess set, playing cards and dice to his baggage. In the PB’s haste to see their frightening lord and master “outtahere”, it never crossed their collective mind to ask the neighboring resident at the mausoleum how he liked the idea. Uncle: That’s Kremlin procedure for you. Nobody don’t ask you nothin’. It’s a function of the crisis in living space. The authorities put strangers in your house over night. Bourgeois citizens wake to find themselves with a lumpen, a homeless, a woman with her belly swelled up to her chin, an operative. They occupy your hall, kitchen&living-dining room. Result: you sleep on the balcony (in the fresh air), the kids in the pantry. This is nothing new for the Politburo. This is how they crowded the solitary resident of Red Square with his old comrade in arms. Old man Lenin was the beneficiary of excess space (cca 134 m²) with a view toward the Kremlin, an obvious trespass of law 14/1931, with modifications dated April 4/1945—in a very pricey zone. Let the respected tenant restrict himself a bit, as well! After the war, the living space problem grew to exaggerated proportions. 130335968572-lenin*3/ Saint Evghenie the Macramite, A Life Dedicated to Agitprop, Lubianka Publishing, Ltd, 1938, Vol 1, pp. 345-347. Idem. With Back to the Wall, Editura Che, Havana 1961, Vol 2, pp. 45-48. Thousands of Muscovites slept in train carriages. Starik should make sacrifices for the revolutionary cause as he asked others to do in his writings. Let him share with a beloved comrade, Koba, the dwelling he rents for 30 kopeks, currency not recalculated. The Blind Man: it’s cheaper divvied by two. They can manage to deal with their payments like students. That’s what the members of the Politburo figured—plus deputies, sez Liuba. —They weren’t thinking straight, Uncle assures them. No matter. If the PB hadn’t made its faulty judgment, our story wouldn’t exist—this humble chronicle neither, humbly dedicated to the illustrious reader. One foggy April morning when they were still sufficiently sober for lack of finances, Uncle began telling this story: So Malenkov, the new premier, goes into the office that used to be Koba’s. Eh, and he finds the former tenant in there—the livid lips, the paralyzed left arm, the smell of tobacco, the yellow eyes. Knowing Koba to be dead, Malenkov pees himself in fright. He’d wept for him. He’d kissed his mouth. He himself had closed the casket. That was the last time Malenkov saw Koba. He’d handed over the generalissimo’s cadaver to the undertakers with a written document of the transaction. Only, stupid Malenkov thought Koba was dead. Of course, the doctor of forensic medicine was seeing things the same way, which was what he wrote in his report. The undersigned testified… undecipherable… the decease, hour/day/diagnosis. Anyhow, Malenkov turned the key and slapped on 7 padlocks—so he (Koba) shouldn’t change his mind and return to the immensity of Russia. In his youth Koba had escaped Siberia 7 times. Malenkov had taken what was still in Koba’s pockets: a lighter, a wallet with a 5 ruble banknote from the time of Tsar Alexander, a spool of green thread, an article from The New York Times with a caricature representing him as hacking Europe to bits with a cleaver. Showing everyone, Stalin would laugh his ass off. So you realize how perplexed Malenkov was to find Him at the desk tranquilly signing documents. He said to himself like a fool: Supposing he’s only 18 or 17% dead, and the rest is walking around the Kremlin…In short, the prime-minister was scared. He didn’t say a thing to a soul, even if the national security laws obliged him to. Anyhow, he sticks his head through the door at 9:00 sharp by the clock. He finds him unmistakably smoking his pipe and flipping through files. He came back at 8:00 next day. Idem. Then earlier: at seven, at six, at five. Same situation. Koba would be scratching away with his little pen on paper. Malenkov would close the door sloooooowly. He’d disappear, for fear of being called to report. Because when you urgently want to go into the WC and there’s someone inside…Everything has a limit. He couldn’t take it anymore. Malenkov convoked the Politburo in the mausoleum and complained that he was unable to exercise his prerogatives as premier. “Someone who looks exactly like Stalin is signing acts of government.” “Well, isn’t he dead?” asks sankt petersburg palatul de iarnaMikoyan. “I called the guards to evacuate him!” “And?” “The next day I found him still there. The commander of the guards reported to me that no one. The building was fumigated, inspected with special corpse- finding equipment, while the chief’s office was cleaned by the old woman Mashenka, our agent.” “It’s clear: the Devil has gotten into the Kremlin!” Khrushchev: Beria should be liquidated. This is his work. Without him, Stalin is as good as dead!” “He’s dead anyhow! I made him a national funeral. I embalmed him and put him in a sarcophagus. Have you forgotten? “And if the lock didn’t close?” “It went click!” Molotov assures him. Malenkov lets out a whimpering sound. “Who Is In The Office? Yesterday he threatened me with Lubianka—‘you’ll die like a dog!’ he screamed at me. He threw me out—he, dead; me, alive.” “It’s like I told you, the Devil’s gotten into the Kremlin!” ”I wouldn’t believe that th’ Devil left at the same time as Starik in 1924. They were blood brothers, he and Old Nick. Nick got hold of him in Geneva at the Landtolt Brasserie, Rue de Carouge, around 1905.” “He made him a party member,” said Molotov. “The Devil a Bolshevik! You make me laugh!” “Why are you surprised?” “Wasn’t it the Devil who somehow involved Starik in some kind of suspect scheme?” “He sold his soul.” This interesting discussion was interrupted by Malenkov: “You have my resignation on the table. Name another prime minister” “Did you give him a feel? Is it really Koba in person?”sez Mikoyan in disbelief. By now, they’re all aware of his smell of polished boots and English tobacco, but they go on hoping. “It’s him! I swear,” says Malenkov in tears. P.S.: Plot accusations were bandied about. They reciprocally threatened each other with reprisals&files. They were all disarmed. The inventory deposed according to regulations: 3 Walther pistols, 2 brownings, 1 razor, 4 nightsticks, 7 rubber truncheons, 8 pairs of brass knuckles, 3 automatic pistols, of which 2 were AKMs and one an American Warhole&Koonitz, 11 hunting knives and 4 of the kitchen variety, but well-sharpened, one grenade. When the racket upset the neighbors, the soldiery intervened. C’mrads, calm down! Treat neighbors as neighbors, but you are waking those two gods. Who knows what’s coming out of here?” said the commander of the guards and left them alone. As the commander left, the comrades began to bite each others fingers, noses, ears again, to give each other kicks in the ass, to tear each others’ shirts. —Empty words, sez The Blind Man. —That’s just how it is, Uncle sneers. Vorosilov cut Kaganovici’s necktie with a scissors. Molotov wrote d-i- c-k in toothpaste on Khrushchev’s bald head. Bulganin came out of it with a hole in his head since Anastas Mikoyan hit him in that region with the typewriter. They bandaged him with canvas from the flag. The place was a madhouse already and things couldn’t go on the way they were. Woken from sleep, the neighbors protested by calling the local Militia precinct. The soldiers intervened again. The tovs were tossed in the pokey. —Goad them on, Devils! Crouching on the window sill, Old Nick rubs his hands in a state of glee. Seeing the Bolsheviks marched off between bayonettes is something alright. The soldiers are young, recruited from the Amur. They’d never seen pictures of the great leaders. They didn’t recognize them; they put them in handcuffs and dropped them in the jug. Let’s say they confused them with a bunch of rag thieves and rowdies who were profaning the two sacred bodies. dracul si mumiaStarik deposed evidence in the soldiers’ favor. He passed them off as for dead souls brought from the estate. They got off with a mere consignment to the barracks until November 7 th , when as a punishment they would stand guard at the official tribune. No films for you, no chicks, no binges at the greasy spoon across the street! Water fasting, with prayers at the icons, genuflections& pushups, masturbation in the shower room. They kissed Starik’s hands. He’d saved them from the military tribunal. They offered to bring him to the Amur to stuff him. Word of honor. The cadaver is laid open, its guts taken out. The skin is flayed off and crucified between stakes on a roof in the path of the ocean wind to dry really well. Only captains, wives and horses enjoy this favor. And what did their savior say? Starik refused and thanked them. The soldiers didn’t manage to persuade him. They assured him he would always be the sun in their sky. When they moved on him to take his scalp, Starik turned about face and disappeared into the crowd. The comrades from the Politburo detested him from that instant. If they didn’t need him, they would have given the order aim to kill! Starik was pissed off too, but for other reasons. His first letter to the Politburo dates from that day, sez Costea. They met that very evening to read it. “He is not even Stalin! He’s Kokov, a failed actor,” said Voroshilov, prey to nerves, during that historic session. “I was at Tsaritsyn in 1918. I know the story.” “Why didn’t you say so then?” “You all know it. Don’t lie. It’s not Stalin, but a poor little actor from a travelling company.” “We put a nobody next to the great Lenin. We’re good for the madhouse,” roared Khrushchev. “Koba wasn’t one of ours” said Kaganovici. “If he were, he would have had pity. He liquidated Bolsheviks like a bunch rats. Frunze, Ordjonikdze, Bukharin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rikov: he filled them with holes like a Swiss cheese.” “He hated us” “We made him too big. We should have waited for him to die first and deified him after that!” “The people mourned for him. They adore him.” “It won’t last. They’ll forget him when the mystification is disclosed. “Only if one of us betrays…” “Let’s swear!” “On what? We don’t believe in a thing! We’ve set fire to the churches, locked up the priests.” “That’s what they need, send them back to their mother’s cunt!” “Those were the days. No one’s to blame.” “Koba believed in God. He confessed and took communion.” “May the hand of whomever writes anything about this business wither! Denunciations and recollections included.” “May anyone who says he saw more than one Stalin with his own eyes go blind! There was just one and that’s it!” “And what do we do about Starik? He’s disappeared from the sarcophagus.” “We’ve put out an all points bulletin. SMERSH is already on his trail. They’re watching every street corner. Sentinels at the railway barriers. We’re keeping an eye on hotels and stations. Wanted posters on the walls. He won’t get away! We’ll catch him.” “ Let’s take an oath on the Holy Virgin, who gave birth to Jesus.” Memory’s a bitch. It doesn’t leave us a thing. The Blind Man knows something about this: Koba is a diabolical invention. As a result of the assassination attempt at Tsaritsyn, April 23, , 1919, the Generalissimo’s armored train exploded. The blast reduced Koba to chicken feed. Russia, meanwhile, celebrated Starik’s birthday. Dzherjinsky&Voroshilov agreed not to sadden the chief with the news of Koba’s death. They replaced Stalin with the actor who played Koba in Sasha Kokhov&Marusia Bebel’s company of travelling players, then currently performing THE GREAT HERO STALIN CONFRONTS THE WHITE GUARDS: A SPECTACLE OF AGITATION AND PROPAGANDA FOR SOLDIERS FROM THE TRENCH. As blind luck would have it, the actor was touring the front that very day. “If you saw how his Koba smoked his pipe,” said The Blind Man, “the way he held his lame hand stuck to his cloak, how he chewed his words as he spoke, you couldn’t tell the actor and Stalin apart no more than peas in a pod. Our Stalin nearly busted his sides. He clapped till his palms hurt. He laughed till he cried. He hadn’t an inkling he was going to die.” Still, one thing was clear. Either the Bolshevik or the actor aping him would have to go. A leader’s of divine origin. That’s well known. He’s faceless, and you can’t mount him on a stage or stand in his place like something from a pantomime at a village fair. Power’s divine. It’s up in smoke if someone steals its face. There are bullets set aside for stunts like that. The situation called for bloodshed. Still, Koba’d had great time at the show. Kokov had aped him to a T. Doing the actor the favor of not having him shot, Koba ordered the player strangled that very night. The Cheka operative would have to kill him in his sleep. He entered the actor’s room in the troupe’s hotel. No one home. The actor was visiting a “lady.” Next day, an urgent telegram summoned Koba to the Kremlin. He would have to participate at a meeting called by Lenin. On the Ivanskoe Bridge, the armored train taking Stalin to Moscow exploded. 12 dead, 34 wounded, 17 carriages destroyed. Sasha Kokov, the actor recruited by the dastardly fiends Dzherjinsky&Voroshilov, took Stalin’s place at the Moscow session. Kokov barely had time to rescind the assassination order. “It turned out great that the actor liked to do his fucking after the show. And that’s how Koba wound up displaced by an actor who looked just like him.” The Kremlin bosses agreed. The masses wouldn’t have been able to stand the news of a great military commander’s disappearance. They needed deathless heroes that don’t give up the ghost in moronic railway accidents. Dzherjinsky informed Lenin. He didn’t give a damn that Stalin wasn’t Stalin. The members of the Politburo had uspected as much. A bloody farce, but the adrenaline flowed. They’d bluffed in a poker game with history. Did it matter if they’d mounted an extra on history’s stage? At the supreme chief’s request, the following points of order were put on the day’s agenda: famine in the Ukraine and Nansen Passports (those old fashioned refugee travel documents). The interloper took the floor. He voted with Lenin. The little actor would wait around five years to become Russia’s dictator. The story—Costea sez, wiping his lips on the sleeve of his great coat—begins with the decree that will deposit Stalin in the mausoleum. That very evening, KGB agents grabbed Starik by the collar. What th’ fuck are you doing here, sez the dead man. He don’t let himself be provoked. The Cheka agents didn’t have the foggiest that there was another sarcophagus. They didn’t know a damn thing about history, and they thought he was an enemy of the people. They were looking for bombs, microphones, manifestos. All they found were some homeless people with dogs curled beside them on a blanket. The operatives were all about catching rats, shooting craps, putting on sketches. Sometimes they’d invite Stark to applaud or wolf down a shish kebab or roll the dice. Cool entourage. The agents packed the mummies into a van. They quarreled among themselves as to whether or not they should throw out the other body. If they had two, one was de trop, obviously. They should throw the extra into the garbage dump. One of them said, better give him to the dogs. The square swarmed with them, famished, ready to tear at anything. Better to roll him up and put him in storage, “one mummy in advanced state of degradation,” estimated value 12 rubles, 4 kopeks. And hand him over to SMERSH, folded in sixteenths like a page from Pravda. The KGB agents get down to dirty business. By the end of the visit, each of them had written a denunciation about how they found the body of an individual dead for some time in the mausoleum. Cause of decease unclear: syphilis, arteriosclerosis, or cyanide. They proposed the evacuation of the old stiff to make room for the new cadaver, the current one being in good shape. More than that, compared with an old-school civilian, a generalissimo makes a much better impression on the public, always in love with uniforms&decorations. lubiankaNervously shuffling their briefcases, the big bosses showed up next day to ask the KGB guys to make an accounting. They laughed. Naturally, they knew about Starik’spresence, so that they approached his slab salaaming like hell Russian-style, with the tops of their heads bent to the floor, not to mention formal, western bows—just a slight bending of the knees. They perfumed the Old Man, they pulled him by the ears, they untied his shoelaces, they took of his shoes. Starik got a bang out of that. His feet had swelled up something fierce. The bosses unknotted his tie. They kindled a discussion of imperialism, the last stage of capitalism. They asked Starik to hold a political education lecture. He agreed. He talked to them about the trip in the sealed train from Zurich to Petrograd. About the arrival at the Finland Station, about the assault on the Winter Palace and the terror. About the civil war, famine, the White Guards and the sailors from Kronstadt. They listened like schoolboys, very well-behaved and taking everything down in their notebooks. He was an extraordinary teacher. Stretcher bearers showed up at dawn with Koba. All very solemn and military. They put him on the bier. The funeral march was played on combs, bagpipe and leaf. They beat out the rhythm on a tin pot Starik used for shaving. They checked the pink- white lights. They laid down a red carpet. They brought baskets with flowers and flags. They threw away the signs of morning at Koba’s special request. He wanted a cheerful interior. After they quit work, they pulled off a bash with whores and fiddlers. The party lasted about as long as a wake. Operatives and forensic doctors joined the group. They fixed Koba up to last for ages. They took out his guts, heart and brain. They bathed him in resin, phenol, glycerin, nail polish, urine, salt water from Lake Baikal. A spicy-sweet odor invaded the mausoleum. Nobody minded about the old Bolshevik Starik’s being there. He was one of the family, and they took an indulgent view. The old guy was likable if rather stiff. He had the air of a waiter who clears away beer bottles, cleans the ashtrays, invites a streetwalker to tango. He boasted of having Parisian manners. The musicians were good and the women extremely excited by the generalissimo, dead and powerless as he was. In a brief ceremony, the dames each deposited a kiss on his limp dick and shriveled balls. They washed his feet with their hair. They wept and lamented. They all wished he’d be happy in heaven. The tovs applauded, hehe, grasping their bellies. They tugged each others earlobes, all jovial like. The hookers got in on with the soldiers on guard—an offering laid at the feet of the god. A few of them hunkered down to a game of Ol’ Maid. The rest slept wherever they chanced lie. Oh Mama, did they party hearty. And the whole thing for free, paid for by the Kremlin, cash on the barrel. So there they are, finally, Starik and Koba, one next to the other. They quarreled from the first day over the use of the W.C. Liuba informs them. Inter alia, she’d wrap herself around a rag at the mausoleum, change the linen. She’d go there as daily help for next to nothing. Bolsheviks are crappy payers. Uncle: Koba taxed Starik with being an “agent provocateur”; Stark said Koba was despicable. Wanting to get into the bathroom—Starik needed to take a piss—he sensed something soft and foul smelling on his fingers. Koba had stuck crap on the doorknob. And it wasn’t just that. He had a habit of whirling like a dervish. He’d rattle out infernal farts, purrrr, like a machine gun. Starik hit the deck when he heard it. He figured it was an attempt on his life. Other times Koba’s ass went buuum as if there’d been a salvo and shells were dropping. Koba blamed the canteen. Too many beans&potatoes fried in lamp oil. Costea: When he was shaving, he’d flick the razor in an insinuating way. Out of fear, Starik complained in writing to the Politburo that the interloper was leaving dishes unwashed to the point where the heap of plates, Turkish coffee pots, saucepans and dirty baking tins climbed up to the ceiling. Then he’d slambang them to the floor with his crippled hand, God wither it. Starik was frightened by the noise of the crockery falling on cement. They had a shoving match in front of the sink: so who’s going to turn on the faucet? Result: a broken tooth, extracted by Koba. He stretched a length of twine knotted to a door knob. Then he opened the door Starik shrieked Aaaaah! That was all he could do to get rid of the pain. He put the tooth on the sill. A crow brought him a brand new one the next night. The Blind Man: Lemme tell you, your Starik started feeling pins and needles. He was sure he’d have his pate covered with hair again. He believes in progress. He has nocturnal emissions, especially on Fridays, the day when he goes to the movies to see kremlinMosfilm productions. He starts exclaiming as he leaves the hall: where are the Dadaists now to teach the Bolsheviks how the job should be done? One time when he was coming home he found Starik puffing on his pipe. Starik can’t stand smoke. And that ain’t all. He sings dirty verses from the bordello—as many as his mouth can hold. He wanders around in his long johns with a gramophone in his arms. He turns the radio on loud and listens to the news 8 hours a day. Starik bungs up his ears with earplugs fer nothin’. Ya can hear the whole thing. Mornings they’d fight over the newspapers. Starik was determined to smooth down the pages he wanted to read first, and he held them down with the back of his hand. Only, when Koba’d come in at dawn with floozies, he’d swipe them, incorrigible that he is. Starik’d made a scene. Then Koba’s riposte: Pravda and Izvestia don’t write anything anyhow.He’d complain they were spying on him. Didn’t you get that wristwatch as a gift from your pal, Allen Dulles? C’mon, say so! Don’t hide. “They” were interested in knowing with whom he talked on the phone. Who’s writing him little notes on pink paper? Is he under a doctor’s care? Yeees? You take care, they killed me; they were slinking around spying in the Kremlin to destroy our glorious Politburo. I unmasked them as assassins in the pay of the CIA and MI6. May they not poison you! —You did that already, Starik replied. —I have a list of suspects, said Koba. You’re the first. You committed betrayal. You’re an enemy of the people. Starik: What did I do, I wonder? —Doesn’t matter. The essential point is that you’re guilty! Show that you understood at the eleventh hour and turn yourself in! There was no point in Starik’s sticking around the mausoleum anymore since Koba started keeping him company. They never agreed about so much as paying the rent. The new arrival pretended that he didn’t have to pay a kopek. Let Starik pay! This is not a hotel! The Old Man regretted for the first time that he hadn’t been incinerated at the crematorium like the other tovs. Nadejda Krupskaia would have kept the urn with his ashes behind the stove. He would have been more peaceful. They had embalmed him and stuck him in the mausoleum without his having wished it. Liuba: that was a time when death was a serious business. You died easier and cheaper too. If you beat around the bush the tovs shoved the cold barrel of a gun in your mouth and pulled the trigger. Was there any issue Starik and Koba didn’t come to grips over? Not one. Who pays for the soap? Koba says, not him. He uses too little and Starik’s older. You should see Koba in his bare ass covered with suds! Three good measures—over 100 pounds—used up, first class merchandise, confiscated at Odessa from a Turkish caique. Well, and who stole his samovar? Like he still drinks tea? You hid it in the bath, you miserable… And the cockroaches found last night when you turned on the light, where are they from? And that lowdown whore that was sucking your dick, with whose bless ing did you bring her into the mausoleum? And why was his razor and shaving brush stolen from the shelf? stalin 3—Well, he shouldn’t spy on him anymore. He made an offer to write the denunciations himself. They’ll get to Cheka for sure. —Yesterday there was a chunk of boiled cornmeal on the widow sill for the fish. Where is it? Starik asked Koba several times to be enin&Stalin” together, simultaneously, a double roll, like in chess. Anyhow, he had a meeting, and he left him alone with the visitors. You’re an actor. Why’re you complaining? That’s your trade! Starik told him, short and sweet. —You knew and you kept quiet???… —You played too much in provincial theaters, and it shows! Uncle takes a dry swallow. There’s no more vodka and it’s past midnight. He sez: The Party obliged him to share everything with this worm—him the great leader of the proletariat! Costea: To forgive the peace of a god is an unforgivable offence! Liuba: the Devil’s mixed up in the story, I swear. I dreamed of him with a lilac bough between his teeth. I can feel his putrid smell. I hear his boots beating on the cement. The growl, the crazy hysterical laugh, the lazy grunt. I hear how he covers himself with dung. Uncle: Crazy woman, don’t interrupt anymore! As I was saying: from the door, Koba asks Starik “what’s new?” Starik makes like he doesn’t hear. Later he deigns to say: “What’s your business around here?” “I brought your file.” “You owed me anyhow.” “Me?” “Yeah: make with the explanations and apologies.” “For what? Russia is stronger than ever. The proletarian revolution has conquered a sixteenth of the globe.” “And so what about it? You offended Nadejda Krupskaia.”5 “Passed times.” “I sent you a letter. You haven’t answered to this very day. Ingrate, I made you boss!” “You were a dilettante, Starik, an intellectual. You lived too much in the West. You didn’t understand the soul of Russia.” If that’s what it says in my file, throw it on the fire. You’re paying your operatives for nothing. You work for Ohrana! “You knew!” “Informer!” “You play tough for a German spy!” “Provocateur! Savage Beast!” “Don’t loose your cool, Starik! Don’t give yourself an apoplectic attack. You’ll lose your voice. I’d be sorry not to have somebody to converse with. We’ll be here forever.” “Never!” The silence between them went on for several days, Uncle went on. During this time, Starik secretly read the packet Koba had brought. That’s how he found out what had gone in the world while he was gone. He was avid for news, for scandal, for confidential reports. The Generalissimo makes like he doesn’t notice. He polishes his decorations with ash and leaves him alone. *5/ On the night of 5/6 March 1923 at the Kremlin Lenin, then ill, dictated to asecretary: To tovarish Stalin.Personal. Strictly Secret. Copy to. Tovarisi Kamenev and Zinoviev. Dear Comrade Stalin, You allowed yourself to behave badly to my wife and to offend her over the telephone. She agreed to forget what you said. Nevertheless, she told Kamenev and Zinoviev about the incident. I have no intention of forgiving what was done against me, and it goes without saying that what has been done against my wife I consider as having been directed against myself. In consequence, I ask you if you are rather inclined to withdraw what you said and to apologize or if you prefer that relations between us be broken off. With respect. Yours, Lenin.” The text appeared in 1958 in Sochineyniya (Works), 5 th ed., Moscow Institute of Marxism- Leninism, 1958-1965, vol. .LIV, pp.320-330. See in Felix Tchouev, Conversations with Molotov, Albin Michel, 1991, p.196.Stalin was exasperated. Why should I dance attendance on them? It’s not enough to go to bed with Lenin to receive a certificate of Leninism. Stalin said to me a shortly after that: “Because she uses the same water closet with Lenin, one has to (…) venerate her as if she were Lenin.” Stalin told Nadejda Krupskaia that to be a Marxist it’s not enough to bark in the same place as a Marxist. stalin 6In the files, Starik reads that all his collaborators are dead. The story goes that the Germans made it all the way to the gates of Moscow—lies! The files are falsified—Koba’s trying to intoxicate him. He’s had numbers of Pravada printed for his use that announce the Red Army’s having thrust the red flag in the cupola of the Reichstag. His dream! The newspapers write incomprehensible things. He tests the paper with a match flame. He pours out some piss from the chamber pot to read what’s written between the lines in sympathetic ink. He examines Koba closely when he gets back from his walk. It’s raining hard outside. Starik: “Let’s drink a mug of tea together.” He even prepares it himself in the samovar once bestowed on him by Inessa. She’d bought it for him at a Jewish fair in Krakow. Koba doesn’t wait to be asked a second time. He recounts beautifully, but too softly. You have to keep your ear near his lips. For an insomniac like Starik, it’s a heavenly gift that the newcomer has a yen for talk. He listens to the fairy- tale about the judgment of the old guard. The tovarishi condemned to death in trials with crowds of people and foreign journalists. Bukharin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Rakovski acknowledged that they were nothing but ordinary low down yard birds, rags, spies sold- out to the degenerate bourgeois. They poisoned the waters, they were in a gang with the Tsar and his family from childhood on. They stole chickens from the neighbor’s yard, they licked stamps from New Zeeland with the tips of their tongues, they invaded the Winter Palace and turned it into a stable and ale house. “You liquidated them? Tell me, Koba! What a beautiful blow! Tee-he,” he says melancholically. “I myself thought of the Bolshoi Theater with the tovarish confessing and retracting for me. Ha, ha, I would have liked to rub them out with the sole of my foot like a bunch of insects. You punished them Koba. For what?” “They made a pact with the Devil, over my head.” Starik: “But the revolution? Where did you get with the Red Guards?” Koba keeps mum. Starik understands that his guys had done almost nothing. They got to having blow outs with whores, drunks with games of chance. Destroy them all! Cut out their tongues with a scissor—throw them to the dogs! Set the bourgeoisie on fire! It would have been too beautiful, apocalyptic, Koba acknowledges. Starik listens glumly to what he hears and nods off. Only in Inessa’s arms has he slept so profoundly. In a corner, seeing them together again Old Nick rubs his hands gleefully. Unfortunately, the moment doesn’t last long. “You killed me, you bastard!” “So what! You asked me for poison, you forget. I informed the Politburo. You were finished.” “Oh yeah, and you took pity on me!” “There was no sense in killing you when you had only a smidgen to live.” “You lie!” “I reported to Kamenev, Zinoviev, to Trotski.” “That’s why you killed them, so there wouldn’t be witnesses.” “You want me to bring one of them back to life? Whenever you like. They ‘re there in the grave and waiting for me to call them. They’re trained. You taught them submission. They have perfect reflexes, like Pavlov’s dogs!” “You’re an assassin. Admit that you plotted against me. You killed me to take my place. It’s in Macbeth, you actor!” “Monster, you’re touched in the head from syphilis!” “Dog!” “Inessa gave it to you!” Starik faints. Koba laughs. Can ya get a load of that! The faker! After a week of not uttering a peep, Starik drafted his historic letter to the Politburo. lenin 1He asked to be removed from the mausoleum. He wanted to be deposited next to Inessa. He threatened to set himself on fire if they didn’t agree. Mummies have this stupid habit of catching fire quickly. The old bag who hands out the paper in the Kremlin WC told me as much. Then there was an unexpected Militia raid, and I had to make tracks, moans the Blind Man. Costea: A secret report that reached the desk of CIA Director Allen Dulles notes that the mausoleum was erected exclusively for Lenin. The first inhabitant became unhappy when Joseph Stalin was brought into the enclosure. As was to be expected, the conflict between the two leaders—a Russian aristocrat and a Georgian bandit—broke out instantly. Starik asked that cigarettes not be lighted in his presence. Koba was caught smoking in secret in the water closet. Lenin asked the regulation be applied. It stipulates 10 lashes on the palms and a fine of 112 rubles. The newcomer preferred to open the windows. As it was rainy weather, Starik contracted pneumonia. He spit blood. He gave his co-resident 4 handkerchiefs to wash. Medical treatment only partially succeeded in ameliorating the disease. The two of them didn’t speak to each other at all between 21 and 30 March. They communicated by signs. They wrote various messages on the walls—attachments in enclosures. Most were salacious expressions and obscene drawings. Koba drew Starik making love with a hooker. The latter drew a child peeing on the red star. Koba drew a wall with a condemned man with bandaged eyes. Starik refused to go on. Scrawled slogans: Long Live the Bolshevik Revolution and The Cadres Decide Everything! Starik wipe them out with his sleeve. He wrote with red chalk: Kiss my you know what. Koba’s reply: Don’t even think about it, you syphilitic. Relations continued to disintegrate. Evenings, Koba knelt and said his prayers in a loud voice. He lit candles. He’d brought icons before which he prostrated himself piously. In Holy Week he went to sing in the choir at St. Basil the Blessed. He knew all the songs from childhood. On Easter he roared: Chriiiist is risen from the dead, with death treading on death. Bis: da capo. He came back from church with lighted candles and stuck them on the window sill. Old Nick (our most efficacious operative) sided with Starik, a convinced atheist, and won his sympathy. We continue to follow the evolution of the conflict—on which peaceful co- existence depends. No one wants a crisis at the Kremlin. Mr. Director, please accept this bulletin with my most distinguished sentiments. Top secret/ Agent Joseph K/04.53, sez Costea. Uncle was snoring beside him, head lolling, chin on his breast. Liuba sighed, eyes closed. Serioja—who only sees at night—gropes in front of a store window full of vodka, canned goods and salami. Re his letter: Starik waited in vain for the Politburo’s reply. He read newspapers, he played chess, said Uncle Afanasi. If Old Nick hadn’t come on a courtesy visit, he would have died of boredom. They were old acquaintances. Old Nick was hell bent on Starik’s making peace with Koba. Starik refused. “He didn’t understand the revolution. A woman who was completely off her rocker shot me,” said Starik. “Had you promised to marry her?” Old Nick jumped in. “Was Koba behind the plot?” “And so what!” “The woman was working under police orders. I didn’t die of syphilis; I was destroyed by reactionary bullets.” “White Guards?” “No. Apoplexy. It happened suddenly when I saw the file with Koba’s betrayals. There I was, wanting to dismiss him and PAF! I fell flat. I understood what was happening to me, I heard everything, but I couldn’t speak. I was in a state of living death.” “They’re my passion, Vladimir Ilyich,” said Old Nick jumping off the windowsill. He slowly raised the lid of the sarcophagus to let air in. “That’s the ticket. Thanks.” Starik leaned on an elbow and looked at Red Square, his favorite distraction. There was lots of activity. “I was poisoned! Oh, what a world!” Starik massaged his joints. “You get numb if you don’t move. Your skin gets blotchy. You get stiff. I should have shot him!” “Who, Vladimir Ilyich?” wondered Old Nick. “Koba, of course! Ach, in place of a bullet I made him my replacement.” “History is full of twists and turns…” “4 hours they kept me at the autopsy. I thought it would never end. I stuck it out. You now how? I remembered Paris, the bridges over the Seine. The cafes of Avenue d’ Orléans. I used to spend a whole day there with one beer on the table. I read the press, I met with immigrants, I plotted. I’d take quick trips around the faubourgs. Bicycle trips were my passion. I’d get tired, I’d stretch out on the grass…” “With Inessa! You’d lift her skirts and tuftaf tuftaf …” “Shush. Be quiet!” “You were giving her sexual education with Bolshevik brochures. That’s a revolution for you, if you ask me. I made myself a conspirator to. I saw to my business.” “Damned petit bourgeois! You destroyed Russia. With money, with commerce, with business.” “We deserved the firing squad.” “That’s what should have happened, to you and to Chichikov. Stop gathering dead souls!” “Nonsense. Gogol went mad, not me, and he threw the manuscript in the fire. He’d written about it there. “Nicky, old man, I died like a fool in my own bed surrounded by servants and relatives, wept for by muzhiks. And you?” “And me too. I was a very respected subject of His Imperial Majesty, the Tsar. They rewarded me with decorations for my devoted service. Now, my mission is to serve Your Honor.” “You, you devil!” “In the flesh. Viva! And at your service.” Starik jumps off the marble slab. He falls to the floor. “I’ll reduce you to nothing!” “So you should, Vladimir Ilyich!” “You’re a bastard, a no good, a renegade!” “Worse that that. I’m a member of the White piata rosie 7Guard.” “A piece of trash, a nothing!” “That bad, really? When you were accused of being a German agent, I tore up all the handbills in Petrograd. They showed you being embraced by the Kaiser. I read them front to back. The newspapers wrote that you’d agreed to destroy Russia. That you’d sold her out for nothing. You should know that I threw them in the Neva.” “Thanks, you didn’t have to,” sez Starik. He gets up off the floor. He notices that no matter how many punches in the kisser or kicks in the ass he lets fly, they don’t do Him any harm. To the contrary, he seems all the livelier. “I was present when you made your bargain with the Kaiser. You asked him to bring you to Russia in the sealed train.” “And what about it?” “You should have been a trader. There’s no getting around you.” “Well, really? Russia isn’t given for a song! In life, you should have one big hit. The biggest!” “Starik, you weren’t worth a plug nickel. An emigrant, a failure, a run-of- the-mill plotter! Acknowledge that you had higher protection. You worked with the Devil in person. Congradulations! I am here to serve you, your humble servant.” “Thank you!” “You did it, tovarish! You deserve to be taken out for a walk. I in formal dress and you on a leash. Do you realize what an impression we would make on the boulevards?” sez Old Nick dreamily. “In Copenhagen, in Prague…” “Oh, I adore Prague. I have a good friend there, an interesting type, Kafka, Franz. If you pass that way, look him up on my behalf. Here’s the address. You know, I was at the premier of Don Juan, conducted by Mozart. That would be 180 years ago. When Commendatore’s statue speaks, I faint every time. Mozart’s an interesting chap as well. Look him up. Have a beer.” “You’re making things up. You’ll end up on a hook at the slaughter house.” “Don’t you want to go somewhere else?” He enquires, writing humbly in a notebook. Starik is thinking of something else “Koba’s unfit. What’s become of Russia? He’s squandered everything. Aren’t you going to wake him?” “That he does by himself, don’t you worry. He’s got his eyes closed, but he’s not sleeping. He hears everything.” “I’m going outside to get some air.” Since Koba came, sez Liuba, Starik started taking longer walks. I caught sight of him on the sidewalk across the way with a bouquet of cornflowers. He was heading for Inessa’s commemorative stone plaque in the Kremlin wall where she’s buried. He goes there sometimes to collect his thoughts. He leaves the flowers, takes a step back, chin on his breast, and he weeps, kinda sniveling. He talks with her. He recalls the episodes of their love, stiff like that near the edge of the sidewalk. Sometimes he sleeps in the metro station. He likes to get into conversation with people he don’t know. He finds a bunch of drunks like us: Uncle, Costea, Liuba, the Blind Man. They gather under a bridge. There—far from the Militia patrols—they pass around a bottle of vodka. The drunks have even nicknamed him Lenin. “Looks exactly like the guy in the posters.” They play chess, tell funny stories, swear at the charlatans in the Kremlin. Starik only goes back to the sarcophagus when the weather gets bad. When he gets to the mausoleum, he does a few gymnastics. One day, after an imaginary conversation with Inessa near the Kremlin wall, he addressed a new letter to the Politburo, the 113 th . He wasn’t asking for anything else. He made his farewells. He advised them of his departure. Contented, Old Nick rubbed his hands. “That’s how I want you!” So much he dictated to the chronicler—one of the drunks— one foggy morning of a park bench in exchange for two old imperial coins and an “unbaptized” bottle of vodka.The Politburo ignored the fact of the mummy’s disappearance until alarming news began to arrive about a suspicious presence in various corners of our holy Russia, as Costea well knows. Individuals who look exactly like Starik are committing imbecilities. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the doer pretends he’s the person in question, Lenin, if you can imagine that. The chaos begins. The functionaries: in a panic. Who’s master in Russia, they ask themselves with good reason. To whom do we submit? The fugitive scolds people, gives orders through administrative centers. They all listen blindly. No one utters a peep. The KGB pretends not to notice. The country is in pain after the Generalissimo’s death and in need of stroking. The provinces await precise orders from the Kremlin. According to reports, the person unofficially identified as Lenin visits a lingerie factory in Simferopol, a gold mine in Vorkuta, a naval base at Kronstadt, and he holds a meeting with the Kiev City Soviet on the same day. Common sense tells us that all this is pure imagination. In addition, the government receives denunciations, daily. At the Kremlin, they would now say “what else is Lenin up to?” in place of a greeting. “Nothing!” would come the reply. That would mean he was just seen discussing politics in a pub in some slum. Photo: face/profile. He was holding conferences about the world revolution, the modernization of Russia in the 20 th century, the history of the Komintern. He would disappear one minute before the operatives arrived. Attempts to arrest him failed. His presence electrified old people who were waiting nights on line for meat, gas, bottled cooking gas, bread and wood. They wanted to touch him, to cut a lock of his hair as a souvenir. Let no one say that it just seemed to them that they had chatted with the mummy. They were crowding around him to catch his smell, to shake his hand, to hear his voice. They asked for his autograph, hairs from his goatee, his necktie, his pocket watch. They tore his clothes to pieces at Archangel. They asked him to speak to them man to man, like in the old days Now, no one was talking to them except the Militia—with a nightstick. They offered their children to him to stroke the tops of their heads, to take in his arms. They received him amongst them like the Messiah. As a mark of respect, they let him get ahead in line to buy the first pigs’ ears for aspic.Bravo! Tens of Lenins have been counted. One organized strikes in Donbass, the other palavered in a park with servants. A dozen of the preachers were located and held by the KGB. For naught. One Lenin restored sight to a person blind from birth. Another Lenin roused the youth on the Volga near Samara. Yet another pushed a four-wheeler in a cloud of dust. One attached wings to himself and made like a crow over a poppy field. That was still alright. One looking like him let himself be crucified by villagers near Irkutsk. Nailed, up on the hill. In the next village, having devastated a motor fuel depot, they burned him at the stake, all the while asking him to reveal the formulas with which he cast his spells. At the interrogation they reported that a vampire was haunting the village and fucking virgins in their sleep. He brought rain when there was a hard drought in Kazakhstan. He lowered the price of meat, cottage cheese and black bread. As we can see, he had come down to earth and was performing miracles—an unacceptable situation at the Kremlin. Women were holding lighted candles under his portrait. He wandered the dusty roads of Russia on foot. He was nowhere and everywhere. The politburo suspected that it was an odious diversion mounted by the CIA meant to fluster the Soviets. Starik was wanting to show them that they were dead without him. Nay. He was even in shape to take power into his hands again. He was putting them on notice: “you can’t make a revolution with white gloves!” and he was showing them like a teacher how it’s done. They hadn’t grasped his schpiel of October 1917. Moscow talked only of Lenin’s feats after his return from the dead. If some people denied the advance of Soviet sciences, they could now observe it in the flesh. The Americans hadn’t succeeded in resuscitating anyone. They were still stuck with that old crap about Lazarus resurrected by Jesus. Not a bit of progress. To the contrary. Naturally, in this context, comments were made about misunderstandings at the top. For a while, the bosses didn’t bother themselves. It seemed they didn’t know anything about the miracle But when he began to heal lepers, to make paralytics walk, to make old people young, to fertilize barren women, to enter hospitals and do the doctors’ work, they grew frightened If he works a wonder with Stalin and resurrects him, we’re finished; he’ll kill us all, they told themselves, in horror. They convened an extraordinary session of the Politburo. On the agenda, a single point: neutralizing the mummy. The results were not slow to appear, sez Liuba, laughing. It seems that Starik was captured in a train station when he was trying to take a freight to Crimea. According to certain indications (see rprt. KGB Nr. 3423-03vil, 1953, F.d. 4XXX) it or he might even be the original. He stank of damp, of powdered DDT and formalin. The mold had risen from his knees toward the thoracic cavity, rising past the sex. Mice had gnawed relatively large surfaces of the skin of the head and of the toes of the left foot. As a result of cooties and bedbugs, the ears were ragged and stuffed with plugs the color amber. It could be said without fear of error that he was deaf on the date of his arrest. He did not oppose the plain clothes agents who asked to see the palms of his hands—not to see if he had calluses, which would have shown that he was a proletarian, but with the manifest purpose of fastening a pair of handcuffs. They pushed in him into a van, and they locked him up in a psychiatric asylum near Yalta, pavilion Nr. 6, Room 2. I report: he was full of life. He pretended shamelessly to be Lenin, as stated in his identification papers presented to the exponents of order. It took him three days to organize a Bolshevik cell. He had given the patients noms de guerre. He disguised them. He sent messages written with invisible ink. He falsified documents. He lectured them about how a bomb is made, how to occupy train stations, to raise barricades according to old manuals.6 When he was ready, he roused the interned against the administration. He offered them a discourse. He made them owners of the land and buildings, the laboratories, 3 rabbit hutches and appurtenances. He posted lookouts at the doors, installed the commandant in the office of the great professor&psychiatrist Ivan Pavlov, Nobel Prize Lauriat 1907. He ordered that all receive the same rations of food, soap, newspapers, borscht, toilet paper and tea! He asked that identical treatments be applied to all patients, no matter their disease. The intervention of the authorities was a matter of time. The internees put them in straight jackets and hurled them into the waters of the gulf for the sharks to swallow. The brass band plaid the International beautifully. Salute, hand to brow. Eh, in that summer he appeared in the Odessa Aquarium—the joy of children who didn’t hesitate an instant before throwing him crumbs, in spite of the interdictions on throwing food to the exhibited. He’d glue his cheek to the greenish glass to stare at you. You had to give him something. You just couldn’t resist. One day, they found him belly up, bloated, with his mouth gaping open and his eyes in a fixed stare. Once captured, the members of the Politburo finally slept easy—sez Costea, disappointed that there’s not a drop of vodka left. All they have to do is fight for power as long as they have the appetite. Unfortunately, the tovarishes’ happiness didn’t last long. He was incorrigible. Starik was found handing out manifestos in front of a factory. They collared him. They put him in a cage in Gorky Park for people to take a look at him—to amuse the children, to be fed like a dove. He quickly became the angel of the neighborhood watchmen. The Kremlin took an historic decision: this specimen should be eviscerated, flavored with mastic, filled with sautéed cabbage and several heads of garlic,smeared with wine sauce, rubbed with alcohol, stuck in the oven and burned on a low flame for around 20 minutes, then laid in the sarcophagus with an apple in his mouth on a bed of boiled potatoes. An article about the benefits of euthanasia appeared in Pravda, under the signature of Piotr Verhovenski.7 It was about the humanism of choosing one’s own death, keeping one’s dignity and being decently cared for until the last moment. The great leader once said, I read: “the most important thing when you are ill is not to lose heart.” Which is to say, you shouldn’t panic: hang in there. On the same night, the cage in the park was emptied. At dawn the cities Number 1 Attraction was no longer there. The little door screeched frightfully—waking all the dogs&militiamen. Suspicion fell on some gypsies who had raised their filthy tents a week ago in the environs. Their camp was found 163 versts NW on a dusty road. At the interrogation they declared that they had sold the mummy to some sailors from Odessa—to be fixed to the prow to ward off sea monsters, unfriendly aircraft and storms of magnitude 12 on the Beaufort scale. All 6 Delivered particularly by Aguste Blanqui, Instructions pour une prise d’armes, I.V. Stalin, Marx and Engels on Insurrections (signed Koba, 1909), plus a few anonymous practical brochures such as Assault Grenades in the Hands of the Proletariat, The Class Struggle and Terror, The Barricades of the Paris Commune after Storming Heaven. He further taught them to wash laundry, riding a bicycle and revolutionary marches, To Madam Elvira and Two Turquoise Eyes ( a sentimental song). *7/ Piotr Verhovenski, “The Rhetoric of Empty Guts in The Holy Trinity,” in The Benefits of Euthanasia, 232 p, Crucifix Publishing, Niceea, 1054, pp. 13-16. the vessels of our flotillas on the Black Sea and the Baltic were searched. Nothing was found. In consequence, the gypsies were thrown in the cellar and harshly interrogated—an honor for them. They acknowledged that they had lied at the interrogation out of fear. They had no idea who Lenin was. They enter churches only rarely and they’d never ever heard of this saint. Pravda might be writing about the miracles accomplished by the saint in question, but as for them, they’re illiterate. They ask their interrogators to tell Lenin, if he still has a divine nature, to bring rain because otherwise the drought’ll kill their animals. He should also create an amnesty; they have a lot of relatives scattered around the prisons. If they’d have stolen him, man, they wouldn’t have lost him. They’d have put a ring in his nose and dragged him around country fairs. They’d have taught him to dance on burning coals, to count, to bow. You could make good money with a mummy. But may my eyes fall out of my head, may my mother die, your Lenin isn’t at our place. If we see him anywhere, we’ll letchaknow. The enquiry centered next on a group of old man who used to pay chess in the park—this information coming from Liuba. Retirees, the old guard, nostalgics. They are hard to interrogate. They go in their pants. Their hearts give out. They faint before they make complete confessions. SMERSH gave it up. In two days they were free and they went back to the park with the chess tables. They continued, however, to watch them with specific techniques. The strictly secret investigation was completely obstructed. They investigators were back at zero. After the harvest campaign, a scarecrow was found that looked like Lenin. A bunch of rags stuck on a pole. On minute investigation, it turned out to be not exactly as described in the denunciation. They made their excuses. They put talc on its wounds and bruises. They stuck its goatee back in place with glue. They put the two teeth that had fallen as the result of a blow with a crowbar back on the furry muzzle. Out of fear, it had grown a mop of curly black hair. Unfortunately, they didn’t succeed in restoring its hearing. But things like that happen. There are losses…the scarecrow perched on the fence only needed ears to intercept U2 planes in USSR airspace at the time of Lenin’s disappearance, proof that the Americans were also interested in finding out what’s-the- story-with- this-mummy-? They were hoping to find it in the immensity of Russia with photographs taken at an altitude of 10,000 meters/33,000 ft. According to the KGB, there exists nothing but the soul, and not the body that wraps it, while the latter rests in a sarcophagus in Red Square. The sacred body—disputed by a pack of dogs; they’d taken it to pieces; they’d delivered it to a pub near the station, to be served to the clientele as roasted hare. Another Lenin was captured at the boarder. He wanted to desert to the Occident. You hear this foolishness! How could our Lenin flee to the Occident! To leave holy and beloved Russia out of love for alienation, for the exploitation of man by man, for all kinds of pollution and bourgeois decadents! Drunkards, that would mean renouncing his whole biography, blind Serioja wonders aloud. I heard that he slipped into the West without documents, disguised as a stag with little bells hung from his horns. Agitprop put out a communiqué and warned that this is a matter of CIA intoxication, a cheap falsification. He was caught by some hunters as he grazed in a field of clover. Simple: dogs picked up his traces. He took on the appearance of a mole. That’s how he dug a tunnel toward unfriendly territory. Voila!—a dastardly plot. It will not go unpunished. SMERSH got to the clearing too late. The dogs had torn the mummy to pieces. There shouldn’t be anything left of it, not a claw, an eyelid, a little piece of shit. An article of 24 lines, 1,800 characters, plus photo, appeared in Izvestia. From the first page an animal nicknamed Lenin by the hunters stares at the wide-eyed reader, fur torn, dead at their feet. What a trophy! There are no traces of blood8 on the snow. There was talk of honorary decorations, but a secretary at the Kremlin lost the sheet with Khrushchev ’s proposal in plenary session and the ceremony was put off. News of the mummy’s capture multiplied, said the Blind Man. And there was less vodka. This life is shit. On just one Saint Maria’s day, August 15 th , 69 Lenin’s were placed under arrest. The Militia gathered them from ill-famed neighborhoods. Alcoholics, vagabonds, apparatchiks, denizens of the demi-monde, hunchbacks&cripples, perfumed individuals, red fish, canaries, tin pipes, wigs and other species. A price was put on his head. One muzhik denounced his neighbor as being the dastardly Lenin disguised as a decent man hidden in the attic of his house. Another heard that he had become a real estate agent, like in Nosferatu, and that he made a habit of relieving himself against a lamp post. That he’d be playing the accordion. That he was playing the porter in the square for a crust of bread. That it’s raining. No one took this kind of oddity seriously anymore. As if by a miracle, the rumors disappeared after a decree that diminished the ration of sugar, milk, flower, oil. That happened only after Lenin had crossed the border Catch the blind man. Take out his eyes! Nothing more was heard of supernatural apparitions. Everyone knew that Lenin is immortal. His spirit is in every thing and every being. That’s what’s taught at school. He had crossed into the Occident, it was said. But no, he’s fallen into Hell. He’s in the flee market selling old junk. He’s in a low dive with officers; he’s having a bash, slapping down cards, drinking champaign, tickling whores’ pussies. What’s certain is that Russia is in abeyance—with torrid summers and winter snows high as a house. The danger of the mummy’s resurrection is past. Our drunkards have breathed easy and moved to the other side of the rails. But the train’s coming now, uuuu huuu! It halts a minute in the deserted station, long enough to count the cars. From a lighted window, cheek pressed against the glass, Starik gazes at them. And Old Nick—in tandem. * 8/ John Ponet, A Short Treatise on Political Power, 1556, facsimile in Winthrop S. Hudson. We find of pp.43-48 that a Bloody Mary is an excellent cocktail prepared with vodka and tomato juice, 2 tsp. A pinch of white pepper from Ceylon is added. Use it economically: it’s expensive. Koba didn’t realize. This provoked his premature death.

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