On gorgeous flowered plates with wide black rims lay thin slices of salmon and soused eel; a slab of over-ripe cheese on a heavy wooden platter, and in a silver bowl packed around with snow — caviare. Beside the plates stood delicate glasses and three crystal decanters of different-coloured vodkas. All these objects were on a small marble table, handily placed beside the huge carved oak sideboard which shone with glass and silver. In the middle of the room was a table, heavy as a gravestone and covered with a white tablecloth set with two places, napkins folded into the shape of papal tiaras, and three dark bottles.
Zina brought in a covered silver dish beneath which something bubbled. The dish gave off such a smell that the dog’s mouth immediately filled with saliva. The gardens of Semiramis! he thought as he thumped the floor with his tail.
‘Bring it here,’ ordered Philip Philipovich greedily. ‘I beg you, Doctor Bormenthal, leave the caviare alone. And if you want a piece of good advice, don’t touch the English vodka but drink the ordinary Russian stuff.’
The handsome Bormenthal — who had taken off his white coat and was wearing a smart black suit — shrugged his broad shoulders, smirked politely and poured out a glass of clear vodka.
‘What make is it?’ he enquired.
‘Bless you, my dear fellow,’ replied his host, ‘it’s pure alcohol. Darya Petrovna makes the most excellent homemade vodka.’
‘But surely, Philip Philipovich, everybody says that 30-degree vodka is quite good enough.’
‘Vodka should be at least 40 degrees, not 30 — that’s firstly,’ Philip Philipovich interrupted him didactically, ‘and secondly — God knows what muck they make into vodka nowadays. What do you think they use?’
‘Anything they like,’ said the other doctor firmly.
‘I quite agree,’ said Philip Philipovich and hurled the contents of his glass down his throat in one gulp. ‘Ah… m’m… Doctor Bormenthal — please drink that at once and if you ask me what it is, I’m your enemy for life. “From Granada to Seville…”’
With these words he speared something like a little piece of black bread on his silver fish-fork. Bormenthal followed his example. Philip Philipovich’s eyes shone.
‘Not bad, eh?’ asked Philip Philipovich, chewing. ‘Is it? Tell me, doctor.’
‘It’s excellent,’ replied the doctor sincerely.
‘So I should think… Kindly note, Ivan Arnoldovich, that the only people who eat cold hors d’oeuvres nowadays are the few remaining landlords who haven’t had their throats cut. Anybody with a spark of self-respect takes his hors d’oeuvres hot. And of all the hot hors d’oeuvres in Moscow this is the best. Once they used to do them magnificently at the Slavyansky Bazaar restaurant. There, you can have some too.’
‘If you feed a dog at table,’ said a woman’s voice, ‘you won’t get him out of here afterwards for love or money.’
‘I don’t mind. The poor thing’s hungry.’ On the point of his fork Pliilip Philipovich handed the dog a tit-bit, which the animal took with the dexterity of a conjuror. The professor then threw the fork with a clatter into the slop-basin.
The dishes now steamed with an odour of lobster; the dog sat in the shadow of the tablecloth with the look of a sentry by a powder magazine as Philip Philipovich, thrusting the end of a thick napkin into his collar, boomed on:
‘Food, Ivan Arnoldovich, is a subtle thing. One must know how to eat, yet just think — most people don’t know how to eat at all. One must not only know what to eat, but when and how.’ (Philip Philipovich waved his fork meaningfully.) ‘And what to say while you’re eating. Yes, my dear sir. If you care about your digestion, my advice is — don’t talk about bolshevism or medicine at table. And, God forbid — never read Soviet newspapers before dinner.’
‘M’mm… But there are no other newspapers.’
‘In that case don’t read any at all. Do you know I once made thirty tests in my clinic. And what do you think? The patients who never read newspapers felt excellent. Those whom I specially made read Pravda all lost weight.
‘H’m…’ rejoined Bormenthal with interest, turning gently pink from the soup and the wine.
‘And not only did they lose weight. Their knee reflexes were retarded, they lost appetite and exhibited general depression.’
‘Yes, my dear sir. But listen to me — I’m talking about medicine!’
Leaning back, Philip Philipovich rang the bell and Zina appeared through the cerise portiere. The dog was given a thick, white piece of sturgeon, which he did not like, then immediately afterwards a chunk of underdone roast beef. When he had gulped it down the dog suddenly felt that he wanted to sleep and could not bear the sight of any more food. Strange feeling, he thought, blinking his heavy eyelids, it’s as if my eyes won’t look at food any longer. As for smoking after they’ve eaten — that’s crazy.
The dining-room was filling with unpleasant blue smoke. The animal dozed, its head on its forepaws. ‘Saint Julien is a very decent wine,’ the dog heard sleepily, ‘but there’s none of it to be had any more.’
A dull mutter of voices in chorus, muffled by the ceiling and carpets, was heard coming from above and to one side.
Philip Philipovich rang for Zina. ‘Zina my dear, what’s that noise?’
‘They’re having another general meeting, Philip Philipovich,’ replied Zina.
‘What, again?’ exclaimed Philip Philipovich mournfully. ‘Well, this is the end of this house. I’ll have to go away -but where to? I can see exactly what’ll happen. First of all there’ll be community singing in the evening, then the pipes will freeze in the lavatories, then the central heating boiler will blow up and so on. This is the end.’
‘Philip Philipovich worries himself to death,’ said Zina with a smile as she cleared away a pile of plates.
‘How can I help it?’ exploded Philip Philipovich. ‘Don’t you know what this house used to be like?’
‘You take too black a view of things, Philip Philipovich,’ objected the handsome Bormenthal. ‘There is a considerable change for the better now.’
‘My dear fellow, you know me, don’t you? I am a man of facts, a man who observes. I’m the enemy of unsupported hypotheses. And I’m known as such not only in Russia but in Europe too. If I say something, that means that it is based on some fact from which I draw my conclusions. Now there’s a fact for you: there is a hat-stand and a rack for boots and galoshes in this house.’
Galoshes — hell. Who cares about galoshes, thought the dog, but he’s a great fellow all the same.
‘Yes, a rack for galoshes. I have been living in this house since 1903. And from then until March 1917 there was not one case — let me underline in red pencil not one case — of a single pair of galoshes disappearing from that rack even when the front door was open. There are, kindly note, twelve flats in this house and a constant stream of people coming to my consulting-rooms. One fine day in March 1917 all the galoshes disappeared, including two pairs of mine, three walking sticks, an overcoat and the porter’s samovar. And since then the rack has ceased to exist. And I won’t mention the boiler. The rule apparently is — once a social revolution takes place there’s no need to stoke the boiler. But I ask you: why, when this whole business started, should everybody suddenly start clumping up and down the marble staircase in dirty galoshes and felt boots? Why must we now keep our galoshes under lock and key? And put a soldier on guard over them to prevent them from being stolen? Why has the carpet been removed from the front staircase? Did Marx forbid people to keep their staircases carpeted? Did Karl Marx say anywhere that the front door of No. 2 Kalabukhov House in Prechistenka Street must be boarded up so that people have to go round and come in by the back door? WTiat good does it do anybody? Why can’t the proletarians leave their galoshes downstairs instead of dirtying the staircase?’
‘But the proletarians don’t have any galoshes, Philip Philipovich,’ stammered the doctor.
‘Nothing of the sort!’ replied Philip Philipovich in a voice of thunder, and poured himself a glass of wine. ‘H’mm… I don’t approve of liqueurs after dinner. They weigh on the digestion and are bad for the liver… Nothing of the sort! The proletarians do have galoshes now and those galoshes are — mine! The very ones that vanished in the spring of 1917. Who removed them, you may ask? Did I remove them? Impossible. The bourgeois Sablin?’ (Philip Philipovich pointed upwards to the ceiling.) ‘The very idea’s laughable. Polozov, the sugar manufacturer?’ (Philip Philipovich pointed to one side.) ‘Never! You see? But if they’d only take them off when they come up the staircase!’ (Philip Philipovich started to turn purple.) ‘Why on earth do they have to remove the flowers from the landing? Why does the electricity, which to the best of my recollection has only failed twice in the past twenty years, now go out regularly once a month? Statistics, Doctor Bormenthal, are terrible things. You who know my latest work must realise that better than anybody.’ ‘The place is going to ruin, Philip Philipovich.’
‘No,’ countered Philip Philipovich quite firmly. ‘No. You must first of all refrain, my dear Ivan Arnoldovich, from using that word. It’s a mirage, a vapour, a fiction,’ Philip Philipovich spread out his short fingers, producing a double shadow like two skulls on the tablecloth. ‘What do you mean by ruin? An old woman with a broomstick? A witch who smashes all the windows and puts out all the lights? No such thing. What do you mean by that word?’ Philip Philipovich angrily enquired of an unfortunate cardboard duck hanging upside down by the sideboard, then answered the question himself. ‘I’ll tell you what it is: if instead of operating every evening I were to start a glee club in my apartment, that would mean that I was on the road to ruin. If when I go to the lavatory I don’t pee, if you’ll excuse the expression, into the bowl but on to the floor instead and if Zina and Darya Petrovna were to do the same thing, the lavatory would be ruined. Ruin, therefore, is not caused by lavatories but it’s something that starts in people’s heads. So when these clowns start shouting “Stop the ruin!” — I laugh!’ (Philip Philipovich’s face became so distorted that the doctor’s mouth fell open.) ‘I swear to you, I find it laughable! Every one of them needs to hit himself on the back of the head and then when he has knocked all the hallucinations out of himself and gets on with sweeping out backyards — which is his real job — all this “ruin” will automatically disappear. You can’t serve two gods! You can’t sweep the dirt out of the tram tracks and settle the fate of the Spanish beggars at the same time! No one can ever manage it, doctor — and above all it can’t be done by people who are two hundred years behind the rest of Europe and who so far can’t even manage to do up their own fly-buttons properly!’
Philip Philipovich had worked himself up into a frenzy. His hawk-like nostrils were dilated. Fortified by his ample dinner he thundered like an ancient prophet and his hair shone like a silver halo.
His words sounded to the sleepy dog like a dull subterranean rumble. At first he dreamed uneasily that the owl with its stupid yellow eyes had hopped off its branch, then he dreamed about the vile face of that cook in his dirty white cap, then of Philip Philipovich’s dashing moustaches sharply lit by electric light from the lampshade. The dreamy sleigh-ride came to an end as the mangled piece of roast beef, floating in gravy, stewed away in the dog’s stomach.
He could earn plenty of money by talking at political meetings, the dog thought sleepily. That was a great speech. Still, he’s rolling in money anyway.
‘A policeman!’ shouted Philip Philipovich. ‘A policeman!’
Policeman? Ggrrr… — something snapped inside the dog’s brain.
‘Yes, a policeman! Nothing else will do. Doesn’t matter whether he wears a number or a red cap. A policeman should be posted alongside every person in the country with the job of moderating the vocal outbursts of our honest citizenry. You talk about ruin. I tell you, doctor, that nothing will change for the better in this house, or in any other house for that matter, until you can make these people stop talking claptrap! As soon as they put an end to this mad chorus the situation will automatically change for the better.’
‘You sound like a counter-revolutionary, Philip Philipovich,’ said the doctor jokingly. ‘I hope to God nobody hears you.’
‘I’m doing no harm,’ Philip Philipovich objected heatedly. ‘Nothing counter-revolutionary in all that. Incidentally, that’s a word I simply can’t tolerate. What the devil is it supposed to mean, anyway? Nobody knows. That’s why I say there’s nothing counter-revolutionary in what I say. It’s full of sound sense and a lifetime of experience.’
At this point Philip Philipovich pulled the end of his luxurious napkin out of his collar. Crumpling it up he laid it beside his unfinished glass of wine. Bormenthal at once rose and thanked his host.
‘Just a minute, doctor,’ Philip Philipovich stopped him and took a wallet out of his hip pocket. He frowned, counted out some white 10-rouble notes and handed them to the doctor, saying, ‘You are due for 40 roubles today, Ivan Arnoldovich. There you are.’
Still in slight pain from his dog-bite, the doctor thanked him and blushed as he stuffed the money into his coat pocket.
‘Do you need me this evening, Philip Philipovich?’ he enquired.
‘No thanks, my dear fellow. We shan’t be doing anything this evening. For one thing the rabbit has died and for another Aida is on at the Bolshoi this evening. It’s a long time since I heard it. I love it… Do you remember that duet? Pom-pom-ti-pom…’
‘How do you find time for it, Philip Philipovich?’ asked the doctor with awe.
‘One can find time for everything if one is never in a hurry,’ explained his host didactically. ‘Of course if I started going to meetings and carolling like a nightingale all day long, I’d never find time to go anywhere’ — the repeater in Philip Philipovich’s pocket struck its celestial chimes as he pressed the button — ‘It starts at nine. I’ll go in time for the second act. I believe in the division of labour. The Bolshoi’s job is to sing, mine’s to operate. That’s how things should be. Then there’d be none of this “ruin”… Look, Ivan Arnoldovich, you must go and take a careful look: as soon as he’s properly dead, take him off the table, put him straight into nutritive fluid and bring him to me!’
‘Don’t worry, Philip Philipovich, the pathologist has promised me.’
‘Excellent. Meanwhile, we’ll examine this neurotic street arab of ours and stitch him up. I want his flank to heal…’
He’s worrying about me, thought the dog, good for him. Now I know what he is. He’s the wizard, the magician, the sorcerer out of those dogs’ fairy tales… I can’t have dreamed it all. Or have I? (The dog shuddered in his sleep.) Any minute now I’ll wake up and there’ll be nothing here. No silk-shaded lamp, no warmth, no food. Back on the streets, back in the cold, the frozen asphalt, hunger, evil-minded humans… the factory canteen, the snow… God, it will be unbearable…!
But none of that happened. It was the freezing doorway which vanished like a bad dream and never came back.
Clearly the country was not yet in a total state of ruin. In spite of it the grey accordion-shaped radiators under the windows filled with heat twice a day and warmth flowed in waves through the whole apartment. The dog had obviously drawn the winning ticket in the dogs’ lottery. Never less than twice a day his eyes filled with tears of gratitude towards the sage of Prechistenka. Every mirror in the living-room or the hall reflected a good-looking, successful dog.
I am handsome. Perhaps I’m really a dog prince, living incognito, mused the dog as he watched the shaggy, coffee-coloured dog with the smug expression strolling about in the mirrored distance. I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandmother didn’t have an affair with a labrador. Now that I look at my muzzle, I see there’s a white patch on it. I wonder how it got there. Philip Philipovich is a man of great taste -he wouldn’t just pick up any stray mongrel.
In two weeks the dog ate as much as in his previous six weeks on the street. Only by weight, of course. In quality the food at the professor’s apartment was incomparable. Apart from the fact that Darya Petrovna bought a heap of meat-scraps for 18 kopecks every day at the Smolensk market, there was dinner every evening in the dining-room at seven o’clock, at which the dog was always present despite protests from the elegant Zina. It was during these meals that Philip Philipovich acquired his final title to divinity. The dog stood on his hind legs and nibbled his jacket, the dog learned to recognise Philip Philipovich’s ring at the door — two loud, abrupt proprietorial pushes on the bell — and would run barking out into the hall. The master was enveloped in a dark brown fox-fur coat, which glittered with millions of snowflakes and smelled of mandarin oranges, cigars, perfume, lemons, petrol, eau de cologne and cloth, and his voice, like a megaphone, boomed all through the apartment.
‘Why did you ruin the owl, you little monkey? Was the owl doing you any harm? Was it, now? Why did you smash the portrait of Professor Mechnikov?’
‘He needs at least one good whipping, Philip Philipovich,’ said Zina indignantly, ‘or he’ll become completely spoiled. Just look what he’s done to your galoshes.’
‘No one is to be beaten,’ said Philip Philipovich heatedly, ‘remember that once and for all. Animals and people can only be influenced by persuasion. Have you given him his meat today?’
‘Lord, he’s eaten us out of house and home. What a question, Philip Philipovich. He eats so much I’m surprised he doesn’t burst.’
‘Fine. It’s good for him… what harm did the owl do you, you little ruffian?’
Ow-ow, whined the dog, crawling on his belly and splaying out his paws.
The dog was forcefully dragged by the scruff of his neck through the hall and into the study. He whined, snapped, clawed at the carpet and slid along on his rump as if he were doing a circus act. In the middle of the study floor lay the glass-eyed owl. From its disembowelled stomach flowed a stream of red rags that smelled of mothballs. Scattered on the desk were the fragments of a portrait.
‘I purposely didn’t clear it up so that you could take a good look,’ said Zina distractedly. ‘Look — he jumped up on to the table, the little brute, and then — bang! — he had the owl by the tail. Before I knew what was happening he had torn it to pieces. Rub his nose in the owl, Philip Philipovich, so that he learns not to spoil things.’
Then the howling began. Clawing at the carpet, the dog was dragged over to have his nose rubbed in the owl. He wept bitter tears and thought: Beat me, do what you like, but don’t throw me out.
‘Send the owl to the taxidermist at once. There’s 8 roubles, and 16 kopecks for the tram-fare, go down to Murat’s and buy him a good collar and a lead.’
Next day the dog was given a wide, shiny collar. As soon as he saw himself in the mirror he was very upset, put his tail between his legs and disappeared into the bathroom, where he planned to pull the collar off against a box or a basket. Soon, however, the dog realised that he was simply a fool. Zina took him walking on the lead along Obukhov Street. The dog trotted along like a prisoner under arrest, burning with shame, but as he walked along Prechistenka Street as far as the church of Christ the Saviour he soon realised exactly what a collar means in life. Mad envy burned in the eyes of every dog he met and at Myortvy Street a shaggy mongrel with a docked tail barked at him that he was a ‘master’s pet’ and a ‘lackey’. As they crossed the tram tracks a policeman looked at the collar with approval and respect. When they returned home the most amazing thing of all happened — with his own hands Fyodor the porter opened the front door to admit Sharik and Zina, remarking to Zina as he did so: ‘What a sight he was when Philip Philipovich brought him in. And now look how fat he is.’
‘So he should be — he eats enough for six,’ said the beautiful Zina, rosy-cheeked from the cold.
A collar’s just like a briefcase, the dog smiled to himself. Wagging his tail, he climbed up to the mezzanine like a gentleman.
Once having appreciated the proper value of a collar, the dog made his first visit to the supreme paradise from which hitherto he had been categorically barred — the realm of the cook, Darya Petrovna. Two square inches of Darya’s kitchen was worth more than all the rest of the flat. Every day flames roared and flashed in the tiled, black-leaded stove. Delicious crackling sounds came from the oven. Tortured by perpetual heat and unquenchable passion, Darya Petrovna’s face was a constant livid purple, slimy and greasy. In the neat coils over her ears and in the blonde bun on the back of her head flashed twenty-two imitation diamonds. Golden saucepans hung on hooks round the walls, the whole kitchen seethed with smells, while covered pans bubbled and hissed…
‘Get out!’ screamed Darya Petrovna. ‘Get out, you no-good little thief! Get out of here at once or I’ll be after you with the poker!’
Hey, why all the barking? signalled the dog pathetically with his eyes. What d’you mean — thief? Haven’t you noticed my new collar? He backed towards the door, his muzzle raised appealingly towards her.
The dog Sharik possessed some secret which enabled him to win people’s hearts. Two days later he was stretched out beside the coal-scuttle watching Darya Petrovna at work. With a thin sharp knife she cut off the heads and claws of a flock of helpless grouse, then like a merciless executioner scooped the guts out of the fowls, stripped the flesh from the bones and put it into the mincer. Sharik meanwhile gnawed a grouse’s head. Darya Petrovna fished lumps of soaking bread out of a bowl of milk, mixed them on a board with the minced meat, poured cream over the whole mixture, sprinkled it with salt and kneaded it into cutlets. The stove was roaring like a furnace, the frying pan sizzled, popped and bubbled. The oven door swung open with a roar, revealing a terrifying inferno of heaving, crackling flame.
In the evening the fiery furnace subsided and above the curtain half-way up the kitchen window hung the dense, ominous night sky of Prechistenka Street with its single star. The kitchen floor was damp, the saucepans shone with a dull, mysterious glow and on the table was a fireman’s cap. Sharik lay on the warm stove, stretched out like a lion above a gateway, and with one ear cocked in curiosity he watched through the half-open door of Zina’s and Darya Petrovna’s room as an excited, black-moustached man in a broad leather belt embraced Darya Petrovna. All her face, except her powdered nose, glowed with agony and passion. A streak of light lay across a picture of a man with a black moustache and beard, from which hung a little Easter loaf.
‘Don’t go too far,’ muttered Darya Petrovna in the half-darkness. ‘Stop it! Zina will be back soon. What’s the matter with you — have you been rejuvenated too?’
‘I don’t need rejuvenating,’ croaked the black-moustached fireman hoarsely, scarcely able to control himself. ‘You’re so passionate!’
In the evenings the sage of Prechistenka Street retired behind his thick blinds and if there was no A’ida at the Bolshoi Theatre and no meeting of the All-Russian Surgical Society, then the great man would settle down in a deep armchair in his study. There were no ceiling lights; the only light came from a green-shaded lamp on the desk. Sharik lay on the carpet in the shadows, unable to take his eyes off the horrors that lined the room.
Human brains floated in a disgustingly acrid, murky liquid in glass jars. On his forearms, bared to the elbow, the great man wore red rubber globes as his blunt, slippery fingers delved into the convoluted grey matter. Now and again he would pick up a small glistening knife and calmly slice off a spongey yellow chunk of brain.
‘…“to the banks of the sa-acred Nile…,”’ he hummed quietly, licking his lips as he remembered the gilded auditorium of the Bolshoi Theatre.
It was the time of evening when the central heating was at its warmest. The heat from it floated up to the ceiling, from there dispersing all over the room. In the dog’s fur the warmth wakened the last flea, which had somehow managed to escape Philip Philipovich’s comb. The carpets deadened all sound in the flat. Then, from far away, came the sound of the front door bell.
Zina’s gone out to the cinema, thought the dog, and I suppose we’ll have supper when she gets home. Something tells me that it’s veal chops tonight!
* * *
On the morning of that terrible day Sharik had felt a sense of foreboding, which had made him suddenly break into a howl and he had eaten his breakfast — half a bowl of porridge and yesterday’s mutton-bone — without the least relish. Bored, he went padding up and down the hall, whining at his own reflection. The rest of the morning, after Zina had taken him for his walk along the avenue, passed normally. There were no patients that day as it was Tuesday — a day when as we all know there are no consulting hours. The master was in his study, several large books with coloured pictures spread out in front of him on the desk. It was nearly supper-time. The dog was slightly cheered by the news from the kitchen that the second course tonight was turkey. As he was walking down the passage the dog heard the startling, unexpected noise of Philip Philipovich’s telephone bell ringing. Philip Philipovich picked up the receiver, listened and suddenly became very excited.
‘Excellent,’ he was heard saying, ‘bring it round at once, at once!’
Bustling about, he rang for Zina and ordered supper to be served immediately: ‘Supper! Supper!’
Immediately there was a clatter of plates in the dining-room and Zina ran in, pursued by the voice of Darya Petrovna grumbling that the turkey was not ready yet. Again the dog felt a tremor of anxiety.
I don’t like it when there’s a commotion in the house, he mused… and no sooner had the thought entered his head than the commotion took on an even more disagreeable nature. This was largely due to the appearance of Doctor Bormenthal, who brought with him an evil-smelling trunk and without waiting to remove his coat started heaving it down the corridor into the consultingroom. Philip Philipovich put down his unfinished cup of coffee, which normally he would never do, and ran out to meet Bormenthal, another quite untypical thing for him to do.
‘When did he die?’ he cried.
‘Three hours ago,’ replied Bormenthal, his snow-covered hat still on his head as he unstrapped the trunk.
Who’s died? wondered the dog sullenly and disagreeably as he slunk under the table. I can’t bear it when they dash about the room like that.
‘Out of my way, animal! Hurry, hurry, hurry!’ cried Philip Philipovich.
It seemed to the dog that the master was ringing every bell at once. Zina ran in. ‘Zina! Tell Darya Petrovna to take over the telephone and not to let anybody in. I need you here. Doctor Bormenthal — please hurry!’
I don’t like this, scowled the dog, offended, and wandered off round the apartment. All the bustle, it seemed, was confined to the consulting-room. Zina suddenly appeared in a white coat like a shroud and began running back and forth between the consulting-room and the kitchen.
Isn’t it time I had my supper? They seem to have forgotten about me, thought the dog. He at once received an unpleasant surprise.
‘Don’t give Sharik anything to eat,’ boomed the order from the consulting-room.
‘How am I to keep an eye on him?’
‘Lock him up!’
Sharik was enticed into the bathroom and locked in.
Beasts, thought Sharik as he sat in the semi-darkness of the bathroom. What an outrage… In an odd frame of mind, half resentful, half depressed, he spent about a quarter of an hour in the bathroom. He felt irritated and uneasy.
Right. This means the end of your galoshes tomorrow, Philip Philipovich, he thought. You’ve already had to buy two new pairs. Now you’re going to have to buy another. That’ll teach you to lock up dogs.
Suddenly a violent thought crossed his mind. Instantly and clearly he remembered a scene from his earliest youth -a huge sunny courtyard near the Preobrazhensky Gate, slivers of sunlight reflected in broken bottles, brick-rubble, and a free world of stray dogs.
No, it’s no use. I could never leave this place now. Why pretend? mused the dog, with a sniff. I’ve got used to this life. I’m a gentleman’s dog now, an intelligent being, I’ve tasted better things. Anyhow, what is freedom? Vapour, mirage, fiction… democratic rubbish…
Then the gloom of the bathroom began to frighten him and he howled. Hurling himself at the door, he started scratching it.
Ow-ow…, the noise echoed round the apartment like someone shouting into a barrel.
I’ll tear that owl to pieces again, thought the dog, furious but impotent. Then he felt weak and lay down. When he got up his coat suddenly stood up on end, as he had an eerie feeling that a horrible, wolfish pair of eyes was staring at him from the bath.
In the midst of his agony the door opened. The dog went out, shook himself, and made gloomily for the kitchen, but Zina firmly dragged him by the collar into the consulting-room. The dog felt a sudden chill around his heart.
What do they want me for? he wondered suspiciously. My side has healed up — I don’t get it. Sliding along on his paws over the slippery parquet, he was pulled into the consulting-room. There he was immediately shocked by the unusually brilliant lighting. A white globe on the ceiling shone so brightly that it hurt his eyes. In the white glare stood the high priest, humming through his teeth something about the sacred Nile. The only way of recognising him as Philip Philipovich was a vague smell. His smoothed-back grey hair was hidden under a white cap, making him look as if he were dressed up as a patriarch; the divine figure was all in white and over the white, like a stole, he wore a narrow rubber apron. His hands were in black gloves.
The other doctor was also there. The long table was fully unfolded, a small square box placed beside it on a shining stand.
The dog hated the other doctor more than anyone else and more than ever because of the look in his eyes. Usually frank and bold, they now flickered in all directions to avoid the dog’s eyes. They were watchful, treacherous and in their depths lurked something mean and nasty, even criminal. Scowling at him, the dog slunk into a comer.
‘Collar, Zina,’ said Philip Philipovich softly, ‘only don’t excite him.’
For a moment Zina’s eyes had the same vile look as Bormenthal’s. She walked up to the dog and with obvious treachery, stroked him.
What’re you doing… all three of you? OK, take me if you want me. You ought to be ashamed… If only I knew what you’re going to do to me…
Zina unfastened his collar, the dog shook his head and snorted. Bormenthal rose up in front of him, reeking of that foul, sickening smell.
Ugh, disgusting… wonder why I feel so queer…, thought the dog as he dodged away.
‘Hurry, doctor,’ said Philip Philipovich impatiently. There was a sharp, sweet smell in the air. The doctor, without taking his horrible watchful eyes off the dog slipped his right hand out from behind his back and quickly clamped a pad of damp cotton wool over the dog’s nose. Sharik went dumb, his head spinning a little, but he still managed to jump back. The doctor jumped after him and rapidly smothered his whole muzzle in cotton wool. His breathing stopped, but again the dog jerked himself away. You bastard…, flashed through his mind. Why? And down came the pad again. Then a lake suddenly materialised in the middle of the consulting-room floor. On it was a boat, rowed by a crew of extraordinary pink dogs. The bones in his legs gave way and collapsed.
‘On to the table!’ Philip Philipovich boomed from somewhere in a cheerful voice and the sound disintegrated into orange-coloured streaks. Fear vanished and gave way to joy. For two seconds the dog loved the man he had bitten. Then the whole world turned upside down and he felt a cold but soothing hand on his belly. Then — nothing.
* * *
The dog Sharik lay stretched out on the narrow operating table, his head lolling helplessly against a white oilcloth pillow. His stomach was shaven and now Doctor Bormenthal, breathing heavily, was hurriedly shaving Sharik’s head with clippers that ate through his fur. Philip Philipovich, leaning on the edge of the table, watched the process through his shiny, gold-rimmed spectacles. He spoke urgently:
‘Ivan Arnoldovich, the most vital moment is when I enter the turkish saddle. You must then instantly pass me the gland and start suturing at once. If we have a haemorrhage then we shall lose time and lose the dog. In any case, he hasn’t a chance…’ He was silent, frowning, and gave an ironic look at the dog’s half-closed eye, then added: ‘Do you know, I feel sorry for him. I’ve actually got used to having him around.’
So saying he raised his hands as though calling down a blessing on the unfortunate Sharik’s great sacrificial venture. Bormenthal laid aside the clippers and picked up a razor. He lathered the defenceless little head and started to shave it. The blade scraped across the skin, nicked it and drew blood. Having shaved the head the doctor wiped it with an alcohol swab, then stretched out the dog’s bare stomach and said with a sigh of relief: ‘Ready.’
Zina turned on the tap over the washbasin and Bormenthal hurriedly washed his hands. From a phial Zina poured alcohol over them.
‘May I go, Philip Philipovich?’ she asked, glancing nervously at the dog’s shaven head.
Zina disappeared. Bormenthal busied himself further. He surrounded Shank’s head with tight gauze wadding, which framed the odd sight of a naked canine scalp and a muzzle that by comparison seemed heavily bearded.
The priest stirred. He straightened up, looked at the dog’s head and said: ‘God bless us. Scalpel.’
Bormenthal took a short, broad-bladed knife from the glittering pile on the small table and handed it to the great man. He too then donned a pair of black gloves.
‘Is he asleep?’ asked Philip Philipovich.
‘He’s sleeping nicely.’
Philip Philipovich clenched his teeth, his eyes took on a sharp, piercing glint and with a flourish of his scalpel he made a long, neat incision down the length of Sharik’s belly. The skin parted instantly, spurting blood in several directions. Bormenthal swooped like a vulture, began dabbing Sharik’s wound with swabs of gauze, then gripped its edges with a row of little clamps like sugartongs, and the bleeding stopped. Droplets of sweat oozed from Bormenthal’s forehead. Philip Philipovich made a second incision and again Sharik’s body was pulled apart by hooks, scissors and little clamps. Pink and yellow tissues emerged, oozing with blood. Philip Philipovich turned the scalpel in the wound, then barked: ‘Scissors!’
Like a conjuring trick the instrument materialised in Bormenthal’s hand. Philip Philipovich delved deep and with a few twists he removed the testicles and some dangling attachments from Sharik’s body. Dripping with exertion and excitement Bormenthal leapt to a glass jar and removed from it two more wet, dangling testicles, their short, moist, stringy vesicles dangling like elastic in the hands of the professor and his assistant. The bent needles clicked faintly against the clamps as the new testicles were sewn in place of Sharik’s. The priest drew back from the incision, swabbed it and gave the order:
‘Suture, doctor. At once.’ He turned around and looked at the white clock on the wall.
‘Fourteen minutes,’ grunted Bormenthal through clenched teeth as he pierced the flabby skin with his crooked needle. Both grew as tense as two murderers working against the clock.
‘Scalpel!’ cried Philip Philipovich.
The scalpel seemed to leap into his hand as though of its own accord, at which point Philip Philipovich’s expression grew quite fearsome. Grinding his gold and porcelain bridge-work, in a single stroke he incised a red fillet around Sharik’s head. The scalp, with its shaven hairs, was removed, the skull bone laid bare. Philip Philipovich shouted: ‘Trepan!’
Bormenthal handed him a shining auger. Biting his lips Philip Philipovich began to insert the auger and drill a complete circle of little holes, a centimetre apart, around the top of Sharik’s skull. Each hole took no more than five seconds to drill. Then with a saw of the most curious design he put its point into the first hole and began sawing through the skull as though he were making a lady’s fretwork sewing-basket. The skull shook and squeaked faintly. After three minutes the roof of the dog’s skull was removed.
The dome of Sharik’s brain was now laid bare — grey, threaded with bluish veins and spots of red. Philip Philipovich plunged his scissors between the membranes and eased them apart. Once a thin stream of blood spurted up, almost hitting the professor in the eye and spattering his white cap. Like a tiger Bormenthal pounced in with a tourniquet and squeezed. Sweat streamed down his face, which was growing puffy and mottled. His eyes flicked to and fro from the professor’s hand to the instrument-table. Philip Philipovich was positively awe-inspiring. A hoarse snoring noise came from his nose, his teeth were bared to the gums. He peeled aside layers of cerebral membrane and penetrated deep between the hemispheres of the brain. It was then that Bor-menthal went pale, and seizing Sharik’s breast with one hand he said hoarsely: ‘Pulse falling sharply…’
Philip Philipovich flashed him a savage look, grunted something and delved further still. Bormenthal snapped open a glass ampoule, filled a syringe with the liquid and treacherously injected the dog near his heart.
‘I’m coming to the turkish saddle,’ growled Philip Philipovich. With his slippery, bloodstained gloves he removed Sharik’s greyish-yellow brain from his head. For a second he glanced at Sharik’s muzzle and Bormenthal snapped open a second ampoule of yellow liquid and sucked it into the long syringe.
‘Shall I do it straight into the heart?’ he enquired cautiously.
‘Don’t waste time asking questions!’ roared the professor angrily. ‘He could die five times over while you’re making up your mind. Inject, man! What are you waiting for?’ His face had the look of an inspired robber chieftain.
With a flourish the doctor plunged the needle into the dog’s heart.
‘He’s alive, but only just,’ he whispered timidly.
‘No time to argue whether he’s alive or not,’ hissed the terrible Philip Philipovich. ‘I’m at the saddle. So what if he does die… hell… “…the banks of the sa-acred Nile”… give me the gland.’
Bormenthal handed him a beaker containing a white blob suspended on a thread in some fluid. With one hand (’God, there’s no one like him in all Europe,’ thought Bormenthal) he fished out the dangling blob and with the other hand, using the scissors, he excised a similar blob from deep within the separated cerebral hemispheres. Sharik’s blob he threw on to a plate, the new one he inserted into the brain with a piece of thread. Then his stumpy fingers, now miraculously delicate and sensitive, sewed the amber-coloured thread cunningly into place. After that he removed various stretchers and clamps from the skull, replaced the brain in its bony container, leaned back and said in a much calmer voice:
‘I suppose he’s died?’
‘There’s just a flicker of pulse,’ replied Bormenthal.
‘Give him another shot of adrenalin.’
The professor replaced the membranes over the brain, restored the sawn-off lid to its exact place, pushed the scalp back into position and roared: ‘Suture!’
Five minutes later Bormenthal had sewn up the dog’s head, breaking three needles.
There on the bloodstained pillow lay Sharik’s slack, lifeless muzzle, a circular wound on his tonsured head. Like a satisfied vampire Philip Philipovich finally stepped back, ripped off one glove, shook out of it a cloud of sweat-drenched powder, tore off the other one, threw it on the ground and rang the bell in the wall. Zina appeared in the doorway, looking away to avoid seeing the blood-spattered dog. With chalky hands the great man pulled off his skull-cap and cried:
‘Give me a cigarette, Zina. And then some clean clothes and a bath.’
Laying his chin on the edge of the table he parted the dog’s right eyelids, peered into the obviously moribund eye and said:
‘Well, I’ll be… He’s not dead yet. Still, he’ll die. I feel sorry for the dog, Bormenthal. He was naughty but I couldn’t help liking him.’