Я переводчик, и всю жизнь работала с чужими текстами. Авторы этих текстов были самые разные: студенты, бабушки, научные сотрудники, служащие, предприниматели. Почти каждый текст был интересен и по-своему талантлив. В конце концов, года три-четыре назад, я решила попробовать что-нибудь написать и сама. Поскольку я люблю краткость, мне ближе всего формат рассказа. Поскольку мы все родом из детства — оно всегда так или иначе всегда присутствует в моих рассказах. Благодаря этому конкурсу я смогла выступить одновременно и в роли автора, и в роли переводчика. Потрясающий опыт.
I’m a translator, and I’ve been always dealing with somebody else’s texts. Those texts were authored by the most diverse people: students, grannies, office workers, businessmen, researchers… Almost every text was special and unique, some of them were marked by strong individuality and talent. Three or four years ago I finally decided to start writing my own texts. I appreciate brevity, so I started to write short stories. As childhood is the happiest time for most of us, my stories are often triggered by recollections of those days. This competition offered me a great opportunity to be at the same time an author and a translator. Inspiring experience, I must say.
It was a bright April day, sunny and joyful, so that young and old alike went into the streets, as if it was weekend. Yulka has been struggling for quite a while with mathematical problem, although cheerful chorus of voices coming from the street, along with the dinging of bicycles, complicated the task.
Zhuk, still, was lying on his mat in the corner of the room. He put his muzzle on his legs and fixed his sad eyes on Yulka — three days ago he was run over by a car, while crossing the street. The driver hit the brake almost in time, but cannot avoid hitting the dog’s body. Dad, along with Yulia, took Zhuk to the veterinary, who examined the dog and told them that Zhuk will likely recover soon. ʻIt seems,ʼ said the vet, ʻthat the blow was not too damagingʼ. He recommended to keep an eye on the dog for several days, not to worry if he eats too little or doesn’t eat at all, and to walk him as usual…
Yulia sighed once more and tried to concentrate on the statement of the problem.
ʻAhoy, Yulia, come outdoors!ʼ arrived suddenly her friend’s voice from the street.
Yulka looked out of the window of her second floor and saw Lariska standing downstairs, with her head thrown back. When Yulia appeared at the window, Lariska waved her hand and joyfully repeated, ʻCome on, go out!ʼ
Without moving from the window, Yulia turned her head, glanced back on her dog, who was sadly curled up on the mat, looked out of the window again and shouted to Lariska, ʻOk, coming!..ʼ
ʻZhuk, come on, walk!ʼ called Yulka her friend and rushed to the hall, to put her outwear. Zhuk, short-legged, chubby, a mongrel between dachshund and some unknown breed, rose slowly from his mat and dragged himself to the hall, following Yulka. The girl grabbed her jacket, pulled it on hastily, took the dog in her arms, slammed the door and rushed downstairs, jumping over steps.
When she threw the main entrance door open and appeared on the stoop, the sun sparked into her eyes, and din and buzz, and ringing of bicycles deafened her, and she breathed in the inebriant spring air.
ʻLook, Zhuk, such a splendor here, and we, locked up at home?!..ʼ she said to the dog, and put him on the ground. The dog trotted, unhurried, on his short legs to the nearest shrub. And Yulka approached her friend, Larisa.
At the same moment Kolka, on his brand new bicycle, reached the girls.
ʻWhen are they going to buy you a bicycle?ʼ he asked Yulka.
ʻI don’t know,ʼ she answered. ʻMom said, if I finish the year with good marks, they would buy it. But I got problems with math.ʼ
ʻGet on board,ʼ offered Kolka. Yulka accepted the proposal immediately. They drove around the big apartment building a couple of times. Zhuk initially followed them, trotting and barking, then, tired, lagged behind and, finally, sat at the kerb, waiting for his mistress.
Then Kolka drove off, and Yulka and Lariska stayed for a while. They played hopscotch and skipping rope, and Zhuk was sitting beside and barking, when Yulka got entangled.
The time had just flown by. Dusk was falling. It was time to go back home — the unsolved math problem was awaiting. Yulka sighed, almost open her mouth to say ʻByeʼ, when Lariska suddenly proposed, ʻCome to my place, just for five minutes — I have homemade lemonade in the fridge.ʼ
ʻI can’t,ʼ answered Yulka, ʻI have a math problem to solve.ʼ
ʻWhat’s the problem,ʼ Lariska replied, ʻI solved it, and I will show you the solution.ʼ
Yulka hesitated just for a moment, more to justify herself, and then said resolutely, ʻOk, let’s go.ʼ
When they reached Lariska’s main entrance door, the last in their five-storey apartment building, Lariska said, ʻWell, you know, you’ll have to leave your dog here, downstairs. My mom would not allow him to the apartment, she hates dogs.ʼ
ʻWhere should I leave him?ʼ asked Yulka, surprised. ʻZhuk will be worried, besides, he was run over by a car recently…ʼ
ʻWhy should he be worried?ʼ asked Lariska naively. ʻOnly five minutes: you’ll look over solution of your math problem, drink your lemonade and then come back home.ʼ
Yulka nodded and, as they entered the main entrance, tied up Zhuk’s leash to the door handle, ordered him ʻSitʼ, and went up the stairs, to Lariska’s apartment.
They rang the doorbell, and Lariska’s mother opened the door. She was wearing light-coloured satin dressing gown, and rollers in her hair.
ʻAh, Yulie, is that you? Come in!ʼ she said cheerfully, as if she was waiting for Yulia all day long.
Yulia was surprised: although their families were living in the same building, she made friendship with Larisa only several weeks ago, and has never been to Larisa’s before. The girls passed by to Lariska’s room, Lariska opened her exercise book and started to explain Yulia the solution. Larisa’s mother brought lemonade in tall glasses, asked Yulia a few questions about her school progress, about her mom and dad, and then exited the room.
The problem turned out not to be very difficult, so they had not to spend much time on it. Then Lariska brought her family album, to show the pictures taken last summer during their vacation at sea. Yulka had nothing to do, but accept the proposal. While they were leafing through the pages of the album, Lariska’s mother came in again and invited them to the kitchen, to have some tea and pasties. Yulka tried to decline her invitation, pleading that she needs to go home, but Lariska took her by the hand and brought to the kitchen. They were having tea, chatting and laughing, when suddenly the doorbell rang. Yulka stopped in the middle of the sentence, silence fell in the kitchen. Yulka’s mother voice came from the hall. Yulka jumped to her feet and rushed to the hall. Mama cast a disdainful glance at her — Yulka chilled.
ʻI’ll talk to you later, when we are home,ʼ said mama in a low voice, pursed her lips and left Lariska’s flat briskly.
When they came downstairs, Zhuk was not there. Yulka cast a glance at the front door, and asked her mom guiltily, ʻWhere is Zhuk?ʼ
ʻIt’s me, who should ask you this question, where is your dog?ʼ mama replied. ʻAnd why should I run over the whole neighborhood, trying to retrieve you?ʼ she continued.
ʻI only dropped in Lariska’s for five minutes,ʼ tried Yulka to justify herself, ʻI struggled so hard with the math problem, and Lariska said…ʼ
ʻGet used to use your own brain, instead of looking for ready answers,ʼ said mama angrily. ʻAnd to care a little bit about those who are living side-by-side with you, who depends on you. Zhuk does not feel good, and you abandoned him, and went away…ʼ
Yulka dragged behind mama, her head hanging limply. She had nothing to say to her mom, she felt totally ashamed.
ʻIt’s all right,ʼ she thought, ʻI will walk Zhuk tomorrow, and everything will be OK. And I’ll beg mom’s pardon. Not now, later, when she stops being angry with meʼ.
The evening was sad: mama almost didn’t talk to Yulka, and dad kept angry silence. As for Zhuk, he squatted down in his corner, sighing heavily from time to time.
That night Yulka had a dream: she saw their yard, Lariska’s mother with rollers in her hair, bicycles, pasties… And a door handle, with Zhuk’s leash twisted around it. The door was slowly opening, with horrible squeak, and diffused light could be seen behind it…
Yulka woke up. Bright April sun was shining, and sparrows were merrily twittering on the branches of big acacia behind her window. Then mama entered her room, approached Yulka’s bed and caressed her daughter’s hair. ʻZhuk!ʼ flashed the thought across Yulka’s mind. She interrogatively looked at her mom, anxious. ʻHe died, your Zhuk,ʼ said mama in a low voice. Yulka hided her face in the pillow and burst out crying.
 Colloquial form of Yulia (Julia).
 Colloquial form of Nikolai, or Kolia (Nick).
 One of the most popular teens’ bike in the Soviet Union in 1950–1980.
 Pet’s name, literally ʻbeetleʼ.