Dec 312017
 
Soviet Fantasy Tale about a Lenin look-alike who creates an impression that Lenin has arisen from the dead. A translation from a SAMIZDAT short story, SAMIZDAT being underground press.
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Soviet Fantasy Tale about a Lenin look-alike who creates an impression that Lenin has arisen from the dead. A translation from a SAMIZDAT short story, SAMIZDAT being underground press.
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VANYAII.DOC 19930 8022 deflated
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SEDITION OF RECENT TIMES

OR

THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF IVAN CHMOTANOV

PART I

A most unobtrusive passenger traveled on the suburban train, his feet propped up on a leather zippered bag squeezed tightly beneath his heels. This is Vanya Chmotanov. To wit---he, the author of events which shook the entire civilized world in 197-.

The train was enroute to the city of Golokolamsk. There were few passengers. As usual, the had become drowsy, drifting into sleep, awakening and glancing out at the countryside covered with the February snow. Many started when the doors to the car banged open and the conductors entered clicking their ticket punches.

"Your tickets!", said a stout good natured inspector with a wheat colored mustache. The second was emaciated, with a tubercular appearance. He herded a ticket-less lass of about 15 years of age in front of him. She had not been able to get a ticket. The thin one pushed her along with his ticket punch in her back.

A cold chill crept through the passenger's stomachs. A document check for everyone.

Vanya Chmotanov had no ticket. For an instant he was befuddled, but he remembered the may billfolds in his overcoat and was prepared to listen to the indignation of society and pay his kopecks. Suddenly Vanya had an idea. He unzipped the bag, and, glancing into the deep blue eyes of the stout conductor, beckoned with his finger.

The conductor haughtily pursed his lips. Alright, he will take a ruble, but he would not lose his personal dignity...and he bent toward Vanya. Vanya unzipped the cover. On a thick layer of cotton wool, enveloped in the sleep of death lay...a head. The distinctive features of the face were painfully familiar. the beard, the prominent cheekbones, the wide sloping forehead and the wide bald spot. Vanya impudently burst out laughing. the conductor smacked his lips and swayed. For an instant his face turned blue as though from asphyxiation, his cheeks were sprinkled with bristles.

"Now there is a ticket!", he whispered and tapped his nose with his ticket punch. Swaying, the stout one went to meet the skinny one, took him by the shoulder and with a superhuman force, led him from the car.

Vanya zipped up the valise, looked out the window, and gave in to a stream of reminiscence. It seemed as if a hundred years had passed, but it was actually still morning.

In his youth Vanya had studied in a bread baking technical institute. He worked hard, the teachers could not complain. Of course the stipend was not enough, but Vanya somehow managed to make ends meet. Before he received his diploma, Vanya got his practical experience at the Experimental-Demonstration Semiautomatic Bakery named for Uritskij. Unexpectedly he figured out how to better his food situation. Every evening he brought in containers of yeast packed in cardboard cartons. Every morning Vanya carried out under his clothing, a soft, light brown substance crumpled into a large tablet. The warm odor of the yeast enveloped Vanya,m but the watchmen, poisoned by home brew (they brewed it in a small still over a remodeled "WONDER' electric stove in their guard booth), never detected a scent of the stolen product.

Once, the "WONDER" broke down. The watchmen stood by, sober and malicious, and the naive enrichment of Vanya came to an end.

"Somehow you are puffed up like an old woman", said one of the watchmen, poking Vanya in his excessive bust. A dent from his fist remained.

"Muscles! I am a sportsman", Vanya cried out, going cold. But, they ripped his overcoat from him and cleaned out his torn shirt. They found 74 kilograms, 750 grams of yeast and one sweet roll.

The sweet roll aroused special indignation from the court and the spectators.

"It wasn't enough that the accused has stolen the people's yeast", thundered the procurator, "He also wants sweet rolls!". "He doesn't work, but he has a sweet tooth!"..He poked his finger at the sweet roll which had been entered as material evidence.

The judge was astounded by the unseemly resemblance of Vanya to the young Vladimir Ul"yanov. Everyone saw the Tatar-Mongolian shape of the eyes, the cheekbones, the fluffy eyelashes...an astounding image of that great one who followed a different path. Chmotanov could not apologize for this, and no one uttered a word aloud. Vanya was given ten years.

In the camp Vanya passed through his own university.

Every holiday, with Vanya's help, they prepared a living picture. They built a replica of an armored car from pine branches; Vanya was issued an old-fashioned overcoat and cap requisitioned by the KVCh in place of his torn quilted jacket; and he was placed upon the pine branch armored car. He was ordered to stretch out his arm toward the fields and forests beyond the barbed wire. Red calico fluttered, a search light from the nearest guard tower illuminated the inspired face of Vani-Il"ich, and the administration sang the favorite songs of the leader.

The thieves good naturedly, snickered quietly, nudged one another, but after the ceremony, taught Vanya their science. Vanya's barracks mates were aroused to frank admiration by his fingers, long, strong, with almond-shaped, prominent finger nails.

"You will work well, Vanya. With such fingers you could take off someone's belt and put it back and no one would notice."

Vanya was released after serving half of his term, but was again sentenced to three years. he had tried to lift the wallet of a foreign ambassador who was engrossed in Rubleva's performance of "TROITSA" at the Tret"yakov theater.

Thus, on February day in 197-, Vanya was working the queue at GUM where imported suspenders were available, and an enormous crowd had gathered, possessed of one desire; to get to the counter and buy themselves a sky blue pair with shining steel buckles. Vanya lifted 30 wallets and decided to take a lunch break. He dined at length, unhurriedly, on the top floor of the MOSKVA hotel. Later, Vanya left for a stroll and was attracted to a long line stretching from the Alexander Gardens. Chmotanov wandered along, seeking his clients, but the populace moving along were not rich, better to say, they were poor. He moved along the line and worked over a chance-met Balt. He suddenly realized, "I ama too close to the granite cube, I had better not leave now...it would attract unnecessary attention". Mentally cursing himself, Vanya wandered along with the others.

"Wait at the line!"...order the militia sergeant..."Strictly by twos!" "Strictly by twos!". Vanya hesitated..."Exactly like a medical check", he thought.

"Wait to the right!".

At right angles the line turned to the doors of the mausoleum and removed hats. They quietly entered the semi-darkness, cleared their hats, and descended below.

"Don't lag!" "Don't stop!". "Strictly by twos!", the officer with the light blue chevron on his arm warned quietly. Passing through two doors, Vanya ;turned to the right and climbed the stairs. A rosy glow flowed from the glass case; from above a cast iron pyramid towered, echoing the outlines of the mausoleum. The glass sides were decorated with crests and flags of cast iron. Inside in the red light, He lay. Involuntarily the pace of the citizen slowed, but officers silently moved further away from the granite barrier at the wall and hurried over, making signs to one another, raising two fingers.

....He lay there in a dark olive field jacket in that same pose and with that same tired expression; with which death had overtaken him.

"Hurry past!"...muttered the guard.

"No less that twelve are on guard", though Vanya. Ascending the stairs, he noticed curtains and yellow brass doors. Separating himself from the flow, he bounded up the stairs, losing not only the image of Him, but also the feeling he had experienced during the lightning-short visit. Vanya stepped behind the curtains and sopped there unobserved by anyone. He still did not understand how he had managed this. He checked to see if anyone had noticed. They hadn't. Vanya swiftly came out and mingled with the others.

Walking along the Kremlin walls, Vanya realized that an idea had suddenly come to him.

Under the glass lay millions.

"It was in the papers that Rockefeller collected the mummified heads of the prisoners of Buchenwald", mused Vanya..."And he pays hundreds of thousand in cash for them. I could buy a house and garden in the Caucasus and marry Masha. Hundred of thousands for the heads of obscure convicts, millions for the head of the genius leader. They would give at least 40 billion, even 200 billion".

On another day, Vanya approached the building, amazing in it's simplicity of line, but at the same time majestic, behind the door of which lay all the capitals of America and Africa together with the captured. Vanya had on him a knife, a surgical saw, a ;plastic tank of compressed sleeping gas (for which he had paid a large sum at the Minaevsk black market), an excellent selection of skeleton keys for bank operations, an electric mined detector, and that which overseas is called inspiration.

Feeling unusually agile and strong, Chmotanov quietly entered last.

jAn officer turned around to see if anyone remained in the granite lobby. Vanya slipped up to the sarcophagus. The silent guards standing at the corners, as Vanya had notice before, slept, breathing evenly, not blinking an eye. Chmotanov hid behind one of them.

The officer check the seal at the base of the sarcophagus. Like a bobcat, the thief of the century followed him. The duty officer took down the telephone receiver and dialed a number.

"Hello, hello, Zhorik?" "It is I, Shokin. I have completed my rounds. Everything is in order. What, what? How many hairs in his beard: You will be on duty tomorrow, then you can count them. Ha, ha. So long".

Then the officer dialed another number. "Call Ninel' to the phone". "Hello, Ninel'?" "Hello, hello, dear. I am coming to see you my girl. I am calling from work. All is in order. Everyone has gone; I alone remain. To the operetta? That is very nice. Then to your place? I'm on the way. So long".

The officer yawned, and after plugging in the alarm systems, left through the yellow bronze doors.

The guard changed, stamping their feet. The corporal of the guard commanded them quietly.

Midnight passed...one in the morning...two...

"Kos!", said the outer guard. In the dungeon the voice of the soldier thundered as if in a barrel. Chmotanov froze...

"Ah?" replied Kos in a low voice.

"That Shokin is a scoundrel!".

"A scoundrel", agreed the second guard.

"He said, if you skip even one of the political meetings, you will stand exterior guard all winter. You will be on guard, one hour on, one hour off".

"In December I frost bit my nose because of him. I was on guard three hours with only one off. It was minus 30 degrees".

"He loves to do that".

"Ho, ho, ho. Will it be time for the guard change soon?".

"Three quarters of the watch have passed."

At exactly three o'clock in the morning, Chmotanov donned his respirator and turned on his flask of sleeping gas. It hissed into the burial vault. The guards slumber turned into a drugged sleep.

It was a quarter past four...

Chmotanov stood and thought, "I would like to stretch my legs". He climbed up on the sarcophagus pedestal, pulled himself up and approached closer. Then he sprang up and quickly tore off the seal. Having looked over the lock, Vanya gave a short chuckle. Instead of a three tumbler Japanese key bit lock, the thief of the century found a common office desk lock. "They didn't have the money", snickered the plunderer, opening the lock with a pin. He raised the glass up on its hinges, just like the hood of an automobile and climbed ;up on the box. Kneeling alongside Il"ich, Vanya pulled out his saw. Carefully, as though it were a mine, he raised the head from its resting place...and the head came off in his hands. Laying it beside him, Vanya feverishly, as if he were a gold prospector, slipped a hand into the hole covered by the head and discovered something crumpled up. He dragged out a handful of common cork fragments.

"That's how it is"...Vanya said in stunned surprise. His eyes welled up with tears. He grabbed the fingers of the hand as though drowning, and they, as hard and cold as iron, came off, and from the sleeves crushed cork fragments pouted out.

A dreadful anger enveloped Vanya Chmotanov. He glanced absently about...he wanted to smash and break things...with such a forgery they had deceived him.

The striking of the chimes reached him. One half hour remained until the changing of the guard. Vanya wrapped the head in a rag and thrust it into his jacket. Hiding the unnecessary instruments in his clothing, he closed the lid of the sarcophagus.

Grief overcame Vanya. He walked to the dozing guard and shoved him in the stomach with his fist.

"What?", asked the sentinel. He stood at attention, unblinking, looking at Vanya.

"You are serving poorly. Someone visited here before me".

"Yes Sir! Comrade Captain!".

"You will find yourself in for a court martial tomorrow".

"I serve the Soviet Union", hoarsely whispered the guard,
whistling through his nose.

Chmotanov climbed the stairs and quietly pulled open the cold bronze doors. Through a narrow crack Vanya caught sight of the hoarfrost-covered framework of the square; the searchlights were humming. In a patch of shadow stood a sentinel...at ease, almost clicking his heels against each other.

"How do you like that? Standing at ease", thought Vanya with an unexpected malice. "Half past three in the morning...and they are even happy that no one see them" "It's as if they got up just to buy sunflower seeds!".

Vanya took a cap with a large visor from his pocket, pulled it down to his ears and turned up his collar.
*****
...The sentinels were dumfounded. From the darkness sidled an arisen Vladimir Il'ich. Squinting his eyes in the bright light, he looked down with a sidelong glance at the face of the tow-haired soldier, deftly catching his falling carbine: "Be more careful comrade!" "Keep your powder dry".

Il'ich placed the carbine in the numbed hand of the guard; carefully ran his fling along the flat of the bayonet blade, and shook his head.

"In our day, the Red Army took better care of their weapons. Confess old chap, isn't your bayonet rather dull?"

"It is dull, comrade...Vladimir Il'ich", gasped the tow-head. And he momentarily forgot that he had to breathe. His comrade, a dark complexioned youth slowly collapsed, his spine rubbing along the wall.

"Where are your from comrade?", Chmotanov asked of the white-haired one, taking hold of his overcoat lapels and looking at him keenly.

"We are from Vologda", whispered the guard.

"Then you do not like to joke", summarized Lenin..."Then excuse me. And remember...they imperialists also do not like to joke. So, and tell your comrades." Il'ich saluted and walk away briskly along the rostrum toward the Historical Museum.

"Wake up fool!", the blonde guard kicked his partner with his boot. With a groan, that one flickered his eyelids and arose, leaning upon his carbine.

"Did you hear how I spoke hear with Lenin?", asked the Vologodets..."You know his order, guard everything and give it up to no one".

"Will we be reporting this?", groaned the dark complexioned guard.

"To whom? To the Lieutenant? He is self-important enough...I saw Lenin, and what has he done? Let him report to political training".

Chmotanov walked toward the historical museum. Stepping away from the walls, a figure in civilian clothes walked to meet him. He glanced at Chmotanov, opened his mouth...and was stupefied.

"Hello comrade!"...Chmotanov, not taking his hands from his pockets, nodded at the agent and disappeared around the corner.

The agent was rooted to the asphalt..."This is what is has descended to"...flashed in an instant into his boiling brain. "Your can't teach your grandmother to suck eggs, don't drink. Already those from Kuzmich are dreaming".....

Chmotanov passed near Lyubanka, as, far, far away, the chimes sounded the hour of four in the morning.

The simplicity of his crime disappointed Vanya. To what purpose had everything been prepared if his highly refined ingenuity had not been foreseen by the guardians of antiquities.

"It would have been more difficult in Egypt", Vanya reasoned in mortification. "If you were to climb into a pharaoh's tomb...suddenly slam...and a portal would fall shut behind you. And, if you should fall into a labyrinth, you could cry until you are dead."

Full of sorrow and apathy, Vanya left for Golokolamsk to see his widow acquaintance, his true girl friend, Manyasha, there to rest and consider the future. The matter confronting him was difficult and again Chmotanov felt in his soul a kindling of his love for risk and good fortune.

END PART I/PART II TO FOLLOW














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