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Огольцов Сергей Николаевич

The Rascally Romance (in a single helluva-long letter about a flicking-short life)

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«The Rascally Romance (in a single helluva-long letter about a flicking-short life)» - Сергей Николаевич Огольцов

Though a first-person story, The Rascally Romance, nonetheless, is not a swaggering report on Me, Myself and The Number One. No, I’m not up for narcistic self-portraits. What? This mean and stupid rascal me? Alas, but not, ‘tis gone, ‘tis gone! So, pray, desist! It’s sooner, a cross-section of the whole generation. The unvarnished Night Watch of the period, if you like, from the most breathtaking, unequaled, and fascinating era since the Creation when so naively young we were. Содержит нецензурную брань.
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Foreword, a sort of

1. Excuses & Apologies

Haunted by crush landings in however modest try at giving fantasy a free rein, aggravated, on top of that, by being all thumbs at spinning yarn, I am cornered and left out any other option but telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In other words, no merry sallies outside the straitjacket of my personal experience. Such, muchly rueful, limitations cancel any hope to ever reach the stardom of the literary conveyer-line celebrities bell-jingling as requested by the bestselling practices at the fantasy, science, thriller, mystery, action—each and every, you name it—twist of fiction in the field… Born to crawl, go and fly a kite.

Still—poor, yet proud—I hereby declare that not anything at all would fit under your skin glib and smoothly, neither would you offhand pull off any fancy whatsoever, like, walking thru the walls and/or over the waters, not to mention the shameful inclination for the unhealthy recreational addiction to sucking strangers’ blood in totally unsanitary environs. (A sigh.)

2. Structure & Texture & Content

Sprung from its lengthened title, the novel goes thru this here Foreword, sort of, to be followed by the epigraph—curt, but to the point—and then flows into the narration of not excessive terseness—4 books, all in all—where some passages might arise reasonable doubts whether my pledge of the forthcoming truth was made in good faith.

So again: my objective is keeping true to life as close as I can. But then, not every truth is met with a warm hug, there’s no guarantee from someone tossing up their back and yelling, “Bullshit! Not a chance of selling that to me!” My most amicable, immediate advice to hard-duty skeptics is to put The Rascally Romance off until they, hopefully, got it that even truth can have, now and then, surprises up its sleeve to make a Holy Cow or 2 moo and moo from envy. And if the truth of this here observation stays dim for some obtuse dunce, then it’s my turn to envy their blest innocence.

The text flow assumed for this work follows the simplistic block style of separate paragraphs, episodes, parts, and books to make reading engagingly easy. At times you come across a little bit deeper aligned stretches started with “(…” and concluded by “…)”, as follows:

(… this here formatting indicates that you are within a footnote raised up into the text body for reader’s convenience while presenting an appropriate comment or tangential point, simple and handy…)

Quotations are served on separate lines offset like this:


“ Shine! Shine on! You! Crazy Diamond!


Last but not least, watch out for the only picture someplace in the text validating that all this is not just another screenplay for one more animation blockbuster and stuff but just as is. If this is not the most ergonomic approach, I don’t know what else can be.

And, yes, my main concern throughout the work was providing adequate fabric to pull over so elegant framework. Stay assured, neither jerky sketches nor psycodelic splotches, nope! I/we/us were/are/and will be pulling for simple machines and leverage lucidity. I mean you don’t have to sharpen your comprehension’s edge by use of this or that dope for following twirly quirks, and fancy whimsicalities, and cerebral-tissue-busting niceties.

Though a first-person story, The Rascally Romance, nonetheless, is not a swaggering report on Me, Myself and The Number One. No, I’m not up for narcistic self-portraits. What? This mean and stupid rascal me? Alas, but not, ‘tis gone, ‘tis gone! So, pray, desist! It’s sooner, a cross-section of the whole generation. The unvarnished Night Watch of the period, if you like, from the most breathtaking, unequaled, and fascinating era since the Creation.

Now, full of bitter comprehension, I witness the glorious period packed, cinched, and sealed, tight and proper, 2 labels, crisscross—«stagnation»><«restructuring»—all ready get dumped into the bottomless bin of Past. Yet, neither smart labeling nor shifty package tricks would ever obscure the fact that the entire history of mankind owns no period to match the one when so naively young we were.

3. Style & Language & Age Restrictions

Sure enough, each and every generation inevitably enjoys or lives thru their own youth, yet some of them miss out to erect an epistolary pillar to mark the fact appropriately.

The erection at hand abides by the style of… mm… How will you name the critter? OK, let’s christen it Rabid Realism because this particular ball is ruled by Mrs. Naked Truth and no soft soap is handed out here to any written or tacit law.

The style is characterized by noble restraint in choice of means, limitlessly so. All’s kept radiantly simple, no need to enroll an online group for joint munching—a chunk a week—to get to juicy innuendos in gnarly concoction by the author along with sniffing out the pans in his pun-kitchen… Not in this case. Firstly, you should be dead to see such honor. Remember that German fellow? The one who unearthed Shakespeare and kicked off the successful ad campaign about his writing skills among his myopic compatriots? He came 200 years after the poor Will’s bones went asleep beneath their tombstone. Dig it? Can you read Shakespeare today? It’s when those eggheads step into picture to collect their flocks of mutts… But while you and I are still around I tried to make of the process of reading an old good DIY entertainment.

And it would be only fair to note that grim-mouthed pearl-clutching language purists might disapprove of absolutely casual taboo words in The Rascally Romance. Fully grasping their venerable point, I would willingly pull along with the sentiment but for the fear to look a petty diddler. In a true-to-life presentation, you just cannot hold back them those words because life, as it is, would differ from a family movie. For which reason, I expressly discourage any person under 18 years of age to read any further.

I am serious: DROP IT RIGHT AWAY, KID! Before it’s too late…

4. Technical Notes & Self-Appraisal

Letters are not supposed to be split into chapters or parts—which technique would only push the addressee towards unnecessary associations— they just flow on and on, and on, to their end. However, leaving Reader without any map or compass midst hundreds upon hundreds of pages in any direction, depriving them of sort of a guiding star or two seems nothing but inhuman sadism. Not my style, eh? Gentlemanly full of caring compassion for humanoid brethren and sistern, I couldn’t suppress kindhearted addition of The Table of Contents to the work.

Though what else could you expect of a fucking philanthropist, eh?.

5. Acknowledgments & Disclaimer

I thank you all, whose names appear in the tale, as well as those who are not in here (you are indefinitely more in numbers and your contribution to The Rascally Romance having been written after all is equally important).

And of no less significance is Your, Dear Reader, tagging along up to this very line. Because any book can only be produced by the collaborative team of 2: the reader and the author. Thank you, I—(dead serious and no horsing)—am hugely honored by Your most kind cooperation.

And now we’ve just reached the point when everyone has to decide for themselves whether to return to their pursuit of customary business and/or pleasures—to all those pet joys, and daily problems alongside with habitual rewards and outlets befitting people of sober good sort, which (between the two of us, as one buddy-teammate to the other) might be the most reasonable course because you never know what insidious vortexes and currents might lurk out there—or keep rowing on ahead, past and beyond the popping buoy of this here Foreword, a sort of…

Whoa! After such a rambling passage I do have to shut up and take a breather, so feel free to use the lull for making your informed decision…

To be frank, it doesn’t matter how randomly or strictly Your cons and pros are scattered for the choice, and stay assured there’s no way to dump the blame on me because of the disclaimer to wind it all up—

*Regardless of which tack you pick, you’ll never be the same hereafter*

~ ~~~ ~



Looks like that’s it,

In any case, as of yet,

And even if not quite,

Still, sort of, may be,

Because when otherwise,

”Hey, you!.“

Bang and – a-ha!.


Vladimir Sherudillo

~ ~ ~ The Birchbark Sketches


…a handful of random sounds…

…some sonorant nothing… as any other name…

At this distance, the river itself is nothing but a discordant growl of water in nonstop tumbling over them those bulky boulders littered at random to block the way, ramming vainly into their blunt pates, maybe temples, to only get split by their huge indifference into maddened spits, and spill around the gobs of splashy froth, and keep rolling forth in unremitting helter-skelter on, and on, and on without ever getting outside the trap of Here and Now, fixed within futile breakout from nowhere to nowhere, under hollow tam-tam taps, not to time neither in key, by the rounded gravel at the bottom of its riverbed…

And what about the fit duration, Doc? Seems like setting it down to infinity plus this one day, would be close enough… Nations been risen and passed away, to quote the famous lecture by sage Abu-Lala before his string of camels, while this river runs here and still has to, thru all those ages upon eons ever since before the beginnings of time.

Changes in the mountain rivers are pretty negligible, except for those in their names. Sure bet, the Stone Age hunters had other sound combinations as for this here stream because all flow and everything changes, handles as well… Now, taking into account the whole multitude of roamers that ever trod these banks, you can’t state who’s runnier: the dateless river of Varanda or irresponsible drifters and purposeful undertakers of any shade and warp in the spectrum.

And here am I, a casual bum from endless series, neither the first nor the last by this omnipresent flow.

…extreme pleasure, bro, from your spectacular malarkey… and while you’re at it how ’bout pinning down this “I” of mine, eh?.

A minor spill, considerably dehydrated and motionless for the moment, stretched next to the good ol’ hole thru which all of the future tumbles away into the past—a relay-pipeline from a snotty noddy kid to a grumpy, flea-bitten curmudgeon, yet both share one common thing: this ubiquitous word of “I”.

…me too, me too!. don’t leave me out!. I’m also somewhere in between them those two, on our everlasting journey from the junior to the senior, for even though idling now on this bank I still go with the flow…


O, water! We be of one blood!


…whoa, man!. what are you up at? acting a freakin smartie?. who cares a flick about your quotation frills at this time of day?.

Yes, time remains the laziest in our assembly, uncaring, has dozed off in earnest about my one-person tent. The twilight outside the well-bleached nylon wall will snail for long along its way to thickening into the dark of night.

…right, then why not to whittle the drag away by something useful, eh?.

…like, to compose the letter promised to your daughter… what’d you say?. we’ve got the promises to keep, remember?. especially when there’s not a flake of chance to fall asleep so early…

…just only watch your mouth, pardner… easy about them those quotations?.

~ ~ ~

Hello, Liliana

(…a hugely nicer name than “Varanda”, eh?.

…shut up and mind your business!.)

Seems, I do start at last the letter promised to you at our encounter in Kiev… What for? To marshal a chain of self-excuses and belated explanations, to claim not guilty, absolve my flawless self?. Anything can be explained, yet none redone. However, given the word was given, I’ve only got to keep it…

Hard it was to stomach your official correctness and the excessive use of “You” in plural to keep me at a proper distance, “Of course, Sehrguey Nikolayevich…” “Not exactly, Sehrguey Nikolayevich…” Oboy! I began to resent my own patronymic, yet faced the flogging without a flinch, as fits a manly man.

Meting out “Daddy” to a stranger popped up from the Internet vistas is not an easy job, more so if he looks nothing like the Mr. Pretty Guy sitting in your Mom’s album… Some obscure mujik, gray hanging beard… Where is Daddy of your dreams who you’ve missed since your early childhood? You dreamed of that Daddy, not of this old man. No, thanks! Accordingly, our farewell hug at the railway station was just put up with—not a big deal for a woman nearing her thirties—and that’s it. The glacial ice retained its hardness, not a micro crevice cracked the cold surface, the gardens never splash in bloom, nor were they filled with lively cheerful chirps of blackbirds, thrushes, tits, and starlings injecting their joyous trills into the triumphant blare of fanfares at The Happy End. The stranger who failed to become anything but a stranger let you go and I promised write you a letter. That way we parted, two strangers, at the Kiev Railway Station for Long-Distance Trains…

Still of the two of us, I’m better off because so more of you are there in my life than you will ever have of me in yours, much more… I easily can recollect your kick at my nose as you turned over within your mother’s belly. As well as that sterile white cocoon in my arms which I walked with all the way from the maternity hospital and you sleeping inside so calmly… Up to this day, the video record in my mind where you’re walk dancing in the string of your kindergarten partners round the Xmas tree warms my heart. The most beautiful kid is you, straight fair hair in a middle bob, a quilted vest of black silk, red pantyhose, and felt black high boots, so tiny…

I remember lonely Sundays—not a living sole but us—at the empty playgrounds of another kindergarten in the neighborhood, forlorn and quiet on days-off, which we frequented for you to take a ride on the swing pended on two iron rods. At swaying, the swing screeches pierced the still somnolence about the playgrounds strewn with the fallen leaves. Those shrieks, so like to sorrowful gull howls, gripped my heart. Because I was just a weekend Daddy… On weekdays I was far away, working like a dog, a mule, a slave at The Construction Train 615, aka SMP-615, at various building sites in the neighbor region to earn by zealous, selfless labor an apartment for our young family, and have a home, sweet home for us….

Then there arrived that weekend doomsnight and, in the narrow bedroom divvied up by your grandparents from their 3-room apartment to give a start to our young family, laying on the hand-me-down double bed next to my beloved wife, your mother, I was crushed into pulp by the road roller of her story… A couple of days before the weekend, a friend of hers took my wife for a ride in his Volga GAZ-24, drove miles away from the city to the Hare Pines Forest alongside the Moscow highway, which he left and parked among the trees… He leaned to her side to take from the glove compartment, just over her knees, a bottle of champagne… a mellow tune poured suavely from the radio in the dashboard whose soft demi-light assisted in stripping the foil off the cork… She sipped a bit and sadly said, “Please, take me home.” And he obediently started the motor…

The whispered briefing on the unswerving chastity of my wife dried up sunk into deafening silence tolls. Stretched on my back, spread-eagled under the suffocating mass of the walls toppling in a mute avalanche, I had only one thing to hold on—your innocent breathing somehow reaching me from your cot in the narrow corner. The air felt dense and oddly liquid, the inhales left some oily, stale aftertaste. Mighty severe grip squeezed my heart and, to withstand the pressure, it turned into a hard flintstone. The only good news that the mucky, pitch-black darkness empathically hid the odd icy teardrop which rolled out of the corner of my eye and crept so soundlessly slow down my temple to get lost midst the hair roots… the last tear in my life… Later on, that trail was deepened by wrinkles digging over the temple skin surface but never again no other tear left my eye in any direction. Except for the tears wrung out by high winds but those do not count.

(…back to the usual dull drool, sissy wimp?. of topple-tumbling lumps of hopes to squash the poor weakling against the anvil of his own heart which happened petrified, safe and proper, and in good time too?.

…be a man, buddy, and seek solace in simple truths, whose simplicity makes them so peerlessly unrivaled in their inevitable surety… and the truth is that no busting your balls at construction sites, no sunburns or frostbites will remove or postpone the pending next time, where she won’t say, “Let’s don’t,” and start instead to catch the trick of having it in the environs of the GAZ-24 interior…

…or else this one for your consideration, undisputed because of its simplicity: the most vivid recollections of the delights past can’t fetch the joy back, yet just a speck of mopish memory flits by and – bang! the pain, suppressed, ditched, gone ages ago, pops up afresh to bite you meanly… it makes you wince even here, by the unknown river running through the middle of nowhere, thousands of kilometers away from the crumpled bedroom, after millions of instances of passing the ubiquitous relay baton of “I” from one I on to the next one…

…I tell you what, my dear I… heal yourself with the same dog’s hair… got bitten by a simple truth, eh?. peen it with as simple a tool!. bust the bugger with the wedging edge of a wider grammatical approach, proceed from “I” to “we”… who are we after all?. some shaved and powdered or greasy, bristly, shaggy (whichever is dictated by current fashion trend) cartload of shifty primates… each jumping member must abide by the group’s rules and no trick will ever get you off the hook… ignorance of a law serves no excuse, nor gives a chance to dodge its application to you, right?. now then, comfort yourself with this simple truth, wipe up your mawkish slobber and wait if it’ll dissolve that nasty clutch on your balls core, maybe…

…oh, shut up, man!. such stuff is not for female tender ears… hmm… seems, like, I’d better give it a start over…)

~ ~ ~

Hello, sweetheart

Though our brief live meeting did not bring you to calling me “Dad”, I can’t help being sentimental addressing you…

The day before yesterday in the late afternoon, executing the plan shared in my latest email, I climbed the heights in the neighborhood of the ghost village of Skhtorashen to pay a call on the local immortal—two-thousand-year-old Plane tree, the oldest denizen of the Mountainous Karabakh.

The walk along the scorched ruts in a desolate dirt road winding up the slope would be a pleasure but for the oppressive August heat and my eyes kept unwarranted scanning the steep ahead to pick out the signs of the water-spring asserted by all who had ever visited the place.

Most springs in the Mountainous Karabakh are supplemented with the water-managing structure traditionally made up of a retaining stone wall carved into the slope to protect a 5-6 meter long trough of roughly hewed stone slabs, the other wall (short, just to befit the trough’s width) meets the longer one at the right (and only) corner and is rigged with a stub of iron pipe stuck out from its middle above the trough butt. The softly lapping stream of cool clear water runs from the pipe to fill the stone bowl embedded in the wall for thirsty cupless people, and falls from it into the knee-deep trough for cattle and other animals to drink. Brimming up the trough, the water flows over its left end and moseys meandering down the slope.

However, the water-spring by the giant tree was uncustomary flipped, with the water running in reverse—from left to right. And one more surprise by the backward spring, inability to quench my thirst which, all along the climb started at the roadside diner by the turn to the town of Karmir-Bazaar, prodded me on with the alluring visions of gently bubbling current, but no… Because I ran into a mahtagh.

(… the two most frequently used and thrilling with their depth and beauty bywords in Armenian are:

1. tsahvyd tahnym; and

2. mahtagh ahnym.

Of which the first means, “I’d haul your pain”. Literally. Just 2 words, yet what abysmal, unfathomable profoundness!.

As for the second pair, it make a vow of doing sacrifice—mahtagh. Normally, they do a mahtagh as the confirmation of happy outcome. For instance, when a dear relative was dangerously ill, yet recovered or, say, survived a car jump down a gorge, then it’s high time to do a mahtagh for which end any variety of domestic animals can be slain and offered as a sacrifice reflecting the bypassed danger’s dread, as well as the prosperity of the person in charge of mahtagh-doing.

The sacrificial flesh must be shared among the relatives and neighbors to which they would proclaim the traditional felicitating formula, “Let the offer be accepted,” or else it's not a mahtagh. Still and all, the mahtagh’s being edible is not the point; you may do it even with a second-hand outfit, donating a pair of worn-out but still sturdy jeans to some poverty-stricken wretch. Giving is the essence of mahtagh, some kind of offering to be registered by the unseen, unknown forces that are in control of fate, aka chance, aka fortune…

It does not take exorbitant IQ to figure out, that sacrifice to so murky figures calls into question the omnipotence of Acting Gods from leading religions in this best of worlds. However, the reverent religions have long since checked and learned from their bitter experience what hopeless waste of efforts is straining to eradicate certain pigheaded customs that still have a pull among the irresponsible segments in their respective congregations, a hell of a lot of an uphill job to get just a fig if any, so they wisely turn their blind eye to jumping over the fires built on the shortest summer night or round dances designed for seeing the winter off, or mahtaghs and other suchlike activities. What can’t be cured must be endured. Dammit!

Unrestricted repetition would dull anything and any, however profound, byword would turn a gutted fat-chewing stripped of poesy, beauty, meaning:

Tsahvyd tahnym (I’d haul your pain), how’s ’bout paying for the potatoes? Forgot?!.

Mahtagh ahnym (a sacrificial offering on me), 2 secs before I gave you 6 a-hundred-drahm coins! Check in your pocket.

Tsahvyd tahnym (I’d haul your pain), I stick here since morning, there are handfuls of those coins in my pockets.

Mahtagh ahnym (a sacrificial offering on me), I’m not paying twice for the same potatoes. Don’t wet your whistle too oft when trading.

In the bazaar of Stepanakert, the capital of Mountainous Karabakh, even at a hassle, folks maintain correct, as well as deeply poetic, stance…)

As it was said, a long cool drink from the so-much-longed-for water-spring was not my lot that day, because in the shade of the giant patriarch of a tree there was a huge mahtagh-doing in full swing around two rows of tables for a hundred of participants, and from the thick of the festivity there came a loud yell, “Mr. Ogoltsoff!” And presently my arm got grabbed gently, yet irresistibly, by a burly gray-haired mujik who led me up to a young stout woman sitting at the head of the females’ table. “You were teaching us! Do you remember me? Who am I?” (…well, anyway, she was taught the word “Mister”, but what, on earth, could her name be?.)

“Are you ‘Ahnoosh’?”

My wild guess ignited general delight and tender pride, wow! their Ahnoosh was still remembered by her name among the teaching staff at the local State University. And her father, the principle mahtagh-doer, never loosening his firm welcome clutch, steered me to a vacant place at the far end of males’ table, where they immediately replaced a used plate and fork, brought a clean glass and a fresh bottle of tutovka, while the toastmaster was already rising upon his feet with another speech about parental love and university diplomas…

The Karabakh tutovka (hooch distilled from Mulberry berries) by its lethal force stands on a par both with “ruff” (a fifty-to-fifty mixture of vodka and beer) and “northern lights” (medicine alcohol mixed with champagne to the same proportion). I mean, such a product calls for a duly substantial snack rejecting the principles of veganism, whereas on the rich festive table only bread and watermelons could actually pass a strict vegetarian control. Nonetheless, to uphold virility of vegans, I bravely gulped tutovka down after each toast speech and my dinner companion on the right, named Nelson Stepanian (a double namesake of that hero pilot fighter in the Great Patriotic War), took pains to swiftly refill my glass, hiding a hooligan smirk in his sky-blue squint…

And then I was not up to no Planes… I just picked up my haversack bundled with the tent and sleeping bag, and barged away across the slope to find some quiet secluded place, and there, swaying, yet closely attending the process, I rigged up the one-person Made-in-China synthetic tent.

The residual shreds of verticality and blurred self-control were spent for reeling to a nearby Oak tree to take a leak behind its mighty trunk… The turnabout and the very first step towards the erected tent pushed me back and smashed against the bumpy Oak bole… Limp and unresisting, I slid along the crannied bark down to the tree roots and, completely spent, curdled there… The consciousness twilight thickened sooner than the upcoming twilight of the night. The dim modicum of closing horizon circle swerved pitilessly, a surge of overwhelming sickness rolled up to squeeze me, I rolled onto my side and, balancing on the unsteady elbow, honked over a gnarly bulging root, then fell back into the hard sharp quirks of bark bumping against the back of my head.

Do fish get seasick?.

~ ~ ~

In the dead of night, its harsh chill woke me. Recovering the ability of upright walking was a knotty task but, eventually, I tacked up to the tent, adding on the way my feeble, yet heart-felt part to the grisly howls, and satanic laughter of jackal packs in their uproar over the nearby slopes.

That was the first night to bring it up for me that certain nights are not easily dealt with, you have to clamber through them to survive till next morning. Terrified by the sharp ruthless claws ratcheting my chest, I lay as low as I could and waited for the dawn as for salvation. It came at last but brought no relief, and though my weak piteous moans were of no help at all, I didn’t have it in me to withhold them—everything was wrung away by the excruciating sickness.

Yet, if I somehow lived through the night (it started to shakily shape in my mind), then this here Cosmos still needs me for some purpose. My first task was to regain myself, assemble me back… The inventory revealed a shortage of the upper denture. I plodded along to the Oak, sat on my haunches and dumbly poked with a twig the shallow puddle of stiff vomit between the roots. Not there… The goodnight hurl was so forceful that the prosthesis leaped half-meter farther off from the puddle for a safe sleepover on the pad of moss; the jackals needed nothing of the kind with their teeth all there, and divers other gluttonous riffraff of the woods were not attracted by the piece of plastic for twenty thousand drahms…

All that day saw me sprawled under the tree by the tent. I was only able to creep along with the slow progress of the tree’s shade like a sloppy woodlouse in the gnomon‘s shadow on sundial disk… “Don’t drink yourself drunk” is a truly sage adage, yet, as once upon a time I tried to drive it home to someone, my brake system entertains a rather peculiar standpoint on this particular subject…

And that same day it became crystal clear that the proximity of the arboreal long-liver was leaving no room for the serene repose and dreamy leisure of untroubled mind… The distant buzz of mahtagh feasts replacing each other under the Plane (although not every one was bringing a KAMAZ-truckload of tables for the activity), as well as cows wandering by to and from the water-spring supervised by their teenage shepherds all too eager for communication with prostrate strangers, and occasional passers-by either on foot or horseback gaping from the overly nigh trail at the alien lilac tint of the tent’s synthetic, on top of killing hangover, forcibly emphasized the need to find a better spot for my annual taking flight to the hills…

That’s why, only this morning, after filling my plastic bottle with the spring water for the trek ahead, I observed the tree closely for a report to you. Indeed, one millennium is not enough to grow as big as that. The lower branches of the giant reach the size of century-old trees. The bulky trunk, carrying that bunch of a grove, has a passage-like cleft in its base to admit the stream of water running from the spring (which, probably, has a say in Plane’s longevity), and even a horseman can ride into if ducking low in the saddle…

I also entered the tree and found myself in a damp murky cave illuminated by the dim daylight oozing in through the entrance and the opposite exit from the deep shade under the tree outside. It felt humid and uncomfortable in there. Several flat stones were strewn at random over the boggy ground of the floor to serve besmeared footholds. The sizable barbecue box of roughly welded sheet-iron stuck its rusty rebar-rod legs deep in the quaggy soil a little off the center of the cavity, uneven layers of wax drippings and innumerate melted taper ends well nigh filled the whole box. The dismal damp settings made you long for a soon acquittal, revving up back into the clear morning.

So, out I went to collect my things and, with a farewell glance at the glorious Plane, I pooh-poohed in a mute disgust at all those ugly knife marks left by self-immortalizers always ready to add their memes and esoteric symbols to any landmark which the assholes can only put their hands on.

The oldest of the mark-scars had crept, tagging along with the bark, up to some six meters above the ground. Cut a couple of centuries ago, the upper marks got blurred and distended by the inaudible flow of time into obscure, unreadable, contours over the uneven ripples in the gray bark that pulled the labor lost up, into inevitable oblivion…

~ ~ ~

I didn’t go back retracing the route which two days earlier brought me to the famous tree. Instead, my intention was to follow the ridge of the toombs (so in Karabakh they call the rounded mountains stretching in wavy chains, under the blanket of grass and woods, to tell them from giant lehrs pricking the sky with their raw rocky tors of peaks) by which stratagem I would bypass climbing all the way down to the valley of Karmir-Bazaar and trudging back up the highway to the pass in the vicinity of the Sarushen village.

That’s why I took a well nigh indiscernible trail tilting up the steep to the right. I did not know whether my plan was feasible at all but if there’s a trail it would eventually bring you someplace, right? And I walked on along it, inhaling sweet fragrance from the infinite varieties of mountain verdure, admiring the fixed waves of merrily green toombs flooded with the sunshine, looking forward to the delight from the breathtaking vistas which would unfurl from atop the ridge…

And it turned out just so—a view surpassing the most dainty epithets by Bunin-and-Turgenev as well as the subtlest brush strokes in Ayvazovsky-and-Sarian’s pictures—and, against that terrific background, the trail flowed into a narrow road coming up from nowhere to the next toomb from whose wood, there were descending, dwindled to specks by the distance, a couple of horses, two men, and a dog.

We met in ten minutes. The horses dragged three-to-four-meter-long trunks of young trees cinched with their thicker ends onto the backs of beasts of burden; the loose tops, peeled of the bark already, kept scratching and sweeping the scorched stony road. Two boys and a dog escorted the firewood for keeping their homes warm next winter…

Entering the wood, I met another party of loggers; they were three horses, and three men, and no dog. We exchanged greetings and I asked if there was a way to reach Sarushen if moving from top to top in the chain of toombs.

The woodchopper in a red shirt sun-bleached by the decade it weathered—a well match to the drum-tight skin in his face presenting his skull structure in detail—replied he been heard of such a trail but never tried himself, and that after another three hundred meters I would meet a one-eyed old man cutting wood up there, who should certainly know. I walked as far as I was told to, then another three or five hundred meters, but never heard an ax; the old man was, probably, enjoying a snack break combined with a good smoke and sound nap…

Before reaching the top of the toomb, the road split into multiple paths. I picked the one of a more promising width but soon it just gave out as if it never was there at all. A pathless mountain wood stood around where you can’t walk without grabbing at the tree trunks—trunkhanging, a thoroughly tiresome recreational activity, it must be confessed. I omitted climbing the summit in an attempt to outflank it while looking for a passage to the following toomb in the ridge.

Suddenly, there cropped up the feeling of some odd change. The sounds of summer wood died away, the daylight dimmed into a weird twilight dissolving the sunlit patches between the bushes and on the tree trunks. What’s up, man? A flash-mob of clouds in the sky?

It took a couple of puzzled looks around to get it—instead of lofty giants interspersing diverse undergrowth I was surrounded by frequent trunks of peers whose crowns interlocked at four to five meters above the ground into a dense mass of foliage impenetrable for the sun, and it was their joint shade that gave the air that grim uncanny touch.

Something made me look back and eye-contact the beastly intent stare… A jackal? Dog? … ah, none… look at this brush of a tail… a fox no doubt… or maybe a vixen… and surely a young one, never met hunters yet…

“Hi, Fox. I’m not Prince. I am not young. Go your way.”

I moved on, dodging the long web-threads, bypassing and sometimes scrambling through the prickly brier; the fox followed. Who invented the bullshit as if animals cannot withstand your fixed look and have to turn their eyes away? Faking quack!.

And so went we on. Occasionally, I addressed him with one or another conversational clue but he never picked gossip. At one point, I took off my haversack and opened it to angle and throw him a piece of bread.

At first, he didn’t seem to know how to approach it but then wolfed the treat down, and quite efficiently too, keeping me all the time under his most vigilant surveillance. Considering the donor for a potential prey? Easy, schemer, we don’t need no hurry… And only when between the trees ahead there stretched a sunlit clearing, he began to cast evasive looks behind himself and soon blend into the woodwork. Fare thee well, Young Fox from the young forest…

I went out into the clearing to realize that I had almost completed a rough circle about the summit never finding the passage over to the next toomb. A couple of decayed roofs peeped from under the distant cliffs. Enough was enough, fed up with the search for an imaginary trail running along the ridge, I switched over to looking for a way to reach the ghost village of Skhtorashen.

The steep footpath soon showed up and brought me to an abandoned orchard of hulking Mulberry trees from where I proceeded to the village spring of delicious water superior to that back by the long-liver Plane.

Then I walked the thirty-meter-long street of two or three houses lost under the crashing overgrowth of blackberry bushes. The cobblestoned street cut abruptly replaced by a barely discernible trail tilting down the slope which faced the Karmir-Bazaar valley.

(… the village of Skhtorashen was deserted before the Karabakh war, that’s why the houses were not burned down and though barred by blackberry still keep their rotten roofs up.

The village, like many others, got killed by the dimwit decision of the Soviet Leadership on the Resettlement of Population from High Mountainous Areas to lower places. The USSR, over its seventies by that time, was sinking into senile dotage because political systems tend to follow the life circle of man, their creator.

Servile authorities of the then Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region, along with the like polities in other Caucasian regions obeyed loose-brain Big Brother’s injunction and finished off more than one village.

I mean, with all due respect to septuagenarians I’d rather skip entering their venerable funny club… )

On the way down the slope, like an incurable bolshie, I made two more attempts at finding at least a minor shortcut, yet both deviations were blocked by deep gorges and sheer cliffs, so the highway met me exactly where I left it two days before, near “The Old Plane Diner”.

(… gently is a docile kid led ahead by fate, while stubborn brats are dragged along gripped at their forelock to unavoidably get to their destination… )

After several turns in the smooth serpentine, the highway took a beeline to the pass out from the outspread valley of Karmir-Bazaar.

Up the tilted roadside I trudged along through the repulsive yet somehow fetching stench of the sun-thawed asphalt. Panting, sweating, plodding ahead, I had to move the haversack straps to different positions over my shoulders more and more often, ridiculously often, but all the same at any place after a few steps they dug into the flesh anew and hurt to the very bone. The salt of sweat ate into the eyes that ceased their joyous frisking around to catch a beautiful view or 2, the dull weary gaze crawled along the coarse asphalt under the worn army boots stomping my shadow, which began to gradually grow longer. And yet, at times my eyes took the liberty of casting wishful glances uphill seeking some shady tree nearby the highway, though I knew perfectly well there was not a single such one all the way up to the pass top.

Once or twice, I left the asphalt to slacken thirst with blackberries from the bushes below the road shoulder, looks like this year we’re facing the blackberry crop failure or else it was the stretch of barren bushes ‘cause I hate to be a bearer of bad tidings… And again my heavy boots were tramping uphill along the steady tilt…

~ ~ ~

To obtain and develop your skills at clairvoyance, don’t look for a better coach than mountains… So, when the endless straight ascend of the highway reached the pass top to transform from that point on into horizontal bends and twists dictated by the relief of the toombs outside the valley left behind, I could predict with an awesome degree of accuracy that half an hour later the already indiscernible (if watched from this here position) speck of a pedestrian, this here me, would be taking the indiscernible turn to disappear over the farthermost slope of that distant toomb and, after ten-to-fifteen-minute walk, before reaching the Sarushen village, I would fork off the highway to follow the dirt road tilting to the bottom of the Varanda River valley. And there it would be really nice, with lots of shade under the trees, and the spring of cool water running from the rocky river bank…

All happened exactly as foretold, and when the dirt road brought down to the shallow ford across the gravel-filled riverbed before the sharp rise to the village of Sarkissashen, I split and went along the river bank through the live tunnel passing over a Hazel thicket to come out into the wide expanse of an unusually level field stretched matching the foot of the steep toomb on the opposite bank.

Try to imagine a football field put almost straight-up, and overgrown with broad-leaf wood up to the very top of that wheeling stadium. Because the steep is so rampant, the tree crowns do not screen each other but climb higher and higher in succeeding rows, each crown sending forth the shimmer of its own—a little bit different—shade of green. Can you imagine this daydream? If so, then you can easily see me too down on this riverbank, stretched on my back under a huge Walnut tree, on the thick mat of moldered foliage from the years past—brittle, soft, dried out.

Here am I to enjoy the orgy of the upward stream of green running over the toomb across the river, and relish the deep blue of the sky above, and admire the canopy of broad Walnut leaves sun-bathing in the soft breeze over my head.

Ho-ho! It’s damn good to be alive, sprawling like this, thinking thoughts of this or that, or of nothing at all. The only jarring note is the absence of anyone who I could share all this surrounding beauty with… whoops! Forget, cut this one out… I’ve got used since long that the moments of the like delight only happen when there’s no one around… Yet, it’s never overmuch to make sure you keep your megalomania in check, tight and proper, and no seemingly harmless thoughts are taken for granted, like, the more space is forked out to a single person, the higher is their position…

Once upon a time, I was flipping thru a discarded relic of a glossy magazine in German. The feature article inside was all about a certain Hoheit Herzog, the owner of a giant chemical concern. In short, he’s one of those Highnesses keeping aloof from the political rat races for they’ve left that petty sport to presidents, prime ministers, contesting parties und so weiter, yet the slightest turns of rudder within their enterprises are of the most decisive import for the political course of Germany.

The article was full of eye-candies around the Herzog's close-up against the backdrop of his personal backyard park—a crashing vast scope of trimmed grass interspersed with old well-groomed trees and the couple of the blond-lock cupids of his grand kids playing toy bows between the trees next to his left earlobe.

His forefathers, wandering Jew paddlers, hauled consumer goods from as far as China itself to trade with feudal dukes, and barons, and any other titled medieval bandits. Gentile barbarians paid the sidelocked Shylocks with all sorts of base abuse. And now he’s the upper dog, the monarch of a wealthy industrial kingdom. Yet, is he happy? Looked doubtful to me considering Herr Herzog's facial expression smack-bang in the middle of that paid-for-by-humilated-ancestry-and-fully-deserved-by-his-own-merits park of his…

OK, but leaving in peace all them those royals, what about me? Am I happy here, lying on my side beneath the arboreal awning, enjoying whiffs of the soft breeze cooled by the river stream, with all this hell of a lot of space for me and me alone?

Some huge domain, indeed, this field under the thigh-deep rank grass, spiked-mace-like bluish spherical thorns peeping here and there, and that grand Camelot-toomb over the stream, as tall as the residential towers bulking up alongside the highway between Kiev and the Borispol Airport. What else would you ask for to feel appropriately happy, eh?

A pretty interesting question if you come to think of it. Alas, no looking-glass in my haversack to knock out a self-diagnosis from the smart expression of my silly mug…

~ ~ ~

This empyrean grabbed my attention six years ago when the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh—newly independent, self-proclaimed, and never recognized by the world at large avoiding pain in the ass except for this or that Mayor Hall scattered in different states and hemispheres—arranged sort of a Pioneer tent camp in this spot for school kids of Stepanakert.

That time Sahtic worked there thru all the camp sessions, back-to-back. My modest proposal to leave our dearest scions to my fatherly care and custody was, quite predictably, scoffed at… not that I pressed for it too much, just making the suggestion was a self-evident token of my good will, right? That’s why Ahshaut and Emma had to while away the whole summer by their mother’s side, all the three sessions, back-to-back, in the camp platoons befitting their respective age and gender.

The eldest child in the family, Ruzanna, after passing the university exams for her sophomore year, joined them there and picked up the job of self-styled Pioneer Leader. Which position, of course, was made obsolete by the collapse of the Soviet Union leaving alive pioneers only in old movies produced by the Soviet cinematography, but… well, yes, if Ruzanna wants something, I am ready to impart my solace to the relatives of any force major inadvertently popping up in her way… So, she became the Pioneer Leader for everybody at the camp, never paid for doing the job but she didn’t care.

After a couple of weeks spent home alone, I got bored stiff by the goddamn mum evenings about our house, and one late afternoon I left the city in the direction of the Sarushen village. On the way, I bought a pack of cookies and some candies from a petty shop in the town outskirts. (By that time in my life I grew wise enough to realize that the joy of seeing Daddy needs a proper follow-up, the sweeter the better.) Hitchhiking, I traveled 20+ km to the village and at dark reached the camp.

Just about the same spot where I am lying now, there stood the folding canvas stool of Camp Director, Shahvarsh, on which no one ever dared get seated except him, kinda local species of the frigging Coronation Boulder in Scotland. And on the broad trunk of this Walnut tree, even then lightning-split already, there hung a single bright lamp, fed by the generator whirring softly from behind the trunk, the light spilled into the black darkness revealed two long tables of sheet-iron lined head-to-head by the field edge, long narrow benches of the same chilly material were dug in the ground on both sides of each table. Solid black silhouettes of two squat pyramids of army squad-tents bulked in the dark field: one for all the girls at the camp, the other for the boys and Gym Teacher. A little to the left there stood a six-person tent of Caretakers. The formation was concluded by a two-person tent for Camp Director Shahvarsh and his wife, who also embraced the positions of Cook and Paramedic. Deeper in the field, some thirty meters to the right from the tents, a tame campfire was licking lazily with quiet tongues of flame the end of a sizable log—a tree-trunk, actually—cleared of boughs and propelled, as needed, into the gleaming embers of the burned down wood…

All of Camp Caretakers were, naturally, teachers from the city schools, for whom the solitary lamp light was enough to identify me and call Sahtic. Ruzanna came running after. They both were glad to see me, though with a trace of inner strain in Sahtic, prepared to knock off any funny stuff of mine were it not in line with the local customs conceived, shaped and ground for survival ends by quite a few millennia of use.

It was a hard day’s night so I didn’t feel like horsing about any fundamental values and just behaved. Obediently sat I down onto the cold iron by the iron table hosting the camp dinner in progress, humbly and appreciatively accepted a plate of gruel, a spoon, a slice of bread. And I even ventured a bite off that bread though it certainly was no match for plastic teeth, concealing the rock-hard piece beneath the plate rim, I concentrated on the oatmeal.

(…How come that ‘pioneer’ camp, a make-believe keepsake from the happy Soviet times, occurred in the state whose Minister of Education confessed, in a fit of openness, that his Ministry cannot even buy a football for School 8?

Most likely, there happened a target grant from Diaspora Armenians who end summer would be treated to a yummy account full of genuine brimming glee: “Thanks to the $40,000 of your generous donation, all the schoolchildren of the Stepanakert City, the capital of the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh, were provided with the unique opportunity to enjoy…”)

The progress of the started report to hypothetical donors from presumed grant-rippers was cut short by the happy tweets of Emma snuggling to my side.

I fondly stroke her straight hair and the narrow back of a preschool child, asked empty questions which she responded and asked me back. “And where’s Ahshaut? D’you know?”

She pointed at the far end of the following table where the light from the lamp dissolved and mingled with the night around. Ahshaut sat there, forgetful of the meal, in gaping admiration at the high school teenagers who towered about him in raucous cackling of their nonstop rookery… I took the package out from the pocket of my summer jacket and passed it to Emma asking to share the sweets with her brother. She wary moseyed off fading in the dark around the hotly racketing diner at the cold iron table…

Then there was a dinner for adults. Camp Caretakers, all of them females recruited from among the city school teachers, decorously drank wine. Gym Teacher, Camp Director, the precinct policeman from a nearby village, and I kept manly guzzling shots of the traditional tutovka hooch. For a snack, we had some small fry, banged in the river with an electric discharge from the power generator borrowed for the purpose from the camp by the precinct policeman earlier in the day. The electrocuted catch was fried then by Cook, aka Paramedic, aka Camp Director’s wife…

A group of teenagers approached the table to petition Shahvarsh for his permission to have some dancing that night to which he graciously decreed a half-hour delay for the lights-out in the camp. Meanwhile, I asked Ruzanna about Ahshaut. She answered that he was already sleeping in the boys' tent and volunteered to fetch him, but I said, “No, don’t disturb.”

The teenagers gathered by the campfire and danced to the music from the loudspeaker box hanging from the tree next to the lamppost Walnut. At first, it seemed rather strange that all of them danced with their backs to the feast of seniors at the sheet-iron table, but then I cracked it: everyone danced with their personal shadow cast off, immense and springy, by the lamplight into the night field. Then Camp Director announced it was enough, switched the generator off, and retired to his royal double tent…

Some of the camping teenagers sneaked, in twos and threes, to squat by the quietly glowing log to tickle each other to uncontrollable grunts, and cackles, and fits of laughter by the invariable jests stuck on top of hit lists since the Stone Age or get scared dead with spooky stories as old as the hills, deep into small hours, under kindly supervision of Caretakers—their school teachers—taking turns in the night shift.

I stayed there till one o’clock before agreeing to go and sleep on a vacant camp-cot in the boys’ tent, leaving Sahtic to do her turn by the fire, because I had to walk away at six in the morning so as to catch the bus to Stepanakert…

Years later, I asked Ahshaut why he never came up to me that night. He answered that about my visit he was told only the following day after I had already left the camp. To my question about the biscuits and candies, he responded with an uninformed shrug… I don’t blame Emma. At the age of six, to nip on the sly a pack of biscuits which turned up amid that camp rations is the most normal manifestation of healthy selfishness. Yet poor Ahshaut! How does it feel to grow up knowing—even though that knowledge since long has been buried away and securely forgotten it still remains there—that your father did not want to come up to you? From all of the family, it’s only you that your father did not want to come up to…

Well, let bygones be bygones or, quoting the byword voiced daily by the latest of my mothers-in-law, Emma Arshakovna, “That’s life, man…”

~ ~ ~

Eeewwwww!. Who let them icky blues creep into this hugely luxurious place for me alone?. To hell all the nostalgic mopey crap! It’s time for a little knock-up exercising legitimate rights of a hooligan in the forest…

Bypassing thickets on the steep slope, I explore the underwood along the field edge, pulling a broken bough here, a dead sapling there onto the desolate cow path. After advancing in that manner some two hundred meters, I turn about and go back picking up the firewood scattered over the path. With an ample armful of fuel, I come back to the former campsite, then re-track to fetch another bundle; and one more. That’s that.

The next step is breaking brushwood for the fire to process “pioneers’ fav’rite food-ood-ood”, as a sometime jolly Soviet song baptized baked potatoes. Which piece of work I had to do by bare hands equipped not even with a knife. At times the fact of my hiking unarmed astounds people, and they start to pour forth their stock of horror stories about hungry wolves and cruel robbers. As it stands, in all my annual escapes to the wilderness, I’ve only seen deer and foxes, and a couple of times bear steps, but no robbers ever bothered to ambush me in the toombs.

The only but ever present inconvenience is getting jumpy at close unidentified shrieks in the night forest, still I’m not sure if the possession of a loaded AK would improve symptoms. Yes, once I got attacked indeed, while spending the night under a bush nearby the Mekdishen village in my sleeping bag additionally wrapped into a piece of blue synthetic burlap. (The shoddy crap drenches thru in the rain before you say “knife”, but that had happened before 2000 when I got this Made-in-China tent.)

It was about midnight, when two wolfhounds, escorting a belated horseman, ran into me nestled under that bush. Damn! What a hell of barking broke loose over my head! Their master arrived at the scene with his flashlight and was stunned by the unseen sight in his native quarters, yet the blue bundle yelled from under the bush that it was a tourist from Stepanakert and let him call back his bloody beasts.

The mujik started the all too familiar hooey about wolves, for which I was not in the mood and just retorted curtly that after his gumprs nothing would ever scare me anymore…

And at the sleepover upon the Dizzuppaht, which is the third highest mountain in Karabakh, half an hour after me there climbed up a party of guys from the Halo Trust. So is named the international organization headquartered in Great Britain, who finance and teach techniques of mine clearance to the natives of hot spots at war all over the globe because different conflicting sides have the same nasty habit of setting up lots of minefields to kill as many people from the opposite side in the conflict as possible. The side effect is genocidal decimation of animal populations—both wild life and domesticated—the poor creatures, as a rule, are fully unaware of the areal political situation. We are responsible for who we housebreak. (…whom?. Hmm… I’m not a Sir Winston Churchill, man…)

Now, the local sappers (instructed by native Britons) climbed the Dizzuppaht on their off-duty time at night closing in after a day in the field to perform a pleading mahtagh, because atop that mountain, from time immemorial, there stood a stone chapel which you should walk around, thrice, for your request to get approved by the authorities of fate.

The Halo Trust guys, naturally, did not come empty-handed, they brought a rooster with them for the sacrificial offering. But because of the somewhat impromptu nature of their mahtagh-doing, they missed to bring a knife along and were expressly disappointed to learn that neither had I… Yet, the resourceful fellas on-the-fly invented a novel technique and chopped the bird’s head off with the piece of a broken bottle collected from the heap of garbage solicitously piled up by all the previous mahtagh-doers…

It’s only that year when I climbed the second highest (and clean completely) peak in the region, the Keers, I had an imitation of a Swiss army knife, a present from Nick Wagner. It had a whole bunch of things in its handle: a fork, a corkscrew, and even a nail file. I can’t remember where I misplaced it afterward.

But, however long were I patting myself on the back, the region’s peak number one remains beyond the peacock tail of my vagrant achievements. The front line of the unfinished war between Armenians and Azerbaijanis runs across that mountain. So, if not one side, then the other wouldn’t let me pass up or they’d just bang from both sides synchronously.

The point is that manual breaking of dry branches is not a big deal, and before long I readied up two sizable heaps of fuel for the fire. With the first one burned up, the unpeeled (so is the recipe) potatoes are buried in the hot ashes and the finalizing heap goes in the fire restarted upon them. But not right now, first, I have to put the tent up; the sun already gone behind this wheeling football field of a toomb, the dusk begins to slowly creep in from over the river…

(…in every human there sits a pyromaniac…


“and then the pyromaniacs partook of pies with Pirosmani”


Looks like a half-baked jaw-breaker, eh?…then, gradually, a creepy disjunctive question crawls in: was Pirosmani among the banqueters or, after all, inside the pies, turned into toothsome filling?.)

Luckily, I was not able to break this long thick bough when crushing the firewood and now, so as not to set the field and all ablaze, I systematically use it to kill the fugitive spillovers of lively flames. When the bonfire gets bounded by the black ring of burnt grass, the club-armed sentry becomes an idle onlooker considering the merry dance of fire atop the piled wood pieces while the club transforms into a staff to lean my locomotion apparatus onto…

And what do you see in the rollicking tongues of flame or in the sedate embers scintillation?

(…we were a seed, then a germ, then buds, then branches…)

Now, turning the staff into a poker, I rake their smoldering reminiscences, push them aside to open a hole for a dozen potatoes—dinner and breakfast, 2 in 1… The fire eats wood, I eat potatoes, mosquitoes eat me…

(…who do not eat, they do not live. Even considerate and prissy crystals devour space when growing.

But no one can ever eat up time because it does not exist at all. Time is nothing but a red-herring for distraction of innocent suckers. What they call “time” is just a series of different states of space. Some place sunlit from the left is morning, the same place sunlit from the right is evening. As simple as that. Day as a unit of time? Bullshit! Day is just the difference between two states of space. An apple adds to an apple to make a pair of them and not a unit of time, damn!.

Oh, sorry!. There, there! Don’t be afraid, sweetheart, gray wolves gone to their forest, no loose ends, all’s under a strict control…

Well, yes, it’s no use denying that space and time, when brought up, make me a bit spacey, quite a very tiny little bit, not noticeable, almost, especially if you don’t watch too closely. Yet, a brush in passing with that sweet couple and—ta-dah!—a short circuit sizzle and I’m emitting some folly accomplished. Kinda reincarnation of that crackpot God's fool, Vasily the Blessed, only cocked up by more earthly matters.

Still and all, I am not a violent case. Not in the least! I swear! And both Devil and God, (alphabetically) might absolutely safely attest that in the course of seizure no one gets harmed in any way because the hooey I pour forth is quite enough to tangle myself completely and—voilà!—here am I, the same submissive genteel yahoo, ready to carry on whatever they see fit to load onto the beast of burden…)



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