“I wonder you don’t see scores of devils in your dreams!”
-Tchitchikov, trans. D. J. Hogarth
Tchitchikov awoke from the grasp of a dark dream. And what are dreams, but the dull shadows of our living world? They seem extraordinary in comparison to our reality, but I contend otherwise, that they are merely ordinary in comparison to the fantastical nature of our intricate lives. Tchitchikov’s dream was a fantastical one, and an entirely realistic one, as such: he’d dreamt that a candidate for Congressional representative offered him intoxicants and blackmail. Tchitchikov dreamt he was riding the public transportation for the first time in his life, and that a fellow on the bus proceeded for nine minutes to pick at his nose, Tchitchikov kept count. Tchitchikov dreamt that he fell into bed alone, no toes curled at his face, just him and the buzz of his cell phone and the quiet of the hotel room. He dreamt that Selifan had left him. But these were no dreams. These were the harsh silhouettes of reality.
And the reality Tchitchikov dreamed on this Tuesday was as such:
The sun is not out, what time tolls? it is four-thirty, not a time to contact Taber about last night, I must needs get sleep but no, I needn’t sleep right now, the television is on, no more you electronic fiend, let us prepare for the day.
The warmth of a good shower, that is something to comfort, like a warm apple pie as Americans would say, and a nice shave, too, that is doubly important, put on a face to face the day’s faces, oh, look at you, little bit sticking out, gotcha, wait, still not perfect, hold on here you little bastard, there, victory, the shave, step two is complete.
Three, teeth teeth teeth, DAMN, burns every time, mouthwash, have to, when you give cultured words they have to smell as good as they sound, adds an extra ring.
Four, a nice roll of deodorant, important to smell one’s best, can’t help it, damn, I do smell good, only thing better than that smell is the smell of money, perhaps I do smell it too, green like a mowed lawn, the ink fresh, that beautiful, inky, powerful smell on my fingertips.
And then five last … wait.
He’s not here.
Dammit, I don’t want to buy gum, my teeth are nervously chewing in anticipation for Selifan’s damn gum, he never mentioned my pilfering it, just a quick sweetness to start the day, I need that I miss that, the day will not feel rounded, it is not appropriate without a small, meaningless theft.
Taber sent four emails, it’s time to go, no, wait, it’s hardly five thirty and I should wait for a proper hour, but now that I notice, my feet are pacing about, it’s time they left and took me with them, they’re already starting to carry me away, I’ll just go.
They have gum at the concierge desk, not quite the same, not Selifan’s disgusting teaberry sticks, but a regular mint is perhaps preferred, I feel Kingston is following me to the bus, he must have eyes and ears in every state even, I must make this sale to Taber, maybe I can wheedle Whittaker as well.
It is a bus, it is worse than last night, far, far worse, these people, this man with the chipped incisor, wonder why he does not get it fixed, looks like a puzzle piece, there is always the woman with her wailing child, it is the same woman and same child every time, and the smell, there is a smell wafting in from the back, hey fellow drinking the diet soda, how’s the diet going for you? a transfer, into another transfer, I am right, this same woman now has three children, the same wailing child with two more, a boy and girl immersed in cellular distractions, the wailing child must desire a candy or attention or likely both, the smell from the back must linger on me as well, I wonder I should air myself out.
I’m at Taber’s office, it is hardly seven.
They open at nine, but I should be more properly late, fashionably late as Americans would insist, or is that for women? perhaps politics has some sense of fashion to it, there they are, I spy two male citizens walking by Patriarch’s Ponds under this fall sunrise, from this vantage point they are talking something Russian, perhaps about throwing me in front of a trolley, I can see my head rolling about, yes, that is what they are talking about now that I notice, as long as it were quick I would not mind, these thoughts are perhaps incited by hunger but there is nothing suitable nearby, well there is a diner, I fear me the people inside, but I must needs have sustenance, and money is light without Selifan.
The pancakes, they are overly sweet overly buttered, what should I email Taber? I should email for an appointment at ten, apologize, what will the apology say? it could mention a sudden travel, Kingston, suddenly I am nauseous, we are done with these pancakes, we are done with this diner, we are done with this life and this unending pressure.
Should I…? I should, I shall rest myself on a bench, like these commoners, I am suddenly tired, waking up so early has hit me like a ton of bricks so to speak, I shall recover myself here, yes, on this sticky bedewed bench, a handkerchief will help, thankfully that part of my culture shall assist me in keeping—
It is nine, I shall make my appearance, I need to make it to Whittaker today, perhaps nothing from that, but, yes, against my better judgment, I must make my appearance early despite my email, perhaps he shall not notice the smell of bus on me.
Taber seems to have increased his girth since last I met him, the man smells my desperation, it is there before us, I am a piece of meat before him, the lion smells it, and here I am, the putty-man is having his way with me, but I have no choice, I need the money to flee, it is hardly Martinez’ offer, but we shall be happy, we must be happy, we shall square away later this week, this transfer will get me on my way out of here, and I’m out.
These joggers do not realize how hot and difficult this sun is, perhaps it energizes them, insane, but today is a day of insanity, so how appropriate, I shall email Martinez, I should make an entrance in person, but that is not possible, not by a bus, we shall see what comes of this, I hope he maintains his word, a viper’s word, a hiss and sudden bite, but beggars cannot be choosers of the snakes they deal with.
Another bus, that woman must have made her stop, the child is left behind, older now, a teenager awaiting his mother, perhaps when she comes he shall wail again, thank God and Google for cell phones, the brat is entranced, I missed Whittaker’s stop, but I am early, it is post-noon by ten, and I should air out the smell of my desperation, I’m wearing eau de pretty fucked, the walk will help that, it is a brutal day for walking, but we Russians have suffered through Tsars, through war without guns, and through Presidents who are Tsars, a little suffering never hurt the Russian constitution, perhaps Selifan is right, it is the manure fertilizing the Russian soul, among other things it does to it.
Today is a special day of narration for me, I wonder how one suffers life without it.
I smell like outdoors and sun, lunch is in order, another diner, it is cheap, and again, the same not-dead souls in there, I wonder that our dead cast more ballots than the living, perhaps this is a fair service to offer, perhaps I was a herder of the dead in a former life, these pancakes are remarkably worse.
It is nearly time, I should enter a few minutes late but I am instead early, the desk-woman, how I forget her name, she is cold to me, I should try to open her generosity up some.
I should wait then, we shall see where Whittaker is, how strange, he is easy to make my acquaintance today, earlier than three, he seems lighter, mood as if he might start balloon-floating, and he offers a seat, and he offers—
The sentence was announced in a whisper, that is in accordance with the law, well, Russian law, but he told Whittaker, differing party truly doesn’t matter, and it is too late, there is blood in the water and I am too late.
I am to be devoured.
I am endlessly plagued I do not hear what comes at me, nod, just only nod, nod and leave, the interminable—I cannot—interminable droning of my own soul being rent from me, no, being slowly chopped and packaged like headless sardines, I do not miss those wretched salt-things, none of the sea’s majesty belongs in a can, and he is done with his speech, I do not recall a single word, he is asking me something.
Nod. Nod and leave.
We are done here, we are done, I am lost, there is one thing I must do now, I cannot, but I must, I am in deep shit, as the Russian colloquialism goes, I must follow the general’s marching orders, march myself into the tepid Florida sea it seems to me, not a bad way to go, my death would be a cool reprieve from the blistering sun here, what did he say, no, he offered me nothing, he offered me my head or the souls’ votes, I chose them, they are dead, I’d prefer not to be in their ranks if possible, it is now I feel the powerlessness of having no vote, I cannot vote, though maybe dead would be a different story.
I am to be Kingston’s slave, this infernal bus again, drive me to Hell I would appreciate that more, I have no choice, another child wailing, mother indifferent smelling of cleaning sprays, she is bringing both of them to work, hers the cleaning and upkeep of the aristocracy, his the insistent suffering of life, mine the road paved with rich intentions, perhaps that is the lesson here, the lesson is Tchitchikov: fuck or be fucked, the general law of nature.
Tears, away, away, away, away…
March to one’s death, if only it came quick, I see the American preference, we Russians choose as painful a death except over the course of a lifetime, I am a fount of learning today it seems.
I am here, O— is surprised, generous, kindly, points me in the direction, my feet carry me there again, and there she is, the poor girl, unawares of what I must do to her avuncular Fairwell, but I must, it is he or I, these are the decisions these days, Jenna is surprised and ecstatic, her uncle’s goodness is extreme, and so is her vulgar verbosity and curiosity.
Her Andy has attached yet another patch to the denim quilt, this one ironic, “My other car is a consumer donation to a multi-national corporation,” is it ironic, I ask, no, it is not, but here I am, I am a sick man, my bladder is unwell, I am unmoored from a decent bed to stay, they exchange looks, this is too much, too much to say to them.
But—there is something here, there is some blood in the water, they will drag me out of it, sympathy, sharks will abate for a night, there is understanding here, simply—I don’t know—come this way, we shall, indeed, they shall help me for the night.
I am to wait for after-hours, Fairwell exchanges a look, I am not sure, maybe one of pity, certainly one of recognition, he walks bringing another constituent into his office, Jenna offers coffee again, I am sick but wise enough not to tempt more sickness this time, Andy talks to me, he is apparently the third son of a John Deere dealer, his father perished in a tragic landscaping accident, the details of which escape me, Jenna arrives, there is a long day ahead of them.
They train new volunteers, I am watching, this is the verbiage, word for word, of what she tells them, We must fight back, this is toward the end of her speech, Yes, we cannot let Fairwell down, he has not let us down, let us fight for him and for our future!
There is excitement here, they are preparing for a war, or rather they are in the deep stages of one, they will not palliate the infamies of Kingston, maybe I missed something at the fundraiser (I wonder what funds he might have raised!) but here it is, in front of me, the excitement of the people I will have to betray to save my terrible hide from that same Kingston.
They are off, no, they are back and off again, and there are no questions, not many, a well-oiled machine comes to mind, they are at task, these donuts are tasteful, sustenance is necessary, and at a fair price of free as well, this may well be the currency and dreams of these people, free.
It is over, Jenna and Andy guide me onto a bus, that woman and her bitter child seemed to have left for the day, the pair talk briefly, but thankfully they are quiet now, the mind spins, unhappy families find unique ways to unhappiness, these two are happy and alike, only I have found such a unique way toward unhappiness, mind spins and spins, a carousel, but I am further away from ejection of my breakfast and other meals, they jab another meal at me, something homecooked, a soft soft pasta with sauce, it was said a new person appeared: a man with a little dog (a new person? young and stunningly familiar?), but now here it is, a nice, soft, dusty couch, what I have been awaiting, better than a bench, this will suit me rather well, the events of the day—
I must … I must keep him away … I do not see how … how phantoms can always outchase us, maybe there is a way around the inevitable, maybe I can dodge the fate thrust at …
Such was Tchitchikov’s Tuesday.
GO TO CHAPTER SEVEN – NOV. 1