December 6, morning
Starting at midnight, for about two hours I tread, to and fro, the sidewalk—a too lofty term for all the ruts and holes and the crooked tree roots all too ready to trip you by their bulges through the crumbled asphalt—and carried water home with a couple of pails 'cause my missus's in the mind for a cap-tail washing. Up and down.
Down—to the Three Taps beneath the huge bass-relief of comic-tragic masks behind the Theater. Up—back to our kitchen where all the containers in our household waited a-gape to get their fill. In and out.
The dog-eat-dog gunfire kept swelling up in Krkjan—up and down the entire slope—bazooka booms, now and then. To and fro.
At one of my downs, I marked across the road, right opposite to our three windows, silent forms in white garbs contrasting ghostly to the darkness. They lugged a couple of drums, polished metal a-glitter under the lamppost, from the upper in the Twin Bakeries to its twin, 10 meters down the street. Seems like, my mother-in-law's gossip that they've air-lifted by choppers some flour down here came from a reliable source. Up and down.
On the back porch of the Theater, a group of men stood chatting and smoking. An unfriendly, split-up loner descended to the foot of the stairs to have a reefer all to himself. In and out.
Nearing the Three Taps for the damnteenth time, I met a couple of guys staggering in counter-direction. 'Hey, bro,' a husky voice thickly slurred in Russian, 'don't go there. They shoot.'
A split second later, the warning was confirmed by a stray bullet from Krkjan that whipped the crossroad by the Three Taps. 'Oh!' commented the males in the lee of the Theater.
About four in the morning, the town was pervaded by such an incredible calm that Sahtik and my mother-in-law left the Shelter to bring the kids home... The mother-in-law shared the news of a twenty-year-old youth killed tonight in Krkjan fighting.
The same day, evening.
About 11 am, I took Chief for a walk to the central park... A sunny day under the pale blue sky. Motionless waves of the hills snoozing in the late autumn's haze. The empty alleys in the park under the thick rag of fallen leaves—withered, brittle, whispering at each of your steps... The ever-present gunfire—distant, yet strident.
Leaving the park, we met Yuri, a co-owner and part-time attendee in the video games pavilion by the park's entrance stairs, now closed, no customers for digital shooters.
That's an unmistakable small shop-keeper, oriental and plump, all sweet smiles and blissful squints because of being so happy to meet you. A single handshake from his embracing palms—soft and full of immense tenderness—is enough to send your train of thoughts straight to Orgasm Terminal. (What the hell did he get married for?)
After exchanging the custom regards and greetings, he presented me with one more puzzling enigma when bowed down to Chief and kissed his hand for a good-bye...
Chief and I crossed the circle of mighty pines within the ring road of Piatachok and were sauntering up Lenin Street when I noticed Galyo descending in a group of four. He acknowledged me with a wink. Returning from their night shift of shooting in Krkjan, I suppose. Though his pals looked more like peasants than gunmen.
Till August Galyo and I worked at the same state organization, SMU-8, constructing a pipeline in the Mountainous Krabakh, but then big shots from the CPSU Central Committee took power in Moscow. Next morning at work, I handed in the application to fire me by my volition because I don't want work for the state ruled by those clowns. They laughed at the administration, yet conceded. In a couple of days the SCUS putsch in Moscow was put out but I stayed jobless. That's when I started to raise walls of our future house... When the walls were finished and the general situation in Stepanakert grew grim, my mother-in-law advised me to look for a job at the local newspaper, as I was such a book-worm. She and the Head Editor bore the same family names and were from the same village of Harav...
We walked as far as the Corner Shop and at the newsstall by it I bought a Russian copy of the local daily with my maiden rendering on page 4 – a dashy feature by a self-assigned literary critic to trumpet in one-horse-burg style a skinny booklet of patriotic rhymes turned out by a local poet (seated in the next office down the corridor) as the greatest achievement of the poetry alive.
All the day long the crowd, queuing at the Twin Bakeries, buzzed and shrieked just opposite the three windows of our one-but-spacious-room flat.
Already at dusk, Valyo tapped from the sidewalk onto the pane in our communicational window to hand in the jar which I left at the Milk Factory. Full of milk now.
It's five past eight pm and quiet so far.