автограф
     пускай с моею мордою
   печатных книжек нет,
  вот эта подпись гордая
есть мой автопортрет

Stepanakert
                   Saga

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рукописи не горят!.. ...в интернете ...   

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    days:

December 6, morning.

Starting at about midnight for an hour and a half I was treading to and fro the sidewalk—much too generous a term for all the ruts and holes and the crooked tree roots bulging through the crumbled asphalt—carrying with two pails lots of water home 'cause my missus's gonna do capital washing.

Up and down.

Down—to Three Taps, the sculpture decorated water-spring running through three faucets behind the Theater.

Up—back to our kitchen where household vessels of all descriptions awaiting a-gape to get their brimming.

In and out.

Dog-eat-dog gunfire kept swelling up in Krkjan—up and down the hill's brow—with bazooka booms now and then.

To and fro.

At one of my goes I discerned across the road – opposite to the three windows of our one-but-spacey-room flat – white garbed figures, in ghostly contrast to the darkness, lugging some gleaming drums from the upper Twin Bakeries to the other.

So, my mother-in-law's gossip of some flour air-lifted down here by helicopters was from a reliable source.

Up and down.

On the back porch of the Theater, a group of men stood chatting and smoking.

A maverick smoker descended to the stairs bottom to have a joint all to himself.

In and out.

Approaching Three Taps for the damnteenth time, I encountered two staggering guys.

'Hey, brother,' a husky voice slurred in thick Russian, 'don't go there. They shoot.'

In a split second the caution was upheld by a stray bullet from Krkjan whipping the road at Three Taps.

'Oh!' commented the males in the lee of the Theater.

About four in the morning, such an incredible calm pervaded the town that Sahtik and my mother-in-law ventured to bring the kids home from Shelter.

The mother-in-law shared the news of a twenty-year-old youth got killed fighting in Krkjan this night.

The same day, evening.

>

About 11a.m.I took Chief for a walk to the central park.

A sunny day with a pale blue sky. Motionless waves of the hills napping in the late autumn's haze.

The park empty alleys strewn with fallen leaves—dry and brittle—huskily whispering under your steps.

The ever-present gunfire—distant, but steadily distinct.

Leaving the park, we met Yuri, a co-owner and part-time attendee in the video games pavilion (now closed) at the park's entrance stairs.

An unmistakable small shop-keeper, oriental and plump, all sweet smiles and blissfully squeezing his eyelids with joy at meeting you.

One handshake from his embracing palms—so 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?)

On exchanging habitual greetings and regards, he puzzled me with one more enigma when bowed down to Chief and kissed his hand for a good-bye.

Chief and I crossed the grove in Piatachok Square and were sauntering up the Lenin Street when I made out Galyo coming down in a group of four. He acknowledged me with a wink. Returning from their night shift of shooting in Krkjan, I suppose. Though his comrades looked more like peasants than gunmen.

We ascended as far as Corner Shop and at the nearby stall I bought a Russian copy of the local daily with my maiden rendering on page 4 – a dashy feature in one horse burg style by a self-assigned literary critic trumpeting a mousey booklet of a local poet's patriotic rhymes the greatest achievement of the poetry alive.

All the day long the crowd, queuing at Twin Bakeries, buzzed away just opposite the three windows of our one-but-spacey-room flat.

At dusk Valyo tapped from the sidewalk onto the communicational window pane to hand in the jar I had left at Milk Factory. Filled up with milk.

Now, it's five past eight and quiet.

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