It was a hard day's night and through my sleep I heard only one missile attack (they say there were more) followed by the too loud bangs of the legitimate artillery guns fired from the Soviet Army garrison next to the Upper Park. Retaliating for a maverick AlazanALAZAN —
a missile contrivance for destroying hailstorm clouds which was easily converted into artillery weapon in the initial stages of the Karabakh war 1991-1994. missile?
I fell back to sleep and had a loathsome dream of sticking it in but feeling nothing, neither felt she (who?!) and didn't care a pin to conceal her resentment. What was my wrongdoing to be punished by means of so scalping a nightmare?
At noon, I ventured to the Orliana's to take Sahtik and the kids back. Heading downhill, I dropped into the Theater to participate in the referendum on independence for this here country. Sahtik voted on our way back.
(...so, we did it on the road... Anybody saw us?...)
At 3 pm, the so-long-and-eagerly-craven-for event took place in the Chief Editor's office: Maxim signed my job application. Starting tomorrow, I (nominally) am a sidekick reporter at the local newspaper but actually in charge of Armenian-Russian translations because throughout its glorious history The Soviet Karabakh was always bilingual, vernacular issues duplicated in Russian for the Big Brother to check their consistency with the current imperial course. This wise provision allowed me to kiss good-bye my being unemployed and embrace the position of a translator for the following 3 weeks, till January 1, and then (quoting Maxim) – 'as God will dispose'.
After that concluding invocation, I left his office and on my way home paid attention to the noise in the streets.
'You should've seen' a Soviet Army officer said to his mate marching along, 'what mess that Alazan'sALAZAN —
a missile contrivance for destroying hailstorm clouds which was easily converted into artillery weapon in the initial stages of the Karabakh war 1991-1994. made of my hotel room'.
In the next couple of gossips—a half block nearer to our flat—a Russian military officer's wife with a finger-thick mask of makeup responded to her companion, 'Yeah, I agree!' loud and shrill, so as to drive it home to the passers-by how readily she can agree.
From 4 pm till half past 8, I was fixing up a basement compartment in the 5-story apartment block over the crossroad by the Twin Bakeries.
The musty air in the cemented catacombs moved in a busy stir, the buzz of voices, rasping of a hand saw, hammers knocking, men ferrying through the trunk corridor in the basement pails of rubble and litter out of their would-be shelters.
One of the compartments though was overlooked by shelter-seekers. My mother-in-law conveyed the intelligence to Sahtik and, consequently, I was instructed to go and see to it.
I went over and found the mentioned compartment, dark and silent. A flickering match disclosed the mains running loosely along the bare concrete walls. I went home after a glowbulb, attached it to the mains and in its steady light turned about to have a look. The view made me give out a tiny whistle of comprehension. Now, it was clear why no one had staked a claim to the room. Some dreadful lump of work had to be done to carve out a relatively habitable place in that 6 by 6 meter room filled up to the ceiling with heaps of discarded ventilation fragments, boxes, tins, bottles, bits and pieces of all descriptions, earth, masonry blocks, worn-out tires and suchlike whatnots.
The fluffy layers of black dust coated the landscape, cobweb festoons sagged copiously, criss-cross, to bring the picture to utmost perfection... So it was the only compartment to choose from.
(...poor Robinson Crusoe! How could you possibly come to this!...)
After two hours of concentrated efforts all of the sizable objects and things were copulated into each other and stacked up into one half of the room. At that point arrived the reinforcement — our landlord Armo together with his son Arthur, a boy in his late teens, and Romah, the adopted son of a single mother living next door to Armo's house. Normally, they all took refuge in the cellar under the floor in our one-but-spacious room, descending there by steep flight of stairs directly from the yard.
Sahtik rallied them by advertising the advantages of an underground basement shelter where the din of explosions is almost inaudible and where the ceiling is made of reinforced concrete slabs and not of inch-thick planks.
Armo took to shoveling the earth and litter into pails, the rest of us—the two boys and I—were taking it out. By our concentrated shock-work, we freed a place enough for half a dozen cots and a table. Then the women came and swept the concrete floor, hung some blankets and old rags to screen off the trash-store in the other half of the room and it acquired a look of a sufficient war-time shelter.
It's half past 10 pm, all of my family are over there now.
Armo, the landlord, ducked out of moving to the block's basement room because his wife, on her second thoughts, balked at the idea and lined him up into sticking to their accustomed place. Yes, a cellar under the floorboards is not as safe as a shelter in the basement, yet down here she queens over those of her neighbors who, having no cellars of their own, seek refuge in hers. Locking them out altogether is inconceivable in the present situation and equally unthinkable to leave the cellar with her jams and pickles entirely to the neighbors' mercy.
It is a still and starry night outdoors. The muffled chitchat of the shelterers preparing for their night repose is heard from under the scraped floorboards in our one-but-spacious room.
Good night, everybody.