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woke up. There was someone fiddling with the door to the glassed-in veranda.

Not too long ago thieves had murdered an elderly couple wintering in the neighboring vacation colony; a husband and wife. The delicate, light reverberations of the glass sounded ominous to me. I got out of bed and moved aside the window curtains: darkness, blackness.

"Hey, who's there?" I yelled, deepening my voice.

Silence, then again a knock, a rustling...Why did I leave the veranda light on? All of a sudden the glass rang out loudly, and then again and again. What does this fiend have, a diamond?

Why did I come to an empty cottage all by myself, and at the end of February at that! The city, with its nightly slamming of front doors and metal hissing of elevators, was not there to watch over me, and these snowy plains, these winter forests, were a cold and callous expanse. Having abandoned the city with its light, people, and protection, I went to meet misfortune face to face.

In the darkness I groped for my axe and sat back down on my bed; now and again my palm unconsciously touched the cold, wide blade.

It grew quiet out on the veranda. Was the thief waiting for his partner? Did he have a hunch that I was waiting, with an axe in my hands? A killer springs from the silent darkness.

The silence became unbearable and I decided to go and meet my fate. I unlocked the door, and stepped out onto the illuminated veranda, gripping my axe.

There on the floor planks, covered with newly fallen snow, lay a dead bluebird; its wings spread and a lingonberry drop of blood on its beak.


Translated by: Andrew Glikin-Gusinsky

Original Russian text:

see also:
"In the War" by Vasily Grossman
"In the Main Line of Attack" by Vasily Grossman
Biography of Vasily Grossman

ANDREW GLIKIN-GUSINSKY is graduate student in Columbia University's Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures specializing in literary translation. He is an alum of Vassar College.


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