by Vladimir Vysotsky
presented by
"I hate tugboat men
with a fiery passion,
and drunkenness as well."

Once, (it's a more or less banal beginning, but nonetheless, once) one night...I decided to take a swim in the river. By myself. Not because there was no one to swim with. I just had the urge to go by myself, that's all.

The river (again, its banal, but anyway, the river) had no one in it. It was warm, and the water was calm. There was a shimmer of moonlight on the water, which was very pleasant to swim in. Only about eight meters from the shore there was a row of rafts. A tugboat had brought them in, and the tugboat man set off to booze it up with his buddies on the wharf. He was supposed to have gone further. That was the plan. The further he took them, the more money he earned, but he went off to booze it up. Maybe he hadn't seen his buddies in a while, or perhaps it was just that time. So! He went off to booze it up, and the rafts rocked on the calm water, some eight meters from the short.

I, of course, got undressed (of course completely undressed), dipped my toes in the water and thought, "Those are some rafts! I'll dive under them, find myself a calm spot, swim a bit, take a few breaths, snort, then dive under them again and head home." That's that! Away I go! A few strokes, the strong kind, the anxious kind. It's night, dark and scary. I swim to the surface and - boom! I hit my head on a beam. That means a little further. A few more strokes and again - boom! The situation is not good. I take few more strokes; I'm out of air and some vile voice gently says:

"You're drowning! Oh, you're drowning!"

"The hell I am! You can't get rid of me that easily! Oh, but the oxygen-deprived blood is pounding in my temples!"

I swim towards the surface - another beam! That's it! Death! Why the hell didn't I stay home; instead I came to this river to find my death!? At home they're waiting for me and there's three-star cognac... And here I am dying! In vain for something stupid!

And then, at the very instant before death I thought, "I paddle better with my right, so paddle!" I turned around, pushed away and shot up to the surface like a flying fish, gulped some air, went back down, and did it again! Four times.

So that means I survived.

Since then I don't swim at night. I hate tugboat men with a fiery passion, and drunkenness as well. And I curse the fact that in our dissatisfaction with life we seek some river in the night and not our beds.



Translated by: Andrew Glikin-Gusinsky

Russian text available at: http://www.kulichki.com/vv/proza/ploty.html

Other translations by Andrew Glikin-Gusinsky:

Hey, Driver by Vladimir Vysotsky

In The War by Vasily Grossman

In The Country by Vasily Grossman

The Resident by Vasily Grossman

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