One business had ended, another began.
  January 25, 2004

(by Andrei Platonov; translated from the Russian by A. Baylin)

There lived in the village of Yendovischi a man called Yorik.  Young he was, but strong and big.  Had no woman and would sneeze occasionally for some reason.

In the whole wide world there was no man merrier than Yorik; his soul never grieved, his heart never rued.  To this world he was a right good fit.

Men would walk down the street and meet Yorik walking towards them, sneezing.

“Now looky at him twisting up yonder,” the men would say.  “The airs must get stuck afore his soul entrances.  Can't get no breathe-in, he.”

“Yes, must be.  How the sneezum rips ’im, goll-lee!”

“Such a sorcerous man is he.”

Yorik, he just loved to breathe, loved any old air, and sneezed for fun.  In everything he smelt joy, and responded to everything.

He did a great many things: tilled the earth, thought, walked in the fields and counted clouds.  Come night he returned to the village and groped girls.  Yorik believed neither in God nor in the enemy.  “All belongs to man,” he pondered, “and there's no end to this earth.  What I want, without fail I shall do.  Will make sorrow if I want to, will make joy if I want to.”

And Yorik did do many things indeed and was a goodly fellow, although he lived without a woman, like a loon, and danced when the church bells rang before service.

Once the enemy of the race of man came to him and said: “Wanna learn how to put people together from clay?”

“All right,” said Yorik.

“What'll you give me?”

“A wicker shoe.”

“What else?”

“Heh, what else?  Take the dipper, the galoshes, the skirt…  I won't leave you empty, never fear.”

“All right then,” said the enemy and taught Yorik how to put people together from clay, from soil and from various muck, if you mix them with spit.

Yorik made a whole host of people and sent them all over the belly of the earth to look for its four ends.  So the enemy's and Yorik's children scattered and vanished: not a word, not a peep.  And Yorik forgot about them, and started a new business: had him the idea to break through the sky and stick his head in the hole, check up on God—is he there, or is he hiding?

Once more he would walk in the field underneath the clouds and think his thoughts: why is the world so good though there's nothing good in it and all the matters are known?  At night the sky gets closer and from it, stars—snake eyes—are watching.  In the evening, girls' tits swell up and their eyes drip tears.

And why do their eyes look like lakes that have skies passing foglike at the bottom?  Witches and hags say the saints got more stars in their eyes than the heavens.

A witch, that blockhead—only got one star in her eye; but she's kinder than the entire beastly abyss overhead.

Yorik was a pal to other men; they felt the human in one another and didn't mind living like orphans, alone in their village lacking the whole world.  Each house looks out at the sky and the sky, it looks out at the whole world.  On a quiet night, one can hear all the voices, the people of the earth hailing one another.

A rumor spread: that the enemy's children have appeared from somewhere and are turning inside out the belly of the earth, bowels up and kidneys up; that they're showing all the inside filth for free, to beguile and comfort everyone.  That they have renounced both God and the enemy of the race of man, and got ahead of them, and conspired to upturn the world and show everybody that it is but filth and farce…  That we need to build another earth ourselves anew.

At that Yorik and the other folk sneered; for God and the enemy have been pals and associates since long ago, and hell and heaven always echo each other.  Even though the enemy's children conspired their venture, they weren't like the enemy at all—perhaps worse, or perhaps better.

On Yegoriev Day, a breach opened in the sky.  A mocking naked head peeked out of it, then vanished.

“Well, hell, damn the darn dee!” laughed the good folk.

In the evening, the girls circled in the round dance and sang over the pond until midnight came.  They wanted suitors from afar, not the local guys with their peepers all delirious.

Not five days later, the sky broke down and the earth burst open.  Filth and slops poured from all sides.  Everybody saw what the world was and mocked it.

The end of the world came in fun and joy.  The earth and the sky turned out to be filth and muck; no one needed them anymore.  Yorik's host had wrought a fine mess.

Over the night everything had disappeared, and people found themselves close to one another, and were left forever alone.

Shepherds came back empty-handed and blew into their flutes.  One business had ended, another began.

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