Crossroads. Chapters 2 and 3


The first experience of a collision with an “inaccuracy” Ilya received at the age of twelve. He calculated the amount of gunpowder needed to send the steel ball he received from the disassembled bearing to a distance of forty meters - just before the plate with the inscription "ANNO-1933" attached in the center of the facade above the windows of the second floor of a neighboring wooden house. The “Krysyatnik” was the two-storey barrack, painted many years ago in green, called the residents of the five-story building, on the last floor of which Ilya and his parents lived.

Over the manufacture of his weapon - a copper pipe, rolled on one side, with a drilled little hole at this edge to ignite gunpowder, Ilya worked for several days and had already shot him in an abandoned park on the outskirts of Riga.

He exchanged gunpowder from his classmate Pasha Kononov for two belyash, which were supposed to be in Ilyushkin's thin stomach, but the powder was more important than the dough fried in boiling oil with aromatic spices soaked in spices and stuffed inside. The whites were deliciously prepared by Azerbaijanis in the local market, located exactly halfway from school to home. Belyashi was a pity, moreover, the overweight Kononov did not spare the transaction partner who swallowed saliva and devoured the first of the two right in front of the inventor who did not have time to move away from the place of exchange.

A bag of powder, burdening his hand, outweighed physiological experiences, and Illya almost ran to the shed in the yard of his house, where, wrapped in a rag, lay a copper tube and steel balls. Gunpowder Pashka stole from his father, a hunter, whom he helped to equip cartridges with small fractions for ducks and canister for boars. but the fraction to bring Ilya Pashka refused. It seemed to him that gunpowder was somehow not very dangerous, but a fraction was almost a bullet. Therefore, the bearing balls, which were much easier to get, became the tool of Ilyushkin's crime.

Parents came home from work not earlier than seven o'clock in the evening, so belyashi, ten kopecks a piece, were the best way out for not straining to wait for dinner. It was lazy to warm up what mom left him for lunch every day. But hunger is not an aunt, and this time Illya turned on the gas and warmed the soup in a saucepan, ate it with a piece of white bread and immediately went to work.

He screwed a vise to the window sill and clamped a tube with a prepared charge in them, all according to the instructions: gunpowder, polyethylene notebook cover gasket, ball, cardboard gasket, felt wad, cut from an old felt boot, and put it on the “rat-warmer” wall. The people there lived a poor drinker, and frequent loud scandals, an unpleasant musty smell from their porch, and often a rat that slipped into the basement, reinforced the offensive nickname of the barrack.

The shot was precisely verified by a young man, but by his twelve years he was a very experienced experimenter, an almost round excellent pupil, the best in class in physics and mathematics. He measured the distance with a folding wooden meter with accuracy, as it seemed to him, practically laboratory. I calculated, taking into account the weight of the "projectile" and that measure of gunpowder, which was exactly enough to cover the distance of forty meters to the intended target - the plates "ANNO-1933", denoting the year of construction of this two-story structure.

But Illya did not know that one smart guy by the name of Riemann revised the fundamentals of another smart guy's theory, Euclid, and added a bit of curvature to his straightforward world. These guys lived a long time ago, but the contradictions of their prehistoric theories had a fatal effect on Ilyushkin’s shot in the modern, so understandable, real, three-dimensional space, limited in this particular case by the target in the form of a wooden plate with traces of once brilliant four digits.

Gunpowder ignited from a sulfuric matchstick that was brought to the hole drilled in the tube, and a ball flying from a copper barrel flew in an arc of forty meters and ... five centimeters. Having struck at the very bottom of the plate, the ball broke the glass in the window of the second floor at the end, producing a scandalous ringing sound of flying glass fragments. Five centimeters, the error is small, but ... At the moment, there was a man near the glass destroyed by Ilyushkin in his room - Arkady Nesterenko. He kept a White Sea Canal cigarette in his mouth, and the unexpectedly broken window did not make him throw it out, smoked only to the middle.

Arkady Nesterenko was wearing a faded blue jersey and green pajama pants. On the eve he was sixty-four years old, and he walked away from a drink he had drunk with a few acquaintances, made from an alcohol-infused currant and lemon, only slightly diluted with distilled water. He was a man accustomed to shooting heavy guns. At the end of the war he served in an artillery regiment, in a battery of 150-millimeter D-1 howitzers, and the miserable ball that broke the window did not embarrass him with a hardened, seeing a lot of things, souls. Another thing - broken glass. He could not afford to hire outsiders to eliminate this disgrace for two reasons: the first is chronic lack of money, the second is painful, on the verge of a phobia, unwillingness to let anyone into his dwelling. This silent, ponderous man in his relationship with those around him was embarrassed by his poverty. He was lame. His right leg was crushed by a splinter of a German mine on May 6, 1945, near Prague. Then, in the hospital, suffering not even from pain and thoughts about his disability future, but from the injustice of fate, which spared him during the long war years, but, as if mocking at such amazing luck, punished three days before the victory, for the first time he filtered through compressed teeth: "I doterplyu."

Invite a woman to visit, or just sit with her near the house on the bench, or, for example, go with her to the dining room, he could not afford. Yes, and he did not look a gentleman. A scruffy shirt, crumpled pants, sandals on bare feet, a crook, and a limp made him, as it seemed to him, just some kind of Quasimode, which he had heard in the war from a lieutenant, a young guy, educated, handsome. He told me in moments of calm, probably to please his soldiers, many of whom were much older than him, different stories about the events that took place once in the cities and villages of those countries that they liberated, moving deep into Europe. And although they did not get to France, the story about Notre Dame de Paris and its keeper Quasimodo was remembered forever by Arkady, and it was not only the tragic fate of the hunchback told by the young lieutenant, but that the lieutenant was killed the next morning. The bullet passed through the heart, but for some time he was conscious and looked with surprised blue eyes at fellow soldiers surrounding him. He died in the hands of soldiers who did not have time to bring him to the tents with a red cross.

Arkady noticed the window from which the five-story building was shot, and, as he was in a T-shirt and slippers, he jumped out into the yard, waving a stick in his right hand. He shouted menacingly in the direction of the Ilyushkin window, using expressions consisting mainly of swear words, but still, so to speak, the second echelon of complexity: too many women and children had risen from everywhere, and he could not get hot on his head. The central part of his speech was a promise to come in the evening to the parents of a jerk who broke a dear veteran with expensive glass and, developing the theme: “If I were closer, then I don’t know how it would end!”.

Arkady was a quick-witted man, therefore, shouting out and waving a little more with a stick, he felt uncomfortable. Somehow he immediately became ashamed of his shabby appearance and disappeared into the stairwell. On a T-shirt or even a shirt — he was looking at the biker in a cell — he would have had enough money, but the habit of counting every penny made him, a poor man, also rather stingy, and there was no one to show off. He returned home, took out a fifty-centimeter ruler and began to measure the size of the window frame, which he decided to glaze on his own. Twenty minutes later there was a knock at the door. Arkady went to open it, leaving the stick by the bed, limping more strongly from it, but he remembered that he did not close the door with a key, and shouted hoarsely:

- Who brought there? Not locked.

On the threshold formed a boy. Thin figure in a tight-fitting T-shirt with vertical yellow-blue stripes, golden, slightly curly hair to the shoulders, delicate facial features, clear clear skin, eyes of clear blue, and in them - repentance and the desire to fix it.

- I broke the window by accident. An error occurred in the calculations, and I came to ask you for forgiveness.

So he began and held out his hand with an open palm, on which lay a crumpled three-ruble piece of paper.

- It's on the glass. This is all that I have, but if this is not enough, tell me, and I will try to get more.

Arkady, in spite of his injured leg, was not a weak man, in anger he produced a very frightening look — and not without reason. His stick with a bent handle walked on the backs of a considerable number of local vagrants. And suddenly this boy, these three of his rubles, his determination to come to an unfamiliar, unfriendly and even dangerous person ... All this very much surprised Nesterenko. But most of all struck by the similarity of the boy with the boy from the TV ...

In his one-room hideaway among the uneven walls covered with cheap wallpaper, there were two decent things: a color TV and a wall clock with a fight. The clock is a military trophy which he could not refuse and which front-line friends brought to his hospital, as a souvenir of the howitzer battery that had survived the last battles.

And the TV ... Then he did not stint. The TV was his only reliable interlocutor, the one in front of whom it was possible to throw off his usual mask, armor, armor of everyday confrontation with the world around him. This technical device is the only creature that saw Arkady Nesterenko smiling, laughing, crying, living person. The brand new "Ruby C-266D" stood in the place of honor in the corner reserved for the bedroom. Those who knew Nesterenko would have been surprised by his knowledge of television programs and would not have believed that he especially likes to watch films about children. And now a boy is standing on the threshold, as if materialized from the just watched film “The Magic Voice of Gelsomino”. So Arkady took it, and called him later - Gelsomino. And at this first moment, not yet deciding to abandon the expression of ferocity on his face, he did not cope with thick, not gray-haired, in contrast to the almost completely whitened hair on his head, eyebrows. Arkady's eyebrows were often suggested to the attentive observer, physiognomist, before him was not at all a gloomy rusk, but a man with a more complex device of the soul, capable of the feelings accepted to be called thin. And the twelve-year-old boy managed to appreciate this movement of black stripes above the stern gaze of the dark eyes that twisted guiltily, which made the features of the elderly man almost ridiculous.

So they met. Nesterenko took a three-ruble piece of paper, turned around with her, awkwardly looking for a place to put it, as if she was burning his hand, and, not deciding where, turned to Ilya and unexpectedly, in a shrill voice, said:

- Maybe tea?

I must say that tea in his house could be safely called the third decent thing: only selected, Indian, brewed tightly. Therefore, the offer to taste good tea was partly a desire to show this red-haired boy that Arkady Nesterenko is a man worthy of attention.

- Tea? With pleasure!

Ilyushka did not expect such a turn at all and immediately agreed, with relief realizing that the danger of meeting this uncle with his parents was over.

Arkady, marveling at himself, puffed at the kitchen table, pouring boiling water over the tea leaves, cooked in the morning and, putting a cup filled to the brim with fragrant dark tea before Elijah, reached into the wall cabinet behind the bagels.

Bagels were the only thing that Arkady allowed himself to bring home from the bakery. He worked as a baker, standing idle for long hours at a hot oven with short breaks for lunch and ten-minute smoke breaks. Lunch consisted of the same bagels or fresh bread with milk. The smell of vanilla (vanilla when kneading dough for soft bagels stretched into an ellipse was not spared), which many people after a few months did not tolerate such feeding, did not worry him. He ate a portion of the muffin, washed down with milk, and went out onto the porch to smoke his cigarette. He drew in himself the bitter smoke of caustic tobacco and sometimes repeated through his teeth his mantra of hopelessness: “I will take it out.” He was not disturbed, they knew: the conversation would not support. The authorities Nesterenko valued, few were able to hold out for a long time at this work at the hellfire. Those who have actually worked for many years, were engaged in supply, were engaged in the preparation of dough and packaging. This folk was not averse to profit than God sent, in this poor choice of bakery ingredients. Gradually dragged butter, yeast, sugar, flour. Conflicts sometimes arose, especially on the eve of holidays: they all stolen at the same time and, focusing on any one product - butter or flour, put the output of planned products on the verge of failure. But in the end it all ended in peace. The head of the 60-year-old Valentina Stepashina, despite her subtlety, amazing with the abundance of products, the use of which perceptibly manifested in the figures of the rest of the female part of the team, was able to put the team in place. Nesterenko spoke of her support. Never interfering with this mouse bustle, he served as an authority, neutral to these manipulations, not condemning, but not taking part in them.

But the donut, a small bag, he took home: they were allowed to eat for lunch, and he believed that he deserved some of them in excess of what he ate with a half-liter bottle of milk.

Arkady watched with what appetite Ilya eats these donuts, sipping tea, in which Nesterenko put four pieces of sugar. He was delicious. Arkady, watching the boy, thought that he himself had not had the pleasure of eating for a long time, mechanically chewing on what he himself called not food, but food. He ate only because of the need to maintain physical life - to endure.

“And do you know how we are at the front ...” he began this phrase, startled by the unexpectedness of what was said. For all the post-war years, he could have counted on the fingers when he talked to someone in a conversation, a war of his own, unlike any other life that smelled of vanilla, empty, useless, gray. He cleared his throat, grabbed a crumpled pack with a few remaining white belorus, but did not smoke, overpowered himself and repeated: “Do you know how we baked bread at the front?” - and told about how bags of flour filled with bayonets, not hoping that the battery with these bags would get their battery, and also about how tasty kulesh was made with millet porridge and hare, caught in the little forest that came along, and braked he told his story as if he had stopped the lorry with a gun attached to it on a steep river cliff all the way round when he heard the puzzled:

- What are you, fought?

Nesterenko blushed, rose heavily, took out a cigarette and went to a far corner to the closet, lit a cigarette there, and dispersed the smoke with his wide palm, answered:

“I went through the whole war,” and, looking into the boy’s wide-open eyes, for some reason added, as if reporting to his superiors: “And there are rewards.”

- Can I see?

Ilya neatly put half a half-eaten bagel on a plate and wiped it off with a napkin. Arkady opened the cabinet and took a large flat box covered with brown leatherette from the top shelf. He carried it to the table and, picking up the brass latch with his fingernail, opened it. The box inside was lined with blue velvet, and on this blue field, gleaming dully, lay orders and medals in rows. Arkady looked at Gelsomino’s mouth, which opened in amazement, and sweet treacle filled his chest. He felt that for a moment more and his eyes would fill with a tear. Nesterenko could not allow this, and, having drawn on tightly already on the hot tobacco burn that had approached the mouthpiece, with all his might, trying to calm the voice, said:

- Here, I have accumulated in four years.

Two Orders of the Red Banner, Order of Glory of the second and third degree, two Orders of the Red Star and the medals "For Courage", "For Military Merit", "For the Defense of Stalingrad" and "For the Liberation of Prague."

He will then tell about what, when and where he received these heavy, jewelery-made, covered with colored enamel. But this time, both were silent, while Ilushka sorted through orders, weighty medals like gold coins, running their thin fingers along the edges of these mysterious witnesses of the distant, terrible years of war. He will come to Nesterenko, not often, sometimes, on weekends. They will always have a topic for conversation, two completely different, dissimilar to each other and therefore, probably, so interesting to each other.

From that day on, Arkady kept a mandatory supply of fresh bagels at home.If Ilya was not there for a long time, he would distribute old ones to his neighbors and bring new, hot ones, and would wait until their guest, with their well-blessed tea, waited for them, to their mutual pleasure.

Barak, in which the whole story happened, was soon demolished, and a multi-lane highway lined up at the place where he stood. Nesterenko received in the neighboring neighborhood one-room apartment in the new house. Ilya and his parents moved to the city center, to a large, beautiful apartment in a renovated house of an old building, and for some time they lost sight of each other. But once…

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Imagine that we are creating such a reality - a virtual, of course, reality - that puts a person in front of an opportunity to follow an unexpectedly discovered path, an accident, an unpredictable turn of events in his life, and he may decide to try to live with such a choice a segment of life different from his own! He will feel what actions he would be ready for, how he would appreciate what he himself does and those with whom this virtuality will confront him.

- Check for lice, - Dima landed the speaker.

- You can say so, checking yourself.

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- From what? Just right. In the human body is about five liters of blood. In two, if we make a simple arithmetic operation, about ten liters, and this is a whole bucket. Here, pour a bucket of water on the asphalt and see, the effect will be the same, only enhanced by the color of red blood.

Smolkin said the last words, grinning ominously, portraying the pantomime of a villain brandishing a knife. Illya watched him, freeing himself from the glasses covering half of his face.

Smolkin in such a role looked quite comical in a short black coat and light blue jeans. He never knew how to dress properly. Illya tenderly treated the wardrobe and noticed how a wide jacket does not harmonize with tight jeans. A short pigtail and unevenly trimmed mustache complemented the look of his best friend.

They were standing in the gateway number number 0X7 on Farringdon Street in London. Tiled paved passage was dimly lit by two shades, mounted on the arched ceiling of the gate. They came here for the third night in a row, sharpening the image projected on the glasses and the display of the tablet that Smolkin was holding. If not to count, as it seemed to Ilya, an excessively abundant influx of blood, otherwise it was possible to state that the scene of the central episode of their game program was a success.

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In 2006, Smolkin was drafted into the army and was responsible for the repair of armored vehicles in one of the regiments of the Israeli army in Lebanon. In this photo, he was sitting on the Merkava, which was lined by a Russian cornet tank. Dirty, smeared with oil and grease in a tehnarskoy form, with a constant pigtail sticking out from under the helmet, he looked unflappable, despite the fact that the fire from Hezbollah did not stop. As Smolkin explained, this was the case when rabies eliminates fear and as a result is perceived as equanimity. Smolkin loved order, and there was no order in supplying the Israeli army in that unfortunate war. The tank on which he was sitting should have been pulled from the battlefield by a tractor or another tank. They were supposed to be accompanied by a cover-one or two more combat vehicles. But the rear command did not have consistency,Therefore, it took so long to replace the failed fuel system devices. In the end, Sasha crawled to the foreman who was in charge of the spare parts warehouse and received an incredible offer from a kondotny campaign worker:

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