Аннотация: Рассказ "Дом на углу улицы" на английском. Перевод выполнен Лонни Харрисоном - преподавателем русской литературы в Университете Торонто.
Translated by Lonny Harrison
It was Sarajevo in '92.
"To the crossing!" the regiment commander shouted, panting. "Guard the whole line from the center to this street... Breathe your last, but hold out for three hours."
There were six of us, stopping before the heavily fortified door of a building on the corner: fours Serbs and two Russians. Katya was not yet twenty, and this was her first war. Here in the building there was an office of some wealthy firm.
The Serb Goran hammered three times on the hysterically screeching doorbell.
Three times the impenetrable fortress answered in mute silence. On the fourth, he smashed in vexation at the lock with the butt of his rifle and muttered, spitting, "We have to get in and the sons-of-bitches won't open up. Come on! Through the window to the second floor." We climbed the fire escape to the second floor and knocked out the window with a few blows. I climbed into the strange, unfamiliar room first, and after me Goran, then Katya and all the rest.
"Where the hell are we?" wondered Milos, perusing the interior with interest.
We flung open the door to the next room and bumped into a well-dressed man with neatly combed hair and a face expressing extreme trepidation and alarm.
"What right do you have to break in here like this?" he asked, regaining his composure. "Who are you? What do you think you're doing?"
Goran, rather than unleash a stream of curses as he would normally have done, politely explained to the well-dressed man that the Mujahedins would soon be here, and that we were going to hold them back. Our sudden appearance through the window, he clarified, was due to the extreme urgency of the situation and our inability to ring up by the buzzer, which obviously must be broken.
But since his explanation didn't seem to satisfy the well-dressed man, Goran, without a word loudly and expressively rattled the breechblock on his automatic - as a result of which the girl peering in from the adjoining room nearly fainted.
He added that he didn't give a fuck about the rules of propriety, especially since the Mujahedins were already very near.
In five minutes all of the company employees were locked away in the basement bathroom. And Goran was now the commanding officer of this miniature fortress.
then they were pounding their rifle butts against the iron-fortified door.
then we tore apart the elegantly furnished office, blocking up the shot-out windows with bookcases and tables.
then Katya met point-blank with one of the Mujahedins attempting to steal in through the window.
She, Katya, was very beautiful, and the Mujahid was too. And Katya opened fire in his face with her automatic.
It was critical that we held out, held out for these three hours until reinforcements came.
And then Katya was no more. There was only the blissful smile frozen on the dead lips of her wildly tousled little towhead. Milos and Vladislav lolled around on the soft expensive carpet drawing all over it in blood, and now we were three.
The shattered fragments of glass tinkled for the hundred-and-first time, and the demure nymphs in gold-framed paintings on the wall lowered their eyes bashfully at the volley of curses from Goran when a bullet tore the automatic out of his hands, deforming the gun"s magazine.
Goran threw the rifle to the side with one hand and pulled out a Parabellum from his holster with the other.
"How much longer do we have?"
But his heavy, sturdy wristwatch laughed caustically from the dial face and dragged out the minutes, as if deliberately holding back its heavy hands. In order to close the quietly hostile walls in around them and squeeze the last three members of the troupe in a deathly grip, ravaging the plush comfort of the Palmaceae rooms.
There were still forty minutes to go when Goran, suddenly pricking up his ears, knocked over a table covered with scattered papers and flew down the stairs with a roar.
And three angry shots rang out almost simultaneously from his Parabellum.
And then there was a scream. The agonized cry of a woman.
Radovan and I ran down to see.
We threw open the door.
And through the carbon cloud of gun smoke we saw the tightly knitted brows of Goran and at his feet, a plain black dress and thin braceletted wrist, the small hand tightly clutching a key.
"The little bitch!" said Goran coldly. "She came in through the bathroom window and wanted to open the door."
An image of Katya inadvertently flashed through my mind. On her lips a blissful, almost childlike smile.
And this girl? What was the expression frozen on her lips? It was hard to say because the bullets from the Parabellum had disfigured her mouth. But the features of her face were shrouded in fear; in her clouded eyes and in the glint of a yellow medallion depicting a half-moon there was intense, open malice.
And I understood and accepted that malice like I did Katya's smile.
Really, what was the difference? After all, both girls were already dead.
We started back, and running past the stairs we heard some furious commotion below - they were trying to smash through the main door with shells and grenades. The heavy iron door held out, but it clearly wouldn't for long.
"That's it!" I said to Goran, loading my last clip. "They're gonna bust in the door. Let's run!"
"They'll bust in, but first I'm gonna splatter your brains all over this place if you say that again."
I didn't say it again. The two of us flew from window to window.
And when our last cartridge was emptied and the fierce bullet caught a Mujahid running to cross the street, Goran threw his Parabellum aside and looked around the room. His gaze stopped on a decent-sized American statue of liberty that ended up here only god knows how.
"Wait!" said Goran. "Let's throw this fuckin' thing on their heads for goodbye. So they can't say they don't have enough freedom."
And the heavy, repulsive idol with blank white eyes of bone flew down below, actually crushing one of the Mujahedins to death, then clattered under the balcony, finally smashing into pieces.
...That was a long time ago. A week ago I happened to be in Sarajevo again - now as a peaceful tourist. I found the same building standing right where it had been. There hadn't been any office there for a long time. Now it was a nightclub and brothel. The red leather-covered sofa where Katya had been killed was, strangely enough, still there. On it, sweaty lascivious men groped fleshy girls in thick maquillage.
And when I saw the sofa, when I saw it again, I stood in my place and vividly recalled the images of Freedom smashed to pieces, the yellow Islamic half-moon medallion flashing its malice, the crackle of smashing glass, and the blissful smile of the dead Katya.
She had the little towhead of a child. And she knew how to kiss like no one but she could. No one.