Talent. Joanna's Page 15
Talent. Joanna's Page 15
After writing pieces of information and short reports she was charged to write a real essay about builders who were Komsomol members.
The finals were at hand but she went to a building plot right down from school to her future characters. She wore working clothes, blotted with solution and headscarf down to her eyebrows, and only the manager of the works knew about her task, printed on an editorial form. For all others she was an assistant, "Yana, go there; Yana, bring that!" But it was the thing that Yana needs: she ran everywhere watched everything and learned life of working class.
They worked at a height. Yana got accustomed to it quickly; from there she could see the entire town: their house, the pond, the railway station and the school. Clouds and birds flew at a height, and May air smelt poplars; their slightly greenish braches swayed quite near.
Later Yana would described that height and poplars with bird's nests and deft Valya's movements. She smacked solution with a trowel, put a brick, knocked on it, scrapped excess solution and again the same. She also described her own weariness and her burning hands; on her thumb gauntlet was torn she had a callosity because of those bricks and heaps of reddish-brown clay in the yard which reminded her of the summer of 1941, a just dug bomb-shelter and her father who was killed, so that after many years they could build a new block and look at birds and clouds from a height.
"Stop working. It's lunchtime!"
Lower and already built storeys were at their services: any flat and any room. For lunch they had brown bread per 20 kopecks (Valya didn't eat any other sorts), cottage cheese and several bottles of milk. Valya ate hot meals mornings and evenings: cabbage soup and fried potatoes with lard. She came from a village, and it was their custom to eat cabbage soup cooked in a Russian stove mornings and evenings. The bread was still warm; its crust crunched in the teeth. Half a loaf was gone, what an appetite was here in the height! Her skirt became too small in her waist.
Valya sat on a windowsill by an open window and ate silently and gravely, collecting bread crumbs on her palm. Later Yana described Valya sitting there by an open window in no man's, nameless and featureless flat and thinking that her house would soon revive and shine with lights, what kind of people would live here and what kind of furniture, cares, thoughts and dreams they would have...
"Is it milk?" Valya screwed up one's face looking at an empty bottle. "At our place milk is much better!"
"Are you bored?
"No, I'm not."
"If so why did you leave your village?"
"It is boring there, and so I left. There are no young people there, and after I'm 25 nobody will need me."
It went without saying that this chat wouldn't be included in the essay but Valya who would suddenly become famous would soon find a husband for herself. Though he would be a drunkard and not a very good man but Valya would get a registration in the vicinities of Moscow. And Yana would decide to seriously go into the question of why young people run away from their villages but she will never have time for that.
"Something was rotten in the State of Denmark". She faced problems at every turn, and she hurried to solve and unravel them with all ardor of her 18 years.
And here she was in the office of Khan himself because the chief editor asked Sinegina to come in urgently. Yana was worrying because usually it foreshadowed bad things.
"Come in, Sinegina. Yura, here is our old Bolshevick. Sit down, Yana."
Somebody by the name of Yura began to hem and move but Yana looked only at Khan who was a center of universe at that moment. He had tired and simpleminded face and tired voice and was a kind of workhorse, carrying everything on itself and an enthusiast who was able to work 24 hours a day. He also had deft and strong hands. His hand flew up, showing her an arm-chair to sit down and at the same time grabbed a receiver like a hawk grabbed its prey. Yana respected and feared of him.
"Khanin is here."
They were talking about funerals of some Baranov.
Yana could see her yesterday handed essay 'Valya's House' at Khan's desk. The page was covered with pencil lines. Oh Lord! Yana could bear it; she snatched the sheets and leafs through them. Red lightings were flashing before her eyes. Yana put back the manuscript. She felt bad.
A man by the name of Yura was tired to listen to a prolonged talk about funerals; he got up from the sofa and turned out to be a not tall and pink faced and very impudent fatty. He stretched out his hand to many-suffered Yana's manuscript. Yana moved it away in not a very polite way but here Khan finished his talk. Yana took away her hand from his desk and a fatty again stretched out his hand and grabbed her 'House'. Khan was not angry; he waved his hand, meaning, 'You can read it'.
"Well, Sinegina, how are your finals?"
"I have got five and four marks."
"And what will you do then? I have heard you are going to hand in an application to a faculty of journalistic, aren't you?
"I wish I were selected from among other candidates! The competition is very hard!"
"Sinegina, this is what I would like to propose to you. The editorial is going to provide you with all kinds of necessary characteristics, and you are to hand in an application for a correspondence course, it's easier to get there. And we are appointing you to a position of a literary worker on our staff. Will it suit you?
"Andrey Romanovich!" Yana jumped in her arm-chair, squealing with delight.
"We are discharging Konkov for hard drinking but you are a non-drinking and reliable person with almost a yearly experience. Maybe, you will soon learn to write essays."
"Is this one written badly?"
"The whole point is that it is well enough for starters. I only omitted some fictional features because we are a newspaper after all..."
"Why have you deleted a butterfly? Forgotten Yura unexpectedly interfered. "The grass flashed, caught fire, and a bushfire butterfly took wing over the waste..." Isn't it an image? And this boy, a new settler, who measures a room by his own body; he lies down and measures it... it is well enough and funny. Keep a boy."
"OK, I will keep a boy but the rest is good for nothing. We are a newspaper after all."
"They will ruin your talent, honey. He doesn't understand anything."
"I'm not honey, and it is you who don't understand anything," Yana talked back. "He knew what could be done and what can't."
"The fatty didn't offend. Both were laughing.
"It serves you right, Shirokov."
"And the arrival of new settlers is beautifully written", irrepressible Shirokov was running around the room, pulling about Yana's manuscript; he scratched off a staple, and sheets flew every which way. Not paying attention to it, Shirokov trampled them, "After writing two or three lines and an image appears, and what will you say of a woman with a sewing machine, boys with an aquarium and cat? Keep a cat, blockhead!"
"Not at any price, Khan was laughing. "The house is not put into service yet but Sinegina writes that peoples live and cats run there. What exactness!"
"It is a dream of the heroine," Shirikov shouted, jumping around the desk, "she dreams, so to say..."
"She shouldn't dream; she is a bricklayer but not Jules Verne. In her reports a character already dreamt of pension increase for pensioners, and we have faced the consequences of it until now."
"You must cut out these things," Shirikov became more and more excited, "here is the rot." He took out his pen and began to cross out. With indignation Yana pulls out her sheets.
"Don't do that. It's none of your business."
"Because you are talented, "fat Shirokov shouted, flushing with excitement, "you are talented and must grow!"
Suddenly Khan with a phone appeared between them and said into a receiver,
"Katya, here Shirokov is making a row because of hunger. Cook something for us and make a tea. Yura, keep the receiver and I will say good-bye to Sinegina."
"He handed the phone to the fatty and with his free hand showed the door to Yana. What a strange hand he had! It is quick-moving, cold and humid - a hand-fish.
"Leave your application at Luda's office. When you get a school leaving certificate we will complete the formalities."
"Thank you, I'm really appreciated."
"Running out of the office, Yana nearly strangled the typist Luda in her arms, and Luda also cought alight, and all the editorial staff rejoiced, and somebody went and buy some vodka, and everybody made several sips from 'the cup of friendship', and it became even merrier. Then Khan returned from lunch, and Yana wrote an application. And then Luda wondered why that writer shouted - it was heard from behind the door.
And it was cleared up that this Yuri Shirokov was a real writer, and that he and Khan had been friends from the time of studying at an institute. They often went in for fishing to the river of Oka by Shirokov's car 'Pobeda', and in general, Shirokov was well-known. Luda herself read something about the war.
Before Yana had never met true writers, and now she could see the scene at the office from another point of view.
"Because you are talented! Talanted!"
What seemed to be an absurd and eccentric joke that came from the mouth of some funny fatty now sounded as a blessing.
"It's talent... "
Sitting on an armrest of Luda's armchair and hearing chatter of her typewriter and an argument from behind the office, Yana attentively listened to mysterious music of this word. It alluringly and hostilely twinkled on plump Shirokov's palm like a fantastic moonstone, and her hand, being ready to grasp it as well as all others miracles given by that life, stopped still in hesitation.
By no means can talent be compared with fastest running, getting a prize for the best wall newspaper or even getting a job in the regional newspaper 'Plamya' right after finishing school. What will she do with her talent? What does it promise to her? For example, why can't she tell about it to Luda and boys as simply as about getting a job?
The meaning and happiness of that life of her was simple living like everybody and being first among equals but a talented person is not like everybody. He was a different one.
Yana did her duty, i.e. served her people, her Homeland and the Truth and God. She made an oath and her conscience was calm. There were a lot of shortcomings all around but we were Soviet people and hosts who should correct everything and create a new life by themselves, according to how our hearts command us. And Yana's heart really commanded, burnt and sang. She wrote pieces of information, notes, feuilletons and reports about concrete people and concrete events.
Everyone could write like that, maybe, a little worse. Yana was praised for her good language, efficiency, laconism, correct world-view and sense of humor. She could write easily and merrily.
Yana very quickly ran down the stairs with sticky and soiled handrails, and here she was outside already in the street which for some reason bore the name of Mendeleyev. This was the street of her short youth. Her youth began today, many years ago, and it would be finished in nine months. But Yana didn't know about it. It was a revision of lessons learnt. Again and again she played 'those girls by the name of Yana'; she must play them. What was it, hell, paradise or purgatory, in which she didn't believe? Time, place and decoration changed and Joanna changed too.
Yana is almost 18 years old. Two-storied building with dirtily green walls in stains and spots seemed to be a paradisiacal palace. She would like to shout through the world, "I, Joanna Sinegina, will work at 'Plamya'.
She happened to meet a girl. It is Lyuska with Slava Kiselev from Polyevaya-street whose father works at the restaurant 'Metropol'. The wind whirled over Slavka's forelock oiled with brilliantine like a tornado. He had a crisping jacket made of imitation leather, creaking moccasins on a very thick crepe-rubber and slim-legged pants. Slavka Kiselev wore 'trendy' clothes. He danced in a 'trendy' way, and all his clothes were 'trendy'. Later trendy men would be replaced by hippy, and all their belongings would be 'hip'.
Lyuska had made up her face and looked very beautifully. She wore a transparent polka-dot cloak with a thin belt and white Czech overshoes. Around her head she had a fiery-red nimbus of hair.
Lyuska was a trendy girl for Yana, but Yana for Lyuska is a high-minded one. During six years they passed and saluted each other only with careless nods.
A narrow asphalt path brought them towards each other.
"Hello," Lyuska said, "how are you?"
"I've got a job in the staff of 'Plamya', Yana couldn't help boasting.
"Congratulation," Lyuska noded absent-mindedly, squinting at Slava with her catlike eyes. Flakes of mascara trembled on her eyelashes. "We are going to the cinema, to 'The Waterloo Bridge'."
"Hey, reporter, I'm a friend of yours," Slava flirted with her but Lyuska jealously pulled him away.
"Bye-bye, we are late for the cinema."
Yana ran farther along a shaky and plank sidewalk past a flowerbed with dry stems of last year's asters, past a bench under birches with gossiping women and past playing children.
When they returned from an evacuation zone, these women were of the same age with her and their playing children were of the same age with then Yana.
A brown door with rhombuses, an impenetrable door was ahead. Joanna slackened her pace and tried to resist but the door inescapably attracted her like into a black hole behind which there were perdition and everlasting darkness.
"Walk up the loft ladder" she coud hear an angelic AG's voice from an unknown place, and, clutching at its golden ray rope and overcoming pernicious black gravitation, reached the side of the house where a rusty fire escape led to the loft. She climbed up it, trembling, gasping and beating off flakes of icy darkness that stuck to her body.
Suddenly before them on a nail hammered in eternity there appeared a photo of a boy with smooth hair parted in the middle, with childish half-opened mouth and, by contrast, with penetrating and hard look into the distance, into the goal visible for him only.