Peacock. Joann's Page 17
Denis was sitting on a leather sofa in the cloud of fragrant smoke crossing one leg over another. He was 23. His parents were in a long-term foreign assignment; they came on leave for a month or other. Before he grew up they took him with them. Now he lives under the care of his grandmother in a vast flat that was full of peculiar things from the whole world and looking like a museum. His parents sent them parcels and congratulations on celebrations written on beautiful foreign postcards. Denis finished studying in a producing faculty of the Cinematography Institute.
But Joanna would know it later.
He wore shabby tight-fitting jeans, shabby platform moccasins, a shabby suede sand-colored jacket, a checked black and yellow sweater and a scarf of the same knitting.
In the eighties or nineties he would have mingle with crowd of the same parti-colored young people smoking foreign cigarettes but now it is the end of the fiftieth. And today, many years ago, in the middle of the editorial's walls and dermatin shabby sofa, being cloaked with a fragrant cloud like a magician, Denis really looked like an exotic bird of passage.
He got up in all his 182 centimeters' stature to meet them, and Yana wanted to close her eyes tight.
"Let me introduce Joanna Arkadievna," Khan was expressly ceremonious.
"What does Joanna mean? Is it Anya?"
"Joan," she grumbled. She was always angry when she is off the rails.
"I'm Denis," he also roared. Dear my, he seemed to imitate her. Yana helplessly looks back at Khan.
"Please communicate somewhere there," Khan showed the door. "Now I'm having a planning meeting."
"A planning meeting is an important thing," Oh Lord, now he imitated Khan; something imperceptibly changes in his face, and he accepted the image of Khan. But Khan didn't notice it or didn't want to.
However, Denis didn't notice it too. Yana didn't know yet that he teased automatically as well as he fixed all unnaturally notes in other person's behavior by grimace or voice.
"Let's go away, we are strangers for them," Denis took her elbow pushing her to the exit. Khan looked around with disgust.
Peacock in a free and easy manner tried to enter all doors and wasn't going to 'communicate' in the corridor. Everywhere there were people, curious looks and whisper, stared eyes and open mouths. And Peacock got into in somebody's office.
"You are not allowed. Here is the city committee!"
But Peacock again imitated her holy terror. Thanked be to God, on their way they came across a refreshment room.
"Let's come in."
We stood in a queue; it was lunchtime. People from the city committee again stared at us. Peacock had taken off his jacket but that's no help. His stylish yellow and white sweater influenced on present people as red color on a bull. For war veterans (many of such people were present here) those colors looked like ones of their former enemies.
What bright eyes he had! His hair was blond but in comparison with eyes it was much darker. His fashionable hairdo didn't seem to be glued like hair of Lyuska's boyfriend. It seemed that Peacock was born with this hairdo. In his provocative and strange appearance Denis looked naturally like a fish of garish colors in the bosom of the sea.
He informed that he must have shot a film about teams of communistic labor as his degree work. He had leafed through magazine and newspaper files for a few days until he found her material about the team of Strelchenko.
He read it to the end, reread it and was amazed. And he almost wished to become a member of that team in order to go to bright future, talk about love and friendship, put Shakespeare on the stage and listen to Mozart. And after work play volleyball with boys and construct a playground instead of drinking slops through a straw in a restaurant, ruining one's own brain and liver.
Then he exclaimed 'Eureka', got the address of the editorial office and... "I'm here."
Yana wa in horror because Strelchenko was a mirage and smoke. Of course, the team existed, all five people, and honorary titles were given to them, and they visit each other, take part in talent activities and play volleyball but the main thing Peacock believed in didn't exist. All their thoughts, feelings and characters are invented by her. These are her genies.
it was their turn.
The barmaid Lyudmila giggled. Attracting everyone's attention, they brought food to their table: cabbage soup, flesh of sturgeon, cold baked pork, pork with cabbage and beef liver. It was strange enough but they ate up everything.
Denis was fine in his parti-colored clothes, hairdo scarcely perceptible smile and absolute immunity for disapproving and curious faces. And of course his name Denis was exquisite and seldom in those years. Day and sun. Denis - a sunny day.
Yana swallowed cabbage soup in a blue funk. Of course, she could send him to the factory; he would shrugged his square shoulders and went back. And he would lay no claims to her. "And let him do that; what can you expect of him. I can say in reply that he doesn't understand life, doesn't love people and can't see good and progressive things in them, can't gain people and make him reveal themselves.
But suddenly she felt shame for her base thought and told the truth.
Peacock wasn't surprised a bit; he even said that he had expected something of the kind and for this reason came to the author first before visiting the factory.
Peacock made a series of so funny faces that Yana laughed and choked over her compote in an appropriate way and he slapped her on the back, shocking present people. Clearing her throat she assured him that factory workers were quite likable people, and even foreigners visited their factory and their club because they were the best in their district.
"Ok, let's go."
Yana said that it was hardly possible because she had to hand her writing material to the newspaper, and the factory is cross-town.
"We will get there. I have wheels."
Denis' modest car 'Moskvich, one of the first models, that was presented to him for twentieth birthday by his father, seemed to Yana and those who were looking out of windows to be a carriage for Cinderella departing to the ball. And when she, sitting back in the seat and by all her appearance showing Peacock that such balls and carriage were an ordinary thing for her, rushed along familiar streets of her town in a fragrant and soporific cigarette smoke, and Peacock, turning the steering wheel, touched her shoulder accidently or purposely. Yana found herself in another time and space dimension where one could reach a factory in a quarter of an hour, simply reclining on the seat in a warm car and overtaking passersby who were making force their way through a gloomy day and puddles.
Joanna caught herself at the fact that she liked this dimension. Oh Lord, was she really such a cheap woman? She despised herself but she liked going by the car of this fop, inhaling the smell of his cigarettes and feeling touches of a reddish-brown sleeve of his jacket.
Years later stood in a commission shop in Oktyabrskaya-street before an antique chandelier that was hung out for sale and cost an unthinkable four-digit sum of money (a laughably low one as it would turn out to be later). It was made of gilt bronze and had a lot of candlesticks, metal flowers and cut-glass stones. She could understand that the chandelier was too bulky for their three-meter-high ceiling in their twenty-meter dining room but she could help it.
And her acquaintance seller-tempter knew that perfectly; she simultaneously tempted and despised fallen visitors and their passions.
"Oh Lord, why should I bother about it," she thought in depression but the sop-assistant already drew a credit check.
Yana rushed to phone, beg, went to a bank and to her acquaintances, feeling involved in an idiotic and humiliating game by otherworldly mystic forces, and she wasn't able to refuse it because she desired to have that absolutely unneeded chandelier, and the very thought that somebody other might buy it brought her heart into her mouth.
She at last got the needed sum, cashed the check and, shaming 'Caucasian people' who also craved for the chandelier and wished her all the worst things, dragged the packed precious thing into the car with the help of a bearded man. The bearded man asked her to pick him up.
Yana was afraid that he would kill her in order to capture her chandelier; she was afraid not for herself but for the damned chandelier. Then she at the risk of her life called an always drunken electrician and helped him to hang it; and one of its heavy age-old cut-glass stones fell off and nearly broke her head.
Then she admired her purchase for several days but some pieces of her furniture that were inappropriate for the chandelier turned out to be blatant, and she had to move and change something, hunted in antique shops after redwood, ran into debts and envy owners of four or five-meter high ceiling.
Then the interior at her flat was sorted out, and Joanna, wasting bags of time and money and coming to spiritual ruin, found out that she remembered the damned chandelier only when a guest of hers admired it or it is time to dust it.
She didn't know yet how much Denis cost her. She only liked things that shouldn't be liked.
In her sporting and journalistic young age there was no place for boys. Since she was a little girl she always invented, wrote down, organized and published something or engaged in competition. That life of her was measured by seconds, standards, marks, letters of commendations and newspapers issues. Of course, she knew that one day she would marry and give birth to babies but her thoughts about cabbage soups, washing, nappies (she associated family life with those very things) didn't attract he as well as prospect of nomenclatural career.
She dreamt of self-improvement, both physical and spiritual one, raising the qualification standard higher and higher and serving High, Bright and Good things she couldn't see on the earth but wished them to come true. In her vague dreams she could see herself as a strict, alone and fit woman, getting the highest reward for one of her great books, immediately donating all the money to cancer patients and coming back to her and her mother's room to the thunderous applause in order to write something even greater and more necessary.
Some people call it 'a messianic idea'. She felt great strengths in her breast, felt sorry for Pechorin, Rudin and Bazarov and dreamt to get rid of shame for things that occurred in her past life.
In the world Denis came from it was considered as bad manners to take something seriously. By the way, among Russian elite of Turgenev's epoch it was also considered as improper to discuss spiritual and high things. They shouldn't have said nice things.
She also tried not to say 'nice things'; she wanted to live in a worthy manner. But the best words were profaned and made common out of foolishness or purposefully but she didn't know others. So it was difficult for her to revive her genies, though she was considered as a specialist in public, spiritual and moral problems. And contempt to material welfare in her eyes was a necessary attribute of worthy life, and she didn't sleep on nails yet only because she didn't know how to hammer them into spring mattress.
"These are a usual factory, a usual club and usual people," Peacock disappointedly shrugged his reddish-brown suede shoulders, summarizing his impressions. "Everything depends on scenario. A masterpiece should be written, so that it can be accepted by producers. They like masterpieces. Will you try?"
Peacock imitated her fear with his funny grimace.
"You must write a text which would look not like a manual but like a tragedy of a freedom-loving alone human soul in the clutches of autocracy. It shouldn't be written worse than Pushkin works. Then it will be accepted by producers, and a contract will be concluded with you, and you will get a prepayment."
Peacock called an astronomic sum according to her notions, which at once equated her creative work with his exotic clothes, personal car and all the depraved and unprincipled world where he came from.
Of course, Yana said that money couldn't bring happiness and that a man couldn't write as Pushkin did when he thought only about honorarium, that the episode of Strelchenko's meeting with an American millionaire, whose life was poisoned by a thought that love of his subordinates, children and young wife was directly proportional to his bank account, was so persuasive because she and Strelchenko felt sorry for that mister who didn't confide even to his relatives.
The more capital is, the more vulnerable is its possessor, and people surrounding him have more temptation to add something to his glass of whiskey and soda. The higher you climb, the harder your loneliness and emptiness become. This is also a law of vertical zonality, and Yana and Strelchenko believed in it as well as she believed that you shouldn't write one things and think about others. It is godless.
She actually said 'godless', and Peacock looked at her with curiosity. He said that he really agreed with such an interpretation though in the West there was no division between the rich and the poor, that Marx was mistaken when he wrote about increasing class antagonism and hoped for world revolution. He lost sight of the fact that monopolies would have to share their super-profits with other people including working class because when everybody were poor, nobody wouldn't buy anything, and there would be no super-profits.
The car 'Moskvich' was parked at the door of the editorial office for a long time: she had so much to do, and it was pitch-dark outside but she was still listening to Peacock's fables about sweet life of workers in the West. And when she dared to doubt it he informed that he had lived there for a few years, that his father was a diplomat and that he studied at a capitalistic school and was convinced of their real life.
But he said that Joann was really a good girl and that she could propagate her ideas, and if she was so high-principled and didn't want to think of prepayment, let her think whatever she liked but she should write a masterpiece suitable for producers. And if she wanted to try, she should have finished her work in a week; it was a deadline of performing the plan or else he would have to shoot this film and solve all his problems by himself.
Her Angel-Guardian, as well as it was many years later in a shop in Oktybrskaya street, whispered her that she must escape but the only thing she could do was looking at the price tag with many zeros on it which was fastened to the reddish-brown jacket of Peacock with his honorariums, foreign countries, father-diplomat, disagreement with Marx and his car 'Moskvich' she didn't want to get out of. She only looked at his face with self-confident smile.
"Escape," the Angel-Guardian repeated but she already starched out her hand to take the check.
Yana despised herself for her humiliating and envious feeling towards this "someone'. She had forgotten already how hard she grieved for Lyuska. She still deceived herself, merrily telling editorial staff burning with curiosity about her and Denis' visit to a refreshment room, about their journey to the factory and about producers and his father-diplomat; she laughed, joked, and spoke ironically, feeling with horror that the more she ridiculed this day before them, the more estranged from them she became.
Something crushed down, and she was already not with them but rushed along a highway in Denis' 'Moskvich' and could see his hand confidently lying on the wheel and his a little arrogant half-smile by the corner of his mouth and the corner of his eye.
Joanna went to the library and fortunately found a collection of Italian cinema scenarios in it. She devoured it like a hungry dog devoured sausage, but she still had a feeling of something very delicious and even sharper hunger for those films she was be eager to watch, for perfect dialogues and for so lively characters.
Therefore, scenarios were just like that. Her essay was obviously good for nothing. But she even didn't think about phoning to Moscow and refusing from this work on the ground of her urgent editorial task or ill health.
"She should write a masterpiece for Denis, and that's final. Characters and dialogues should be present there." And who know what nourished this insolence of her more abundantly: her desire to do much good for Peacock or to excel him; her rejection of a stranger or love for him.
In any event, a mixture of these contradictory emotions gave rise to her inspiration. And after getting a confidential week vacation she rushed about a sparse late autumn wood, squelched by her boots, stuck in the mash of soaked paths, and it was snowing: huge and heavy flakes of incredibly white snow and fragile unthinkable whiteness that disappeared just after falling to the ground. Here and there she could see phantasmal islets of whiteness that instantly absorbed champing mud and turned into mud, greedily devoured whiteness.
Ice-cold drops fell down her neck from hazels, a willow broke away out of its own root and water and a pond quivered in anticipation of long dead dream.
For the nth time she touched ground with whiteness turning into insatiable mud and broke away from herself, and nervous quivering of the mysterious pond passed on her. She ran along paths of autumn wood and invented quite another story for Denis Gradov until white paper wires of telegraph ran along autumn mud, entangled and dragged her again to the viewing room of existential time.