She was Denis. Joanna's Page 26
She was Denis. Joanna's Page 26
The sheet waited. It was calm and clean in its original whiteness.
Only these two words were written on the sheet, and Joanna went by an electric train in half an hour, not to Moscow but to Pyervomayskaya where there were the ski track going through the field and the ravine, the tree under which Leonid sat and the stone sticking out of snow.
A lot of curious women gathered there.
"Where have you come from?"
"I've told you already, I'm from a newspaper. Here is my certificate."
They looked at her with curiosity and suspicion, not understanding the goal of her arrival. And she also couldn't clearly explain why she had come to Korzhi and what kind of information she expected to get from those women, from the trampled ski track, from boys who sledged near the stone and why she had turned out to be at Nalya's place who was a girl friend of George Pushko,
On her way home she remembered that she should drop in the editorial office. She should honestly explain her refusal to Khan, and it would be better to do it in writing.
At the editorial office Lyuda who drummed her typewriter informed Yana that everything was calm. Khan hadn't come yet.
The sheet waited. It was calm and clean in its original whiteness.
And then Joanna saw a snowed up forest and a ski track running into the depth of the forest, heard snow crunching and Leonid puffing and moaning behind and felt and icy breath of impending snowstorm. Lyda dropped in, put a key on the table asked something and left home. Then Yana's mother phoned.
"Nothing is wrong with me, I'm working. Please, go to bed and don't wait for me."
Yana gave answers to mother and Lyuda. But she was not here at Khan's table. She was writing and she was Denis. She saw the winter forest by his eyes of a producer and a city dweller.
Denis recollected of Leonid who dropped behind and in his vexation turned back, 'Why is he dragging himself along! If it is so, we won't get to our destination till it will become dark."
Then she became Leonid who looked through the forest and its beauties. It was difficult and boring for him to move on those pieces of wood; he felt awkward and clumsy. He was hot when he moved and he was cold when he stopped. He damned Denis who decided to go to Vlasovo and dreamt of comfortable warmth of his flat when he would have taken off those shackles, got into the bath, and then his wife Rita would have poured out a cup of hot tea or some alcoholic drink - only a little bit because they were going to pay a visit. He promised to come back at six, and now it was almost four o'clock.
The she was Denis and Leonid alternately. She was angry, froze and shouted somewhere in the midst of Korzhi, Vlasovo and the railway station. In the meantime it was becoming dark, and colors disappeared. A whitish turbidity covered the sky, icy and piercing wind began to drive clouds of snow dust along the ski track.
There was nothing to do but turn to the railway station. They moved silently, feeling aversion to each other, which was becoming worse together with the snowstorm. Denis thought that if this fellow had not been here they would have been in Vlasovo already. And Leonid would have been approaching Moscow watching this damned snowstorm from a window of a warm carriage. But now he wouldn't go to a visit, and there would be a scandal at his place.
On the left of the ski track there was a slope to a ravine. It would have taken them more time to reach the railway station but Denis thought that the wind was not so strong there. The straight and flat slope seemed so safe to Denis that he didn't about Leonid. But no matter how slowly he moved he didn't hear any crunch of skis behind his back.
Denis gave a cry but only the snowstorm answered him. Swearing he turned back.
"What's happened, Leonid" You have broken your ski. Don't play the ass."
It seemed as if Leonid really had played the ass when he lay on the snow in an awkward pose: one leg of his was bent in his knee, the other stuck out of the snow together with a ski, his head was thrown back and his mouth was opened as if Leonid had burst out silent laughing. Near his head his cap lay.
She was Denis who stood over motionlessly prostrated Leonid and still didn't want to believe that a misfortune had happened.
Nothing should have happened with Denis who raised Leonid's head and felt ominous and warm stickiness on his fingers which was so incredible in a snow whirlwind of a storm and even more incredible solidity of the stone's top among soft snowy weightlessness which was also sticky and warm.
Then she together with him rubbed Leonid's face with snow trying to revive him. Understanding that it was useless she unhooked off fastenings of his skis. Shaking snow off his cap she clapped it on Leonid's head that hung loosely on his neck, his cap fell. She had to tie up its laces under his chin feeling week and frequent pushes of pulse on Leonid's neck.
She was Denis who took off his scarf to pull Leonid. During first few minutes he didn't feel any cold and weight of his body.
With every step the weight of Leonid's body, to which he was bound with his scarf, became more and more hateful; but at the same time he realized that it was talented cameraman Leonid with a pink and smiling face, with whom he hold a professional conversation in an electric train only a few hours ago. It was Leonid who had two children and wife Rita with whom he was going to pay a visit tonight.
She was Denis who wanted to free himself and run to a warm and safe place. In a poor-spirited moment he surrendered and allowed to deceive himself.
"I will only run for help and come back," Denis persuaded himself. I'm only running for help."
He dragged Leonid to a tree, leaned him against it by his back, muffled him up with the scarf spending the leavings of his strengths and warmth, and, switching over to himself, shuddered from icy cold, tiredness and fear.
He broke into a run.
He ran back along the snowy furrow ploughed by Leonid's body, near the stone where Leonid's skis and poles lay and farther. He found the ski track by his sixth sense.
Perhaps, in the same way people run away from a battlefield, going mad, being weak-willed and pursued by animal fear only.
He ran for half an hour an hour, not thinking about Leonid who was leaned against a tree, not thinking about anything except warmth.
But when he ran out to a field and could discern the station lights that appeared and disappeared in white howling haze and understood that he was saved, a thought about Leonid again moved and revived in him. Most likely, he ran not to the station but to the crossing because he hoped to find help just in that place. He hoped to catch a car, though it was useless.
Joanna rejected the investigator's version of cynical interest (he covered his tracks). She was Denis who ran to the crossing with a na?ve childish hope that it would all come right in the end as it was always when somebody who was older and more experienced helped Denis to decide all his problems by word and by deed. So he ran not to the station where he had no chance to find somebody except a fare collector but to the crossing.
Though he couldn't imagine how somebody would walk eight kilometers' distance to save Leonid whom he even didn't know.
Maybe, Denis dreamt of a film hero or a superman in a truck who was big, strong, kind and courageous.
But a miracle didn't happen. At the crossing only one new car 'Volga' stood waiting until a goods train went by. Those in the car smoked and looked at Denis in surprise from their comfortable isolated world. Chattering from cold he mumbled something about cold, snowstorm and maybe about Leonid whom he left in the ravine, but the goods train cluttered, and they could only understood that he was stiff with cold being caught by a snowstorm in the forest. He kept on mumbling but they irritatingly commanded him to get on and close the door because he would freeze them too.
"But I have skis with me."
"Put them on the trunk. Do it faster, the bar is opening."
Denis obeyed. He fell on a seat and the car started off.
"We can bring you to Cherkasskaya-station. You will get warm on the way. Would you like to smoke?
The more 'Volga' moved away from the crossing, the forest and the ravine, the more incredible and useless it seemed in this comfortable world to talk about Leonid's salvation and confess that he was a scoundrel and a coward who left a wounded person in a forest. And Denis postponed this conversation; he smoked and absent-mindedly answered some questions, seeking a justification for his act. But there were no justification.
"Now I will tell them," Denis thought, "but how horrible it will be after all of that chatter. What would I say? OK, I will reach Cherkasskaya and gather people. These ones won't help me. But won't it be too late? No I should say it to these ones, right now."
But he said nothing and kept smiling being horrified by his inactivity. He got more and more confused taking part in common conversation.
"If we come late, I will be guilty of his death. They will ask me, 'Why have you left him alone?' And I won't be able to justify and explain it. Why did I turn to the ravine? And why did I come back to Leonid?
"Only three hours ago the world was wonderful. But who knows that he came back? Only Leonid does. And the fact that he climbed up again is unknown even to Leonid because he is unconscious. When Simkin will recover consciousness he will be able to say only one thing that he saw Denis moving downwards, to the ravine." Denis didn't think how Leonid would be saved because it couldn't be otherwise. "It will all come right in the end, it cannot be otherwise." He didn't want to think about another horrible alternative, though he subconsciously thought that this alternative would have been the best for him and he would have been separated by many minutes and kilometers from Leonid who was prostrated on snow with soundless laughter on his face. There would be no Leonid. They parted when they left Korzhi. Simkin was tired and hurried to go on a visit. So he went right to the railway station.
"No, no, I should say. But how would I do that? It's impossible."
And again he hoped in a childish way that in Cherkasskaya everything would be in a fair way beyond his will and decision.
In Cherkasskaya he kept suffer torments when he unfastened his skis from the trunk of the car but heard through the half-open car's window:
"An electric train is coming! They are very seldom here. You will become numb with cold if you wait more. You have time to get on it, run quick!