Mikhail Bulgakov the heart of a dog and other stories

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The Tale of the Twins Who Finished off the Chief Clerk



At a time when everyone else was hopping from one job to the next, Comrade Korotkov was firmly ensconced at MACBAMM (the Main Central Base for Matchstick Materials) in the permanent post of Chief Clerk, which he had now held for no less than eleven months.

Happy in his MACBAMM haven, the quiet and sensitive fair-haired Korotkov had banished from his mind completely the idea that fortunes can change, replacing it by the conviction that he, Korotkov, would go on working at the Base as long as there was life on earth. But, alas, this was not to be...

On 20 September, 1921 the MACBAMM cashier donned his revolting fur cap with the big ear flaps, put a striped cheque in his briefcase and drove off. That was at 11.00 a. m.

At 4.30 p. m. the cashier returned, drenched to the skin. He came in, shook the water off his cap, placed the cap on the desk and the briefcase on top of it, and said:

"Don't all rush, ladies and gents."

Then he rummaged about in the desk, left the room and came back a quarter of an hour later carrying a large dead chicken with its neck wrung. Placing the chicken on the briefcase and his right hand on the chicken, he announced:

"There's no cash."

"Tomorrow?" the women shouted in chorus.

"No," the cashier shook his head. "Not tomorrow either, or the day after. Keep calm, ladies and gents, or you'll knock the desk over, comrades."

"What?" yelled everyone, the naive Korotkov included.

"Citizens!" the cashier cried tearfully, elbowing Korotkov out of the way. "I beg you!"

"But there must be!" everybody shouted, that comic Korotkov loudest of all.

"Alright, look at this," the cashier muttered hoarsely, pulling the cheque out of his pocket and showing it to Korotkov.

Above the spot where the cashier dug his grimy nail in were some words scrawled in red ink.

"Pay cash. Senat, p. p. Comrade Subbotnikov."

Further down were some more words in purple ink.

"No cash left. Smirnov, p. p. Comrade Ivanov."

"What?" shouted Korotkov on his own, while the others, puffing and panting, descended upon the cashier.

"Oh, my goodness!" the latter howled wretchedly. "Why blame me? Oh, my godfathers!"

Stuffing the cheque hurriedly into his briefcase, he pulled on his cap, thrust the briefcase under his arm, brandished the chicken, shouting, "Stand aside!" and, breaching his way through the human wall, disappeared through the door.

The squealing white-faced registrar tottered after him on her high heels. The left heel snapped off by the door, and the registrar staggered, lifted her foot and took the shoe off.

And there she stood in the room, one foot shoeless, with the rest of them, Korotkov included.

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