Cardan. A Joke of a Man

ANDREY BELOUSOV

CARDAN. A JOKE OF A MAN

KIYV 2012
UDK 821.161.1(477)-31
BB 84(4Ukr=Rus)6-44
         B43

                Andrey Belousov
B43     Cardan. A Joke of a Man. iyv: OBNOVA, 2012. 80 p.
ISBN 978-966-8869-48-8

This book describes the living conditions in the Ukrainian village in the first years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The local con man, nicknamed Cardan, deceives the gullible fellow villagers for the sake of booze. In the end, having misjudged his cleverness, he gets fooled by a simpilton. The book is based on real events. I do not want to think up anything and fantasize to embellish the story and render what I've written to the readers leaving everything as it was, without exaggeration.

821.161.1(477)-31
                84(4=)6-44

ISBN 978-966-8869-48-8                . ., 2012

Contents
1. A Second Hand Grave Yard Cross_______4
2. Miraculous Concoction _______________ 11
3. Gullible Miki-Mouse__________________17
4. Edible Sawdust______________________22
5. Ukrainian Halloween_________________29
6. Hilarious Relatives in Law_____________35
7. Electro Inspector_____________________44
8. Cruel Winter Fishing__________________48   
9. Oh, Heaven, It must be Sand____________53
10. Resurrected Pig _____________________59
11. Prosecutor__________________________65
12. Old Women`s Curses_________________74

3

A SECOND HAND GRAVEYARD CROSS

          The evening has covered the countryside with its dark wings cooling the lush vegetation of a Ukrainian village warmed by day sunlight. The full moon has taken its reign in the starry sky and illuminated the silhouettes of three graveyard crosses with its mystical light.

"It's time!" said Cardan.
"Let's wait a little longer," Sucker interjected.
"Are you going to wait until morning?" Gray interrupted.

4

The way to the graveyard had to be laid through a potato garden, a height of the plant tops reached up to the knees, and the thick dew made the moving quite uncomfortable. A courageous group of three men rushed to the intended goal.

          In place of a quiet summer day, came a sonorous night; it filled the darkness with croaking of frogs and chirping of crickets. The village dweller, burdened with hard work, practically does not notice the day's noise, singing of birds and rustling of leaves. He is so eager to take care of his worries that he seems to be about to complete some important undertaking, after which there will be a rest, bringing him an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of his exhausting labor. But the morning comes and the history repeats itself. Having depleted his strength, he goes to bed; waking up before the sunrise, he has to feed his cattle and poultry. Then he goes to work. Returning tired home at night he should do the chores that have been piled up during a day. And there is nothing new under the sun: the same procedure goes on day by day. Life flows like water in a river. And now, on the slope of his years, he looks back at the past. In the recesses of his memory he finds only one monotonous, boring day. It turns out that he has lived it many times in a row, so reverie is limited to life events that encompass the fullness of only one day.
 
           But not all, who live in the village, want to experience such a deplorable fate. They try to diversify their existence with alcohol, which gives a quite tangible interest in life as a result of imagination.
            
5

           Our heroes are trying to obtain for themselves the only remedy that gives respite from the boredom of monotony. These three brave guys must act quickly and quietly - after all, the graves are near a private house and you need to avoid the trouble of being seen by someone.

           In the second half of the working day a man with a face that betrayed a recently experienced grief peeped into the local tractor workshop.
Where's the turner? he asked. The man was not native and did not know the personnel working in the workshop. Cardan, who was fiddling with the engine from his broken tractor, sensing the possibility of easy earnings, instantly rushed to him.
I'm a turner, he answered convincingly wiping his soiled with oil hands with a rag.
My aunt's died, the stranger continued, I need to have a cross made.
Well, of course, we`ll do everything you`ll ask for. Don`t worry. Tomorrow morning it will be ready. It will cost you almost nothing. Just one liter of vodka, Cardan reassured him in a confident and sympathetic voice.

            In the village people are more known by their nicknames, which correspond to their type of character in a colorful manner demonstrating a person not only as a unit of society but also as an individual. And why Cardan (a driveshaft in Ukrainian)? Well, because it spins. To survive in this cruel world one has to always remain on a constant move.

           For greater credibility Cardan led the visitor to show the welder who will weld the parts together, made by the turner, to create a tomb cross.
Oh, speak of the devil. Here he comes to us. Now, we`ll sort out everything right away.

6

Don`t worry, tomorrow the cross will be ready, Cardan encouraged him again.
Gray, this man`s aunt has died. He`s in a desperate need of a tomb cross for tomorrow.

          Gray was not actually a welder. He was visiting the tractor workshop by chance. "Maybe," he thought, "the guys have some alcohol today and will give me a drink?" That's why he was nicknamed Gray, because he constantly sniffed, searched, scoured to search for booze like a wolf. He instantly sensed the opportunity to earn a drink and assumed the role of a welder with no hesitation.

Don`t worry. Tomorrow morning come with a liter. A cross will be ready. The turner will make the rings and cut the pipe. I will weld everything together. The head mechanic will provide us with the material.
Are you sure the head mechanic will give you a pipe? the stranger asked anxiously.
Of course, there he is, Dmitry Ivanovich, can I talk to you for a minute? Cardan called a passing by Berdock with a fake name.

I? What? What do you want? dumbfounded Berdock stammered. Cardan and Gray, having winked, explained to him that the person is in grief, that his aunt died and a pipe for the cross is needed immediately. Berdock was very clumsy in adventurous matters but knowing the nature of these two rascals, he realized that they want to wheedle some alcohol out of him.
Yes, of course, I will give a pipe, but when is the funeral?
Tomorrow at 2 pm.
OK, come to me in an hour, I'll look in my closet.
Dmitry Ivanovich, tell him directly, will there be a pipe or not? Cardan insisted on the answer, periodically winking at Berdock.
I have one, such as you need.

7

Come to me in half an hour, now I`m just busy, I'll give it to you.

          Eventually the matter was settled, and the visitor left the territory of the tractor workshop.
Where can I get you a pipe? Burdock asked Cardan indignantly.
He did not know how to think quickly and grab everything right away and always asked dubious questions.
 
Why are you so slow to think? It is necessary to be always on the move! reproached them Cardan. Let's go outside, I'll show you something. Leading two of his comrades out of the workshop, he pointed with his index finger at three graves located two hundred meters from them, Tonight, that cross over there, the newest one, we will steal.

           During the Man-made famine (Holodomor) of 1932-33, people died massively. Managing with the funerals and see off the deceased in their last way to the local cemetery was not possible. They were buried near the houses in which they lived. In the course of time some of the relatives of the deceased expressed a desire to be buried next to their relatives, and thus the tradition of burial in the family cemetery continued for several decades after the tragic events experienced by the people of Ukraine.

          And so, in the deep-night darkness the adventurers approached one of such family cemeteries. Suddenly they heard a creak of the opening door of the near house.
Quiet, someone went out, Gray stopped his comrades.
  The trinity, holding their breaths, crouched down.

8

Another door creaked.
Someone went to the toilet. We should wait until he comes into the house again.

When everything was quiet Burdock approached an iron cross.
This one or what? he asked.
Don`t you see that those two crosses are wooden and this one is made of iron! Of course it is! Come on, pull it out! commanded Cardan.
Why me, again me?! It seems like there is no one else but me! Always me! Burdock, grumbling, grabbed the cross with both hands trying to pull it out of the ground.
Guys, help me, it doesn`t give way!
Cardan pulled to the left, Gray to the right, Burdock, standing in the center, wagged like a tail from side to side: to the right - to the left, over here  - over there.
Something doesn`t let it go out, Berdock complained.
Keep on pulling! Less talk! A rod welded across the bottom of the pipe is the reason. Pull stronger! Gray took the initiative.

After several minutes of painstaking efforts, the guys managed to pull the cross out of the ground.

Look, we bent it at the bottom, whispered Berdock in a frustrated voice. Shall we leave it here or take it?
Are you crazy ?! Take it! Tomorrow we'll think of something, Cardan blurted out not losing enthusiasm.

        Next morning the guys gathered over a bent cross and began to think how to get out of the difficulty.

What now? Berdock stammered throwing an incomprehensible glance at his comrades.
OK, you will go to go to the welder and promise him a drink of vodka. He will cut off the twisted end and weld a new piece of pipe, Cardan realized quickly.

9

But a welding seam will be visible! Burdock, not believing in the success of their trick, asked a dubious question again.
There`s nothing to worry about, we will paint it and it will look like a new one.

Quickly managing with the work, the guys went to meet the customer of the cross at the entrance to the workshop. As agreed, he arrived at the appointed time.

Oh, and painted! The customer was pleasantly surprised.
Yes, do not get in paint. Take it over here and over here with these two pieces of paper; wrap them around the pipe. When you come home put the cross in the sun. The paint will instantly dry.
Here's the payment, as agreed.

Grabbing the alcohol with both hands, Cardan ran in the direction of the grove, Gray and Burdock followed him for a feast.

          Having buried his aunt, the nephew went out to look at the potato garden and was struck with a horrible surprise. The grave of one of his relatives, whom he buried two years earlier, was without a cross. Later he told people in the village, "Just imagine, I`m walking in front of the funeral procession of my late aunt, carrying a cross. We stopped to take a breath. I`m looking at it and strange thoughts are creeping into my mind: somewhere I've already seen it. We went a little further; the same thoughts keep nagging me: well, something familiar. But yesterday morning I went out of the house to take a look at the garden and there I stumbled on a grave of my relative which was without a cross. So that's it! And suddenly I remembered clearly that I had already held it once. It turns out that I buried two of my relatives with one and the same cross. Oh, those rascals!"
10
MIRACULOUS CONCOCTION

          Next morning Cardan woke up with a severe headache. "Once again that bloody hangover," he thought automatically. "In order to alleviate the pain you need to get booze, you need to always be on the move. Get up and go to look for another "victim"," the solution worked out over the years sounded in his head. After drinking a cup of cold water and washing his face, he threw a worn jacket over his shoulder, like David his sling when he was challenging Goliath, and went to "battle."

           His future victim, a driver nicknamed Chika, was delivering grain from the field to the grain facilities. It was time for lunch and he, hurrying home to take a bite, asked the colleague drivers where they signed the vouchers. "Over there, at the bench," one of them said casually and nodded to the other side of the road where an old man was sitting.
11
 Chika ran to the indicated place and the drivers, hardly suppressing their laughter, expected his reaction. With an angry look and non-stop complaining Chika returned to the drivers. "What ... he signs the bloody vouchers, he`s looking after the turkeys and doesn`t sign any vouchers," he continued to grumble. And then a barely restrained avalanche of laughter came upon him; some of the drivers even rolled on the ground holding on to their bellies.

          One day a cruel joke was played on him, which led to a chain reaction of ridicule. A circus came to the village, and in the poster it was written that a funny monkey named Chika would perform. However, some local humorist replaced a photo of the monkey with an image of the driver, who after the circus had left the village was nicknamed Chika. Since then his acquaintances have always been waiting for a moment to play a trick on him.

          Waving his hand towards the drivers, angry Chika went home for dinner. At home he said hello to his father who came from a neighboring village. Everyone called him Father there. He organized a construction of a shed for hay and hired two workers for help. Chika could do just some small chores about his household. From the first days of his married life his father helped him in everything: he built, planted, dug potatoes, and harvested hay. Besides his own household he also took care of his son's work. When Chika had not been married yet, Father decided to make a real man out of him and sent him to work to the north of the country. "Go," he said threateningly to him, "you will see life, you will gain experience, you will grow wiser. There they will knock out that foolishness of yours quickly from you! At the same time you will earn some money." Chika went to Murmansk. He worked in the port on a forklift. Once he could not cope with the management of the "freaky clunker" and fell into the ocean from the quay together with the forklift.
12
 "Hey, boy, you`d better go home, we have plenty of our own workers like you," his formidable chief fired him. And then, a month later, Father saw his "prodigal son" again. After that he realized that he would have to help his stupid offspring till the end of his days.

Chika's wife put food on the table and Father flavored each dish with red pepper.
Did you ask the guys if they like food with pepper or don`t? Do you think if you enjoy a spicy meal, so does everyone? Chika flushed with indignation.
Here you are, puppy! Chika got a middle finger under his nose from Father.
Help yourself! angry Chika retorted with the same gesture.
Noise, shouts, screams - a family squabble began. Workers rushed to calm down both brawlers.
I don`t give a damn about you all! I`m going to work, the furious son headed for the door.
You'd better poison beetles in the garden. Take a look at it, almost all the potato tops have been destroyed, Chika received a sharp reproach into his back from his Father.

Arriving at the garage, he met Peter the First. Instantly comes to mind the image of the Great Russian Tsar, but not in honor of him Petya received such an important nickname. In the local garage there were two more Peters. Peter the First always came to work first, exactly for this reason he was awarded this honorable nickname from his colleagues.

And what should I do with those bloody potato beetles? Chika began complaining. Soon all the potatoes will be eaten. I poisoned them and choked them - nothing helps.
13
You should do as I have done to them. I`ve stricken out their teeth with a hammer, Peter the First advised.
Are you crazy? How can you strike out their teeth with a hammer, unless you smash their heads with it?!

Chika's indignation reached the limit. He hurried into the building to find someone and complain about the stupidity of Peter the First.
Just imagine, he said to Pirate, who limped on one leg and resembled Flint the bandit, from which he was given his nickname. Peter the First says that he`s stricken out teeth of potato beetles with a hammer in his garden. How can he strike out their teeth with a hammer, unless he smashes their heads with it?!

So what? I`ve also done the same, the Pirate played along.
And you too! Are you crazy just like him? Don`t you understand anything? How can you strike their teeth out, unless you smash their heads with it?!

Oh, some people can be very stupid," Chika thought and went outside. When he was walking to his truck, he saw Cardan coming towards him.

Can you imagine, Cardan, I just talked with Peter the First and Pirate, and they say that they`ve stricken out teeth of potato beetles with a hammer in their gardens. How can they strike out their teeth with a hammer, unless they smash their heads with it?!

Cardan realized that the mountain had come to Muhammad.
Do not listen to anyone. It is necessary to poison beetles by your own concoction.
Finally, I met a normal person, at least you aren`t such a crazy one, Chika said delightedly.
Tell me, have I ever deceived you? You know, I can fool anyone around but you.
14
 I`ll give you one popular remedy, which is environmentally friendly and does not require any expenses.  If you give me a bottle of vodka, I`ll share it with you.
Yes, I`ve got just half a liter in the truck. I have earned it today. I don`t want to share it with those fools. So let me know the remedy?
Come, you'll give me a bottle and I'll tell you how to make miraculous concoction.
And you will not deceive me?
Never. I`ve poisoned all of the beetles in my garden. Come to my garden and take a look at the potato tops, you'll see it for yourself.

Chika opened the truck door and pulled a bottle of alcohol out of the glove box.
So, what's the remedy?
Give me a bottle! What are you afraid of?! Cardan grabbed the booze and almost tore it away from Chika with his hands. Listen, put a bucket in your garden and go to piss into it by the whole family. When the bucket is full with urine, fill up the poison sprayer and sprinkle the beetles with it. Have you got it?
Yes. I`ll try and do that.
You'll be grateful to me. We`ll certainly have a drink together sometime.

Each of the two guys has received their award: Cardan cured a headache and Chika found a cheap and effective remedy for Colorado beetles. "Now, you, Father, you'll dance for me ... I'll prove it to you that you`ve underestimated me ... Why should I go to the toilet and neglect such a wonderful, miraculous remedy? .. Oh, Father, I'll teach you how to poison beetles ... You`ll see what a puppy I am," he reiterated comforting thoughts in his head.
 15
          Arriving home in the evening, he told his family about the miraculous concoction. They collected urine and sprinkled the potato garden with it, until the bug destroyed everything completely. Chika realized finally that Cardan had deceived him; full of anger, he clenched his teeth and said: "Oh, rascal!"
16
GULLIBLE MIKI-MOUSE

          It turned out the next morning that Chika`s alcohol had not cured the headache at all: it only relieved the symptoms for a while. "It was too much of booze yesterday," Cardan thought automatically. "You have to spin!" his inner voice urged him. He jumped to his feet, his head pounded. After drinking a mug of cold water and washing his face, he went to look for another gullible simpleton.

         Meanwhile, Michael, nicknamed Miki-Mouse, was speaking to a self-taught TV repairman called Miner. This IT specialist moved from Donbass to our region, where he worked in the coal mining industry, that is why he had such a nickname.
Come on, show me your TV set, said Miner, holding a tool bag with a flashy display.
17
Come in, over there, in the corner, Miki-Mouse pointed at an old TV set. Make yourself at home. Maybe you need something?
Nothing yet.

The Miner opened the back cover of the TV set and began checking the parts with a tester.
Yes-yes. Not here, not here, uh-uh-huh-huh, he muttered into the nose. Everything is clear: and not here uh-huh-huh-huh. So, we checked over here, now let's go over there. So, and not here, uh-huh-huh-huh.
Half an hour, an hour or two elapsed and Miner's words started sounding unconvincingly. Finally Miki-Mouse could not take it any longer and asked the repairman, Maybe we'll have a drink now?
Do you have something? Miner asked incredulously.
Yes, I do.
Come on.
One drink, two drinks, three drinks and a bottle is empty.
You know, Mouse, I need to go home. I'll come tomorrow to finish it.
You`d better not. I'll take it to a town repair TV center, there`s a very serious breakdown, I think. I am sure It can be fixed only there.
Even if I couldn`t detect a faulty part, then you definitely need to take it to the workshop, Miner agreed.

          Miki-Mouse led Miner to the street, said goodbye and lit a cigarette. The scorching sun shone mercilessly at his head forcing him to find a cool place urgently. Miki-Mouse moved closer to the fence and, squatting down, found shelter from the unbearable heat in its shadow. "And how could I trust such a woeful repairman? Of course, he was so vociferous which led me astray: "I! I! I! I'll fix any TV set"... It's a reward for my gullibility. Trust but check," Miki-Mouse`s head was being filled with bitter meditation.
18
          In the distance the silhouette of a man appeared who was approaching him with a confident gait. In a minute it was already possible to discern in him an always inspiring face of Cardan. Greeting Miki-Mouse Cardan started an amicable conversation, What are you doing here? Are you hiding from the scorching sun?
Yes, It`s too hot today. Just imagine, started Miki-Mouse dejectedly, Miner came to me to fix a TV set,  spent two hours trying to identify the problem and couldn`t do anything about it.
You shouldn`t have trusted him. He is not a good repairman, he is a liar. No TV set in our village has been fixed by him yet. He just goes around people`s houses; fussing about, fumbling with electrical appliances, until they give him a drink and food, only then he goes home.
I had a similar situation. I wish I had never met him in my life. I`ve got a terrible headache because of him.
My head is also heavy after yesterday`s party, Cardan changed the conversation to another topic.
Listen, Cardan, I`ll give you some money. You`ll buy a bottle of vodka, we`ll have a drink and mull everything over. Mouse wanted to complain to a sympathetic man and to pour out the accumulated indignation.
If you give me the money, I'll be back in half an hour."
Perfect. While you`re away, I'll fry some potatoes.
 
          Cardan went to buy alcohol, and Miki-Mouse began to prepare a snack zealously. He peeled some potatoes, heated a frying pan, splashed a little sunflower oil into it. Sizzles! Beautiful! The mouth is watering! "Maybe one bottle is not enough? a thought flashed in Miki-Mouse`s head. After all, with such a snack, we`ll probably finish even a liter of vodka. I was definitely mistaken. I should`ve given him more money."
19
          The smell of fried potatoes spread around the kitchen. Cardan will come any minute soon, I need to hurry. Miki-Mouse took out cucumbers and tomatoes from the refrigerator, cut them into slices, added onions, salted to taste and seasoned with sunflower oil. Then he put the salad and chips on the table and sliced some bread - the snack was ready. He sat down on a chair and began admiring the dishes cooked by him. For a complete set only vodka was missing. "Cardan will be back now," joyful thoughts filled Miki-Mouse`s head with delight. Although half an hour had already elapsed, Cardan was not back yet. Miki-Mouse went out into the street and began to peer into the distance - no one. He started walking from side to side impatiently. He sat down vehementlyly. Got up. Walked over there, walked over here. But Cardan was not back. An hour passed by, then another. "Goodness, where is he?" Miki-Mouse mumbled plaintively.

In the end, his patience came to an end, and he quickly started down the street to look for Cardan. After a short search, Miki-Mouse met him going home drunk and singing,
Love me, do not love me;
I'm still young, after all.
Time will come - you`ll fall in love with me,
But, darling, It will be too late.

Miki-Mouse like a predator rushed to his prey with all his might.
So, there you are! Where's the bottle? Where's the money? You`re a scoundrel, you decided to deceive me?!
Cardan realized that he would be beaten and went towards the approaching aggressor. Falling to his knees and embracing his legs with his arms he began to plaintively exclaim, "A little Mouse, my little Mouse!" I'll give it back! I'll give it back! I'll work it out - I will! Sorry! Sorry! I had a horrible headache! I could not resist!
I'll give it back! I will give everything back! I'll make it up to a penny!
20
Never had Miki-Mouse been so infuriated, nor had he ever been begged for mercy so pathetically. His heart was crushed, anger, like melting snow flowing from a warm hand, changed it`s physical state. Compassion and pity gripped his heart.
Well, okay, when will you give it back? He demanded soothingly.
"Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I will make up for everything!

Cardan did not pay his debt neither the next day nor any another one... At last Miki-Mouse realized that his credulity to people had failed him. He sighed desperately and wispered angrily, "Oh, scoundrel!"
21
EDIBLE SAWDUST

          You can philosophize endlessly about the meaning of life, teach others how to reason out, because problems are more visible when they are not yours. A satisfied and successful man looks at a miserable wretch who has nothing good in life except alcohol and condemns him comparing him with himself. But if someone would take away from such a clever man his physical attractiveness, family, work, money, friends and throw him into beggarly conditions, what will happen to him? Will he continue to be proud of himself looking in the mirror when he would be despised and persecuted by everyone? Or, maybe, he will be able to improve his financial situation in the village, where there is neither a decent job, nor an opportunity to earn enough money to buy something more than a little food and some clothes. Who should he talk to if he does not have a family? He comes home in the evening and again - boredom, loneliness. When he tries to communicate with his village fellows, he reaps only contempt in return. He can`t help having a drink or two of vodka from time to time because life seems to be starting to get better for him when he is tipsy. He finds peace and amusement in alcohol. It is hopelessness that makes a person to get drunk and to forget about his problems.
22

 It's easy to judge other people, but what exactly such a righteous one has done himself to improve life of people in the Ukrainian village? I beg of you stop teaching others. If you cannot help them with anything, you`d better keep silence and take care of your own business.

 "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"
(Mat. 7.3)

          When a village baby is born into a poor family, the mother and father do not have time to raise their child properly because they work from morning till night. There is a dilemma: either you stay at home and take care of your child and your family is starving, or you go to earn money and your child runs wild? At school such a child learns badly: he must help his parents about the household, and he doesnt simply have enough time to do his homework. When he leaves school, there is no money for a higher education. So it remains for him to wander around the village or to find a job in a big city. But who needs him there, unless as a manual worker? Such an adventurer very often works at a construction site pouring concrete floors and carrying bricks like a horse. And again the same hopelessness, the same terrible conditions, the same binge drinking. He is a lucky one who gets married: in the family he finds his haven. Such a person gradually settles down. Thus he finds his meaning of life taking care of his wife and children. And if a village guy does nott get married, he would be lost. Such guys often become drunkards; waste themselves for nothing because of such beastly life. Many of them end their lives tragically. It is only for a while that alcohol gives peace to a desperate soul. It is usually not hard work that pushes people into the grave prematurely but most often a lack of socially active life. Where are the previous mass festivities, sports competitions, when the whole village gathers for entertainment? .. Where is the former Soviet honour? Where is the opportunity to excel at the workplace and get respect in society? Let them give a person an opportunity to feel his importance and value, not only for himself but for others as well! Let them create conditions for individual manifestation in favor of society!

23

Let them give a chance to a man to reveal his talent, show his physical abilities, patience, diligence rewarding him with public respect! Let them finally give him an opportunity to earn for a piece of bread! Only then will such advisors have a moral right to teach others how to live. According to the laws of nature most of us have similar strengths and weaknesses. Our behavior is the internal reaction of our brain to external circumstances - and nothing more.

 "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, such shall ye be judged; and with what measure ye mete, so shall they also be measured to you." (Mt.7.1).

          The life of Cardan goes on as usual. Is it possible that a Ukrainian will sit at home in front of a TV set, even at the weekend? No. He will always find a job - even if there is nothing to do. Ukrainian people are distinguished for their diligence: they love work for the sake of work and will not sit idle without a serious cause.

          Cardan climbed the stairs to the attic of his house. In the morning, as always, he had a headache. It doesn`t matter whether it is a weekend or a working day you have to spin and always be on the move. He found a pile of sacks covered with dust because of a long storage time. Cardan picked up the upper one - enough. With a languid effort he overcame the way back. "Oh, again this bloody hangover" he squeezed a complaint out painfully. "It was too much booze yesterday". "Too much, too much, too much ..." a pulsing echo in his head continued complaining. He went to a saw mill and stuffed the sack with sawdust. Then he went to the pig farm. Near the warehouse he collected several handfuls of grain fodder and filled with it the top of the sack covering wood shavings under it.
 
         There are a lot of lonely old women that live in the village. The men die early there from hard living conditions. They are often left alone in this cruel world with nobody to take care of. Taking a rest from endless worries, they run shopping to the local store.
24

 Meeting someone on her way as lonely as herself, one of such old women starts chattering and discussing rural news. The tongue goes working without restraint - never mind, a man cannot live without communication with others. They would talk, they would chatter on end, but, unfortunately, they must be in a hurry: household chores are waiting for them. A vegetable garden, a cow, pigs, geese, chickens - and why so much of everything for an old woman? "It is necessary to have a big supply of products! It is a good way to escape starvation," such an assiduous woman usually answers. The echo of the experienced famine of 1932-33 for many decades inculcated a panic fear of hunger in our minds. Sometimes you may ask a village woman in order to satisfy your curiosity, "Why do you store dry bread in sacks on the stove, it will perish, and mice will destroy it?!
"Uh, you don`t know, son, what famine is," she usually answers in a drawling voice. "If hard times come, I will have a sack of dry bread and not die of hunger," she will explain wisely.

And it is impossible to convince her that there won`t be any hard times now, that there will be no such famine any more. You will ask her to rest, have fun, watch TV, but no, you cannot change her mind. Stalin managed to bring the country, which used to be the breadbasket of Europe, to the point of starvation. It seems that for a very long time thereafter, the fear to die of hunger will torture our minds. Over time our fear of starvation to death has abated to a certain extent. We no longer dry bread. But we buy bags of salt, sugar, flour, cereals to have it in stock, just in case. We do not starve, but we made a cult out of food, and our tables are full of dishes when we meet guests. After all, nowhere in the world you will find a country where an entire people were being destroyed by artificial famine. Fear of starvation in some cases forced people to eat "their own kind."

         You cannot go on talking for too long: there is no possibility.

25

The old women have flied to their households. The work is not waiting: potato garden must be weeded, the cow is mooing - she must be milked urgently, the pig is squealing - it must be fed. Noise, moos, grunts, quacks, barks - a usual home environment. So, she quickly milks a cow, feeds pigs, geese, and chickens - silence. The chickens are full and happy grazing about the yard: cluck-cluck, cluck-cluck. All right, it's time to run to the garden. Life goes on with no change day by day, until death stops such a strong, willful, energetic woman. There is no power in the world that can break her will for work except the grave.

Suddenly someone knocked at the gate.
"Landlady, Landlady, do you need grain fodder?" she heard Cardan`s enticing voice.

A few minutes later the gate was opened and an old woman came out into the street. Years had beaten her face, littered it with wrinkles taking away the former freshness. Hard work had hammered her formerly slender posture.
And how much do you want for it?" She asked incredulously.
A liter of vodka and it will be yours. I`m almost giving it for free. If you take it, I'll bring tomorrow one more sack.
OK. I will fetch an empty sack now and you will put the grain fodder into mine.
It`s unnecessary. Take it with the sack. If you do not have spare ones, I'll bring you a couple of them tomorrow for free.
I have to take it," the old woman decided. There is nothing to be done: the cattle and poultry must be fed.

The barter took place. Cardan, satisfied with the deal, set off with a bottle of vodka; the old woman went to make evening food for pigs. She took a handful and hooked the sawdust with her hands. She was digging deeper. No, it could not be real sawdust. Deeper and deeper was she rummaging - nothing but sawdust. Then she knocked over the sack on the ground, shook out its contents everything was sawdust. "Ah, that scoundrel! Oh, that rascal! Oh, that thug!" the old woman`s curses started pouring at Cardan.
26

Finally, after an extensive complaining, she stopped cursing, sat down on the threshold of her house and sighed for the last time, "Oh, bastard!"

          Next morning she went shopping. She told about Cardan's trick to all her friends. "How could you trust such a bandit? Don`t you know how many people he has cheated in the village? Drive him away if you see him again! Do not let him come near your house!" they advised her.

In the morning Cardan woke up with the usual state of pain in his head. "Can it be the other way around?" he thought. "It simply means that yesterday was a lucrative day. It would be nice to have a drink today as well." He took another empty sack from the pile in the attic and walked to the sawmill again. Filling it with sawdust he returned home. Then he grabbed his last sack of grain fodder under his arm, loaded both sacks onto the bicycle and went to execute his new plan.

There was heard a knock at the gate.
Do you need grain fodder?!
A few moments later the door was opened and an old woman went out into the street. Horrible swear words fell on Cardan. It turns out that the old woman heard about his yesterday's trick near the shop in the morning.

Get away from here, so that even your spirit will forget the way to my house!" she waved him off with a hand.
It's not my fault, Cardan began. I was deceived too. They gave me a sack of grain fodder to change for alcohol and handed me the sack with wooden shavings. Had I but known. I have just brought my own sack of fodder to her.  The misunderstanding has already been settled.
Do you think I will believe you so easily?"
The old woman fetched an empty sack from the yard with a bucket.
Put bucket by bucket of grain fodder into another sack and I'll watch.
27

Just take a look at it! Nothing but grain fodder! No sawdust, no wooden shavings. Hold on for a minute, I'll bring a jar of vodka.
The old woman went into the house, and Cardan at that time took out a hidden sack with sawdust and put a sack of grain fodder in its place.
The old woman came out with a liter of vodka. The deal took place. After a while Cardan returned and retrieved the sack of grain fodder from the bush, loaded it on a bicycle and drove home.
 
            In the evening all the neighbors heard the curses pouring down on Cardan, they were with no end and no limit. Finally the old woman got tired of incessant curses, she kicked the sack with her foot and whispered, "Oh, reptile!"
28
UKRAINIAN HALLOWEEN

The main holidays that Ukrainians observe are considered to be New Year, Christmas, Easter and a birthday. One can add to this list of the most important events of the year the day of remembrance of the deceased relatives, or as the people call it - All Saints Day or simply Ukrainian Halloween.
 Almost all of the young men try to leave the village in search of better life: they go to earn money, get married, enter educational institutions After that, they try to hook at least at something in the city. Having served in the army, some of the guys stay on extra time there signing a contract. A person, who has seen other, more civilized living conditions, is no longer in a hurry to return to his father's house.

Usually, on All Saints Day most of the people who had left the village and live in different parts of Ukraine and even abroad, if they have a chance, come to the place where their loved ones are buried in order to honour their memory. This is the day when you can meet your classmates and acquaintances who left the village many years ago.
29

Of course, it is not every year that they can afford such a trip. Many of them live hundreds and even thousands kilometers away, and such a long journey takes precious time and requires travel expenses. But one day there comes a moment in life when an irresistible desire to see the native land, meet friends and former classmates, talk with them about their fate, achievements, forces them to see their homeland. They are ready to spend time and money just to feel the emotional enjoyment of the warm memories from the past.

A certain man, who has not visited his native land for decades, is looking at the familiar houses, trees, people; the same road, the same forest, the same Cardan is passing by. Oh, goodness, what an interesting guy he is. How would the local people amuse themselves if not for his tricks? Very few people take offense at him. He is a nice guy, just a joke of a man. It is even hard to imagine how much variety he introduced into boring rural life! Sometimes people in the village laughed for months discussing his tricks.

There is the house in which the man grew up, a bench in front of the fence, his former neighbors ... It seems to a person that he really is in the past. The most pleasant moments spent in these streets warm his heart and soul.
       
On All Saints Day weather is usually warm and sunny giving the nostalgic reverie bright and pleasant sensation. From all ends of the village people flock to the local cemetery. This is the only day of the year when you can see so many familiar faces. It is quite difficult to recognize some people who have not visited their village for a long time: they have grown up, changed...
30

Some of them have come with their children. But the facial features that they inherited by the genes from the father and mother give out their roots. A local elderly resident will take a look at the running boy and recognize in him the features of his father and grandfather.
 
The cemetery is gradually filled with people. Around the graves of the deceased gather their relatives. They bring with them alcohol, sweets, cookies... First of all they pour the alcohol into a glass and put it on the grave, gently pressing the bottom of the glass in the ground for better fixation. Nearby they put sweets and decorate the cross with them too. "His soul is now with us. We do not see him, but he watches us and takes part in our meal. It's a sin not to treat him with alcohol too."

They cross themselves and have a drink; it starts spinning in their heads, the tongues loosen. They recall the deceased, talk about their deeds, achievements, interesting moments of their lives. Everyone knows that one may talk only about good things connected with the deceased or to be silent. "Well, fill one more glass with alcohol - we ought to have three drinks today. You cannot have more than three drinks, less than three too - it is a big sin. There's already a priest coming up; you need to give something: money or some sweets," a good man says. The priest serves the service and goes on. The people are tipsy, inspired by the memories, which seems to have no end at all.

Cardan also has come to pay an honour to his deceased relatives.
"Cardan, come here," his acquaintance calls him. "Here`s a glass of vodka, drink and honour my father and mother."
Then he fills him one more glass with vodka.
"Let them rest in peace," he says sympathetically, crosses his chest and drinks.
"Well, well, well, one drink is a sin. You ought to drink three glasses," the man reminds him.

31

Cardan crosses himself. "Let earth be down for them," and has a second drink, then a third one. You cannot drink more than three glasses - it`s a sin. What kind of figure will you cut if you get drunk on such an honorable day; you ought to have respect for people. Otherwise, tomorrow they will condemn you. There will be rumors around the village that you were drunk even on All Saints Day - it is a terrible shame. Cardan speaks with the man sympathetically and goes home. In the evening all the people go out of the cemetery leaving some sweets and filled with alcohol glasses on the graves.
 
          Cardan, like no one else in the village, was glad that night was approaching. "It's time," he thought, and strode toward the deserted cemetery. In the gathering twilight he saw the graves decorated with flowers and sweets. The goal was quite clear: he would go to the cemetery, pay honour to the deceased and leave this horrible place before the total darkness comes. And what is here to be afraid of? Has anyone ever got up from the dead? Cardan had not believed in fairy tales for a long time. A brutal reality had taught him to perceive life as it is.

He approached the first grave, gently lifted the glass with vodka that was pressed into the ground, crossed his chest, Let earth be down for them, and drank. "There is nothing horrible here, he reassured himself. We need to fear the living ones not the dead: they can`t cause any harm anymore. No one has ever returned from the other world." He picked up a few cookies from the cross and had a bite to appease the alcohol reaction in the stomach and then continued to conjure up soothing thoughts. Then he went to a second grave - the procedure was repeated. Then to the third, fourth - it began to spin in his head, the afterlife thoughts went into the background.

Cardan was so absorbed in his ritual that did not even notice how quickly he got drunk. He continued to look for glasses with vodka like a mushroom picker looking for mushrooms in a dim dense forest.
32

Here`s another one, here`s one more, here`s again, and then - his consciousness failed him. Sad but true, it turned out that Cardan was not the smartest guy in the village. Gray was nott a simpleton too. Like two ships coming towards each other they gradually shortened the distance between themselves for an imminent encounter; one of the ships cast the anchor and drifted halfway - Cardan fell asleep near the grave in a sepulchral slumber. He simply had not calculated his strength succumbing to the temptation of an easy binge. His clothes were of a dark colour and he seemed no different from the nearby abandoned graves. Cardan, hearing someone's steps and waving his arms, tried to get to his feet to see who was there and grabbed Gray`s ankle who was wandering among the tombs. Even before he had time to understand what had happened, frightened Gray started away from the cemetery. His head was throbbing wildly, his heart was beating like a bell, and his legs could not handle his fast flight.  A huge tree that stood in the way of his movement stopped his rapid progress. Suddenly, he was thrown back by a dreadful blow. Falling on the grave, he as a gymnast, in an instant, found himself on his feet again and rushed off. He did nott see double now as a result of intoxicating alcohol effect but three times double from fear. The barrier made up of the tombs crosses encumbered his rash movement. Once again he bumped into something, fell, jumped to his feet and continued the race. Again and again trees, crosses, grave fences hampered his progress. It seemed to him that he did not run from the cemetery, but the graves surrounded him and wanted to catch him in their nets. At last he managed to escape the cemetery. Running a hundred meters beyond the graveyard, Gray stopped and squatted. He was stiff scared of what he experienced and he trembled as if from freezing cold. "And why did I run?" he thought at last.
33

"Probably someone got drunk and fell asleep near the grave. Everything happened so spontaneously, automatically that I did not even have time to think. Should I come back and see who's there? No, I think I'd better go home. Enough for today."

Slowly, taking a breath, Gray headed for the village. The darkness came to replace the departing twilight, but he was not afraid of anything anymore. Indeed, he panicked inadvertently: everything happened so unexpectedly. He acquired the former mood, calmed down and thought, "There`s a lot of vodka on the graves left there. It's a pity, what a pity."

         Speaking of Cardan, he did not even intend to flee anywhere. He continued to sleep quietly near the graves and in the morning, waking up, drank "to peace of soul" of one of the deceased, then of another one and went on a visit to Gray who was still sleeping. He woke up his comrade who was lying in bed in a sweet, morning slumber. Both of them, trying not to give out their yesterday's adventures, spoke on abstract topics and glanced sideways at each other. Both guessed who was at night at the cemetery, but none of them wanted to confess first. Finally, their oblique glances cut into a straight line and Gray, smiling, said, Did you go to the cemetery last night?
Cardan smiled back.
So, you were there too?
Suddenly they both burst into a loud, uncontrollable laughter ...
34
HILARIOUS RELATIVES-IN-LAW

           Gorbachev's appointment as the First Secretary of the USSR Communist Party, and then the subsequent Chernobyl catastrophe are considered to be a point of the countdown, until the fall of the Soviet Union. From the shelves of shops gradually began to disappear one sort of goods after another. Intensive struggle against drunkenness led to a partial shortage of alcoholic supply and a rise in prices of alcoholic beverages. In small towns and villages sausage became a luxury item, or, rather, an invaluable commodity, for the purchase of which it was necessary to go to Moscow or Kyiv. People wondered where the soap, washing powder, tobacco products, sugar and the rest of the goods had got to? There were only salted sardines, canned fish, mineral water and bread on the sale. But people seemed to know the cause of it all, "Everything is rotting in warehouses, the government is creating a deficit on purpose." However, what kind of purpose such a large-scale deficit was being created for, no one knew.
35

And how could they understand it? Taking into consideration the fact that the villagers worked from morning till night in the fields and farms, they produced the same amount of agricultural products as before giving everything to the state. "Where does everything go to?" people kept repeating the same question time and again.

The biggest shock was the stoppage of payment of wages. Pensioners were the only ones, who with a long delay, but received at least scanty amounts of money. They became the richest inhabitants of the village, as the agricultural workers worked on the record. The delay in wages has reached up to five years. Then it became clear that the collective farm would not pay off its duty to the workers. Farms, created for decades, were dismantled for construction material and the arrears were repaid to a certain extent. Money had become as rare as the goods on which it could be spent. The alcohol took the place of the medium of exchange. Even teenagers knew in the village how much vodka one had to pay for a particular service. Either one worked for free, or took vodka for his help. Refusing to help was almost impossible - everybody was as close as a relative. They might take offence and spread rumours around the village, and a bad reputation is like pitch: it sticks easily, but is heavily washed away. In the local culture club there used to be art amateur groups and a choir. It's not a secret that the Ukrainians are a singing nation. They cannot live without songs, dancing and fun. On each holiday the local choir gave a performance, sometimes it took part in district town song competitions. On special occasions huge festivities were arranged by the local authorities, such as scenic performances, sports competitions, different contests in strength and dexterity. On the central square there was a tall pillar. One, who could climb on it and tear off a numbered token, won a prize. Such a person was considered the most agile one in the village and had a respect of local residents.
36

The village was able to live cheerfully. Every day a new film was shown in the cinema. A wedding ceremony and seeing off young recruits to the army was one after another - such holidays gathered dozens and even hundreds of guests. The tables were simply piled with food and alcohol. Having his fill of sumptuous dishes, drinking, singing, dancing a guest got tired, he needed to give a respite to his body. But how was it possible? A week later someone invited him to a party again. Yes, life was good, and it was fun to live. And where had that all gone to? While in the big cities only structural changes had occurred, and a number of cultural and entertainment establishments had only increased, which preserved cultural development, but for the village the collapse of the Soviet Union was, in a full sense of the word, a tragedy. There was happening the demise of public values. The village, from the position of a collective community, had shifted to a lower level of orientation to social values - to family ones; each family lived by their own rules. The goals and tasks that had united the workforce in a common pursuit of personal and public well-being were a thing of the past. Such changes disunited people, made them angry, hostile and desperate.

During the initial years after the proclamation of Ukraine an independent state, collective farmers continued to work in the former Soviet conditions. Money was not still paid for the work, but the length of work record was maintained, and the workers hoped that, at least in their old age, they would receive a pension. Armed clashes in other regions of the USSR forced some people, who had left the village when the Soviet Union was in its flourish, to return to their places of origin.

One of such refugees was Berdock`s family.
37

They left Azerbaijan, sold an apartment in Baku, and built a two-story house in their father's village which decorated by its unusual modern design the unattractive, dilapidated street. Berdock`s family included three more brothers, besides himself, and the father, who was a retired officer. Two elder brothers got married and left their family in a newly built house. They got jobs as mechanics in the local tractor facilities and seemed not to regret leaving Baku at all.

Burdock stayed to live with his father and a younger brother, who was soon recruited to serve in the army. The family began living a normal village life. They planted potatoes, bought a cow and equipped the house with furniture. Having received psychological stress from moving from another country, from urban conditions, they quickly restored, to some extent, the lost material wealth and adopted a rural way of life.
 
But as Comrade Lenin said, "Being forms consciousness." They could not keep their individual principles for a long time; the local society put new challenges before them. In a long run, they became the same as the rest of the inhabitants. The younger brother went to the army to repay his duty to the Motherland, Berdock married and brought his wife to his house. The girl's parents had already lost their meaning of life. And what would they have done if it had not been for alcohol? Every day the relatives-in-law went on a visit to their relative-in-law who had a decent pension after many years of service as an army officer. They supported him morally, helped him with his household, and kept him a company at a bottle of vodka: in general, they diversified the life of their relative-in-law adding some colourfulness to his gray existence. Over time, a number of visits increased; even a decent pension was not enough for booze anymore.
38

"We must do something about it," the relatives-in-law decided.
They saw Cardan walking confidently along the road. He was of a medium height man with a benevolent, sympathetic, and sincere expression on his face; he always inspired hope with his open eyes. Light gray eyes encountered an audacious look of any person without blinking; thin lips spoke encouraging and soothing words. His chest, constantly exposed forward, and his unbuttoned jacket inspired eagle boldness. It seemed that his whole look said, "You can rely on me."

"This is the man we need," the relatives-in-law agreed. "Hey, Cardan, help us out with a sale of a motorcycle. Petrol is expensive, repair parts cannot be found anywhere, you know, everything is deficit now. It only stands and rots in the garage."
"Motorcycle? No problem. Everything will be alright. I`ll manage with it. I'll find a buyer. It`s very bad that a good thing is perishing. Someone had better repair and ride it.
"If you help us sell it, we will not leave you in trouble, we will pay you well."
Soon Cardan found a buyer, and the motorcycle "went from under the gavel."
Unfortunately, the money gained from its sale was soon squandered. And again the question arose: what was to be done next?
"Listen, relative," the relatives-in-law came to a conclusion, "for what purpose do you need the garage? By the way, it is always empty. You haven`t got neither a motorcycle, nor a car. Why do you need it in the yard, just stands there in vain? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, you`re right. It definitely sounds logical," he agreed wisely.
39

They dismantled it for building material, and Cardan helped them sell it. "What a good man Cardan is, he always comes to the rescue, he never refuses to give a hand," the relatives-in-law often talked to each other sitting at a drink. "What would we do without him? How quickly he reacts. How beautifully he can approach people. He can sell anything to anyone."

The money from the sale of the garage was spent, and the relatives-in-law bumped into the same question again: what was to be done next? Then they dismantled the iron fence and sold it to a scrap metal collector. While they were drinking and carousing, they did not notice how the summer flew by.
"Look, relative, why do you need a cow? There's no hey in your shed. What will you feed her with? We must sell her, or she will starve to death. Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, you`re right. It definitely sounds logical," he agreed sagely like a philosopher.

         They sold the cow. The whole winter they drank and caroused, and when spring came the relatives-in-law asked their relative-in-law, "Why do you need a cast iron stove top on the stove for summer?" Let's sell it, and when winter comes we will buy a new one? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes, it does. You`re right again. It`s definitely according logic. I simply don`t need a stove in summer," the relative-in-law agreed.
"Cardan, can you find buyers for the cast iron stove top?" We will pay you well if you help us," they suggested.
"How can I find buyers for a second-hand stove top? Firstly, it must be shown, only then, maybe, someone will buy it."
"OK, you`re right. Take it. You'll find clients faster with it," the relatives-in-law agreed.
 
          Cardan loaded the stove top on a bicycle and went to look for buyers. On the way he conceived of a new plan. He hid the stove top in a bush and moved to the nearest house.
"Landlord," he called knocking at the gate," do you need a cast iron stove top on the stove?"
40

A minute later the owner of the house came out to Cardan.
"You tell a stove top. How much?"
"A liter of vodka."
"Where is it?"
"If you give me a liter, I'll bring it to you."
"Eh, Cardan," said the man, "I am not the one who can be fooled so easily. First, produce me the stove top, and then you will get a payment".
"Think about it logically," Cardan started explaining in a philosophical way taught from the relatives-in-law, "how can I take something from people if I do not pay for it?  Knowing my nature, they will send me back to you."
"Yes, you`re right, it sounds logical. I would not trust you either. Wait here."
The landlord went to the house and a few minutes later he came back with a liter of vodka.
"Don`t you try to deceive me! You know me! If I catch you lying to me, I`ll give you such a beating that you`ll never forget it!"
"I know, I know! If it weren`t you but someone else, then, maybe, I would deceive him. But I know that such tricks will not go with you".
"That's right, Cardan, I see that you know it," the landlord patted him satisfactorily on a shoulder.

Later, it happened quite according to the logical principles that never again neither the relatives-in-law, nor the landlord saw neither the bottle of vodka, nor the stove top anymore.

          The deceived landlord, seduced by an opportunity to purchase a necessary thing for his household for a meager price, a long time was beside himself with anger. How could that have happened to him? He couldn`t understand it. He had never received such merciless blows from his destiny in his life. Anger did not leave him neither at night, nor in the daytime. "Oh, bastard," he thought, "if you only get into my eyesight, I'll shake your soul out of you." He went running to look for Cardan in the village, but he simply disappeared like a ghost. "He seems to be very scared. Probably, he is sitting in a secluded place somewhere waiting for the trouble to pass by. That scoundrel knows that I will not leave it like that," he consoled his vanity.
41

A week passed, then another one, and the anger started laying down, gradually changing into a state of bitterness. He began to feel sorry for himself, to seek excuses. The deceived landlord could not accept the fact that he was not actually the smartest, the most wise person in the world. However, he found an excuse for his misfortune. As it turned out, he accidentally trusted Cardan, accidentally succumbed to the temptation, accidentally paid him before he received the stove top, and these things he did despite the fact that he was aware of Cardan`s tricks and deceptions, and knew what this man was capable of, therefore, he could not make a slip because of his foolishness, which means he made a mistake by accident.
 
         A month later, the landlord managed to meet his abuser. Cardan faced him with a confident and sincere look. Such an honest and childlike innocent expression on his face lit in him a spark of a benevolent disposition towards his offender. Over the past month, his anger, resentment, and desire for revenge had almost exhausted themselves, but in order to save his reputation, he pounced on a malicious deceiver. Cardan, gesticulating intensely and explaining expressively, managed to lay out in small detail why he had failed to bring the stove top and return the vodka, where he went to, who he spoke with, what prevented his actions, who prevented them: step by step, everything, as well as in the landlord himself was reduced to pure chance.

 "Cardan explained himself so clearly, put everything in order so beautifully that it was hard not to believe him. Of course, I felt with my heart that he was lying, but for some strange reason I wanted to accept his arguments," the landlord told his fellow villagers later in order to justify himself in their eyes. He forgave Cardan for his deception, because it turned out that everything happened by chance, and no one was to blame for anything.
 
           The relative-in-law together with the relatives-in-law went on to sell unnecessary things in the household.
42

Iron beds were sold to a scrap collector - it was more logical to sleep on the floor. Logic was not observed in the storage of food in the refrigerator - for that purpose was a cellar. In the newspapers are written the same news as are shown on television, so a TV set was unnecessary in the house. It was as comfortable to sit on chairs as in armchairs and on sofas, so they occupied useful space in the house.

In the end, the heart of the old officer could not stand such terrible illogicality, and he passed away to the "other world". The relatives-in-law moved to his house to live with their daughter and son-in-law. Everything, which was possible to sell, turned out to be unnecessary for the household. A couple of years later they passed away to the place of "eternal peace" where they were expected by their relative-in-law. One of the four brothers moved to Russia, where his wife was from. Soon his three brothers went to live to Russia as well.

Once they get together and decided, "Why do we need a house in a village in which no one lives? Let's dismantle it for building material and sell it? Doesn`t it sound logical?"
"Yes it does," all the brothers agreed in unison.

Now on the spot where a beautiful house decorated the entire street, only wind wanders. In bad weather it rushes over a hillock of the remaining debris of bricks and slate. As a rightful lord he felt his strength, grew stronger and rushed through the village sweeping away on its way dozens of rural homes. People did not know where everything had gone to, but the answer was extremely simple: it had been a fault of the evil wind of change.
43
ELECTRICITY INSPECTOR

       "Cardan, I just cannot understand why people believe you? Even when you deceive them endlessly and, in the literal sense of the word, spin a yarn, they continue to catch on your tricks?" Gray wondered with an expression of perplexity on his face. "If you were elected to the government, you would squander the whole country." And how good it is, that you live in a godforsaken village and you do not have an opportunity to develop your adventurous talent. With such dexterity you can twist people around your little finger, that Ostap Bender himself would envy your skill".

"Believe me, Gray, there are con men who are much more agile than me. In my life I have learned a lot of tricks from them. A spade is a spade even in Africa!"
"You have to spin and always be on the move, and other things will be added unto you," Cardan gave his words a prophetic tone. "For example, you are sitting now complaining and doing nothing to improve your health, but the car, by the way, is being moved only when the driveshaft (cardan in Ukrainian) is spinning. This time you will take the lead in our next machination. We'll go to check the serviceability electricity meters. There are only few old women in the village who know you by sight; you are not native by birth here. As for me, even local dogs can recognize me easily".
44

 They went to Gray`s house to get changed. They needed to create a uniform the would make him look like an inspector checking the electricity meters.

Cardan put a mink hat on Gray`s bending like wings ears for solidity, and a demi-season cloak gave him a touch of an intelligent working look. He stepped back, looked at Gray with an appraising look and concluded, "Something else is missing." Cardan opened a table drawer, carefully studied its contents trying to find something else for the full impressiveness of the businesslike appearance. His eyes were blurred: so many things were there: threads, needles, buttons, scissors, spoons, forks, knives, can openers, screwdrivers, pliers - a whole set of necessary small items for the house. Finally he said, "Yes, this is what we need!" and pulled out old glasses in a rough plastic frame from the drawer. Gently and carefully cleaning them from the age-old dust, he put them on Gray`s eyes adding the load to Gray's ears, encumbered by a huge hat, giving them a conspiratorial appearance. "Listen, Gray, If I didn`t know what you are, I would get scared of you myself," Cardan supported him with a compliment.

         From an old clerical journal they cut out pieces of paper that they intended to use as fine receipts. When an inspector comes in, people do not even look at what they are given because of a fright; since Soviet times they have become accustomed to preventive punishment.
   
         It was the last month of autumn. The nights were long and the days were short. It darkened early, and lighted windows of the neighboring houses became visible in the distance. A bright light shining from the window of the house of a lonely old woman beckoned to them. They approached the fence silently; the gate was locked.
45

They climbed over the wooden fence and went to the house. Cardan knocked at the window with an appalling drumbeat. "Landlady, open the door," shouted Gray, and nearly frightened himself with his commanding voice. "We check electricity meters," he repeated authoritatively and once again knocked at the window. Cardan moved to the side to stay in shade, and Gray stepped onto an already illuminated porch and unceremoniously broke into the opening door pushing the old woman aside.

"Why did you not open the door immediately? Are you stealing electricity?"
A frightened old woman did not know what to respond. She began to stammer, "First, I heard you, then ran to the door, opened the lock - maybe hesitated a little. Sorry."
But the "inspector" did not want to hear her explanations.
"Where is an electric meter?" He asked threateningly.
The old woman led him into the house and pointed at a black box. Gray pretended to inspect it, spelled out a few figures and sat down taking hold of his head.
"Oh, goodness, it smells of prison," he whispered with the bulged eyes, startled by the seriousness of the violation.
"Oh, dear, what is to be done?  I haven`t touched it in my life. It must have broken," the old woman`s pleas for mercy poured like a summer shower.
"Okay. For the first time, I`ll write out a fine of 5 hryvnias (it was the price of a bottle of vodka in those days)." He wrote a declared figure with pen on a sheet of clerical paper and added, "and 5 hryvnias for repairing the meter. It's spinning too fast. Could you give me a screwdriver or a knife, please?"
46

Gray demonstratively, with the appearance of an expert, began to pick in the measuring instrument. He put the tip of the knife in one slot, then into another, pushed on it, pulled at something, knocked on  the left side, then on the right one, slapped the top with his hand a couple of times, then put the knife back into the slot and applied some pressure again. He turned his face around, distorted from the laborious effort, to the old woman, and looked at the dial. "Everything is alright now, it`s spinning like new. Pay me 10 hryvnias."

The old woman was ready to part with a larger amount of money, but the guys knew when to stop. Cardan often repeated to Gray, "Better a little - but every day, than a lot - but once." Grabbing the money, Gray said goodbye to the old woman.
"Take care of the meter so that it doesn`t spin too fast again," he admonished her while leaving the house. Gray went straight to the lighted street. Excuses and words of gratitude were heard from the old woman behind his back.

          The gate was open, and Cardan awaited for his disciple impatiently. "Haven`t I told you that its important to spin and always be on the move, and other things will be added unto you," he repeated his unshakable motto again and patted Gray with his hand on his shoulder. "You are accepted into my team as an equal partner," he praised his smart apprentice for his dexterity.
47
CRUEL WINTER FISHING
           This is how Cardan's life goes on directed to the same goal. Every new day brings a new adventure. Sometimes it seems to him that he has seized on luck and firmly holds it in his hands. The desired aim is achieved, and there is nothing left for him to strive for. But a constant hangover in the morning is a demonstration of an eternal unattainability of such a cherished aim. He understands the futility of his efforts to solve the problem once and for all. What for? How would he live then, if there was no longer a goal in life to which one should strive and constantly spin around? Thus one day is replaced by another, year by year, life fades away. How it would be gray and boring, if not for the adventures accompanied by perseverance, desire, faith in his strength, cunning, resourcefulness. And what kind of pleasure it is to feel that you are smarter than others but not to show your arrogance, outwardly always remain friendly, sympathetic, and benevolent. Such a vital position requires great inner concentration, will, and inexhaustible energy.      
 48
       Winter has come. Life in the village has slowed down. There are only a few people in the streets: most of them are at home. It`s hard to meet somebody to talk to and share local news. It is necessary to go to the shop - only there you can come across someone.
Winter is the most difficult time of the year. And not only because of the cold but also for the lack of communication. And what would people do in the village without television - the only entertainment in life. They know the background of many state politicians. They know who has an expensive car, house, apartment, beautiful wife. They are interested in what they do, what kind of positive change they promise to bring about, what kind of changes are good for the country and what are bad, what a candidate they should vote for, and what a candidate they shouldn`t... Sometimes you listen to such a rural political expert and marvel: where does he get so much information about our politicians? Of course, here credit is given to a TV set: it is truly a window to the world.
In winter the days are short. It is hardly gets dark when the whole family runs to the TV set. Each of them takes a seat in front of the blue screen; they hold their breaths worrying for the characters of their favorite soap operas.
"Switch to the fifth channel," calls someone of the family, a fan of politics, "the news is already on".
The news is over.
"Switch back to the soap opera," demands impatient lover of romantic films.
A man is so created that he has a feeling of caring for others. So he cannot live without worrying about broken destinies of unhappy people. In fact he does not need to help and give money to the miserable - it is totally free. So it's impossible to keep such a sufferer from other people's sorrows. It seems to be pleasant to worry about other people for free.
"Switch back, there is a political debate," insists an armchair politician.
49
A fan of love dramas wants to watch the film, and she reproaches political experts with heartlessness. "We have a heart, we worry about the whole of Ukraine," they exclaim.
         Finally, the majority wins, and the TV set is switched to another channel to watch the debate. It turns out that here the passions are not less intense than in the soap opera, and even the fan of amorous adventures is involved in political discussions. The promises of the politicians are pouring like honey from a barrel: they promise to control the prices, to raise the pensions and salaries, to rebuild the factories, to revive the agriculture. Spectators absorb sweet information with open mouths. Gradually, they become adherents of one or another party; the whole family is divided into two camps: one is for an accession to Europe, the other to Russia. Heads of the audience are heated with arguments, and it comes to a confrontation in the end. Noise, screams, family squabble. At last they splashed out their emotions, pouted their lips at one another, and went to bed with revolutionary thoughts. At night the most ardent armchair politician dreams about how he speaks from the rostrum, how he waves his arms, and how he directs the rebelling people to restore justice. Encouraged by the speech of the young progressive orator, people are building their own new world destroying the old one to the ground.
50
Cardan's legs got stiff, the eyelids were covered with hoarfrost, and the body began trembling as if from a horrible fright. "Yes, it would not be bad to spin around to get warmed," he thought watching the working situation over the fence.
"The miller has sent me to you. He is fishing on the local pond now. It seems that devil himself made him to go fishing in such freezing weather. He told me to go to you and ask for a bottle of vodka. He will repay you with grinding a sack of wheat into flour. You can go to him any time and he will be happy to see you and help you", said Cardan trembling with cold.

Of course, the landlord could not refuse the miller in such a situation, in such terrible weather; and it would be foolish to miss the opportunity to use his services. He rushed to the house shining with joy. Then he ran out to Cardan with a bottle of vodka.
"Here you are. There's also a snack in the bag. And tell him that tomorrow I'll come to the mill with a sack of grain."
Vodka warmed Cardan's heart and soul, and he uttered his famous words challenging, it seemed, the frost itself, "It's necessary to spin around. A driveshaft (cardan in Ukrainian) rotates - the car is moved".
          The next day the landlord loaded a sack of grain on a bicycle and went to the mill. With an important gait and a benevolent look on his face he approached the miller. Did Cardan bring you a bottle of vodka and a snack? As agreed, I`m here with a sack of grain to grind".
"What bleeding vodka, what grain, what Cardan?" The miller was taken by surprise. "As long as I live, I have never gone fishing in winter". With the last expression he exhausted the stock of words and could add nothing more.
"Oh, goodness, he has cheated me!"
51
         The landlord loaded the sack of grain furiously back onto the bicycle and rode home clenching his teeth with cold and anger. The same words were reverberating in his head , "Oh, scoundrel! Oh, bastard! Oh, con man! How can people be trusted after that? Once you have a pity on someone and help them out, you immediately get problems on your head. Next time I will be more cautious," he consoled himself and gave the bicycle a go pushing harder on the pedals.
A cold wind blew into his face which pleasantly cooled the hot, filled with thoughts head of the naive landlord. He was offended and ashamed that he, such an excellent expert in politics, was fooled like a child. And by whom? By stupid Cardan!
The snow cracked rhythmically under the wheels of the bicycle and interrupted constantly sad thoughts acting distractingly. Finally, the landlord managed to acquit himself for his inner peace, "Everything that happens is for the best." An arrogant grin twisted his face. "Never mind, next time I'll be smarter. Experience is the best teacher."
52
OH, HEAVEN, IT MUST BE SAND

          One must take into account the fact that the Ukrainian people had to endure much sorrow during the course of their history: the revolution of 1917 which brought a civil war, the collectivization, the man-made famine of 1932-33, the repressions, the World War 2, famine, the communist regime - and this is only an insignificant part of the troubles in the context of the whole history of the development of our people. We are still struggling for independence, preservation of the Ukrainian language and culture, our anthem reflects that we are still on the path to becoming a nation.
 
We do not have a common clear vision of the goal and the means to implement it. Meanwhile other European nations have long passed the period of their national formation, our country still lives with the ideas of the 19th century. Today's challenges dictate other realities. Developed countries conquer new markets improving the quality of their products. They aggressively wage a new, commercial war, in which, unfortunately, we are still losing.
53
Many people believe mistakenly that the reason for our drawbacks is alcohol, drugs, laziness, but they forget one simple thing - there are no causeless reasons. If you prohibit the sale of alcohol and do not change the conditions of life, then the effect of stress, received by the human psyche from the cruel modern conditions of life, will be directed inwards and begin to destroy the body. Then the question arises: what is more harmful for a person: stress or alcohol? Logical dilemma suggests that the lesser of the two evils is always preferred. Stress leads to heart diseases; it destroys immunity and opens a way for the development of cancerous tumors. Excessive abuse of alcohol has no lesser consequences.

Many people know how to balance between two fires. In appearance, it may seem that they are strong-willed and easily cope with difficulties. No, they simply do not have a large level of pressure of the social conditions, since they are adapted to them. If they have many problems and do not relieve tension with antidepressants, drugs, alcohol or religion, they direct the destructive forces of the psyche to self-destruction of the body. The problem of drug and alcohol dependence has a common cause - social pressure, which pushes a person into a blind alley with the help of its cruelty. If society lacks moral ideals and focuses only on material well-being, then it turns out that it is very difficult for a person to achieve honourable success in an external cruel world where everything is subjected to money.
54
The moral realization is internal; it depends on the effort that a person directs toward himself and to each individual it gives an opportunity to manifest himself in society, to show his usefulness and significance, provided that society evaluates such actions by giving them an incentive. Therefore, the focus should be on morals, not money. A child who grew up "freely", who has not been accustomed to moral debt since childhood, evades from school and family responsibilities and escapes social pressure leading a carefree life. But when he grows up, he enters into an adult reality, where social conditions make themselves felt. He has to restrain himself exerting efforts on the psyche. And from time to time or constantly, he removes the accumulated heaviness from the soul. Therefore, to effectively combat alcohol problems, they need to change the conditions of life: rooting out the cause and not fighting insensibly with the consequences.

          Love can change people for the better. It inspires, gives energy for noble deeds, and provides meaning to impoverished existence. This happened in the case of Cardan as well. One day he went to the young widow to offer some services and, having grown fond of her, helped her for free. In his chest something gasped and began to breathe deeply and enticingly. His lungs did not keep up with the rhythm of the inner strength, and he sobbed from the lack of air. Cardan's brain no longer worked as before, it seemed like something had clouded it. He began to do things he had never done before: he helped the widow free of charge. In the long run such noble actions of Cardan produced sympathy in the widow; a strong man's hand was felt which led to a mutual agreement to live together. Cardan significantly reduced his consumption of alcohol. Family concerns dragged him into their whirlpool up to the neck. He no longer drank alcohol the way he had used to.
55
But emotions, excited by love, gradually began to fade away. Family problems came to the fore. The lack of money led to quarrels, which day after day only increased the approach of a rolling avalanche from the mountains. Little by little Cardan began to resume his adventurous pranks. In order not to spoil the reputation of a family man in his native village, he moved "to fish" in the neighboring one.
 
         Colorado beetles were poisoned on the collective farm field planted with potatoes. Along the road he saw a heap of garbage thrown out by some irresponsible villager. He managed to find one liter glass jar. A hundred meters from the road was a stream. Cardan went to it; carefully washed the jar and filled it with water taken on the field from a puddle. Water stagnated in the sun after a long-lasting rain and changed its crystal-clear colour to yellowish-muddy. He lifted the jar against the sun to examine its contents more closely. Something wrong, he thought. Taking a handful of sand from the ground, he put it in the jar and shook it in a circle. The sand whirled lifting a column of a whirlwind in the muddy water. "This is it", he whispered to himself and went toward the nearest house.
           It was evident at the first sight a deplorable state of a vegetable garden planted with potatoes, which adjoined the house. Colorado beetles, not knowing the measure, ate plant tops threatening to leave the owners without harvest. The vegetable garden belonged to a lonely old woman who stood in the yard; she watched her land attentively with her eyes protected from the dazzling sun by her hand. Cardan realized that the option was a win-win.
56
 He went into the yard carrying the jar in front of him demonstratively with the concoction of his own making. He walked quickly panting with haste; his wide-open and worried eyes gave him the appearance of a gypsy leading away a stolen horse.
Do you need poison for the beetles? asked Cardan breathlessly. Look, the tractor is spraying potatoes on the field? I came to you from there. We have a little left over. If you need it, I can swap it on alcohol.
And, how much do you want for it?
A jar on a jar.
The old woman took Cardan's concoction, raised the jar against the sun and asked incredulously, And, who are you?
I'm a young agronomist from a neighboring village, Cardan said impressively.
Isn`t it sand at the bottom of the jar?
The old woman shook the contents time and again.
Crystallization. The poison is fresh, so it is in the state of granules. You'll take a stick, stir them with it, and the granules will dissolve, Cardan explained the process to her.

         Finally, barter took place. Cardan, satisfied with the deal, rushed off, and the old woman began to prepare the poison for beetles stirring intensively the "granules". Five minutes - no effect. Ten minutes - the number of the "granules" did not decrease. She lifted the jar and directed it against the sun. "Oh, heaven, it must be sand," she muttered and continued to stir the granules again. Half an hour of laborious effort did not yield any results. "Oh, goodness, I swear, it must be sand," the frustrated old woman said her guess aloud.

57

 Let it stand until morning; perhaps the granules will dissolve by themselves.
 She put the jar aside. Next day the old woman repeated the procedure once more no results. With anger, she poured the contents of the jar on a wooden board, felt the granules with her fingers on touch, sniffed them - no smell. "Oh, heaven, it is definitely bloody sand. Oh, that scoundrel!" she forced out bitter words desperately for the last time.
58
THE RESURRECTED PIG

          People, who live in the Ukrainian village, wake up very early. At six in the morning almost all the adult population is already on their feet. Even if you have a terrible hangover after a late night party, you have to get up and work. If you get sick, you will not stay bed, because the cattle need care. It is practically impossible to get away from work even if you barely stand on your feet from the illness that has taken away all your strength, you need to get up and take care of your household. There is no one to rely on: everyone has their own worries.
Family life has brought Cardan an additional burden on his body. He gets up at five in the morning, half dead, half alive from a murderous effect of alcohol, takes a scythe and goes to a field. After five minute`s hard work under a scorching sun he hides in the shade, pours some water from a three-liter glass jar and continues scything again.
After a few days the hay dries up he needs to have it delivered to his house. They get it home by tractor and begin to hide it in the barn. The wife passes her husband weighty pitchforks of hay to the attic of the barn, and Cardan distributes it there evenly across the corners trying to put as much as possible in one place. The heat in the attic is so intolerable in the summer that he is totally soaked wet with perspiration from head to toe.
59
The sweat flows down the forehead into the eyes, burns like fire, eats away, drips from the nose as if from a spring icicle heated by the sun.

Cardan grabs the shirt quickly that he has put off, wipes his face and continues to lay up the hay. Three minutes later his eyes are flushed with sweat again.  He takes the shirt, but it is already wet like a mop rag, wrings it out it from the moisture, wipes his face and dashes "into the battle" again .The hay sticks to the wet body, its small particles penetrate into intimate places; it prickles: it is unpleasant, awful, but the work has to be done, otherwise there will be no food for the cattle in the winter.
At last the work is over, he has a few drinks of vodka, takes off his physical and moral tension, and goes to bed. Next morning he gets a new assignment from his wife. Cardan sees rest only in his dreams. Winter has come and brought severe frosts - firewood needs delivering. Cardan finds people for help; he is unable to manage it by himself - the logs are too heavy. They go to the forest by tractor. A good dry tree stands there. It is tall and thick, one can hardly put his arms around it. They fell it, saw into parts, take up together no, they are too heavy to carry. Once again they saw each log into two parts and then put them into a pile. Now they can have a drink of vodka. The fire is cracking; a piece of pork lard is being fried on a stick. Alcohol warms them inside, their heads become slightly dizzy, and a pleasant conversation makes the hard work easier. The next day he needs to look for transport to deliver the logs from the forest. Cardan finds someone to help him. The guys are eager to get some booze, so they help him to load the logs onto the trailer and then unload them at delivery. This is how people live in the village providing mutual assistance to each other; the gratitude for help is alcohol and a heart-to-heart talk. A human organism can hardly sustain such strain for a long time; there many a villager who early join the other world. They cannot transfer their skills to the younger generation, because the birth rate in the village is very low. Nurseries are closed, schools, first aid medical offices are transferred to the district centers, or villages with a larger population. It is necessary for villagers to learn skills of managing their households for themselves because of absence of instructors studying the trade by their own mistakes.

One day at four in the morning there was a knock at the window of Cardan`s house waking him earlier than usual.
"Who's there," he asked going over to the window.
"Open the door. I`m your neighbour.  I need to talk to you".
"Oh, gosh, how hard it is to get up so early," thought Cardan and went to open the door to his neighbor carrying a heavy head with pulsating temples on his shoulders.
"Come on, come inside, don`t let the cold in."
The early guest quickly ran past Cardan into the warm room.
What on earth has happened? stroking the top of his head, asked Cardan in a dissatisfied voice.
The pig is dying, it is necessary to kill it immediately. Can you help me?
Of course, I can do that. I'll do everything that is needed to give you a hand," Cardan revived, feeling the opportunity to get a drink and extinguish the hangover.
After explaining his wife such an early visit of the neighbor, he heard compelling instructions from his her, Go and help them! If something bad happens to us, who we will turn to? Will you be able to handle it?
Of course, I'm a grown-up man. It`s not for the first time that I going to kill a pig. I certainly can do that. I'll manage, with unceasing assurances Cardan calmed his wife down.

         At the neighbor `s house the whole family was already on their feet; bowls, cast-iron pots, pans were prepared ... The housewife rushed around the house, submerged in the preparations. The neighbour led Cardan inside and invited him to the table.
61
"Let`s have a drink of vodka for bravery," he suggested.
"Of course," Cardan supported him instantly.
 "Have you ever killed pigs? Will you manage?" The concerned housewife asked.
Definitely, I will. Don`t worry.  I'll do everything without problems. I have stabbed a lot of them in my life. When I was in the army, I had to do it almost every day, because I served at a regiment pigsty," he lied.

In fact, he knew the process of slaughtering a pig only theoretically. He decided that the knowledge obtained from the stories of his comrades would help him cope with such a trifling matter.
What happened to the pig that you decided to stab it suddenly?
It does not eat anything. We are afraid that it will die. It is better to do it time, or it will be too late. And then the invested money and labor will go to nothing," the thrifty housewife explained.

          It was still quite dark outside. They arranged an electric cable with a lamp and illuminated the yard - the field for cruel activity was ready. Cardan got a self-made knife for killing hogs. The pig was lured out into the yard. The host scratched it behind its ear; it calmed down, grunted, but sensing the unskillful actions of the killer, exploded with a deafening yelp. Cardan threw a knife quickly under its left leg and plunged it up to the very hilt, according to his idea right in the heart. The curtains on the windows of the house closed immediately; frightened children, watching the bloody process, ran away from the window and hid under the blanket. The hostess took refuge in the next room and cried. She gave so much time for the care of the pig that she got used to it as if to a member of the family. Now her "four-legged friend" was leaving this world. "Well, this is life, there's nothing to be done.
62

We all will go there sooner or later," the housewife reassured herself with comforting thoughts.
The butchers, having managed with the pig, went into the house to relieve the stress.
"You were right. I saw your experienced hand, the happy host praised. Your reaction was as quick as lightning! Such a blow! I just caught a glimpse of a flashing blade! One, two - and it was finished!"

Cardan always reacted quickly when there was a binge awaiting him. He acted on autopilot. Everything seemed to happen by itself. He did not even strain himself; the inner will guided his hands, legs, and the brain itself. He completely trusted his inner strength that more than once pulled him out of trouble, more than once rescued him in a difficult moment. He relied on it this time too, and it brought him the desired result again.
 
Butchers relieved the stress by having a few drinks of vodka.
Well, let`s have one more drink. Then we`ll go and cut the pig into pieces. It's cold outside, and the vodka will warm us.
No sooner had they refilled their glasses, than the frightened hostess flung into the house in horror.
"The pig's gone! It is nowhere to be found! Someone has stolen it! Call the police!"

         The great masters of slaughtering of the cattle ran into the yard. Nowhere! One of them went around the house, the second dashed to the street, then into the barn. Finally, they found the pig in the garden lying in a deep snowdrift. "Oh, that scoundrel! thought the neighbor about Cardan. And how well he bragged, "I, I, I I know, I know, I'll do it!" he probably did not get it right into the heart." But he said nothing, hardly suppressing his internal discontent. After all, there was no one else to turn to - all the experienced men in the village had died; and as the saying goes, the place where is no fish is found even a crayfish is fish.          
63

He would not be a rural craftsman if the necessity did not make Cardan develop the skills necessary for survival. This is the way things are in the Ukrainian village.
64
PROSECUTOR

          Thus Cardan spent the winter working hard. Spring, and after it summer, added even more trouble. This time, Cardan's wife decided to buy coal. With firewood there is a lot of "fuss", and it is as expensive as coal. "If we are going to burn coal next winter, we need to remake the stove. The bricks will not stand such strong heat. If it falls apart, when severe frosts come, there will be a lot of problems. I'm going to my sister for two weeks, so during that time you'll remake the brick stove and go to the regional center to buy coal," she instructed her husband giving him the necessary amount of money.

The sunlight, breaking through the window curtains, awakened Cardan from a sweet slumber; there was an unusual silence in the house. No one moved or hurried; no one forced and did not urge - a master of the situation. "I need to switch on my inner motivation. It's necessary to spin around," thought Cardan.
65


He got up, washed his face, did the necessary house chores, had a bite, and began to take the stove apart. Attaching the chisel to the clay seams between the bricks and tapping it with a hammer, he carefully strated separating them one from another.At the household everything will come in handy. Why should I throw useful things away? There has not been such a case that something has turned out useless for Cardan. He took the bricks outside, found a place for them in the yard, and neatly put them into a rectangular pile. He placed a slate sheet on top of it protecting them from a harmful effect of rain. Some visible shifts were quite apparent. The stove is dismantled half of the work is done.
 
          It was time for lunch. Cardan fried his bachelor eggs and bacon, cut off a piece of bread and began eating but stopped immediately. "Something is missing? a troublesome thought was circling in his head. "Of course, how is it possible for a husband to remain at home without control of his wife and not to have a drink? Someone would probably be bored and tormented by solitude? But it is not for me! I'm not the one of those soldiers who rush to tanks with grenades!" Taking the necessary amount of money allocated by his wife for buying coal, he ran to the shop, bought a bottle of vodka, and got home. "Now it feels like life is getting better," his inner organs sprung to life. The stomach became pleasantly warm; and the fried eggs turned into an unearthly delicacy. Life really got better, and loneliness already did not frighten, but, on the contrary, it turned into a wonderful pastime. The trips to the shop acquired a regular frequency, and from the food even boiled potatoes became something heavenly. A week passed by - half of the money was spent. "Stop! Cardan said to himself. I have to buy at least half of the coal."

He exerted titanic efforts and came out of an alcoholic stupor. After giving himself a day's respite, he went to the district center the following day.
66

Opposite the coach station there was a brand new bar called "777". Cardan passed by the magic number and instantly caught it b
in his memory. The further he moved away from the bar, the quicker its repetition grew in his mind. "Seven, seven, seven. Seven, seven, seven," drummed in his head. He stopped, as if he had hit an invisible wall, made a U-turn and with quick steps and short dashes he headed for the fabulous place. The room inside was lit by dim romantic light; there was playing fascinating music. "I'll drink a glass of beer and that'll enough, he consoled himself. "You have to try everything in life at least once, so that later you would not regret painfully for the aimlessly spent years," in his memory the famous words from Ostrovsky's book How the Steel Was Tempered came out of the darkness. Cardan did not even notice how he switched from beer to wine. He knew that you can raise the degrees of alcohol but not to lower them, so the wine was followed by cognac, and then - a gap in the memory.

           He woke up at the coach station in a cold sweat. "Money, where's the money? Have I really squandered everything?" He searched his pockets and at last found some banknotes. The trembling hands sorted out the banknotes carefully, neatly stacking them in a pile. He counted them again and again and did not believe his eyes. There was not enough money for the coal. Not only for the half of it, but for the half of the half as well. Cardan knew from experience that there were no desperate situations. There was enough money to pay for a delivery, and the rest is a matter of cunning. "When the Cardan is spinning - the car is going. It's necessary to turn around!" inspiring thoughts lit a spark of hope in his soul.
67

He got up from his chair, stretched himself, straightened up, and walked to the coal base "to mine coal."

If a person makes a plan for swindling someone else's possessions, he is a deceiver; but if the deception happens spontaneously, accidentally, then this is just a way of life. Cardan did not think up his adventures in advance, he was not a villain, everything in his life happened automatically, unintentionally, and his conscience was clean from the burdens of sin.

"Could you tell me how do I find your boss, please?" He asked the security guard standing at the gate. Having received the necessary information, Cardan rushed straight to the office of the chief. The secretary announced that the director was busy, and he had to wait a couple of minutes in the corridor.

          At last the room was free, and our adventurer entered the office of the strict manager. He began his conversation directly without blushing, "We need a trailer of coal. Unfortunately we are short of money. Let's arrange barter. I work as a mechanic at the tractor facilities in the nearby village. I can offer you any spare part.

Cardan hit the mark. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the equipment was not updated, spare parts were very hard to get, and on the coal base, just like everywhere else, there were the same problems - worn-out vehicles. The director plunged into a deep thinking. It was not so simple to make a choice when so many things were needed. In order not to lose the opportunity, he named the most necessary, in his opinion, spare part, A fuel pump to Belarus tractor.

No sooner had the last syllables of the tractor's name left the mouth of the speaking director, as Cardan started his usual, tried-and-tested tactics, Of course, I'll do everything you are asking me for. I will find a fuel pump for you as soon as I get to the tractor workshop.
68

He wrote down the address and added,"Ask Prosecutor, every "dog" knows me there.
Then, is it agreed? the director extended his hand to Cardana. "Go, look for transport, and in a couple of days I'll come to your place for the fuel pump."
Of course, come. I'll do everything that we have agreed upon. The pump will be ready in practically no time, he was already closing the door behind him but still was giving him sweet promises that turned the head of the satisfied chief.

          Cardan went to the village to look for a driver nicknamed Dog, who was called so because of his passion for fantasy and constant lies. Speaking of him every one ended his story with the words, "He's lying like a dog!" At that time, Dog was delivering food to the field for the workers engaged in harvesting. It was time for lunch, and the collective farmers gathered in shade near the forest waiting for a car with food.
         Tired of coolness and dampness, a grass snake crawled out on the edge of the forest to warm in the sun. He lay quietly on the grass enjoying the sun's rays, and did not know that the place he liked would also be chosen by the collective farmers. One of the drivers, unaware that the place was already occupied by the creeping dweller of the forest, nearly stepped on it. He quickly moved aside in fright and told his colleague about an unpleasant encounter. As it turned out, his comrade was not afraid of reptiles at all. He caught the grass snake and wrapped it around his arm.
What are you doing? Are you crazy? asked his colleague a restless question. What do you need it for? Drop it!
69

"Look, Chicka's coming to us. Now we will teach him how to constantly ask for cigarettes. Let's smoke to whet his desire. And we'll do it like this ..."
He took off his jacket, hung it on the branch of a tree and carefully put the grass snake in its pocket.

"Oh, guys, could you give me a cigarette?" Chicka mumbled a request, which was a habit developed by him over many years.
"Take it over there, in the pocket of my jacket," the prankster pointed his finger at the ominous bait.
Chicka flashed like lightning to the indicated place and quickly put his hand into the pocket. In the blink of an eye he seemed to be pierced by an electric shock; he instantly withdrew his arm from the pocket and gasped with fear, There ...
The comedians burst out laughing, but Chika stood all white with bulging eyes and outstretched hands. He tried to add something else but could only utter, sobbing with a lack of air, There ...
Finally, the laughter of his comrades brought him back to life. Realising that it was a prank, he waved his hand and scornfully exclaimed, Damn you, fools!"
Enraged at his offenders, he stepped aside boiling with anger and resentment.

Out of the forest came three hunters with rifles and approached Chicka.
"Have you seen a dog around here?" they turned to him.
"Wait a little bit, in a few minutes we are having lunch and he is delivering food for us," Chicka said.
At that moment Cardan arrived on a bicycle.
"Have you seen Dog?" he asked Chicka a similar question.
70

"Oh, and you're looking for him. People are waiting for him too. Hold on a little, he will be coming with food in a few minutes."
The hunters stood in bewilderment looking at one another.
"Wait, guys," one of the hunters finally said, "a four-legged dog with a tail and it can bark. Did you happen to see it? We were hunting wild ducks at a swamp not far from here and lost it."
"Oh, why did you not say it from the start," Chicka grumbled in displeasure, "that it is a four-legged beast with a tail and can bark? It happens that we call by that name our driver, who delivers lunch for us. How did I know what kind of "dog" you meant?

          The hunters turned around and went on to look for their four-legged friend.
Finally, Dog arrived by truck. In the truck's body there were four tanks. In one of them was soup, in the second mash potato, in the third - cutlets, and in the fourth apple beverage. The cook, who arrived with Dog, began to pour the soup into plates, which tired and hungry workers took to the already selected shady and grassy places for the convenient eating of the meal. Those who ate the first dish stood in line with empty plates for the second one. Cardan approached Dog and agreed on the delivery of the coal. "Only you find a plastic cover not to dirty the truck. You understand that I deliver food for the workers," the driver warned him.

           The coal was delivered. There was a lull for two days. The director of the coal base solved urgent matters. On the third day he went to Prosecutor to pick up the promised fuel pump.
71

He arrived at the tractor facilities and went to look for a mechanic.
"Have you seen Prosecutor?"
"No, I have not," the repairman answered him in bewilderment. "And who is he?"
"Your mechanic."
"We do not have a mechanic by the name of Prosecutor."
The director of the coal base did not believe his ears. Was he deceived? He could not trust the first worker so easily: he could be mistaken. In despair, he began running around the territory of the tractor facilities and kept asking the same question, "Have you seen Prosecutor?" No one had the faintest idea who Prosecutor was. He went into the director's office and received the same response as from the repairman, "We do not have any mechanics by such a name. Someone must have deceived you."
 
          The head of the coal base could not believe in his oversight, "How could that happen that I was deceived so easily?" It was banging in his temples, his chest was hot. He rushed to look for Cardan in the village stopping all the people on his way and asking one and the same question, "Have you seen Prosecutor?"
Who is Prosecutor? We have not seen and do not know him," they answered in bewilderment. Inquire the head of the village, he knows all the people here.
The drowning director of the coal base clutched at the straw and rushed to the village council.
Do you know who Prosecutor is? he asked the head of the village and told him about the barter.
"Prosecutor, Prosecutor and who is this Prosecutor?" the head mumbled it again and again. Prosecutor, Prosecutor and who is this Prosecutor? Cardan or what? finally the conclusion came to his mind by itself.
72

If you have arranged the delivery of coal to him, then you will not be able to give the case a legal move. He did not steal it, explained the chairman. "Go to him and try to settle it."

         He told him how to find Cardan's house and led the frustrated director to the door. "How such a naive man can be a director of the coal base," thought the head of the village seeing off the departing simpleton.

          Cardan was not at home then; and it was not possible to find him the next day and on the following ones. In the end, the director of the coal base gave up; scolded himself for his gullibility and said through the clenched teeth, "Oh, that scoundrel!"

          The storm calmed down and Cardan returned home. The wife must come back any minute. I have to make the stove. He prepared clay for mortar and began to lay bricks. Suddenly, the door opened and a tired wife came in.
"Wow, you are making the stove," she exhaled.
Yes, darling, there are some shifts here, the whipping husband justified himself.
The wife looked at the work that he had just begun and then exclaimed furiously, Here you are! I will give you such a blow now that there will be some shifts in your head instead! What did you do for two weeks?! Come on, finish it quickly!
Cardan, realising his guilt, continued to work silently.
"It's good that you have bought coal, otherwise there would be a denouement of the tragic plot," the half satisfied wife gave a frightening threat but this time a little calmer.
73
OLD WOMEN'S CURSES

           In the course of time Cardan fell into his usual habits of constant adventures and booze. He could not live a quiet life of a decent family man, and the marital relationships came up to the brink of precipice. The family life was approaching a disaster. At that time there circled a lot of rumours about his tricks in the village. The number of naive people had greatly decreased: everyone knew about the insidiousness of the cunning deceiver. "Ah, well, you'll be deceiving again," old women said. "We will not deal with you," was heard from the men. Cardan spun as well as he could, letting his talent off "the leash", but the results were minimal. Even at school children told one another about his tricks, and then, when they met him in the street, they pointed their fingers at him and laughed. He was a local star for them, a great con man, almost as smart as a famous deceiver Ostap Bender.

          At noon several women gathered near the shop and were vividly discussing the latest rural news.
74

"Imagine," said one of them, "yesterday Cardan ran into my house with a saw in his hand and hurriedly, as if he had been doing something, said to me, "Quickly, give me a liter of vodka! A trailer of firewood is being delivered to you! Look, look out the window!" I took a look. Indeed, a tractor with the firewood went past my yard. "Let's go faster; we're in a hurry! We are preparing lumber for the collective farm, the guys decided to get warm so they sent me to you! Let's settle it quickly, and I'll run to help them to unload the trailer!" I paid off and waited. Five minutes passed by but there was no tractor at my house. I went outside nobody there. I waited for half an hour more silence. Well, I guess the bastard deceived me. Oh, my dear, God will punish him one day! Oh, He will punish him for such tricks!

Just the other day he comes to my house and says, continues the second woman. "We are delivering manure to the collective farm field. The guys decideded to get warmed up and sent me to you. Quickly, give me a liter of vodka, and I'll run back! I'm in a hurry - they are waiting for me! The tractor with the manure is already on its way!"
I paid off, waited for a little while, then went to the garden - no one. I went out into the street nobody there. Waited, and waited, and waited no tractor, nobody. Oh, that scoundrel, oh, that bastard! God will punish him one day for his tricks, oh, He'll punish him!

"My husband went to buy furniture to the district center," the third woman began. Cardan met him there and told him about his plans because of his naivety. Later Cardan came running to my house and said, "Has your husband returned from the district center?"
No, I answered.
I helped him to load furniture. He said that if I came back late, my wife would pay you for it. So give me half a liter."
Well, I paid off. My husband came back home and couldn`t understand what I was talking about.
75

Then I quarreled with him because of that accursed Cardan. I hope he will not escape God's punishment. One day someone will play such a trick on him that he will remember it till he dies!

"He sold me salt instead of sugar," the fourth woman added. Suddenly, the women's curses started pouring on Cardan`s head like a terrential shower.

          Cardan realized that he needed lie down for a while and actually fulfill several promises to regain the trust of some simpleton, and when he lost his vigilance, Cardan would make a move by a chess horse.

Such a simpleton, in his opinion, was approaching Victoria. He got his nickname for his predilection to men rather than women. Rumors of his victories on the love front spread far beyond the village. Cardan knew about his male attraction, but he ventured "to play with fire." He decided to take advantage of his hospitality and leave him "with a nose." Victoria was a master of his craft: if Cardan could deceive old women, Victoria knew how to defeat men. And who will be a winner in this fight, no one could say for sure both were experts of the highest degree. Victoria invited Cardan to his house. They had a few drinks, talked about their lives, and said goodbye to each other.

          The conqueror of the men knew that there was no need to rush, and as a cat, patiently awaiting the appearance of a mouse from a hole who forgot about vigilance, so he expected a favourable moment for the realization of his intention. The great deceiver of old women, in his own turn, like a sparrow, eating food put out to chickens, was indulging in his benefactor's hospitality. But one day he stayed at Victoria`s table longer than usual.
76

Magical effect of alcohol and a pleasant conversation brought him out of balance. The host poured and poured alcohol, and the guest drank and drank. The conqueror of the men realized that the client had matured. He intentionally touched the mug standing on the table with water, which fell on to Cardan`s lap and moistened his trousers in an intimate place. "Oh, you're all wet. Let me change your clothes, otherwise people might say that you wet yourself," Victoria offered benevolently. Cardan did not understand anything; he did not know why he agreed to the host's offer to change his trousers, and then did not know what was happening, where he was - in hell or paradise - all mixed up in a total blur. Their romantic meeting dragged on for three days.
          Cardan's wife rushed to look for her husband all over the village. "He is nowhere to be found. Where did he get to? He has happened to spend a night somewhere but not three days in a row," she lamented. She walked around the whole village, but her husband seemed to fall through the ground. As it turned out, no one had seen him in the village for three days. Finally, she was recommendeded to check at Victoria`s. They said that he had been there recently. Cardan's wife came to his house. "If he is not here," she decided, "I'll call the police and inform them that he is missing."

         The door was locked and the curtains on the windows were drawn. She walked around the house trying to find an apparture between the curtains. In the end she got lucky. She looked in and couldn`t understand what was happening. Her hands themselves began to pound at the window. "Open the door! Open it, you scoundrels!" She cried in frenzy, but the door was not opened to her. Having done everything she could to get into the house, she ran to the neighbours, so that they helped her to take the husband from the winner of the men. Victoria, sensing the wrong, quickly dressed Cardan, led him out into the street and put him on a bench near the yard.
77

The men came running. The great deceiver of old women could neither sit, nor stand, nor, especially, walk after such a friendly visit to Victoria. They took him under his knees with their hands putting his arms on their shoulders and carried him home.

          Thus ended the party arranged by two lovers of a game of chance. Nobody knows what really happened there. Someone would blurt out some nonsense with his black tongue, and rumors would spread over the village, and then it would turn out that it was just slander. Therefore, I don`t want to fantasize here as well. But people in the village laughed and said, "There's definitely God in heaven. How deservedly he punished Cardan! He could deceive almost anyone in the village, and who could imagine that he was himself deceived like a child.

His wife broke up with Cardan and returned to her mother`s house. Cardan, having spent a couple of weeks in bed, recovered and got outside. "Either my intuition failed me, or it all happened because of the old women`s curses," he mumbled but quickly cast aside sad thoughts. "Will I stay in a house forever? It is necessary to be always on a turn! Cardan (driveshaft) is spinning - the car is running." He flung his coat over his shoulders and straightened up, raised his head high, and went around the village "to conquer the world."

          Inadvertently, I have recalled the words from the Ukrainian cartoon There Was a Dog, "And Cardan began living as before, even better; forgotten were all his past troubles - all forgotten."

         At the time when I was writing this book, I was lucky to meet Cardan. One morning, when the sun just started to rise over the tops of trees standing in a distance, he came to my house tuning into the rustle of awakening nature. What a great piece of luck, I thought.
Do you need mushrooms? he demonstratively extended a full bag in my direction. I accepted a weighty load.
Wow, such beautiful mushrooms! I sniffed in the forest flavour. And how do you manage with things so early? I expressed genuine interest.
You have to be always on the move. Cardan is spinning the car is running.
Yes, It is necessary to spin, I agreed.
The barter took place. Again he comes to me in half an hour.
Do you need fish?
Yes, I do.
"I'll bring some more tomorrow," he promised.
"All right, do it."
And this time I paid him.

78

Again he comes for the third time.
"I`ve just thrown the net; I'll bring some fish in the morning. I came to say that I did not forget about you, otherwise you may think that I got drunk and fell asleep. Give me half a liter, and at the dawn, as soon as the net is pulled out, I`ll come to you immediately.

I knew that he was lying but how beautifully: everything was laid out on the shelves. What kind of net he threw, how he got into the water, what kind of fish were there, he would tell everything to the minutest details.
"You know, I might deceive anyone but you."
Tell me is it true that when you served in the army near Moscow, you exchanged 100 trucks of sand for booze?
Yes, it is, Andrey. I was sent to Kazakhstan to serve up the rest of the term for a punishment.
 Have there been many interesting things in your life?
Oh, Andrey, there have been a lot.

I couldn`t extract more details of his life from him: a man will not saw off a branch that he is sitting on. He just kept promising that he would help me do any work about my household when I asked him. I listened attentively to him and was glad that there were such funny people on earth. One might have called him a liar, a deceiver, but every person who had ever met him, probably, somewhere in the depths of his soul wanted to be deceived. Otherwise, why those people, who knew his deceptive, always stepped on the same rake? There must have been a kind of inner attraction in that man, some kind of purely human charm ... As a child is forgiven for his pranks because of a lack of inexperience and ignorance of life, so Cardan was forgiven his tricks, because you wanted to see him again, to listen to him, to have a laugh, to enjoy life.

I wanted to believe in his promises, and I gave him half a liter. Although I knew that he would deceive me, but he told me everything so beautifully, so vividly painted his actions, so sweetly promised that there was nothing to be offended of.

          I stood looking attentively at Cardan, who was walking away by a quick and confident gait. Sad and warm thoughts filled my head: so much enthusiasm was in that man, so much ostentatious virtue towards people, so much life!
79

He was able to inspire a person with hope, even if it was temporary, that the world was not without good people; he was able to raise people's mood by talking, to fill with rainbow colours the boring and monotonous routine of a rural worker. Probably, exactly for those positive emotions, received after a conversation with him, he always was forgiven.

           "Wow, and what a nice guy he was, just a joke of a man!" I stood and reiterated those words in my mind, which aroused a friendly smile on my face, while Cardan was disappearing behind the corner of the "deserted" street.

          Nowadays Ukrainian villages are dying out. I remember how a few years ago I visited one of them.  Life was boiling there: people planted vegetable gardens, kept cows; at that place are dilapidated houses now, and only wind flies through the ruins, - the evil wind of change. In that village there was their own "Cardan", and in hundreds of the similar villages that have remained only on the map of the former Soviet Union. There, too, were token men about whom you can write whole volumes, but nobody remembers them now. That's why I decided to leave a memory of Cardan and the stories about his tricks that amused people in the village smoothing their heavy and gray life for dozens of years.
80


6 , , - .