Androusha Mille—the great-great-grandson, by the way, of the very same General Evgeny Karlovich Miller, head of the Russian All-General Military union, whom Chekists rubbed out in Paris in 193 ?-received, tenth hand, the assignment to gun down a certain dealer. He was given an envelope, which contained the victim's address and a snapshot, a pistol- a TT—and a three-thousand-dollar advance, in the new denominations. First Androusha counted the money; then he looked at the snapshot, and was stunned-having recognized his PE teacher, who, in seventh grade had given him an F for his exercises on the horse. For some reason, that F burned into his memory; and gazing at the snapshot, he thought with distaste, Oh well, serves you right, fool; you shouldn't stick your nose in commerce if your profession is teaching. And he clearly imagined how he would meet his former teacher in the elevator, slowly withdraw the pistol, plant half a clip in the old dumbbell, then take a check shot to the head, blow in the barrel-for style-and say in a sepulchral voice, “Now you'll think twice before giving Fs to killers.”
In general, Androusha was an okay guy, but stupid. He was destined to become a husband, a father and the manager of a haberdashery shop, but, as is well known, the movement of heavenly bodies was disrupted by our frantic times. And so Androusha set his sights on the romantic profession of hit man, not realizing this choice was, to say the least, not divinely ordained and that he would pay for it one day.
And Sasha Measurman, a resident of a small workers' village in the Vladimirsky district, has a dream: The god Savaoth presents herself, for some reason, in the form of a proper old woman-wearing a white, glossy floor-length dress, a white kerchief with fringed edges on her head-sits down opposite his bed and says, “Soon, a new Deluge will burst, in which all humanity will perish for innumerable sins. So you, Measurman, build an ark, pick out seven clean pairs, seven unclean pairs of animals and wait for the rain." Sasha Measurman asks, “What did I do to deserve this?" “What you did," she answers, “is that you never harmed a fly in your life, even your daughter-in-law bosses you around and looks haughty... ”
Measurman was a suspicious man-twice a year, he would go into Vladimir for a check-up at a tuberculosis dispensaryand therefore believed the dream. A week hadn't passed before he quit at the dairy plant, where he worked as a boiler operator, and undertook the construction of an ark from material at hand. He had about three cubic meters of timberhaving taken apart the summer-kitchen roof, borrowed several carts from a neighbor and torn down a fence. The whole village made fun of him, but he hacked away with his ax, not giving a damn, and kept murmuring, “He who laughs last laughs best," while nails, sticking out of his mouth, wiggled as if alive. By the summer, in his backyard, directly on the garden plot meant for potatoes, lying heavily sideways, there was a vessel of gigantic proportions for Vladimirsky district-which is entirely landlocked, where even a tiny boat like a kazanka is a rarity and considered almost a ship. Having built it, Measurman began waiting for the torrential rain.
Fall was just around the corner, and here and there mushrooms took over his ark, but not a sign of the flood at all.
Meanwhile, Nikolai Ivanovich Spiridonov, chief engineer of the Bakunin Moscow Button Factory, felt somewhat sick that day. For no apparent reason, something started to tickle in his nostrils, his ears stuffed up, tiny worms floated before his eyes and a strange hollow formed in his stomach. Nikolai Ivanovich immediately broke off a conference on the results of the second quarter, summoned his car and left for home.