The Suitcase

The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov Read Free Book Online

Book: The Suitcase by Sergei Dovlatov Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sergei Dovlatov
don’t think so. He didn’t ask me any questions at all, I don’t think. I can’t remember any.”
    “Not one?”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “How did you strike up an acquaintance? Rather, where and how did you meet?”
    “I was in the typing pool. He came in and asked — ”
    “Ah, he asked? Then he did ask questions? What did he ask, if it’s not a secret?”
    “He asked where the toilet was.”
    The major wrote it down and said, “I suggest you be more precise…”
    The rest of the conversation seemed absolutely meaningless. Chilyayev was interested in everything. What did we eat? What did we drink? What artists did we talk about? He even wanted to know if the Swede went to the men’s room often.
    The major insisted I recall all the details. Did the Swede abuse alcohol? Did he have an eye for the ladies? Did he appear to be a latent homosexual?

    I replied thoroughly and conscientiously. I had nothing to hide.
    The major paused. He rose partly out of his chair. Then he raised his voice a bit. “We are counting on your conscientiousness. Even though you are rather frivolous. The information we have on you is more than contradictory: indiscriminate personal life, drinking, dubious jokes…”
    I wanted to ask where the contradiction was, but I controlled myself. Especially since the major pulled out a rather voluminous folder. My name was written large on the cover.
    I stared at the file. I felt what a pig might feel in the meat section of a deli.
    The major continued. “We expect total frankness from you. We are counting on your help. I hope you understand the importance of this mission?… Most importantly, remember, we know everything. We know everything ahead of time. Absolutely everything…”
    I wanted to ask, then how about Misha Baryshnikov?* Did they know ahead of time that Misha would stay in America?
    The major asked, “What arrangements did you make with the Swede? Are you supposed to meet today?”
    “We’re supposed to,” I said. “He invited the wife and me to the Kirov Theatre. I think I’ll call, apologize, say I’m sick.”
    “Not on your life,” the major said, rising up in his seat. “Go. Definitely go. And remember every detail. We’ll call you tomorrow morning.”
    I thought to myself: just what I need!
    “I can’t,” I said. “I have good reasons.”
    “Such as?”

    “I don’t have a suit. You need appropriate clothes for the theatre. Foreigners go there, by the way.”
    “Why don’t you have a suit?” the major demanded. “That’s ridiculous! You work for a major organization.”
    “I have a small salary,” I replied.
    The editor chipped in. “I’ll let you in on a small secret. As you know, the New Year festivities are approaching. We have decided to award Comrade Dovlatov a valuable present. In half an hour he can go to the accounting office, and then to the Frunze Department Store. And pick out an appropriate suit for about one hundred twenty roubles.”
    “But,” I say, “I’m not a regular size.”
    “Don’t worry,” the editor said. “I’ll call the store manager.”
    And so I came to own an imported double-breasted suit. Made in East Germany, if I’m not mistaken. I wore it about five times. Once when I went to the theatre with the Swede. And about four times when I was sent to funerals.
    My Swede was expelled from the Soviet Union for being a conservative journalist who “expressed the interests of the right wing”.
    Six years he had studied Russian. Wanted to write a book. And he was expelled. I hope without my participation. What I had told the major about him seemed perfectly harmless.
    Moreover, I even warned Arthur that he was being watched. Rather, I hinted that the walls had ears. The Swede didn’t understand. Anyway, I had nothing to do with that. The most amazing thing was that my dissident friend Shamkovich then accused me of helping the KGB!

An Officer’s Belt
    T HE WORST THING FOR A DRUNKARD is to wake up in a hospital

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