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Buy Our Souls /by Zurab Lezhava/

Size: 130x195 mm
Number of pages: 136  
Copyright holder: "Bakur Sulakauri Publishing" Contact: Elene Pasuri, elene@sulakauri.ge
Zurab Lezhava is called by his admirers the "Pirosmani of prose" (painter Niko Pirosmani was a Georgian Henry Rousseau). Notwithstanding his naïve style, the stories he tells are deeply mesmerizing and sometimes even horrible to read. The writer spent 16 years in prison, and he reflected these terribly traumatizing 16 years quite expressively in his writing. Would you like to know what the real hell looks like? Indeed, the reader may initially have the feeling that he finds himself in a hell. By the end, however, the reader will discover that this hell is the prison in fact, or even life after prison, when even an "ancient" fridge may get bartered for sex.


Translated by PJ Hillery


     The harsh sound and familiar knocking of the door bolt could be heard. This wasn't the food hatch. This was the sound of the door. Pasha, a warder with the face of a Rottweiler, was opening the door roughly, with his usual carelessness.
     "They're cramming them in again!" someone grumbled.
     "What can you do, winter is coming and they're detaining the homeless!" someone else replied to that first someone.
     The door soon opened and a slim, unkempt man came into the cell. In one hand he held a small bag and in the other some extremely thin bedding rolled up like a roll of wallpaper. In size and volume the prisoner's bag more resembled a large pouch for keeping tobacco, while his bedding amounted to a sticky rug, a thin mattress and a smelly pillow. From the centre of this unpleasant Swiss roll, also a yellowed "grid" pattern towel could be seen, an aluminium prison mug blackened from soot and with no handle, and an aluminium spoon with a sharpened and warped handle.
     "What's up, chief, what's happened?" someone complained to the warder. "There are twenty places here, and you are already cramming in the twenty-eighth!"
     "It's all right, you'll be warmer!" the warder joked with the complainer.
     "Summon the Assistant Governor," said an angry prisoner. "It's no skin off your nose, you go about farting all day in the corridor without a care in the world!"
     The warder scratched his neck. He really did use to spread foul gasses frequently when on duty, accompanied by his loud braying laugh.
     "I'm an employee of the state and so I'm obliged to fart loudly," Pasha explained his behaviour. "This signifies that I'm not asleep on duty! But you can fart into your fists!"
     Pasha noticeably cheered up since the conversation had taken on a form that was useful for him and had turned into dirty clowning.
     "You're really good at it, Pasha, you're probably very energetic!"
     "We-ell, I'll pull through the winter!"
     Such conversations frequently took place when Pasha was on duty. He liked joking with the prisoners, growling and barking, and he took a pleasurable delight in it. The prisoners knew this and they tried to keep their troublesome warder, Pasha with the Rottweiler face, in a good mood, as he was a person who only felt good when he was being sworn at and, of course, when he himself was cursing and swearing at someone. Even his colleagues in the administration, most of whom were not known for their high culture, considered Pasha as a debauched hooligan. When this warder was on duty, spiteful calling out to one another and dirty joking could often be heard, sharp-tongued prisoners mercilessly swore abuse at Pasha. And Pasha, for his part, swore abuse at them. Pasha would often fend off verbal attacks from several cells at the same time.
     "Pasha, come on now, really do summon the Assistant Governor," one of the prisoners was pleading with a cheerful Pasha. "Go on, or they'll really go crazy!"
     "No, I can't summon the Assistant Governor, boys, especially now as the shifts are soon changing," Pasha justified himself. "Look, Ivanich is here and you can speak to him if you like."
     Three or four prisoners simultaneously stuck their heads out into the corridor from under and over Pasha's strong arms and called out to Ivanich, the Block Chief.
     Ivanich came.
     "How are you, boys!"
     "Ivanich! Ivanich!" the prisoners began to complain. "What is this, Ivanich! You've already crammed in the twenty-eighth person, what's happened? You don't think this cell is stretchable, do you? You'll soon build wall shelves here."
     "We'll build wall shelves if it proves necessary," declared the Block Chief, "and we'll put the greatest prattlers on these shelves!"
     "You won't put them there, Ivanich, that time has passed, we have democracy now and we'll write to the UN to complain!"
     "Write to the UN and complain to the Sports Lottery," the Block Chief agreed with him without a discussion, "but don't complain to the Pope!"
     "Why, Ivanich, why mustn't we write to the Pope?"
     "Don't ask me, but he's an elderly man, don't you know," Ivanich answered him in a carefree manner. "Eff him!" At the same time he was fiddling with a card index.
     "That's a sacrilege, Ivanich, you're swearing at the Pope!"
     "I've no time to be made fun of, boys!"
     The Block Chief really didn't have the time. He didn't have the time because he had new people to put into the cells and, besides this, his shift ended in an hour. As far as summoning the Assistant Governor was concerned, the prisoners were not in any case insisting on this demand, since they knew that this would not help. It was late autumn and the prisons were filling with people who overwinter in prison on a charge of vagrancy for six months, but in spring they blithely wander about this infinite land.
     The Block Chief went out into the corridor, Pasha locked the door with a bang. The cell calmed down.
     "Hello, boys!" the newcomer enunciated quite boldly and at the same time somehow timidly, confusedly and in a mumble.
     "Hello!" some of them replied to him glumly and in an offhand manner.
     "How are things?" the newcomer asked again rather boldly and at the same time as if in a timid mumble.
     The prisoners glanced at one another and shrugged their shoulders.
     "Things are at the Prosecutor's," one of them answered.
     "Oh that loathsome, that foolish man," said the newcomer condescendingly, "undisciplined!"
     "Who are you criticizing?" the prisoners asked him in surprise and with a certain satisfaction.
     "What do you mean, who? What do you mean, who?" The newcomer for his part was amazed. "The Prosecutor, of course, why do you need to ask?"
     Prisoners, of course, like to curse and swear at Prosecutors. But this newcomer's fake irritation put a large portion of the residents of the cell into a good mood, they focused their attention on him. It should be said that this man was like the Devil: he was slim, with gapped teeth, hollow-chested, with yellow eyes and a collapsed nose. His lighted, candle-like penetrating eyes, it is true, weren't giving off any temperature, but still it appeared as if they were burning everything with their unhealthy, schizophrenic fire; everything, even including this man's featureless face. It appeared that his eyebrows, pupils and face had been burned by the hot fire of his eyes. They asked the intruder to tell them his identity, where he was from, for what crime had he been imprisoned, and they found for him a low-status place somewhere near the toilet bowl, since they had decided that he was, let's say, a "devil, roll up the cotton wool", at the same time bonkers, who was clearly one card short of a deck.
     The Russian expression "devil, roll up the cotton wool" requires some explanation: The fact of the matter is that in the unwritten rules of prison, the prisoners do not have equal rights, they are divided into suits, that is to say, categories. Devils are considered as low category people. These are those people who are oppressed, deceived, mocked in prison and are exploited as far as possible. As far as the rolling up of cotton wool is concerned, as is known, smoking is forbidden in punishment cells, in penal solitary confinement cells and in the hospitals of certain prisons. Tobacco and matchsticks are taken from the prisoners, and so these are forced by the lack of matches to resort to various techniques, for example, they light up from a lighted bulb; or they create a small short circuit in the electrical cabling, but if the light bulb is in a glass light fitting and the wires are well isolated in the wall, then they resort to the most difficult means of making fire, let's say, the cotton wool winding and rolling method. This method is very similar to that of primitive man. They take a little cotton wool from a mattress or a pillow, they wind it slightly, they place it on the smooth surface of a table and with a board, a piece of plywood or, for example, a chessboard they, let's say, roll it, approximately as when metal pipes are being prepared. It is difficult to describe this simple process in words if one hasn't seen it. Fire doesn't take hold of the cotton wool at the first attempt. This is an exhausting business and it requires dexterity, patience and experience. The winding and rolling are entrusted to the so-called devils, more correctly, to the most wretched and compliant among the devils, those who, as a rule, also sweep and tidy the cell, take out the refuse and fetch the water. He covers the peephole with his back when others are playing cards or doing something that the warders in the corridor should not see. That phrase itself, "devil, roll up the cotton wool", is probably a living phrase, that is to say, it must have been taken from life. Let's imagine a small hospital subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, for example, a psychiatric one, a cold ward, with several unfortunates in it, who are wearing nothing but white hospital underwear, who are taking shelter under the extremely thin blankets and who at least five times a day are mockingly and belittlingly asked-demanded-ordered "devil, roll up the cotton wool". The devil is some poor person, his rear perforated ruthlessly by syringes, a half-insane patient, angrily winds the cotton wool, while at the same time looking towards the peephole so that a warder or an orderly wouldn't see, for if you are spotted, punishment will follow: triple doses of Sulphazine, Aminazine or Alapiridol.
     The Little Devil did not protest at his low-status place, he found a place somewhere near the toilet bowl among devils like himself, he climbed up to the second tier and began his characteristic fussing about: From his bag he took out a small cap, then he took out from the same place something like a paintbrush and he stuck it in a hole in the cap, then he put the cap on his head and it looked like some kind of antenna. He sat down like this on the bed and started to mutter strangely. "Morda, Morda, this is Kirpich, I am approaching you, Morda!" He was calling down to the box of matches which he had brought close to his mouth. "Morda, Morda, can you hear me?"
     The prisoners were looking askance at yet another crazy person, who probably, like all crazy people, was serving time for vagrancy, he was wasting a space, he was breathing air which was deficient in oxygen, and was an undesirable in the cell since he was not someone who would bring any good, and consequently, he was already automatically becoming bad.
     Events in the cell developed at their usual pace. Everyone fussed about for himself and a commotion was no longer heard from the corridor. The Block Chief found places for the newcomers in the cells. He took his goons and left. Only Pasha with the Rottweiler face remained in the corridor. There was still an hour before the shift change and so Pasha was engrossed in his favourite amusement, playing football with the rubbish bin. He was kicking the nylon bin with all his force and the bin was flying about like a wine jar in the empty corridor, it dashed against the walls, against the cell doors, and against the grill on the window at the end of the corridor, and was making entirely unpleasant noises. To this was added Pasha's panting and the loud stamping of his heavy military field shoes. This behaviour of Pasha's irritated many. He probably drove some crazy. These, especially the newcomers, would protest and sometimes they even complained, but there was no force in the world that could curb Pasha in an empty corridor, when he and the bin were left all alone in an empty corridor. Then Pasha thought of nothing, except football.
     Pasha placed the bin in a convenient place, took a run at it, deftly kicked it and, as they say, scored a goal; the bin hit the window grille at the spot he aimed at and Pasha triumphantly broke wind to mark his victory. To all this was added what was by now a throaty "u-u-h!"
     All this took place close to the cell mentioned above and several wits had already spoken of these events in making their commentary. But unexpectedly the newcomer got ahead of all and in his differing, specific voice, he boldly and at the same time somehow timidly mumbled, quite loudly, loudly enough to be heard by the warder outside, he called out:
     "An undefiled backside doesn't do it like this!" Then he fell silent, he laughed, he became serious for show and added: "Yes, it's probably defiled!" He again fell silent, he again laughed diabolically, he again became serious for show and again added: "Not probably, it really is defiled!"
     The corridor was struck dumb in an instant, more correctly, not the corridor, but Pasha was struck dumb in the corridor. A strange voice could be heard in his ear. It was not his traditional verbal debater, that is to say, the one he was swearing at and the one swearing at him. This was someone else, someone new. That was why Pasha had stopped pestering the bin, he approached the cell stealthily, slid open the peephole cover and said:
     "Don't give up, you, too, will have such a backside!"
     The Little Devil turned his face towards the door and started to giggle with satisfaction, he didn't answer Pasha. Pasha went off and tried to continue playing football, but he didn't have the time for it.
     "Yes, it really is defiled." A deep, rough voice could be heard from the opposite cell: "Uuu-ha-ha-haa!" It was Saniok, Pasha's traditional debater, a big and awkward oaf of a prisoner, in character more or less the same as Pasha.
     "I wonder if someone is screwing you…" Pasha called out now to Saniok, "since you're poking your nose into everything like a whore?" "Uuu-ha-haa!" was Saniok's response.
     Then he again tried to continue playing football, but on this occasion he didn't have the time for it.
     "Vitsiok! Vitsiok!" Saniok was speaking to his friend in his cell which was almost at the other end of the corridor.
     "What's up?" an apparently newly-awoken Vitsiok answered from the end of the corridor.
     "Vitsiok, what do you think, is Pasha's backside defiled?"
     "Who? Our Pasha! You don't say, Saniok! Who'd have appointed him to his job if he were like that?"
     "Well, don't ask me! Perhaps the Party presented a report to him!" Saniok disagreed.
     "Yes, that's possible, it really may have presented a report to him!" Vitsiok agreed with him. "They say that the police now accept even those who've been screwed!"
     "Now, shut up, sons of bitches," Pasha yelled. "Say what you like about me, just leave the Party and the police alone!"
     "Just look at him, look at how the sycophant has begun to speak, he probably really is defiled and now he's trying to win the hearts of his supervisors by populist declarations! He is probably a populist!"
     "Not a populist, but a queer!"
     "Quiet, chickens, don't let me hear your cackling!"
     "Still," Saniok didn't calm down, "what do you actually think, Vitsiok, has our Pasha been screwed or not?"
     "Well, what can I say, Saniok, I find it hard to tell on the basis of his farting noises, and the smell hasn't reached me yet. Look, I'll tell you the correct answer in a short while when the smell gets to me!"
     The correct answer was ready in a short while:
     "Yes, he has been screwed! An undefiled backside doesn't have a smell like that!"
     "Together with the harmful gasses he also spreads TB bacteria," this time the Little Devil added to the cursing and swearing. "He probably has a lung cavity." "Waa-ha-ha-ha," Saniok's booming laugh could be heard.
     "Wuu-ha-ha-ha-haa!" Pasha laughed and he enthusiastically scored a twelvemetre penalty with the bin. "This morning I ate two ducks, boys!"
     "Yes, well, if you ate two ducks, then you are forgiven, Pasha," Saniok said kindly and affectionately to Pasha. "It seemed something completely different to us! What do you say, Zemliak, did you hear, newcomer?" These words were directed to the Little Devil.
     The Little Devil smiled diabolically and he called out:
     "Well, what can I say, Saniok, somehow I still have slight doubts, you know what it's like, I'm a newcomer, so if Citizen Warder were to do it once more, then I could probably tell, but now I find it difficult to give an unambiguous answer." "Then let's ask the chief and he will do it once again," Saniok boomed. "Well, Mr. Pasha, just one more salvo for the sake of the public!"
     To dispel his doubts Pasha once more fired a salvo for the sake of public which cheered up not only the verbal debaters but also the whole floor.
     "O-o-o-o, I hear it. Wa-ha-ha-ha, you're a Caruso, Pasha! A real Caruso!" Saniok praised the warder and called him Caruso (probably for reasons of harmony).
     An hour passed like this and the restless, debauched Pasha was replaced by a taciturn and executive warder, whom no one had heard to say too much and who didn't give others permission to clown about. He conscientiously fulfilled his employment duties and never farted while on duty.
     The newcomer again put his hand into his bag, again took something out, again put away something and probably would have continued bustling around for a long time, but on this occasion he became the centre of attention, since he had attracted general attention by his performance. They gave him a cigarette to smoke, they fed him a small piece of fat on black bread and together with some garlic, and they offered him a move to a slightly better place in the depths of the cell but he declined this.
     "I am a messenger from the Devil, boys!" he declared, "my nickname is the Little Devil and I'm here to buy souls! Human souls! Some of your souls!"
     The prisoners looked at the intruder in surprise, they looked at him from head to toes, they measured him, they looked distrustfully at him and then they asked him to tell them all the details.
     "Everything happens very easily, very straightforwardly, painlessly and without problems. A representative of Hell will buy your souls, and in return you will be given what has been agreed in discussions. What is vague about this, isn't everything here easy and understandable? I'll summon the Devil – we'll summon him together, he'll select the necessary souls, you will agree with him on the price and it's goodbye after that, we'll meet in Hell, are you game?"
     "We're game!"
     Of course, many didn't want to, and never even thought of selling their souls, some only laughed at what the stranger had said, but there turned out to be those who really took to the idea of selling their own souls.
     Both groups kicked up a storm of questions for the Little Devil:
     "What will the Devil do with us if, for the sake of argument, he buys our souls?"
     "How much will he pay us?"
     "How long will it take for him to pay us?"
     "I don't know! I know nothing! I'm only a go-between," answered the Little Devil.
     Only one of the prisoners was watching insolently and contemptuously. He was periodically making rejoinders and for some reason he kept hindering the Little Devil.
     The Little Devil directed his penetrating gaze at him several times, but he said nothing to him.
     "You awoke me at two in the morning and if someone really wants to sell his soul, I'll assist you in this. I'll summon the Devil." With these words the Little Devil put his little bag under his thin pillow, he went to bed, turned over and fell asleep.
      All the same, the newcomer's strange words didn't give rise to any great gossiping among the residents of the cell since you'll meet a thousand crazy people in prison, and if you pay attention to all, you'd go crazy yourself. Life continued in the cell: with games, tea and hubbub. The sole insignificant incident, if incident it can be called, was that one of the prisoners, the very one who had tried to laugh at the Little Devil, for some reason his left testicle began to ache. The first unpleasant feeling came over him while playing cards. This wasn't a feeling of pain insomuch as it was insignificant, but this feeling soon grew into a pain, and one so unbearable that the man was forced to abandon his game and to lie down on his bed. In a short time, his testicle noticeably swelled and soon he was already howling from pain. The prisoners who came across this banged on the door to have the warder call the prison's medical orderly. The warder, following the law, called the prison's medical orderly without any problem. The orderly came. They took the patient out into the corridor. The orderly looked over his testicle swollen to three times its size, made a note of his surname, gave him a pain-killing injection, Analgin or something similar which was of absolutely no help to the pain and promised to summon a dermatologist, or some such "ologist" in the morning, in a word, whoever cures testicles. After this, they returned the patient to his cell. Stumbling, he staggered to his bed, lay down and groaned until morning.
     The Little Devil awoke at approximately two in the morning. Like a cat he washed his weary old mushroom-like face at a tap fitted to the toilet bowl and climbed up to the second tier.
     "What should we do, lads?" he called out loudly and clapped his hands. "Shall we summon the Devil or not?"
     "Summon him! Summon him!" the shouts could be heard from here and there, "Summon him, damn him!"'
     "The fact of the matter is," the Little Devil began, "it's not an easy matter. I'll need your assistance. We must all summon the Devil together, otherwise it'll be no use, nothing will come of it."
     "But how? But how?" the prisoners shouted.
     "How? Firstly, everyone must remove your crosses, those of you wearing them! After this we'll all lie down on our beds and quietly, in our minds, we'll summon the devil! We'll ask him to come! Does that suit you?"
     "It suits us!"
     They really did do as the Little Devil said: everyone wearing a cross removed it and lay down on his bed, only a single prisoner remained with a cross. He was sleeping at the time and no one remembered his cross. Now only the groaning of the man with the swollen testicle broke the silence in the cell. Everyone started to summon the Devil in his mind. Unexpectedly, the one sleeping, the very one wearing a cross, became restless in his sleep and laid his hand on the string from which the cross was hung and tried to rip it off. The strong nylon string didn't budge, his neck started to ache and he woke up.
     "What's happening?" he asked, newly awoken and anxious.
     His cellmates explained to him what was happening and he, like the others, removed his cross and joined them in summoning the Devil. By now only the low moaning of the one with the swollen testicle disturbed a reigning silence that bode evil. Boding evil since some unknown fear had settled. Although there were twenty-eight in the cell and, it is true, a large 250-watt bulb was lit, for some reason those there felt themselves on their own and not one of them could count on anyone any longer. Those who had agreed to take part in the ceremony of summoning the Devil more as a spectacle to watch now took things more seriously and felt a slight tinge of fear.
     Soon the one with the swollen testicle started to toss more from side to side and to cry out terribly. His testicle had become so swollen that it no longer fitted into his trouser leg. In the meantime, in the corridor, the accelerated pounding of coarse police hobnail boots could be heard. This pounding was approaching and stopped at the cell. Someone's rough hand slid open the peephole cover, then slid it close again, then he began to struggle with the food hatch lock, he nervously inserted the key and didn't open it, but almost yanked the lock off. The small but heavy door of the food hatch fell down with a knocking sound and crashed with a boom into the main door, and the face of an unfamiliar warder whom they hadn't seen before appeared in the open hatch.
     "Why are you roaring?" he roared. "Why are you shouting? Can't you tell day from night. The whole prison can hear your roaring!"
     All were flabbergasted since they hadn't expected a ticking off like this from a senior person. On the contrary, the cell had been quieter than ever.
     "We haven't been shouting, sir!" someone mumbled timidly.
     "What, you haven't been shouting!" The chief glowered even more. "The whole prison can hear your roaring! You were banging something on the door? You were kicking the door? Well, now I'll call the football boot team and you'll see how to kick!"
     Such a prospect promised nothing desirable for the cell. The so-called football boot team was a special squad comprising strong, healthy, rough young policemen (people like Pasha), who could easily teach that lesson of which the angry warder had spoken sarcastically.
     "Sir, sir," the Little Devil approached the warder, fawning conciliatorily, "Sir, don't get angry at us, we wanted…" and the Little Devil had already gone over to whisper.
     The residents of the cell could no longer hear what the warder and the Little Devil were talking about.
     "Well, soul-sellers come out!" the Little Devil called out and he turned to the cell.
     Several prisoners slowly got up from their beds. They timidly appeared before the warder they hadn't seen before. The warder fixed his shrewd gaze on them. He stopped this gaze at one of them, and then he called for the Little Devil again.
     The Little Devil now approached a prisoner at a trot and babbling delightedly he asked him in a low voice:
     "What will you ask the chief for in exchange for your soul?" "Freedom!" was his loud response.
     "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" Babbling, the Little Devil trotted over towards the Devil. "Freedom!" he chirped in the chief's ear. However, the latter had heard very well what the prisoner had said.
     With his mighty hand the warder got rid of his irritating Little Devil fussing about like a fly, and he once again fixed his shrewd gaze on the freedom-loving prisoner.
     After this he called for the Little Devil again and he spoke to him once more for some time in a whisper. Then he closed the food hatch and went off.
     The Little Devil trotted over to the prisoner who had just sold his soul, he respectfully shook his hand, he looked with delight into his eyes and with sincere joy he gabbled the good news to him:
     "You will receive your freedom! Congratulations!"
     "Us, us, what did he say about us!" the others wishing to sell their souls got excited.
     "He didn't wish to buy your souls, since he said that they already belonged to him in any case."
     "How? By what means?" the prisoners clamoured, "We've never sold our souls!"
     "I know nothing!" the Little Devil washed his hands.
     "Let him come and talk to us!" the angry prisoners were shouting. "Well, let him just tell us one thing, when did we sell our souls to him?"
     "Oh, damn him! Still he could have taken them a little more cheaply, we could have given him a packet or two of tea and a cigarette at least!" shouted one elderly man who was particularly active.
     "Sir, sir, sir!" he was shouting and he was banging on the door. "Do you hear? Don't go! Come, now, come! At least give us a packet of tea or two and a cigarette, can't you see that we have nothing, come, now, come, we will give you our souls cheaply."
     The warder really did turn round, he opened the food hatch again and with haughty mocking he looked down on the grey face of the elderly prisoner.
     "Why are you shouting, old man?" he asked him.
     "Sir," the elderly man pleaded with the warder, "if my soul really belongs to you, then at least give me a packet or two of tea and a cigarette as a gift, otherwise my ears will swell up on me!"
     "I haven't brought any tea with me for you, or any cigarettes! You, old man, sit down and play cards, you will have cigarettes and tea!" the chief said to the elderly man. "You've been in prison for thirty years and you don't know how to get tea and cigarettes!"
     "Oh dear, sir, it's no time for my cards," the elderly man complained in a gabble. "I can't control my fingers anymore, my memory is shot to pieces, and I can barely see with my eyes!"
     "Then work for someone, wash for him, tidy the cell!" the chief advised him.
     "Oh dear, sir, work for someone, wash floors and rags! – I couldn't do that with my health," the irritating elderly man again complained.
     The unkown warder cheered up noticeably and by now he clearly was in a jovial mood. He looked into the food hatch, passed his eye over everyone and somehow he joked with the old man without malice, in a way that was not irritating:
     "Do some squealing, old man, betray your cellmates and I'll give you tea!"
     "Well, what squealing, chief, who asks me anything or will tell me anything, you've got better connected informers than me, I'm a petty worker!," the elderly man justified himself.
     "Ah, you're a worker?" the warder spoke mockingly. "Then, if you're a worker, what have you been doing here for thirty years? Workers have eaten three haystacks without you and you are lying about here for so long! You can't play! You can't work! You can't squeal! Give them your assets without further ado!" With these words the warder looked at the elderly man in the face and laughed, although it should be said, somehow without malice. "Why are you looking at me, get to your feet and let them have it! Well, why should I buy you tea and cigarettes with my money? My wages are low in any case! What's to lose, I'll still have to send you soon in a batch of prisoners to the prison camp – get to your feet and give them your assets!"
"Well, chief," the elderly man, who was now in a playful mood, didn't get angry, "who'll want these withered assets and what on earth for, shrivelled like a couple of packets of low-grade tobacco."
     "Why, why, it seems to me that you are still in very good shape, old man!" the chief reassured him with joyful laughter. "What would you say, boys?"
     "He's in beautiful shape, chief!"
     "I wonder why he's being bashful, don't we know!"
     "We'll behave respectfully towards you and we'll give you a pension, old man!"
     The warder and the boys were joking like this, but of course without malice, not poking fun at the elderly man, but simply to introduce some cheerfulness into a tense situation.
     "Good, old man, good," said the warder with his fill of humour, more serious and already with noticeably more pride. "Good, I'll be off. We'll meet in Hell!" With these words he took a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, he scattered several cigarettes on the elderly man, he closed the food hatch once more, on this occasion for the last time, and, as they say, he went to the place from which there is no return. The old man caught two cigarettes in the air, but he had to fall on all fours the pick up the cigarettes strewn on the ground. He gathered the scattered cigarettes like this, down on all fours, and he stuck the treasure gathered from the floor behind his ears. At the same time he would look up at his cellmates now and then with a satisfied, delighted, toothless, vacant and aged smile.
     The next day was a usual one. Events developed as usual. Many didn't believe what had happened the previous day, more correctly, they considered that all this was an ordinary coincidence, and nothing more. Among other things, the swelling of the man with the enlarged testicle went down. It was like this until the evening, the shift changed in the evening, and Pasha with the Rottweiler face again came on duty, about half an hour after the shift change they called out the surname of the prisoner who had sold his soul:
     "Present!" responded the one who had sold his soul.
     "Get ready with your things!"


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