(Translated from the Russian by Patricia Flaherty)
Jacob, a run of the mill writer, was walking along Emmons Avenue. Saint Mark’s Cathedral with its soaring bell tower rose up on one side, with a row of grocery stores and a bank stretching along the other. Strewn about were scraps and pieces of newspaper, flyers and other trash commonly abundant on the shopping streets. Jacob returned from somewhere, lost in thought as usual, but at the same time observing, with a writer’s curiosity, everything around: the people’s intent faces at the ATMs, fish lying on ice in the stalls, even the damp maple leaf which clung to the tire of a Chevrolet, where a woman in a provokingly open blouse sat. He didn’t distinguish her face.
He suddenly froze—froze internally while externally continuing ahead, a glazed look in his eye. The bell rang in the cathedral tower. A deep, powerful boom rang through the September air, trying to muffle the roar of the cars, the sound of train wheels on the trestle, and the voices of the crowd. Jacob froze for the second time and almost fell over from a tough, criminal-looking man in a leather jacket jostling him.
The noise, crashing, and evening bells with all of their wonderful texture no longer held the slightest literary value for Jacob. He had once described, and described very well, the picturesque Emmons Avenue in the best of his stories, which he adored, but alas this story brought him neither money nor fame.
The protagonist of his tale had often walked this street, skirting and jumping over puddles—a longhaired man, an eternal student who believed in God and sacred love. In the beginning he walked alone, returning from the university in his outfit of worn-out denim, and later he walked together with Diana. In the novel Jacob called her Vicky, because Diana wouldn’t let him write in peace; she constantly flitted before his eyes, flirted, vowed that she was in love with him, prayed at the cathedral, and then cheated on him with someone else. Her shadow ran around on the white sheet of paper, where black tortuous letters extended, though often crossed out in a hurry.