Returning home, David suddenly stopped next to the supermarket. Three bottle collecting machines were there. A tiny Chinese woman dug plastic bottles out of her huge black bag and threw them into the opening of one of the machines. Something inside the machine clicked, there was a muffled crushing sound, and the red electronic numbers changed on the black screen: the number of bottles received and the amount of money for them.

David stared at this whole process, and the woman began to look worriedly around her, watching this weird man. He came to his senses and moved away.

But, waiting at the intersection for the light to change, he for some reason looked into the trash can. There was an empty aluminum Pepsi-Cola can on the top of the garbage. David took the can and brought it to his face. His senses were suddenly assaulted by the disgusting scent. The odor was so noxious that it brought tears to his eyes. He threw the can back into the trash can and, stunned, crossed the street.

Would he agree to pay such a high price for literary work? Martin had paid. But look how he is writing now. The lines just fly. Why couldn’t he, David, produce a word, but this half-literate Pole, who had damaged his brains with alcohol, vagrancy, and dull construction jobs for years, could create work like that?! Or had the Lord, all-merciful and just, given Martin this literary gift but demanded for it such an excessive price in exchange?

David took a shower at home, cleansing himself of the ocean salt, the noise and fatigue. He lay down on the couch, placed his glasses on the nightstand and turned off the light.

For some unknown reason he brought up his right hand to his nose as he had done several times during the day. Why did he have this strange sensation that his palm stinks? And why now, when he reads Martin’s stories, does that disgusting, decaying smell suffocate him? At one point he had ceased to detect that smell from Martin at all. Perhaps his nose had adapted to the smell, or maybe Martin had been cleansed of it after a year. Then why does even the remembrance of Martin immediately bring back the intolerable smell of waste all around him?


© 2020. Petr Nemirovskiy. All rights reserved.