Looking down the street, I saw Hunchback from the eighth floor. He began walking to the stadium, but stopped suddenly. Then he began walking left to the side of the church, but after taking a few steps, stopped again. After coming out in the street, I found him standing in the same place. Once I came up to him, he said:
— I need sausage.
— How much?
— One ring.
He was standing, with a string-bag in his right hand and his hands behind his bent back. His back was bent since he was born. Bent-back became his name. That’s why in house No.8 on Eleventh Street, the people called him Hunchback.
— What kind of sausage do you need? I asked.
— I do not know about sausage, he said.
— You aren’t playing the fool, are you?
— I need a good one…
— Any sausage is good when you’re hungry.
-… so she would like it.
— And which one do you like?
— Liverka!- he replied happily. — I don’t know a thing about the other ones!
— It was used to feed cats and dogs. That liverwurst is called «a dog’s happiness». And do you know why people began liking it so much?
— Yes I do — replied Hunchback.
— Previously there was one sausage for the capital, and one for the others. That’s when people got used to liverka. They were eating it with great pleasure. After eating it, they would go back in the shop to ask: «When will our favorite sausage appear on the shelves? When will they bring more?» Saleswomen would reply: «Enough moaning! You’ll eat it when it gets here!» People would leave the shop, hoping that their favorite liverka would appear again.
— And which one is good?
— Saveloy is a good one — I replied.
— Yeah, I saw it! — he said — It was filled with small pieces of fat…
— That’s saveloy. It can be refined. It can be dry or jerked. It can be made from veal, pork or sometimes from horse. All refined types of smoked sausages are called saveloy.
— How could it be? — Hunchback said with exasperation- What? Liverwurst was made for animals only?
— It’s not that bad — I calmed him — It was not loved by Soviet eaters for nothing.
— They didn’t like it for being tasty, but cheap! – Hunchback objected.
— That’s true. People lived by the rules. The government would plan the foodstuff so that everyone gets a little of it!
The street-sweeping immigrant was coming towards us. I didn’t know his name, nor the Hunchback’s. He was sweeping the asphalt, and when he approached us, he shouted with his high-pitched voice:
-Ataid-u-um! Chang zthutasi-ung!
We moved from our spot, and Hunchback said, crankily:
-Let’s go! Chunga-Changa is sweeping the dust towards us.
We went to the convenience store that was on Eighth Street.
— That’s where you need to go. They have many great sausages. By the way, why do you need it?
— Because I can’t get my pension.
— So you want to bribe them?! – I exclaimed.
Hunchback’s cheeks blushed, but he didn’t reply.
— Is it your money?
-Yes, it is! – he said.
— Earlier or later. There’s no difference. You’ll get it!
— I know — said Hunchback – For three days and three nights I tried to come up with a way to get the pension. Then I remembered how one man did it. Two months ago, I was sitting in the Social Services office, waiting for an invitation. The door wasn’t shut all the way, so I could see what was going on inside. At the table was a strong but quite short man. He lives on Volzhsky Boulevard. He is also disabled since birth. His right knee wouldn’t bend so he’d carry his leg around like a log, tied to his body. I could see that he was worrying. His hands were shaking. Then he took a package, wrapped in paper, out of his backpack and slammed it onto the table so hard that the woman, who was serving him, gave a start, raising her head abruptly. However, she calmly put the package in the drawer of her table, and continued working with her papers. Then the man turned around and walked out of the room and out of the Social Services office quickly, carrying his right leg. About five minutes later, the woman went out in the corridor and asked me:
— There was this client with a limping leg…
— He went out — I said.
— I transferred him his pension, and he left before learning the result? – she said – I wanted to make him happy, but he doesn’t seem to want happiness!
And then she invited me in. Once I stepped in the room, the smell of smoked sausage rushed into my nose. I’ve never eaten it before, so I didn’t know what it’s called. But I was guessing in which drawer of the table it was in. And then the woman began reassuring me that the pension is transferred monthly and that I don’t need to come here, but should wait at home. Since then I have been waiting for three months already…
— And where are you going now? – I asked.
— To the convenience store. I’m going to get a ring of liverka.
— But you were looking for saveloy — I reminded him.
— I changed my mind- he replied – I’m going to slam a ring of liverka on her table as hard as that man. And then I’m going to run off.
— But why?
— I’m shy, – replied Hunchback. – I can’t be around her for too long.
— Goodbye then! I’m going to the library.
I came back around nine o’clock. Hunchback was standing at the entrance of our house.
He was excited. Coughing and spitting. Coughing and spitting. On the ground a black spot of his spit had formed.
— So how did it end? – I asked
— I got my money on the card! – he replied, happily.
Translated by Eldar Kormilin