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Translation Center of the program "Ulyanovsk - UNESCO City of Literature" continues its work
24.05.2022

The Directorate of the Ulyanovsk – UNESCO City of Literature Program continues to publish the work of the 2nd year master students of the Institute of International Relations, Faculty of Linguistics, Intercultural Relations and Professional Communication of Ulyanovsk State University (Ekaterina Krasheninnikova, Mohammad Temple, Xenia Skvortsova, Diana Alieva, Maria Parfenova, Terekhina Anastasia) based on the translation into English of novels and short stories by the Ulyanovsk author Valery Eremin.

About the author:

Eremin Valery Alexandrovich - a poet and prose writer from the working settlement of Surskoye Ulyanovsk. He is a member of the Union of Journalists of the Russian Federation, the Union of Writers of Russia, the chairman of the Sursky literary and poetic association "Promzin syllables". Valery Aleksandrovich is a regular contributor to the Literary Page of the regional newspaper Surskaya Pravda, has publications in the regional literary and artistic almanacs Karamzinsky Garden and Simbirsk, and is the author of several collections of short stories and poems.
Today you can read novels and stories from the book "The Conversation", published in 2021, the literary translation of which was prepared by Ksenia Skvortsova.

Ksenia's interest in languages appeared in adolescence, when she really wanted to know what her favorite musical performers were singing about. In the future, interest grew into a profession. Ksenia told us about her hobbies: “I love learning foreign languages, studying the cultures of other nations, dancing, communicating with people from different countries!”.

We invite everyone to read it, as well as readers from other countries. Here you can read stories in English.

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KURYAM

George was leafing through a local newspaper, quickly looking through photos and headlines. He stopped on the penultimate page. George was already quite elderly or, as they say, at a respectable age and, of course, he was attracted to the photos, and they were placed on that page. He tried to guess the familiar faces of people he had once known or seen in these sometimes not quite clear black-and-white photos. The people with whom he passed those long-gone years, and for which his already slightly weakening memory clung so tightly and did not want to let go and part.

‘Well, these are the trumpeters!’ he said aloud involuntarily. ‘This is Valenka, my school friend, and this is Senka, or rather Vovka, who lived here in the alley not far from my house. He was called Senka after his father. And this is Karpych, the permanent housekeeping manager of the College of Dairy Technology. He often was very fond of trying to talk some sense into someone who wasslow on the uptake, saying: ‘You're a Turk’. Karpych was not from our region, he was from somewhere in the south. It is possible that these Turkish people have done something to annoy his relatives. Here is Ivan from Valkovka Street, my grandfather Afanasy's neighbor. All of the Valkovskys were called glinniks. The brick factory was there for a long time. And look, almost the entire team is here, headed by their head Palych. Look how he pressed the pipe to his lips. He was also a good accordionist. And who's back there? So tall! It’s written Valentin. Which Valentin? Everyone always called him ‘Kuryam. He only loved the big drum and timpani.

Looking up from the newspaper, George involuntarily started to recall who else was a member of the brass band. But he remembered only Vyacheslav, by his patronymic Ilyasovich. His mother was a doctor. She had a very noticeable birthmark all over her cheek. And of course, it is clear that in the village some unflatteringly called her ‘red-cheeked’ behind her back. Vyacheslav was much older than George. He was, a large, swarthy, dark-haired man above average height. He played the big trumpet or the big drum, if for some reason Kuryam couldn’t play in the orchestra. He also liked to sing from the stage of the district house of culture, taking in more air into his lungs and giving out bass sounds into the hall. There was talk that he participated in some competitions in the region and almost in Moscow.

To tell the truth, George himself was involved in this. In his younger years, he also tried to extract the necessary sounds from various wind instruments, but, alas, it didn’t work out.  Things couldn’t work out because his ears were adapted only to listen to what others reproduce. In general, he fell short of expectations of Nikolai Palych.

After having these memories, George decided to call his friend Valenka, that is, Valentin Ivanovich, and then he learned a lot of interesting things. It turns out that there were two brass bands in the village: one was in a technical school, the other was in the district house of culture and both had tools in abundance. At the beginning Sasha, a student, led the band in the technical school. George remembered his father well, a little bandy-legged peasant who worked in the fire brigade and cranked out, as they say, four talented boys. Then Vyacheslav, who worked as a stoker at the technical school and a relative of the famous merchant Promzinsky who invented one of the best grain dryers in Russia, became the head. He played the baritone. They also had Kurakolych in the orchestra, a teacher of special disciplines and drawing, and the Tylik, that is, Karpych. His surname was interesting - Tylik, and everyone called him by his patronymic Karpych.  But he didn't remember any others.

After talking for a while, they suddenly remembered Vovka, whom many people knew by the nickname "Pitak". He lived in a five-walled house in the centre of the village near the market. His grandfather had a reputation of a good cooper. Vovka's instrument at that time was a trumpet. Then they remembered Sasha the "Sailor" from Vanka's village, where there was a pier and an office with a sign "Umrek" (small rivers management). And they concluded that almost half of the youth in the village have gone through the school of wind musicians, that is, through the collectives of two brass bands.

George constantly had an obsessive thought-a memory that the first brass band in the village was organized by the fire department. And this fire department was one of the first organized in the province. He could not remember when and where he heard about it. There was no way he could find the confirmations so necessary in this case.

What is more, George could not figure out Valentine's nickname Kuryam at all. Everything was clear with Vovka’s nickname ‘Senka’, with Vovka’s nickname ‘Pitak’ and Sasha’s nickname ‘Sailor’. But Valya’s nickname ‘Kuryam’ was a mystery. He lived with his mother, who worked as a nurse at a local hospital. After graduating from secondary school, the three of them, the three musketeers, Valentin, Vyacheslav and Sergey went to Kazan. Valentin went to the aviation college, perhaps volleyball helped him to do this. He started playing it at school. Valentin was tall and skinny, or lean and light, as they say. He jumped high. He spiked well, hammering the ball into the first line of the court. He served well. Slavka's friend also played, but weaker. Kuryam showed himself in the technical school. Soon he started to play for the Kazan team. He played well, but things didn't go well with his studies. Now no one in the village can remember how long he played and studied there, they also do not remember how he returned home. Only Sergey stayed in Kazan. He even got married there. But he also returned to the village to his mother only much later, but he came alone, and began working as a civil engineer. Vyacheslav, having lived with his father Ilyas for a short time, became sad and returned to his mother to our village.

Kuryam trained to be a milling turner. My friend Vyacheslav, or as they started calling him Vyacheslav Ilyasovich, began working as a physical education teacher. They sometimes met on the volleyball court or in a brass band, and sometimes over a bottle of inexpensive local fruit wine.

In the summer, a lot of people loved and played volleyball in the village. They played mostly in the evenings.  George began to remember where the volleyball courts were located. One is near the old building of the district house of culture, where once, in the old days, the ‘People's House’ was located. The second one is in the yard of the administrative building of the college of dairy technology and the third one is in the yard of the secondary school. There was a whole sports complex of those times.  George often recalled how friends decided among themselves:

‘Where are we going to play volleyball today, at school, college or at the House of Culture? But let's do it early.’

‘Let's go to the college, and we should come early, otherwise the adults will come.’

‘No, I heard that adults will go to the House of Culture today.

‘Maybe it's better to go to school, and then to the House of Culture, let's see how the men will play there. If there are not enough people, they will accept us and we'll play too.

‘That’s not enough. Yesterday, they played for elimination. The one that loses leaves.’

‘They say some military man came on holiday, he’s a master of sports or a candidate for master of sport. He showed all sorts of tricks to our volleyball players. How to serve with a ‘hook’, what’s the best way to receive the ball with two hands, how to block, how to make a ‘fish’ with hands.’

‘What fish?’

‘Such a fish. Simple. It’s when the ball falls to the ground, you need to dive forward and beat the ball up with one hand when falling on your hands.’

‘So what, did he show it himself?’

‘Well, we have Kuryam who can skore a point, no block with a fish will help.’

Such conversations they had.

George remembered it was much more difficult in winter. It can be said very difficult. There was only one sports hall. It was at the College of Dairy Technology. It was difficult to call it a sports hall. It was an assembly hall, there was even a small stage, it was intended for both, dancing and sports. Three in one. As someone said: ‘A bulldog mixed with a rhinoceros!’ But still they played. Of course, there was no place for whole teams, only for three or four people in each team. But even like this, competitions were held. The ceilings were ridiculously low. On one side it was higher, on the other it was lower, and I still remember a metal rod-screed near the ceiling right above the grid. Of course, the ball often touched the ceiling and a metal bar. But we had to endure, because we could play only there.

Looking at the newspaper, George remembered about music again.

George remembered the sounds of the orchestra from early childhood. He lived not far from the park, next to which there was a square and a house of culture. Near the fence of the park, where there was a monument to the leader of the world proletariat pointing at the sunrise, there was a wooden tribune, from which the local leaders reported on another success on solemn holidays, made ambitious plans and, of course, congratulated on holidays. The brass band was always located next to the tribune. It invited people to the holiday with cheerful marches and melodies. At the right moments, when awarding banners and diplomas, a flourish was played.  Columns of people came to the square, and then left it to the sounds of the brass band. And then later, George heard the orchestra playing in the lobby of the cinema building, where couples who came to the evening cinema session were waltzing. He heard all this as a boy and watched through the window. Of course, the orchestra also played in the hall of the district house of culture at dance evenings. Dancing to the music of the brass band was something. The sounds of trumpets and the ringing of timpani could be heard at party and komsomol conferences and solemn events. Kuryam did not really like to beat on the sides of his favorite instrument – a big drum and ring timpani at such events. It fell to Vyacheslav's lot. Valentin, on the other hand, preferred to accompany a person on their last journey to the sounds of an orchestra. He considered it his sacred duty to fulfill it. This all happened not in front of the senior leadership, but in front of ordinary people. And it was significant that money was paid for it. And few people know that each instrument then had its own prices. Valentin knew that his work – carrying a large, weighty drum in the funeral procession and hitting it – was equal to the most expensive work of a trumpeter, and this was the highest price. Valentin also knew that they would be well fed and of course treated, and this was also quite significant for him. By this time, being in the ranks of the proletariat, Kuryam got a taste for alcohol. And how can you not get a taste? A hard worker, no family, and few worries. And side earnings. Among themselves, the orchestra members called this work by a simple slang word – a stiff. Sometimes he had to participate in processions more than once a day, and often had to travel outside the district. And after the sideline, he immediately had many friends. In Russia, there were always enough people to drink and eat freeload.

Sometimes it was really difficult to take time off from work for ‘a sniff’, sometimes he even hopped over the fence so that the administration would not see him at the checkpoint. The management forgave and appreciated him a lot for the fact that he was a fine turner, could participate in competitions and at the same time do the lowest-paid work, for example, to meekly sharpen bolts. Besides, Valentin never made a row and was not indignant. By nature he was a silent type.

And after ‘a sniff’ he could simply go on the batter for a while. But he went to work regularly.  He still loved volleyball and did not forget about it, though he played less and less often. The team of the village with participation of Kuryam became the champion of the region among village teams and began to defend the honour of the region. During one of the trips, the way of the volleyball players passed through the capital, and there was a transfer.  Someone noticed Valentin's absence. Vyacheslav calmed everyone down, saying:

'He's not going anywhere.'

'Where is he? Does he have relatives here?'

'What relatives are you talking about?! He swore that he would travel all over Moscow, but find some cheap fruit wine like ours.

The team members looked at each other silently, only the leader cursed quietly. Of course, many people did not believe in Kuryam's idea. But after a while he showed up  satisfied and stocked up with bottles. And he was forgiven many times, and he knew there was no one to replace him.

Suddenly, Valentin’s life took a sharp turn. A tall female appeared on the volleyball court. Her name was Tamara. She played well, even better than some men. Everyone involuntarily began to look from her to Valentin, from him to her. And many people decided that they were a couple. And it turned out that they were right. Kuryam changed, he seemed to become even taller and sparkled with new colours. A smile appeared on his face, and his lips began to utter more words. Some friends rejoiced at this event. Others were upset and did not want some woman, whoever she was, to snatch and take Valentin away from their company. Whatever it was, but the volleyball and married couple did not last very long and it broke up. Something didn’t work out there. Having packed her things, Tamara left Kuryam, and soon she left the village. From that time love for women disappeared forever from Valentin’s heart. He began to play Volleyball less and less often, and then completely gave it up. He had two activities left, working on milling machine and lathe, and playing his favorite big drum  in the brass band, and after all this, an indispensable relaxation over a glass of wine. In winter, the members of the brass band had to wash the valves of the instruments with vodka before the start of the funeral procession, so that they would not freeze. Although the big drum did not have any valves, Kuryam took an active part in this. Part of the vodka was used for the instruments, the other part, as they said, for warming up the orchestra’s members. It was not without curiosities. Once the 'blowers' were alarmed by Valentin's absence, but soon he showed up just before the start of the procession, chewing something hastily.

The procession moved and after a while, fellow orchestra members, listening carefully, noticed that the sounds of the drum were getting quieter and quieter. When one of them looked back, he was horrified to see that Kuryam was about twenty paces behind, being led by two old women who held him by arms. They decided to punish Valentin. When they sat down on the straw in the back of the truck to go back home from the village, they started to divide the money they earned. Kuryam was given one Soviet ruble. He silently squeezed it tightly in his big, work-weary and soaked with engine oil fist. Suddenly, everyone noticed that big tears streamed down his face, which he started to wipe with his fist with a ruble clenched in it. There was silence in the back. Then everyone tried to calm Valentin down and said that it was a joke.

Time went on, Kuryam worked at the farming machinery unit, bending over a lathe, or walked in a procession, beating a drum and ringing timpani. Sometimes he only beat the drum with a stick, and his friend Vyacheslav rang timpani. It was necessary to share with a friend. In one of the Mordovian villages, they commemorated separately, there were children in one house, in another one – women, men were in the third house. After the memorial speeches and drinking vodka, someone decided to find out what ‘the blowers’could play. They explained that they could play the funeral march ‘Mother's Tears’, ‘Chopin's Funeral March’, and ‘We fell victim to the fateful struggle’ for Communists and the military.

‘Well, can you play something else?’  someone asked.

‘We can play Krakovyak!’ shouted one of the orchestra members.

‘Maybe you'll play it,’ they asked from behind the tables after another shot.

Taking the instruments, the orchestra members arranged themselves in the right order. Taking a deep breath, the leader shook his head. The room was filled with a dance melody. At first, every man at the memorial table listened attentively and sadly in silence. Then someone started tapping his foot in time, and after a while some men started dancing. Suddenly the door opened, and a kolkhoz farm party organizer walked in. The dancing stopped. The music stopped guiltily at half a note.

‘Well, guys, thank you for coming,’ said the party organizer. ‘But I won't invite you anymore.’

‘They asked us to play,’ said the head of the orchestra band. ‘They rushed to dance themselves.’

‘Whatever,’ the party organizer said firmly.

They were silent on their way home. Someone softly, barely audibly, played the march ‘Mother’s Tears’ on harmonica. It was Valentin's favorite melody, and he, sitting in the back with his eyes closed, and swaying slightly, started to make movements, imitating playing the drum and making quiet sounds.

Years passed, and life of people and the village did too. Over time, the sounds of the brass band were not heard. Other musical instruments have replaced it. At first, the volleyball courts were emptied, and then disappeared. Interests changed quickly.

George remembered a case that led him to the workshops of the district farming machinery. In the turnery he saw an elderly worker at the lathe, sharpening some detail. When he turned off the machine and raised his head, George hardly recognized Valentin known as Kuryam in him. He was wearing three glasses. Two on the eyes, and the third pair was located on his forehead. He was dressed in dirty greasy robe and had a tired look.

‘We-e-ell… it’s crazy how life changes us,’ thought George.

Then much later, in a conversation with his childhood friend Valery, who was of the same age with George,  he learned that Kuryam passed away.

‘He had just made it to  retirement and only received a pension once. Recently, he didn’t live but existed. His mother died, so he lived with whatever was at his hands, and of course he drank.

After a short silence, Valery continued:

'You know, when there were conversations about Boris  Yeltsin, after drinking with friends, he suddenly said: ‘We played volleyball with him.’ Someone almost choked on a snack, and someone knocked over a glass out of surprise. Then they smiled, some even laughed. Mostly they did not believe it. And he said to them: 'He came to Kazan when he played for the Sverdlovsk team, and I played for the Kazan  team. Then we went to Sverdlovsk.' Look at him, when he's sober, he's silent, but when he drinks he remembers about Boris Yeltsin every now and then. And when he became president, the men, knowing Valentin's difficult life, started to make fun of him: 'Why don't you ask Yeltsin to help you. You played volleyball with him.' Valentin just brushed it aside, saying: 'We didn't play together, I told you. He played for Sverdlovsk, and I played for Kazan.' And his friends said to him: 'You played badly, Valentin. You spiked well, but you probably didn't jump that well. You see how far Yeltsin has come.'

George listened to his childhood friend and wondered whether to believe him or not. But he knew for sure that Kuryam played for the Kazan team, and who knows whether they met with Yeltsin or not. He also knew that Valentin, nicknamed Kuryam, had never been caught lying. However, who knows, but, on the other hand, why would he lie.

After a pause, George asked Valery:

'Tell me, where did the nickname Kuryam come from and what does it mean?

I' don't know,' he replied.

Later George reflected that maybe as a child, Valentin's his mother spoke to him in the Ukrainian manner:

Go feed the chickens* outside.

And at that time, one of his comrades heard it. Only God knows.

Note: Kuryam is a Ukrainian spelling of the word 'Chickens'.

 

SYSTEM

Sashka did not remember exactly how and when he started using this expression, perhaps in the sixth grade, or maybe later or earlier. It was after his acquaintance with arithmetic and mathematics, that’s for sure. He remembered how they wrote these sticks with hooks in pencil first, probably for six months, and then they wrote letters and numbers.  He seemed to do well with letters, but there was a rub with numbers. No, he counted well, and he could count with his fingers and counting sticks, which he cut and shaved out of willow twigs with a penknife. But when they started to write numbers and made it to the number four, for some reason he could not figure out how to distinguish it from the letter ‘Ч’ (che). Then the teacher decided to come to his aid. She took her chair from the teacher's desk, turned it upside down and, holding it in her hands, and looking at Sasha, said:

‘Look, what figure does it look like?’ and she answered it herself. ‘It looks like number four. So, Sasha, remember, the chair turned upside down, this is the number four. A chair means four. The chair has four legs.

And he remembered. Yes, he remembered it so well that when he started counting: one, two, three, then he said the word ‘chair’. After that, the classroom exploded with friendly children's laughter and exclamations:

‘Sanek, what chair? After three comes four!’

And when lessons were over, Sasha liked to be alone. It gave him great pleasure to potter around in the garden, and sometimes he went to the field or meadows, and there was a small river nearby. Here he calmly counted out loud:

‘One, two, three, four, five…’

Then he started having problems with this round wheel, that is, zero and the letter O. Here he could not comprehend much.

Firstly, Sashka could not understand why and what for zero is needed, if it means nothing, well, nothing means nothing. Nothing, that's all. So why stuff your head with nonsense. And then what is the correct way to pronounce it: zero or cero? And when the teacher said that the Russians got zero, when Peter I was learning to build ships in Holland, and brought this knowledge from there. After that Sashka involuntarily thought:

‘Why did he even do it, that Peter?’

One day he overheard an argument between his father and a neighbour when they were calculating something and, having memorized the expression, the next day he asked the teacher:

‘What does ‘Zero point hell tenth’ mean?’

The class involuntarily fell silent. The teacher was silent for a second and even blushed a little, then answered:

‘Sasha, this is how people say about small quantities. Well, it means something close to zero.’

‘So Dad and the neighbor were definitely counting the salary,’ concluded Sashka.

‘Sasha, there’s also an expression ‘A big fat nothing,' the teacher continued. 'This is how they call a person when he or she is considered of little or no value at all. So everyone should study better to become a noticeable person, and not 'A big fat nothing'.

The farther in, the deeper. There were different systems of equations in mathematics, and then Sashka completely got confused. He was stalled, in short. He realized that in this matter, in these systems, he is really a big fat nothing. Sitting at his desk, the words were spinning in his head: zero, zeros, system, systems. And he did not notice at all how he started saying out loud: ‘the system of zeros’, which is used in cases when he could not solve an example or a problem. That’s because when he was called to the blackboard, and he did not know or did not learn the lesson well, he came to the blackboard, sighed and, scratching his head, involuntarily said:

‘We-e-ell, it’s a system of zeros…’

Then his friends, noticing his concern, asked him:

‘Well, Sanek, are you solving the system of zeros?’

And now, when any difficult life situation arose, he said to himself or out loud, intentionally or unintentionally, that this was a system of zeros, which in his opinion would be difficult to solve.

He graduated from high school. In order to stay away from mathematics and numbers, he entered the agricultural institute. He studied to be an agronomist, came to work in his native collective farm. But no such luck, the numbers appeared in his life again. A plan was at the core of everything, and, as you know, it descended, what a word, in numbers, and in percentages. And you have to fight for this plan, and you have to implement it no matter what.  At least one hundred and one-tenth percent. That was the system of zeros here. You were walking, you were striving to implement the plan, and this plan was escaping from you. And when you implemented it, the plan was certainly increased. In short, it was the horizon. And the pendulum of the implementation of the plan sometimes constantly swung in one direction, then in the other, like life itself.

At that time, the first artificial satellite was launched by the Soviet Union. At night, people left their houses and looked at the sky, trying to see a glowing dot. That’s a system of zeros.

Sashka also looked at the sky, but mostly during the day. He learned the saying from childhood well: ‘If it rains, if there is thunder, we don’t need an agronomist!’ And he waited for the rain, even prayed that it would rain. Everyone knew, three good rains at the right time and you have the harvest in your pocket. And then there’s corn, if you want, plant it and if you don’t want, plant it anyway. It was also a system of zeros.

And life passed, and it passed so quickly that it had to be counted not in years, but in decades.

Sasha had a family, children – this was of course the greatest joy.

And the whole country rejoiced at the first man in space. What an elation it was!

Sasha was given a collective farm apartment –  it was also a joy.

His friend got a comfortable apartment in the Khrushchev-era house in the city, although at that time many lived in the private sector in barracks or communal apartments. There weren't many telephones and televisions yet, but very good programs were shown on TV, and probably everyone watched hockey and cheered for the team, for the country!

At the same time, some started wearing foreign clothes. Well, gradually, people scolded the authorities in the kitchen, read the forbidden ‘samizdat’, but they were also proud that they lived in a strong and not bad country. Relationships between people were warmer and more humane. Neighbours came to visit in a simple way, despite their social status and wealth just to chat and have a heart-to-heart talk. And people knew and respected all the neighbours.

Suddenly, fops started to appear even in the village. They grew long hair and wore flared trousers, or even better, they wore ‘foreign’ jeans. Foreign music started to penetrate the minds, and became very popular among young people.  That’s a system of zeros, sometimes Sasha said.

Mopeds and motorcycles roared on the streets of villages, and adults signed up to buy cars, carpets and vacuum cleaners. Life was changing noticeably.

One day Sashka came to the board straight from the field. In the accounting department he met the chief accountant:

‘Come in, Alexander Nikolaevich, take a look at what thingie they brought to us. Now we will quickly calculate the crop yield.

He saw a device that somewhat resembled an accordion case with a row of windows and buttons on one of the tables. A young man with an important look and knowledge of business was slowly fiddling with this thing.  Alexander came closer. At that time the specialist pressed some key and green lights, which looked like cat's eyes, lit up in the windows. Alexander looked closer and saw flickering zeros.

‘Holy mother! The system of zeros!’ he blurted out suddenly.

‘There are not only zeros here,’ the specialist said, glancing at him, and started to demonstrate with pleasure the calculating capabilities of the device.

Alexander could not take his eyes off the fascinating lights-numbers, and asked:

‘And how does it do all this?’

‘Well, people have come up with the idea to turn information into electrical signals and process it.’

‘How is that? For example, how to turn zero into an electrical signal?’

‘Well, it's easy. Look.’

The specialist turned on the table lamp, then turned it off, turned it on, turned it off, and explained:

‘When it is turned off it is zero, and one when it’s turned on.’

‘But it’s only two digits.’

‘All numbers can be encrypted with zeros and ones, and actually, everything in the world can be represented by them.

On that day, Alexander forgot about all the fields. He stayed up late at the accounting department and even ran for a bottle, and they talked and talked.

He came home late. The children were already asleep, the wife was lying and leafing through a magazine. He undressed in silence and laid down. He tossed and turned for a long time and couldn’t sleep. Then he laid down on his back and said:

‘Do you understand what a system of zeros is there?... Imagine that everything around us, and us too, can be represented by zeros and ones.’

‘How is that?’ the wife was surprised.

‘Like this!’

And he started to retell his conversation with the computer specialist today in detail.

In the end, he told me that in the future we will all sit at home, look at screens and press buttons, and everything will be done by automatics machines and robots.

'He was probably fooling you with smooth talk, he probably wanted to have a drink with you. Let's go to sleep.

Gradually, Sasha started to forget that conversation while doing business. And how can you not forget? The leadership in the country started to change with regular constancy, almost as fast as the numbers in that typewriter. And when a new leader comes, he starts doing things in a new way. People used such phrases as the end of developed socialism, the transition from a planned economy to a market economy, stagnant times, transparency and democracy. The West was not asleep and added fuel to the fire.  All these events in the country were called the times of change. In such times, as Sashka knew, God forbid to live.

'The times of change, but how do we live? Is life bad or not bad?' he asked himself and did not find an answer and added. 'This is a system of zeros.'

And then everyone started talking about economic reform. And then, with its policy, the government completely changed the economy and the political system.

When Sasha came home in the evening, he saw that his son was doing homework and he heard the words: variable value, and then he asked his son:

'Well, tell me, what are you mumbling about variables there?'

'These are the values that can change,' the son replied.

'Look, it's like our life. And how many variables can there be, and can they all be zeros? Tell me.'

'We didn't study this, I don't know.'

' And I know ... as much as you want...' answered Sashka, going to the kitchen, and adding. 'So that no one could ever solve such a problem.'

After eating, he went to bed and muttered something for a long time.

In the night he dreamed of all sorts of nonsense, as if he was summoned to a superior who said:

'Your whole past life is reset to zero and you will have to start all over again, from ground zero!'

'How is it? Why did the result of my life turn out to be zero?' he asked timidly.

'You chose the system of zeros!'

'Does it mean that I didn't play well? If the score is zero-zero on the scoreboard, but I did everything according to the rules!'

'We have told you a thousand times how to do the right thing, but you couldn't care less. Sit down!

'I'm already sitting at the rock bottom!'

'You are sitting here, then sit! Now we'll cut off all your hair, so you have zero hair left ha-ha-ha…'

'Please don't! My wife cuts my hair close cropped at home.'

He begged and begged, but it all reduced to zero.

He even sweated a lot in his sleep.

In the morning, when he woke up, he felt completely broken, as if a tractor with a cultivator had passed over him. After drinking tea, he went to work.

And then a new time came, which many started to call tumultuous.