Что-то я пиздец сентиментальный сегодня и выписываю зачем-то специально трогательное. Kholodilnik.
When I reached the car, I saw Mungo coiled in a fetal position in the driver seat. They probably shot him down first, because he, quick as he was, hadn't managed to pull any of his guns. A pool of blood had gathered around his boots.
Fat Jim was lying atop the hood of the car and was no less obviously dead. The bullets felled him when he was trying to fight back. His hand was still clutching his semi-auto. His face was scowling at the evening sun that was about to begin its final descent. The skin of his face that used to be ruddy was now almost white against the rivulets of thick blood that traversed it and were already beginning to dry.
The cell phone and the papers we took from Old Geary were still in Jim's shirt pocket. The phone mysteriously worked, spared by bullets. For one fleeting second I pondered calling one of the top Reds and impersonating Jim or Old Geary, both safely and reliably dead. Then I decided to simply hoard away the stuff. I was the last remaining Pilgrim. Though alien in this country, I probably would be able to trade the information for a safe passage if forced to. I pocketed the cash too, wondering if my credit card was still good for anything. The fact that they didn't search the body hinted at them being in a hurry. Or maybe they didn't give a fuck for what Old Geary knew. Or maybe they were patiently waiting nearby for me to pick the spoils. At this particular moment I just didn't care anymore.
I found Old Poe a few paces away from the car, under a tall greasewood bush. Unlike Jim, he looked virtually unscathed, with no visible blood except a few deep scratches, apparently received while falling through the bush.
I knelt over him. His eyes were open, but at first I thought him dead too. Then I heard him breathing, rapidly but very quietly.
When I studied his face, his eyes focused on me and he whispered, — Teen!
— Poe, — said I, — you told me you plan to live until seventy two and die of prostate cancer, like your father did. You still have nine more years to go. Let me get you to a quiet place and find you a good doctor, and you'll be OK.
He was looking at me and I realized he was trying to muster his remaining energy to be able to speak. Then he replied. The voice was obviously his, but it sounded as though it was passed through some digital filter imitating an old gramophone record. I felt Nineteen Twenties speaking to me through him. Or maybe Eighteen Twenties.
— They'd give me morphine, — said Old Poe, — I could use some.
— Poe, — said I, — you've always been good with words. Words love you. They have power when they come upon this world through you. You've been writing this story. Clearly, making it a crime fiction was a mistake. But you can rewrite it anytime, I'm sure. Change it to a more civil road epic. Or a comedy. You can get Jim and Mungo back to life too. Just gather some strength, have a bit of rest and then make this all into something different. Anything different.
— This genre switching is so pomo, — said Old Poe, — and definitely in a very bad taste. I'm too traditional for that. Besides, I don't have enough time even to rethink the plot.
His lips began to tremble and suddenly I noticed there was something inhuman about them. His breath could be clearly heard now and its sound was dry and rasping.
— Poe, — said I, pushing back tears, — you haven't yet taught me everything you promised. About women and men. About words. About myself. You promised. You can't go just like that.
Poe remained quiet for a while.
— Women ought to be loved, — he said slowly, — Men ought to be respected. Though gender is an... illusion. If you can't love them or respect them, ignore them, but... politely. You can't tame words, they have... power over you and will use you. There is no... self. Now you know.
— It's not fair, Poe, — I cried, — It's not real teaching. I looked forward to years and years of you weaving the story. You'd narrate for me a love of my life, for Jim his money and for Mungo... You'd make Mungo want something and then you'd make him get it. This... What you just did is just ticking a box on a written exam two minutes before the deadline.
Poe remained silent. Then I realized what I had just said.
— No, Poe, no, — I shouted straight to his face, my tears blinding me, — There is no deadline. None. Poe! You're like a father to me.
I was so close to his face I could smell the old man's skin — tobacco, age, disillusionment.
His body began to shake violently. His face remained motionless and there was some mechanical quality to this uncontrollable shaking. At this point some blood began to appear at the corner of his mouth and each convulsion added a drop or two.
Then the shaking abruptly stopped. His eyes were still focused on me.
— Teen, — it was a half-whisper and the voice already wasn't completely his own, — say kholodilnik again.
— Kholodilnik, — it cost me dearly to maintain a steady voice, but I managed.
His lips formed a wide smile. Then he began to laugh, but it wasn't really a laughter. When he stopped, it was clear there would be no laughter anymore.
Old Poe was lying before me, dead.
I didn't care if I killed him with the silly sound of Russian speech. I didn't care if his request was not really a perfect last word. I just thought that from now on I'm bound to weave my own story all by myself. And I didn't feel at all prepared.
Somehow, the old man managed to close his eyes while giggling, so I didn't have to.
In a week, I left the States via LAX. In four months, the war began.