Mikhail Bulgakov the heart of a dog and other stories



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On that terrible day Sharik was troubled from morning by some kind of premonition. As a result he suddenly felt miserable and ate his breakfast, half a cup of porridge and a mutton-bone left over from yesterday, without any enjoyment. He wandered dully into the reception room and gave a little whine at his own reflection. Yet by the afternoon, after Zina had taken him for a walk along the boulevard, the day seemed to have passed as usual. There had been no reception that morning because, as everyone knows, there is no reception on Tuesdays, but the divinity sat in his study with some heavy books with brightly-coloured pictures open on the table in front of him. They were waiting for dinner. The dog was slightly encouraged by the thought that for the second course, as he had already established in the kitchen, there would be turkey. On his way along the corridor, the dog heard how, in Philip Philipovich's study, the telephone gave a sudden, unpleasant ring. Philip Philipovich took the receiver, listened and suddenly became all excited.

"Excellent," came his voice. "Bring it at once, at once!"

He fussed round, rang the bell and as Zina came in to answer it ordered her to bring in the dinner at once.

"Dinner! Dinner! Dinner!"

There was an immediate clatter of plates from the dining room, Zina bustled from the kitchen, you could hear Darya Petrovna grumbling that the turkey was not ready. The dog again began to feel disturbed.

I don't like disorder in the flat, he thought... And no sooner had he thought this, than the disorder took on a still more unpleasant character. And first and foremost because of the appearance of that Dr. Bormental he had once bitten. He brought with him an evil-smelling suitcase and, without even pausing to take off his coat, hurried down the corridor with it to the consulting room. Philip Philipovich abandoned his cup of coffee half-drunk, something he had never done before, and ran out to meet Bormental, also something quite unprecedented.

"When did he die?" he called.

"Three hours ago," answered Bormental, undoing the suitcase without even taking off his snow-covered hat.

Who died? thought the dog gloomily and crossly, and proceeded to push in under everybody's feet. I hate people milling around.

"Get out from under my feet, you devil! Hurry, hurry, hurry!" yelled Philip Philipovich and began to ring every bell in the flat, or so it seemed to the dog. Zina came running. "Zina! Ask Darya Petrovna to go to the telephone, take messages, I'm not receiving anyone! You'll be needed here. Dr. Bormental, I implore you—hurry, hurry, hurry!"

I don't like this, I don't like it at all, the dog glowered sulkily and began to wander round the flat, but all the hassle was going on in the consulting room. Zina appeared unexpectedly in a white overall more like a shroud and began to run from the consulting room to the kitchen and back.

Maybe I'll go and see what there is to eat? To hell with them all, the dog decided and immediately received a rude shock.

"Sharik is not to have anything to eat," the command was thundered from the consulting room.

"Can't keep an eye on him all the time."

"Lock him up!"

And Sharik was lured into the bathroom and locked up.

Cheek, thought Sharik, sitting in the half-dark bathroom. Simply stupid...

And he spent about quarter of an hour in the bathroom in a curious frame of mind — now resentful, now in some kind of heavy depression. Everything was miserable, muddling...

All right, you can say goodbye to your galoshes tomorrow, much respected Philip Philipovich, he thought. You've already had to buy two new pairs and now you'll have to buy another. That'll teach you to lock up dogs.

But suddenly his furious thoughts took a different turn. Quite vividly he remembered a moment from his earliest youth: a huge sunlit courtyard at the end of the Preobrazhenka Street, splinters of sun in bottles, broken bricks, free, stray dogs.

No, what's the use, there's no leaving a place like this for any amount of freedom, thought the dog sniffing dismally, I've got used to it. I'm a gentleman's dog, an intelligent being, acquired a taste for the good things of life. And what is freedom? Smoke, mirage, fiction ... the raving of those unhappy-democrats...

Then the half-dark of the bathroom became frightening, he howled, flung himself at the door, began to scratch at it. "Oo-oo-oo!" his voice resounded through the flat as through a barrel.

I'll tear up that owl again, he thought, furiously but helplessly. Then he weakened, lay down for a while and, when he got up, the hair along his spine bristled because in the bath he thought he saw a repulsive pair of wolves' eyes.

In the midst of all this torment the door opened. The dog came out, shook himself and would have headed grumpily for the kitchen had not Zina grasped him by the collar and pulled him firmly towards the consulting room. A chill fear stabbed the dog just beneath the heart.

What do they want me for? he thought suspiciously. My flank's healed — I don't understand a thing.

His paws slid along the slippery parquet and so he was brought to the consulting room. Here he was astonished at the terribly bright light. A white bulb screwed into the ceiling shone so brightly it hurt the eyes. The high priest stood haloed in shining white and sung through his teeth about the sacred shores of the Nile. Only thanks to a confused aroma could one tell that this was Philip Philipovich. His short grey hair was hidden under a white cap reminiscent of the patriarchal cowl; the divinity was all in white and above the whiteness, like a stole, was suspended a narrow rubber apron. His hands were in black gloves.

The bitten man had on a cowl too. The long table was extended to the maximum and next to it they had pushed up a small square table on one shining leg.

More than for anything else here, the dog conceived a hatred for the man he had bitten and most of all for the way his eyes were today. Usually bold and straight, today they looked everywhere but at the dog. They were cautious, false, and in their depths lurked the intent to play some nasty, dirty trick, if not to commit an actual crime. The dog looked at him glumly and retired gloomily into the corner.

"Take off the collar, Zina," said Philip Philipovich quietly. "Only don't excite him."

Zina's eyes immediately became every bit as repellent as those of the bitten man. She went up and stroked the dog with palpable duplicity. Sharik gave her a look of profound unease and heartfelt contempt.

Well then, you're three to one. You can take it if you want. Only you should be ashamed. If only I'd known what you'd do to me...

Zina took off the collar, the dog shook his head and snorted. The bitten man appeared before him, giving off a foul, sickening smell.

Ugh, what a filthy thing... Why do I feel so sick, so scared... thought the dog and backed away from the bitten man.

"Hurry, Doctor," said Philip Philipovich impatiently.

The air was filled with a pungent, sweet smell. The bitten man, never taking his worthless eyes off the dog, brought his right hand out from behind his back and quickly smothered the dog's nose with a wad of damp cotton wool. Sharik was taken by surprise, his head spun slightly but he managed to jump back. The bitten man was after him like a shot and this time clapped the wad of cotton wool over his whole face. Immediately he found himself unable to breathe but once again he tore away. The villain... the thought flashed through his mind. What have I done? And once again he was being smothered. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to him as though a lake had opened out in the middle of the consulting room and over its surface on little boats floated the happy ghosts of unheard-of, rose-coloured dogs. His bones turned soft and his legs buckled under him.

"Onto the table!" a voice cried merrily and the words of Philip Philipovich dissolved in orange beams of light. The horror vanished and gave way to joy. For a second or two the dog loved the bitten man. Then the world turned upside down but he could still feel a cold but pleasant hand under his stomach. Then—nothing.




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