Mikhail Bulgakov the heart of a dog and other stories



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On the narrow operating table the dog Sharik lay outstretched and his head beat helplessly against the oil-cloth pillow. His stomach had been shaved and now Dr. Bormental, breathing heavily and hurrying, eating away the hair with his clippers, was clipping Sharik's head. Philip Philipovich, his palms propped on the edge of the table, was observing this procedure with eyes as glittering as the golden rim of his spectacles, and saying excitedly:

"Ivan Arnoldovich, the most important moment will be when I enter the sella turcica. The instant that happens, I implore you, hand me the processus and immediately after that put in the stitches. If we get bleeding at that point we'll lose time and we'll lose the dog. Not that there's any chance for him, anyway." He fell silent for a moment, then he narrowed his eyes, looked at the half-shut eyes of the dog which seemed to express something like irony and added:

"Do you know, I shall miss him. Imagine, I've got quite fond of him."

He raised his hands as he said this as though bestowing a blessing on the unfortunate dog Sharik at the commencement of some arduous adventure. He was taking care that not one speck of dust should settle on the black rubber.

From beneath the clipped coat gleamed the dog's whitish skin. Bormental threw away the clippers and armed himself with a razor. He soaped the small, defenceless head and began to shave it. The razor scraped loudly; here and there spots of blood appeared. Having shaved the head, the bitten man wiped it with a swab soaked in spirit, then stretched out the naked stomach of the dog and pronounced, panting: "Ready."

Zina turned on the basin tap and Bormental dashed to wash his hands. Zina dowsed them with spirit from a glass jar.

"May I go now, Philip Philipovich?" she asked, glancing nervously at the dog's shaven head.

"You may."

Zina went. Bormental continued to bustle around. He applied gauze swabs to Sharik's head and there materialised on the table a bald dog's skull no one had ever seen before and a strange, bearded mug.

At this point the high priest went into action. He straightened up, fixed his eyes on the dog's skull and said:

"Well, so help us, God. The knife."

Bormental extracted a small, curved knife from the glittering pile on the little table and handed it to the high priest. Then he vested himself in the same kind of black gloves.

"Is he properly out?" asked Philip Philipovich.

"Yes."

Philip Philipovich clenched his teeth, his eyes took on a sharp, piercing sparkle and, raising the small knife, he made a long, precise incision in Sharik's stomach. The skin immediately parted and blood spurted in all directions. Bormental pounced like a predator and began pressing on Sharik's wound with swabs of gauze, then, using small pincers not unlike sugar tongs, pressed the edges together and it dried up. Bormental's forehead came out in beads of sweat. Philip Philipovich made a second incision and together the two of them began to excavate Sharik's body with little hooks, scissors and some kind of clamps. Layers of pink and yellow tissue, weeping a dew of blood, were exposed. Philip Philipovich turned the knife in the body and cried: "Scissors!"



The instrument flashed for a moment in the bitten man's hand, then vanished like a conjuring trick. Philip Philipovich felt his way deeper in and in several swivelling movements tore out Sharik's reproductive organs together with a few dangling ends. Bormental, soaking with effort and excitement, dashed for the glass jar and took from it another wet, dangling scrotum. Short, damp tendrils danced and curled in the hands of the Professor and his assistant. Crooked needles emitted staccato clicks in the grip of the pincers, the organ was stitched in the place of Sharik's. The high priest fell back from the wound, pressed a swab of gauze into it and ordered:

"Put in stitches, Doctor, this instant." Then he glanced over his shoulder at the round clock on the wall.

"Took us 14 minutes,'' Bormental muttered through clenched teeth and dug the crooked needle into the flaccid skin. Then both were seized with excitement like assassins in a hurry.

"The knife!" cried Philip Philipovich.

The knife leapt into his hand as if of its own accord, after which Philip Philipovich's face took on a terrifying expression. He bared the porcelain and golden crowns on his teeth and in one stroke drew a red brow-band across Shank's forehead. The shaven skin flew back like a scalp.

The bone of the skull was laid bare. Philip Philipovich cried:

"Trepan!"

Bormental handed him a shining bone-drilling brace. Biting his lip, Philip Philipovich began to drive home the brace and drill out small holes in Sharik's skull about one centimetre apart right round the skull. On each he spent no more than five seconds. Then with a curiously-shaped saw, the tail of which he inserted into the first hole, he began to saw... The skull creaked quietly and shook. Roughly three minutes later the top of Sharik's skull had been removed.

Then the dome of Sharik's brain was revealed—grey with bluish veins and reddish spots. Philip Philipovich inserted the scissors into the membrane and opened it up. There was one slender spurt of blood which almost hit the Professor in the eye and sprayed his cap. Bormental pounced like a tiger with his artery forceps to stop the gush and it ceased. Sweat was streaming from him in torrents and his face had become all raw and patchy. His eyes flickered from the Professor's hand to the plate on the instrument table. As to Philip Philipovich, he had become quite terrible to behold. His breath was harsh, his teeth were bared to the gums. He stripped the membrane from the brain and went in deep, easing the hemispheres of the brain from the cup of the skull. At this moment Bormental began to turn pale, put one hand over Sharik's chest and said hoarsely:

"The pulse-rate is falling sharply..." Philip Philipovich shot him a ferocious look, mumbled something and cut deeper. Bormental broke a glass ampoule with a snap, sucked out the syringe and inserted it somewhere close to Sharik's heart.

"I'm going for the sella turcica," snarled Philip Philipovich and, inserting his slippery, bloody gloves beneath Sharik's greyish-yellow brain, lifted it from his head. For one second he let his eyes flicker to Sharik's face and Bormental immediately broke another ampoule containing a yellow fluid and filled a long syringe.

"In the heart?" he asked timidly.

"Why ask?" yelled the Professor furiously. "He's died on your hands at least five times already. Inject! Inconceivable!" As he spoke his face took on the expression of an inspired brigand.

The doctor drew back his hand and easily plunged the needle into the heart of the dog.

"He's alive, but only just," he whispered timidly.

"No time to discuss whether or not he's alive," hissed the terrifying Philip Philipovich. "I'm in the sella. He'll die anyway. Ah ... the dev... To the sacred shores of the Nile... Give me the appendage."

Bormental handed him a phial in which a white lump attached to a thread was suspended in liquid. With one hand ("There's no one to equal him in all Europe," thought Bormental hazily.) he fished out the bobbing lump and, wielding the scissors with the other, cut out a similar lump from the depths of the dissected hemispheres. Sharik's lump he threw out onto a dish and inserted the new one, together with the thread, into the brain and, with the short fingers, now by some miracle long and supple, dexterously attached it, winding it about with the amber-coloured thread. After that he threw out of the head various raspatories and forceps, put the brain back in the bone cup, stood back and asked in a calmer voice:

"He's dead, of course?"

"A thread of a pulse," answered Bormental.

"More adrenaline!"

The Professor cast the membranes back over the brain, refitted the sawn off skull like something made to measure, pulled on the scalp and roared: "Stitch!"

It took Bormental all of five minutes to stitch the skull back in place, breaking three needles.

And on the blood-bespattered pillow there again appeared the all but extinguished face of Sharik with a ring-like wound on his head. At this stage Philip Philipovich finally dropped back, like a sated vampire, ripped off one glove, shaking out a cloud of sweaty talc, tore the other to pieces, flung it on the floor and rang the bell, pressing the button into the wall. Zina appeared at the door, averting her eyes so as not to see Sharik all covered with blood. The high priest removed his blood-stained cowl with chalky hands and yelled:

"A cigarette for me this instant, Zina, a bath and a change of linen!"

He rested his chin on the edge of the table and with two fingers raised the dog's right lid, looked into the clearly agonising eye and pronounced:

"There you are, believe it or not. He hasn't died. He will, though. Eh, Dr. Bormental, I'm sorry to lose that dog, he was an affectionate brute, even if he did have his little ways."






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