“The Heart of a Dog”, Chapter IV – Weekly Reads
We continue to acquaint you with the fascinating Bulgakov`s stories. Sharik begins to actively make new acquaintances, although his collar scares off new friends. However, one thing we can say with certainty – Sharik is engaged in something that is not typical for an ordinary dog. Details in Chapter IV below.
But nothing of all this happened. It was the arched gateway that melted away like a foul dream never to return. Evidently the Disruption was not so terrible. In spite of it the grey accordions under the window were filled with heat twice a day and warmth rippled out from them right through the flat. It was quite clear that the dog had drawn the winning ticket in the dogs’ lottery. No less than twice a day now his eyes filled with tears of gratitude to the wise man of Prechistenka. Apart from this, all the glass-fronted cupboards in the drawing-room reflected a successful, handsome dog.
I am a beauty. Perhaps an unknown canine Prince, incognito, thought the dog, surveying the shaggy coffee-coloured hound with the contented face strollingabout in the mirrored distances. It is very probable that my grandmother had an affair with a Newfoundland. That’s it, I see I have a white patch on my face.
Where did that come from, I wonder? Philip Philipovich is a man of excellent taste, he would not take in any old mongrel stray.
In the course of a week, the dog had devoured as much food as in the whole course of his last, hungry month-and-a-half on the street. Only by weight, of course. As to the quality of food in Philip Philipovich’s house, there was simply no comparison. Even if one did not count the 1 8 kopecks worth of scrap meat which Darya Petrovna bought every day from the Smolensk Market, one only need mention the titbits from dinner at 7 o’clock in the dining room, which the dog always attended in spite of the protests of the elegant Zina. During these meals Philip Philipovich had been finally elevated to divine status. The dog sat up and begged and nibbled his jacket; the dog learnt Philip Philipovich’s ring at the door (two sharp authoritative stabs at full pitch), and rushed out barking excitedly to meet him in the hall. The master was all wrapped in silver fox fur, glittering with a million tiny snow-flakes, he smelt of tangerines, cigars, scent, lemons, petrol, eau-de-Cologne and cloth, and his voice sounded like a trumpet through the whole flat:
“Why did you tear up that owl, you scoundrel? What harm did it ever do to you? What harm, I’m asking you? Why did you break Professor Mechnikov?”
“Philip Philipovich, he should be given a good hiding, even if only once,” Zina declared indignantly. “Or he’ll get completely spoilt. Just look what he’s done to your galoshes.”
“Nobody should ever be given a hiding,” Philip Philipovich said warmly. “And don’t forget it. People and animals can only be worked upon by suggestion, admonition. Did you give him his meat today?”
“Heavens, he’s eating us all out of house and home! How can you ask, Philip Philipovich? I’m surprised he hasn’t burst.”
“Well, let him eat, bless him… But what did that owl ever do to you, hooligan?”
“Oo-oo!” the toady-dog whimpered and crept up on his stomach, paws spread. Then he was dragged willy-nilly by the scruff of the neck through the hall into the study. The dog yelped, snapped, dug his claws into the carpet, slid along on his behind as though performing in a circus. In the middle of the study on the carpet lay glass-eyed owl with red rags smelling of mothballs hanging out from its torn stomach. On the table lay the shattered portrait.
“I haven’t cleared up on purpose so that you could see for yourself,” Zina informed him, thoroughly upset. “He jumped up on the table, you see, the villain!
And got it by the tail — snap! Before I knew where I was he’d tom it to bits. Push his face into the owl, Philip Philipovich, so that he knows not to spoil things.”
A howl went up. The dog was dragged, still clinging to the carpet, to have his nose pushed into the owl, shedding bitter tears and thinking: Beat me if you like, only don’t turn me out of the flat.
“Send the owl to the taxidermist without delay. Besides, here, take 8 roubles and 16 kopecks for the tram, go to the central department store and buy him a good collar and a chain.”
The next day the dog was arrayed in a broad, shiny collar. To begin with he was very upset when he saw himself in the mirror, tucked his tail between his legs and went slinking off to the bathroom, meditating on how to mb it off on some chest or crate. Very soon, however, the dog understood that this was simply foolish. Zina took him for a walk on the lead along Obukhov Alley and the dog burnt with shame as he walked like some felon under arrest but, by the time he had walked the length of Prechistenka as far as the Church of Christ the Saviour, he realised what a collar meant in a dog’s life. Furious envy was clearly to be seen in the eyes of all the curs they encountered and at Myortvy Alley, a lanky stray who’d lost part of his tail barked ferociously, calling him a “bloody aristo” and a “boot-licker”. When they crossed the tram track the militiaman glanced at the collar with pleasure and respect and, when they returned home, the most incredible thing happened: Fyodor the porter opened the front door himself to let in Sharik. At the same time he remarked to Zina:
“My-my, what a shaggy dog Philip Philipovich has acquired. And remarkably fat.”
“Not surprising, he eats enough for six”, explained Zina, all pink and pretty from the frost.
A collar is as good as a briefcase, the dog joked to himself and, wagging his tail, proceeded on up to the first floor like a gentleman. Having discovered the true worth of the collar, the dog paid his first visit to the main department of paradise which, up to now, had been strictly forbidden him — to the realm of Darya Petrovna, the cook. The whole flat was not worth one square yard of Darya’s realm. Every day flames crackled and threw off sparks in the tiled stove with the black top. The oven crackled. Between crimson pillars burnt the face of Darya Petrovna, eternally condemned to fiery torment and unslaked passion. It shone and shimmered with grease. In the fashionable hair-do — down over the ears, then swept back into a twist of fair hair on the nape of the neck — gleamed 22 artificial diamonds. About the walls golden saucepans hung on hooks and all the kitchen was loud with smells, bubbling and hissing in’ closed pots.
“Out!” yelled Darya Petrovna. “Out, you thieving stray! You were all I needed! I’ll take the poker to you…”
What’s wrong? Now why are you scolding? Ingratiatingly, the dog smiled up at her with half-closed eyes. Now why should you think I’m a thief? Haven’t you noticed my collar? And poking his muzzle through the door he crept sideways into the kitchen.
Sharik the dog knew some kind of secret to win people’s hearts. In two days’ time he was already lying next to the coal-scuttle and watching Darya Petrovna at work. With a long, narrow knife she chopped off the heads and claws of defenceless partridges then, like a furious executioner, cut meat off the bones, gutted the chickens, passed something through the mincing, machine. Meanwhile Sharik was worrying the head of a partridge. From a bowl of milk Darya fished out soaked white bread, mixed it with mincemeat on a wooden board, poured on some cream and then set about shaping meat balls on the same board. The oven hummed as though there was a regular furnace within it and from the saucepan came a great grumbling, bubbling and spitting. The stove door opened with a bang to disclose a terrifying hell in which the flames leapt and shimmered.
In the evenings, the gaping stone jaws lost their fire and, in the window of the kitchen above the white half-curtain, there was a glimpse of the dense and solemn Prechistenka night with a single star. It was damp on the floor of the kitchen, the pots and pans gleamed balefully, dully, and on the table lay a fireman’s cap. Sharik lay on the warm stove like a lion on a gate, one ear cocked from curiosity, and looked through the half-open door to Zina’s and Darya Petrovna’s room where a black-moustached, excited man in a broad leather belt was embracing Darya Petrovna. Her face burned with anguish and passion, all of it, that is, but the indelibly powdered nose. A ray of light illumined a portrait of a man with a black moustache from which was suspended a paper Easter rose.
“Like a demon, you are,” Darya Petrovna murmured in the half dark. “Leave off! Zina’ll come any moment now. What’s got into you, you been having your youth restored too?”
“Don’t need to,” the man with the black moustache answered hoarsely, almost beside himself. “You’re so fiery!”
In the evening, the star over Prechistenka hid behind heavy curtains and, if Aida was not playing at the Bolshoi and there was no meeting of the All-Russian Society of Surgeons, the divinity took his place in a deep armchair in the study. There were no ceiling lights. Only one green lamp shone on the table. Sharik lay on the carpet in the shadow and, fascinated, observed terrible things. Human brains floated in a repulsive, caustic and muddy liquid. The divinity’s arms, bare to the elbows, were in reddish-brown rubber gloves and the slippery, unfeeling fingers poked amongst the convolutions. Sometimes the divinity armed him s elf with a small shining knife and carefully cut through the rubbery yellow brains.
“To the sacred shores of the Nile, ” the divinity hummed quietly to himself, biting his lip and recalling the golden interior of the Bolshoi theatre.
At this time the radiators were at their hottest. The warmth they gave off rose to the ceiling from which it spread down again through the room and brought to life in the dog’s coat the last doomed flea to have escaped Philip Philipovich’s careful combing. The carpets muffled all sound in the flat. Then, from far away, the front door clanged.
Zina’s gone to the cinema, thought the dog, and when she gets back we’ll be having supper, I suppose. Today I have reason to believe it will be veal chops!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
Source: The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov Translated by Avril Pyman Mikhail Bulgakov 1925 English translation copyright Raduga Publishers Moscow 1990