Previously, the news of the miraculous discovery spread and Professor Persikov’s life was turned upside down…
It’s time to read on into Chapter VI of Fatal Eggs, a gripping novel that despite being written almost 100 years ago, couldn’t be more relevant today. Enjoy the read!
CHAPTER VI. Moscow. June 1928
The city shone, the lights danced, going out and blazing on. In Theatre Square the white lamps of buses mingled with the green lights of trams; above the former Muir and Merilees, its tenth floor added later, skipped a multi-coloured electrical woman, tossing out letter by letter the multicoloured words:
“Workers’ Credit”. A crowd thronged and murmured in the small garden opposite the Bolshoi Theatre, where a multicoloured fountain played at night. And over the Bolshoi itself a huge loudspeaker kept making announcements.
“Anti-fowl vaccinations at Lefortovo Veterinary Institute have produced brilliant results. The number of… fowl deaths for today has dropped by half…”
Then the loudspeaker changed its tone, something growled inside it, a spray of green blazed up over the theatre, then went out and the loudspeaker complained in a deep bass:
“An extraordinary commission has been set up to fight the fowl plague consisting of the People’s Commissar of Health, the People’s Commissar of Agriculture, the head of animal husbandry, Comrade Ptakha-Porosyuk, Professors Persikov and Portugalov… and Comrade Rabinovich! New attempts at intervention,” the loudspeaker giggled and cried, like a jackal, “in connection with the fowl plague!”
Theatre Passage, Neglinnaya and Lubyanka blazed with white and violet neon strips and flickering lights amid wailing sirens and clouds of dust. People crowded round the large notices on the walls, lit by glaring red reflectors.
“All consumption of chickens and chicken eggs is strictly forbidden on pain of severe punishment. Any attempt by private traders to sell them in markets is punishable by law with confiscation of all property. All citizens in possession of eggs are urgently requested to take them to local police stations.”
A screen on the roof of the Workers’ Paper showed chickens piled up to the sky as greenish firemen, fragmenting and sparkling, hosed them with kerosene. Red waves washed over the screen, deathly smoke belched forth, swirling in clouds, and drifted up in a column, then out hopped the fiery letters:
“Dead chickens being burnt in Khodynka.”
Amid the madly blazing windows of shops open until three in the morning, with breaks for lunch and supper, boarded-up windows with signs saying “Eggs for sale. Quality guaranteed” stared out blindly. Hissing ambulances with “Moscow Health Dept.” on them raced past policemen and overtook heavy buses, their sirens wailing.
“Someone else poisoned himself with rotten eggs,” the crowd murmured.
The world-famous Empire Restaurant in Petrovsky Lines glowed with green and orange lamps, and inside it by the portable telephones on the tables lay liqueur-stained cardboard notices saying “No omelettes until further notice. Try our fresh oysters.”
In the Hermitage Gardens, where Chinese lanterns shone like sad beads in dead choked foliage, on a blindingly lit stage the singers Shrams and Karmanchikov sang satirical songs composed by the poets Ardo and Arguyev,
Oh, Mama, what shall I do
Without my little eggies two?
accompanied by a tap-dance.
The theatre named after the deceased Vsevolod Meyer-hold who, it will be remembered, met his end in 1927 during a production of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, when the trapezes with naked boyars collapsed, sported a running coloured neon strip announcing a new play by the writer Erendors, entitled “Fowl Farewell” directed by Kuchterman, a pupil of Meyerhold. Next door, at the Aquarium Gardens, ablaze with neon advertisements and shining half-naked women, the revue “Son-of-a-Hen” by the writer Lenivtsev was playing to loud applause among the foliage of the open-air variety stage. And along Tverskaya trotted a line of circus donkeys, with lanterns under each ear and gaudy posters. The Korsh Theatre was reviving Rostand’s Chantecler.
Newspaper boys bellowed and yelled among the motor wheels:
“Horrific find in underground cave! Poland preparing for horrific war! Horrific experiments by Professor Persikov!”
In the circus of the former Nikitin, in a rich brown arena smelling sweetly of dung, the deathly white clown Born was talking to Bim, all swollen up with dropsy.
“I know why you’re so fed up!”
“Why ith it?” squealed Bim.
“You buried your eggs under a gooseberry bush, and the 15th District police squad has found them.”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha,” laughed the circus, so hard that the blood curdled happily and longingly in their veins and the trapezes and cobwebs stirred under the old dome.
“Allez-oop!” the clowns shouted loudly, and a well-fed white horse trotted out bearing a stunningly beautiful woman with shapely legs in a crimson costume.
Not looking at or taking heed of anyone and ignoring the prostitutes’ nudges and soft, enticing invitations, the inspired and solitary Professor Persikov crowned with unexpected fame made his way along Mokhovaya to the neon clock by the Manege. Here, engrossed in his thoughts and not looking where he was going, he collided with a strange, old-fashioned man and banged his fingers painfully against the wooden holster hanging from the man’s belt.
“What the devil!” squealed Persikov. “My apologies!” “Pardon me!” replied an unpleasant voice in return, and they managed to disentangle themselves in the mass of people. The Professor continued on his way to Prechistenka, putting the incident out of his head straightaway.
Source: “The Fatal Eggs”, Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Kathleen Gook-Horujy, Raduga, Moscow, 1990