Fyodor laid out his coffee carafe and kulich* on the folded military blanket, near the rock where he’d been before. He poured himself a cup and opened his notebook. He found the Pushkin poem he’d adapted to Ninilchik. He began to read aloud and his thoughts wandered.
If I walk among the noisy streets…
I say to myself, the years are fleeting
And however many there seem to be
We must all go under the eternal vault
Someone’s hour is already at hand
When I look at a solitary oak
I think, the patriarch of the woods
It will outlive my forgotten age
As it outlived that of my grandfathers’
Fyodor’s voice reached Annushka. Captivated by the familiarity of his words, she silently approached and hid among the old growth trees.
Every day, every hour
I follow in my thoughts
Trying to guess from their number
The year which brings my death
And where will fate send death to me?
In battle, in my travels, or on the seas?
Or will the neighboring valley
Receive my chilled ashes?
Fyodor paused. He sipped some coffee, now lukewarm. Tears welled in Annushka’s eyes.
And although to the senseless body
It is indifferent wherever it rots
Yet close to my beloved countryside
I still would prefer to rest
And let it be, beside the grave’s vault
That young life forever will be playing
And impartial, indifferent nature
Eternally will be shining in beauty
Annushka leaned against the tree — motionless — overcome by an avalanche of memories.
His own thoughts rustling through the trees, Fyodor sat for several minutes. He finished his kulich and coffee, then slowly rose and packed up his blanket and carafe. He carefully placed the lunch he’d made for her on the rock. Then, he turned toward the rising sun and set off for work.
Annushka stepped into a clearing to watch him, but he did not turn back.
[“Thoughts,” by Alexander Pushkin (in italics). Translated to English by G.R. Ledger, August 2009.]
*Kulich is a type of Russian bread, traditionally made for Easter meals. It’s lightly sweet and similar to brioche.