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The Short Form

“Tatlin!”

Guy Davenport

Excerpt

At Teraspol there were cobwebs in the barley, wasps at the panes, and cats in the knitting baskets.

Mikhail Fyodorovich’s grandfather was a sailor, chewed plug tobacco, had been born and raised in Archangel, and talked a great deal about ice.

He was Dyedushka Larionov.

Dyedushka Petrovsky, a farmer, was Mikhail’s mother’s father. He had a meal in the middle of the night, to keep starvation at bay. Breakfast was at dawn, when the mist was still in the chestnuts. He took his tea from a wineglass, sipping it with a hiss between his teeth.

There was another meal at ten, a lunch at noon, tea at four, supper at six. Then, when the fireflies were thickest and the dew began to agitate old man Petrovsky’s rheumatism, the household, except for the kitchen detail, folding dough in the long pans and forking pickled eels from stone jars, went to bed. At midnight they were up again, sleepy and hungry. 

—We could starve in our sleep, Grandfather Petrovsky said. 

We read it in Tatlin!.