The old woman, who was sitting next to Matvey,nstretched out her hand and, without a word, grabbed hisnsleeve.nBut Matvey went on.n”… You were given a chance—you were born anhuman—and you blew it. For that, in the next life, you’llnbe born a spider.”n”Did you hear that?” the old cop turned to the one withnthe sheet. “Write it down. For calling a representative of thenlaw a spider, you’ll get a year in jail,” he said to Matvey.n”A year in jail! You threaten me with a year in jail, whennyou’ll be sentenced for eternity. Do you realize it? Forneternityl And you’ll never, ever, be a human again. You’ll,ncome back to earth as a spider, or even worse, as anmicrobe!”n”I’ve warned you. For that microbe you’ll get anothernyear!”n”Matti, I beg you,” said Ida,nMatvey waved his hand and fell silent,n”Small ones’re done, sir,” the mustachioed cop said,n”Only the big one’s left, and some papers,”n”Get the big one out, and put the papers into a separatenbag!”n”Yessir!”n”Hold it! Lift it up! Turn the corner!” The young copsndragged the big canvas out of Matvey’s room,nTolik, in his nightshirt, sat beside Ida, staring at them,nhis naked knees trembling.nThe search went for another hour. They shook out thenlaundry, then, with a crowbar, lifted some floorboards,npoked the dry earth underneath,n”Well, that’s about it,” the old one said,n”Right, sir,”n”You’ll be hearing from us,” he said to me, handing menback my ID,nAnd they left, taking along the canvases, sketchesnwrapped up in the rug, and the papers, which they hadnstuffed into a pillow case,nMatvey they took away with them,n”It’s because of me,” Tolik whispered barely audibly,nwhen their steps had faded away in the corridor, “Becausenof me,” he repeated. “I gave it to the teacher. Mama . . .”n”What did you give to the teacher?” Ida said bendingntoward him, her face wet with tears.n”I forgot to rip daddy’s drawing out of my notebook,nwhen I gave it to her,” he said. “She asked me, ‘Who drewnthat?’ I said I didn’t know. But she, probably, guessed. Andnnow . . . they will . . . kill . . . him …”nHe wanted to say something else, but he couldn’t. Henjust kept opening and closing his mouth, like a fish whichnhas been pulled onto the shore, and he was trembling morenand more violently.n”Tolik!” Ida gripped his shoulders. “Tolik,” she touchednhis forehead. “He’s burning up! The doctor. We’ve got tonget him to the doctor!” Frantically, she started pulling anshirt over his head. “Tolik! My God, he’s almost unconscious!nMother!” She cried to the old woman.nBut the old woman didn’t hear her.nHer hands clinging to the springs of the bed, her headnbent down, she repeated, rocking as in a trance: “I knewnit … I knew it … I knew it … “n”Please, stay here, while I go and call the doctor,” Idansaid to me, rushing to the door, “or no, I’ll stay here, youncall. Please.”nI dashed outside and ran to the phone booth.nDespite the cop’s threats, however, Matvey was notnjailed for a year, not even for a week. He was releasednin two days.nNobody summoned me, and I bought a ticket to return tonMoscow.nOn the eve of my departure, we were sitting on the shore,nnot far from his house, among the ancient ruins where Inhad first seen him.n”Why did they come? What did it all mean?” I asked.n”Because of that drawing,” he waved his hand.n”What drawing? Tolik mentioned something …”n”Yes, it was that. I drew a funny little picture to amusenhim. It’s a child’s joke, really.”nHe picked up a pebble and with a few quick strokes drewnfive heads in the sand. The first—a huge, shaggy head withna tangled mass of hair and beard, was obviously, Karl Marx.nThe second—with less hair and shorter beard was, ofncourse, Engels. Next came Lenin—balding, with a littlengoatee and a mustache. After him—Stalin, with just anmustache. And the last one, clean shaven and bald, was,nundoubtedly, our current ruler.n”Well, that’s what he accidentally gave to his teacher.nAnd it had a caption, besides. ‘Marxism goes bald’ . . .npoor kid …” Matvey lowered his head.n”How’s he today?” I asked.n”Better. The doctor said it was a shock. . . . It’s strange,nreally, that they released me so quickly. Just a warning. It’sna different time, now, I suppose . . . well, all my canvasesnand notes they destroyed, though …”n”What?”n”Yeah, they said it’s religious propaganda.”nI couldn’t speak. The words stuck in my throat. Matveynwas also silent, looking down.n”But you know,” he raised his head and looked at me,n”this joke was just a pretext for him to destroy what I’mndoing. But too soon he exults.”n”Who exults?”n”The Devil, as Saint John said, the Devil with hisnhordes . . . You see, he thinks I’m defeated, but he’s deadnwrong. All my ideas are here,” he slapped his forehead,n”and my recipes for the primer and the colors they didn’tnfind. I had something like a presentiment that it wouldnhappen, and a couple of weeks ago I recopied them all intona separate notebook and hid it in a flour-can. Here they are,nall of them!” He pulled a small, thick notebook from insidenhis shirt. “Puff!” he blew the flour off the cover. “Want mento read you some?”nAnd he opened the notebook and started reading.n”… Gently heat eucalyptus balsam over a delicatenflame. Add into it the white of one egg. Then, pour in threenspoons of light linden honey that has stood in thensun. And then, stirring slowly, add the finely powderednpigment …”nHe read, and a long blue shadow stretched from him overnthe ground.nnnMAY 1987/27n