rimless spectacles was quite thick.n”Excuse me,” he said, tugging at his beard, “do you, bynany chance, have a broom? I just, devil take it, flipped thenwhole box of dishes out on the floor over there.”nI got off the chair and gave him a broom and a dustpan.n”Thanks. I guess we’re neighbors,” he said, taking thenbroom in one hand and extending to me the other. “DoctornWunderkind. The first name is Samson.”n”Glad to meet you,” I said.nThis was how I made the acquaintance of the man. Thennext day I had an opportunity to meet the woman.nI went into the elevator and was about to push the button,nwhen I heard footsteps. I looked out. My new neighbor wasncoming into the entrance. I held the elevator door for her.nShe came in and stood across from me. Her face was widenand splattered with freckles, her eyes were colorless. Shenlooked at me without blinking.nShe’s barefoot again, I thought. And her feet are quitenrough, evidentiy used to going barefoot. Probably one ofnthose natural food freaks . . . Her braid is unusual, though.nNobody wears hair like that anymore.n”Why nobody? In my village everybody wears it thisnway,” she said suddenly. Her voice was low and she spokenwith a drawl like people from the North.n”You from a village?”n”Bityugovo, Archangel region.”nThe elevator stopped on our floor and the door opened.n”Are you the doctor’s …” I wanted to say “maid.”n”Wife,” she blurted and walked down the corridor.n”Everybody wears it this way,” I mumbled, unlocking myndoor. Wait a second, I didn’t say anything about hernhair … or did I? hm . . . well, I bet this Bityugovo is a tinynvillage up there in the woods.nAnd so I was not much surprised when a rope wasnstretched across their balcony and clumps of dry grass hungnon it, swinging in the breeze.nSeveral times before dawn I recognized the slap of hernbare feet walking up and down the corridor. And once, wellnafter midnight, when I was sitting at my desk working —ninspired by the accepted novella, I decided to create a novel,nand spent nights writing — I suddenly heard somebodynpuffing heavily outside my door. I rushed to the door andnthrew it open. The black horned goat was rubbing itselfnagainst my door, sniffing my lock.n^ ^ T T ow are you? Finished fixing up your place?”nX X Doctor Wunderkind asked me when I ran intonhim in the courtyard.n”More or less. And you?”n”Almost. Have you signed up for a phone?”n”I’ve got one already.”n”So quickly? They told me I had to wait for ten months.”n”Well, the wife of their chief engineer’s nephew is mynmother’s friend.”n”That’s always useful, to know someone’s nephew,” hengrinned.n”Of course. Listen, if you have to make an urgent call ornsomething, you’re welcome to use it.”n”You better beware, I might take you up on that,” he said.nAnd, indeed, soon one evening he took advantage of myninvitation.n”The public phone is ripped out . . . and you were kindnenough . . . ,” he said, pulling at his beard.nHaving called, he glanced at the manuscript pagesnscattered over my desk. “What is it you’re writing, may Inask?” He cocked his head a bit to one side.n”A novel, hopefully.”n”Are you a fiction writer?”n”Not really. I just had a piece accepted.”n”Wonderful. I also wrote at one time, poetry though.nUsed to write a lot of poems while in medical school.nSubmitted them to quite a few magazines. All were rejected.nThey said they were too murky.”n”Your wife is an unusual woman; what does she do?”n”She doesn’t do anything. She’s a psychic.”n”You mean she predicts?”n”And also charms pain away, tells fortunes, the wholenbit.”n”Can she tell my fortune?”n”Sure, why not.”n”When?”n”Whenever you want.”n”What about now?”n”We can try.”nIn the Wunderkinds’ living room, next to the flowerednloveseat and in front of the overfilled bookcase, therenstood a wooden cage, in which I noticed several motley hensnand a big brown rooster. The hens were sleeping, huddlednin a corner of the cage. The rooster sat on a perch and fromnunder a drooping comb squinted gloomily at me with oneneye.n”Sasha!” the Doctor shouted. “Saashaa!”nFrom behind the closed door of the next room some sortnof cooing was heard.n”She’s putting Baba to bed,” he said. “Baba can’t fallnasleep without her.”n”Who’s Baba?”n”The goat. Have a seat,” he pointed to the rocking chair.nI sat down. The chair creaked under me. Wunderkind satnon the loveseat across from me.n”How about some tea?”n”No, thanks. You know,” I said, “a few days ago, when Inmet your wife in the elevator, I had a kind of weird feelingnthat she read my thoughts. I wasn’t really sure, though . . .”n”No doubt she did!” he chuckled. “Reading thoughts isneasy as pie for her. She read mine, for example, even beforenthey appeared in my own head.”n”What do you mean?”n”Well, you see, I met her just a few weeks ago when Inwent into the Archangel region for my summer vacationn. . . you know, walking through the woods with the backpack,nspending nights in some tiny villages . . . I’m anpsychiatrist and for me after all this tension it’s justndivine . . . Anyway, this time an unpleasant thing happened.nMy jaw suddenly bloated up. Terrible pain, nothingnhelped, and the nearest dentist two hundred and fifty milesnaway. And then, the old woman I had stayed overnight withnsaid to me: ‘There’s a girl in our village who can charm itnaway. Go to her!’ Sasha was that girl. She put a twig to myncheek, mumbled something and in a flash the pain vanished.nThen she looked at me and said: ‘You’ll take me with you tonnnOCTOBER 1989/17n