When my novella, which I was writing obsessively allnmy senior year at the Academy and a year after that,nwas accepted by a publisher and I was given a modestnadvance, I decided to buy myself an apartment. I, of course,ndidn’t have the money for a big or expensive place, so Inbought a small, one-room flat in a cheap, prefabricatednbuilding on the outskirts of Moscow.nI moved from my mother’s and began settling down.nOnly three or four apartments had been sold so far in thenwhole building, and on my floor, except for me, there wasnnobody. This was my first apartment, I was happy, and Inwalked around it, touching the smooth white walls, pastingnup something here, nailing something there.nOne morning I was standing on a stool, drilling a hole innthe ceiling in order to put in a hook for a lamp, when I saw anlarge ambulance pulling into the courtyard.nWhat’s that for? I thought.nThe ambulance made a circle in the yard and stopped innfront of my entrance. Its doors burst open and a smallnbearded man in a sweater and checkered pants jumped tonthe ground. The man went to the other door and helped outna bony young woman in a long red skirt. The woman wasnbarefoot. A thick flaxen braid reached her waist.nThe man and the woman climbed back into the ambulancenand in a second a flowered loveseat emerged from it,nLeon Steinmetz teaches creative writing at Harvard.n16/CHRONICLESnThe Witchnby Leon SteinmetznShe was a witch,nI swear, she was a real witch!n—Gogolnnnaccompanied by a rocking chair. Then the man pullednsomething by a rope and at the door, to my surprise,nappeared the head of a pitch-black goat with large horns.nThe woman pushed the goat from behind, the goat jumpedndown, and she tied it to the ambulance door.nAfter that the man took a stretcher from the ambulance,nlaid it on the ground, and with the woman began piling on itnpaper bags filled with pots and pans. Both of them picked upnthe stretcher and went into the building entrance. Shortiynthe elevator rumbled on my floor. The sound of footstepsnrustled past my door and faded down the corridor.nAh, they’re moving into one of those two-room flats; anmedic, probably, I thought and started drilling again. Thosenarriving in the ambulance, meanwhile, made another trip tonthe yard and returned, leading the goat on a rope andncarrying the boxes with dishes.nThe ceiling of my apartment was reinforced concrete andnit didn’t give in. I pressed harder. Crack—the drill bitnsnapped in my hands. Devil! I changed the bit and withnmaddened effort pierced the ceiling. A wild crash and clatternof crockery rang out from the corridor. I stopped drilling andnlistened. Someone was knocking quietly at my door.n”Yes,” I shouted, “come in.”nThe bearded man was standing in my doorway. Closer upnI got a better look at him. He was about 40. His wiry hairnbrisded out in all directions. Streaks of gray broke here andnthere in it. He apparenfly had weak eyes, for the glass in hisn