Peter Fedorovich was gorgeous as a morning star. The moment office ladies glimpsed his shimmering locks at the door they fell on the floor in a deadly swoon. A bookkeeper once had to be hospitalized: she fainted still hugging her enormous electric typewriter, and it crushed two of her ribs.
Any woman who stared at Peter Fedorovich for longer than five minutes abandoned her husband, her children, her work, took to drink for consolation, and a week later would be seen fishing through dumpsters for empty bottles.
Peter Fedorovich was a kind-hearted man. All those ruined lives upset him terribly.
He tried leaving the house as little as possible, but since no one was going to pay him for his pretty eyes alone, he had to go to the office. He tried to hide his face behind a scarf. That didn’t help. A gust of wind disturbed the scarf. A lock of hair came out—voilà, another unfortunate lady would wallow, heartbroken and drunk, in a cold puddle.
Over time, Peter Fedorovich thought of a remedy. He stopped washing and combing his hair. He found an old, filthy jacket and wore it every day. He sniveled, scratched his crotch, picked his nose constantly, spat on the floor—in general, acted like a complete swine. At first, this behavior jarred him, but he adjusted. He drank a lot, stuffed himself with everything that came his way, even scraps out of trashcans. He grew terribly fat and constantly burped and hiccupped. Then he picked up parasites, and became skinny as a corpse.
All in all, Peter Fedorovich transformed himself into such a disgusting specimen that even police patrolmen, who had seen all kinds, couldn’t walk by without kicking him in the ass. The way he wallowed in the mud, you just longed to strangle him, the swine. One patrolman, a recent recruit, developed such a taste for slugging Peter Fedorovich with his baton that they had to literally drag him away to the station and calm him with vodka.
Eventually, though, Peter Fedorovich found a lady friend. Klara Borisovna wasn’t a finished lush like Peter Fedorovich, but she didn’t mind a nightcap now and then, especially when she ruminated about her womanly fate, which had turned out to be quite different from her girlish dreams. She agreed that despite his unappetizing flaws Peter Fedorovich was still a man about the house, someone to fix the faucet and bring home crumbs to go with their drinks.
One night, Klara Borisovna woke up from a dream and saw Peter Fedorovich’s face in the moonlight. Klara Borisovna swooned and flopped on the floor. In the morning, she was gone. Peter Fedorovich waited all day. In the evening he went to the outdoor market to look for her. Sure enough, there she was, dancing like a gypsy in front of a beer kiosk, flashing a newly missing tooth.
Peter Fedorovich ran up to her and slugged her on the jaw, hard. Klara Borisovna stopped dancing. She stared at him with murky eyes, feeling a little better. To be on the safe side, Peter Fedorovich punched her again, in the gut, and then dragged her home by her hair. She downed a bracer and fell asleep.
After this incident Peter Fedorovich became doubly vigilant. He never allowed himself to come home sober. Klara Borisovna protested; in response he would curse her up and down, she would slug him, he would slug her back, then they would share a nightcap and go to bed.
They had a baby boy.
Peter Fedorovich worried the baby would take after him, but the boy turned out just fine: big head, buggy eyes, bowed legs. Never says a word, just picks his nose from time to time. Knock on wood.
Translated by Anna Summers.