Alexander Neverov: Tashkent, the Bread City


Mishka sank into thoughts. He just couldn’t get Tashkent – the city of bread – out of his mind. He would start calculating: two thousand miles is not that far after all. Well, it is far, if you walk, of course. The train would get you there in three days. And the ticket – can’t he live without the ticket? The conductor will see a little guy on the train and say, “Don’t hurt him people, it’s Mishka, the Starveling – he’s not a burden. How heavy is he? Forty pounds, at most.” If they kick him out of the carriage – the train roof works just as well for a couple days. He’d climbed up trees to pick up rooks’ nests – it’s a lot tougher, by the way – but still he didn’t fall.
Suddenly Mishka saw his buddy Seryozha, one year his junior, and it cheered him up a bit.
“Come with me!”
“Where to?”
“To Tashkent, to get bread. The more the merrier. You get in trouble – I cover your back, I get in trouble – I have yours covered. We are not gonna make it here anyway.”
Seryozha didn’t have much faith in this adventure at first.
“What if it rains?”
“It’s a summer rain, it’s warm.”
“What if the soldiers kick us out?”
“We’ll be quiet.”
Seryozha was not so daring. He picked his nose a couple times and said, “No, Mishka, we’re not gonna make it.”
Mishka swore, “Trust me, we will, just don’t chicken out. The Red Army are everywhere now, they won’t push us away. They’ll know we are starving and give us bread.”
“We are little, we’ll get scared.”
Mishka argued that they were not little at all. It’s no big deal that Seryozha is younger, Mishka will do all the hard stuff: look for a good place on the train, ask for help. They are not some girly girls! If something doesn’t work out they’ll just be patient. When there are two of them, things are easier to deal with. They’ll ride the train at nights and walk in the daytime. They’ll hop on the train again when the conductor is not looking.
“When are we coming back?” Seryozha asked.
“Before you know it. The way there takes four days at most, and the way back takes four. We’ll get about twenty pounds of bread, so it’s not heavy to carry.”
Seryozha’s eyes gleamed with happiness.
“I’ll take thirty!”
“No, you won’t. If you have too much, someone will steal it from you. We’ll better come back for more once we know the way.”
“Let’s keep it secret, Mishka.”
“Okay!”
“It’s just going to be you and me. If Vanya or Kostya ask to come along – don’t let them: they’d be scared of a squirrel! How far would we get with them?”
“Aren’t you scared yourself?”
“Why should I be? I can go to the graveyard at night.”

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