Mikhail Zoshchenko: Dogged

Someone went off with merchant Yeremey Babkin's coonskin coat. 

Yeremey Babkin let out a howl. He was upset, you see, about his coat.

'Citizens,' he says, 'that was a damned good coat. I'm upset. Cost what it may, I shall find the criminal. I'll spit in his face.'

So Yeremey Babkin called out a police sniffer dog. A man turns up in a peaked cap and puttees. With a dog. Or rather a damned great hound. Brown, a sharp snout, and none too friendly. The man pushed this dog of his towards some footprints by the door, said Pst, and stood back. The dog sniffed the air, looked round the crowd (a crowd, of course, had gathered), then goes straight up to Granny Fyokla from number five and sniffs the hem of her skirt.

Fyokla goes to the back of the crowd — the dog goes for her skirt. Fyokla tries to slip away — the dog follows. Grabs her by the skirt and doesn't let go.

Fyokla sank to her knees before the officer.

'Yes,' she says, 'I'm guilty. Can't deny it. Five tubs of yeast,' she says, 'yes. And a still — it's all true. Everything,' she says, 'is in the bathroom. Arrest me.'

The crowd, of course, gasped.

'But what about the coat?' they ask.

'About the coat,' she says, 'I know nothing at all. But everything else,' she says, 'is like I've said. Take me away. Execute punishment.'

So Fyokla was taken away.

The detective got hold of his hound again, pushed its nose at the footprints again, said Pst, and stood back.

The dog looked round, sniffed empty air — and goes up to the citizen house manager. The house manager went white, he fell flat on his back.

'Tie me up,' he says, 'good people. Class-conscious citizens,' he says, 'I took money off you for water,' he says, 'but I spent that money on pleasure.'

So, of course, the tenants leapt on the house manager and began tying him up. The hound, meanwhile, goes up to the citizen from room seven. And tugs at his trousers. The citizen went white, he fell down before the people.

'Guilty,' he says. 'Yes, I'm guilty. I fiddled my year of birth,' he says, 'in my labour record. A young colt like me,' he says, 'should be serving in the army, defending the fatherland, but here I am in room seven, making use of electrical energy and other communal services. Arrest me!'

People began to get flustered.

'This dog,' they think, 'is amazing!'

And merchant Yeremey Babkin blinked, looked round, took some money out of his pocket and handed it to the detective.

'To Hell,' he says, 'with your son of a bitch. Get that dog out of here. Who cares about a coonskin coat?'

But the hound was onto him. Standing in front of him. Tail twitching.

Merchant Yeremey Babkin got flustered. He tries to get away, but the dog follows. Goes up to him and sniffs his galoshes.

The merchant went pale, he began to stammer.

'Well,' he says, 'it seems God sees the truth. I'm a bastard,' he says, 'and a cheat. As for the coat, my friends, it's not my coat at all. I pinched that coat off my brother. I'm crying, I weep and shed tears.'

The crowd fled this way and that way. The hound had no time to sniff. Just seized two or three people at once — whoever was closest — and hung on.

They confessed. One had lost state funds at cards, another had done his spouse in with a flatiron, a third said things I'd be ashamed to repeat.

The crowd was gone. The place had emptied. There was just the dog and the detective. All of a sudden the dog goes up to the detective. Twitches its tail.

The detective goes pale, he falls down before the dog.

'Bite me,' he says, 'citizen dog. I get thirty roubles a day for your dog food, but I keep twenty back for myself...'

After that, I don't know. I got out of harm's way. Quick. 

Translated from Russian by Robert Chandler

First published 1924


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