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( i \ ear Comrade Editor,
..L./ I want to tell you of some ignorant women who are harmful to
us. I set my hopes on you, that you who travel around our nation's
fronts, have not overlooked the far-flung station of Fastov, lying afar
beyond the mountains grand, in a distant province of a distant land,
where many a jug of home-brewed beer we drank with merriment and
cheer. About this aforementioned station, there is much you can write
about, but as we say back home: you can shovel till the cows come
home, but the master's dung heap never gets no smaller. So I will only
describe what my eyes have seen in person.
It was a quiet, glorious night seven days· ago when our welldeserved Red Cavalry transport train, loaded with fighters, stopped at
that station. We were all burning to promote the Common Cause and
were heading to Berdichev. Only, we notice that our train isn't moving
in any way at all, our Gavrilka is not beginning to roll, and the fighters
begin mistrusting and asking each other: "Why are we stopping here?"
And truly, the stop turned out to be mighty for the Common Cause,
because the peddlers, those evil fiends among whom there was a countless force of the female species, were all behaving very impertinently
with the railroad authorities. Recklessly they grabbed the handrails,
those evil fiends, they scampered over the steel roofs, frolicked, made
trouble, clutching in each hand sacks of contraband salt, up to five pood
in a sack. But the triumph of the capitalist peddlers did not last long.
The initiative showed by the fighters who jumped out of the train made
T/i,e Complete Works o.f Isaac Baue[
it possible for the struggling railroad authorities to emit sighs from
their breasts. Only the female species with their bags of salt stayed
around. Taking pity, the soldiers let some of the women come into the
railroad cars, but others they didn't. In our own railroad car of the
Second Platoon two girls popped up, and after the first bell there comes
an imposing woman with a baby in her arms: "Let me in, my dear
Cossacks," she says. "I have been suffering through the whole war at
train stations with a suckling baby in my arms, and now I want to meet
my husband, but the way the railroad is, it is impossible to get through!
Don't I deserve some help from you Cossacks?"
"By the way, woman," I tell her, "whichever way the platoon decides
will be your fate." And, turning to the platoon, I tell them that here we
have a woman who is requesting to travel to her husband at an appointed place and that she does, in fact, have a child with her, so what will
your decision be? Let her in or not?
"Let her in," the boys yell. "Once we're done with her, she won't be
wanting that husband of hers no more!"
"No," I tell the boys quite politely, "I bow to your words, platoon,
but I am astonished to hear such horse talk. Recall, platoon, your lives
and how you yourselves were children with your mothers, and therefore, as a result, you should not talk that way!"
And the Cossacks said, "How persuasive he is, this Balmashov!"
And they let the woman into the railroad car, and she climbs aboard
thankfully. And each of the fighters, saying how right I am, tumble all
over each other telling her, "Sit down, woman, there in the corner, rock
your child the way mothers do, no one will touch you in the corner, so
you can travel untouched to your husband, as you want, and we depend
upon your conscience to raise a new change of guard for us, because
what is old grows older, and when you need youth, it's never around!
We saw our share of sorrow, woman, both when we were drafted and
then later in the extra service, we were crushed by hunger, burned by
cold. So just sit here, woman, and don't be frightened!"
The third bell rang and the train pulled out of the station. The glorious night pitched its tent. And in that tent hung star lanterns. And the
fighters remembered the nights of Kuban and the green star of Kuban.
And thoughts flew like birds. And the wheels clattered and clattered.
With the passing of time, when night was relieved of its watch and
the red drummers drummed in the dawn on their red drums, then the
Cossacks came to me, seeing that I am sitting sleepless and am unhappy to the fullest.
"Balmashov," the Cossacks say to me, "why are you so horribly
unhappy and sitting sleepless?"
"I bow to you deeply, 0 fighters, and would like to ask you the
small favor of letting me speak a few words with this citizen."
And trembling from head to toe, I rise from my bunk from which
sleep had run like a wolf from a pack of depraved dogs, and walk up to
her, take the baby from her arms, rip off the rags it's swaddled in and
its diaper, and out from the diaper comes a nice fat forty-pound sack
of salt.
"What an interesting little baby, Comrades! It does not ask
Mommy for titty, doesn't peepee on mommy's skirty, and doesn't wake
people from their sleep!"
"Forgive me, my dear Cossacks," the woman cut into our conversation very coolly, "it wasn't me who tricked you, it was my hard life."
"I, Balmashov, forgive your hard life," I tell the woman. "It doesn't
cost Balmashov much. What Balmashov pays for something, that is the
price he sells it for! But address yourself to the Cossacks, woman, who
elevated you as a toiling mother of the republic. Address yourself to
these two girls, who are now crying for having suffered under us last
night. Address yourself to our women on the wheat fields of Kuban,
'who are wearing out their womanly strength without husbands, and to
their husbands, who are lonely too, and so are forced against their will
to rape girls who cross their paths! And you they didn't touch, you
improper woman, although you sliould have been the first to be
touched! Address yourself to Russia, crushed by pain!"
And she says to me, ''As it is I've lost my salt, so I'm not afraid of
calling things by their real name! Don't give me that about saving
Russia-all you care about is saving those Yids, Lenin and Trotsky!"
"Right now our topic of conversation is not the Yids, you evil citizen! And by the way, about Lenin I don't really know, but Trotsky is the
dashing son of the Governor ofTambov who, turning his back on his
high social rank, joined the working classes. Like prisoners sentenced
to hard labor, Lenin and Trotsky are dragging us to life's road of freedom, while you, foul citizen, are a worse counterrevolutionary than that
T/i,e Comp[ete Works of Isaac Baue[
White general waving his sharp saber at us from his thousand-ruble
horse. You can see him, that general, from every road, and the worker
has only one dream-to kill him! While you, you dishonest citizen,
with your bogus children who don't ask for bread and don't run out into
the wind, you one doesn't see. You're just like a flea, you bite and bite
and bite!"
And I truthfully admit that I threw that citizen off the moving
train and onto the embankment, but she, being brawny as she was, sat
up, shook out her skirts, and went on her deceitful way. Seeing this
uninjured woman and Russia all around her, the peasant fields without
an ear of corn, the raped girls, and the comrades, many of whom were
heading for the front but few of whom would ever return, I wanted to
jump from the train and either kill myself or kill her. But the Cossacks
took pity on me and said, ''Just shoot her with that rifle."
And I took the loyal rifle from the wall and wiped that blot off the
face of the working land and the republic.
And we, the fighters of the Second Platoon, swear before you, dear
Comrade Editor, and before you, dear Comrades of the editorial office,
that we will deal relentlessly with all the traitors who pull us into the
pit and want to turn back the stream and cover Russia with corpses and
dead grass.
In the name of all the fighters of the Second Platoon,
Nikita Balmashov, Fighter of the Revolution.