I did not return to that school. Many years later I learned that, after finishing my studies, Dimka Dudinas died of gangrene. He was hit by a car, and the hospital to which he was on the ambulance was not the Military Medical Academy.

So Dimka and I did not fight.

Once I hit the younger one, so I learned that retribution does not bring comfort. He, four-boys, was rude for a week, provoking a fight. I endured, endured, but could not stand, and the blow was devastating — a concussion. I was a senior class, and then his brother and his friends, ninth-graders, five beat me with a snout in the outhouse. While beaten — it was easy, and blood from ears, and broken cheekbones … but then again it was a shame. And now, it seems, too.

And my big friend Grisha somehow foolishly gave a kick to a classmate, after which he jumped up her skirt for class fun. Despite twice the weight, Grisha easily flew through two desks and crashed in the aisle, to an even greater delight of classmates. Grisha’s brother was a sailor, the day before the incident, Grisha gave me to abuse the brotherhood of a steward. Grishins parents told me that for the request to return the vest taken away from their son, I brutally beat Grisha. Well, it’s not true! But adults believed more adults. I locked myself, my mother screamed that I was lying, and my father, furious with the insolence of the offspring and willingness to grind Grisha for lying in a lot of powder instead of apologies, grabbed the first thing that fell under his arm and slapped my face. It was unlucky for everyone — it was a naval belt. The bloody anchor shone on my cheek. By morning the half-face was crimson blue to the proud pride of the victim for the truth of the hero. Dad went to school with me, Grisha admitted that it was not a vest, and I must say, the traces of my punishment were much greater than the marks of my guilt on Grishina’s.

His father was depressed, he did not know that he was able to raise his hand to the child.

Our house on the Commandant’s airfield — in the new building area, where thousands of Leningrad communal communes + the darkness of visitors were settled, the so-called limit. Komendan is an alarming northern outskirts. Full courtyards of teenage gopnik and two vocational schools, where Asian guests were taught to plumbers and other half-abused specialties. Limita lived in dorms, walked with «our girls». Once, someone from «ours» was demolished half a head with a reinforcement bar. The indignant Komendan rustled with the excitement of the crusades. Then I undertook to write a great novel. On the cloth cover of the general notebook, ninety-six sheets in a cage, he inscribed the title: «Dogs and Knights.» Then the telescope showed Eisenstein’s «Alexander Nevsky», and all courtyard small fry converged on the football field in the «ice slaughter». Who «ours», and who the despicable German «dogs-knights», determined, of course, the outcome of the battle. I liked the word «knight», and, without knowing it myself, writing the novel, I gave birth to an oxymoron, dividing the stable expression with the «and» union. Further headings, however, it did not go.

I probably thought then that this novel will be about «them» and about «us.» On the radio, daily rushed «Hello, the country of heroes!» And others, «they», it is clear who they were. It is clear, who were the residents of other households for our court, it is clear who was the limit for the Commandant.

The first battle knocked me out of the spirit of collectivism and «joy in the masses» forever.

A crowd of eighty people walks along the boulevard. Break benches, pierce the stakes, supporting young, newly planted trees, in the pockets of school jackets, heavy nuts, stones, oil skeins of bicycle chains are put. The crowd wanders, but there are no enemies. And suddenly, two small dark-haired patsanenko came towards us from behind the turn. I did not even really see what happened: the first rolled on the asphalt, holding on to the person, the second was surrounded by the crowd, waiting for even the slightest impulse from his side — but he stood, frozen, no one dared to touch him. Suddenly, because of the backs of the friends, a white-eyed scumbag appeared and cut his cheek with this stake. And everyone rushed to run in all directions. The boy sat on his haunches in a bloody puddle, from under his fingers, clamped the wound on his face, whipped. And at the end of the alley, from «puteshya» already ran «their», not our «own» — his, this boy. They held themselves together, trying not to crumble. Having reached the boy, they picked him up, and further, to the hostel. The Komendan, who was shattered, crowded and rushed to catch up with the limit. And they ran: they are in front, we are behind. A small delay — in the middle of the alley lay a pile of gravel, stones flew in us — and again chasing. I somehow rejoiced that none of them fell behind and we did not catch up with anyone. We spent them before the hostel, stood for a while, yelling something cocky and angry. They poured out onto the balconies and yelled too. Something whizzed by my ear and flopped into the soft green of the lawn. I looked under my feet: a half-pound cast-iron dumbbell, touching the sleeve of my jacket, almost completely sank into a loose lawn. I did not even get scared. Then. And now it’s scary: what joyful news could make my parents happy that evening.

In the desk drawer there is a thick notebook in a cloth cover. On it are drawn ballpoint pen coats of arms, swords, vignettes and titles

In the desk drawer there is a thick notebook in a cloth cover. On it, the arms, swords, vignettes and the title «PSYA AND KNIGHTS» are drawn with a ballpoint pen. Now this is not an oxymoron and not an opposition, and another is a teenage compote: everything in us was put together in never-equal shares-and we were dogs and knights. And light-weight criminal heroism, and falsely understood meanness and cowardice. It was mild to cry, to yield, to forgive offenses. But after all only in tears and forgiveness from the teenager the person grew.

He kicked me with a forged shoe in the shin. Furiously counting the circling stars from the eyes, I remembered Marat and was glad that the blow did not come higher
The last fight. I was just transferred from an incomplete secondary to another school in the ninth grade. I was small and not humble. The football club’s star of the school, the pet of already fully ripe girls brutally obhamil me at the first meeting.

We agreed on the school. Both ninth classes, him and mine, stood around in disgrace. For both of them I was a beginner, moreover — an outsider. And this Sasha, Vasya, Nikita? — his victory and his defeat, all the boys would be equally happy: «rightly, got his rudeness!» Or «supported the honor of the school before the novice from Komendani.»

He kicked me with a forged shoe in the shin. Furiously counting the circling stars from the eyes, I remembered Marat and was glad that the blow did not come higher.

Only hematoma on the lower leg and the hospital saved me from the application of his parents to the court. Their injured son was for a time little recognizable.

Hello, Military Medical Academy! A separate room, friends visit, among them — new classmates.

And every day this guy comes in a state dressing gown, supporting a catheter and a drainage bag with tubes from the abdomen. This is September 1988, for several months our troops have been withdrawing from Afghanistan.

The boy looks out the window at the hospital yard, covered with small snow.

— I che, wake up in the morning, go out from under the camouflage net to pour, then, you know, it’s sweet like that: spring, sun, the smells of herbs … and from the mountains an automatic turn. Eight bullets in the abdomen, four straight, four in me. In Kandahar hospital they said: «Write a note, we’ll give it to mother», and I said to them: «Take them to Leningrad!», And they: «You’ll get into the airplane!», And I: «Anyway — in the field of surgery, in Peter ! »

His doctors saved him. To me have opened a hematoma and in three days have written out.

As his name — I do not remember, the hero-internationalist.

He did not even know these words, a country boy from Ukraine.

I never fought again.

— Loka, Lyoka, what happened, what are you roaring?

— I want to go home!

— So let’s go soon, dinner is ready, and my father is waiting, and Artyushka!

Artyushka is my airedel.

I pick up toy rapiers and masks, my mother takes my hand, from touching the scar on my arm it hurts again.

But I’m not crying anymore.

Father looks at me and smiles at me.

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