Poprishchin 42

November 6th

The head of the department was in a terrible mood. When I got to the office he called me in and took this line with me: ‘Will you please tell me what your game is?’ ‘Why, nothing,’ I answered. ‘Are you sure? Think hard! You’re past forty now, and it’s time you had a bit more sense. Who do you think you are? Do you imagine I haven’t heard about your tricks? I know you’ve been running after the Director’s daughter! Take a good look at yourself. What are you? Just nothing, an absolute nobody. You haven’t got a copeck to bless yourself with. Just take a look in the mirror – fancy you having thoughts about the General’s daughter!’ To hell with it, his own face puts you mind of those large bottles you see in chemists’ windows, what with that tuft of hair he puts in curlers. And the way he holds his head up and smothers his hair in pomade! Thinks he can get away with anything! Now I can understand why he’s got it in for me: seeing me get some preferential treatment in the office has made him jealous. I don’t care a hoot about him! Just because he’s a court counsellor he thinks he’s Lord God Almighty! He lets his gold watch chain dangle outside his waistcoat and pays thirty roubles for a pair of shoes. He can go to hell! Does he think I’m the son of a commoner, or tailor, or a non-commissioned officer? I’m a gentleman! I could get promotion if I wanted! I’m only forty-two, that’s an age nowadays when one’s career is only just beginning. Just you wait, my friend, until I’m a colonel, or even something higher, God willing. I’ll acquire more status than you. Where did you get the idea you’re the only person whom we’re supposed to look up to around here? Just give me a coat from Ruch’s, cut in the latest style; I’ll knot my tie like you do: and then you won’t be fit to clean my boots. It’s only that I’m short of money.