He returned to the apartment a little alive. Going into the bathroom, Potap glanced in the mirror and was horrified by his appearance; disheveled hair stuck together with drying blood, his face dirty with sweat and sweat-stained T-shirt. Straining his last strength, standing in the bathroom on all fours, Potap somehow took a shower and, falling on the bed, forgot himself in a restless, drowsy sleep.

On Sunday, he could sleep for a long time, but restless slumber in the hot Astrakhan steppe did not refresh the body. In the morning, Potap went to the bathroom; he wanted to shave and wash, but his strength was only enough to pour water on his face.

He looked at his reflection in the mirror, and it became sharp, then blurred so that only the outline of the head and shoulders was visible. Trying to cope with hallucinations, Potap shook his head and did it in vain; the bathroom suddenly spun, his legs became wadded, and the man fell to the floor, hitting his head on the toilet.

He did not feel pain, but his head began to spin even more, and Potap crawled on all fours and fell on the bed. There was no power to go anywhere. He turned on the fan and was lying on the bed all Sunday.

On Monday, in the morning, it became even worse. Dyspnea appeared, and after a few steps, Potap sat on the bed or in the chair and began greedily to catch the air with his mouth. It was necessary to go to the service, but the forces were only enough to call the duty officer on the military part, and then call an ambulance.

The civilian doctors, having learned that an officer was calling, redirected him to the military hospital, and after half an hour, a military ambulance car arrived at Potap. The doctor put the pilot on a stretcher, and two soldiers carried the frail body out of the apartment into the car.

Potap remembers the road to the hospital poorly; his consciousness then turned on, then turned off, mixing with hallucinations. It seemed to Potap that the orderlies were taking him to the cemetery, and he was trying to shout up to them,  “I am alive, I am alive!” and ridiculously waved his arms. Sometimes, instead of orderlies, he saw around him Egyptian Anubises, who were going to make him a mummy and send him to the afterlife. Looking at jackals’ heads, Potap began to weep limply…a song was spinning in his mind: “Bury me behind the plinth!”

In the hospital, Potap was given an injection; he instantly turned off and slept until morning. He was awakened by the noise of the cleaning women and the nurse’s voice: “New, to you personally; at 10 o’clock you should be at the head physician.” The diagnosis was disappointing. Potap picked up some infection, and it spread throughout his body. Doctors began to stuff his body with antibiotics and more complex drugs. A week later, he was on the mend.

From the military unit rang the deputy chief of staff. Due to the absence of a co-pilot, the Li-2 had to put on airplane parking. Carriages were disrupted. The unit commander at the official meeting expressed discontent. Potap imagined how the commander’s sycophants would begin to dog him, and he became sad. At the next medical bypass round, Potap asked to be discharged. Two weeks later, doctors released the recovered pilot. Potap returned to his flat.

Saturday and Sunday passed peacefully. On Monday morning, Potap rose earlier, began to gather for service; he brushed his teeth, began to wash, and noticed that the stubble on his face had become tougher and thicker. Neva blades cut off lush growth with difficulty, and shaving turned into torture.

The regiment was delighted at the return of Potap. The commander of the crew said that on Tuesday they would be flying to Balkhash, and Potap was delighted at this; it meant that life in the unit would go on without him, and he would avoid scolding for his illness, and then, obviously, the incident will be completely forgotten.

The plane accelerated on the runway and soared into the air. A few hours later, Balkhash waves appeared, and the Li-2 landed at Priozersk Airport. The business trip was exactly one week. Potap exhausted all the blades, but the bristles, increasing in hardness and diameter, climbed like mushrooms after rain. The crew commander looked at his subordinate with regret and grudgingly, reluctantly pronounced:

“You look something bad. You need to come to yourself after an illness. To our regiment was sent a young lieutenant; he has experience of flying Li-2s. Let us send you on vacation, and I’ll take the young one for an internship. I will train the lieutenant. When you come back, you will assigned as a commander instead of me.” Everyone knew that the crew commander dreamed of moving to Moscow region, and it looks like his dream would come true soon. “Write a vacation application, I will endorse and take it to headquarters. You cannot go there in such a condition.”

Holidays at the military pilots were long; 45 days. Potap refused to go to the sanatorium; he decided to begin it at home in the garrison flat, and if he could get rid of the misfortune, he would go to his parents in Voronezh. He went to a department store, bought imported blades. The saleswoman praised, said they were sharper than the Nevas and could withstand more shaving sessions, while she herself looked cautiously at his face, examined the unusual stubble. Potap bought the whole package.

In the grocery department, Potap assembled a bag full of canned food and pasta, took it home, then went to the vegetable aisle and bought potatoes, onions, and spices. The saleswomen looked at his face with undisguised surprise, and as soon as he headed for the exit, they began to whisper.

At the last stop, Potap bought a box of vodka battles.

“Anniversary what?” asked the saleswoman. She had instructions to report when army officers acquired a lot of alcoholic beverages, and the woman was happy to make reports about the servicemen, expecting that for it she would be given scarce goods or on weight products where she could deceive customers.

“Yes, an anniversary…glassful’s 200 years old,” Potap joked as he frowned.

The woman laughed, but made a note: “captain, pilot, box with vodka.” Almost the same record was made by the saleswoman of the beer kiosk, who dreamed of working at this job as long as possible. Potap filled her ten-liter canister and got “on the pencil.”

In the evening came friends: the crew commander, co-pilot, navigator. The lieutenant also came. Potap cooked a huge frying pan of potatoes, took a misted vodka bottle from the fridge, poured a three-liter can of beer. Drank, sang. Of course, he had a snack. One bottle left, the second, the third…the flyers are strong people. The first began to cut down the navigator. Wary of possible troubles, his wife came and took her spouse home. After them stretched the commander with the co-pilot.

The lieutenant peacefully fell asleep in a corner on a cot, not wanting to return to the hostel, where the bedbugs raged. The folding bed drove Potap into melancholy; he bought it on the occasion of his mother-in-law’s visit, and slept on it in the kitchen while she lived with them in a one-room apartment. How long and wrong it was…

In the morning, no one had a hangover, and Potap didn’t wait for anyone. The lieutenant volunteered to help clean up the apartment. At first, they decided to have breakfast; they poured a hundred grams, warmed up and ate a potato remaining from yesterday, washing it down with beer. Their mood had improved and they screamed a song: “Hugging the sky with strong hands…”

The lieutenant began to sweep the floor; he found a few bird feathers. As they did not come across Potap—incomprehensible to the mind—after a few months, but he did the cleaning almost every week. He told briefly how he owned the parrot; it was interesting to the lieutenant, but Potap’s mood deteriorated at once, and he kicked out the surprised lieutenant per the threshold.

He washed the dishes, swept up the floors, and wiped them with a damp cloth. From physical work and zeal, the body was covered with sweat and began to itch. Potap decided to take a bath, went to the mirror, and his mood was completely spoiled. From the looking glass, his physiognomy was looking at him, overgrown with stubble so that no face was visible. Cheeks, nose, forehead; everything was covered with hair, even the neck.

Potap shook his head, pulled off his T-shirt, and froze in amazement; small pimples appeared on the body, from which a strange, young growth stuck out. Potap dropped his pants with his underpants and almost howled in horror; the same was on his hips, buttocks, and legs.

He took a full bath of hot water and plunged into it, barely keeping the temperature. With a steamed body, hair and growth easily shave. Potap held a cosmetology session, calmed down, drank vodka and fell asleep. He slept all day and night; he dreamed of his parrot, who maliciously laughed…

In the morning, it was as if he had not shaved. The face, neck, and body were again covered with strange growth, only this time the acne was worse; they were a solid field resembling goose skin. A hair grew from each pimple just as they began to grow on the face, and these hairs gained strength. Potap realized that in this way, he would not get rid of the misfortune, and longing seized him again. There was still enough vodka in the supply; he opened a new bottle and drank it alone, except for the reflection in the mirror where he occasionally looked.

Potap did not notice as he fell asleep. He woke up from a strange pain. Slight, but painful, it swept over the front of the face, intensifying on the nose and jaws, and weakening to the ears. The top and back of his head did not hurt.

Potap went to the mirror, looked into it, and again he was seized with horror. The nose began to lengthen and grow together with the upper jaw. The lower jaw also began to lengthen, but not downwards, but forward, forming with the upper jaw and nose some sort of bird’s beak.

Potap darted around the apartment in horror. There was a birdlike din in his head, thoughts did not go, and Potap paced around the apartment, not knowing what to do. He looked out onto the balcony. There were still a few bottles of vodka in the box. He tried to take one of them, but his fingers had grown together and become covered with little feathers. Potap grabbed the bottle with the tips of the wings and wanted to return to the room, but at that time, a woman stepped out onto the next balcony, and seeing him, screamed heartrendingly. From the unexpected cry, Potap dropped the bottle, and she broke, falling down on the concrete path.

Potap rushed headlong into the room as the woman continued to scream and onlookers gathered on the street. Potap fell on the bed and, covering his face with his wings, fell asleep. After a few minutes, everything was quiet.

He woke up when it was already getting dark. Looking around, he carefully went out onto the balcony, and, quickly taking a bottle of vodka, returned to the apartment. He wanted to sleep, but Potap wanted to eat; hunger made itself known. Potap went into the kitchen and looked into the fridge. Canned food was not an option; the fingers overgrown with feathers had fused together completely, and Potap could not hold in them either a corkscrew, a knife, or a fork.

In the depths of the refrigerator, there was a lonely, open can of lecho. On vacation leave, the guests brought a lot of homemade pickles and could not devour everything. Potap dumped the contents of the jar on the plate, but it was hard to eat, as his jaws had already significantly transformed into a beak. Potap did not have bird-eating skills; he picked up pieces from the edge of the plate, pushing them there with desperate fingers. Somehow, he managed to open the bottle, and, throwing back his bird-like head, burned the throat and stomach, Potap began to swallow the burning liquid, having a snack of lecho. Finally, the vodka in the bottle was empty. Potap ate the lecho and, collapsing on the bed, fell asleep.

Now he woke up early in the morning. The beginning of autumn brought coolness with it. There were no people on the street. Potap went out onto the balcony and spread his wings with pleasure. The sun was just beginning to rise over the horizon, but the living world was already awake. Potap noticed a flying butterfly and realized with horror that he wanted to eat it. The wing-hands themselves carried it into the air, and Potap felt the delightful desire to hunt insects. Still poorly familiar with avian flight skills, he did it awkwardly, then overtaking his victims, then not reaching them. In the heat of the chase, Potap did not notice two hunters going to the morning dawn. One of them threw up a gun; a doublet of shots rang out. A vortex swept away Potap; he began to fall down and blurted out to the ground.

“Ready! What a big one! The wingspan is surely more than a meter.” The shooter viewed the bird with surprise.

The second hunter pulled a gun from his shoulder and touched the bird with the barrel. Suddenly, it stirred, and the hunter involuntarily pulled the trigger. The shot at close range smashed the bird to pieces, and then the fantasy started; these very tatters began to melt, leaving wet spots on the ground, which, in turn, began to evaporate under the bright morning sun. Crazy from what they saw, the hunters retreated to the sidewalk, looked at each other, and one of them said: “Don’t mind me!” The second added: “Suddenly, I don’t want to go hunting.” They returned back to the town and went home.


At the housewarming party, the lieutenant invited the commander and navigator. The officers entered the already familiar apartment where Potap once lived. It, deserted, was given to the lieutenant.

“What if we find Potap?” asked the navigator.

“He will be sent to a psychiatric hospital or a prison,” the commander answered. “Where can he disappear for so long?”

The disappearance of a subordinate postponed the transfer the commander to the Moscow region; he was angry, and at the mere mention of Potap, he was enraged.

The officers went into the room and sat down at the table. The lieutenant took from the fridge a misted bottle of vodka, a three-liter can of beer, and with a gas stove, he removed the pan with fried potatoes. The commander and navigator, in anticipation of the feast, pushed the Adam’s apple, but the lieutenant went to the closet and said: “And now the main surprise!”

The lieutenant opened the door and pulled out the cage. There was a parrot in it. The bird looked around at those present and suddenly said loudly:

“Hello, hello, freaks! Already need to be drunk, and it’s only ten!”

And in a few seconds, the parrot added:

“Sirdar, pour!”


For all installments of “Sirdar, Pour!,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1