No. 8-9


Daniil Kharms 

freely translated from the Russian and bastardized by Ilya Bernstein 



       Once upon a time, there was a man who did not have a mouth. 
       It so happened that he also had no nose. Or chin. Or forehead.
       He couldn’t see, because he didn’t have any eyes. 
       And he couldn’t hear, because he didn’t have any ears.
       Here are some of the other things he DIDN’T have:
            no arms
            no legs
            no front
            no back
            and no belly button.
       As a matter of fact, he didn’t have ANYTHING.
       Come to think of it, it’s not even clear who we’re talking about.
       So you know what? 
       We might as well not talk about him anymore.

       Something very unusual happened to me. I suddenly forgot what comes first, 7 or 8.
       I thought and thought and thought about it, and finally asked Ferdinand what HE thought about it.
       Imagine our surpise when we discovered that he, too, could not remember if 8 comes before 7 or if 7 comes before 8!
       We were sure that 1 was first.
       We were sure that 2 was second.
       We were sure that 3 was third.
       We were sure that 4 was fourth.
       We were sure that 5 was fifth.
       And 6 had to be sixth.
       But what WE wanted to know was what came next: 7 or 8 ?
       Determined to get to the bottom of this dilemma, we decided to ask Professor Jonas Bagdonas. 

       Professor Jonas Bagdonas was sitting behind his desk and eating a cucumber.
       After listening to our question, the Professor finished his cucumber, wiped his hands with a napkin, and took off his glasses. 
       “As a general rule,” he said, “seven comes after eight ONLY when eight comes after seven.”
       The Professor paused to give us time to think about what he had said.
       “It necessarily follows,” he concluded, “that eight comes after seven ONLY when seven comes after eight.”
       Ferdinand and I couldn’t help but admire the Professor’s reasoning. We were convinced that he had settled the matter once and for all. 
       But when we started thinking about the meaning of the Professor’s words, we realized that the Professor’s words contained no meaning whatsoever.

      When he woke up one morning, Ferdinand discovered that his feet were pointing the wrong way. 
      He thought little of it at the time and went to brush his teeth.
      But instead of going to the bathroom, his feet headed straight for the kitchen. 
      Ferdinand forced them to stop, turned around, and took a step toward the bathroom, but his feet suddenly started walking backwards.
      Ferdinand pulled himself together and started moving slowly 
            step by step
            inch by inch
      toward the bathroom door. 
      However, his feet double-crossed him once more and rushed forward. 
      “Rats!” cried Ferdinand, slamming into the bathroom door. 
      But his feet continued pulling tricks on him and even knocked over some kind of glass bowl that was standing on top of a dresser in the hall. 
      Finally, Ferdinand opened the bathroom door.
      “At last!” he said, grabbing his toothbrush triumphantly. “I made it!”

      Would you like to hear a story about Professor Jonas Bagdonas?
      Then I will tell you a story about Professor Jonas Bagdonas.
      One day, the Professor was playing checkers with Ferdinand. 
      The Professor was winning. Ferdinand was losing. And I was watching the game.
      The Professor was just about to make a move when something snapped inside him and POP! — a little triangle popped out of his eye and fell on the floor!
      The Professor leaned over to pick up the little triangle, when POP! and POP! — a little circle popped out of his ear and a little square popped out of his nose!
      I looked at Ferdinand.
      Ferdinand looked at me.
      And we both looked at the Professor.
      “Nothing to worry about,” the Professor assured us. “Don’t get alarmed.”
      And the Professor calmly picked up the little triangle and put it back inside his eye. 
      Then the Professor calmly picked up the little square and put it back inside his nose.
      But when the Professor calmly picked up the little circle, he hesitated.

            He looked at me, 
            he looked at Ferdinand , 
            he looked at me,
            he looked at Ferdinand, 
            and then he said:

      “Does anyone remember which ear this little circle goes in?”
      “Sure,” said Ferdinand. “It goes in your right ear.”
      “I don’t think so,” said I. “I think it goes in your left ear.”
      “No,” said Ferdinand, “It goes in the right ear!”
      “It goes in the left ear!” said I.
      “The right ear!”
      “The left ear”
      The Professor held the little circle in front of us.

            He looked at Ferdinand, 
            he looked at me, 
            he looked at Ferdinand,
            he looked at me...
            and then he put the little circle in his mouth
            and swallowed it.

      Ferdinand and I were very impressed with the Professor’s solution to the problem.




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