Игорь СИНИЦИН | Проза



(An excerpt from a novel)

…A gang of fishermen had finished casting their seine by sixteen o’clock. The wind that hindered the work all morning finally went away, taking the sunshine with it. The Lake Baikal turned grey, it’s surface growing smooth, with some shallow, restless wave activity remaining along the shores. A buoy, marking the seine’s bunt, was barely visible, far away in the open water. The seine was by no means a small one, it’s length measuring at 600 meters. The fishermen’s launch, whose heavily flared sides were thickly coated in black pitch, approached the shore. Five or six people jumped off the boat into the shallow water. One of them — a stout, old Buryat — had a swarthy, wrinkle-lined face and was clad in an orange rubber jumpsuit. Standing waist-deep in water, right next to the boat, he stuck a pole into the shoal bottom and leaned on it with all his weight, preventing the waves from driving the boat to the shore. At the same time, the others were fastening the anchors and putting the seine rope through the stern-mounted winch, interlocking it with the shaft of the tractor, standing on the shore. One of the fishermen remained aboard, manning the winch. Another team of fishermen was working about fifty meters away, doing the same with the other end of the seine, but using a truck instead of a tractor. Having adjusted and activated the winch, the fishermen, walking heavily in wading boots on the wet, sticky, track-ravaged sand, headed to where a sandy foreland was piled with dry snag. Sprawling themselves on the logs, they lit up cigarettes. Except for that single old Buryat, all of them were young Russians in their early thirties. They smoked in silence — looking out to sea; at the mountainous island of Olkhon, visible on the horizon; some had dozed off. Nearby, the taiga rustled incessantly; the winch rattled, extracting the dripping, tightly stretched rope out of the water. The process was going to take long — about an hour and a half must pass, before the seine gets close to the shore.


Meanwhile, other fishing participants were assembling on the shore. They were driving up in cars with Irkutsk number plates — families of holidaymakers from the nearby resorts, tourists, locals from the surrounding villages and from Oimur. Even though it’d started to rain, a crowd of fifty people languished aimlessly on the shore, waiting for the seine to arrive. When the seine finally approached the shore, members of the fisherman gang shut down the winch and, standing knee-deep in water, began to pull out the ropes by hand. That’s when uninvited assistants suddenly appeared. A large group of men separated from the crowd, standing on the shore, and hurried into the water. Some had stripped down to their swimming trunks, others charged in fully clothed. These volunteers plastered themselves all over the seine, apparently helping the fishermen to haul it ashore — oblivious to the fact that the latter didn’t require any assistance. The first sections of the net to emerge from the water proved to be empty. Then — a fish appeared, dangling out of the mesh; and several others followed shortly after… Still few and far between, though. Whenever a lucky «helper» noticed a fish, he pounced on it, grabbed the omul, ran with it towards dry land, threw it to his wife or sidekick and returned to the seine in search of new booty. Acting quickly and furtively, the women picked up the omuls from the sand, put them in plastic bags and hid the bags on their bellies, under the raincoats. The fishermen paid no attention to this plunder. Their indifference was perplexing — what was the point of their labor? Of all this hardware — the tractor, the truck, the launches? Couldn’t they see, that they were about to lose their catch? Meanwhile, more and more fish emerged from the water. The volunteers’ excitement grew — they no longer even pretended to help the fishermen with the seine. No time to waste now. After all — this was omul! At the shops, people invariably formed enormous queues to buy salt omul, while there, on the shore, the delicacy was available fresh and free of charge — a surefire recipe for an all-out stealing frenzy. But, at that very moment, the fishermen’s patience finally came to an end. Standing further out in the water than his workmates, the Buryat shouted something angrily to a padded jacket-wearing lad who was literally dangling from the seine, trying to reach for a fish. His heart not content with the choice expletives he’d just showered the looter with, the old man grabbed a hefty marker pole protruding above the surface, pulled it out, swung heartily and whacked the young man on the back with it. Fortunately, the guy’s jacket softened the blow… Apparently conscious of his guilt, the punished lad obediently moved to another spot. The branch on the bunt moved ever closer to the shore and the edges of the seine drew closer and closer together. Like midges, screaming seagulls began to swarm over the seine. Both the birds and their human counterparts were getting ready to attack the main hoard of fish, contained in the now clearly visible central pocket of the net, marked by a patch of fearfully bubbling water. Fat chance of that, though… As it turned out, the scavengers were in for a surprise. The reason behind the fishermen’s carefree behavior finally became apparent — in reality, all their actions were carefully thought out. It’s motor revving up threateningly, the truck went into motion. Like a battering ram, it charged along the shore towards the crowd, cutting it off from the surf zone and blocking access to the seine’s mouth. Now, only the fishermen remained inside the seine. Using dip nets, they began to toss omuls into the back of the truck. Fluttering silver bundles rolled heavily over the sides. A fisherman, who was standing in the back of the truck, bent down and, finding a sturgeon among the omuls, threw it back into the water. Some time later, a couple of carps followed the sturgeon — these breeds have a «get out of the net free» ticket. The human seagulls refused to calm down. Soaking wet and shivering, they grabbed stray omuls from under the wheels of the truck and threw, threw them to their women, who waited some distance away along the shore. The actual seagulls refused to call it a day, as well — the hungry birds filled the air with hysterical cries of powerless envy. When everything was finally finished and exhausted, a heavy rain began. The fishermen put aside ten particularly large fish tails for the soup they were going to prepare right there, by the water’s edge. The sounds of slamming car doors reverberated across the shore, followed by the noise of departing cars. The shore cleared of clamor. It was finished, for the day. No one got ran over. The only thing was that the net became rolled up around the drive shaft. The fishermen had to chop at it with an axe — all because of those motherfuckers…

They’re always smiling,
Climbing out of their limousines,
Greetings each other at summits,
Posing before the cameras,
Shaking each other’s hands —
The modern Gwynplains of Europe.
Oh, how graceful and subtle their humor is!
Sharing charming anecdotes
From the life of mere mortals.
They find it strange and inexplicable,
That a surgeon, who’s making an amputation
Of a child’s mine-mangled forearm
Isn’t smiling.
I’m studying a concrete wall,
Which has no beginning or end,
Trying to find tiny spiders in its cracks.
One needs some distraction from the thought
That the wall is

About the author:

Igor Sinitsyn was born on 27 August 1949. In the recent past — a surgeon, a Candidate of Medical Sciences. Igor writes from the age of twenty. Several of his books were published by the «Renome» publishing house (Saint Petersburg), including: «Instead of Silence» (a poetry collection), «Corona Borealis» (a novel), «Just a Doctor» (a novel), «A Gap Before the Point of No Return» (a short story), «Portraits of the Recent Past» (a collection of stories). Igor’s titles include «A Honorary Medic of Mongolia» which he earned for introducing laparoscopic surgery into the medical practice of this country.

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