Искандер МУРАТОВ | Проза


Surprisingly, lately, I’ve been interested in nothing but work. I caught myself thinking, that in recent years I did nothing that could enthral me or plunge me into despair. Everything was according to plan. All my moves have gone automatic. I’m a robot with a set programme: home — work, work — home. This is how my life goes, every day even more resembling me a Swiss watch mechanism with a fine-tuned rhythm. I’ve got a girlfriend. Her name’s Lena. We, as it’s trendy to say now, have a relationship. Well, if it could be of course called a relationship. Actually, we both understand that it’s only a physiological interest to sexual passions. She and I are die-hard careerists and neuropathologists who graduated a medical college magna cum laude. We both work in the same clinic. Quite often we tried to revise our ‘relationship’, make it at least make some sense, except that we’re just fine sleeping with each other. Sometimes, we even managed to do that. But, at some point something ‘hit’ me and, as Lena said, I surely spoiled our ‘revised’ relationship. As I did today, on such a wonderful one, on Lena’s birthday. I forgot to bring to work with me the recently bought perfume and a bouquet of flowers for her. I remembered it only when I was passing by the registration stand. Lena was already waiting and playfully asked me anticipating: ‘You do want to tell me something, don’t you?’ After these words I was as if stricken by a lightning. But I had to say something, and I replied: ‘Lena, I want to tell you that I have got your favourite Chanel and roses for you prepared. Only, with all that morning fuss and the call of my patient complaining about her back aches I forgot about everything in the world. Sorry.’ She didn’t even finish listening to me and, with a girl from the registration standing right next to us, she said, as it always seemed to me, a beforehand prepared speech: ‘Screw you! You just don’t take me seriously! You need me only for one thing!’ Having finished her touching monologue she turned around and ran towards the exit. My mood was spoiled. The whole day went down the drain. I was ready to congratulate her but I forgot about the present. Yes, I did! It happens to everyone. Apparently, to finally finish me off, my assistant Olga, the one who helps me with patients, brought me the news about Lena, as it turned out, going out to celebrate her birthday with the company of the chief physician Igor Sukharev. The unfortunate one, he’s already long been aiming at Lena’s heart, but the fact of my presence didn’t let him hit the mark. And today fortune smiled at him, and he, the tricky one, won’t waste his chance. ‘So, I’m going to the bar by myself tonight. To celebrate my loved one’s birthday,’ I thought. A vast avalanche of patients, in which I felt like a hamster in a wheel, helped me to forget the morning chat. So came the end of the workday. I was going to get dressed but my assistant came to my office and told me:

“Alexey Anatolyevich, there’s a girl in the corridor sitting there since lunch time, skipping her turns and not daring to come in.”
“What is this nonsense? Who is she afraid of? I’m not a monster. Tell her to come in. I’ll examine her and finally go home,” I said.
“I told her. She’ll roll in in a moment,” said Olga.
“Roll in? Is she in …” I had no time to finish my question as the door opened and a girl in a wheelchair rolled into my office. She shyly rolled towards my desk.
“Hello, doctor,” she said timidly.
“Well, hello! Why didn’t you come in if you came? My name’s Alexey Anatolyevich. And what’s your name?” I said ironically severe.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t dare because I was told that there won’t be any point anyway. I wanted to leave the hospital but your assistant persuaded me to come in. I read a lot about you. They say you’re a very talented doctor. My name is Sofia and I’ve got a paralysis of spinal medulla,’”said the girl. I noticed that she had a smile on her face but her eyes remained rueful. My assistant and I examined the girl. As a doctor I knew that a paralysis is not cured immediately but by gruelling massage procedures and expensive medications of the latest generation. Having finished the examination, I sat on a chair and said:

“Sofia! Please, tell me how it happened. How long ago?”
“It happened two years ago. A car hit me. The driver was drunk,” she replied.
“Such a wretch… Was he punished?”
“No. Why should I break the man’s life? Why destroy someone’s family? He is a father and a head of the family. First he brought me some medications, then he disappeared entirely. Then I said thank you and that was that. I’m not offended at him.”

I was listening to her, astonished by her great forgiveness. Sitting in the wheelchair and having no offence towards the one who is guilty! Such good-natured people are rare these days. She didn’t get angry indeed, she didn’t start to blame everyone else that she became physically challenged. In such a situation she continued to live as a normal, healthy person, the one who loves life and doesn’t want to give up.

“All I can tell is that your case is hard, but not hopeless. I’ll prescribe you the treatment and medications. But that’s only half the case. You’ll need a constant care and attention of the loved ones. You need them now as never before. And, of course, you need yourself to believe in your healing. Sorry, but I have to ask, who’s going to pay for your treatment?” I said.
“I’ll pay everything myself,” with a smile on her face Sofia answered me.

This is where we finished our conversation and I began to get ready before heading home. A snowstorm was starting outside the window. I saw first snowflakes fall. I left the hospital, got in my car, but didn’t drive right away. I wanted to get warm a little. My hands froze on my way to the car. Driving out the hospital parking I suddenly spotted Sofia. She was spinning her chair wheels slowly rolling on the pavement. My heart missed a bit on what I saw. I felt sorry for the girl, such a beautiful one, a fragile one. I stopped the car and ran towards her:

“Sofia, is this the way you’re going to get home? Why not using any transport?” I asked wondering.

Because of the strengthening wind and increasing snow it was hard for me to make out her face, I screwed my eyes and tried to lift my coat collar. Anyway, she kept on sitting and looking at me. It seemed that the snowflakes were escaping her in their dance and the wind softly shawled her with its gusts.

“Alexey Anatolyevich, please, drive on. Don’t worry about me. It’s not that far for me, just round the block. A stone’s throw aways,” Sofia told me.
“What are you talking about?! It’s not a bigdeal for me to drive you home,” I said. And despite all of her protests I lifted her up in my arms and sat her in the car, and put the chair into the luggage boot. I noticed that she was feeling awkward, while in the car. She was wet all over and the remaining snowflakes were melting on her beautiful golden fair hair.
“You shouldn’t have bothered, Alexey Anatolyevich. I’d warm up later at home, that’s it,” she said shyly.
“It’s alright. Let’s make the whole thing less formal. Call me, Lyosha. I’m not that old you know. Well, tell me your address, I’ll check it on my car travel guide,” I said smiling.

Sofia told me her address. I got a little embarrassed at what the guide showed. It was quite a distance. I looked at her in surprise and said:

“A stone’s cast, you say? So, all these three miles you were going to make in such a bad weather?”
“I’m sorry. I just didn’t want to burden you,’ she said getting embarrassed, looking into my eyes.”

We didn’t say a word all the way. I was shy to ask her about anything that evening. I safely drove her home, got out my car, took out the wheelchair and helped her into it. We got to the entrance and she reached her hand out to me, as if saying good-bye, but I, in return, lifted her up in my arms and carried her all the way up to her flat. When we got to her floor, I was invited for a cup of coffee as a way of showing gratitude. And I accepted the invitation. Judging by the flat, it was clear that she lived alone. Books lay everywhere, which made it obvious that she liked to read. Sofia with incredible agility made her kitchen magic, which amused me yet again. She served the pies and coffee on the table.

“The pies are homemade, help yourself Lyosha,” she said. We both burst into laughter as if we were some youngsters. It seemed, as if we had known each other for a thousand years. For the first time in a while I felt lightly and free. At that moment I wasn’t the doctor and she wasn’t the patient. And she had no disease. We were just normal young people, the ones, believing in wonders, sincerity and real love. Either of us had our dreams, well, as well as the other people. For that short evening I got to know, that Sofia, as thousands of other girls, came from Ekaterinburg to Moscow, chasing her dream. She entered the department of international relations of MGIMO. Having graduated the institution, she began her career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But then, the accident happened. All of her plans crumbled at an instant. Nevertheless, she didn’t sink into despair and kept on improving by constantly reading books and translating scientific works on diplomacy. She didn’t want to return to Ekaterinburg, but decided to stay in Moscow. Sometimes, her parents came to help as they could. It was very interesting and pleasant for me to listen to a smart, competent and at the very same time quite simple young woman.

“I found out the cost of my treatment at the hospital registration stand. Here, that should be enough. I’ve been keeping away some money for a long time. And here it is, — after saying this, she handed me a package of money.”

My heart missed a beat for the second time that evening. She didn’t stop to amuse me with her sincerity and kindness. I looked back at my past, for a moment, trying to find at least any emotional moments in my memory. There were none, as appeared. I’m quite sure, there are no accidental encounters as well as accidental people. And today, our encounter turned to be life-changing. I was becoming aware of this. Something inside me told, that Sofia is that very person who’s able to help me recover my interest to life, feel myself needed. I won’t be able to find anything to say, to convey what I felt then. I found out many new things. Sometimes only a moment is enough to have understood things, that weren’t so clear before. Deep inside I decided that, if I didn’t apply all of my experience I gained over time and help her, then I wouldn’t worth a dime as a specialist. I asked Sofia to leave the money for the better times. Having gathered my courage, I told her that all of the expenses I would get for myself. She was disturbed by my patronage, but I was firm at my decision. At some point I noticed that she was silently looking down to the floor. Understanding what she was thinking about I rolled her in her wheelchair to the window and said: ‘There, look. It’s dark outside there, there’s the snowstorm, and it’s dead freezing. But it’s not lasting forever, is it? No matter, how dark the night is, there’s always the dawn, and no matter how bad the weather is today, tomorrow there will be sun. Same with you. I’ll do my best to help you. I’ll try to cure you. And I’m quite sure that together we’ll overcome your disease. And all these days will stay behind.

I returned home and went to the kitchen. In front of me there lay the perfume and the flowers – the present, because of which everything started today. ‘How would this day have finished If I hadn’t left it home, I wonder?’ I thought and then looked at my cell phone screen. Not a single call from Lena for the whole evening… none… I didn’t call her. Was there any reason poisoning my soul sorting things out? Sooner or later everything comes to an end. It’s her life. She is to choose. Frankly speaking, I didn’t care where she was and whom with. The door to the past was tightly closed. I came to understand that Sofia was my other half. That only one, I was waiting for and seeking for so long. This is how our not just ‘relationship’ began, as I had that before. Sofia became the part of my life, that very important one, the one you won’t be able to wipe out of your memory forever. We started the treatment. I applied everything I knew, everything I had studied for so long. Every evening I gave Sofia a therapeutic massage, needle with numerous medications, monitored her having medications on time. I felt extremely happy. Finally, living a bachelor’s life before, I got to know house and home. Sofia, as a real housewife, pampered me with the most delicious borsch and pies and all kinds of tasty food. We emerged a tradition of evening tea, the time we could talk on anything. My life crucially changed and began playing out in fresh colours. It was hard for me to imagine my life without Sofia. Every day we looked forward to evenings, to seeing each other as soon as possible and enjoying each other’s company. On weekends we went to a park or countryside. I followed her wheelchair and felt absolutely happy. Sometimes I bowed to kiss the top of her head. Her will and my enormous desire to help together with the medical science lended their own results. The left leg began pulsating. I will never forget that day when she called me and through her tears, she told me: ‘Lyosha… I can feel my leg. I feel it! Thank you, dear!’ I was happy.

Half an hour ago my workday finished. I popped into a flower shop on my way and collected a bouquet for Sofia. I have a ring in my left pocket of my jacket. Today is a gorgeous day of my real relationship, I’m going to make a proposal. I think, well at least I hope, she won’t say no.

They need angels in the heavens too

I slept… Well, it seemed so to me. Maybe, somewhere in my subconscious I could doze. I couldn’t fall asleep after the club. My head ached terribly. Again I had too much beer mixed with hookah. Somewhere away I heard a child laugh, but couldn’t get from where inside my head came that voice and laughter. I woke up in a cold sweat. It was late. I got up and went to the kitchen. Having brewed some strong coffee, I began to scroll down my Facebook page. There, just as always, were lots of ads and all sorts of unscrupulous selfies. I can’t tell I was la socialite at Moscow parties, but my social network pages reflected every moment of my life. And the pictures I posted got handfuls of uncomplimentary comments. I wonder why people become so envious and angry? Everything was as usual. Nothing really interesting. I was going to leave my age as my eyes caught a post heading requesting Help for the Needy, where the volunteers put a photo of a little girl about ten or twelve years old, whose name was Victoria. The girl needed some financial aid due to a serious disease. I peered into her beautiful and at the very same time sad eyes. I don’t know why, but I felt as if struck by electricity. All my life and the life of the entire planet, just for a second, flashed in front of my eyes. Somewhere, innocent children die, because of a war, and somewhere in Africa someone needs just a sip of water and a bread crumb. Once again I looked into her eyes and saw a great desire to live. Surely, just as any other girl, she, I believe, wanted to live her carefree childhood, fall in love for the first time, start a family and have children from the loved one, just LIVE AND BREATH EVERY DAY… I decided that I would certainly help whichever way I could. Sometimes you get tired of a party lifestyle, and you want to do something useful, good and just humanistic. And despite all of the comments about me in Instagram and Facebook, I am a good person anyway. Early in the morning, as long as I could wait, I dialled the number from a Facebook page. After the third beep a woman with a weak voice answered the call:

“Hello. Hello, I’m sorry for such an early call, is this Victoria’s mother? I’m calling about the post, my name is Anastasia, — I said cheerfully.”
“Good morning, Anastasia. My name’s Eugenia. I’m Victoria’s mum,”sadly responded the woman.
“Eugenia, could you please tell me, whether I could help you somehow?” I asked.
“Nastya, I don’t even know. Maybe some medication would help, that’d be good,” she said.

I asked her for the address and, despite such an early time of the day I began to dress. Already in an hour I was in the hospital. When I entered the hospital ward I saw a young woman in front of me with her head bowed over the girl’s bed. Perhaps she got tired and fell asleep before I came, having put her head on her daughter’s little belly. The girl caressed her sleeping mother’s hand and was watching the sun rise with her sad eyes. Having gently moved her angel sight to the door, the one I stood at, she quietly greeted me. ‘Hi, Victoria! My name’s Nastya. I brought you my teddy bear. His name’s Teddy. He’s the best friend in the world! Here, I want to give him to you!’ I said with a smile coming up to the bed. The girl took the bear and smiled. Again I witnessed how helpless are the children in horrible circumstances, the ones that relentless mother fate prepares for them. I shed a few tears and gently touched the top of the girl’s head with my lips and hugged her, trying to hide my tears. I felt her heart beat and silently read every thud of her heart, which screamed that it really wants to live. Live and give joy to her beloved parents and her friends. Just enjoy the life. ‘My girl, you know what your name means?’ I asked, my voice quiet, ’Victoria means victory.’ ‘You know, recently I had a dream about a little angel I was talking to, he said that I’m quite the same as them, and maybe, they need me there in heaven!’ proudly spoke the girl. I, barely holding my tears, ran out of the ward into the corridor and already there I burst out bitterly crying. Oh, why on earth I got so attached to such a small person at a first glance?! Ah, it’s so unjust! Why god wants to take her from her parents so early, the ones that love their daughter, to whom she is so precious?! Too many questions… Though we should understand, there’s nothing that can spot the angel of death. In such consequences we should rely on our faith in the best and beg, plead the heavens for help…

Eugenia left the ward right after me. I hugged her and we had a long talk on what I could do to help. Eugenia gave me the cope of a receipt with the names of the medications on it, and I, not wasting a minute, ran to the nearest pharmacy. Having bought all on the need list, I came back and handled the plastic bag to Eugenia. I left the hospital to smoke, sat on a bench and bowed my head low. I didn’t even smoke properly, all of my thought were only about how to help that little angel. And then it hit me. I decided to advertise the post on Facebook in all of the social networks, go around the city and, if needed, all over the country to raise funds for help for Victoria from all the citizens of our country.  We still had a month or a month and a half. The tumour in girl’s head started to grow slowly. Already at home, I published the post with a photo of the girl in all of the Runet social networks, with the following message: ‘Good people, we all have hearts. For God’s sake, take a minute to read my message. Look at the photo of this girl. Her name is Victoria, she’s 10 years old, and she has a brain tumour. Of course, we now are in need of financial support from each of you, but most of all we need several minutes of yours in which you’d pray to God with pleas for the recovery of the little girl. Please, whoever you were, wherever you were, pray for Victoria!’

The very same day, my message went out all over the world. First, I started to receive hundreds, then thousands of comments. People from all over the world began to pray for the girl’s recovery. I was happy, because, after all, we all have kind hearts that can sympathise and respond to other people’s misfortunes. Yes! There are everywhere kind and fair people. Every day I visited Victoria bringing various toy and gifts that were delivered to my or her parents’ address. There appeared some people that helped to bring some experienced specialists from the best clinics of the world. Thoughts are material as they say. The disease receded rapidly. Victoria started to get well. The doctors only shrugged, amazed at what miracles could create the power of thought. Victoria won, having fully justified the meaning of her name. In more than three months she was discharged from the hospital and returned to her normal life. She started to attend her school, to play with her friends, to delight us with her success. She began to LIVE. On one of the wonderful days, Victoria and Eugenia came to visit me at the institute. We met at the lobby. Eugenia burst out crying and firmly holding my hands said:

“Thank you, Anastasia! You are the woman with a big heart! May God grant you health! Victoria is now your daughter too.”

“No, Eugenia, no need to thank me. The most important thing is to believe in the best and don’t forget to do goods to those who need it,” I said. Then, I got down on my knee in front of the girl and took her arm. Again, as not so long ago, I was looking into her eyes, now full of life and light, and said:
“And you, Victoria, if you see that very little angel in a dream, tell him, that it’s not yet the time to be an angel in the heaven foryou. Maybe in a hundred years,” I smiled and kissed the girl’s cheek.
“Okay, Nastya. I will tell him for sure. If I’d see him of course,” she said smiling.

A year has passed since all of that. Victoria is growing and studying, she’s dreaming of becoming a doctor. I often come to visit her and together we go to a park, just to spend some time there. We have become one family. As the best volunteer of the year, I received various awards from many international and Russian organisations. I am not bragging on any account, no…I am proud that there still are good people with generous hearts. This story and my modest contribution to the fate of Victoria made me look at life through the eyes of an innocent child, not the eyes of people drugged by the smoke of a pointless hookah.

About the author:

Iskander Muratov, is a Russian writer and a scriptwriter. He is the author of Snow Outside the Window novel, which is being planned to be adapted for the big screen in the nearest future; as well as of Gabriel Maria collection, and Case No. 1 short novel from the series Alexander Morgan conducts an Investigation. The books of Iskander are sold on international sites like,,

In 2016 Iskander was nominated for The Writer of the Year 2016 award and Legacy award established by the Imperial House of the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna.

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