Moscow Refreshments

One hot spring evening, just as the sun was going down, two men appeared at Patriarch’s Ponds. One of them—fortyish, wearing a gray summer suit—was short, dark-haired, bald on top, paunchy, and held his proper fedora in his hand; black horn-rimmed glasses of supernatural proportions adorned his well-shaven face. The other one—a broad-shouldered, reddish-haired, shaggy young man with a checked cap cocked on the back of his head—was wearing a cowboy shirt, crumpled white trousers, and black sneakers.

The first man was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of a literary magazine and chairman of the board of one of Moscow’s largest literary associations, known by its acronym, MASOLIT, and his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyryov, who wrote under the pen name Bezdomny.

After reaching the shade of the newly budding linden trees, the writers made a beeline for the colorfully painted refreshment stand bearing the sign: BEER AND COLD DRINKS.

And here it is worth noting the first strange thing about that terrible May evening. Absolutely no one was to be seen, not only by the refreshment stand, but all along the tree-lined path that ran parallel to Malaya Bronnaya Street. At a time when no one, it seemed, had the strength to breathe, when the sun had left Moscow scorched to a crisp and was collapsing in a dry haze somewhere behind the Sadovoye Ring, no one came out to walk under the lindens, or to sit down on a bench, and the path was deserted.

Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, 1967

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