from the Collection «Little Trilogy»
The hunters Ivan Ivanovich and Burkin stopped for the night. They were sharing life stories with each other.
Burkin began to talk about his colleague, the Greek teacher Belikoff.
This man wore sunglasses, a sweatshirt, a warm coat, an umbrella and galoshes even in warm weather. All of his belongings were in a case, and he himself was in constant anxiety "just in case something happens."
In a word, this man had a constant and irresistible desire to surround himself with a shell, to create for himself, so to speak, a case, which would give him privacy and protect him from outside influences.
Belikov was afraid of absolutely everything. All kinds of violations, deviations, deviations from the rules drove him to despondency. At home he also had solid fences: robe, cap, locks, bolts. Belikov's bed was like a box, and he slept with his head covered. He kept no female servants because he was afraid of gossip. Old Athanasius was his only servant.
At all the faculty meetings, Belikov complained and suggested expelling the students and punishing everyone for disobeying the order.
Burkin stunned Ivan Ivanovich by saying that once Belikov almost got married. A new teacher, Kovalenko, was sent to the gymnasium.
That one did not come alone, but with his sister Varenka.
When they met Belikov, she caught his attention with her singing. And then the entire teaching staff remembered that Belikov was not married and it was necessary to bring him and Varenka together.
Varenka was 30 years old and Belikov was in his forties. She did not mind getting married, especially since her relationship with her brother was not smooth. Varenka began to show a clear favor to Belikov, and the latter kept weighing the upcoming duties and responsibilities.
... The decision to marry had had a painful effect on him, he had lost weight, turned pale, and seemed to withdraw even more deeply into his case.
Meanwhile, someone had drawn caricatures of him and Varenka, and Belikov endured such taunts very severely. Then, when Belikov was taking a walk with Burkin, Kovalenko and his sister were riding their bicycles to meet them. Varenka, as usual, laughed loudly. This fact terribly angered Belikov. He began to tell Burkin that it was improper for a teacher, much less a woman, to ride a bicycle.
With this thought he visited Kovalenko and expressed all his remarks. The latter, in turn, made it clear in a rude manner that he would do what he liked. The persistent Belikov was eventually thrown down the stairs. As he rolled down the stairs, Varenka entered with two ladies and, looking at him, laughed.
And with this resounding, resounding "ha-ha-ha" everything ended: the matchmaking and Belikov's earthly existence.
Returning home, Belikov removed Varenka's portrait from the table, lay down and never got up again. A month later he died.
The weather was overcast and rainy, and at the funeral everyone had umbrellas and galoshes. Everyone felt free and relieved when they buried Belikov.
Now, as he lay in the coffin, his expression was meek, pleasant, even cheerful, as if he were glad that at last he had been put into a case from which he would never come out again.
But they soon discovered that life did not get any easier. Life remained the same boring and dull.
Ivan Ivanovich noted that we live in the city in stuffiness, in cramped quarters, writing unnecessary papers, playing screwball - all this is the case.
Ivan Ivanovich kept thinking about the difficulties of life, about the things that keep him awake: lies, insults, humiliation. Burkin offered to just go to bed, and in ten minutes he was asleep. And Ivan Ivanovich still could not sleep, and then he got up, went outside and smoked his pipe again.