Vassili relaxed on his seat expecting another day of casual indolence. The daily newspaper was lying on the table in front of him, and during the next half-hour, he will read it to the last detail. Then he will sip steamy coffee from a porcelain cup, together with an aromatic muffin, cut into two identical pieces, as he liked, and spread with a tasty and delicious blueberry jam. After finishing his little meal, he will discuss with his office friends, Peter and Igor, the last Saturday night card game. They will also discuss the rumors about the head of the guard whom, some people say, is having an affair with the wife of the archive director. These thoughts were cut short when Yelena the secretary came in and said that Petrov the manager is asking to see him. Vassili folded the paper and went to his room.
“Ah Vassili, how good it is to see you so fresh and intense at this morning hour. Thanks to loyal workers like you the reputation of the department became famous near and far.”
Vassili nodded with agreement and the manager continued: “Yesterday evening an urgent telegram arrived from the district town to send seven sacks of grain, weighing exactly three hundred and twenty livres to the town K. beyond the river. Ivan the coachman has already harnessed the horses to the wagon, and in a few minutes they will load the sacks and you will be able to set out on the road. Yelena is preparing the shipping document, and with it, you will pass the two checkpoints on the way. The coachman will do all the work and all your duty is to supervise the proper course of the mission with the help of the shipping document in your hand. When you arrive at the town at dusk, you will hand the load and will be able to rest in one of the guest rooms on the second floor of the guardhouse. The next day both the coachman and you will return.”
Vassili went out to the store and saw that the grain sacks were already loaded on the wagon and the coachman, a heavy-bodied man with a red flushed face, sitting on his seat. Vassili joined him and together they set out.
It was a fine day, a light breeze blew, and the fresh horses ran along the winding road between meadows of grass and blooming woodlands. They arrived at the first checkpoint after about three hours and parked in the yard. The coachman downloaded the sacks at the warehouse and disappeared in the tavern on the other side of the road. Vassili waited patiently and after twenty minutes the checkpoint manager called him.
“Listen Vassili, we weighed the grain sacks of your cargo and the overall weight is three hundred and fifty livres and not three hundred and twenty as is written in your shipping document. Traveling with a shipping document that does not match the cargo is a serious matter and you will not be able to continue your trip like that.”
“But this is the cargo that I received and it was weighted before I started the trip.” Said Vassili.
“Nevertheless, you will not continue like that. But calm down, don’t worry. We will open two sacks, take out of them thirty livres, and then the cargo will match the document and you will be able to continue your trip.”
During the time that the overweight grains were taken out of the sacks, Vassili went to call the coachman and found him a little tipsy after sipping a few cups of vodka. They came back with the coachman leaning on his shoulder. Two other coachmen that were around helped Vassili to put back the sacks on the wagon, and they also helped to put his coachman in his seat since he hardly could stand on his feet.
They started again and after a few minutes, Vassili heard snoring and saw that the coachman was sleeping a heavy drunkard’s sleep. Luckily for him, the horses knew the way by themselves and after about two hours they arrived at the river bank. They had to wait there for more wagons to join them. After three wagons arrived the ferry came near the bank and they had to get on the dock. Vassili pulled the reins but the horses refused to move. He tried to talk to them to change their heart, but with no use. Since the wagon blocked the way to the ferry, two big lads came out of it, caught the horses by their muzzles and pulled them up the shipboard. The other wagons followed after them.
The ferry set sail and after a short time arrived at the other bank. The horses, that before that refused to get on the ferry, didn’t hesitate now and got quickly off it. They had still a distance of about three verstas to go until the next checkpoint. The horses were already tired and walked a little slowly. Eventually, they arrived at the station in the afternoon. The coachman was still heavily sleeping and it was not possible to wake him up. There were no other coachmen and Vassili had to unload the sacks by himself. He put on his back one sack, he was not used to its weight. He moved it to the warehouse, and heavily breathing put it on the weighing device. He had to rest two minutes to calm down his breathing, then he came back to load a second sack. The warehouse manager, that was there, did, not rush him.
“Do not hurry Vassili, there is enough time.”
After he succeeded, with long rests, to move all the sacks, he sat for a minute at a table near the corner, so that his heart, which was pounding furiously, would calm down and return to its normal rate. He was not really surprised that the station manager, that joined him after a few minutes, said that the cargo weight was three hundred and forty livres, and there was a need to take out twenty livres from the sacks in order to match the weight to the shipping document.
In the meantime, two more wagons arrived and their coachmen helped Vassili to load the sacks back on his wagon. All that time his coachman did not move, sat on his seat heavily sleeping and refusing to wake up. When they set again to the road the sun was already setting, and when they arrived at the guardhouse in the town K. there was full darkness. The station manager welcomed him hospitably.
“Sit down Vassili, we’ll serve you a cup of tea immediately. We shall take care of your cargo.”
When the manager sat nearby and told him that the weight of the cargo was three hundred and thirty livres, and they had to take out ten livres in order to match it to the document, Vassili hardly heard him and couldn’t care less. The manager escorted him to his room on the second floor and invited him to an evening meal in about half an hour. Vassili took off his boots and got ready to go out and wash his face and hands of the road dust. He felt that his back was burning and lead weights were attached to his legs. Before he went out to the washroom he lied down in his closes on the bed for a minute, in order to give a little rest to his aching body.
When he woke up in the morning he didn’t recognize where he was.
https://www.tale.co.il/ סיפורים-לפי-נושא /סיפורים-באנגלית/Don-Giovanni.html
Old Chinese Legend:
Translated from Hebrew.