Forty-two-year-old Leonid Soshnin, a former criminal investigation operative, returns home from the local publishing house, to an empty apartment, in the worst of spirits. The manuscript of his first book, “The Life of the Most Expensive” after five years of waiting is finally accepted for production, but this news does not please Soshnin. The conversation with the editor, Oktyabrina Perfilyevna Syrokvasova, who tried to humbly criticize the author-militiaman, who dared to be called a writer, disrupted the already gloomy thoughts and feelings of Soshnin. “How to live in the world?” Lonely? ” he thinks on his way home, and his thoughts are heavy.
In the police he served his own: after two injuries, Soshnin was sent on pension for disability. After another quarrel, his wife leaves Lerka, taking with her little daughter Svetka.
Soshnin remembers his whole life. He can not answer his own question: why is there so much grief and suffering in my life, but always love and happiness? Soshnin understands that among other incomprehensible things and phenomena he has to comprehend the so-called Russian soul, and he needs to start with the closest people, from the episodes he witnessed, from the fate of the people his life faced… Why Russian people ready to regret the scuffle and bloodletter and not notice how nearby, in the next apartment, a helpless invalid of war dies? .. Why is the criminal among such kind-hearted people living so casually and courteously? ..
In order to distract himself from gloomy thoughts for a moment, Leonid imagines himself, as he comes home, to brew himself a bachelor meal, reads it, sleeps a little, enough to last all night – sitting at a table, over a blank sheet of paper. Soshnin especially loves this nighttime, when he lives in some isolated, imagined world created.
Leonid Soshnin’s apartment is located on the outskirts of Vejsk, in the old two-story house where he grew up. From this house his father went to war, with which he did not return, died here at the end of the war and the mother from a severe cold. Leonid stayed with his mother’s sister, Aunt Lipa, who, from childhood, used to call Lina. Aunt Lina after the death of her sister went to work in the commercial department of the Weiysk railway. This department was “re-judged and transplanted at once”. Auntie tried to poison herself, but she was rescued and sent to the colony after the trial.
By this time, Lenya had already studied in the regional special school of the Internal Affairs Directorate, from where he was almost expelled because of the convicted aunt. But the neighbors, and mostly fellow soldiers of Father Lavrie-the Cossack, have poked for Leonid before the regional militia bosses, and everything turned out.
Lin’s aunt was released under an amnesty. Sosnin has already worked as a precinct in the remote Khaylovsky district, where he brought his wife. Aunt Lina managed to figure out Leonid’s daughter, Sveta, whom she considered to be her granddaughter before she died. After the death of Lina, the Soshnins crossed under the protection of another, no less reliable aunt named Grani, the scribe on the shunting ramp. Aunt Grani spent her whole life working on other people’s children, and little Lenya Soshnin learned in the original kindergarten the first skills of brotherhood and diligence.
Once, after returning from Khaylovsk, Soshnin was on duty with the police on a mass celebration on the occasion of the Railway Worker’s Day. The four guys who had drunk to the loss of memory raped Aunt Grany, and if it were not for the patrol’s partner, Soshnin would have shot these drunken young men who slept on the lawn. They were convicted, and after that case Aunt Granya began to avoid people. Once she told Soshnin the terrible thought that, having condemned the criminals, they thereby ruined young lives. Soshnin shouted at the old woman that she pitied the non-humans, and they began to avoid each other…
In the dirty and spongy entrance of the house to Soshnin three drinkers pester, demanding to say hello, and then apologize for their disrespectful behavior. He agrees, trying to cool their ardor with peaceful remarks, but the main one, the young boy, does not calm down. Spirited with alcohol, the guys attacked Soshnin. He, having gathered with forces – affected wounds, hospital “rest”, – wins hooligans. One of them hits the heating battery when it falls. Soshnin picks up a knife on the floor, staggers, goes to the apartment. And he immediately calls the police, reports of a fight: “One hero splashed the battery about the battery.” If the Che were not looking for that.
Coming to himself after the incident, Soshnin again remembers his life.
He and his partner pursued a drunk, stolen truck on a motorcycle. A dead ram drove the truck through the streets of the town, already having torn down more than one life. Soshnin, a senior patrol, decided to shoot the criminal. His partner shot, but before the death the truck driver managed to push the motorcycle of persecuted policemen. On the operating table, the Dump was miraculously rescued from an amputation by the leg. But he remained lame, long and hard to learn to walk. During the recovery, the investigator long and persistently tormented him with proceedings: was it legitimate to use weapons?
Leonid also recalls how he met his future wife, saving her from hooligans who were trying to take off jeans from the girl right behind the Soyuzpechat stall. At first, life with them and Lerka went on in peace and harmony, but mutual reproaches began gradually. Especially his wife did not like literature. “Such Leo Tolstoy with a seven-pistol pistol, with rusty handcuffs behind his belt…” – she said.
Soshnin recalled how one “picked up” a hotel in the town of a flying tour operator, the recrudescent Demon.
And finally, he recalls how Venka Fomin, who had fallen asleep and returned from prison, placed the final cross on his career as an operative… Soshnin brought his daughter to his wife’s parents in a distant village and was about to return to the city when his father-in-law informed him that in a neighboring village he was drunk The peasant locked in the shed old women and threatened to set them on fire, if they did not give him ten rubles for a hangover. During the detention, when Soshnin slipped on the dung and fell, Venka Fomin, frightened, and thrust a fork into his… Soshnin was barely taken to the hospital – and hardly passed him a certain death. But the second group of disability and retirement failed to pass.
At night, Leonid awakens from the sleep terrible scream neighbor Yulka. He hurries to the apartment on the first floor, where Julia lives with her grandmother Tutishikha. Having drunk a bottle of Riga balsam from the presents brought by Yulkin’s father and stepmother from the Baltic sanatorium, Tutyshik’s grandmother is already asleep by a dead dream.
At the funeral of the grandmother Tutishikhi, Soshnin meets his wife and daughter. At the funeral, they sit side by side.
Lerka and Sveta stay with Soshnin, at night he hears the daughter snuffle behind the septum, and feels how beside him, timidly clinging to him, his wife sleeps. He rises, approaches his daughter, straightens her pillow, presses her cheek against her head and forgets in some sweet sorrow, in resurrection, life-giving sadness. Leonid goes to the kitchen, reads “Proverbs of the Russian people”, collected by Dahl, – section “Husband and wife” – and marvels at the wisdom, concluded in simple words.
“Dawn was damp and snowballed already in the kitchen window, when, enjoying peace among the quiet family, feeling for a long time the unknown confidence in their abilities and strength, without irritation and anguish in the heart, Soshnin clung to the table, put a clean sheet of paper in a spot of light and for a long time stood over him. “