The main hero of the story – Alexander Vasilyevich Maltsev – was considered the best locomotive driver in the depot. He was quite young – about thirty years – but already had the status of a first-class machinist. And no one was surprised when he was appointed to a brand-new and very powerful passenger locomotive “IS”. It was “reasonable and right”. Assistant Maltsev was the narrator. He was extremely pleased that he got on this machine “IS” – the only one in the depot.
Mal’tsev showed almost no feelings for the new assistant, although he closely watched his work. The narrator was always struck by the fact that after checking the machine and its lubrication, Maltsev himself checked everything himself and lubricated again. On this strangeness in the behavior of the machinist, the narrator was often vexed, believed that he simply was not trusted, but then he got used to it. Under the noise of the wheels, he forgot about his offense, carried away by the instruments. Often he looked at how inspiredly the Maltsev machine operated. It was like an actor’s game. Mal’tsev watched closely not only the road, but managed to rejoice in the beauty of nature, and even a small sparrow, caught in an air jet from a locomotive, did not elude his glance.
The work was always silent. And only occasionally Maltsev tapping the key on the boiler, “wishing that I turned my attention to some disorder
One day the narrator asked Maltsev to let him drive the car a little, but he threw the car in the corners, the lifts were overcome slowly, and very soon the delay was four minutes late. As soon as the control passed at the hand of the machinist himself, the delay was overtaken.
The narrator worked for Maltsev about a year, when a tragic story happened… Maltsev’s car took the train in eighty passenger axes, which were already late at three o’clock. Maltsev’s task was to reduce this time as much as possible, at least for an hour.
We started on the road. The car worked almost at the limit, and the speed was no less than ninety kilometers per hour.
The train drove to meet a huge cloud, inside which everything bubbled and flashed lightning. Soon the driver’s cab was seized by a whirlwind of dust, almost nothing was visible. Suddenly, lightning struck: “an instant blue light flashed at my eyelashes and penetrated me to the shuddering heart, I grabbed the injector cock, but the pain in my heart has already departed from me.” The narrator looked at Maltsev: he did not even change in the face. As it turned out, he did not see the lightning.
Soon the train passed a shower, which began after the lightning, and went to the steppe. The narrator remarked that Maltsev had become worse at driving a car: at the corners the train threw, the speed then decreased, then rose sharply. Apparently, the driver was just tired.
Occupied by malfunctions in electrical appliances, the narrator did not notice that the train was rushing under the red warning signals. The wheels were already clicking on the firecrackers. “We squeeze firecrackers!” cried the narrator and reached for the office. “Away!” Maltsev exclaimed and pressed the brakes.
The locomotive stopped. Ten meters away from him are another engine, his machinist waved his red red-hot poker, signaling. This meant that at the time the narrator turned away, Maltsev went first under the yellow, then under the red semaphore, and hardly any more under what signals. Why did not he stop? “Kostya!” Alexander Vasilyevich called to me.
I approached him. – Kostya! What’s in front of us? I explained to him.
“Kostya… Then you’ll drive the car, I’m blind.”
The narrator brought the dejected Maltsev home. Near the house he asked to leave him alone. To the narrator’s objections, he replied: “Now I see, go home…” And indeed, he saw his wife come out to meet him. Kostya decided to check it and asked if his head was covered with a headscarf from his wife, or not. And having received the correct answer, he left the machinist.
Maltsev was put on trial. The narrator tried his best to justify his boss. But the fact that Maltsev threatened not only his life, but also the lives of thousands of people, could not forgive him. Why did the blind Maltsev not transfer control to another? Why so risked?
The same questions will be asked by the narrator and Maltsev.
“I used to see the light, and I thought I was seeing it, and I only saw it then in my mind, in the imagination.” Actually, I was blind, but I did not know it. “I did not believe in firecrackers, although I heard them: I thought I misheard. “And when you gave a ringing stop and screamed at me, I saw a green signal ahead of me, I did not immediately guess.” The narrator reacted with understanding to the words of Maltsev.
The next year the narrator passes the exams for the driver. Every time he leaves for the road, checking the car, he sees Maltsev sitting on a painted bench. He leaned on the cane and turned his face with empty, blind eyes toward the locomotive. “Away!” – only he spoke to any attempts of the narrator to comfort him. But one day Kostya invited Maltsev to go with him: “Tomorrow at ten thirty I will lead the train, if you sit quietly, I’ll take you into the car.” Maltsev agreed.
The next day the narrator invited Maltsev to the car. The blind man was ready to obey, so he humbly promised not to touch anything, but only to obey. One hand was put by the machinist on the reverse, and the other by the brake lever, and put his hands on top to help. On the way back they went the same way. Already on the way to the destination, the narrator saw a yellow traffic light, but decided to check his teacher and walked to the yellow at full speed.
“I see a yellow light,” Maltsev said. “Or maybe you just imagine again that you see the light!” answered the narrator. Then Maltsev turned his face towards him and cried.
He drove the car to the end without help. And in the evening the narrator went with Maltsev to his home and for a long time could not leave him alone, “like his own son, without protection against the action of the sudden and hostile forces of our beautiful and furious world.”