The story is autobiographical. The narration is from the first person. The author tells about his half-starved post-war childhood, which, despite the objective difficulties, was brightly illuminated by the happiness of the first true friendship.
In the year of his admission to school, the influx of children into the schools close to his home was so great that the schools could not receive all comers. The author, among other children from his house, “hit” at school in Lobkovskiy Lane. There, the guys are considered outsiders, and the “healthy instinct of self-preservation” makes them stay close to each other, go to school together and go home.
Usually on the way home, the guys are tying up “snow battles” in Telegraph Lane. There, the author
The author learns that the boy lives in their own house, gets to know him. “How many were after the acquaintances, how many names sounded, nothing could compare with the moment when, in the snow-covered Moscow alley, a lanky boy called himself softly: Pavlik.”
At first the author does not consider Pavlik his close friend. He already had a bosom friend Mitya Grebennikov, weak-hearted, sensitive, tearful, like a woman, quick-witted, though capable of hysterical outbursts of rage. Once he even rushed to the author with a knife, when he “poured” him for moving to a new house, Mitya began to lament that he remembers the old habitation only in a nightmare. “Mitin’s absurdity, mood swings, sensitive conversations, always willingness to quarrel, even for the sake of the sweetness of reconciliation” seem to the author an indispensable attribute of friendship.
Getting close to Pavlik,
Pavlik does not recognize transactions with his conscience. Once the author, who has always brilliantly studied German and did not humble himself before preparing homework, is at the board. He did not learn the poem, because the day before he was not at school and did not know that the poem was generally asked. To avoid a deuce, the author dumps the blame on Pavlik, from whom he really asked for assignments in all subjects, except German. The teacher pronounces Pavlik, he listens to her silently, without making excuses or snapping. Having lowered pairs, the German asks the author to read any poem by choice. He responds brilliantly, as he was previously engaged with a tutor and German poetry knows well. Having received “excellent”, the author returns to the place, but Pavlik next to him is no more. He moved to another desk. The author is perplexed, that spodviglo comrade to leave him, and notices that Pavlik’s eyes are red and poured with moisture. Before, even after cruel and unequal fights, he had never seen a friend crying.
Pavlik does not talk with the author, does not respond to his pretended-indifferent questions. It is evident that he was shaken to the depths of his soul by the fact that “a friend betrayed him.” Calmly, plainly and publicly, in broad daylight, for a penny profit, a man was betrayed, for which he, without hesitation, would go into the fire and into the water. “
The author does not want to admit his own baseness, he tries to justify himself, but with all the desire he can not do it. Almost a year Pavlik keeps him in alienation. All attempts of the author to “make peace among other things” do not bring success. Pavlik “despised all sorts of detours, small tricks and tricks, all slippery, evasive, ambiguous – the refuge of weak souls.” Pavlik does not need a man like the author showed himself in a German lesson. His moral code is much higher.
However, a year later, when the author sends a friend a note requesting a meeting, Pavlik rises to his apartment without any ceremony, as he did before. The author does not need to apologize to him: Pavlik realized that his friend internally changed, and therefore should not be responsible for himself the former.
“A rare spiritual chastity forced him to keep his inner peace on constipation, he did not consider himself entitled to impose his thoughts and opinions, views and assessments on people, not to mention doubts and hopes.” To outsiders, he seemed apathetic, listless, “. Only the author knows perfectly well “what a strong, passionate, purposeful character he possessed.” He did not have to go to the people’s court. Everything that developed in him, matured, was built, did not have time to get a form. “
Pavlik comes from a family of poorly educated people, who are less than curious, and few are capable of doing so. His father is a watchmaker, who occasionally recalls with pleasure how he once watched the play “Kovar and Love”.
In the author’s family “everyone thought”. Here there is a cult of books, and Pavlik’s mood for culture is necessary, like air. Every year friends are getting closer and more dear to each other.
On the threshold of adolescence, they are struck by “a common ailment – an obscurity of aspirations.” Friends want to “play, and not be present as silent extras on the stage of life.” They both study fairly and accurately in all subjects, but none of the main passion that tells friends what road to choose in life is. The author and Pavlik are actively looking for themselves.
Pavlik has two uncles, both scientists, one physicist, another chemist. Their brilliant example makes the guys take turns trying on each of these fields. The first thing they do is to cook the shoe polish. The apartment is thoroughly impregnated with the smell of the vaccines, and to ensure that the residents do not swear, the guys clean their work boots with a shoe polish for all the boots. But the shoe polish does not give shine, and the shoes have to be cleaned.
Then the author and Pavlik are trying to create red mascara, but there is no sense in this either. When the two children put a cross on both sciences, they see the “Security letter” of B. Pasternak. The author and Pavlik read about the agonies of the future poet, who dreamed of becoming a composer, but did not have an absolute hearing. Pasternak refused to make a career as a musician, after he learned that his idol A. Scriabin “hides as something shameful, the imperfection of his hearing.”
The guys are looking for themselves in geography, biology and electrical engineering, which ends in a small fire. Their “rest from the labors of the righteous” is no less debilitating and purposeful. Friends then master balancing (for an hour, almost losing consciousness, keeping a broom or billiard cue on your nose), then, following the example of parachute girls, they jump from a great height with two umbrellas on the asphalt. For the author this ends with a concussion of the brain, and Pavlik knocks out half of the front tooth.
Imperceptibly, the author begins to write stories, and Pavlik tries his hand on the stage of the amateur scene. In these classes, friends are no longer in a hurry to unite and feel that this time “everyone has faced his own destiny.” But no one is able to admit to himself that a choice has been made. At the end of the school both apply to the medical institute – “the usual refuge of those who do not get along with mathematics and do not believe in themselves in the humanitarian field.” After six months, both enter the Institute of Cinematography. The author enlisted in the script, Pavlik, withstanding, in addition, examinations in GITIS (Theater Institute) and Historical and Archival, begins to study at the director’s faculty. Father refers to the choice of Pavlik quietly, amuse himself with the hope that he will see his son in the production of “Kovar and love.”
However, on the first day of the war, the guys go to the military enlistment office. Pavlik leaves for the front and very soon heroically perishes under Sukhinichi. The Germans offer Soviet soldiers taken unawares in the village soviet building to save their lives if they put their weapons and go out one by one with their hands up. As the few remaining survivors of the Sukhinich then testified, no one from the department commanded by Pavlik complied with the Nazis’ demand.
Pavlik for many years after the end of the war dreams of the author. The dream is repeated all the time: Pavlik is alive and back, but he does not go to the author, he does not need him. In a dream near Pavlik, only his mother, they are overshadowed by some kind of general concern, which the author does not understand. The author tries to explain that Pavlin is not to blame for anything, that he did not deserve such indifference, but Pavlik almost does not listen to him, only nods coldly and silently passes by. “Maybe there, where Pavlik came from, is different.”
The author goes on a visit to a friend in a country house. Along the way, the author sees the road sign “Before Sukhinichi, kilometers.” During the collection of mushrooms, the author comes to the coil of barbed wire, which lies here with the war, becomes entangled in it, it is difficult to get out of the trap. The author comes to mind that he is very close to the place where the last minutes of the life of his priceless friend were. He realizes that he is really blamelessly guilty before him – it is his fault that he did not give his life for Pavlik, that he did not save other people, he is guilty in prisons, in camps, that shots are not being killed in the world, that children are dying and not to consider the destitute.
“We must always remember the exploit of the departed, maybe then the evil will disappear and the most cherished human dream will come true – to bring the dead back to life.”