ტაბულა არ აგებს პასუხს პოსტის შინაარსზე, ის შესაძლოა არ ასახავდეს რედაქციის პოზიციას.
Soso’s toe tentatively poked the woman in the shin; the secretary let out a howl and released her grip on Soso’s ear. Emboldened, he started to kick her again and again, viciously and methodically, the crunching sound indicating shattered tissue and bone, the woman choking on her screams sank heavily on the sidewalk and there was spittle coming out of her distorted mouth, the leg from the knee down was mutilated beyond recognition. Soso swung his leg back as if preparing to deliver the final volley aiming at her mouth that would smash her teeth. His levitating alter ego had disappeared, the cheering crowd was chanting now, kill her, kill her, suddenly there was loud brass band music and the school principal intoned in somber bass cadence: “All radio stations of the Soviet Union are signing on for this important announcement”. Soso brought his leg down in a quick forward motion burying the tip of his shoe in the secretary’s mouth. “Jesus, looks like our buddy’s got the DT’s”, said a familiar voice, then someone shook his shoulders and opening his eyes Soso saw Kaha leaning over him. Lado looked concerned and kept repeating, take it easy, man, it’s all right, man, just a bad dream and a jimmy leg. “The train will be here in few minutes, said Kaha, it’s time to go.
There were a lot of people jostling on the platform now; the porters were pushing carts with heavy bags. Kaha said they had to get on real fast since the train stopped there only for a few minutes. Then the headlight of the locomotive cut a swathe of bright light through the blackness and the train slowly rolled into the station. The friends found themselves right in front of the middle car as calculated by Kaha. The conductor pulled down the iron ladder and stood by waiting for the passengers to produce the tickets. Kaha pushed Lado forward shouting something unintelligible, the conductor bristled and tried to put his body between Lado and the gangplank, but was shoved aside and those few seconds of confusion were enough for the three to scramble inside. “I’ll get you, motherfuckers, don’t you worry, cried the conductor. Then the train started to move, but the conductor confronted them in the most aggressive manner, he was impervious to blandishments and threatened he’d pull the emergency brake and have them committed to the militia. He looked quite determined and the consequences would have been sufficiently unpleasant. He was screaming all kinds of abuse on top of his voice attracting a sizable crowd; something had to be done and fast. Lado grabbed the man’s arm and pushed him through the connecting door and out of sight of the onlookers. Soso and Kaha closed in on him and there they stood swaying with the motion as the train gathered speed. “Chill out man, said Kaha, just give us a few minutes and we’ll pay up, thirty rubles cash, and you can be sure we won’t even ask for a compartment, yes, we’ll stand all the way to Tbilisi”. “Get the hell out of my way, screamed the conductor, fuck you and your thirty rubles; even if I’d wanted to I couldn’t do it, ‘cause the inspectors are checking for the stowaways. You want to mess up with me, you’ll be getting off at the first stop, I guarantee you. “Have mercy, man, said Lado, don’t you have children, they bring kids to our hospital for tonsils and appendicitis every day, I swear by Jesus half of them I treat for free, God forbid you’d need anything from us, let that possibility be farthest from you and members of your household, and yet who knows under what circumstances we might meet”. The conductor, disheveled and panting, squinted at Nukri, You doctors? - he inquired hoarsely. “We certainly are, answered Kaha, show him your ID, Lado. The conductor perused the proffered laminated slip and sighed. He was tired, it was getting late and he had to prepare tea for the passengers. Sensing victory close at hand, Lado said, Come on, man, be a Christian. “All right, said the conductor, thirty rubles and I’ll let you ride all the way to Tbilisi. I’ll be back in a few minutes”. “Well, said Kaha turning to Soso, we’ve done our bit now it’s your turn”. Going through the first few cars Soso didn’t discover any one he could approach to solicit money and was silently cursing Kaha; he was at a point of desperation. He was already contemplating the ignominy of being thrown from the train at the nearest station. It was ridiculous looking into strangers’ faces, few bothered to make eye contact and those who did preempted any conversational overtures by quickly turning away and staring at the darkness rushing by behind the windows. For a moment he even envied the conductor, at least the man had a steady, uncomplicated job, no worries, no dreams or ambitions. It wasn’t the first time he felt like this, there were other similar moments in his life, situations that presented insurmountable challenges, while he had neither the taste nor the temerity for the gallant conquest. He’d envy a hotel clerk dozing off behind a registration desk in a nondescript provincial town, a taxicab driver who whistled while he deftly switched gears, a waiter arranging silverware with a flourish and humming a tune to himself, a man seen through the first floor window of an office building sitting behind the desk with a pile of folders, sliding the wooden doughnuts on the abacus and jotting down something in his ledger, a car care station attendant buried behind the pages of the evening paper in his booth at dusk, the setting sun a momentary shimmer on the booth window.
It was only after Soso had walked through half the train, bumping against the rails and touching door handles sticky with dirt and soot when he saw a familiar face from the old neighborhood, a stocky civil engineer with an acromegalic jaw, a dabbler in antiques and a jazz records collector, the son of a downtown cafeteria manager.Soso’s effusive greetings had little effect on the man who was demonstrably noncommittal and was about to disappear inside the compartment when Soso had finally made the plea for the loan. Thirty rubles, you say, said the engineer, leaning against the compartment sliding door, it’s a lot of money, you know. Soso turned away in disgust and was already halfway when the man said, hey, wait a minute, how about I give you the money on the condition you return the loan first thing in the morning, plus one of your jazz albums. Soso was too tired to go on with the quest and he said, sure, why not. Well, lisped the civil engineer, mopping his sweaty neck with a handkerchief, thirty rubles and Lester Young’s double album “Lester Leaps In”, deal? Deal, sighed Soso listlessly, slumping against the rail. The civil engineer took out his wallet and pulled off three crisp ten-ruble bills, he hesitated momentarily then stuck out his hand. He acted both suspicious and petulant; his protruding chin, an invitation to violence. First thing in the morning, he repeated; the money and the record. Soso took the money, and walked all the way back. Fucking bastard, silently cursed Soso, the man has robbed me blind. He was just in time because Lado and Kaha were getting rather impatient. He shoved thirty rubles at the conductor and lit a cigarette inhaling hungrily. The man took the crumpled notes and casting worried glances at the people milling around in the narrow passage thrust the money into his pocket. Then something must have stirred in his soul, activating a distant collective memory of grace, spontaneous trust in strangers and disdain for the material. He smacked his lips in mock deprecation and said, come with me, fellows. He opened his own compartment, a narrow, boxed-in cubicle with a single berth, and said, it’s all I can offer, it’s not much, but it sure beats standing. Just make sure you don’t stick your neck out too much or my ass will be on the line. And what is your name, my good man, inquired Lado in amazement. Evlenti’s the name, answered the conductor pulling down the window to let in fresh air. Then Kaha unzipped his bag and produced a bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. Jesus, said Lado, where the hell did you get it? I just grabbed it off the kitchen counter at the pier before we took the powder, smiled Kaha. Evlenti looked at the bottle and shook his head. Oh, what the hell, he said and crouched under the berth. Then he rolled out a huge melon and put it on a small folding table. He spread an old newspaper on the table and cut the melon with a huge army knife. Then the conductor disappeared for a moment and came back holding a tall glass. Kaha poured vodka into the glass and drank a toast to Evlenti, the Samaritan. He tossed it off, poured another glass and passed it to the conductor. Sorry, said Evlenti, we only have one glass. May your luck change for the better at sunrise tomorrow, he said. For a simple train steward he was a pretty perceptive fellow. He finished the drink and went out saying he had to take care of some business. Lado drank next and lastly Soso. It was already close to midnight, outside the car window there was nothing but darkness, which made it impossible to determine location, but somehow it felt that they were still close to the sea. The air still had a salty flair, and when the train pulled to a short stop at some small station, they could hear the tide and the cicadas.
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