The notice pinned to the cooperative store door was written in ballpoint pen. “Club, October 12, 5 p.m.: Community Court. Agenda Item 1, The Conduct of Nikolayev, N. N.” it said, and it was signed “The Rural Council.” And then, written sideways in the same hand: “Everybody who ordered gas, bring money.”
The club was packed, leaving no room to breathe. Some people were smoking in the vestibule; the kiddies were scampering between the rows of seats; the womenfolk, dressed warmly, smelled of soap and damp sheepskin. The rural council chairman, who was also the head engineer at the timber company, came flying in, throwing off his jacket on the way and losing papers out of his file. He banged his fist on the table, yelled at Tosya, the accountant, to take the minutes, and started things off.
“So, comrades, we have gathered today to judge Nikolayev, Nikolay, for striking his mother-in-law Grandma Valya – Petrova, Valentina – in the face. Go ahead, Nikolayev, speak your piece!”
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