Moissaye Ossipovich wiped the sweat on his forehead. Impatiently, he eyed those who were still waiting for him.
His own fault. That self-indulgence at lunch. Sat there too long. Ate too much. Emptied a cup too many.
How often had he decided that he had to set himself a limit—that he had to fix the thin line that separated the last cup of his capacity from the first cup of excess—that one cup that flooded him with this drowsiness. Yet he always crossed that border without knowing he was doing it. And when he did try to take himself by his own collar, it was too late. He had already been smuggled into that second country.
A couple of flies were resting on the wall. Their somnolence seemed to lull him, too. His eyes would not obey him. Yet his duties were not done. The little village by Lake Tikhonovka had only limited ambitions. It made only limited demands. Still—such as they were—they gave him a full day’s work. Somebody had a leaky roof. Somebody else was too crowded; was asking to be relieved of, at the least, one lodger. A third had a pregnant wife; needed a decent bed, and sheets. Here was one who was too sick to work. A request for a vacation.
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