December 01, 1996

The Little Angel

eating a boy as thin as a match with a rolling pin. Below in a large scrawling hand would be written the legend: “Beg forgiveness, puppy!” and the reply, “Hell no!”

Before Christmas, Sashka was expelled from school, and when his mother tried to thrash him, he bit her finger. This action gave him his liberty. He stopped washing in the morning, ran about all day bullying the other boys, and had just one fear — hunger, for his mother entirely gave up feeding him, and he came to depend upon the pieces of bread and potatoes which his father secreted for him. In these conditions Sashka found existence tolerable.

One Friday (it was Christmas Eve) he had been playing with the other boys, until they had dispersed to their homes, followed by the squeak of the rusty frozen wicket gate as it closed behind the last of them. It was already growing dark, and a grey snowy mist was traveling up from the country, along a dark alley; in a low black building, which stood fronting the end of the alley, a lamp was burning with a reddish, unblinking light. The frost had become more intense, and when Sashka reached the circle of light cast by the lamp, he saw that fine dry flakes of snow were floating slowly on the air. It was high time to be getting home.

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