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Ivan Yakovlevich Bobov

Ivan Yakovlevich Bobov woke up in the best possible of moods. He looked out from under his blanket and immediately spotted the ceiling. The ceiling was decorated with a large grey stain with greenish edges. If one looked closely at the stain, with one eye, then the stain took on a resemblance to a rhinoceros harnessed to a wheelbarrow, although others held that it looked more like a tram with a giant sitting on top -- however, it was possible to detect in this stain even the outlines of some city or other. Ivan Yakovlevich looked at the ceiling, though not at where the stain was, but just like that, at no particular place; while doing so, he smiled and screwed up his eyes. Then he goggled his eyes and raised his eyebrows so high that his forehead folded up like a concertina and would very neatly Slave disappeared altogether if Ivan Yakovlevich had not screwed up his eyes again and suddenly, as though ashamed of something, pulled the blanket back up over his head. He did this so quickly that from under the other end of the blanket Ivan Yakovlevich's bare feet were exposed and right then a fly settled on the big toe of his left foot. Ivan Yakovlevich moved this toe and the fly flew over and settled on his heel. Then Ivan Yakovlevich grabbed the blanket with both feet; with one foot he hooked the blanket downwards, while he wiggled his other foot and clasped the blanket upwards with it and by this means pulled the blanket down from over his head. 'Up yours', said Ivan Yakovlevich and blew out his cheeks. Usually, whenever Ivan Yakovlevich managed to do something or, on the contrary, utterly failed, Ivan Yakovlevich always said 'up yours' -- of course, not loudly and not at all so that anyone should hear it, but just like that, quietly to himself. And so, having said 'up yours', Ivan Yakovlevich sat on the bed and extended an arm to the chair, on which his trousers, shirt and underwear lay. As for trousers, Ivan Yakovlevich loved to wear striped ones. But, at one time, there was really a situation when it was impossible to get striped trousers anywhere. Ivan Yakovlevich tried 'Leningrad Clothes', and the department store, and the Passage, and Gostiny Dvor and he had been round all the shops on the Petrograd side. He had even gone over to somewhere on Okhta but didn't find any striped trousers anywhere. And Ivan Yakovlevich's old trousers had worn so threadbare that it was gelling impossible to wear' them. Ivan Yakovlevich sewed them up several times but in the end even this didn't help any more. Ivan Yakovlevich again went round all the shops and, again not finding striped trousers anywhere, finally decided to buy checked ones. But checked trousers weren't available anywhere either. Then Ivan Yakovlevich decided to buy himself grey trousers, but he couldn't find grey ones anywhere either. Neither were black trousers in Ivan Yakovlevich's size anywhere to be found. Then Ivan Yakovlevich went off to buy blue trousers but, while he had been looking for black ones, both blue and brown ones also ran out. And so, finally, Ivan Yakovlevich just had to buy some green trousers with yellow spots. In the shop it had seemed to Ivan Yakovlevich that the trousers were not of a very bright colour and that the yellow fleck did not offend the eye at all. But, arriving home, Ivan Yakovlevich discovered that one leg was indeed of a decent shade but that the other was nothing short of turquoise and the yellow fleck positively flamed on it. Ivan Yakovlevich tried turning the trousers inside out, but that way round both legs had a propensity to assume a yellow hue embroidered with green peas and were so garish that, well, just to step out on stage in such trousers after a cinematic show would be quite sufficient: the audience would guffaw for half an hour. For two days Ivan Yakovlevich couldn't bring himself to put on his new trousers, but when his old ones got so torn that even from a distance it could be seen that Ivan Yakovlevich's underpants were in dire need of mending, there was nothing for it but to sport the new trousers. In his new trousers for the first time, Ivan Yakovlevich went out extremely cautiously. Leaving the doorway, he glanced both ways first and, having convinced himself that there was no one nearby, stepped out on to the street and swiftly strode off in the direction of his office. The first person he met was an apple seller with a big basket on his head. He said nothing on catching sight of Ivan Yakovlevich and only when Ivan Yakovlevich had walked past did he stop and, since his basket would not allow him to turn his head, the apple seller turned his whole person and followed Ivan Yakovlevich with his eyes -- and perhaps would have shaken his head if, once again, it had not been for that same basket. Ivan Yakovlevich stepped it out jauntily, considering his encounter with the fruit seller to have been a good omen. He had not seen the tradesman's manoeuvre and he reassured himself that his trousers were not as startling as all that. There now walked towards Ivan Yakovlevich an office worker of just the same type as he himself, with a briefcase under his arm. The office worker was walking briskly, not bothering to look around him, but rather keeping a close watch underfoot. Drawing level with Ivan Yakovlevich, the office worker stole a glance at Ivan Yakovlevich's trousers and stopped in his tracks. Ivan Yakovlevich stopped as well. The office worker looked at Ivan Yakovlevich, as did Ivan Yakovlevich at the office worker.
-- Excuse me -- said the office worker -- you couldn't tell me how to get to the . . . national . . . exchange?
-- To get there you'll have to go along this footpath ... along this footbridge . . . no, I mean, you'll have to go this way and then that way -- said Ivan Yakovlevich.
The office worker said thank you and quickly walked away, and Ivan Yakovlevich took a few steps forward but, seeing that now towards him came not a male office worker but a female one, he lowered his head and ran across to the other side of the street. Ivan Yakovlevich arrived at the office with some delay and very bad tempered. Ivan Yakovlevich's colleagues naturally focused their attention on the green trousers with legs of varying hue but, evidently guessing that this was the cause of his ball temper, they did not trouble him with questions. Ivan Yakovlevich underwent torture for two weeks wearing his green trousers, until one of his colleagues, one Apollon Maksimovich Shilov, suggested to Ivan Yakovlevich that he should buy a pair of striped trousers from Apollon Maksimovich himself which were ostensibly surplus to Apollon Maksimovich's requirements.