When journalists came up to Nikolai Rinovsky for an interview, his hands would tremble. He looked at them, stroked his front teeth with his tongue and said nothing.

Nobody had a clue why one of the most famous acrobats of the southern capital had never given a single interview. Rumors said that Nikolai Rinovsky could not understand the southern language or was actually born mute. Some people thought he was simply stupid. But despite all that, journalists kept approaching him with their questions.

One day though, between his performances, he answered a couple of questions for the guy whose microphone was covered with an orange cap.

“How do you manage to do such difficult tricks and not sweat?” the journalist asked.

”I cried a lot when I was a child,” Nikolai answered, his hands trembling like tree leaves in the wind.

“Is it true that you are not afraid of death, like a crocodile, and always perform without a safety rope?” the journalist continued, staring at Nikolai’s hands.

“No, I am not afraid of death. Because death is a dream where we don’t have a sense of smell, but see ghostly hills.”

“What hills?” the journalist wondered.

“The ghostly ones,” answered Nikolai and left for the stage.

After the first trick, his hands slipped from the rope, he fell on the ground, broke his neck and died instantly.

Author’s Note

There are two reasons why I wrote this story. First is the memory. When I was a child I had a friend who died in a car accident. The road was slippery and the driver lost control. Second is the images. Brodsky's hills are the life, Rinovsky's hills are the life where death is always somewhere around.

Translator’s Note

I liked this story because it reminded me of the short absurd stories of Daniil Kharms, an early Russian avant-guardist, absurdist poet and writer. The story is concise as an old traveling circus poster and simple as an ordinary now-you-see-it-no-you-don't magic trick while suggesting to think about such serious things like life and death.