Pavel Ivanovich did not let the lack of a destination, nor the seemingly endless rutted dirt road prevent him from trodding purposefully on. His destiny at that moment was to know that road. He couldn’t know the road by not walking down it, walking down its gentle curves, its grassy lining, and the combination of sandy redness mixed with firm clods and wagon grooves. Groves of trees and solitary sentries saluted him along his way. Wooden, rough-hewn fences guarded either him from the cows, or ripening grains from him. The sun could not decide if it was angry at his face or felt sorry for his back. When the former he would apologize, when the latter he would offer thanks.
By and by the peasant began to notice in the distance ahead a shiny white reflection of something on the ground, next to a fence post. He began to argue with himself whether or not he should stop and investigate what it could be or who it belonged to.
“The object is not part of this road. I am here to know this road, not to be sidetracked by glittering objects.”
“But shouldn’t you try to be useful to someone else who may have lost something valuable?”
“You are reminding me of Judas saying the woman’s anointing perfume should be sold to feed the poor. Who is ‘someone else’ anyway? Hypotheticals don’t exist.”
“What if the object is meant for you?”
“Fairy tale. Quit distracting me.”
With that he turned his eyes to the opposite side of the road, but the closer he got to it, the more he had to crane his neck to the side to avert his eyes from the object’s enticing brilliance. Still, he avoided looking at it, even when he came upon it, and then passed by, proud of himself. But unlike the sun, the glittering object was angry at his back. As if there was a magnifying glass between him and the thing, it began to burn a hole in his back, hotter and hotter. His thoughts began to become heated too.
“I knew it was a bad thing. It is trying to distract me from my road.”
“But aren’t glittering objects better than roads? Why are you on this road anyway? Maybe it’s to find that object.”
“There you go again. Get behind me Satan! I’m not going to think about that object any more. Not thinking, not thinking, not thinking, dirt dirt dirt, fence fence fence, tree tree tree, woods woods woods, field field field, glitter bad glitter bad glitter bad, glitter worse glitter worse glitter worse, evil evil evil, must destroy!”
The next thing Pavel knew, he picked up a stone by the way, turned around and hurled the rock towards the glittering object, which commenced to stop glittering.
“There,” said the peasant, “now I can go on my way. “
Without seeing the more specific results of what he had done Pavel turned back around and tried to focus on his road, purposefully putting one wrapped foot in front of the other, not thinking about the road, the trees, the grass, the fields, the woods, or how the sun was feeling. Instead he was listening to the clatter of the upcoming windmill, “you broke it you broke it you broke it you broke it.” It changed its tone after he passed, “what was it what was it what was it what was it.”
“Enough!” he cried, squeezing the sides of his head with his fingerless gloved hands. The only way he could appease the windmill was to go see what the glittering thing was or had been. Slowly and with wrapped feet dragging through the dirt so that much of it went through the slits in the wrapping, he walked back to the previously glittering thing, dreading the discovery. It really did not matter to him what it was. He did not care if it were valuable or worthless, useful or ornamental, mysterious or common. It just had to be known. He needed closure in order to put it to rest so that it would leave him alone.
His rock had kicked up some dirt making the previously glittering object a dull gray. Its palm-sized circularity became more apparent as he drew near, no longer avoiding its shape. He did not notice any dents in the curved metal covering. He could see it was a pocket watch, and decided to go ahead and pick it up to see if it still worked. He dusted it off and found the opening mechanism. The glass over the face was in good shape, if a little scratched. To the left was an inscription, Вме́сте те́сно, а врозь ску́чно. (Together it’s cramped, apart it’s boring. Or, you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.)
“What, if the lid is closed it is cramped, if it is open it means one is bored? This watch called to me because I was bored with the road? It must be! Thank you, watch.”
He closed it and put it back down. “There, I have made it cramped again, but at least I’m not bored.” And he went along his way, content with the road.