—Do you know how many mourners Chekov got for his funeral?
—You don’t know how many?
—Not even in thousands?
She composes the pleats of her skirt to an accordion.
—I’m only having a wild stab in the dark here, but… you only got four people and a dog?
Glued to the bench, Mayakovsky cannot avoid that he is currently in and around this comparison.
—And I guess the point you’re making is that you reckon yourself a much greater human being than ever was old Chekhov?
It appears they are going to fall out again, shortly.
—He was nothing if not a reactionary. That story about half his mourners getting mixed up with a rival funeral train, and wandering off to pay their respects to a dead general — absolutely true. Says it all, really.
—Moscow has these moments. Not just Chekhov.
—But regimentation was his ruling principle I think, says Mayakovsky.
—You with your: ‘Aha, that says it all about Chekhov’… Doesn’t that just sum you up?
And she had the ghost of smile playing across her lips.
—You’re free to disagree, of course — but it won’t be me dying of naivety, will it.
He is beginning seriously to destabilise her — with his clever game of showing discontent at everything, he will have her reacting against that.
Her foundations are rocking.
—Please don’t call Chekhov a reactionary,
—I do think he is worthy of that label… but I won’t say it again.
Not bad in himself, but with traps for the Supremacists, who rarely dig beneath the urbane surface. Also — go on, admit it — one of the most laborious to decode using the standard Constructivist liturgy.
From the seed, the shoot, it’s going ok. What Mayakovsky mustn’t do — pernicious, deadly — is cheer her up.