‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’
There was me, Your Humble Narrator, and my three droogs, that is Len, Rick, and Bully being called Bully because of his bolshly big neck and very gromky goloss which was just like some bolshy great bull bellowing auuuuuuuuh. We were sitting in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. All round were chellovecks well away on milk plus vellocet and synthemesc and drencrom and other veshches which take you far far far away from this wicked and real world into the land to viddy Bog And All His Angels And Saints in your left sabog with lights bursting and spurting all over your mozg. What we were peeting was the old moloko with knives in it, as we used to say, to sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one, but I’ve told you all that before.
We were dressed in the heighth of fashion, which in those days was these very wide trousers and a very loose black shiny leather like jerkin over an open-necked shirt with a like scarf tucked in. At this time too it was the heighth of fashion to use the old britva on the gulliver, so that most of the gulliver was like bald and there was hair only on the sides. But it was always the same on the old nogas-real horrorshow bolshy big boots for kicking litsos in. ‘What’s it going to be then, eh?’
I was like the oldest of we four, and they all looked up to me as their leader, but I got the idea sometimes that Bully had the thought in his gulliver that he would like to take over, this being because of his bigness and the gromky goloss that bellowed out of him when he was on the warpath. But all the ideas came from Your Humble, O my brothers, and also there was this veshch that I had been famous and had had my pictures and articles and all that cal in the gazettas. Also I had by far the best job of all we four, being in the National Gramodisc Archives on the music side with a real horrorshow carman full of pretty polly at the week’s end and a lot of nice free discs for my own malenky self on the side.
This evening in the Korova there was a fair number of vecks and ptitsas and devotchkas and malchicks smecking and peeting away, and cutting through their govoreeting and the burbling of the in-the-landers with their ‘Gorgor fallatuke and the worm sprays in filltip slaughterballs’ and all that cal you could slooshy a pop-disc on the stereo, this being Ned Achimota singing ‘That Day, Yeah, That Day’. At the counter were three devotchkas dressed in the heighth of nadsat fashion, that is to say long uncombed hair dyed white and false groodies sticking out a metre or more and very very tight short skirts with all like frothy white underneath, and Bully kept saying: ‘Hey, get in there we could, three of us. Old Len is not interested. Leave old Len alone with his God.’ And Len kept saying: ‘Yarbles yarbles. Where is the spirit of all for one and one for all, eh boy?’ Suddenly I felt both very very tired and also full of tingly energy, and I said: ‘Out out out out out.’
‘Where to?’ said Rick, who had a litso like a frog’s.
‘Oh, just to viddy what’s doing in the great outside, ’I said. But somehow, my brothers, I felt very bored and a bit hopeless, and I had been feeling that a lot these days. So I turned to the chelloveck nearest me on the big plush seat that ran right round the whole mesto, a chelloveck, that is, who was burbling away under the influence, and I fisted him real skorry ack ack ack in the belly. But he felt it not, brothers, only burbling away with his ‘Cart cart virtue, where in toptails lieth the poppoppicorns?’ So we scatted out into the big winter nochy. We walked down Marghanita Boulevard and there were no millicents patrolling that way, so when we met a starry veck coming away from a news-kiosk where he had been kupetting a gazetta I said to Bully: ‘All right, Bully boy, thou canst if thou like wishest.’ More and more these days I had been just giving the orders and standing back to viddy them being carried out. So Bully cracked into him er er er, and the other two tripped him and kicked at him, smecking away, while he was down and then let him crawl off to where he lived, like whimpering to himself.
Bully said: ‘How about a nice yummy glass of something to keep out the cold, O Alex?’ For we were not too far from the Duke of New York. The other two nodded yes yes yes but all looked at me to viddy whether that was all right. I nodded too and so off we ittied. Inside the snug there were these starry ptitsas or sharps or baboochkas you will remember from the beginning and they all started on their: ‘Evening, lads, God bless you, boys, best lads living, that’s what you are,’ waiting for us to say ‘What’s it going to be girls?’ Bully rang the collocoll and a waiter came in rubbing his rookers on his grazzy apron. ‘Cutter on the table, droogies,’ said Bully, pulling out his own rattling and chinking mound of deng. ‘Scotchmen for us and the same for the old baboochkas, eh?’ And then I said:
‘Ah, to hell. Let them buy their own.’ I didn’t know what it was, but these last days
I had become like mean. There had come into my gulliver a like desire to keep all my pretty polly to myself, to like hoard it all up for some reason. Bully said:
‘What gives, bratty? What’s coming over old Alex?’
‘Ah, to hell,’ I said. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. What it is is I don’t like just throwing away my hard-earned pretty polly, that’s what it is.’
‘Earned?’ said Rick. ‘Earned? It doesn’t have to be earned, as well thou knowest, old droogie. Took, that’s all, just took, like.’ And he smecked real gromky and I viddied one or two of his zoobies weren’t all that horrorshow.
‘Ah,’ I said, ‘I’ve got some thinking to do.’ But viddying these baboochkas looking all eager like for some free alc, I like shrugged my pletchoes and pulled out my own cutter from my trouser carman, notes and coin all mixed together, and plonked it tinkle crackle on the table.
‘Scotchmen all round, right,’ said the waiter. But for some reason I said:
‘No, boy, for me make it one small beer, right.’ Len said:
‘This I do not much go for,’ and he began to put his rooker on my gulliver, like kidding I must have fever, but I like snarled doggy-wise for him to give over skorry.
‘All right, all right, droog,’ he said. ‘As thou like sayest.’ But Bully was having a smot with his rot open at something that had come out of my carman with the pretty polly I’d put on the table. He said:
‘Well well well. And we never knew.’
‘Give me that,’ I snarled and grabbed it skorry. I couldn’t explain how it had got there, brothers, but it was a photograph I had scissored out of the old gazetta and it was of a baby. It was of a baby gurgling goo goo goo with all like moloko dribbling from its rot and looking up and like smecking at everybody, and its was all nagoy and its flesh was like in all folds with being a very fat baby. There was then like a bit of haw haw haw struggling to get hold of this bit of paper from me, so I had to snarl again at them and I grabbed the photo and tore it up into tiny teeny pieces and let it fall like a bit of snow on to the floor. The whisky came in then and the starry baboochkas said: ‘Good health, lads, God bless you, boys, the best lads living, that’s what you are,’ and all that cal. And one of them who was all lines and wrinkles and no zoobies in her shrunken old rot said: ‘Don’t tear up money, son. If you don’t need it give it them as does,’ which was very bold and forward of her. But Rick said:
‘Money that was not, O baboochka. It was a picture of a dear little itsy witsy bitsy bit of a baby.’ I said:
‘I’m getting just that bit tired, that I am. It’s you who’s the babies, you lot. Scoffing and grinning and all you can do is smeck and give people bolshy cowardly tolchocks when they can’t give them back.’ Bully said:
‘Well now, we always thought it was you who was the king of that and also the teacher. Not well, that’s the trouble with thou, old droogie.’
I viddied this sloppy glass of beer I had on the table in front of me and felt like all vomity within, so I went ‘Aaaaah’ and poured all the frothy vonny cal all over the floor. One of the starry ptitsas said: ‘Waste not want not.’ I said:
‘Look, droogies. Listen. Tonight I am somehow just not in the mood. I know not why or how it is, but there it is. You three go your own ways this nightwise, leaving me out. Tomorrow we shall meet same place same time, me hoping to be like a lot better.’
‘Oh,’ said Bully, ‘right sorry I am.’ But you could viddy a like gleam in his glazzies, because now he would be taking over for this nochy. Power power, everybody like wants power. ‘We can postpone till tomorrow,’ said Bully. ‘what we in mind had. Namely, that bit of shopcrasting in Gagarin Street. Flip horrorshow takings there, droog, for the having.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘You postpone nothing. You just carry on in your own like style. Now,’ I said, ‘I itty off.’ And I got up from my chair. ‘Where to, then?’ asked Rick.
‘That know I not,’ I said. ‘Just to be on like my own and sort things out.’ You could viddy the old baboochkas were real puzzled at me going out like that and like all morose and not the bright and smecking malchickiwick you will remember. But I said: ‘Ah, to hell, to hell,’ and scatted out all on my oddy knocky into the street. It was dark and there was a wind sharp as a nozh getting up, and there were very very few lewdies about. There were these patrol cars with brutal rozzes inside them like cruising about, and now and then on the corner you would viddy a couple of very young millicents stamping against the bitchy cold and letting out steam breath on the winter air, O my brothers. I suppose really a lot of the old ultra-violence and crasting was dying out now, the rozzes being so brutal with who they caught, though it had become like a fight between naughty nadsats and the rozzes who could be more skorry with the nozh and the britva and the stick and even the gun. But what was the matter with me these days was that I didn’t like care much. It was like something soft getting into me and I could not pony why. What I wanted these days I did not know. Even the music I liked to slooshy in my own malenky den what what I would have smecked at before, brothers. I was slooshying more like malenky romantic songs, what they call Lieder, just a goloss and a piano, very quiet and like yearny, different from when it had been all bolshy orchestras and me lying on the bed between the violins and the trombones and kettledrums. There was something happening inside me, and I wondered if it was like some disease or if it was what they had done to me that time upsetting my gulliver and perhaps going to make me real bezoomny.
So thinking like this with my gulliver bent and my rookers stuck in my trouser carmans I walked the town, brothers, and at last I began to feel very tired and also in great need of a nice bolshy chasha of milky chai. Thinking about this chai, I got a sudden like picture of me sitting before a bolshy fire in an armchair peeting away at this chai, and what was funny and very very strange was that I seemed to have turned into a very starry chelloveck, about seventy years old, because I could viddy my own voloss, which was very grey, and I also had whiskers, and these were very grey too. I could viddy myself as an old man, sitting by a fire, and then the like picture vanished. But it was very like strange.
I came to one of these tea-and-coffee mestos, brothers, and I could viddy through the long long window that it was full of very dull lewdies, like ordinary, who had these very patient and expressionless litsos and would do no harm to no one, all sitting there and govoreeting like quietly and peeting away at their nice harmless chai and coffee. I ittied inside and went up to the counter and bought me a nice hot chai with plenty of moloko, then I ittied to one of these tables and sat down to peet it. There was a like young couple at this table, peeting and smoking filter-tip cancers, and govoreeting and smecking very quietly between themselves, but I took no notice of them and just went on peeting away and like dreaming and wondering what it was in me that was like changing and what was going to happen to me. But I viddied that the devotchka at this table who was with this chelloveck was real horrorshow, not the sort you would want to like throw down and give the old in-out in-out to, but with a horrorshow plott and litso and a smiling rot and very very fair voloss and all that cal. And then the veck with her, who had a hat on his gulliver and had his litso like turned away from me, swivelled round to viddy the bolshy big clock they had on the wall in this mesto, and then I viddied who he was and then he viddied who I was. It was Pete, one of my three droogs from those days when it was
Georgie and Dim and him and me. It was Pete like looking a lot older though he could not now be more than nineteen and a bit, and he had a bit of a moustache and an ordinary day-suit and this hat on. I said:
‘Well well well, droogie, what gives? Very very long time no viddy.’ He said:
‘It’s little Alex, isn’t it?’
‘None other,’ I said. ‘A long long long time since those dead and gone good days.
And now poor Georgie, they told me, is underground and old Dim is a brutal millicent, and here is thou and here is I, and what news hast thou, old droogie?’
‘He talks funny, doesn’t he?’ said this devotchka, like giggling.
‘This, said Pete to the devotchka, ‘is an old friend. His name is Alex. May I,’ he said to me, ‘introduce my wife?’
My rot fell wide open then. ‘Wife?’ I like gaped. ‘Wife wife wife? Ah no, that cannot be. Too young art thou to be married, old droog. Impossible impossible.’
This devotchka who was like Pete’s wife (impossible impossible) giggled again and said to Pete: ‘Did you used to talk like that too?’
‘Well,’ said Pete, and he like smiled. ‘I’m nearly twenty. Old enough to be hitched, and it’s been two months already. You were very young and very forward, remember.’
‘Well,’ I liked gaped still. ‘Over this get can I not, old droogie. Pete married. Well well well.’
‘We have a small flat,’ said Pete. ‘I am earning very small money at State Marine
Insurance, but things will get better, that I know. And Georgina here-‘
‘What again is that name?’ I said, rot still open like bezoomny. Pete’s wife. (wife, brothers) like giggled again.
‘ Georgina,’ said Pete. ‘ Georgina works too. Typing, you know. We manage, we manage.’ I could not, brothers, take my glazzies off him, really. He was like grown up now, with a grown-up goloss and all. ‘You must,’ said Pete, ‘come and see us sometime. You still,’ he said, ‘look very young, despite all your terrible experiences.
Yes, yes, yes, we’ve read all about them. But, of course, you are very young still.’
‘Eighteen,’ I said, ‘Just gone.’
‘Eighteen, eh?’ said Pete. ‘As old as that. Well well well. Now,’ he said, ‘we have to be going.’ And he like gave this Georgina of his a like loving look and pressed one of her rookers between his and she gave him one of these looks back, O my brothers. ‘Yes,’ said Pete, turning back to me, ‘we’re off to a little party at Greg’s.’ ‘Greg?’ I said.
‘Oh, of course,’ said Pete, ‘you wouldn’t know Greg, would you? Greg is after your time. While you were away Greg came into the picture. He runs little parties, you know. Mostly wine-cup and word-games. But very nice, very pleasant, you know. Harmless, if you see what I mean.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Harmless. Yes, yes, I viddy that real horrorshow.’ And this Georgina devotchka giggled again at my slovos. And then these two ittied off to their vonny word-games at this Greg’s, whoever he was. I was left all on my oddy knocky with my milky chai, which was getting cold now, like thinking and wondering.
Perhaps that was it, I kept thinking. Perhaps I was getting too old for the sort of jeezny I had been leading, brothers. I was eighteen now, just gone. Eighteen was not a young age. At eighteen old Wolfgang Amadeus had written concertos and symphonies and operas and oratorios and all that cal, no, not cal, heavenly music. And then there was old Felix M. with his Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. And there were others. And there was this like French poet set by old Benjy Britt, who had done all his best poetry by the age of fifteen, O my brothers. Arthur, his first name. Eighteen was not all that young an age, then. But what was I going to do? Walking the dark chill bastards of winter streets after ittying off from this chai-and-coffee mesto, I kept viddying like visions, like these cartoons in the gazettas. There was Your Humble Narrator Alex coming home from work to a good hot plate of dinner, and there was this ptitsa all welcoming and greeting like loving. But I could not viddy her all that horrorshow, brothers, I could not think who it might be. But I had this sudden very strong idea that if I walked into the room next to this room where the fire was burning away and my hot dinner laid on the table, there I should find what I really wanted, and now it all tied up, that picture scissored out of the gazetta and meeting old Pete like that. For in that other room in a cot was laying gurgling goo goo goo my son. Yes yes yes, brothers, my son. And now I felt this bolshy big hollow inside my plott, feeling very surprised too at myself. I knew what was happening, O my brothers. I was like growing up.
Yes yes yes, there it was. Youth must go, ah yes. But youth is only being in a way like it might be an animal. No, it is not just like being an animal so much as being one of these malenky toys you viddy being sold in the streets, like little chellovecks made out of tin and with a spring inside and then a winding handle on the outside and you wind it up grrr grrr grrr and off it itties, like walking, O my brothers. But it itties in a straight line and bangs straight into things bang bang and it cannot help what it is doing. Being young is like being like one of these malenky machines. My son, my son. When I had my son I would explain all that to him when he was starry enough to like understand. But then I knew he would not understand or would not want to understand at all and would do all the veshches I had done, yes perhaps even killing some poor starry forella surrounded with mewing kots and koshkas, and I would not be able to really stop him. And nor would he be able to stop his own son, brothers. And so it would itty on until like the end of the world, round and round and round, like some bolshy gigantic like chelloveck, like old Bog Himself (by courtesy of Korova Milkbar) turning and turning and turning a vonny grahzny orange in his gigantic rookers.
But first of all, brothers, there was this veshch of finding some devotchka or other who would be a mother to this son. I would have to start on that tomorrow, I kept thinking. That was something like new to do. That was something I would have to get started on, a new like chapter beginning.
That’s what it’s going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale. You have been everywhere with your little droog Alex, suffering with him, and you have viddied some of the most grahzny bratchnies old Bog ever made, all on to your old droog Alex. And all it was was that I was young. But now as I end this story, brothers, I am not young, not no longer, oh no. Alex like groweth up, oh yes. But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning vonny earth and the stars and the old Luna up there and your old droog Alex all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate. And all that cal. A terrible grahzny vonny world, really, O my brothers. And so farewell from your little droog. And to all others in this story profound shooms of lipmusic brrrrrr. And they can kiss my sharries. But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal.