THE PIG IN THE HERMITAGE
A rich vacation in Paris is not for everyone, whereas a poor one is not good at all. Agatha knew it, that's why she waited so much for the new Pig's Year to come when everything, or nearly everything, was going to be given her for free.
Agatha was a museum pig, she lived in the Hermitage. On one of the paintings. She was painted by Rembrandt, just at the moment, when a blind, very elderly father was meeting his prodigal son. Meeting and embracing. There are so many fathers in the world, who are sitting lonely and sad, waiting for prodigal sons! Or daughters.
According to the famous story, the Gospel Father does not see that his son has almost turned into a pig during the long years of wandering. The handsome libertine, in the end of his dissolute travel, when he got older and nearly ugly, when he had to eat with pigs, from one trough, turned into a hog. The blind father does not notice it, but it's evident for an outsider's eye. The artist sees it perfectly well.
On the back of the prodigal son one can see two miniature sacks, too small for a vagabond's needs. They look like a pig's snout, don't they? And the feet of the son… They are too clean! In the shoes without backdrop!
All the yellow-pink details are merging into a bright spot, surrounded by brownish darkness … Oh!… It's a hog, no doubt!
Many artists used to hide riddles in their paintings. This canvas was created with a double meaning. If not with triple or quadruple…
Agatha posed to Rembrandt three hundred years ago. To be more exact – nearly three hundred thirty. A bit later the artist had to hide her real image, he had to conceal all fishy details because a pig on a Gospel canvas could be regarded as mauvais go�t! However, the main idea remained: never eat with hogs from one trough, otherwise you'll never become a human again…
One day a group of Chinese students came to see this picture. They had muzzles of piglets on their T-shirts – to remember the Pig's year by. The piglets noticed Agatha and sympathized with her, in choir:
"Three hundred years without a vacation!"
"Not three hundred! Three hundred and thirty!"
It was the last drop. Agatha jumped out of the canvas. When she ran out of the Hermitage with a wild scream, no one got surprised. If a pig leaves a museum, she must have a very grave reason for that…
The world famous street of St. Petersburg - Nevsky Prospect. Agatha sees a monument to world famous writer Nicolaus Gogol.
"Nickie! It's very urgent! I go to Paris! Which railway station do I need?"
Gogol was not surprised. Or just pretended not to be.
"Tzarskoselsky…" murmured he.
"Sometimes they call it "Tzars' Village. You took a wrong way, anyway…"
"Are you serious?! Do you think every pig is "from village? I was painted by Rembrandt! In his own apartment! He was not as picky as you are! Bye for now…"
Gogol did not feel offended, he was used to hear lots of silly stuff.
Agatha, meanwhile, ran towards Alexander Pushkin's monument.
"Alex! Am I on the right way to the railway station? I need to Paris!"
The famous poet Pushkin got embarrassed.
"To Paris?! Naked?! Take my good advice: run to the Passage Gallery, they have a magnificent sale right now…"
The posters, which were hanging on the front of the Passage, said: "100 years without a vacation – 20% discount!" "200 years without any rest – 50% discount!" "300 years or more without leisure – everything for free!"
Agatha tried, naked as she was, to penetrate the doors of the Passage, but the guard did not let her in. So, the pig had to turn into a human being: into a fattish lady of about forty, bald, in rags – like that tramp on the canvas.
At the magnificent sale counter there was a huge dense crowd. Agatha easily got through it, because she had pig's manners.
"I'm-three-hundred-thirty-years-without-a-vacation!" blurted she out without a break.
"Tired of collecting money for the Hermitage?" asked a pretty girl from the crowd.
"Oh! You recognize me!"
"Sure! You are the ghost of Rasputin! People pay incredible money to meet you at night, in the dark corridors of the Winter Palace!"
"Shut up, you, little fool!" screamed Agatha. "You don't know when Rasputin lived! He lived much later! When I posed to artists, he had not been born yet!"
The 'little fool' got confused. But she didn't look offended. Maybe, she had always known how ignorant she was.
The shop assistant came to rescue.
"It is high time! High time to proceed!" said he out loud. He had just given out a large package of pampers to the Brussels pissing boy and followed him with a fatherly look. Then he scanned Agatha with a special scanner – from head to toes. On the screen of his computer showed up the famous canvas of Rembrandt.
"Are you really… a son?"
"To be quite honest… a daughter!"
"Some peasants cannot tell a female pig from a nasty hog. When they brought me to the artist's premises, everybody was sure, that I was a hog… "
"I hate that kind of gossip," said the assistant. He gave a card to Agatha. A nice, unlimited, in time and money, Visa card. Plus a nice curly wig. Plus numerous packages with clothes and cosmetics.
When Agatha left the Passage, when she stepped out of the big glass door, with multi-colored packages in her hands, with a raven-black curly wig on her head, all the people in Nevsky Prospect admired her.
"Opa! Who created you, wonderful creature?"
"One can see such a phenomenon only on the New Year eve!"
Agatha didn't listen to the compliments, she was afraid of missing her train to Paris.
"Taxi! Taxi!" she shouted.The taxi driver explained her something.
"The Tsarskoselsky railway station is our modern Vitebsky Vokzal. From there people depart to Brest and then proceed to Europe…"
"And to Paris?"
They were just passing the monument to Gogol. Agatha waved with her silky handkerchief.
"Nicolaus! Nickie! I'm so sorry! I did not believe you first! But, on the other hand, I got a chance to buy a lot of fancy stuff! Now I am a real tourist! I am so happy!"
She waved with her new silky handkerchief again. Gogol nodded. He was also happy. Or pretended to be.
At this very moment the tourists in the Hermitage were feeling unhappy. Instead of Rembrandt's masterpiece they had a piece of cotton cloth and the plate: 'Restoration'…
The taxi drove up to the station. Agatha took her Visa card, passed over to the driver.
"Oh, no! Hide it! I'm not a beast! I work without interval sometimes, and you, you are a hero! Three hundred and thirty years in one spell!"
Agatha thanked him and said good-bye. She rushed to the ticket window.
"One swinny wagon to Paris! The whole of it, please! Give me the biggest ticket you have! "
"Well, 'SW' or 'Schlafwagen', what's the difference?"
"No difference, sorry, I'll fix it!"
The cashier gave to Agatha a very big ticket.
"Is it the biggest one?"
"Of course! You can take all the beds in that wagon according to this ticket, you can either lie down or sit down on every of them, in turn!"
Five minutes later Agatha was sitting in one of her compartments. She enjoyed solitude and silence. But the silence was suddenly broken – a waitress came from the dining car.
"Would you like to see the menu?"
Agatha began to read:
"Pork legs in jelly … Pork chop … Smoked ham with cabbage …"
It was incredibly rude.
"Cannibals! Killers! And I, by the way, am protected! By invisible forces! They'll show you a nice "pork chop"! Your pants will get full of jelly! Nobody will survive!"
The waitress, sobbing, ran to the head of the train.
The brigadier got panic stricken, because, in a while, the German border was expected, where, right on the platform, there was a very problematic cafe: with advertising pictures about sausage and pork legs.
The train staff joined efforts, and very soon the windows of Agatha's car were covered with fashion magazine pictures. And at the stop, as well, there was a great surprise: the conductors didn't let her out, they did not let her take a walk along the platform.
"Exit from the car is prohibited!"
"Life threatening! Quarantine in Germany!"
In Paris, finally, Agatha left the train.
"I need a taxi to hotel, s'il vous plait!"
All the people on the platform nodded, smiled and offered their help. They found her a cab. No wonder – she was in Paris…
Next day, early in the morning, she started her shopping tour. She visited many shops, as well as beauty salons. Now she looked great. Stunning! Partly thanks to one jewelry store. Not very expensive, but useful. There she bought large diamonds, so large that passer-byes in every street had to stop, turn around and stare at her. They were really stunned! Then she felt she needed another wig, more noble, less black, more blond.
She found a proper wig shop. And a proper wig. A very proper one: long, blond and very-very chic.
"Though you did not advise me, still I can't help buying it!"
A young saleswoman, speaking with a slight foreign accent, got upset.
"Don't do it, please! You will be laughed at! At your age you should take a shorter one!"
Agatha grew indignant. She hit the saleswoman with the wig…
This wig is still alive. Agatha is keeping it to remember that fatal day by. In memory of Paris. And also in memory of the poor saleswoman, who reminded her, three hundred and thirty years after Rembrandt did, that pig's behavior is not proper.