Old Tender

"All right, so there we were crawling quietly over what used to be gardens. The engine was humming evenly under our feet, calmly--it didn't care, nothing was going to hurt it here. Then old Tender broke. We hadn't even gotten to the first pylon when he started gabbing. All the greenhorns usually run off at the mouth in the Zone: his teeth were chattering, his heart thumping, his memory fading, and he was embarrassed and yet he couldn't control himself. I think it's like a runny nose with them. It doesn't depend on the person at all--it just flows and flows. And what nonsense they babble! They flip out over the landscape or they express their views on the Visitors, or they talk about things having no relation to the Zone--like Tender, who got all wound up over his new suit and couldn't stop. How much he had paid for it, how fine the wool was, how the tailor changed the buttons for him...

'Shut up.'

He looked at me pitifully, flopped his lips, and went on: how much silk it took for the lining. The gardens had ended by now, the clayey lot that used to be the town dump was under us. And I felt a light breeze. Except there was no wind at all, and suddenly there was a gust and the tumbleweed scattered, and I thought I heard something.

'Shut up, you bastard!' I said to Tender.

No, he couldn't shut himself up. He was on the pockets now. I had no choice." (20)



Another from Roadside Picnic (Strugatsky Bros.), 1978.

The "nonsense" babbling about a suit sure dates this, doesn't it? What clothing do you think a nervous man under supernatural influences would babble about now?

I suppose the minutiae of tailoring suddenly seem rather unimportant when your life's at risk...