At twilight, when the
pallid mist slowly crept along the garden paths,
Nastenka would often leave the house and standing
beneath the windows, imagine that she was a tree. In
this way, she passed her earliest childhood, and when
she started going to school, a funny thing happened to
"What do you want to be, when you grow up,
children?" The teacher asked and looking at
roster, called out a name, "Aydyuhin?"
A boy, somewhat resembling a hippopotamus, stood up at
his desk and he said in a forced bass, "I want to
be a pilot."
"Very good," the teacher praised him and he
called out the next name, "Averkin?"
Everything went well. The children wanted to be
policeman or doctors, sailors and salesmen, deep-sea
divers and astronauts, until the teacher's finger hit
on Nastya's name.
"I want to be a tree," Nastya said simply.
"Why a tree?" The teacher asked perplexed,
tearing her eyes from the roster to stare intently at
"Because, it's green," she answered smiling.
"Bugs and all kinds of birds live in it."
"Now, now," the teacher interrupted her.
"We all know, what trees are. Please tell us what
profession you're choosing. It's impossible to be a
Nastenka became sad and she said, "I know! But, I
just like to be a tree. That's all."
The teacher said, "What?"
"Tree," nascence said and broke into tears.
At that point, she was called into the principal's
office, but even there, she shouldn't renounce the
tree. "You're particularly all grown up,"
they told her.
"I know," nascence answered, "but, I
want to be a tree."
"You, ungrateful girl", her parents scolded
her, when they were summoned by the principal.
"We do our best you, try to raise you properly,
and you refuse to become anything."
"But, I do," nascence hurried to answer,
swallowing parts of words, "I want to become a
tree, with bran-so lots of birds and bugs... can live
Again, they scolded and shamed her, and just her old,
wrinkled grandmother asked: "what kind of tree do
you want to be, sweetheart? A birch or maybe a cherry
"Oh, grandma, you're so silly, I just want to be
Grandmother turned away, pressing a corner of her
kerchief to her lips grief.
But, soon, they quit bothering her. Years passed.
Nastenka grew up, and so did the boys in her grade,
and Avdyukhin looked less and less like a
hippopotamus. The school was over, and Nastenka
started college. It turned out that she and Avdyukhin
were thought to be on friendly terms, but they spoke
only rarely, and mostly Nastenka watched him from
afar. It was from her friends that she learned that
Avdyukhin was getting married. She cried all that day,
burying her face in her pillow. In the evening, she
got up from bed and suddenly remembered that she was a
She quickly got her things together and hurried to
catch last commuter train the country. It was already
dark. Huge stars were shining above the train station.
Dogs were drowsily at each other, behind tall, obscure
fences. When she reached her place, she didn't enter
the house, but she headed straight for the overgrown
orchard, where she threw off overcoat and she took her
place among the trees.
That night was long and blissful. Rough bark gradually
enveloped her, and buds languorously swelled up on the
branches. Still conscious on herself, Nastenka tried
to rearrange her feet, so she would be facing the
house, but her legs refused to obey her. They had
Her parents looked for her for a long time, but
neither the police nor the feeds could help them. All
her parents could do was growing old in the bitter
silence of the overgrown orchard.
Her father was eventually transferred to another city,
and they sold their cabin. They sold it to Avdyukhin,
the same young man, with whom Nastenka had been so
totally and hopelessly in love.
Avdyukhin had changed a great deal in the course of
the years. He was fatter, balder and very
He wandered through the orchard a long time and he
sized things up. Here, he would put it some
strawberries, and they're some cucumbers. He sighed.
The orchard was old and dilapidated, and it had to be
thinned out. He stood in front of Nastenka for a long
time, but he could not figure out, what kind of tree
she was. Then, he gave up and decided, it had to be
cut down, too.
The tree was removed, but the shadow of its branches
remained on the ground. And in this shadow neither
strawberry nor cucumbers grow.
Before long, Avdyukhin was asked to come to school.
Apparently, his son, a first grader, had said he
wanted to become a lake.
"It's so bright and shiny and big," he said
and he cried.
Avdyukhin gave his son a thorough beating with his