The sky was also heartless and dark, and her body, her head, and particularly those damned thirsty trousers, felt clogged with Oceanus Nox, n,o,x. At every slap and splash of cold wild salt, she heaved with anise-flavored nausea and there was an increasing number, okay, or numbness, in her neck and arms. As she began losing track of herself, she thought it proper to inform a series of receding Lucettes — telling them to pass it on and on in a trick-crystal regression — that what death amounted to was only a more complete assortment of the infinite fractions of solitude.
She did not see her whole life flash before her as we all were afraid she might have done; the red rubber of a favorite doll remained safely decomposed among the myosotes of an unanalyzable brook; but she did see a few odds and ends as she swam like a dilettante Tobakoff in a circle of brief panic and merciful torpor. She saw a pair of new vair-furred bedroom slippers, which Brigitte had forgotten to pack; she saw Van wiping his mouth before answering, and then, still withholding the answer, throwing his napkin on the table as they both got up; and she saw a girl with long black hair quickly bend in passing to clap her hands over a dackel in a half-tom wreath.
A brilliantly illumined motorboat was launched from the — not-too-distant ship with Van and the swimming coach and the oilskin-hooded Toby among the would-be saviors; but by that time a lot of sea had rolled by and Lucette was too tired to wait. Then the night was filled with the rattle of an old but still strong helicopter. Its diligent beam could spot only the dark head of Van, who, having been propelled out of the boat when it shied from its own sudden shadow, kept bobbing and bawling the drowned girl’s name in the black, foam-veined, complicated waters. (3.5)
Poor Lucette's death brings to mind a cynical slogan that Ostap Bender sees in the Vasyuki Club where he lectures on chess and plays simultaneous games:
Spasenie utopayushchikh – delo ruk samikh utopayushchikh!
Assistance to drowning persons is in the hands of those persons themselves!*
Similarly, in his placard verses V. V. Mayakovski (VN's "late namesake") says that one should not expect help from Europe or Prokukish and rely only on one's own hands:
Ni na Evropu ne nadeysya, ni na Prokukish,
nadeysya tol’ko na svoi ruki.
(Rely neither on Europe nor Prokukish,
But just on your own hands).
*Ilf and Petrov, The Twelve Chairs, chapter XXXIV "The Interplanetary Chess Tournament."
Alexey Sklyarenko
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